Burnley Express - UK
Freemasons' secrets unveiled
27 February 2007
A LONG-standing Freemason in the Burnley area has lifted the lid on the secretive world of Freemasonry.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master Mr Jim Sutcliffe spoke to the Express about the men-only organisation which officialADVERTISEMENTly dates from the early 18th century and which has not always had a positive press.
For most people, the popular image of Freemasons is of men wearing aprons, with rolled-up trouser legs and taking part in bizarre initiation ceremonies.
While accepting that many of these features are true, Mr Sutcliffe says they are now largely symbolic and not enough people are aware of the great amount of charity work Freemasons do.
Pendleside Hospice receives donations annually and in the last 12 months has received more than £2,500. Only the National Lottery gives more to charity than the Freemasons.
Former Burnley Grammar School pupil Mr Sutcliffe said: "The last time I rolled my trouser leg up was in 1972. There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry and the sad thing is that a lot of people think we only do things for ourselves."
Mr Sutcliffe, of Sabden, said the veil of secrecy probably arose during the Second World War when a general sense of suspicion lingered around society as a whole.
The aprons are a symbolic nod to the past when the original Freemasons were stonemasons and other master craftsmen. As for the rolled-up trouser leg, Mr Sutcliffe said this was probably originally done to show people there were no hidden daggers.
He added: "The initiation ceremony is like a mini-play and every new member has to make an obligation to lead a good life, be tolerant and respectful – sometimes referred to as brotherly love. Members have to be aged 21 and over, be of good character and believe in a supreme being. We make these vows on whichever holy book the member follows.
"Most Freemasons are invited to join by existing members and I have made many good friends over the years. I think that is what we all appreciate. Meetings are a social occasion with a meal and drinks, as well as talks from other members."