11 aston

Revd Canon Hugh Remington Barker (1919 -2009)

Provincial Grand Master 1989 - 1994

 


 

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

The second Canon to serve as our Provincial Grand Master, Hugh Barker continued the tradition of University men, although he was not an Initiate of INUL. He was a member of Pembroke College, coming up in 1938 from St. John's School, Leatherhead. From Pembroke he went on to Chichester Theological College. After being made Deacon, he was ordained Priest in 1944 in St. Paul's Cathedral by G.F. Fisher, who was later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He served a busy apprenticeship with Curacies in both London and Southwark Dioceses – source of a goodly number of his seemingly infinite selection of entertaining and apposite anecdotes – before being appointed Vicar of a Parish off the Old Kent Road from 1951 until 1962. During this period he was Initiated – though a Pembroke man – in Old Johnian Lodge No 5282, becoming WM in 1964, in which year he joined Gild of Holy Trinity Lodge in our Province, having moved out of London to the Parish of Wisbech St. Mary. He served there from 1962 to 1975 and then progressed to become Rector of his beloved Walpole St. Peter in 1975, where he remained until his retirement in 1984, W.Bro. Barker served as Rural Dean of Wisbech (1972-75) and of Lynn Marshland (1976-84). He was an Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral from 1981 until his retirement; Canon Emeritus thereafter. Grand Lodge appointed him AsstGChaplain in 1985 and he was promoted to ProvDeputyGChaplain in 1987.

Chapter progress was much the same as Craft, since Canon Barker was Exalted into Surrey Schools Chapter in 1960 while still London-based, becoming MEZ in 1969 by which time he had also been a member of Etheldreda Chapter for four years. He took the chair of 1st Principal in Etheldreda in 1980. Prominent in Rose Croix circles too, Canon Barker's experience in this degree began locally in Albert Edward Chapter in King's Lynn and he became Inspector General 33° for Norfolk and the Isle of Ely in 1988, whilst preparing to serve as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for Cambridgeshire. He was also a Grand Officer in Mark. It was a heavy load for any-one, particularly for one so conscientious in his duties and there is no doubt it did become a strain. Although in theory retired, he was freed only from day to day Parish affairs, for he had a great deal of locum work as well as being in constant demand to take any number of Weddings and Funerals. The recent insistence by Grand Lodge and
Supreme Grand Chapter on PGMs and Grand Superintendents yielding up their Office at 75 may not, at the time, have been wholly a bad thing for Canon Barker's health – although he much deplored the fact that the insistence on rigid application of the rule did not allow him to remain in office to take his Provincial Grand Lodge in June 1994, only ten days after his 75th Birthday. Because of this ruling, Canon Barker had but five years in which to make his mark on the Province as its leader. It is a tribute to his unstinting efforts, backed by indefatigable visiting and a gentle firmness, smoothed by a ready wit and humour, that he succeeded.

Dr Aston's resignation dated from July 1989 and it needed some rapid 'footwork' from the Provincial Grand Secretary to avoid a long interregnum. Fortunately, a slot was found available in September and the Deputy Grand Master, the Hon. Edward Latham Ballieu, came with his officers to Install Canon Barker — as Grand Superintendent at a special convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter at Bateman Street in the morning; as Provincial Grand Master at a special meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at the Guildhall in the afternoon. A light luncheon at Bateman Street after the first ceremony was topped off by a celebration Dinner in Trinity College after the Craft Installation. There was great relief throughout the Province that the Grand Master had agreed to appoint 'one of our own' to be our Provincial Grand Master. There was pleasure and satisfaction that he had selected this one in particular.

One of Canon Barker's early but more unusual official functions was to present to his predecessor a token of appreciation for his ten year stint in Office. It was a unique situation. Hardwicke and Thirkill had both resigned before death terminated their appointments, but we had never before had a Past Provincial Grand Master who was both in the locality and still able and willing to attend Masonic functions. A collection was quietly arranged throughout the Province and discreet enquiries made on our behalf, through my wife and Mrs. Molly Aston, as to what would please Dr Aston most in the way of a gift. A lovely cream jug of Georgian silver was selected and purchased and, to avoid marring the silver with engraving, an illuminated Presentation manuscript was commissioned from a local calligrapher. The work was framed and resided on the piano at Dr Aston's home, not far from the silver. The Presentation was made by the PGM in March 1990, at a Buffet supper function at Brook House in Soham, organised by W.Bro. Peacock of St. Audrey. It was a most pleasant and happy gathering, attended by a large and representative proportion of the Province. Dr and Mrs Aston celebrated their Golden Wedding later that year, but Dr Aston was becoming weaker and in ever greater pain as the months went by. He was remembered by a large number of brethren attending the Memorial Service in Great St. Mary's in June 1992, when that vast church had to open up the galleries to accommodate the hundreds wishing to show their respect and affection for him. Canon Barker led the prayers.

Stanley Aston's work was continued and built upon by his successor. In 1992 a PGM's Working Party was appointed to enquire into and report upon the state of Freemasonry in the Province. In particular, the group looked at the decline in numbers, the rise in the rate of resignations, the time scale of progress in Lodge and the increasing average age of the membership. W.Bro. John M.L. Smith of Fordham was asked to chair the group and delivered a succinct and well-received report at the Provincial Meeting in 1993. He pointed out that the population of the area had risen by 18% over the past twenty-five years while the membership of the Craft in the region had declined by 8%. Even worse, the number of Initiations was down by 10%. In commenting on the report, and asking all Lodges to consider it and provide a reasoned response to the Provincial Grand Secretary, Canon Barker referred to the address of Dr Aston ten years before and pointed to confirmation of what had then been said. The Report, printed and circulated to all Lodges, was discussed at length throughout the Province and comments and suggestions fed back. The second report, however, considering and assessing all the feedback, fell just outside Canon Barker's period of Office, being held back in 1994 because of the pressure of the Provincial Installation meetings. It was delivered in 1995.

The Provincial Committee of Benevolence continued to flourish under the Chairman-ship of the Deputy, W.Bro. C.H. Hutchinson and his reports to Provincial Grand Lodge during this period were stories of success. The Capital fund had been built up to such an extent that in 1991 he was able to advise that the investment income had reached almost £11,000 pa. and the Committee was now enabled not only to fulfil its original purpose to care for local Masonic needs, but was also able to extend its benevolence to local non-Masonic Charities. From thenceforward the Provincial Committee of Benevolence, like the City & University of Cambridge Masonic Charitable Trust, has been a regular and significant contributor to local causes both Masonic and non-Masonic. The Benevolent Association report of 1991 recorded the presentation of a mini-bus (one of six purchased by the Grand Charity at a cost of £110,000) to the Fenland Association for Community Transport on behalf of the Grand Charity. The Association, from its own funds, equipped the bus with a radio system. The annual sums collected by the Benevolent Association continued to rise. W.Bro. R.F. Wilkinson reported in 1991 over £62,000 raised in the past year. He was confident that we could produce over £100,000 for our Norfolk neighbour's 1995 Festival and the figure did in fact become £120,000. It had been intended to promote the Samaritan Fund, at one time a favourite Charity, as the Provincial target for 1992 but because of the uncertainties about the Hospital the plan was deferred on this occasion. Wisely, as it proved. The New Samaritan Fund was launched during Canon Barker's Provincial Mastership and the last desperate efforts to secure the stability of the Royal Masonic Hospital failed, with two hard working local Masons, W.Bros. Eddie Adams of 809 and Richard Benstead of 859, resigning their Directorships of the Hospital in dismay. The New Masonic Samaritan Fund was then substituted for the intended 1992 target. The Province gave £85,000 to the NMSF and, in 1993, Canon Barker read a letter of appreciation from the Treasurer of the Fund calling the sum 'quite remarkable when considered as a total per Lodge'.

Cornwallis Court remained a focus for Provincial efforts from Canon Barker's first Provincial meeting, when he commented on the 10th anniversary, particularly mentioning the shortfall of £1,400 in the income of 'the Friends'. He urged all his Lodges to become Corporate Members of the Association of Friends and, to his satisfaction, nearly all of them did. He was also pleased that, when the rebuilding work at Cornwallis Court permitted the Library and shop to be moved to more spacious quarters, the Provincial Benevolent Fund undertook to pay for the move and the re-equipment of the Nourse Library. With the help of an additional grant of £2,500 from the City & University of Cambridge Masonic Charitable Trust, the whole cost of the move and refurbishment of the accommodation was met. Several members of the Province attended the official reopening and were delighted to meet Miss Reynolds, the new Chief Executive of the RMBI, who represented at the time a remarkable shift in the policies and strategies of the Masonic Charities. So impressed were our representatives that it was not long before Miss Reynolds was guest speaker at a meeting of Cambs. Installed Master's Lodge, following which she was the principal guest at the dinner until after the Loyal Toast, when she discreetly withdrew to return to London. I am sure this was the first occasion that a lady had been present in a Cambridgeshire Lodge, even though the Lodge was Called Off just before her admission. It was Called On and Closed after she had retired to be given a well deserved pre-prandial drink.

As PGM Canon Barker saw his fair share of Anniversary Celebrations. At his first Provincial meeting, the Secretary reported that the 'Golden Jubilee' of Kynaston Lodge in December 1989 had been celebrated in due style. In particular, the Revd John Breay's Oration on Kynaston Studd himself, as a model for a man and a Mason, was a note-worthy part of the celebration and was reproduced in full in the Year Book of 1990. Three years later INUL decided to throw a party to celebrate the Anniversary of the 'Joint Venture' of Freemasons' Hall being purchased by INUL in partnership with the Masonic Hall Company (representing the City Lodges). It was a regular meeting of the Lodge, June 1993, just twenty-five years after INUL had held the first Masonic meeting in the newly purchased property. After a Passing, the Lodge Called Off for tea and then Called On to hear John Hamill, the Grand Lodge Librarian, deliver his Prestonian Lecture on the development of the Masonic Charities. It was a packed meeting and was followed by a Champagne reception and a sumptuous dinner. Sumptuous by 1990s standards, that is. None have ever quite matched the lavishness of 88's Centenary! How-ever, the greatest of the celebrations involving the Province in the early Nineties was undoubtedly that of the 275th Anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge, coupled with the 25th Anniversary of the appointment of HRH the Duke of Kent as our Grand Master. Locally, we celebrated with a service of thanksgiving at Fordham Parish Church (surely one of the most beautiful in our Province) followed by a buffet in the Parish rooms. Our service, at which Canon Barker spoke most warmly about a 'Spirit of Openness' in Freemasonry, was held concurrently with the great central service in St. Paul's Cathedral and shortly after the huge open meeting held at Earls Court. Many brethren either attended the latter meeting or have since seen the video tape produced by Grand Lodge, a copy of which is in the Library.

At INUL the Secretary, only the day before the Earls Court meeting, announced that a ticket had become available. Would any brother care to ask him for it afterwards? The meeting was Called Off and was about to resume to carry out a double Raising. The Secretary was talking outside the Lodge with two Grand Officers, one of them a very senior visitor to the Lodge. Up came one of the candidates and rather shyly asked if he might possibly be allowed to have the ticket. 'Of course! With pleasure' and the Three Wise Men beamed benevolently upon the INUL youngster. Then the eye of the visiting GO, who was telling the young man how much he would enjoy the unique experience, dropped to the Fellowcraft's Apron. 'Oh dear!' he said in dismay. 'No, I'm afraid you can't go. The meeting is for Master Masons only. I'm sorry.' The young candidate blinked, summoned his courage and said, rather diffidently, 'But I will be a Master Mason tomorrow, won't I?' And he was. And he went, wearing his Grandfather's apron, almost certainly the youngest Master Mason in that whole vast throng. The celebrations in our area ended with a Gala Ball held at Chilford Hall which was attended by brethren from all over the Province.

The Province acquired its new Ceremonial Sword shortly after the celebrations. In 1993 the Provincial Grand Sword Bearer was W.Bro. Geoff Brunning, who had been in the chair of Etheldreda Lodge for their Centenary. He had discovered and purchased a very fine old Royal Artillery cavalry sabre. He now presented this to the Province — and, of course, bore it proudly before Canon Barker on several occasions before his period of office ended. Until this time, the very heavy and ornamental Great Sword, belonging to the Lodge of United Good Fellowship in Wisbech, had been used for the Provincial meetings. As a result, Provincial Grand Sword Bearers needed to be chosen as much for their physique as any other criterion.

Before his period of office ended, Canon Barker was able to claim the addition of two Lodges to his Province. One, the Old Leysians Lodge No. 4520, petitioned successfully to be allowed to transfer from London to Freemasons' Hall, Bateman Street (thus having the pleasant side effect of bringing both the Provincial Grand Master of Northants & Hunts and his Deputy into a Cambridgeshire Lodge as Senior and Junior Deacons respectively!). For the second, he had the satisfaction of Consecrating the Porta Lodge in Ely as a new Lodge in his Province in 1993. In the same year, he was able to Consecrate a new Chapter in Cambridge, that of the Cambridgeshire First Principals, a Chapter designed to perform for the Royal Arch the role played in Craft by the Installed Masters' Lodge, which acted as sponsor. The Chapter began with over seventy Founders and was a success from the moment Canon Barker Consecrated it. He placed E.Comp. Tom Impey, the first ever Deputy Grand Superintendent of the Province, into the chair of Zerubbabel and graciously accepted the role of first IPZ and Honorary Member. The Deputy Grand Superintendent, now Ron Wilkinson, was first H and the author, as Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra at that time, was J.

The aim of the Founders of the Porta Lodge was to bring together any who had some connection with or interest in the King's School at Ely and the name chosen reflects the early history of St. Audrey Lodge. Sadly, it also reflects the refusal of the Governors of the School to allow the name of the King's School to be used. The Consecration was held in the new buildings belonging to the School but the Lodge meeting place is the Masonic Centre in Silver Street, where some very much needed work and extension had resulted in an enormous improvement in the comfort and convenience of the accommodation. The Ely centre is now a very enviable Masonic home.  In fact, much development was going on during this period. The brethren of Chatteris had some good fortune. The Community Centre behind the Lodge room was sold. The sale included the car park, which would have been a catastrophic loss. However, the property was bought by a brother who sold the carpark back to Gray Lodge, thus avoiding possible disaster. Not only does Gray now own the small but vital car-park, but they too have been working hard at refurbishment. A new bar extension and a re-equipped kitchen and dining room have transformed the place. The refurbishing has, over the last year or two, included the Temple, the 'loos' and the entrance hall. It has been a great effort by one small Lodge and the members are to be congratulated. The men of Whittlesey were also hard at work, but Canon Barker had retired the year before their efforts reached full fruition. The extensive rebuilding and renovation which has taken several years of work, again by a single Lodge, was finally completed and the official opening and rededication took place in October 1995. Canon Barker, though present as Past Provincial Grand Master, carried out the short ceremony in the presence of his successor, R.W.Bro. Colin H. Hutchinson, and as many admiring visitors as could be packed into the new and attractively panelled Temple. Overall, the five years of Canon Barker's office has seen very considerable change, modernisation and improvement in the accommodation and facilities of the Lodges of his Province in Cambridge, Ely, Whittlesey and Chatteris.

As Grand Superintendent, Canon Barker was always very conscious of the fact that, although we boast a much higher than average membership of Royal Arch as a percent-age of our Craft membership, there was still much progress to be made. He was very keen to offset the common advice to Master Masons to 'leave joining the Royal Arch until you are in Office in Lodge' and he frequently expressed his dismay at such advice. He did, however, recognise that it was necessary to keep the interest of younger entrants. He was therefore unflagging in his attempts to persuade the Chapters to take up the advice and urging of Supreme Grand Chapter to split up the work to involve more members. Like his predecessor, he required his Lodges to make a practice of presenting a leaflet on the Royal Arch to all Master Masons when they were given their Grand Lodge Certificates. He was also a staunch promoter of the Peterborough Book-lets, urging that those be presented at each appropriate stage of an Initiate's progress. He firmly believed that a better understanding was a key to a greater enjoyment. Fortunately, though Canon Barker has retired from his official role, his successor shares his sentiments about this aspect of Freemasonry. In the same vein, the established pattern of holding a well chosen and informative lecture on one meeting alternate years, practised by 6125 for the last two decades, is Canon Barker's doing.

The insistence by Grand Lodge that Canon Barker's actual birthday should mark his retirement prevented him leading his fifth annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge. It also produced a difficulty for those in the Province responsible for organising the meeting and also the Installation of his successor. Fortunately the MW the Grand Master listened to the wishes of the Province and appointed the Deputy, W.Bro. C.H. Hutchinson, to the office. There were, however, difficulties over booking the Guildhall for any date after our regular annual convention, there being no available date between then and Christmas. The unavoidable conclusion was that the Installations and the annual Convocations, Craft and Arch, must take place on the same date. Otherwise there must be an unacceptable delay between the appointment and the Installation of the new PGM. The Grand Lodge authorities were not too happy about the proposed 'Marathon' — with the Grand DC's rehearsals in the morning, the Royal Arch meeting early in the afternoon and the Craft at its usual 4.15pm — but under the circumstances there was no excessive sympathy about that in our Provincial circles.

On the 15th June 1994, in Cambridge Guildhall, the Deputy GM, R.W.Bro. Iain Ross Bryce, Installed R.W.Bro. C.H. Hutchinson as Grand Superintendent and later on as Provincial Grand Master. Col. Geoffrey Dicker, Grand Superintendent of Norfolk, with Peter Wardill, Grand Superintendent of Bedfordshire, assisted in the first ceremony. In the Craft, R.W.Bro. Jeremy Pemberton acted as Presiding Officer to open, with R.A. Taylor of INUL and Granta acting as Deputy. After the admission of the Deputy Grand Master, Geoffrey Dicker acted as SW and H.B. Smith, PGM of Northants & Hunts. (a serving Lodge Officer in Cambridgeshire Province) as JW for the Installation in the Craft. The dinner was held, as had become customary over the last few years, at the Garden House Hotel. One reign ended, another began. Cambridgeshire masonry moved on, under a fresh engine driver but with the same goal and the same ideals. R.W.Bro. Hutchinson takes the Province through to its two hundredth anniversary. He has inherited from his predecessor a solid, honourable and successful foundation. It continues to flourish and grow. Justly may we celebrate those two centuries.