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Robert T. Bashford
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Robert T Bashford

Rt Wor Bro Bashford lives in Ireland where he joined the Masonic Order in 1977. He became a Master Mason in 1978 and served as Master of his Mother Lodge, Moyarget No.280 Irish Constitution in 1990. He was appointed Richard Robinson Memorial Lecturer in the Irish Masonic Province of Antrim in 1992 and 2004. In 1996 he was appointed Grand Master's personal Standard Bearer by Most Wor. Bro Darwin Templeton, G.M. In 2000 he became the Millennium Master of the Irish Lodge of Research No. 200, and in 2001 went on to become Excellent King of the Irish Chapter of Research No. 222. He is the current Editor of the Irish Lodge of Research, and has been since 1992, and of the Irish Chapter of Research since 1996. He was appointed Representative of the Grand Lodge of Portugal at the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 2006 ( a ten year appointment), giving him the courtesy title of Right Worshipful Brother. He is currently Provincial Grand Librarian for the Province of Antrim, and Curator of the museum at their headquarters in Belfast.

Lodge of Research Jewel of Merit

He has been active in the field of Masonic research from the mid 1980s presenting his first paper in 1984. His work for the Lodge was acknowledged in 2009 with the presentation of the Lodge of Research Jewel of Merit for his work. In recent years he has spoken at Lodge Hope of Kurrachee and the Manchester Association of Masonic Research, on top of a heavy schedule of Lodge presentations throughout Ireland.

In October 2010, he received an invitation to participate in a worldwide lecture series endorsed by the Grand Lodge of Indiana. The endeavour aimed to raise Masonic awareness and inspire discussion and debate across the world.

Honorary Committee

Robert Bashford has been active in the field of Masonic Research from the mid-1980s presenting his first paper in 1984. His work for the Irish Lodge of Research No 200 I.C. was acknowledged in 2009 with the presentation of the Lodge of Research Jewel of Merit for his many published papers on aspects of Irish Masonic Research. In recent years he has spoken at Lodge Hope of Kurrachee and the Manchester Association of Masonic Research, on top of a heavy schedule of Lodge presentations throughout Ireland. Over the years he has spoken in Lodges in Washington DC, Turkey, and Denmark and has visited extensively throughout Europe.

One of his most satisfying achievements was his involvement in the formation of the Younger Master Mason's Committee of Antrim, which was established in 1986 to carry out an in-depth study of how Freemasonry worked in the Province and how it could be improved to encourage new members and retain existing members. He was one of a team of 12 young Master Masons who between them visited every lodge in the Province and formulated their Younger Master Mason's Report. This document was well received at both Provincial and Grand Lodge level and led to the publication of 'The Way Forward' document by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1989. His work in this field was acknowledged in 1998 when he was appointed Grand Master's Standard Bearer for that year.

His work in Masonic research led him to be appointed the Richard Robinson Memorial Lecturer for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim in 1996, 2004 and 2007. Probably his greatest pleasure has been the many opportunities to address non Masonic Groups such as local History societies throughout the Island and to government funded folk history days for Ballymoney, Coleraine, Letterkenny and Ballymena Council groupings. Here he has been able to take the message of Irish Freemasonry to a non-Masonic audience.

In October 2010, he received an invitation to participate in a worldwide lecture series endorsed by the Grand Lodge of Indiana. The endeavour aimed to raise Masonic awareness and inspire discussion and debate across the world. This very successful initiative gave Robert a great platform to present the story of Irish Freemasonry and its many gifts to Freemasonry at large. This presentation is still available on the World Wide Web under the title of "The Gift of Irish Freemasonry" and has brought Robert a new international audience of some 90,000 viewers worldwide, over the last four years.

As a result of these activities on the 15th January 2011 Robert opened the first dedicated Irish Masonic website, www.irishfreemasonry.com which was set up initially to inform Irish Brethren about their History and has now grown into a shop window into Irish Freemasonry for anyone around the globe with an interest in Irish Freemasonry. The website has attracted over 200,000 hits in the last three years bring in viewers from some 140 countries worldwide.

Summer 2014 International Masonic Workshop

A full report of the Summer 2014 International Masonic Workshop by Robert Bashford

Having finally found a few moments of quiet time, I would like to record a few thoughts on the recent Summer 2014 International Masonic Workshop, held in Greece, between the 27th and 31st August 2014. It was a well-attended occasion with Brethren present from The USA, Canada, Finland, France, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Romania. There were also representatives present from all three home Constitutions - England, Ireland and Scotland. First off, I must congratulate the organisers in finding an excellent and comfortable venue, close to the beach, yet with well-equipped conference facilities, where we could meet and carry out our deliberations. The food was good, wholesome and healthy and gave us all a flavour of Greece and all the usual facilities of Beach and Pool were close by for use during our downtime in the late afternoons and early evenings.

On arrival at the airport in Athens Rt Wor Bro B.W. and myself were met by a very efficient driver who took us to our destination with no hassle or hurry. And the same can be said on departure, when we were effortlessly and comfortably conveyed back to the airport in ample time for our flights. Rt Wor Bro D.K., a Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Greece, and his team had a full programme planned with an interesting cross-section of keynote speakers arranged for all morning and afternoon sessions. D.K. welcomed all present at the Workshop check-In and registration event held on the evening of Wednesday the 27th of August. This gave us all an opportunity to meet informally and enjoy a cocktail (Ouzo and water) at the expense of our hosts in the Philotecton Society. Then around 20.30, we sat down to our buffet supper. Afterwards, we walked down to the pool complex, where we enjoyed an entertaining evening of Greek music and dance.

After a comfortable night, enjoying the air conditioning, we were up, fresh and lively in some 30 degrees of glorious sun, on our walk up the thirty three steps to the Dining Room for our buffet breakfast. By 09.45, we had all reconvened in the conference centre, where Dr. R.B. was acting as Chairman. He introduced D.K. to carry out the formal welcome and commencement of the Workshop and shortly thereafter our first keynote speaker, architect and Masonic Researcher A.T., a senior member of all Masonic Orders under the control of The Grand Lodge of Finland and of The Royal Order of Scotland, began the workshop with a provocative look at "Freemasonry and its Role in an ever more Secular Society". A.T. made very good use of an American Masonic Club poster and posed the question if we, as an Order are moving more towards a Dining Club scenario, rather than the more traditional Masonic structures of old. His thoughtful presentation was well received and generated some lively discussion, to break the ice and get us all underway.

Once our Chairman, Dr. R.B. completed his summing up, we were then treated to three interesting short presentations starting with Rt Wor Bro D.M., another Past Grand Master of The National Grand Lodge of Greece, who spoke on the concept of Regularity, and Territoriality, as understood by Grand Lodges. He was then followed by Rt Wor Bro D.M., current Deputy Grand Master of the GLAMF in France. D.M. spoke briefly on the current confused state of Freemasonry in France with brief descriptions of some of the competing bodies such as the GLNF, GLDF, GLAMF, GLIF and of course, his own organisation the GLAMF. He then went on to tell us about the negotiations that are currently underway, that are being led by a group of five European Grand Lodges, who are attempting to reconcile a number of these French organisations with a view to bringing them all together into one new and more representative Masonic grouping. I think that most of the Irish, English and Scottish Brethren present found this presentation very enlightening in view of the recent problems in France emanating from the Grande Loge Nationale Francais. Our third speaker, Dr. V.L. went on to speak about the relationship of Freemasonry with politics and religion from the European Masonic perspective, which tied in extremely well with the two earlier presentations. We then moved on to a combined Question and Answer session with a few interesting points being raised on the French Grand Lodges presentation, before finally breaking at 12.40 for Lunch.

We resumed at 13.45 with a detailed marketing presentation from Dr. A.Z., who holds a B.Sc in Marketing from Athens, a Master of Science degree (by research) in International Marketing from UMIST and a Ph.D in Services Marketing Ethics from the Queensland University of Technology. A.Z. presentation entitled "Crafting the Craft's reputation in the 21st Century" was a timely reminder of some of the issues engaging many Grand Lodges at the present time. We were presented with a detailed and well thought out power-point highlighting many pertinent issues such as Membership, Public Perception, Image, and Relevance to Modern Life, Esoteric Content, and Appeal to the Young. For those who are familiar with the 2012 report commissioned by U.G.L.E. under the title "The Future of Freemasonry" or the slightly earlier report “Its about Time" issued in 2005 by The Conference of Grand Master's of America, A.Z. presentation was extremely relevant and gave some useful pointers for those in a position to influence such matters. It is of course, worth noting that the Freemasons of Ireland first addressed these issues and others back in the late 1980's when the Younger Master Masons Committee of Antrim carried out a detailed analysis of our membership, lodge activities and social side. They prepared their report and it ended up with The Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes. The report was adopted by Grand Lodge in 1990 and was issued to the Brethren at large under the title - "The Way Forward" document, which still forms the background to Irish Grand Lodge policy right up to the present day. A.Z. presentation was well received and generated numerous questions, as the Brethren present sought this opportunity to get useful suggestions from this expert in her field. As a consequence, we overran slightly, breaking up just after 15.00.

After a quick shower and freshen up, we all reassembled in the Foyer of the hotel at 17.30, to set off on a three hour excursion to the 5th century BC Temple of Poseidon, located on the exposed headland of Sounion. This is reputed to be one of the most breath taking panoramic vistas in the world. The bus duly arrived and we all set off in relaxed mood, having enjoyed the earlier part of the day. I was joined by M.K., R.B. and S.B., as we set off for a brisk walk up to the Temple site from the bus park. It was a glorious evening hitting 35 degrees, but thanks to the prevailing winds blowing off the sea, we enjoyed a rather pleasant walk round these magnificent ruins. On the way, our guide told a bit about the history of the area.

She told us that the sea in front of us - The Aegean - got its name as a result of the sad suicide of King Aegeus, who jumped off the Cape when he saw his son's ship returning to Greece from Crete, bearing a black sail. As his son had been sent as part of the annual tribute to satisfy the blood lust of the Minotaur, the half man/bull of Cretan Myth, on seeing the black sail, Aegeus, believed his son was dead, and took his own life out of remorse at the loss of his son. As it turned out, his son had killed the Minotaur, but had forgotten to change the sail. Such Brethren were the vagaries of life in earlier times. We thankfully had no such difficulties, and after a walk round of the Cape and the Temple ruins, we all came together for a few photographs, including a group photograph to commemorate the event. We adjourned to a local Taverna, where we watched the sun set in the Aegean, just behind the Temple. After sun-set we rejoined the coach and returned to the hotel for our buffet supper. Then a few of us adjourned down to the Beach Bar for an hour before bed.

Day Three began with the appointment of A.T. to the position of chairman for the morning session, and he, in turn introduced me, as the next intender, who would speak on the Dissemination of Masonic Knowledge in the 21st Century. I then presented my audio visual power-point highlighting the many advantages that accrue from using digital technology. As the entire presentation can be viewed on www.irishfreemasonry.com, I need say no more at this stage. The Presentation generated questions on my technical content, and particularly amongst the Greeks present, also raised several questions on the nature of Freemasonry in Ireland, based on the images shown. They were totally amazed at the openness of the Order in Ireland, particularly our Church Services, Masonic Open Days and other functions where we interact directly with the general public.

Our recent involvement with Fr. Brian D’Arcy and the public re-dedication of The Orr Memorial were also discussed. It became clear from the Europeans present, that in Europe generally, there is no interaction between Lodge Members and the general public, certainly not in the way that we would understand it in Ireland. They were particularly taken with our Irish marketing motto - A Part of Society, not Apart from Society, a phrase originally coined by the late Provincial Grand Master of the P.G.L. of Antrim, Rt Wor Bro Robert L. Orr.

We then moved on to a further two short papers on philosophical matters relating to Freemasonry. Our first speaker G.B.-T. spoke on “Scientific Inaccuracies in Masonic Rituals” and took the opportunity to consider the case for updating our ritual framework to make it more attractive to 21st century members. G.B.-T. set out his stall very professionally, reminding us of the importance of the four elements - earth, water, fire and air in the sphere of the universe and pointed out why we should consider change. Our next speaker A.T. took as his topic “The Origins of Revolutionary Freemasonry”, giving us all the opportunity to consider the meaning of this statement and how it arose. Indeed we were treated to an interesting presentation on the 17th century and the influence of the Rosicrucian vision of the universal reformation of mankind, and its impact on three of the leading European Masonic thinkers of the time. These three - Chevalier Ramsey, Adam Weishaupt and Nicholas de Bonneville - would each in his own way have a profound influence on aspects of European Masonry, which still resonate right up to the present time.

And so to lunch - it was nearly quite fitting that we should all have to face a further thirty three steps to lunch, where we could ruminate on the morning’s presentations. And then immediately after lunch, we had the pleasure of an excellent presentation from Dr. R.B. who spoke on The Grand Architects. Here we were taken back to the middling founders of 1717 and their drive to bring in aristocratic members as they set out to form a pro-establishment grouping with strong government connections. Initially this Grand Lodge of Westminster had no great plans for expansion, but as matters developed in the 18th century and other similar groupings came to the fore, a much more competitive spirit came into being, as a struggle for supremacy got underway. This struggle, and its key players would ultimately set the framework for English Masonry, as we know it today. I was particularly pleased to note that Dr. R.B. has been one of the few current Masonic authors to acknowledge the key role played by Irish Freemasons at this seminal time in the history of English Freemasonry. I found his paper to be challenging in places, yet of great interest and can say that he has now fired up my interest sufficiently that I will have to seek out a copy of his last book Schism and seek further illumination on this fascinating topic. As you would expect, several questions were asked at the end of the session to tease out some other fresh nuggets of learning.

At this point we broke for our daily siesta, some two and a half hours of sun, sand and liquid refreshment, and once refreshed, we returned to the Workshop at 17.30 where the Most Excellent Great Chief, Most Excellent Sir Knight B.W. GKM., PGSK worldwide head of The Grand Council of Knight Masons took the chair and introduced Rt Wor Bro Dr. D.C. F.C.F. from the Grand Lodge of A.F & A.M. of Canada in the Province of Ontario. D.C., had as his title - “The Kipling Gavel, an Adventure in Masonic Research”.

This attractive little paper tells the story of an old maul that is in the possession of Grand River Lodge No 151, Kitchener, Waterloo in Ontario. There has long been a story that this old maul was presented to a member of the Lodge (Wor Bro E.A. Snow) by Rudyard Kipling. As an amateur historian, D.C. sets out his various steps in looking in to the Kipling connection, reviewing the Lodge Minute books, and eventually located a mass of correspondence to the Lodge since the start of the 20th century. And eventually and many days of searching, he eventually found a letter from Kipling to Snow confirming the gift of the maul. So now, thanks to his efforts provenance has been confirmed and the Lodge now preserve the old Kipling maul. As you would expect there were many references to Kipling and his Masonic links, and B.W. was able to skilfully use these to set the scene for the second part of our evening session, which was the showing of the film - The Man who would be King. This was the popular 1975 version starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine. The film was introduced and moderated by Bro A.I.B., and proved to be a popular diversion, as we all wound down after a busy day of Presentations.

Day Four, and sadly my last day arrived all too quickly. After an excellent breakfast, we assembled in the Workshop, where I was privileged to act as Chairman for the morning session. On this occasion, our keynote speaker was Dr. E.D., a Belgian academic who has been living and working in Athens since 1985. She graduated in History of Art and Archaeology from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and holds a doctorate of political science & history from the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (1999). She is a well-respected academic who has published numerous papers and has an academic interest in the social history of Freemasonry in the period 1770 - 1830. Her doctoral thesis, pioneer work in Greek academic context, focused on the Freemasonry of the Ionian Islands, especially Corfu from its beginnings up to the War of the Greek Independence.

And for the first time, she integrated Masonic archives and bibliography alongside the more usual academic records enabling her to tell the story from a uniquely Masonic viewpoint. E.D. presentation was well received and generated a number of questions and comments about the Masonic community in Corfu. We now know much about the Napeolonic occupation of the islands and the introduction of French Masonry which ran alongside local Greek Masonry at the time. We also learned that the only Masonic Museum in Greece is in fact located in Corfu in the Lodge rooms of the Lodge Phoenix of Corfu. And we learned that D.K., in his time as Grand Master of The National Grand Lodge of Greece in 2007, officiated at the opening of this Masonic collection in Corfu.

I then had the great pleasure in introducing a further three short papers, starting with a paper entitled “Music, Freemasonry and some Reflections regarding the case for Corfu”, which was presented by M.K. on behalf of Dr. K.K. In this paper K.K. looked at the many strong musical links on Corfu between the many music teachers and composers, who were also Freemasons, and the development of a musical tradition on the island. It was fascinating to learn just how many of our musical Brethren were active in the Lodge, and how they wrought to bring music to the masses. Our second speaker K.P., gave a very interesting presentation entitled “The Rose of Rhodes” which looked in detail at the symbolism of the blossom and the fruit of the pomegranate. This is the fruit that traditionally represents eternity, and to some, would be emblematic of a link or connection between the earthly world and the spiritual world of Heaven. In this respect, the pomegranate will be found at the boundary between the vertical and the horizontal.

Indeed one of the best illustrations of this concept can be seen in the Grand Chapter Room in Dublin, where the pomegranates are found at the top of the wall, against the side of the ceiling. Our third and final speaker in the morning, was our good friend D.K. who gave us a succinct history of “The First Lodge of Research in Greece”. Here we learned about the gestation of the new Research Lodge and how it came into being as Isis Lodge No 9 on the register of the National Grand Lodge of Greece. Interestingly the Lodge does not look at Masonic history per say, but concentrates more in developing a series of themed papers on a given research topic. In recent years these topics have included:

  • 2003-4: The Masonic Symbol.
  • 2005-6: The Noachites and their tradition in Freemasonry.
  • 2007-8: Tracing Boards.
  • 2009-11: Geometry in Freemasonry.
  • 2012-13: The Degree of Fellowcraft.
  • 2014: The Temple.

This is somewhat different to the norm in Ireland, but clearly helps Brethren to focus their efforts on a specific area for a finite period of time. In this way, it is possible to elucidate difficult philosophical matters in great detail, and shine a light into some issues that may otherwise be misunderstood. By now it was 12.40, so we all broke for lunch and some cooling refreshment.

Immediately after lunch Dr. L.L. gave an excellent presentation on “Petros Melissinos and his Masonic Rite”. This was an excellent paper on Freemasonry and the Russian Court, and gave some very interesting insights into court life in the 18th and 19th centuries. As this session came to a close I was able to speak briefly about the importance of Saints Days in the Orthodox Church. In our particular case, on the 30th August it was in fact Alexandros day. The tradition in Greece is that you kiss everyone named after the saint, on both cheeks, and in our case we had two Alexandros present, both of whom were on the end of an Irish greeting in line with Greek tradition. I did call for the rest of the delegates to form an orderly queue, but sadly, they were all too keen to get back into the sun, so our two young Saints were let off the hook, on this occasion.

Our afternoon session kicked off at 17.40 when M.Z. shared a short though provoking video with us allowing us to walk in others footsteps for a brief moment or two. This was a very powerful presentation, and gave us all an insight into an area of Charity, where few of us actively go. Our next presentation was made by N.C. who spoke on “The Royal Art and Leadership - an approach”. Here we looked briefly into leadership, the characteristics required. We considered the loneliness of command and went on to consider the importance of “the Vision thing”. As in so much of modern life. It was stressed that it is important to keep the support of a wide cross section of your membership without too much commitment to any particular power base or interest group of members. Again much to consider in this well thought out presentation. And on the question of leadership, our worthy Bro B.W. came up next to speak “On the Masonic Journey of a Brother retrospectively viewing his membership and affection over the past several decades for Knight Masonry, the Chivalric Order known as The Grand Council of Knight Masons”.

And from this strong introduction, B.W. went on, to speak at length on the origins, ethos and growth of Knight Masonry, during his time as a member of the Order. We were able to see, at first hand, many of the requirements of leadership, as B.W. quietly and authoritively set out his vision for the continued growth and development of Knight Masonry as a worldwide Masonic body. All in all, it was a powerful presentation that was well received by all present. Our next speaker G.L., gave us an interesting talk entitled “Moral teachings from the design and implementation of a building foundation”. Here we enjoyed another interesting philosophical presentation comparing the wideness of a foundation to the openness of the mind. This theme was extended to consider reinforcement in foundations as the equivalent of moral strength of character and bad ground is quite simply the void that we all find ourselves in before we firm up our roots and connections. All in all, this was an interesting idea, which will require further thought in the future. And this neatly led us in to Dr. M.K., Honorary Speaker of the Workshop who presented some aspects of his lecture “1814 – Consolidation and Change. The First Year of the United Grand Lodge of England”. M.K., a New Zealander by birth is the current Prestonian Lecturer, Secretary of Quatuor Coronati and is also Editor of The Masonic Square magazine.

He is also the Provincial Grand Lodge Orator for Middlesex. As becomes a Prestonian Lecturer, he gave a confident and competent presentation, which succinctly covered the topic of his Prestonian award. He had previously presented a number of copies of his Lecture to the Organising Committee, to help them raise some additional funds to meet the costs of the Workshop. It was, in many ways, an excellent conclusion to my visit to this, the first Summer International Masonic Workshop in Athens bringing my week of Masonic experiences to a satisfactory conclusion.

I regret missing the Sunday morning presentation on “Loyalists and Malcontents - Freemasonry and Revolution in South Carolina” by Dr. R.B., and look forward to hearing this presentation somewhere else in the not too distant future. On a similar vein, I would like to have sat in on the round table discussion on “Joining Freemasonry” moderated by Dr. A.Z. and missed A.T. bringing the whole workshop to its final conclusions. All in all, it was an excellent workshop, where we all had many opportunities to make new friends, discuss areas of particular interest to our researches and learn some new and challenging theories about aspects of our Order that we may not personally have considered before. I firmly believe it to have been time well spent and am delighted to have had the opportunity to bring the Irish view to this most, European of settings. I can but hope that our organisers may decide to run something similar in the future, and keenly await their considered decision on this matter.

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