Revd Canon Joseph Henry Gray

Revd Canon Joseph Henry Gray

1915 — 1932

J.H. Gray came up to Queens’ in 1875, graduating with a First in 1879. He became Master at King’s School, Ely for a year, but was also appointed a Fellow of Queens’ subsequently Dean (responsible for the discipline of the College) from 1882 to 1907, he was then Tutor from 1912 to 24. His clerical role began as Deacon in 1880. Ordained Priest the following year, he was Chaplain at Ely from 1905 to 1924 becoming an honorary Canon of Peterborough in 1919. A keen athlete and ‘muscular Christian’, he was Treasurer of the Cambridge University Rugby Union EC, and President in 1895, while he remained Treasurer of the CU Athletics Club for twenty-five years up to 920. Yet, in spite of his full and active College role, seldom did a new Provincial Grand Master slide more fittingly into his distinguished office than the Revd Gray. From his Initiation in Isaac Newton during his Graduation year he remained a keen and active participant in both Town and Provincial Masonry. He reached the Chair in 1883, the year his daughter died after a serious accident. By 1915 he had been a hard working Deputy PGM for over twenty years, closely associated with all that had gone on in our Province during that time. He was as well known, to the Craft at least, as Caldwell himself, with whom he had shared so vigorous and amiable a partnership. Only with Royal Arch was he not quite so in tune and for a short time the Royal Arch and the Craft had separate rulers, the Revd Foakes-Jackson taking over as Grand Superintendent after Caldwell’s death.

Gray was Deputy PGM-in-Charge at the Provincial meeting of 3rd December 1914, which was held in Wisbech. Before the formal business of the meeting got underway, a resolution ‘which was carried unanimously, the Brethren all standing’ was moved, to place on record the deep sense of loss suffered by the Province. After that the minutes were approved. The first printed minutes had appeared in 1910 and the experiment of circulating minutes before the meeting was tried in 1911, becoming the standard practice since. At the close of the meeting, after the formal thanks to United Good Fellowship for their arrangements, The Prov. G. Secretary W.Bro. Spalding, announced that V.W.Bro. A.F. Robbins, President of the Board of General Purposes, was charged with a message from the Deputy Grand Master which, with permission, he would like to deliver to Provincial Grand Lodge. Permission having been given, Bro. Robbins said:

I am charged by the RW the Deputy Grand Master of England to inform this Provincial Grand Lodge that His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, MW Grand Master of England, has appointed the Revd Joseph Henry Gray to be Provincial Grand Master of Cambridgeshire in place of the late Master of Corpus whose death we all so greatly mourn. I am also desired by the RW the Deputy Grand Master to tender to your newly appointed Provincial Grand Master very sincere congratulations.

The Installation took place in the large Assembly Room at the Guildhall in Cambridge, at 5.15 on the evening of 4th February 1915. The Right Hon. T.F. Halsey, Deputy Grand Master, presided. By Dispensation, since he did not reside within the Province, Gray appointed R.P.F.W. Simpson, of INUL, as his Deputy. Prior to this, at four o’clock, Halsey had Installed the Revd Canon F.J. Foakes-Jackson as Grand Superintendent at a special convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter in the small Assembly Room. The pattern is not unfamiliar today.

That fine and hard working Provincial Grand Secretary, W .P. Spalding, died in spring the following year. It was the year that Grand Secretary Letchworth wrote to all the Lodges describing proposals for direct Provincial representation on the Board of General Purposes. Most of the Lodges voted strongly in favour of the reform and so Grand Lodge duly adopted the present system of twelve Provincial Representatives retiring on a three-yearly basis. Bro. Spalding died in March as the letter arrived in April so he never saw the change of system or he would certainly have commented in his Preface, which always took the form of a survey of the year in the Province. To him we owe the Provincial Year Book, which after his death assumed the form which is almost unchanged today. That year (1916) the PGM wrote the Preface in Spalding’s place. R.W. Bro. Gray referred to the sad effects of the War. He reported that over three-quarters of the membership of INUL were away in the Services and that the Lodge Trustees had been forced to close the Masonic Hall to save rates and taxes. In fact the Military then took over the Hall (which hardly recovered from the experience) and INUL did not move back into possession until the Michaelmas Term of 1920. Most of the meetings were held in College rooms until 1918 when the Lodge transferred by dispensation to the Lion Hotel. The Minutes of A.M. Fynes-Clinton as Secretary of INUL do not mention any of this, or much else for that matter. During his period of office INUL had the briefest possible minutes which do not even record the place of meeting and only the scantiest outline information, although they do describe the Brethren standing to order as the lists (which he failed to record) of members killed and wounded were read out. Fortunately he was replaced by W.Bro. J.R. Roxburgh in 1916.

Scientific Lodge took the trouble to place a special ‘Secretary’s Report’ in their minutes of October 1914, explaining for future generations the dismay felt by the brethren, while in 1915 Grand Lodge felt it necessary to require that Brethren of German, Austrian or Turkish extraction should refrain from attending any Masonic meetings ‘to prevent the peace and harmony of the Lodges being disturbed’. Not until 1927 did Grand Lodge instruct Lodges that ‘aliens of enemy birth’ might now be re-admitted into English Lodges, though only by unanimous ballot. The shortages of food resulted in letters being despatched to Lodges requiring ‘the utmost practicable abstinence in the consumption of food’. The Lodges all discussed it, varying only slightly in their reaction and it was reported at Provincial Grand Lodge that most continued ‘suppers in a modest form. Certainly the war did not prevent the Bicentenary of Grand Lodge in 1917 being celebrated both in London and the Provinces. The Albert Hall meeting of June 23rd  and the United Service on St. John’s Day, Sunday June 24th, were both very well attended. Gray asked his Lodges to do their best to attend and represent the Province, but there is no doubt that those celebrations were decidedly muted. There was also a problem of Masonic jurisdiction with incomers. In September 1918 the problem had become so acute that Grand Lodge issued a letter re-drawing attention to the report of the Board of General Purposes of 1917 and ordering that no members of the Dominions or the United States should be made Masons without enquiry through Grand Lodge. In 1918 the Americans at Duxford approached Scientific and asked if the Lodge would support the formation of an American Lodge of Instruction. Cautiously, the brethren deferred the reply in order to seek advice and were told by Grand Lodge that, while it was fine for the U.S. soldiery to hire a room in Cambridge and practice their own Rites and Ceremonies, it was not permissible for a Lodge of the English Constitution to sponsor a Lodge of Instruction of a foreign constitution.

The letter of refusal from the Grand Secretary was read to the brethren at the regular meeting of the Lodge in November 191.8. That particular Monday just happened to he the 11th of the month. 26 members and 20 visiting brethren heard the Master’s heartfelt words of relief and gratitude that the Armistice had finally arrived. The brethren rose and one can imagine with what feeling they sang the National Anthem before proceeding to any business. The disruption of the War may also be the reason why the custom of Provincial Officers wearing Breast Jewels of their Office was abandoned. A few such Provincial Jewels have survived and are in the museum, but are mostly Royal Arch. However there is no reference in Provincial Grand Lodge minutes to say when the style was changed. Sadly. Bro. Spalding’s traditional ‘preface’ to the Year Book no longer appears after the Revd Gray’s 1916 effort, though the minutes of Provincial Grand Lodge are published, of course. We have to wait for the appearance of the Secretary’s Annual Report, some twenty years later, before once again getting a survey of the Masonic Year.

1918 was a terrible year, but its end was such a wonderful relief for everyone that there was not even time to get around to publishing a Year Book or even holding an annual Provincial Meeting! We had to have two in 1919 instead — one in January and a second in December. Meetings, that is. There was no Year Book for 1918. The change of atmosphere was dramatic. Thousands of men came home and clearly they were looking for something better; something that might appear to offer the ‘Brave New World’. Certainly the young University men who came tip after the years in the trenches were filled with love of life and a genuine desire to see improvement in every aspect of living. Many of them sought that new spirit in Freemasonry. The figures for Initiations speak for themselves. In the five years from 1917 to 1921, the Initiations for Isaac Newton numbered eight, twenty-one, sixty-seven, sixty-six, sixty-two. It is quite moving to see the great lists of names in the minutes as young men in their twenties were balloted for and initiated a dozen at a time. When the pressure got too great an emergency meeting was called and another dozen or so were passed and Raised. These were days of INUL meetings starting at 2.00pm and working all three degrees, sometimes followed by the Installation. Dudley Durell of Glisson Road, one of ‘Thirk’s’ young men, was one or nine Initiates when he joined INUL in April of 1925, a year in which the membership of INUL reached 530 strong. Dr Rex Salisbury-Woods delighted in describing the Installation day (some nine years later, though) when he Called-off after working each of two Degrees so he could flee to the ‘Gents’ and hurriedly revise the next ceremony before Calling-on again, finally and triumphantly Installing his successor. He was expected to do (arid did) all the work himself. It is illustrative of the same optimistic seeking after a better future that all the Lodges showed a similar, if not so dramatic. increase in Initiations. It is no coincidence that the 1919-1921 period also sees St. Andrew Lodge and Gray Lodge Consecrated. The ‘eligible gaps’ so deplored by Caldwell and Gray were finally and successfully filled as part of the same post-war growth.

St. Andrew Lodge, Consecrated by Canon Gray and his Provincial Officers in June 1920, brought back to Whittlesey that which had been lost for over ninety years. W.Bro. English, an ex-Indian Civil Servant, chose an auspicious date — New Year’s Day of 1920 — to write to some twenty-one brethren suggesting a meeting to consider founding a Lodge in Whittlesey. The meeting was held at The Falcon Hotel the following Monday, so that hostelry has played a major part in the history of St. Andrew Lodge. I well remember that invitations to Whittlesey were highly prized when I was in the Chair of INUL in 1970, and the roast beef dinners at the Falcon, where the Lodge still dined, were spoken of with reverential awe. Representatives from Thorney and Peterborough lent their weight to the inaugural meeting and the Province was represented by the illustrious presence of the Revd W.W. Covey-Crump from Ely. Bro. Wells, Tyler of Caldwell Lodge at March, agreed to be Tyler pro tern, at a fee of 10/-per meeting plus his rail fare from March. In 1920, the rail fare from March to Whittlesey could not have been more than a shilling or so, (say 5p), but Whittlesey soon had their own Tyler. Mr Walter Holmes was initiated, Passed and Raised as a Serving Brother in 1923 and tyled faithfully for St. Andrew’s until he retired in 1963! Life was like that in the north of the Province. Bro. Holmes’ successor, Herbert Hickman, served the Lodge for the next thirty-one years. I was privileged to be present when he received honorary membership of the Chapter and a presentation in 1994. The Lodge appears in the Registrar’s Report for the first time in the minutes of the 1920 Provincial meeting at the Victoria Mansions, Newmarket, when it was 65 strong, none of its 61 Founders having withdrawn.

Chatteris did not lag far behind Whittlesey, with Caldwell Lodge acting as ‘sponsor’ and providing the first WM for the Consecration of Gray Lodge in 1921. However, it was a 441 man, W.Bro. F.J. Corbett (later to be a Grand Officer, Secretary of the Provincial Benevolent Association and Provincial Grand Scribe E) who, at a meeting in The George Hotel on June 24th, formally proposed that a Lodge be formed in Chatteris. Although Caldwell provided the WM, SW and nine other Founders, fifteen others were from 441; five from 88; fourteen from 809; five from 2727; three from 4087 and the remainder from ‘outside’ Lodges. Gray Lodge was, therefore, very broadly supported. In fact their first Registrar’s report suggests that they started with seventy Founders, although their Jubilee leaflet reports only sixty-two. Canon Gray consecrated the Lodge, in the Parish Room at Chatteris, in November of that year, the meeting being followed by a fairly pricey half-guinea dinner at The George Hotel. We have only the vaguest idea how many attended. 91 signed in but there is a note in the minutes saying that ‘a quantity more, about 60, did not sign the book.’ A special train left Chatteris at 9.00pm to take Cambridge brethren home. Would that modern meetings kept a similar time-table’.

Meetings continued at The George for a good number of years. Although the practice of Cambridge brethren staying overnight declined as the motor car became the preferred form of transport. Gray took a keen interest in his namesake and was a welcome and not infrequent visitor. He too would stay overnight. However, he had a very strong sense of propriety and eventually decided that, although Masonic after-proceedings should be enjoyable, the visitors to Gray Lodge might be finding them a little we enjoyable! The particular occasion was a dinner at The George Hotel, after the meeting had been held, when Nancy, a popular waitress of that hostelry, demonstrated her friendly interest in Freemasonry and her regard for the Cloth by affectionately ‘goosing the Canonical bottom. The Provincial Grand Master Was Not Amused! A short time afterwards the secretary received a letter requesting that the Lodge find somewhere more appropriate for their meetings! There was a broad hint that, if they didn’t, the PGM might find it necessary to suspend, or even withdraw, their Charter. Whatever did go on at The George on those overnight stays?

Gray Lodge was extremely fortunate at this time. In the midst of puzzling about finding a home acceptable to their aggrieved PGM, they were saved by the prompt action of their Master, W.Bro. Herbert Barrett. Late in 1926 he heard on the grape vine’ that Linden School, run by the Misses Weedon, was to be closed on the retirement of the two ladies. Bro. Barrett hurriedly consulted a couple of other members and then rushed round to the solicitors and put a deposit down on the purchase of the building. The Lodge soon agreed the purchase and the sale was finalised in February of 1927. For £40() the Gray Lodge had a home of its own. Canon Gray, performed the Dedication ceremony himself in June, W.Bro. Barrett, as Master, handing him the plans. It was only two modest rooms, with minimal facilities, but Gray Lodge has resisted all attempts to move it and over the years has, step by step, turned that old-fashioned schoolroom into a very comfortable little Temple, Dining Room, Kitchen and Bar.

In 1921, with eleven Lodges on roll, although Chatteris does not appear in the Registrar’s report until 1922 of course, Gray could look upon his service to the Province with considerable satisfaction. Certainly his brethren were very happy with his efforts and, at the Provincial meeting in the Lion Hotel, Petty Cury, under the aegis of his mother Lodge, Gray was presented with a fine portrait of himself. The portrait was specially commissioned from H.G. Riviere and the brethren subscribed 10/- or a guinea towards the cost. It was unveiled by W.Bro. E.C. Pearce, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and G.Y. Hawkins. then Mayor of Cambridge; an impressive line-up to do honour to the recipient. Canon Gray received it with warm thanks and after the Canon’s death it passed to Queens’ College. where it now hangs in the President’s Lodge.

The following year saw a major public event in our region, when tour Provinces united o a great service of praise and thanksgiving at Peterborough Cathedral and Canon Gray preached the sermon. The occasion was a major appeal for funds to save parts of the roof’ which were in serious danger and the Masons gathered in their hundreds to help. In 1834 Lord Carnarvon had, on behalf of the Prince of Wales, laid the foundation cone at the north-east corner of the tower with full Masonic ceremony, and there had never, since then, been anything like this huge gathering of Freemasons. The Peterborough: Advertiser and the Peterborough Standard; the Northampton Independent and the Northampton Herald vied with each other in the detail and in the emotion of their overage. ‘When Freemasons do a thing they do it well’ said the Standard, and its reports list all the names of those attending from the various Lodges and include a list of all the ladies. The united Provinces of Northants, & Hunts., Leicester & Rutland, Cambridge-shire and Norfolk sent more than a thousand to fill the great Cathedral.. Ladies who had returned cards had reserved seats; the Brethren met by Province in appointed gathering places and processed in Masonic regalia beneath their respective banners. The procession was headed by Gray in mortar board, Masonic regalia and full Canonicals. An old photograph in Peterborough Masonic Library (where a very full archive of the occasion is preserved) shows the procession, with Gray following a very distinguished Deacon or DC in full regalia, with ‘Old Bill’ moustache wand of office and top hat! At the service, all who participated and all the workers were Freemasons involved with the restoration process.

‘Freemasons came in an unending stream’ says the Herald ‘. . . making a brave and picturesque show yet, withal, dignified in their traditional regalia and banners carried aloft!’ Gray preached from Corinthians —’According to the Grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder I lay the foundation and another buildeth thereon.’ You may be sure he reminded his hearers of those who had laid a foundation in 1914-18 for the survivors to build upon. The gifts ranged from £100 to one shilling and the Masons gave the building fund rather more than £1,000. The Dean of Peterborough sent a most warm letter of appreciation and thanks to the Provinces.

The Provincial meeting of ’22 was in Wisbech Town Hall, where Gray was presented with an album containing an illuminated copy of the address delivered to him by his Deputy at the portrait presentation of the previous year. There was no meeting in 1923, as such, since the December convocation was postponed ‘on account of the severe loss sustained by the R.W. Provincial Grand Master on the sad death of his wife’. Nevertheless, Gray was back to duty in January 1924 when the delayed meeting was held at The Red Lion and the Provincial Grand DC (Hamblin-Smith), his Deacons and Assistant DC begged him to accept, on behalf of the Province, the special wands of office they had bought for that purpose. Gray accepted with warm thanks. At the same meeting he went on to demand formally of his Lodges that they report what action they had taken over the Peace Memorial Fund. He was very keen that his Province be well represented at the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Peace Memorial Building in July 1927. Gray Lodge and Three Grand Principles both enjoy the status of Hall Stone Lodges.

Over the next five years Gray presided over Provincial meetings in Whittlesey (when special reduced railway fares were negotiated for brethren travelling from Cambridge), Cambridge, Wisbech, Cambridge again and then at Newmarket. Thanks to W.Bros. Edgar Ennion the agent, and Sidney Taylor who advanced the deposit, Etheldreda Lodge had recently acquired the premises where Newmarket Freemasonry presently nourishes under the aegis of the Newmarket Masonic Hall Company, Ltd. Etheldreda held their first meeting there in January of 1924 by dispensation and the Lodge room was dedicated by Percy Simpson, then deputy PGM, the following month. In November 1929, however, the Provincial meeting was held in the Victoria Mansions, at which there was a formal but sincere motion of congratulation on the PGM’s Masonic jubilee. The actual anniversary was October 27th. At their Installation meeting on the 28th, INUL had the oaken elbow-chair, which now sits beside the Master’s Chair in the Lodge room at Bateman Street, presented to him. The chair, with its Provincial crest since changed) and its silver plate dedication recording Canon Gray’s Initiation in the Lodge, was specially made for the occasion and is still reserved for the use of the Provincial Grand Master or his Deputy. He was also presented with a silver copy of the famous Compton Cup of Queens’ College, together with an album listing the names of the subscribers. After Canon Gray’s death the cup was sold with other of his effects. Fortunately it was purchased for L20 by a brother, who offered it to W.Bro. Theo Freeman of Gray Lodge, who duly presented it to the Lodge where it remains on display. However, possibly because it holds nearly three bottles of wine, it is no longer circulated as a Loving-Cup!

The Lodges of Cambridgeshire continued to thrive, Isaac Newton numbers rising very close to 600. In 1930 though, in the Lion Hotel, both Gray and his Deputy, Percy Simpson, were too ill to attend. Rushmore acted in his place. Although Simpson recovered and presided as Deputy-in-the-Chair in 1931 at Ely, Gray was still too ill to appear and messages of deep sympathy were sent from the brethren. He died after a long illness in March of 1932. His Provincial Secretary for many years, G.P. Hawkins, predeceased him by three months. It was a time for major change. For his memorial service in Great St. Mary’s in May, held under the aegis of the President and Fellows of Queens’ College, the Provincial Secretary informed the brethren that ‘by courtesy of the Vice Chancellor, a certain number of seats will be reserved for Freemasons. Brethren will wear neither Masonic clothing nor white gloves.’ Thinking of his entry into Peterborough Cathedral ten years earlier, R.W.Bro. Canon J.H. Gray might have wished it otherwise.

Extract from “Cambridgeshire Encompassed” by kind permission of W.Bro. Jim Whitehead