FREEMASONRY in local government remains a divisive topic, an Echo investigation suggests.

Last month David Staples, chief executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, took out a series of newspaper adverts claiming members suffered from discrimination and "gross misrepresentation".

Recent news stories have claimed the Masons still wield a secret influence in government and society at large. Former Police Federation chairman Steve White told the Guardian the society was holding back the progress of women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the force, a claim dismissed by Dr Staples as "laughable".

Dr Staples said Masons raised more than £33 million for charities last year, and will be running a series of events over the coming months – with the Twitter tag #enoughisenough – designed to inform the public about the organisation and dismiss its reputation for secrecy.

"We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised," he said.

"No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we."

The United Grand Lodge of England is restricted to men, although separate women-only lodges also exist.

In the spirit of transparency, the Daily Echo contacted all male councillors at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole asking if they were Freemasons, and what they thought of Dr Staples' comments.

Only two councillors responded to say they were members of the organisation.

Bournemouth council leader John Beesley said he was "proud to have been a Freemason for over 30 years".

He said he had included his membership in his register of interests when it was a requirement, and would be "happy to recommence that declaration if properly asked to do so".

"I understand that the United Grand Lodge have been keen to openly explain the objectives of Freemasonry and the charitable purposes that it sets for itself and I welcome that approach,"he said.

"The danger of course is that reactive comments will be made that are either uninformed or discriminatory.

"If history repeats itself, then such comments have no place in a free society.

"Freemasonry is not a ‘secret society’ and those who often take such a line really need to make sure they are better informed."

Cllr Beesley urged the public to attend planned the planned open evenings to learn more about the organisation.

His fellow Bournemouth councillor Amadeo Angiolini said he had joined the Freemasons two years ago.

"Prior to that I would have considered myself one of the members of society who had a negative attitude towards the organisation," he said.

"In many ways the tenets that the organisation supports with regards to helping your 'fellow man' aligned with my own Christian values and as such I felt very comfortable becoming a member of the organisation.

"Perhaps it is a generational thing, but I have in the past been a member of the cubs, scouts and ATC and enjoyed the camaraderie that such organisations offered.

"As you may be aware, I co-founded the Bournemouth Above And Beyond Trust charity with Councillor Crawford and this involves quite intensive support work with both serving military personnel and ex-military personnel.

"I can tell you that we are strongly supported by the Amphibious Lodge who fundraise for our organisation. This is a Masonic Lodge whose members are all ex-forces."

In total 21 Bournemouth councillors, nine from Poole and six from Christchurch have responded to the Echo saying they are not Freemasons, but expressing a range of opinions about the organisation.

Poole councillor Mark Howell said it was time for the organisation to reform itself.

"If people keep their membership secret, they cannot be discriminated against on that basis," he said.

"Any organisation that lacks transparency and accountability will tend to develop corrupt practices as people within those organisations who are inclined to be greedy or abuse power will take advantage.

"Corruption is even more likely where the organisation is hierarchical, expects its members to show loyalty to other members and excludes women.

"I believe that councillors who are Freemasons should be required to declare such membership as an interest until such time as Freemasonry shows that its membership criteria and application processes result in a membership that reflects the make up of society as a whole."

Bournemouth councillor Don McQueen said: "Clearly all Freemasons should be willing to say whether they are members, so that as Dr Staples indicates, they may be congratulated on the funds they raise for good causes.

"In this modern world there is no room for any 'secret societies'. Let the light roll in please.

"I for one would strongly welcome membership of such societies being a registrable interest for members and I hope all members can answer your question."

Bournemouth councillor Eddie Coope, Poole councillors Philip Eades, Andy Hadley and Peter Pawlowski and Christchurch councillor Paul Hilliard all called for "greater transparency" and for membership to be declared in members' registers.

Cllr Eades said: "Some years ago at least half of the Poole Cabinet were Freemasons (undeclared).

"Whilst I appreciate the membership of the Freemasonry may now be different I think historically they have rightly been viewed with suspicion by non-members and an air of distrust hangs rightly over their admittedly good charitable work."

Other Bournemouth councillors were keen to stress their support for the charitable work of the Masons – Philip Broadhead, Robert Chapman, Blair Crawford, Pat Oakley and Lawrence Williams.

Cllr Oakley said: "I have several relatives, friends and colleagues who are Freemasons. I have other friends who are Catholics, Jews and Man U supporters.

"I think it very dangerous to single out any organisation like this. Surely the Echo is above this sort of trial by innuendo?"

Poole's Peter Adams said he was too busy to respond and would reply "in the near future". No other Poole councillors responded.

In Christchurch the Echo understands that some members, including Bernie Davis and Mayor Nick Geary, are Masons.

Aside from those listed, the only Christchurch councillor to contact the Echo was Cllr Davis who stated: "Certainly not answering that, whether one is a Freemason or not is up to them."

There are some 200,000 male Freemasons in England and Wales. The institution dates back some three centuries and is based on the 'lodges' formed by the stonemasons who worked on churches and cathedrals.

Freemasonry has a hierarchy and ceremonies known only to members, including ceremonial garb based on the stonemason's apron.

Members have included a great many famous names, from Sir Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling to Oscar Wilde and Peter Sellers.

Members of the Freemasons


Amadeo Angiolini

John Beesley

Not Freemasons


Mark Anderson

Stephen Bartlett

Philip Broadhead

Simon Bull

Robert Chapman

Eddie Coope

Blair Crawford

Laurence Fear

Michael Filer

Mike Greene

Nigel Hedges

Andy Jones

David Kelsey

Don McQueen

Andrew Morgan

Patrick Oakley

David d'Orton-Gibson

David Smith

Philip Stanley-Watts

Christopher Wakefield

Lawrence Williams


Mike Brooke

Philip Eades

Malcolm Farrell

Andy Hadley

Mark Howell

Mohan Iyengar

Drew Mellor

Peter Pawlowski

Russell Trent


Colin Bungey

David Flagg

Peter Hall

Paul Hilliard

David Jones

Ray Nottage