My experiences of Freemasonry while working “on the tools”

My experiences of Freemasonry while working “on the tools”

Apprentice Shipwright in HM Dockyard Rosyth 1960-65.

Leaving school aged 15 in 1960, I managed to get a start as an apprentice shipwright in the local dockyard, which at the time was the largest single industrial employer in Scotland with a workforce of over 7,000.

Rosyth is a medium-sized town on the River Forth that sprang up around the large Royal Naval Dockyard, which was built around 1909, at a time when Germany was seen as a naval threat. Many of the workers who built the three docks and tidal basin at Rosyth came from Ireland, some stayed on and together with other workers who were recruited to refit the naval ships – from all over Britain wherever ship or boat building was carried out – gave Rosyth an unusually cosmopolitan demographic profile.

Rosyth was a new-town before that phrase was coined. There were few existing houses and the new ones built were prefabricated structures, Tin Town it was called, where workers lived in the most basic conditions and only later, after lobbying by politicians were substantial, brick-built, two-storey council houses provided.

When I started work, there were no private houses and everyone lived in these council houses. The top civilian official in Rosyth dockyard might live next door to the lowliest labourer in this egalitarian world of my youth, and no one had cars! The local workers got to work mainly by bicycle or bus, or by special trains which ran directly into the dockyard from Edinburgh.

Incoming dockyard workers brought their own traditions and practices to accommodate their needs and there was one Church of England, one Church of Scotland, one Roman Catholic church, one Methodist church, one Baptist church, but there were two Masonic Lodges.

My apprenticeship was a five-year one, the first two years of which were spent under the supervision of instructors in a training centre, learning to use the tools of the trade and attending technical college. After this non-productive period each apprentice worked on production work, mostly refitting ships for the remaining three years.

In my apprenticeship I was always under the care of an instructor or “journeyman” shipwright, and as they came from all over the UK; Aberdeen, Leith, Glasgow, Sunderland, Newcastle, Devonport, Chatham, Sheerness, Belfast, Cork, Cardiff, this gave me good training, as well as a good insight into the various cultures and practices of the different places the journeymen came from.

As well as the varied locations the dockyard “mateys”, as the tradesmen were called, had come from, they also came from various types of workplaces, ranging from small boatyards in coastal hamlets like Buckie, and Appledore, to the large shipyards of Clydeside and Tyneside.

This eclectic mix of men had experienced growing up in the hungry 1920/30s and then being thrown into the cauldron of the World War 2, and the post-war period, when their services were at the disposal of the MOD who posted them all over the world.

I worked with men who had been stationed in Singapore, Hong-Kong, Trincomalee, Simonstown, SA; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Bermuda, Alexandria, and various other Royal Naval bases. These men brought a wealth of experience and a cosmopolitan air to my apprenticeship, and of the many men I worked with during that period, (1960-1965) I can’t think of any real badness in any of them.

I simply make the point that unlike other mining villages and small towns in Fife, Rosyth wasn’t parochial with a long-established, indigenous population, viewing incoming workers with suspicion. Rosyth was a melting pot where there were no long-term residents and all sorts lived, worked, and got on pretty well together.

Most of my workmates were good people who I got on well with. Some were Protestant, some RC and some non-religious; some were from an Orange background and most were Masons, but the older ones of these disparate groups, having recently fought a war together, all got on, and while I was aware of differences, they didn’t feature much in my view of life at that time, and they certainly didn’t bother me.

Three Nights and a Sunday (Double Time)

Thinking back, there were some indications that freemasonry was rife and membership of the Craft gave a member of the brethren an edge over his non-Masonic workmates, but such favouritism centred on, what to me at the time were trivial things, such as the sharing out of overtime working, which went mostly to the brothers.

Working as an apprentice with a 10-man squad of tradesmen, I used to get annoyed when the privilege of overtime, which was needed to boost low wages, went to the same 5 or 6 Masons to the exclusion of the rest of the men.

Though this did not concern me directly, I was no shrinking violet and questioned this obvious bias quite forcefully, openly stating that it seemed as if those who sneaked off to the Masons were the beneficiaries of favours doled out by the invariably Masonic gaffer. It was noticeable that when confronted with this allegation my normally vociferous colleagues went very quiet.

My experiences were not unique or unusual and a friend of mine who worked as an apprentice mechanical fitter in one of the Engineering Workshops at Rosyth told me of how, when his motor bike broke down and he needed to get a tool from his works toolbox one weekend, he entered the base with his photographic security pass and was astonished to find that the man he worked mates with all week and a dozen others were busily operating lathes, drilling machines etc. This was in a factory which my mate, and most of the workforce believed was on a 5-day week. The Craft however was on a 7-day week.

Money for sale

In addition to overtime, HM Naval Dockyards had a “Payment By Results” (PBR), scheme that offered incentives to workers to produce more and be paid for their extra productivity. The most lucrative of the various PBR schemes was “Piece Work” which set money against measured activities.

Not all work allocated by the gaffers or charge-hands was part of the PBR scheme so workmen would go to some lengths to be given the work that attracted PBR and in particular Piece Work (PW). Again this allowed the favoured few to benefit most, and again, if there was only a limited amount of PW, it seemed to go to Masons.

One prominent member of the staff entrusted with measuring and recording PW on a weekly basis was also a Mason, let us call him George Mason. George Mason was a very clever and likeable rogue. George would charge the workers a ten-shilling note for his services as a “favourable measurer”, which would result in the worker getting about £8 to£10 per week in PW bonus, even if the work done didn’t merit this bonus. George Mason did not limit his services to members of the Craft.

The pay-off practice for this favour (which I witnessed often, but didn’t have to contribute to personally as I was exempt as an apprentice) was for an individual to fold a ten-shilling note, over and over neatly, till it was about three-quarters of an inch square (nicknamed a Spangle because of its resemblance to a sweet of that name) and slip it into George’s hand with a handshake, either in the dockyard or in the working men’s club in which George was a leading light. Sometimes one man would “square up” George for a squad of men.

George’s activities were well-known and every so often the story would go out that he had been rumbled, and the big bosses had summoned him to the main-office to face the music for his extra-earning activities, but this never came to anything much. Sometimes George was allocated other time-keeping duties for a while, but soon he would re-emerge to resume as the piece-work recorder for several hundred men.

I didn’t mind benefiting from this defrauding of HMG, as to my mind they could afford it, and besides it was an open secret, a fact of life in the industry, which to my way of thinking didn’t harm anyone. As to George Mason’s apparent immunity to sanction I didn’t examine it too closely. That was the way things were in HM Dockyard Rosyth.

George Mason seemed to lead a charmed life in other ways as well and was elected as the top committee man in the local, dockyard, working men’s club, which at that time had a massive turnover with surprisingly little profit. George would act as judge and jury for any miscreants who broke the clubs rules, or questioned the scheme of things, which, of course I did. This led to me being summoned to his office, where he dispensed justice below a portrait of HM one side and Robert Burns in full Masonic regalia the other side. I was banned for six months.

George’s charmed life eventually came to end when his hubris caught up with him after his accountant of long-standing died. The incoming replacement bean-counter took one look at the books and phoned the police. George probably had no problems serving his prison sentence as he was very likeable and many/most prison officers are in the Craft. He later told me he was put in charge of the library with special privileges.

T. Dan Smith used the Masonic handshake – even though he wasn’t one – but he never got past first base as can be seen in this video:

The exception to the rule

In fairness to the Craft for every fly-man like George, or perhaps for every ten like him, I have met decent, honest Masons, who were not in it for what they could get out of it.

I can think of one such gentleman, who had a senior position in the MOD stores at Rosyth. Jimmy Mason had a senior position and was responsible for disposal of Naval Stores that were past their issue date. This was a strange system whereby stores equipment no matter whether it was in mint condition or was tired and worn was subject to sale by auction, in job lots, by a certain date.

The job lots were catalogued and sold, “as seen” in large quantities and the person who had knowledge of exactly what made up the lots, or better still the person who decided what would go into a lot would be in possession of very valuable information. For instance one parcel of scrap metal might contain non-ferrous and exotic metals worth £50,000 and another similar sized lot might only contain £5,000 worth of similar material. Or one lot of two-way radio sets might contain a hundred working sets while a similar lot might have only one serviceable set.

A buyer armed with inside information, or better still someone to fix the lot after the end-date for viewing could make a small fortune. So the Arthur Daley types, who flocked from as far away as London and Belfast to attend these auctions knew of Jimmy Mason’s position and how useful he could be. Regular attempts were made to befriend Jimmy Mason at work and at his local where he drank, but he would not have anything to do with this and rebuffed all attempts to compromise his integrity.

On one occasion one persistent dealer pushed Jimmy Mason too far. Jimmy Mason was standing at the bar of his local pub when a wealthy scrap dealer from Edinburgh thrust a large roll of bank-notes at him, to get him on board. Jimmy Mason had taken just about as much as he could take and putting the dealer in a half-nelson he bundled him unceremoniously out of the pub and deposited him on the pavement. The burly dealer had underestimated the righteous indignation of this dapper, lightly-built, polite man, who had served in the parachute regiment in the Second World War.

So my early working life experiences with freemasonry were not entirely negative. I had seen the other side as well. Anyway I didn’t dwell on it too much as I had no intention of staying in the dockyard to work; I had bigger fish to fry and wanted to see the world. On the day my five-year apprenticeship was complete, in 1965, aged 20, I left to start a new life as a ship’s carpenter in the merchant navy.

Clan Line Steamers

If I didn’t pay much attention to Masonic bias as a young man it was because I was interested in girls, drinking and having a good time with my mates, and in any case in 1960 things were different and blatant prejudice (colour, racial or religious), let alone bias, was simply a fact of life in the big bad world that I was determined to see.

Many other apprentices took a different course from me and sought a long-term career in Rosyth Dockyard. Those who did, would, if they were ambitious, take the oath of entered apprentice in the Masons and go through the ritual that afforded them security of employment, and a path to promotion in what was a largely Masonic workplace.

The consumption of large amounts of alcoholic beverages with my mates and then causing mayhem were the fraternal rituals that I practiced. We scoffed at our more sensible and steady peers as being old men before their time.

Months before my apprenticeship was complete I had managed to secure a job with Clan Line Steamers on condition that I could furnish them with a satisfactory reference and release from my indentures of apprenticeship. I did this and reported for work on UK coastal relief duties before sailing “deep-sea”, as overseas voyages were known.

The Clan Line ran on strictly racist lines, white officers, and coloured crew. The coloured crew were from the various countries that the company traded with, namely India, East Pakistan, Pakistan (West), and South Africa.

There was even a sectarian element to the coloured crew in that the Indian and Pakistani crews had a caste system ethos, whereby the top man, the Serang did not consider the lower caste Topaz, the man who cleaned the toilets, as his equal, or anything like it.

Among the South African crews the deck and engine room crews were Zulus with a tribal head man in charge, and the stewarding posts were held by Natal Indians, as the Zulus considered cooking and cleaning beneath their dignity.

I was never comfortable with the white officer mantle on coloured crew ships and left the Clan Line to sail with various companies who employed “white crew” I.E. crew enlisted by UK Board Of Trade employment centres similar to seagoing Labour Exchanges, known as “The Pool”.

While sailing with white crew on a tramp steamer I got talking to three of the crew who were from Belfast. These three mates, all RCs, told me horrific stories of their ill-treatment at the hands of the “B-men”, the B Special Police Officers who were largely Orange Order and Masonic members. I was appalled by these tales as I had no knowledge of them through the press and it was only later, when the B Specials were disbanded that I realised just how bad things were in Northern Ireland.

The point I am trying to make in reciting all of this, is that my expectations of fairness and even-handedness were not too high. I was aware that the world I inhabited was not a garden of roses. I had experienced religious and racial bigotry in my own life and had dealt with it as a matter of fact, or a fact of life.

I visited South Africa under apartheid and the US when racial discrimination was recently outlawed, but still endured, so the favours that one Mason might bestow upon another were small in the scheme of things and in my time in three and a-bit years in the Merchant Navy, Masonry didn’t even raise a blip on my radar.

Life was not always fair to me, but as nothing compared to the Florida Negro, Belfast RC or the Natal Indian.

Back ashore and married, my perceptions of the Craft change

When I became a husband in 1969 and father in 1972 my priorities changed slightly, as the burdens of providing for a wife and child replaced the less onerous ones of keeping myself in beer and baccy.

I returned briefly to Rosyth Dockyard where many of my workmates and friends were Masons, but the preferential treatment among the brethren that I would have dismissed with a harsh word in the past was now seen by me in a different light.

In an industry where there was a basic wage that all men were paid the bonus and overtime earnings could double a man’s wages and in this respect I believe Masons prevented me, many more like me from realising their full wage-earning potential.

I was still not an ambitious man, which was just as well, because in Rosyth Dockyard as a non-Mason I would have struggled to gain promotion through the ranks. All too often I’ve seen good, competent and ambitious men being passed over for promotion in the workplace in favour of talentless chancers, whose only passport to success was their Masonic handshake, which they exploited to the full. Good Masons would say these were the exceptions to the rule that brought their organisation into disrepute. I would say otherwise.

Non-masons a security risk?

To reiterate, my mind was never set on a career in Rosyth Dockyard, so though my priorities with wage-earning were changed somewhat, I had no ambitions of making a career in the dockyard, partly I suppose because of the cliqueish ways of those whose lives revolved solely round work, the lodge, or golf-club, and a humdrum existence.

At this time, while working in a gang of ten tradesmen on conventional surface warships and submarines, the nature of warfare had changed and many shipwright gangs were being transferred to more highly-paid shiftwork, refitting nuclear submarines.

This work also involved a higher level of security clearance than the already high MOD standards, but this did not concern me. So I was shocked when Archie Mason my supervisor told me that of our 10- man gang being transferred to work on the nuclear sub I was the only one not be one cleared.

My place was given to a new man, Tam Mason, who was just out of the local psychiatric hospital he had signed himself into as a means of avoiding a prison sentence after he was found guilty by a court of sexually abusing children.

In Rosyth Dockyard serious criminal offenses, and certainly custodial ones, were normally punished by instant dismissal from government service, but in this case the offender was not sacked and was instead rewarded with a highly paid job, while non-masons found guilty of petty crimes were sacked as unsuitable to clear high-level security clearance.

This double standard where a Mason was concerned was too blatant to ignore. I knew of other cases where non-Masons were dismissed for relatively trivial convictions outside of their work while Masons in similar and even much worse circumstances were let off or treated much more leniently.

Even Pavlov’s dog had the nous to associate certain circumstances with an event and I was experiencing a variation of this phenomenon whereby extraordinary events, normally attracting punishment/censure were trivialised, treated as ordinary, when those involved were freemasons.

Masonic membership often seemed the only explanation to the inexplicable

The Mason effect related to reward as well as punishment and the most useless individual I ever saw – he was so bad his nickname was “Twicey” as he had to do every job twice – astonished us all by rising to dizzy heights in the ranks through craftsmanship in a wide sense of that word.

That is to say when odd things happened they often occurred involving those with Masonic rings, those who gave your hand a dodgy handshake, or those who trotted off on Wednesday nights to their meetings. But I did not think that this charmed life led by those with known Masonic membership flourished to any extent beyond the dockyard gates where the Masons were ubiquitous and in some cases seemingly omnipotent.

Construction Industry experiences

I left HM Dockyard Rosyth once more to chase better wages in the construction industry and got started as a plater on the construction of Longannet Power Station which was mostly built by the time I got on the job.

I was spoken for by mates who worked there, and they urged me to go and see a foreman they had sounded out with a view to getting me a start. Ironically he (we’ll call him Geordie Mason) drank in the Masonic Arms, Inverkeithing. I introduced myself to Geordie who was a good bloke. A Glaswegian, Mason and Rangers supporter, we chatted, he weighed me up and told me to put a form in and he would see what he could do.

The word soon came back from Geordie Mason that I was to start on Monday, and I did. This incident illustrates the similarities between the bond between men and the bond between brethren. I got a job because my friends from schooldays spoke up for me and in turn a stranger to me gave me a chance, but there was no fraternal obligation bound by sworn oaths. This was simply good people acting as they should towards their fellow-man.

Geordie Mason knew that I was a non-Mason, Celtic supporter and nominally an RC, all opposites to what he was, but he did the decent thing. In my case of course I didn’t have to compete for the job with a Mason (that I am aware of) and this is where the problem lies. All the Masons in my line of work had been employed at Longannet for years and I only got a start as the job was coming to an end and when the employer had exhausted the pool of skilled trades.

It may have been different if there was plenty of workers and not enough work?

I was glad of the job at Longannet as it gave my wife and I a cash boost at the time we needed it most as we had just managed to get our first place of our own, a rented flat which needed furnishing.

Cooperative Society

The flat, my wife and I rented was a “tied” property and had previously been rented out to a man who had worked beside my wife at The Dunfermline Cooperative Society (The Co-op).

The former tenant of my new flat, let us call him George II Mason, had recently died when he took a heart attack on the courtroom steps where he and other workmates, who I believe were all Masons, were standing trial for their Co-op employer, where Masonry was prevalent.

I had met George II Mason before his downfall at works’ dances and he was a nice man who was probably the smallest cog in a big machine, consisting of well placed people in the various departments who embraced the cooperative principle literally in an ingenious, but highly illegal way!

A matter of common knowledge, the re-allocation and sale of Co-op property was brought to the attention of senior management, who summoned the main players and warned them to put a stop to it or the consequences would be dire, but the hubris of the gang, and the financial rewards were so great, that the miscreants carried on as before. They gambled on the bet that their Masonic masters wouldn’t involve the law, but like George Mason they came unstuck and ended up in jail.

On Red (Masonic?) Clydeside

When I got paid off from my job on the construction of Longannet power station, there was no work in the Dunfermline area, but steelworkers were in demand on the lower Clyde and I started work with Scott Lithgow Shipbuilders at their “Klondyke” yard in Greenock.

I didn’t drive or own a car at this time and for the first few days stayed in the Salvation Army hostel and then went into the Sailors Mission, until I found “digs”, which were only temporary and it was well-known among my workmates that I needed new, more permanent, digs.

The gaffers in the yard were all Masons and many were Orange Order as well, and one, a Chargehand, Andy Mason, got talking to me and my workmates one morning. He was curious about me, and asked me where I came from. I told him Rosyth and he quickly asked me if I knew Andy Penman or Alex Smith and I told him I knew both. Smithy was a very quiet man and I didn’t know him very well, but I knew Andy Penman well, as his parents lived next to King’s Road school where I had attended and his dad was the janitor there.

Being brought up in a devoutly Catholic household I had attended RC primary and secondary schools, but had went to King’s Road school for my final two years because it more or less guaranteed an apprenticeship in the local naval base whereas my previous school, St Margaret’s, didn’t get may placements there.

Knowing two (almost certainly Masonic) Rangers players and having attended a Protestant school, and it was such, with a Church of Scotland padre, my Masonic amateur anthropologist , Andy Mason, put two and two together and got five.

Soon it was “Tam” this and “Tam” that, as he probed me about Andy Penman. I regaled him with stories of how I had met him in Dundee when he played there and he had introduced me to Alan Gilzean, Ian Ure and other players and we had a good night at the JM dancing. Andy Mason was all over me like a rash and when he heard about me wanting new digs he immediately dragged me, as his new-found brother, off-site and all over Greenock looking for them.

There was no signing out of the yard or loss of pay, which was the normal practice, and he couldn’t do enough for me, stopping for a pint and telling me not to worry about pay or the time we took as he had taken care of the timekeeper.

So after a few pints and a few doors of his brethren knocked, to get “Tam” a new berth, we started to run out of conversation it came to my surname and by this time it had been very obvious to me what was going down so when I told him the roots of my Irish surname it was as if I had booted him in the balls!

No more “Tam” this and “Tam” that and he strode off back down the hill to the Klondyke with me trailing in his wake. The man was a humourless individual and didn’t appreciate the irony of the situation, which I later learned has been exacerbated by my own Celtic supporting workmates who had wound him up that I was a true blue-nose. Some of the plotters were Rangers fans and saw the joke, but the Tims had played on Andy’s bigotry and stupidity. All the workers, Billy and Tim, were top class in that yard, but many of the gaffers had risen because of their handshake as opposed to their ability. No wonder the Clyde yards failed.

I recently found a chapter in a book [See below] by Gus Macdonald, a man from a completely different background from mine, but with similar, negative, experiences of the Craft on the Clyde!

Best mates with a Master Mason

In about 1972 when my wife was expecting our first child I worked for a while with a local engineering firm, which carried out site work all over Scotland and my regular workmate, an older man than me, was Jock, Master Mason, who I got on very well with, in and outside of work.

At one time we were sent together with Charlie Mason to do work in Dunbar which proved entertaining during tea/lunch breaks due to the attempts of Jock, Master Mason and Charlie Mason to convince me of the worth of the Craft.

I have been petitioned in an informal way several times to join the Masons, but never as persistently as by Jock, Master Mason, who belonged to a lodge a few miles from Dunfermline. The main arguments for joining were usually: 1/ It can help you “get on”; 2/ Good nights out in the fellowship of good men’s company, and 3/ Doing work for charity.

My counter argument was simple, that I could do all of these things, and did so without the need for fraternal membership, secret signs, passwords, tokens (Jock regularly gave me his Masonic penny by mistake for the Forth Bridge tolls!), or handshakes.

I got the strong impression that these two good men felt less than happy about their own membership due in part to my criticism of the organisation, so if they could get me on board they might have felt vindicated in their own participation in a movement they were not too comfortable with.

Our job lasted several months and my Dunbar conversion was not as Paul’s Damascene one, but there was a strange twist to the tale. Charlie Mason was a militant trade unionist from Dundee and travelled to Dunbar daily by works van, picking us up at Dunfermline. The Managing Director of the firm, M.D. Mason could have sent a worker from the Dunfermline area to do Charlie Masons job, but he deliberately sent Charlie Mason, a fellow freemason, in an attempt to get rid of him by sickening him with excessive travel time. When this tactic failed, M. D. Mason paid Charlie Mason off.

This episode caused me to wonder about the strength of the bonds of this brotherhood (More about Charlie in my business life), but there is a saying about there being favourites in hell and I suppose that is right.

Does Masonic membership interfere with the justice system?

Drinking, and hard-drinking at that, were part of the shipyard culture that I inherited and one weekend drinking session in the Rosyth Dockyard Club had tragic consequences. I was drinking with friends, one of who we shall call Stuart Mason. Stuart was one of the ostentatious Masonic types, ring, medallion, cigarette lighter, the full panoply of Craft insignia.

As young working class men it was part of our machismo culture to drink a lot, fast. On this Saturday the pattern was typical; beginning soon after the club opened at 11 am and going on to last orders at 2.30pm, then getting a double, treble, or quadruple order, at the “last bell”, which tided us through till opening time at 5 pm.

The club had televised horse racing, cards, dominos and 3 snooker tables so there was plenty to do whilst drinking the reservoir of drink we had bought. On this day I was drinking beer and had drunk my fill by late afternoon so went home to sleep it off and be fit for the night session. Stuart Mason was drinking shorts—Bacardi and lemonade I think—and he must have been as drunk as me after at least 5 hours drinking when he drove home and on the way home his car struck a pedestrian who died.

I only learned of this the following day and as he was not a very close friend I thought no more about it and waited for him to be tried and jailed as the story went that he had been breath tested at the scene. Some time later I heard that he had escaped with a fine as he had not been over the legal limit.

Now I know I was drunk and he was drinking drink-for-drink with me, and stronger drinks at that, so he must have been drunk. But I wondered how he passed the breath test? Was he even given the recently introduced breath test? Did the breath test equipment malfunction in those early models? Did he have the constitution of an ox that could break down alcohol in minutes? I never gave it too much thought at the time.

To sum up my thoughts on this incident, whatever else I thought about this event at the time, I never for a minute thought that Stuart Mason had benefited from Masonic favours. I didn’t see him again for a while and only learned of the fact that no charges had been brought successfully with regards to the accident. At the time I didn’t give it too much thought and assumed that there was some fluke that had come to his rescue. A faulty piece of police breath test kit, a lost piece of evidence or one man’s ability to process alcohol in an exceptional way.

A second road traffic incident would lead me to reappraise my opinion regarding the possibility of Masonic bias in the justice system. TBC in MY EXPERIENCES OF FREEMASONRY WHILE IN BUSINESS

 A conflict of loyalties for Masonic union members

Towards the end of my working life I was employed as a plater at an oil rig construction site at Methil, when, after being promised jobs for life, we were told that redundancies were imminent as the yard could not accommodate its full workforce. The workforce was divided between those who wanted to take strike action to secure compensation and those who were content to keep their heads down and hope to be kept on.

I was one of those who favoured strike action as was Jackie Mason, a workmate and friend who attended a meeting called by the District Delegate of the Boilermaker’s Union who wanted to dissuade his members from striking. Apparently during the delegate’s address to the mass meeting of members he had used a Masonic distress signal prior to his motion to remain at work being carried. Jackie Mason, who favoured strike action, was furious and told me that what his brother Mason had done was an abuse of the Craft and he would be reporting him to the very top of the Masonic movement.

Whether or not Jackie Mason carried out his threat I don’t know, but I admired him for being frank with me about this matter, which he obviously felt strongly about. He would do, as he was a decent bloke and one who I would soon spend plenty of leisure time with, as we were part of the workforce that took unofficial strike action. After an acrimonious spell of picketing, when some of our former colleagues, Masons and non-Masons alike, drove past us into work, we were fired and had to look for work with the added difficulty of being black-listed.

Summary

So to summarise my experiences of my working life with regards to freemasonry, I would say that it didn’t dominate my thinking to any great degree, pardon the pun, and generally I found that there were good and bad Masons, just like any other group and generally in the end the good guys came out on top.

My antipathy towards the organisation that is freemasonry wasn’t really fully developed until I started my own business in 1978, about which, more soon…………….

P.S. This section of anecdotes doesn’t comprehensively cover my experiences of freemasonry in this period and may be supplemented.