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
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
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;
—Pledge of continued support for
Finally, the toast to the visitors:
—Privilege to entertain visitors;
—The objective of Freemasonry is
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
Web site created by Mark Griffin