Blocking Rogue Twitter Accounts

As I have said before running a Twitter account attracts crazy people, running a Masonic themed Twitter account attracts that special kind of crazy person. These people seem to have nothing more important to do with their lives than to set up so called parody accounts.

But why do they do it? There appear to be three primary motivations:

  1. Trolling
  2. Building a massive network of followers that they “influence”
  3. Spewing Pornographic material

Trolls

The first group are best avoided as they typically set out to annoy or worse, antagonise or attack their target. These accounts typically spew misinformation, falsehoods or downright lies. A good example of this is SavileLodgethe @savilelodge account which purports to be associated with Masonic Lodge 616 (it is fake, check the UGLE Directory of Lodges and Chapters), and the disgraced performer Jimmy Savile. Looking at its recent output shows a catalogue of tweets suggesting that a number of recently disgraced performers are/were Freemasons. I have covered handling trolls in a previous post.

“Influencers”

InfluencerThe second group are less aggressive but no less annoying. They are typified by the host of accounts associated with James Grimaldi all of which encourage you to “follow back in 24 hours for a 10x shout out” and “include #NYG”. I have blocked 19 accounts which bear the hallmarks of this approach.

These accounts are a honey trap for the novice tweeter seeking to build their own network out. However, all you really achieve is a long list of fake followers. These accounts are used by their owners to build a network of thousands that they can then publish tweets to, for money. As their worth to anyone foolish enough to employ them for this purpose is based on the number of accounts that follow them, they only care that you follow them.

BlockedaccountsMy advice to you with regard to this second group is that you avoid them or better yet block them. I am gradually building a list of these accounts as a Twitter list associated with the @HungerfordLodge Twitter account. I have imaginatively called it Blocked accounts and it is public so that anyone reading this article can subscribe to it and use it to protect themselves. In return, all I ask is that you Direct Message me with any accounts that you think should be added to that list so that in turn all subscribers benefit from the update. I will of course have to wade through these recommendations to check that they are genuine. This is my way of paying it forward – if you get chance, see this film, it impacted my philosophy for life.

Updated (04/01/16)

Two things have occurred to me since I wrote this post:

  1. My Twitter list idea only works for a very small number of blocked accounts because it is manual and time consuming
  2. People will believe that simply by subscribing to my Twitter list that they will themselves be blocking the accounts – I am sorry to say  that you will not. In order to block these accounts you will need to manually add them to your block list.

To automatically add accounts to your block list you need to use the Block Together service described below. You will need to follow this link and subscribe to my block list. Once you do this, every time I block an account it will automatically be added to your block list.

Pornographers

As to the pornographers, what motivates them? Well, it can only be website traffic. If you see an image that makes you want to visit their website for more then they increase their chances of either:

  1. Getting you to pay to subscribe
  2. Infecting your computer with malicious code so that it is no longer “your” computer.

How you view the subject of pornography is down to your own moral compass. I typically display my Twitter streams (multiple accounts) using TweetDeck on a 24″ monitor in my study where my pre-teen children come to see what Daddy is up to. Having a stream of pornography on screen would lead to awkward discussions both with them and my wife. To illustrate my point my 8 year old son came in whilst I was writing this post.

Dealing with the problem

As I have already suggested, the only real answer is to block these accounts as you become aware of them.

Blocked users cannot:

  • Follow you.
  • Send Direct Messages to you.
  • View your Tweets, following or followers lists, photos, videos, lists or favorites when logged in.
  • Add your Twitter account to their lists.
  • Tag you in a photo.
  • Tweets from blocked users will not appear in your timeline. However, note that Tweets from others that mention blocked users may appear in your timeline (for example, if you follow that user) or your notification timeline (if a Tweet mentions you).

On an individual account basis, you block an account by

  1. in the iOS (iPhone and iPad) app, tap on a tweet from the offending account. If using the web client on a PC, click rather than tap.
  2. Open their profile by tapping on their picture
  3. Tap the gear icon and select Block

Block Together

(Updated 30/12/15)

After this article was originally published, MASK NOIR made me aware of Block Together. Before I included it here, I did some background investigation. Block Together was written by Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and allows users to easily share their Twitter block lists. Jacob is not affiliated with Twitter in any way, he is a Senior Staff Technologist at the EFF and is involved in some pretty cool technologies. I, therefore, feel comfortable in using this tool. If you do not, I have provided a more manual approach below but the block list will not be as up to date as using Block Together.

I have created my share which will automatically update here If you subscribe to my block list, you will block every account currently on that list. Later, if I as the author of that block list block more accounts, you will automatically block those as well. If I unblock an account, you will automatically unblock it too, but only if you originally blocked it through the shared list. If you blocked the account independently, it will not be unblocked.

However, please note Block Together will never block an account you follow so if you have already chosen to follow one of the accounts I have blocked you will continue to follow them.

Twitter Bulk Import

It is possible to add accounts in bulk using a .csv file. Download my Blocklist (Updated 29/12/15). The most up to date list will always be the the one hosted by Block Together as it is automatically generated.

  1. First save the file to your computer. Due to restrictions on file types I can share via this website you need to rename the file type from xls to csv before you can upload it to Twitter.
  2. Navigate to your blocked account settings on twitter.com.
  3. Click the Advanced options drop-down menu.
  4. Select Import a list.
  5. In the pop-up, click on the paperclip icon and find the .csv file. Click Open to import the list.
  6. The file name will be displayed when the file has been successfully imported.
  7. Click Preview. The list of the accounts will be displayed. You can deselect any accounts you do not wish to block (accounts that you currently follow will be automatically unchecked).
  8. Click Block to confirm.
    The imported accounts will be added to your block list.

Summary

Twitter is a wonderful conduit for communicating with like-minded people across  the globe. However, as with any of the social media platforms and indeed any group of people in the physical world, it has its miscreants. I am not setting out to police the Internet, far from it, I am simply trying to give people the tools to handle other people’s behaviour.

If my work helps you, share it with your friends and follow the Lodge on Twitter and Facebook. You might also consider leaving me a comment – due to the special kind of crazy people we attract, I moderate all comments, so it might not appear immediately.

If you are not a Freemason and found your way here by the magic of Google, please read the rest of the site and consider whether what you thought you knew about Freemasonry is valid.

If you are a Freemason, why not visit us one day or invite me to your Lodge.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

The role of Social Media within Freemasonry

What role does Social Media play in the recruitment, retention and re-engagement of Freemasons?

Lodge Social MediaMany people are struggling to understand the place for Social Media within a fraternity that has existed for nearly three hundred years and for the last eighty years has been largely hidden from public view. For most Freemasons alive today, being a Mason was something you only ever mentioned to those you really trusted.

For the general public, this fosters the conspiracy theories, but it can be easily explained by the fear felt by Freemason during the 1930s as a result of the political situation in central Europe. There are no definitive figures for the number of Freemasons killed as the records did not always record that a person was selected because they were a Freemason. However, estimates range from 80-250,000 killed in the Holocaust.

Slowly, Freemasonry is emerging from this self-imposed isolation, re-entering the public arena and seeking to redress the balance. This is proving difficult for those who have been raised to believe that being a Mason was something that one did not talk about and that the public viewed with derision.

Today Masonic organisations run websites and increasingly are turning to Social Media platforms to get their message out. Facebook and Twitter are popular platforms with LinkedIn being used where Lodges have an affinity with a school, university college or organisation.

The Provincial Executive for Berkshire has defined three priorities for the team currently which are:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Retention
  3. Re-engagement

This is essentially a cradle to grave plan framed as the 3 Rs. So how can Social Media play a role in these three areas?

Recruitment

Many Freemasons have an issue with the concept of recruitment as traditionally we did not recruit, we nurtured interest when it was shown but advertising and naked recruitment was and is generally frowned upon. To this end, a senior Mason suggested that the term “attraction” be adopted which this author prefers, but it does not scan as well.

2B1ASK1This approach was widely described as “To Be One Ask One” which was fine when people were open about being a member but flawed when nobody knew who to ask. The challenge was also that only the brave would be prepared to join an organisation surrounded by all of the negative publicity that Freemasonry was suffering over the last 40 years.

Social Media allows us to address both of these issues. Having a presence on the popular platforms makes it easier for the curious to find someone to ask about joining. Our presence on the platforms also encourages us to publish stories about what we are really doing and thus become more open which promotes a generally more positive opinion of the institution. This should result in a positive feedback loop where more positive opinion results in more people being curious about joining.

Retention

In common with all clubs and societies, Freemasonry suffers with people losing interest in the organisation, perhaps as their family or work life makes it more difficult to attend the meetings. Strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that we keep these Masons interested and engaged even if they cannot attend formal meetings. We want to keep in contact with them, let them know that we are ready when they feel that they can come back and that there are ways to keep in contact.

Social Media enables them to follow the activities of their Lodge and, in cases where they have moved away from their Mother Lodge (the Lodge through which they joined Freemasonry), to more easily find a new Lodge that meets their needs.

Equally, Social Media is playing a role in increasing the enjoyment of those who are active Freemasons. Members connect across the globe with other Masons to get a better understanding of what Freemasonry means in other jurisdictions. Meetings are arranged when Masons go on holiday, allowing people to experience different ways of doing things.

Social Media is also being used like any other communications tool to exchange views, to support one another and to share jokes. All of this can be done via any other medium, but it is easier through these platforms. They are geared to bring together like minded individuals. All of the Social Media platforms encourage you to increase your network by adding people that your existing contacts interact with. This is no different than being introduced to someone new in your Lodge, the pub or at work, it just happens more quickly and as the result of a computer suggestion.

Re-engagement

Inevitably, some Masons will drift away from the organisation, perhaps due to the aforementioned pressures but times change and they may be encouraged to return. Re-engaging “lapsed” masons is a great way to bring them back to the organisation.

Many people use Facebook to keep in touch with family, friends and former colleagues that they have moved away from. Families are probably more geographically dispersed today than they have been at any other point in history. As a result, one of the fastest growing demographics on Facebook is the so called Silver Surfer generation who are using the platform to keep up with their children and grandchildren. As the younger generations move to new platforms, the older generations will inevitably be encouraged to follow them.

With this in mind, it is worthwhile Provinces and Lodges engaging in Social Media to enable these lapsed Masons to re-engage more readily.

Is Social Media the magic bullet?

There is no magic bullet to address these issues, we need to adopt an omni-channel strategy encompassing in person, printed and online communications to reach our intended audience. As with all communications strategies, we need to talk to potential members (including the lapsed and disenchanted) in the medium and language that they are using.

Social media is not the be all and end all, but it is an underutilised part of our toolbox.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Ask not what Freemasonry can do for you

Being a Freemason is about what you can do for other people, not what Freemasonry can do for you.

Turning the key
Turning the key

…ask what you can do for Freemasonry

Once you have finished talking about rolled up trouser legs and “funny handshakes”, one of the first questions asked by non-Masons discussing Freemasonry is “What’s In it For Me” (WIFM) as they look for a motivation to join. Undoubtedly, Freemasonry rewards people for the amount of effort they put in. However, the rewards cannot be measured in silver or gold but in terms of being a better or more rounded person.

If you are only looking to join Freemasonry for what it will give you, I suggest you are looking at the wrong organisation. Freemasonry will not:

  1. Give you money or make you rich
  2. Make you famous or help you get a recording contract

Freemasonry expects you to:

  1. Contribute both financially and by giving your time to good causes, without causing problems to either yourself or your family
  2. Pay annual Lodge subscription fees
  3. Attend regularly, recognising that the proper order of things is Family, Work, Freemasonry

In return, you will join the world’s first social network, meeting people from all walks of life and learning important lessons about yourself and life in general. Other pages on this site will help you understand more about Freemasonry in general and specifically the Hungerford Lodge, feel free to look around.

If you have got this far and are still reading, please feel free to apply to join the Hungerford Lodge.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Why Twitter is like Commercial Radio

When people first attempt to explain Twitter to the uninitiated, they use the analogy of text messaging but that leads to misunderstandings. The analogy is based on the fact that both SMS text messaging and tweets are limited to roughly the same number of characters and that Twitter was originally designed to allow tweets to be submitted by SMS. Using this analogy leads new users to assume that you can tweet people in the same way as they might text their family members.

Twitter is actually a lot closer to running a commercial radio station than text messaging. Bear with me and I will explain.

Tweeting is a broadcast medium

imageYou put your tweets out there and hope somebody will listen to/read them. You can use Direct Messages (DM) but most people only use this to exchange email addresses before moving the private conversation to email.

To target a particular country, region or demographic using Twitter requires funded advertising – a promoted Tweet. Twitter will allow you to pay to have your tweet/advert placed into the user’s timeline – the Twitter name for the stream of tweets. You can then target on:

  • Country
  • County
  • Post Code
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Device, Platform, Carrier
  • Keywords
  • Followers
  • Interests
  • Tailored Audiences

This targeting is made possible due to the amount of information we all give to Twitter in order to run our accounts. This means that Twitter knows a lot more about its users than a typical radio station does.

Your audience is based on your content

People tend to tweet on a given topic which brings them followers and in time they begin to exert “influence” over those users. This is much like a radio station playing classical or rock music which defines their target audience. You can go off topic occasionally but you need to carefully take your audience with you.

You need to be “on air”

imageIf a radio station goes quiet, people assume that it has gone off air. Likewise you need to tweet frequently and regularly so that people know that if they want to listen to/engage with you they know you will be there. The rule of thumb is to tweet at least three times a week and ideally at least once a day.

Nobody wants all adverts

Imagine tuning to a new radio station and finding that all they play, twenty four hours a day, is an advert for themselves. Their audience retention figures would be near zero. Typically radio stations draw people in with the music (or chat) that they like and then refer to the adverts as “messages from our sponsors” i.e. a necessary evil.

If you constantly tweet “Buy my thing” or “Join my club” you will turn people off. You need to find a way to engage your audience before you attempt to sell them anything. This is especially true when you are trying to attract and retain new followers.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

George Sinclair – Freemason Entertainer

George Sinclair was born in Old Kent Road, South London in December 1858. He was an actor, author, agent and accident prone.
As a youngster George first worked as an office boy before joining the merchant navy. With his seafaring days behind him he embarked on his music hall career and made an early stage appearance in 1882 when he was noted with ‘The Royal Victoria Minstrels’ at the Victoria Coffee Music Hall in Waterloo Road in London.

George was initiated into Freemasonry at Pimlico Lodge No.1772 on 3rd October 1889 and made such rapid progress in the craft as to be installed as Worshipful Master in 1895. In between times, on January 25th 1891, proposed by comedian Fred Harvey and seconded by agent Will Oliver, George was made Water Rat No. 27 on the register of the Grand Order of Water Rats.

The first Water Rats – George Sinclair is second from the left on the top row

It was while George was having a training kick-about with the Water Rats’ football team in March 1891 that he stood on the ball, twisted awkwardly, and ended up with a broken ankle and a broken femur. He was taken to St. Thomas’ Hospital and it was to be June that year before he returned to his office. In December, to round off an already bad year, he broke his left thumb by accidentally slamming it in a door.

George was no stranger to mishap; he had been shipwrecked twice, had two railway accidents and there were several calamities in his pony and trap, one of which had nearly cost him his life. There was more to come. In 1897, shortly after he returned from an unsuccessful business venture in Australia, he sprained his ankle and was confined to his house and in November 1898 he succumbed to paralysis of the legs and was admitted to King’s College Hospital, South London.

In 1895 George had set up a variety agency and sought acts both in the UK and on the continent. He began to make a name for himself as a ‘strong’ agent specialising in athletes, strongmen, weight-lifters and wrestlers. On his books were, among others, Greek strong-man and wrestler Antonio Pierri, strongwoman Victorine Veidlere, a young Milanese wrestler known as Milo and the strongman Carlo August-Sampson. George was also agent for the illusionist and hypnotist ‘Professor’ Charles Morritt who was credited with providing Houdini with some of his more spectacular tricks including how to make an elephant disappear.

George was always keen to assist fellow performers in distressed circumstances but perhaps two incidents in particular may have stuck in his mind and might be cited as reasons why he was an early subscriber to the Music Hall Benevolent Fund & Institution. He was visiting Belfast in 1889 and witnessed the cold-hearted burial of actress Nelly Farrell without ceremony or respect, very indecently interred or “buried like a dog” as he put it. It was left to George to motivate the local vicar to pray for her soul, albeit after the burial, and invite some fellow performers to attend the grave the next day and pay their respects.

Then, in 1893, he and Will Oliver initiated a fund to support the widow of the Manchester music hall proprietor Edward Garcia. George and Edward had known each other during their early careers when Edward was managing the Canterbury Music Hall in Westminster Bridge Road. Edward had been made bankrupt in 1890 and spent the last unhappy months of his life in Grove Hall Lunatic Asylum in Bow, East London, and died leaving his wife destitute. George himself died in December 1921.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

The Last Supper – Hungerford Lodge Leaves Home After Almost 90 Years

After almost 90 years at the heart of the Hungerford community, the Hungerford Lodge is to move to the Newbury Masonic Centre. The Lodge has used the Town Hall and Corn Exchange for its meetings since 1925 but this association has come to an end due to the changing business needs of the Hungerford Town & Manor. This is a source of great disappointment to the members who have always been very proud to call themselves Hungerford Freemasons, and support local Hungerford charities, including funding the disabled access lift for the Town Hall.

After almost 90 years at the heart of the Hungerford community, the Hungerford Lodge is to move to the Newbury Masonic Centre. The Lodge has used the Town Hall and Corn Exchange for its meetings since 1925 but this association has come to an end due to the changing business needs of the Hungerford Town & Manor. This is a source of great disappointment to the members who have always been very proud to call themselves Hungerford Freemasons, and support local Hungerford charities, including funding the disabled access lift for the Town Hall.

Traditionally a celebration of the best of Freemasonry, the meeting and Festive Board held on December 9th 2014, was tinged with sadness. It was the last meeting of the Hungerford Lodge in Hungerford. Every year the Lodge celebrates Christmas with a legendary meal accompanied by the Hungerford Town Band playing Carols – who knew that Land of Hope and Glory was a Carol?

After the meal, the Lodge runs its Christmas auction. Over the years, this auction has raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity through the generosity of the Hungerford and visiting Freemasons. The money raised supports the activities of the Lodge Benevolent Association, which is a registered charity and since 2009, they have donated over £25,000 to local and national charities including:

The members of the Lodge formed a steering group which was tasked with investigating the alternatives within Hungerford and the surrounding areas. Although every effort was made to remain within Hungerford, no suitable accommodation was found which necessitated a move away from the Lodge’s traditional home. It was therefore decided to approach the Newbury Masonic Centre to host them for the future. This will bring the Hungerford Craft, Chapter and Mark Lodges all back under one roof again.

To maintain a link with Hungerford, the Lodge will hold its support meetings (General Purposes Committee, Lodge of Instruction and rehearsals) in the Cygnet Room of the Three Swans Hotel. The Lodge has also chosen to hold its Festive Board in Hungerford. The steering group will continue to take feedback from the members as to what is working and what needs to change as we adjust to our new home.

The Lodge wishes to thank the management committee at the Newbury Masonic Centre as well as the Berkshire Freemasons Executive team for their advice and guidance during this difficult time.

Ed E Ford – Freemason Entertainer

Ed E Ford – Freemason Entertainer
Born Edward McMullen Ford in 1870 in Prahran, Australia. He became a member of Chelsea Lodge no 3098 in 1908.

The man with the elastic face, comedian Edward McMullen Ford was born in 1870 in Prahran near Melbourne, Australia, one of twelve children born to John and Mary Ford. His parents had British roots in Birmingham and Launceston and there were the almost inevitable convict ancestors on both sides.

Edward was the only one of their children to follow a stage career but was at first apprenticed to be a bricklayer and tuck pointer where he learnt to amuse his workmates by pulling faces at the foreman.

In his early entertainment days he was a member of the Lynch Family of Bell Ringers and made his first public appearance in 1886 at the Nugget Theatre, Melbourne. Ten years later he was appearing at the Grand Opera House, Sydney.

He was first noted in Britain at the Metropolitan Music Hall, Edgware Road, London in December 1905. He was fondly known as Teddy Ford whenever in his homeland but would become more widely known in Europe and America as the Ed. E. Ford ‘The Australian Sundowner’.

In November 1908 he was initiated into Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 and he appeared in the Royal Command Performance Garden Party finale at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London in 1912.

Two years later, and by now also known as ‘The Paradoxical Physiognomist’, he was back in Australia on a tour that included the Tivoli Theatre, Sydney and Perth. He was in Perth when the Great War started and he boarded the first ship back to England, but an old arm injury prevented him from enlisting.

It was suggested he might use his talents instead to entertain wounded troops which he did with great enthusiasm. He also raised money for war charities by appearing in concerts and performing and selling monologues and war poems, many of them written by George Arthur. By January 1915 he had already raised enough to send 11,000 cigarettes and 24 pipes to wounded soldiers earning a letter of thanks from Lady Ripon, the instigator and champion of many war charities.

Later in 1915 he toured in South Africa where he continued his fund raising but he was back at the Clapham Grand to appear in the 1915/16 pantomime, Aladdin. By February 1919 he had raised over £19,000 in total for war charities and prisoners of war.

In October 1919, with his ‘war duties’ completed, he embarked for America aboard the liner ‘Celtic’ to work for Bert Levy. He was so successful during this original ten week tour in vaudeville that he stayed on and spent most of the next ten years there, “a man of many wanderings” as his friend and ventriloquist A. C. Astor referred to him. He registered a musical called ‘The Dinkum Bonzer Boys from Woolloomooloo’ about the Dock area of Sydney that was home to criminal elements in the early 20th century.

In July 1921 he married Adie Everard, professionally known as Ida May, in Winnipeg, Canada. He returned to Britain in 1929 and continued his career here for a couple of years before he retired back to Australia in 1931 and he died there in a private hospital in East Malvern on October 2nd 1941.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Barclay Gammon – Freemason Entertainer

Born Charles Blondin Gammon in 1867. Contemporary reports described him as “a very big man in evening dress, he sat at a piano and sang to us, and the Palace could never have enough of him.”

He was a member of both Benevolentia Lodge No. 2549 and its Chapter.

Vocalist, humourist, pianist and monologist Charles Blondin Gammon was born in 1867, in Lambeth, South London. His father William was a railway traffic agent who hailed from Canterbury and Charles initially followed in his father’s footsteps and into work as a clerk with the London & South Western Railway Co. He then moved on to similar positions with the South Eastern Railway Co. and the London and Blackwall Railway Co.

As an amateur he started out as a church organist at Wimbledon. He was then a choirmaster and he joined the chorus of a light opera company for a while. However, it was at the piano that he found his forte. He started entertaining at charitable events, private parties, smoking concerts, penny readings, bohemian concerts and the like and in sports pavilions, assembly rooms, orphanages, institutes and ballrooms.Naturally quick-witted, he introduced topical patter and monologues into his act and began to appear at lesser provincial music halls and some of the more prestigious concert halls in London; Steinway Hall, Victoria Hall, and St. George’s Hall.

On 19th June 1899, still listed as a railway official, Charles became a Freemason. He was initiated into Benevolentia Lodge No. 2549. In October 1901, and still listed as a railway official, he was accepted as a joining member of Era Lodge No. 1423 which met at Twickenham, although fees were never paid and the process was never completed. He did however join Benevolentia Chapter No. 2549 and was exalted in November 1909.

His first notable professional engagement as a pianist was with the magician John Nevil Maskelyne and the cabinet maker cum illusionist George Cooke during the time they worked together as ‘Maskelyne & Cooke’ at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. Magician David Devant was another member of the company and when John and David moved to St. George’s Hall in 1905 and teamed up as ‘Maskelyne & Devant’ Barclay stayed with the new partnership. In 1908 he was engaged for their ‘Maskelyne & Devant Mysteries’ tour of Australia and New Zealand. Barclay was credited with making a great success of the tour which might otherwise have failed as neither Maskelyne nor Devant appeared with the Company in person during the tour.

Billed simply as ‘Barclay Gammon and a Piano’ he enjoyed great success and his eventual appearance at Alfred Butt’s Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue really established his reputation. He soon became a great favourite there with his musical sketches and patter. A contemporary report reads “Alfred Butt the showman sandwiched the novelties at the Palace with regular favourites. One of the greatest of these, in every sense of the word, was Barclay Gammon. A very big man in evening dress, he sat at a piano and sang to us, and the Palace could never have enough of him. He was there, with very slight absences, for years”.

When plans to hold the first ever Royal Command Performance at Edward Moss’s Empire Theatre in Edinburgh had to be abandoned in 1911 because of a fire a month before the show, Alfred Butt’s Palace Theatre was chosen as the alternative venue for the event which eventually took place on July 1st 1912. As an almost resident entertainer there it was no surprise that Barclay was chosen to be one of the ‘named’ artistes to appear before the King and Queen. He was already billed as a ‘Society Entertainer’ and thereafter billed himself as ‘The Royal Entertainer’.

The following year, although it seems a bizarre notion in today’s world, he appeared at the Queen’s Hall in a smoking concert that was organised by Middlesex Hospital students in aid of the Cancer Charity. In 1914 Barclay Gammon’s name was coupled with the impresario and theatre manager Frank Allen’s ambitious plans to provide a vaudeville circuit on board ocean liners. Frank influenced a change in the original design of the Cunard ship RMS Aquitania during its fitting out to include a 1500 seat theatre in the same style as his London Hippodrome.

On 29th May, the eve of the liner’s maiden voyage, ‘Barclay and his Grand Piano’ was among a stellar line-up that entertained on this inaugural launch of what was to come. Frank planned to present full scale variety and vaudeville, and even opera, instead of the more usual but more moderate concert parties.

The Great War interrupted plans a few months later and RMS Aquitania was pressed into service, but that event in May 1914 proved a successful initiative and was the precursor of the more professional entertainment arrangements that are now widely accepted and expected as part of the ocean cruise ship experience. Charles Blondin Gammon died on 2nd June 1915 aged 48.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Alfred John Robertson Nolan – Freemason Entertainer

Alfred John Robertson Nolan was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1884. He began his stage career as an eccentric dancer and comedian at the end of the 19th Century. Billed as Alf Nolan he started to appear in pantomime, as did his wife-to-be Minnie Hobbs and her sister Maud. In 1898, at a novel end-of-run performance of Aladdin at Brighton’s Eden Theatre, in which the children took all the principal roles, Minnie appeared as Abanazer and “made the audience roar with laughter at her eccentricities” and Maud Hobbs “was a dainty little Princess Beauty”.

In 1908 Alfred and Minnie Frederica Hobbs were married. By the time of the 1911 census they were living in London with their two year old daughter Frances, Minnie’s sister Maud and their widowed mother Hannah. Alf and Minnie developed a dance act and appeared as ‘Betty Hobbs and Nolan’ or sometimes ‘Nolan and Hobbs’ acrobatic dancers. They continued to appear in pantomimes and were in the Arthur Rigby Company production of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in 1913/14.

As was the case for so many, the Great War then interrupted their careers and Alf joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. It was also during the war years that he joined Freemasonry. He was initiated into the Highgate Lodge No. 1366 on 11th September 1916, remaining a member until his death.

As well as their regular dance routines the duo continued to appear in pantomime in successive years after the war through to the early 1920s. The 1922/23 seasonal offering was ‘Jack and Jill’ which opened at the Royal Theatre, Worcester on Boxing Day 1922 before going on tour. In 1922/23 they appeared in ‘Red Riding Hood’ at Bradford Prince’s Theatre and they were already booked to appear the following season at the Leeds’ Royal Theatre, but fate intervened. They had toured South Africa during 1924 and shortly after their return they were performing their ‘Toy Soldier and Rag Doll’ routine at a London cabaret club. It was a strenuous routine requiring Alf to make many lifts. They were not far into the dance when Alf dropped to the floor………and died, it was October 13th 1924.

The post mortem revealed that although his heart was strong in itself a blood clot had caused the heart attack and a verdict of natural causes was recorded. Betty pursued her stage career for a year or so with a new partner named Harry Deans but then decided to teach dance at her own ‘Betty Hobbs’ Dancing School’.

In 1928 she married Frederick Ison, a one-time vaudeville artiste and also a Freemason being a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098. In the 1930s and the 1940s there were several Betty Hobbs’ troupes performing including the ‘Betty Hobbs Globe Girls’ and the ‘Betty Hobbs Superb Eight’ who were resident at the Holborn Empire for a while during the 1930s.

Betty died at her home in Eton, Surrey, (now Berkshire) on 16th July 1943. Alf and Betty had both been members and keen supporters of the Variety Artistes’ Federation and at the meeting following Betty’s death the federation Chairman, Dave O’Gorman, requested members to stand as a sign of respect for the departed. The dance school continued and the good name of Betty Hobbs lived on after her death with former pupils always proud to mention their training ground and their association with Betty’s dance companies in their curriculum vitae.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Nine Reasons to join Freemasonry

Turning the key
Turning the key

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If you ask five Freemasons why they joined, you will get at least five different answers. Each person has their own reasons. (I say “person” because there are female freemasons, albeit not as part of the United Grand Lodge of England) These reasons can be intensely personal and for many there is not a single reason.

Some of the reasons people give include:

  • Family
  • Curiosity
  • Wanting to join an organisation
  • To meet other people
  • Looking for a new challenge
  • Charity
  • Camaraderie
  • To have fun
  • To learn new skills

Family

For me this is a very significant reason. My father, grandfathers and great-uncle were all masons at points in their lives. It has been part of my consciousness from an early age and I had always wanted to join.

This is not unusual; many masons are brought in by blood or in-law relations. It is wonderful to see how Freemasonry can reunite families who live significant distances apart, when one member has a special occasion to celebrate, such as becoming Worshipful Master of their Lodge.

Curiosity

I knew my father went out in the evenings “suited and booted” with his case and I wondered what it was all about. I read as much as I could but nothing prepared me for the warmth and affection I found when I was initiated.

A note of caution here – the ritual is available on the Internet if you look – but please don’t, it will spoil your evening if you do.

Wanting to join an organisation

Humans are social animals and many love the engagement with others that joining an organisation brings. The wide ranging spread of freemasonry really helps with this desire. Lodges exist throughout the country and wider world. Changing address does not mean that you lose contact with Freemasonry. Also, if you have to move for some reason, what better way is there to build a new local network of friends than by joining a Lodge in your new area?

To meet other people

Freemasonry brings together people of varying backgrounds, faiths, skills and interests and gives them a common bond. Whilst membership of a golf club tells you that a person likes and plays golf, being a freemason tells you about their moral values and being an initiation society ensures that all freemasons have a common shared experience.

Looking for a new challenge

Freemasonry offers a number of challenges, from learning the ritual, to public speaking, acting as secretary or treasurer or even the highest accolade any member can be given by his Lodge, to act as Worshipful Master.

Charity

Freemasonry is inextricably linked with charity. It is unusual in that all funds raised come from the membership. Freemasonry does not look to raise money from non-Masons but expects all Freemasons to give freely within the bounds of their personal capability. Charity is described as the “distinguishing characteristic of a freemason’s heart.”

Camaraderie

There is always a degree of banter and joking within a group. Within freemasonry there is a tendency to be supportive and a recognition of the effort required to memorise long tracts of text and deliver them with sincerity to a candidate. The ritual also encourages the amicable settlement of any differences before entering the Lodge.

The discussion of religion and/or politics is expressly forbidden within masonic meetings. This removes the foundation for many arguments and has enabled brethren to meet across an otherwise unbridgeable divide. For example, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel is a Palestinian.

Having fun

It should be remembered that first and foremost Freemasonry is a hobby. For some officers within the Lodge it can sometimes seem like a job, particularly when others are enjoying the camaraderie at the bar and you are still collecting dining fees! However, when you go visiting you can forget all that and let someone else take the strain.

Visiting is one of the joys of being a freemason. Seeing how other Lodges “have always done it” differently to your own Lodge means every Lodge meeting is a joy. Meeting old friends and new is the cornerstone of freemasonry.

Learning new skills

Freemasons who take an active role within the Lodge will learn many things. The ritual elements are single act plays, delivered out loud by a small cast to a highly supportive audience. As an active officer, masons will gradually become comfortable with the idea of speaking in public. They will also have learnt the art of memorising the words and standing in the right place at the right time.

Secretaries and treasurers learn the skills required to successfully organise and run what is essentially a small not-for-profit business. Those attaining the office of Worshipful Master will learn how to manage to consensus and to rule their Lodge.

If this post has inspired you to join Freemasonry, all you need to do is ask.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748