ISSUE 9, April 2004

The Duke of Wellington: A Brother in arms
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Life with the Stars: Masons and famous people
Hall Stone Jewel: Cyril Spackman, designer
Travel: Jamaica
Grand Charity: Annual Report and Accounts
Masonic stamps: Masonry on stamps
Library & Museum of Freemasonry: Antients and Moderns go on-line
Masonic education: Events for Freemasons
Masonic charities: The continuing work
Bowel cancer: How the Grand Charity is helping
Royal Arch: Russia and Eastern Europe
Richard Eve: A former Grand Treasurer
Book reviews

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Featured Masons

The Duke of Wellington
Neal Arden
Elias Ashmole
Richard Eve
John Pine
Cyril Spackman


After the war I was asked by BBC Radio to produce and present something for Sunday nights, and came up with my long-running Quiet Rhythm programme. It was broadcast from 11.15 pm to midnight and I really didn’t expect much of an audience.
       However, as it turned out, it appealed quite well and I found that people actually stayed up till then in order to hear it. The press also was supportive.
       Indeed, one listener wrote to say that sometime after the news at .pm, she used to dismantle her radiogram in the sitting room and take it bit by bit up to the bedroom where it was reassembled so that she could hear the programme at 11.15pm.
       It was given a six-week run by the BBC, but after about three weeks they extended it to 18 weeks which, over the next 19 years, was featured more than once a year.
       My colleagues and I were never DJs – disc jockeys – in the modern sense; that is to say, our programmes were created by us, with the music we thought audiences would like. Indeed, all my own programmes had a beginning, middle and an end.
       Today, as I understand it, the famous, like Terry Wogan, play records they are given, but say what they like, pretty well. With us, it all had to be scripted, read by the head of department, and often blue pencilled too. Sometimes this became very irritating, so I used then to write something outrageous for them to blue pencil. Occasionally, this was overlooked, but I never said what I had written especially for cutting.
       After he had recorded a couple of my melodies, Quite Rhythm Blues and My Lucky Number, George Martin, the eventual producer of the Beatles records, was known to come and watch me as I chose the records for a programme.
       I would shuffle them about so as to get a good running order, making a balanced show with, as I say, a beginning, middle and an end. Later, he too received a well-deserved Knighthood for his work.
       In 1946, the BBC offered me the chance to present the new Housewives Choice programme in company with three others, Roy Rich, Franklyn Engleman and Brian Mickey
       We did a fortnight each, six days a week, until our turn came round again, although none of us continued for the whole 20 years of the programme’s life, I was lucky and carried on with it for at least two or three appearances a year until 1965.
       During the run of Housewives Choice I was approached by Pye Records, one of the many big record companies of that time, to do a series of records about horoscopes.
       One each month was to be released, the whole series to be called Zodiac. I got in touch with the well-known clairvoyant Maurice Woodruff, who agreed to write the forecasts, and I recorded them all. At the press launch, Peter Sellers, Maurice and I were photographed and the press coverage was excellent. Even Richard Attenborough featured it in his News of the World column the following Sunday.
       Alas, these records didn’t get the radio support they needed and were, I fear, not the success we and everyone had forecast; something even Maurice Woodruff had not foreseen!
       One of the Masons I personally knew best was the late W. Bro. Arthur Prince, past Master of the Lodge of Asaph No. 1319 who was, in his own time, the most famous ventriloquist in Britain.
       It was he who sponsored me for my education at the Royal Masonic School, then located at Bushey, Hertfordshire. Later I toured with him around the music halls.
       He did several Royal Command Performances, too, but they were different then. If you were ‘commanded’ you went to Windsor or to Buckingham Palace to perform, not as today, to a London theatre.
      One such date was at Windsor Castle, where he appeared in front of an audience of courtiers accompanying Edward VII, who smoked cigars. Arthur also smoked a cigar during his act, and when the King started to light his cigar, the ‘figure’ (Arthur insisted on that term – never ‘dummy’) looking around was heard to say, “Someone around here is smoking a bit of old rope”.
       There followed dead silence – all glanced in the direction of the King, who kept silent. Suddenly he smiled, so the audience smiled too, and Arthur was relieved of his fear of being sent to the Tower!
       That was long before my day, but as a ventriloquist, Arthur was the only one who could drink a full glass of coloured water whilst at the same time ‘Jim’, the figure, was merrily chatting away. A wonderful trick, but even though I stood right next to him on the stage I have no idea how it was done.

Neal Arden (right) with the world-famous tenor Richard Tauber in Blossom Time at the Lyric Theatre, London