THIS ISLAND LIFE LET'S start with the name first. Michael J. Wilks is provincial grandmaster, Masonic Province of Hampshire and IW. It’s not the grandiose title which puzzles me but the use of the middle initial.
I’ve always thought this a strange affectation, intended, I suppose, to convey a sense of self-importance. But unless there is another Michael Wilks who holds the same position, the J is entirely irrelevant.
But I’m nothing if not polite, so I would like to reply to Michael J’s letter in last week’s County Press, which was written in response to my article the previous week about the mysteries of the brotherhood.
His arrival in the debate certainly impressed my mate the mason (whose existence Michael J seems to doubt).
"Blimey, they got the big cheese to reply. Game on," was his response.
Michael J (henceforth I’ll dispense with the formalities and refer to him as MJ) suggested I take a look at the Freemasons’ website (www.ugle.org.uk) for further enlightenment, so it would have been rude not to.
Unfortunately, its content seems at odds with some of the points MJ was anxious to correct.
According to him, 'the masons do not indulge in furtive greetings’.
Yet the website states: 'Members promise to keep confidential the way they recognise each other when visiting another lodge’. MJ was also exercised by my suggestion (and it was actually intended as a compliment) that masons raise money for charity.
They do no such thing, apparently.
He wrote: "… the monies donated by masons to charitable causes comes from their own pockets.
Masons do not raise money for charity, they give to charity."
I’m happy to join him in dancing on the head of this particular pin, because my mason mate insists raffles were held at every lodge meeting to raise funds.
He also attended the regular dinners and some barbecues, after which cash was donated to the lodge for onward presentation to good causes.
If that’s not 'raising’ money, then what is it? And what’s the hair-splitting about anyway?
I suspect people or causes on the receiving end won’t care whether the money was 'raised’ or 'donated’.
MJ seems perplexed by my reference to the Guild of Mutual Back Scratchers, which he says was 'without explanation’. He’s the only person I’ve come across who thought it needed one.
He ends his with: "What else do you need to know?"
Well, since he asks, I would like to know what has happened to the invitation I requested for me and a CP photographer to attend a lodge meeting on the Island?
And MJ, in his position of great power and authority, might also be able to help with my other suggestion which has so far gone unanswered –– that all Freemasons on the Island who are police officers (serving or retired), councillors, council officials or who hold other positions of influence in public life, agree to make their names public.
Finally, I was intrigued by the headline on MJ’s letter, which read: 'Masons help make good men better.’
Do you think the word 'off’ was inadvertently omitted from the end?
Just a word on written banana skins
WHEN words are the tools of your trade, it pays to tread carefully. Over the years I’ve clattered out many a column about the indignities heaped upon the English language –– and lurking in the undergrowth are fellow pedants who are quick to pounce and point out the errors I then make.It happened a few weeks ago, when the word 'us’ appeared in the headline on this column when it should have been 'we’.
In came a snotty note, anonymous of course, and at the time I couldn’t be bothered to explain that on proper newspapers, hacks never write their own headlines, so I took one on the chin for the team.
However, it would appear we are now embarked upon a magic roundabout of grammatical glitches, and it promises to be great fun for all concerned.
It all began a couple of weeks ago, when Clive Couter wrote to this newspaper in despairing terms about the appalling quality of the spelling to be found everywhere these days, especially in shop windows.
He quoted the word 'sandwhiches’ as a perfect abberation.
Dennis Russell then pounced on Clive’s use of the word 'your’, pointing out it should have been 'you’re’.
Unfortunately, Dennis suffered from a bout of thick-finger syndrome and his letter included the mistyped word 'denore’ when he meant to write 'denote’.
In the spirit of the game, I have deliberately included a misspelled word in this article.
Please write in with a correction and leave a cock-up of your own. We can keep this merry game going for months.