Priest to quit as freemasons' leader
Thu 15 Sep 2005
THE head of Scotland's freemasons is to stand down from the post after only a year, it emerged yesterday.
Joe Morrow took up the job of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland last November, but instead of serving a normal five-year stint in the role, the 50-year-old will stand down next month due to "a change in personal circumstances and for health reasons".
Earlier in the month, a Sunday newspaper reported how the Labour councillor, advocate and Episcopalian priest was openly gay and was planning to remove some of the mystique traditionally surrounding the secretive organisation.
With about 75,000 members in Scotland, Mr Morrow presides over 660 lodges in this country as well as a further 480 lodges in 44 countries.
He is the 108th leader, following in the footsteps of people such as the third Duke of Atholl and King George VI. The order also counted Robert the Bruce as a member.
Martin McGibbon, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, said: "Joe Morrow has been head of the organisation since last November, but he will not be standing for re-election due to changing personal circumstances and for health reasons.
"Every year the incumbent goes though a re-election and normally serves for a five-year period.
"Mr Morrow will step down on 27 October and a new head will be installed on 24 November," he said.
As for reports on Mr Morrow's sexuality, Mr McGibbon added: "I would decline to comment on the story."
Mr Morrow, who could not be contacted by The Scotsman yesterday, said in a newspaper interview earlier in the month that he believed he could change the face of the masons, who in England are led by the Duke of Kent.
He add that the organisation had nothing to hide.
Mr Morrow said: "I have a huge passion for freemasonry. It has done wonderful things for my life.
"I don't want people to be afraid to ask us difficult questions. We have nothing to hide.
"I said from the start I wanted to be open about it and I have been making every effort to ensure this is the case. We need to be transparent if we are to break down the public's old preconceptions of us."
Mr Morrow agreed in the interview that secrets are part of the traditions of freemasonry, but insisted that anyone wishing to find out about the body could do so.
He added: "All the information is out there.
"When we talk about secrets it does not mean we are trying to hide things, it is just a test of character.
"I know there is a lot of hype about conspiracies and freemasonry, and can see where that comes from.
"But I have never seen anything that could be described as a conspiracy."
Mr Morrow reportedly joined Dundee Camperdown Lodge 317 in 1985, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
Potential new members have to be at least 21 years of age and believe in "a supreme being".
The organisation is also well known for its unusual handshake, which members use to recognise their counterparts. It dates back to a time when many masons were illiterate and would travel around, often abroad, to find work. It remains in use to this day.