In the Green Room Lodge one of the
well-known brethren of my time was W.
Bro. Peter Williams, for many years the
secretary, an actor who had played the lead
in the TV series Shadow Squad and who was
also well known for his appearance in Bridge
on the River Kwai with Jack Hawkins of the
Savage Club Lodge, and W. Bro. John
Boxer. In the late 1970s, Peter Williams and
I both appeared in different episodes of the
BBC Television series, I Claudius.
The film director Norman Walker had
earlier directed me in the Rank film of the
life of Saint Paul, in which I played the name
part through the ages of youth to his death in
Rome at around 70 AD. One couldn’t do
that today, but in the 1930s an actor was
permitted to play parts of all ages, and for
this one I was covered with whiskers.
Later, when working in New York
for United Nations Radio, one of the TV
networks discovered this film and actually
showed it. A member of the clergy interviewing
me asked, “Did playing St Paul make you a
better man?” I leave the answer to you.
Other names I cannot omit are the late John
Arnatt of the beautiful speaking voice, much
neglected by producers during his later life,
and Clifford Mollison, two older actor
Freemasons whose names should not be
forgotten by us.
When I was initiated into Freemasonry
I was working with the BBC in several shows,
including the African Service on short wave
from London, and a new series with the
singer Anne Shelton which was produced
by Alick Hayes.
I had been asked to appear at Freemasons’
Hall, but understood, as was then the custom,
that Masonry was something you did not
discuss with non-Masons. So, on entering one
of the anterooms at Freemasons’ Hall, I was
amazed to find, relaxing in a chair, my radio
producer, Alick Hayes!
It turned out that he was proposed by no
less a celebrity than the comedian Ronald
Shiner, soon to become Master himself.
Thus, while waiting to be initiated, we fell to
discussing our next live show for the following
Sunday – at the time nearly all radio was ‘live’
In 1967 the Green Room Lodge was
honoured by a visit from the then Assistant
Grand Master, Sir Alan Adair. He was a
marvellous visitor. He always created the right
atmosphere in Lodge, and afterwards at the
festive board. Indeed, it was from Sir Alan’s
example that I personally learnt how to behave
when later I became one of the new Visiting
Grand Officers appointed for London.
A Past Deputy Grand Chaplin, the Reverend
Neville Barker Cryer was at one time also a
Prestonian Lecturer. Like many clergymen
today, he was often so fully engaged with his
own work that he had sometimes to ask another
Brother to deliver the lecture in his stead.
Donald Wolfit did so, and twice
when Donald was unavailable, I did it myself.
I remember that these were very enjoyable
Although the Green Room Lodge is still
known as an actors’ Lodge, only three of us of
that profession remain at the time of writing.
The young actor of today simply hasn’t
enough time to give to Freemasonry.
He is either working in one or other of the
outlets available for his talent or, sadly, if he’s
not working – a state actors can find
themselves in only too often – he cannot afford
to belong to such an organisation. I deplore
this, but it is, I fear, a fact of modern life.
Neal Arden (left) with Hollywood actress and singer Doris Day at the Dorchester Hotel, London in the 1950s
Web site created by Mark Griffin