Not for the workers, clearly…

February 25, 2014

I was up in London at the weekend and was delighted that my 25 year old son, Jesse, agreed to come on a visit to Freemasons’ Hall with me. In fact, not only was he willing, he was downright keen and said that he’d been wanting to go for a long time. He’s read my books (well, the first one, anyway) and has read a lot about Freemasonry generally – good and bad, spurious and true – on the internet. He knows quite a lot about it and knows quite a lot about the many conspiracy theories that surround it. He asks intelligent, interested questions about the history and ritual of the Craft, is keen to understand the meanings of the symbols that are commonly seen but, like many outsiders, he needs help and guidance to discern truth from fiction, fact from fantasy, actuality from paranoid ravings…

We were going to have a look round the Museum and, hopefully, take a tour of the building. I’d been on the tour before and it was fabulous: the building is stunningly beautiful, exquisitely crafted and, apparently, the only Art Deco building in the country still being used for its original purpose and therefore the most unspoiled. But it was more than a fact-finding tour…we were going for some meaningful father-son time and I think we were both really looking forward to that…

Imagine our disappointment, then, when we arrived to find that the Museum is closed on Saturdays and the tours don’t run.

What? You cannot be serious!

It’s the weekend, a day when many people don’t have to go to work, a day when many people go out and about looking for things to do. Interesting things, culturally worthwhile, educational, uplifting… Does anyone know of any other Museum in London that’s closed on a Saturday?

It’s not that the building was not staffed. In the time we were there we saw three or four members of staff in the lobby, hanging out, telling members where their Lodges were meeting (there are a lot of meetings on Saturday apparently because Lodge members no longer feel able to take time out of work to attend during the week…Really? Has anyone tried applying the same logic to visitors to the Museum?) Their main duties, though, seemed to consist of having to tell visitors that the Museum was closed on Saturday. I can’t help feeling that they would have been better used with one in the entrance lobby and the other two or three manning the Museum…Maybe I’m missing something… One of the guys on the desk was the very nice man who’d led the tour I went on: a charming, sensitive and very knowledgeable person whose talents were being wasted last Saturday (and perhaps every Saturday) morning.

The trip wasn’t a total waste of time, though. The shop was open and, thanks to the patience and tolerance of the very kind proprietor, Kevin Duffy, we were able to spend an hour or so mooching around and discussing things of Masonic interest. Jesse was able to look through a few of the books on the shelves (Kevin’s got some of mine in his storeroom but he hadn’t got them up on the shelves yet…hint, hint…) and Jesse and I spent some time discussing the meanings of the symbols on the watch faces that Kevin sells…They were a bit small, mind you, and it took me a while to realise that they were the Working Tools of the Three Degrees plus the Sun, the Moon, and Jacob’s Ladder…Nice…

I also bought something I’ve been promising myself for ages: a Square and Compass wax seal so that when I send out books ordered on Amazon, I can seal the envelopes more appropriately…up to now I’ve been using a dove bearing an olive branch, which is not totally inappropriate, of course, but I look forward to sending out my first Square & Compass sealed order…sad, I know…

The thing is, we weren’t the only people mooching around the shop as an alternative to visiting the Museum. Kevin’s more aware than most of the numbers of people who come in on a Saturday and who leave disappointed. He says there are visitors from all over the world – when we were there, there were Americans, Japanese, Nigerians – many of whom can only come on the weekend and who are devastated to find the place closed.

So, I don’t want to come across as always moaning about Grand Lodge, obviously, but could someone, somewhere not have a look at this situation? To me it looks like PR suicide to close the country’s (perhaps the world’s) premier Masonic Museum on Saturdays. Never mind the disappointed tourists, the Freemasons from all over the world, their families and friends; interested non-Masons, prospective Masons…I wonder how many leave disappointed over the course of the year…

Anyway, never mind them…

What about us?

What about the workers?

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