The Freemasons, that shadowy and very secretive society. Over the years there have been whispers of what goes on behind closed doors at the lodge. As a daughter of a Freemason I have long been intrigued and frustrated by this secret society. Were the whispers of leg trouser rolling, breast baring and goat riding true? It seems yes, and no. I am going to be honest and say that I don’t have the best of relationships with my Father. I love him to bits but we don’t get on. To put this into context, as a teenager I was miserable and resented my Father and his so-called love for everything Freemasonry. He had an almost obsessive love for the lodge, and at times it felt like this was placed above his family. More often than not he was down the lodge. If he wasn’t at the lodge then he was secreted away learning his lines for the lodge.
As a teenager I had become used to my Father existing on the periphery of family life. He was like a shadow. Sometimes around but rarely involved. He isn’t a family man, he can’t abide noise or mess and that is slightly problematic when you have a young family. I remember being told to keep quiet so as not to disturb your father. He is also a man who is unflinching in his beliefs and whilst there is a lot to admire in that, it meant that as a teenager we clashed a lot. In my head I concocted this tale of the Freemasons being some sort of cult. I told myself that they must have a hold over him. This was the only explanation for why he would choose the Freemasons above his family. A friend’s father once told me that Masons were akin to criminals, that they were not to be trusted. I remember being horrified and when I pushed my Father on what Freemasonry was he refused to divulge anything. I remember being incredibly angry about it. I couldn’t understand it. There was a lot of gossip when it came to the Freemasons.
Now I am a Mum to two children and my Father and I have come to a truce of sorts. We are very different when it comes to certain outlooks in life. We keep our distance and we don’t really discuss anything. We stick to safe topics: the weather is okay but politics is off-limits. My Father hasn’t mellowed over the years, if anything he has become more staunch in his beliefs and more entrenched in his need for routines and quiet. He is incredibly proud of his family and all that we have achieved and he is a very proud grandfather but he still struggles with family life.
To a certain point I can relate to his need for quiet and routines. We both share a love of reading novels and sometimes I will find that I need to remove myself from the family for quiet time. I too am shy and I really struggle with social situations. More so since becoming a stay-at-home mum. In some ways I worry that I am more like my Father than I care to admit. Perhaps I get frustrated with my Father because I see myself in some of his quirks, perhaps I even envy that he found something he was so passionate about.
Life might be very different for all of us now but one constant for my Father has been Freemasonry. It is still in his life, he still attends meetings. Although, from my very poor understanding is that he is now in other different branches. I also know that he is incredibly good at it. That he is high-up. That this man who keeps himself to himself, who is almost reclusive at times, is the life and soul at the lodge. That he can memorise reams and reams of lines. That he can perform seamlessly and without putting a foot wrong. The man I know from home is very different to the one at the lodge. Both have kind hearts, but one is confident and gregarious whereas the other one is quiet and unsure.
Therefore, when I heard that the Freemasons have opened the doors to their lodge and that there is going to be a documentary showing what life down the lodge is really like, I was intrigued. However, news reports about the documentary initially left me disappointed. It appears that there is no scandal. It appears that my father wasn’t coerced into joining some cult. On the surface it seems that the Masons is nothing but a glorified dinner club. Yes, they wear elaborate aprons and gloves. I knew this already as I remember him carefully packing his apron into his briefcase when I was a child. However, on reading the various articles I realise that there is more to Masons than just rehearsing lines and eating nice meals. Masons believe that they are all equal (I am not sure how this tallies with the idea that you work your way up the hierarchy of Masons but I will let that slide), I can see that this would have been very appealing to my Father. It’s about working on yourself to make yourself a better man through charitable work. On reading that articles I now realise that the Masons offered my Father something that family life obviously couldn’t. It offered him friendship and support. It was his equivalent of going down the pub every night for a couple of pints.
The Masons were and still are a supportive network for my Father. He is a man who needs his routines. He has to follow the same routine every day. All the mats on the table, have to be just so with the coloured edges matching. He can’t bear it if one mat is not in the right place and the pattern is thrown. He knows exactly where his ornaments go. If you move it by a millimetre then he moves it back. He reads his newspaper carefully and folds it perfectly and with precision. He takes great pride in his appearance and when he finds a style of trouser he likes then he has to buy another 4 pairs of that same one, just in case. My Father joined the Masons when my brother was born. I can now see that the chaos and noise of family life was too much for him. He was seeking routine and order and the Masons offered him that. He also found friendship. In some ways I am very sad for my Father. I do feel that he missed out on family life. However, I also appreciate that he is a tormented man. A man who came from a tough childhood, and a man who felt like he was never good enough, that he never quite fitted in. A man who wasn’t sure of his role as a Father. Masons offered him solace and comfort and for that I am grateful. I’m just sad that as a family we were unable to offer him what he needed.
Inside The Freemasons starts on 17th April on Sky 1.