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 may 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 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. In fact, 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
It is then a sensible arrangement for the
Master to take wine with everyone, which
covers all those 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
Preparation for high office should not
begin months before Installation, but years.
As a brother approaches senior office, the
demand on 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 Toasts on
every occasion 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 proposes the
toast to the Master. The Master responds to
his toast on each occasion. This can amount
to 20 after-dinner speeches over the period
of three years!
This can be 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.
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 high office is not just about learning
the ritual, it is also about the task of speech
preparation. If speech-making is about
planning in advance 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
because the hard work has been done well
Let us look at the toast to the Master:
A simple booklet about leadership or
managerial control will provide all the ideas
necessary for this subject. Most important
is the Master’s response:
- Leadership by example – the 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 – his courtesy;
- The meaning of the Master’s Song in
relation to the present incumbent.
Finally, let us take a look at the toast to
- Gratitude, pride of achievements,
another milestone in the history of
- Friendship and support received;
- Pleasurable memories;
- Pledge of continued support for the
Every Christmas a small, delightful book is
published called The Friendship Book, written
by Francis Gay and published by D.C.
Thompson & Co Ltd, and is available at
all leading booksellers.
- Privilege to entertain visitors;
- The objective of Freemasonry
It contains a ‘Thought for each day
of the forthcoming year’ and 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’ is never read your
speech – always speak from notes. Try to
avoid holding the papers in your hand,
because if you are slightly nervous the
papers will tremble, notifying to the
audience that you are nervous.
The experienced speaker will write
‘bullet points’ down on a simple 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 – never, never
permit or allow anyone to tell a rude or
risqué joke at any Masonic Festive Board,
under any circumstances whatsoever. 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 at www.masonicshortalks.com
Web site created by Mark Griffin