WHATSOC? Masonic Society
Though commonly perceived as an overtly guarded and male dominated group, Southampton Masonic Society are taking great measures to educate about the realities of Freemasonry in order to dispel this […]
Though commonly perceived as an overtly guarded and male dominated group, Southampton Masonic Society are taking great measures to educate about the realities of Freemasonry in order to dispel this kind of speculation. The Soton Tab got in touch with Samuel Williams, new Chairman of the uni society, to find out more about this charitable organisation often mistaken as a secretive sect.
What is Freemasonry?
The body which oversees Freemason’s in England and Wales, United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) describes Freemasonry as “one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations”. In terms of charity Freemason’s contributed £235,000 to the International Red Cross and PLAN UK following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013. More recently London Freemasons donated £2 Million to help purchase a new air ambulance for the capital.
Where does your interest in Freemasonry come from?
As a historian, many figures I studied were Freemasons people like George Washington, Buzz Aldrin, Gilbert and Sullivan, Mozart, Winston Churchill etc. So I was keen to find out more. I sent an email to the society who provided me with loads of information and were really helpful in dispelling some of the urban legends surrounding the fraternity.
What is the aim of Southampton’s Masonic Society?
Predominantly the society’s aim is to educate about the realities of Freemasonry as opposed to the rumour and speculation that many people believe as fact. We are used to criticism – a lot of people get the idea of devil worshipers etc about Freemasons and that’s why we exist really, to try and stop that sort of idea. To that end we organise lectures, with the help of masonic lecturers who shed light on what has previously been seen as a secretive society.
What activities does the university society undertake?
Last year we hosted two such talks, one from a speaker from the Masonic Province of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and another from the Order of Women Freemasons, a masonic order for women. We have hosted informal Q&A sessions in the Stags which have been incredibly productive. As well as this we had students and academics contact the society for help with research and essays based on a masonic society.
Typically, Freemasonry is seen as less accessible to women but your society has claimed that those of any gender are welcome. How do you accommodate female members?
Well female Freemasonry does exist and is thriving. As such we are more than welcome to accept female members into our university society who are interested in learning more about Freemasonry in the wider world. There are two grand lodges for female masons, the Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF). Last year we had a talk from a representative of the OWF. Both of these orders are exclusively for females, so there exist masonic lodges which are male only and also female only masonic lodges. Often these orders share premises and run events in coordination with each other.
Would being part of the uni society give you an advantage in being able to enter an outside Masonic society?
The uni society isn’t affiliated with the UGLE so not really, but being better educated about what it is to be a Freemason puts you in a better position should you wish to become one.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen whist being involved with the society?
I’ve been pretty impressed by the response in the last year, a lot of people came up to our stand at the Bunfight or talked to us at the Q and A sessions and said “a family member of mine is a Freemason…” and wanted to know exactly what it is. We get that a lot about a member of family being one but not feeling comfortable enough to ask “so what is it you do?”. I think it’s nice to talk to people who have a family connection or some background knowledge but have never had the opportunity to find out what is truth and what is rumour!
What would a typical Masonic Society social consist of?
Usually we run socials as a follow up to our talks, this year this involved a pub crawl from campus all the way down to Jesters. Also, the committee last year were massive fans of food challenges so we organised a trip down to Orange Rooms to take part in their Burger challenge after one of the question and answer sessions.
The big question – does your typical Freemason prefer Jesters or Sobar?
You can find out more or contact the society via their FB page here or Twitter account @SotonMasonicSoc.