ISSUE 18, July 2006
Editorial
Archbishop Fisher: A Godly man and a Brother
Travel: The train takes the strain
Quarterly Communication: Annual Investiture speech by the Grand Master and Speech of the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech by the First Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes Grand Lodge of New York: Speech by the Pro Grand Master
   Specialist Lodges: Keeping their eyes on the ball
Education: Planning ahead for the Chair and Events and New premises for Masonic research
Royal Opera House: A right Royal occasion
Royal opening: Beamish Museum
Digital records: Saving our past for the future
Library & Museum: The hall in the garden
Queen's Birthday: Masons played a prominent part
International: A Mason and the Foreign Legion
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity and NMSF and RMBI and RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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To be in control requires certain management skills that need to be acquired well in advance of a brother’s installation into the chair of his Lodge.
    The procedure at the Festive Board should be an established sequence of events that includes the formal Toast List. It should be set out as a written plan and course of action to be followed by the Master and his Director of Ceremonies.
    This should even include directions about when to stand, when to gavel, and who is to control the Masonic ‘fire’. This will be an established custom within the Lodge, but it needs to be set out in such a format that will enable the Master and his principal officers to control the proceedings smoothly and with dignity and style.
    In most Lodges it is the established practice of ‘taking wine’ during the meal. This is frequently undertaken to excess, causing disruption during the serving of the various courses, which is dangerous if food is being served. It is also totally unnecessary, causing inconvenience to brethren who are eating their meal. It is bad manners.
    This tradition at the Festive Board is one of ancient usage when every brother could challenge anyone at will to take wine. The result was total bedlam.
    Grand Lodge decreed that the practice should stop and that ‘taking wine at the table’ should be the prerogative of the Master. By tradition the Master takes wine for the first time with his Wardens, then no-one will join.
    It is then a sensible arrangement for the Master to take wine with everyone, which covers everyone present. The exception could be at Installations, when VIPs are present, or the rare occasion when the Master may decide otherwise. Any further taking of wine is purely repetition and should be discouraged. It is tedious and does not make sense.
    Preparation for high office should not begin months before Installation, but years. As a brother approaches senior office, the demand upon him as a good public speaker becomes paramount. If he is about to become a Warden he will face the prospect of having to make a contribution to the Toast List for several years ahead.
    It is the practice in many Lodges for the Junior Warden to propose the toast to the visitors, and the Senior Warden (or Immediate Past Master) proposes the toast to the Master, with the Master responding to his toast on each occasion.
    This can amount to 20 after-dinner speeches over three years!
    This is a most formidable scenario for a Brother who, in addition to his duties as a Warden, will also be engaged in the task of studying the three Craft Degrees, and the Installation ceremony from the Chair. Thus, it becomes easy to understand the wisdom of a prospective Master to have engaged in preparation well in advance.
    To write a speech, not under pressure, months if not years in advance is very sound preparation for the Masonic future. It now becomes clear that to prepare for the highest office the Lodge can bestow is not just about learning the ritual, but also about the task of speech preparation.
    If speech-making is about planning in advance, then by the creation of the ‘skeleton’, then clothing it with sensible thought and then storing it away for the future, is the solution.
    It does not matter if, when the time comes, the content needs to be modified to suit the occasion. This is relatively simple. The hard work has been done well in advance.
    Let us look at the toast to the Master:
    —Leadership by example: direction and management of the Lodge;
    —Pledge of support by the Brethren;
    —Pride to see the Master having reached his goal: inspiration to others;
    —Congratulation on his polish and style in the Chair;
    —The meaning of the Master’s Song in relation to the present incumbent.
    A simple booklet about leadership or managerial control will provide all the ideas necessary for this subject.
    Most important – the Master’s response:
    —Gratitude, pride of achievements, another milestone in Lodge history;
    —Friendship and support received;
    —Pleasurable memories;
    —Pledge of continued support for the Lodge.
    Finally, the toast to the visitors:
    —Hospitality
    —Privilege to entertain visitors;
    —The objective of Freemasonry is friendship.
    Every Christmas a small, delightful book is published called The Friendship Book, by Francis Gay and published by D.C. Thompson, available at all leading booksellers. It contains a ‘thought for each day of the forthcoming year’.
    It is all about Friendship. This book provides an inexhaustible supply of wonderful material for the speech-writer for the Visitors’ Toast.
    Humour is an important ingredient in after-dinner speaking. However, to be entertaining and amusing does not mean that you must shower them with irrelevant jokes (often in bad taste) in the misguided belief that after-dinner speaking is about telling funny stories. It is not.
    A relevant tale will add considerably to a speaker’s toast or response, but it needs to be very carefully introduced. It must illustrate a point that the speaker is making.
    Another golden rule: never read your speech – always speak from notes.
    Try to avoid holding the papers in your hand. If you are slightly nervous, the papers will tremble, and it will notify to the audience that you are ‘scared to death’.
    The experienced speaker will write ‘bullet points’ down on a white card as a guide. These will be discreetly placed on the table in front of the speaker. Your eyes should ‘sweep across the notes’ and your audience should not be aware that you are collecting information from the ‘bullet points’ in front of you.
    In conclusion and most important: a cardinal rule of our Fraternity is never, never permit anyone to tell a rude or risqué joke at any Festive Board. It is against the Tenets of the Craft.

Ray Hollins is the author of A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge: One Hundred Short Talks on the Craft.

For further information contact The Freemason Ltd on 0870 922 0352 or go to www.masonicshortalks.com

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