Event Report: Metropolitan Grand Lodge AGM: Promotions, appeals and an honoured departure


The Grand Temple of Freemasons’ Hall was filled with Brethren who were to be promoted to Senior London Grand Rank, along with their Masonic friends.


W Bro Trevor Koschalka reports

Photographs by W Bro Daren Lewis


Their non-Masonic friends and families looked on from the gallery above. There was a sense of anticipation as the Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, entered the Temple in procession with his officers.

After welcoming all those present and, in particular, friends and family, Sir Michael invested all of those newly promoted to SLGR, taking time to speak to each. The Metropolitan Grand Master then invited W Bro Mark Smith to give a presentation. As well as being well-known from the BBC Television programme ‘Antiques Roadshow’ as their medal expert, Mark is also a London Freemason (as well as an APGM in Essex). He gave a very interesting talk in two parts. The first concerned the heroism of Noel Chavasse, a doctor who enlisted in the Army during the First World War and, although he never carried a weapon, worked tirelessly to bring medical assistance to his comrades in arms; often in ‘No man’s land’ and at considerable risk to himself. He was often under fire and was wounded on a number of occasions, but refused medical assistance himself until he had ministered to his men. He was one of only three people to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice.

The second part of the story concerned a victim of a road traffic accident in Leytonstone in 2002. W Bro Mark described how a man who was waiting to cross the road was knocked down by a car and was very seriously injured. He told how the man technically died on a number of occasions, but was revived and eventually taken to the Royal London Hospital by London’s Air Ambulance after being treated at the roadside. At the end of the story, Mark told us: that man was himself. He went on to describe his very serious injuries and how he probably would not have survived without the LAA’s timely intervention. He was therefore only too happy to support the Metropolitan Grand Lodge ‘Up Against Time’ Appeal. You can read more of W Bro Mark’s story on page 8 of this issue of Arena.

Sir Michael thanked Mark for his presentation and particularly the exposition of his personal experience. He then went onto note that the primary reason for the event was to pay tribute to those who had received Metropolitan honours and ensure that the enthusiasm that they had shown would continue – ensuring another 20 years of success for Metropolitan Freemasonry.

Offering his congratulations, he said that those who been honoured had been carefully selected by a process starting with the Lodge Visiting Officer and going through to his Deputies. They had been acknowledged, not just for the work that they do in their Lodges and local community, but for their service to Metropolitan Grand Lodge and the wider London communities; and he was sure that this enthusiasm would continue in the future.

Sir Michael went on to speak about two other charities supported by London Freemasons. ‘Only a Pavement Away’ works with the homeless, prison leavers and ex-servicemen who are struggling to find work. They are mentored and supported by members of the hospitality industry, and many have been successful in gaining jobs. In addition, with the support of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, they are able to stage a gala ‘Cook and Dine’ event each year at Freemasons’ Hall which raises a lot of money for the charity.

Second is the CHAPS initiative: the men’s healthcare charity. One of our members, Frank Tiller, himself a survivor of prostate cancer, has been a key mover in providing regular prostate checks for men. This has been supported by the London Freemasons’ Charity, which means that Freemasons are able to get checked out, free. The value of these tests has been demonstrated by the fact that every time an event has been put on, men have been identified who were in genuine danger – but will now benefit from an early intervention. This initiative has been so successful that CHAPS will be hosting a conference in Freemasons’ Hall to help Provinces learn about the benefits of this initiative.

After lunch, the Brethren once again assembled in the Grand Temple and, distinguished guests having entered, the Metropolitan Grand Master re-entered in procession with his officers and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge was called on.

After greeting everyone, Sir Michael returned to the ‘Up Against Time’ Appeal to raise £3 million; 20% of the cost of purchasing and equipping two new helicopters for London’s Air Ambulance. He said that it had been a real pleasure to present those Lodges who had donated £25,000 or more for the appeal with three specially carved mauls in a presentation box. He thanked W Bro Gary Pickering for his excellent work in making them. The Metropolitan Grand Master emphasised every pound donated helps and urged all Brethren to dig deep. He made mention of this year’s Metropolitan Stewards who have undertaken multiple fundraising initiatives under the banner of ‘20K for 20 years of Met’, already raising over £15,000.

Sir Michael also said that he was delighted to hear last week that the Mark Benevolent Fund had donated £100,000 towards the appeal. This makes a huge difference, and with the donation of £50,000 already given by the Mark Province of London, is very welcome. The current figure raised is £1.9 million in the year since the appeal was launched, and Sir Michael said that he was confident that £3 million would be raised by the end of the year.

He then paid tribute to the huge amount of work done by Stratton Richey and Paul King; the Chairman of the LFC and the Metropolitan Grand Charity Steward respectively in keeping Lodges and Chapters focused on supporting the appeal, by reminding them of their dormant relief chests and encouraging them to donate. He said that he had had the privilege of attending the London Air Ambulance Fundraising Dinner and spoke with both HRH The Prince of Wales and Tom Cruise about our fundraising for the new helicopters. We have also received fulsome praise at the Lord Mayor’s Show from Dr Kat Hunter – it is clear how valued we are by London’s Air Ambulance as their cornerstone donor over many years.

Turning to membership numbers, Sir Michael then noted that although we receive a number of unsponsored candidates, we should not rely on these alone. He said that we should be proud of what we do and look to introduce our friends so that our Lodges and the wider Masonic family continue to grow. He also stated that he was staggered by the huge amount of time London Masons give in order to ensure Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Chapter can function; through them London Masonry continues to grow and thrive. He thanked the four retiring Metropolitan Grand Inspectors – Paul Armstrong, John Burnapp, Nick Garnish and Glen McDonald – for all their hard work. He also paid tribute to the Metropolitan Grand Treasurer, Adrian Houston, who was retiring after seven years and took great pleasure in appointing him as Senior Warden. He also gave fulsome thanks to those who assisted him in his role.

Alas, there was sad news too. Sir Michael announced that he had tendered his resignation with effect from midnight on 17th April after the Metropolitan Grand Chapter Convocation. He said that he had been privileged to lead London Masons as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for the last eight and a half years, heading up an exceptional organisation, a powerhouse of innovation and leadership within the United Grand Lodge of England, supporting our members and communities.

He said that he felt it was now time for someone else to take up the reins with new ideas and perspective. But after 37 years as a London Freemason, he would not be losing touch with ‘Met’ and thanked all who had made his tenure utterly enjoyable. He concluded by wishing his successor every success. As Sir Michael resumed his seat, he was greeted with a rousing, long standing ovation.

After Metropolitan Grand Lodge was closed and the National Anthem sung, the Metropolitan Grand Master and his officers retired in procession.