ISSUE 11, October 2004
Elias Ashmole: Masonic Icon
Travel: The magical beauty of Scotland
Honoured: By the Glovers' livery company
The Theatre: Strong links between Craft and stage
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Mauritius: Fascinating Masonic history
Rochester Cathedral: Kent Masons' magnificent fresco
Clerkenwell: 25 years of Masonry
  Bravery award: One Mason's heroism is honoured
Christmas shopping: What to buy in London's West End
High flight: Helping terminally ill children
Jewels of the Craft: An essential part of Masonry
Library & Museum: John Pine exhibition and Library & Museum Trust report
Masonic education: Events for Masons; Quatuor Coronati Lodge; Mentors for new Masons
Charities: Masons provide emergency aid for flood victims; Charity news; Demelza gives voice
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Book Reviews

Some autumn reading suggestions from Patrick Wilson

   Secret Letters From The Railway,
edited by Brian Best (Pen & Sword, £19.99. ISBN 1844151182)

The horrors of working on the infamous Burma-Siam Railway and, in particular, the construction of the famous Bridge over the River Kwai have been well documented. However this remarkable book provides an extraordinary and fresh insight into the experiences of one man, following the fall of Singapore.
    Charles Steel, within days of being captured by the Japanese, began a weekly letter to his new bride Louise, although the Japanese forbade all writing of letters and diaries.
    Incredibly, over the next three year he somehow succeeded in writing and concealing some 183 letters during captivity and a further 32 after the Japanese surrender. Part love letter, part diary, this unique correspondence describes the appalling conditions that Steel and his fellow captives endured.
    The letters are a valuable insight into the day-to-day life of being a slave labourer on one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 20th century. Steel provides a detailed picture of the horrors that prisoners endured – the sickness and disease, the heat, the brutality and the food – or lack of it.
    Yet whilst horrifying in places, his letters do not make depressing reading. Laced with humour, and interspersed with poems and anecdotes, they are often uplifting and underline the strength of human spirit in adversity.
    We learn about the behaviour of his captors, as well as how Steel turned the tables on them by means of ‘creative accounting’. These letters are a true labour of love, particularly given the retribution that he would have suffered had the letters existence come to the attention of his brutal captors.
    So many prisoners-of-war of the Japanese struggled to cope mentally with the horrors into which they were thrown. For Steel, however, one feels they provided him with the necessary hope of eventual salvation. This is an incredible testament of love and fortitude.

   Mr Nastase by Ilie Nastasie
(CollinsWillow, £18.99. ISBN 0007181418)

As the bad boy on the court and the charmer off it, Ilie Nastase’s life, full of picaresque adventures, makes an entertaining and colourful read. Nastase emerged as a tennis star and celebrity in his mid-20s having endured a tough childhood in Romania.
    He was the winner of two Grand Slam titles, the US and French Open and was twice a Wimbledon finalist. His tempestuous time on the tennis court, incessant arguing with umpires and spectators, and numerous fines and disqualifications led to daily frontpage coverage.
    Yet he ignited an explosion of interest in tennis in the seventies. Nicknamed ‘Nasty’ by the press, this book provides him with the opportunity to tell his side of the story.
    Nastase’s exuberant behaviour continued away from tennis. Good looks, combined with outrageous behaviour and irresistible charm, turned him in to a 1970s superstar.
    He oozed sex appeal and celebrity status, drove fast cars and partied with some of the world’s most desirable women, including Bianca Jagger in New York’s Studio54.
    Interestingly, the book also provides a glimpse of the real people behind the celebrity faces of tennis, including John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova.
    A compassionate side of Nastase is illustrated as we see him help Bjorn Borg and the late Vitas Gerulaitis get through difficult times at the end of their tennis careers.
    This thoroughly readable autobiography takes us on a remarkable life journey, through his highs and lows, and provides a real insight into the good, the bad and the ‘nasty’ sides of Ilie Nastase.

   The Freemason at Work by Harry Carr (revised by Frederick Smyth),
7th and Revised Edition (Lewis Masonic, £19.99, ISBN 0 85318 189 6),
T: 01455 254450
This is the second reprint of the seventh and revised edition of the outstanding work by the late Harry Carr, first published in 1975 and revised by Frederick Smyth in 1992. That underlines its huge popularity.
    One of the classic books on Freemasonry, it is a compilation of 201 questions Harry Carr answered from all over the world on Freemasonry when he was secretary of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, the Premier Lodge of Masonic Research, and editor of its Transactions.
    For the Mason hungry for that daily advancement in Masonic knowledge, this is a veritable Bacchanalian feast.
    One joy of this book is that it does not have to be read in any particular order – just open it at any page and often very detailed answers to questions constantly being asked by Masons are revealed.
    The index, too, is a fascinating journey in to the often baffling and intriguing world of Freemasonry. Indeed, here is a book to enliven those Lodge meetings when there is no candidate.
John Jackson