We are asking a series of members of Stuart 540 to tell us about their freemasonry journey and we have started here with Tom Trowles.
Why did you join Freemasonry?
I wanted to be a part of something that did some good in society and that I could derive pleasure from by coming together with a group of like-minded individuals. So, having been around Freemasonry for some years and knowing several Freemasons and what they did for others, plus the pleasure they seemed to get from it, then I thought it would be something I’d enjoy too. And as it turned out I was right!
When were you initiated into Freemasonry? And be honest… how much do you remember of your initiation night!
I was initiated into Freemasonry in 1998 into an Essex Lodge, Langdon Hills No. 8477. I don’t remember much of the night itself in great detail, but I do remember the member who escorted me around for the ceremony was great, and really put me at my ease.
But as my father-in-law told me, I should keep in mind that every single Mason without exception must go through exactly the same ceremonies, and they lived to tell the tale “…and so will you” he said. And I did, as I’m still here today writing about it!
What’s your current role within the Lodge?
I’m the Lodge Secretary. It’s the responsibility of the Secretary to ensure the smooth running of the Lodge, and that it conforms fully to the rules we have to follow laid down by the United Grand Lodge of England, our governing body.
The Secretary records the minutes of the meetings, generates the summons for each meeting and ensures both are distributed to all the members. He organises the practice nights and the work/ceremonies to be done at our meetings, oversees the dining arrangements, advises the Master on all matters relating to Masonic regulations, works with the Provincial Office to ensure all paperwork required by them and UGLE is correct and submitted on time.
The Secretary is the focal point of the Lodge, and through whom all two-way contact is made with the members, Province and UGLE on any topic which may arise
What does being a Freemason mean to you?
It’s hard really to know where to start. Obviously I’m exceedingly proud to have been accepted into Freemasonry. In a funny way, I think you don’t fully realise just how special it is until you have joined it and then you start to learn about it all by watching, listening and asking the older members. Then you really do see the good it does in helping others, and of course the improvement you see in yourself and others. The confidence it gives you in real life to do things you never thought you could do before, and the real pleasure you all feel from seeing help being given to those who need it, and how it can transform their lives in a real and meaningful way.
Like everything in life, the more you put in then the more you get out, and Freemasonry is a wonderful example of that. Of course, there is the formal side and the ceremonies, but then there are all the social events available too, and all tailored to include families and friends as well if they want to come along. It all adds to that ‘big family’ feeling where you can enjoy yourself in a relaxed atmosphere.
I always look forward to every meeting and seeing the members again, to catch up on what’s been happening, to have a ceremony, and then have a laugh and a beer afterwards as friends and mates do. It is a friendship made that never leaves you, it is the bond that holds you together, and trust you have in, and for, each other that never fades.
What do you think it is that makes Stuart Lodge a great place to spend your time?
I joined Stuart Lodge back in 2008. I met some of the members beforehand to have a chat and learn a bit more about them and the Lodge itself. So I was really delighted to learn some of its history, which really did it for me. It showed me I was not only about to join a very old Lodge with a wonderful history in the town and Province, but that it had enjoyed having a great number of well-known members, from all walks of life, and I do mean from all walks of life!
In fact, probably most if not all of the ‘great names’ of Bedford’s past which still survive to this day in one form or another, were once members of this Lodge, with many of them holding both important roles in their public lives as well as holding high rank in Freemasonry too. To have a Lodge that encompassed all that made Bedford and Bedfordshire what it was and is today, felt incredibly special, and something I really wanted to be a part of and support. To my good fortune, I was accepted and the rest is history as they say.
Of course, being the oldest Lodge in Bedford then about half of all the Lodges in the Province are descended from Stuart, which is phenomenal too, and just adds to that sense of something good having been created by our founders, which is still working for its members and wider community as much today as it did when the Lodge was formed in 1847.
I’ve since made it my business to investigate the history of the Lodge which has proved to be fascinating. So, if you have a cold wet night with nothing better to do than cuddle a pint, then I’ll happily regale you with the history!
What has been your proudest moment as a Mason? And what are you looking forward to next?
This has to be the first meeting I attended after my initiation. I still didn’t know what was going on, or really what had happened at my initiation, that’s quite typical for everyone. But just sitting there in the Lodge Room with the rest of the members, I was left with this huge feeling of pride and achievement in having joined an organisation which was so warm, welcoming, friendly, and with the simple unselfish object of trying to bring some help to others at difficult times in their lives.
Going forward then I’m looking forward to being around for our Lodges 200-year celebrations in 2047, and hopefully in a condition that allows me to enjoy it to the full!
What do your partner and family think about you being a Freemason? And how did they react when you first mentioned that you might be interested in joining?
I’m very fortunate because my good lady grew up with Freemasonry as her Dad was one for many years, and it was he who eventually got me to join.
Her enjoyment comes when I leave for a meeting, then she can settle down and watch a period drama!
The rest of the family were like most people when I said I was going to join the Freemasons, curious.
But they accepted and supported me, well knowing I wouldn’t take on anything that would be detrimental to any of us. As time has gone on they have been with us to social events organised by the Freemasons and thoroughly enjoyed themselves as well!
If you had an opportunity to speak to someone on the edge of making contact with us for the first time, what would you say?
I would say do it!
My biggest regret was that I had the opportunity of becoming a Freemason about seven years before I actually did, and really regret not doing it then, but work at the time was an issue I couldn’t overcome, so had to decline it for the future.
It is the only organisation I can think of where people join but very rarely leave. So on that basis alone then Freemasonry must be doing something right!
It is an atmosphere that you will not find anywhere else in life. Over the years I’ve travelled a lot for work, both in the UK and overseas, and for anyone who has done any degree of travelling will know you usually only have your own company to look forward to.
But, if you’re a Freemason and can arrange to visit a Lodge you have never been to before, either here or abroad, then the welcome you receive is astonishing.
You really do feel like you have just dropped in on some well-loved family members you haven’t seen in a long time, and the welcome you receive has to be experienced to be believed
I’ve been to Lodges both here and abroad and always been welcomed with open arms as a fellow member of this wonderful organisation of ours. It is truly amazing, but completely genuine and heartfelt, which makes it all the more special I think.
Moving away from the Lodge and Freemasonry… What do you do outside of the Lodge and the Craft?
For many years I was a Track Marshal at motorcycle races here in the UK and Holland. Plus the road circuits in Ireland and the Isle of Man too. But now I don’t run as quick, and I prefer a more sedate time with a beer and bike ride, but not necessarily in that order!
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? (This is a scored question. There is a right answer. Beer involved for those who get it.)