ISSUE 15, October 2005
Historic: Nelson and Freemasonry
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's Speech
Grand Lodge: Quarterly Communication
Hurricane Katrina: Grand Charity Relief Chest
Royal Arch: John Knight
Masonic Embroidery: A stitch in time...
Travel: Walzing along the Danube
Specialist Lodges: Martial arts
Library & Museum: The two Freemasons' Halls
    Anniversary: Jersey's Liberation
Anniversary: Dorset's 225 years
Obituaries: Lord Swansea OSM
Pro Grand Master: Whither directing our course?
Charmian Hussey: A Mason's wife on Masonry
International: The Grand Lodge of Israel
Education: Sheffield's big plans
Education: Forthcoming events
Education: The Second Degree
Masonic Charities
Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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    Discovering Friendly and Fraternal Societies: their badges and regalia, by Victoria Solt Dennis. Shire Books. 160pp illus. ISBN 0 7478 0628 4. Price £10.99.

Victoria Solt Dennis, supported by a grant from Supreme Grand Chapter, has been researching and cataloguing the wealth of friendly and fraternal society regalia and artefacts in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, a somewhat neglected topic. The book under review is a fascinating first study, produced to accompany the splendid summer exhibition on the topic at Freemasons’ Hall.
     Beginning with introductory chapters on the history of friendly and fraternal societies, their artefacts and a very useful glossary of the symbols used, she then has chapters dealing with Freemasonry, the Buffaloes, Knights of the Golden Horn, Free Gardeners, Oddfellows, Druids, Shepherds, the many societies of “Friends” and the 19th century development of temperance societies.
     The content is authoritative and the many colour illustrations – most of which have not been published before – are a visual delight. The very readable text masks the enormous amount of primary research that has been undertaken to produce this fascinating survey.
     This book fills an important gap in the recording of British social history and will be an invaluable reference point for social historians, museum curators and the many collectors of regalia, jewels and artefacts. It should be on the bookshelf of any aspiring student of Freemasonry, and at £10.99 is a snip!
     John Hamill



Your most recent book ‘Habit of Victory’ includes many colourful characters in Britain’s naval history. Who do you most admire?

Admiral Sir Walter Cowan. His career spanned two centuries and he won the DSO in both world wars of the 20th century. He defeated the French advance in Central Africa at Fashoda in the 1890s and experimented with taking aircraft to sea and flying them off special ramps on the turrets of his battlecruiser to shoot down Zeppelins. He was thanked by Mannerheim for his part in liberating Finland, took a demotion in the Second World War so he could serve as a commando, and was made honorary colonel of an Indian cavalry regiment. His hobby was collecting flags – enemy flags.

You have served in, and written extensively about, the Navy. What first prompted this interest?

I lived in Southampton and saw merchant ships everyday as I travelled to school. Both my brothers were in the merchant navy, so, to be different to my brothers and earn a wage, I joined the Royal Navy.

Have you planned your next project?

Yes, I’m going to write about the real James Bond. Ian Fleming worked throughout the Second World War in a department of naval intelligence simple known as ’30’. Many of the Bond adventures Fleming incorporated into his Bond books were operations he had mounted from ’30’ or culled from reports of a unit called 30 Assault Commando. My favourite story is the one where Bond walks out of the sea in a wetsuit and strips off to reveal a dinner jacket – that actually happened in 1941 when a Dutch agent landed one evening in the grounds of a seaside house taken over by German officers and strolled through the grounds wearing evening mess dress to meet his contact.

When writing a book, have you got a preferred place of work and a favoured writing routine?

I have a flat in Rotherhithe with a view of the River Thames – close to where some of the events in Habit of Victory began and ended, and many of the characters lived – and I am surrounded on three sides by bookshelves: this is my favourite place to work. I can read or research at any time of the day, but I’m an early riser and my favourite time for writing is between 5–8 am, when no one else is around

Who is your favourite author?

I tend to binge on authors, particularly fiction and semi-biography, whether this is Anthony Powell or Somerset Maugham. But if I had to chose one author for that proverbial desert island, then it would have to be Tolstoy.

Which book are you reading at present?

Travel, preferably with a slice of history, fascinates me and currently I am reading William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium. It’s the parallel story of two 6th century monks travelling through what we now call the Middle East, and Dalrymple’s investigation, as he retraces their steps, into what has happened to eastern Christianity since.

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