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The Interview - Grand Secretary Adrian Marsh

Adrian Marsh, Grand Secretary of UGLE, photographed in Freemasons' Hall


Adrian was confirmed as Grand Secretary in September 2022, replacing the outgoing Chief Executive and Grand Secretary David Staples. He will take the traditional Grand Secretary role, while still performing many of the functions of a Chief Executive within UGLE’s organisational structure.

The offer to be Grand Secretary came from Pro Grand Master Jonathan Spence in 2022. Adrian was already part of the wider UGLE team, using his skills as finance director of a FTSE 100 company to help the Board of General Purposes. Jonathan had discovered that Adrian was thinking of retiring from his professional role – which he announced in September 2022 – and invited him to lunch, having spotted an opportunity to add another name to the first-rate executive team he has built to execute UGLE’s seven-year Strategy.

‘Having heard Jonathan’s vision, I found myself nodding very enthusiastically and saying I wanted to support Jonathan with his ambition. He asked me candidly if I thought we could get things working, was the Strategy doable and did I want to be part of it. While I wanted to retire from executive life, I didn’t plan on doing nothing. It was very exciting, and I definitely wanted to get involved.’

Adrian originally became a Freemason, he confesses, partly to impress his future father-in-law– a member and long-term Secretary of Strong Man Lodge No. 45. Adrian loved the experience and soon became an active Freemason. After stepping away from Freemasonry to focus on his career and family, Adrian has engaged with the Craft with renewed enthusiasm in recent years, having found that some of the themes and principles have taken greater resonance over time. It has helped that he can share his Freemasonry with his family – he presided over his son’s third degree in June and recently attended his son-in-law’s Initiation at Watford Lodge No. 404.

‘He knew I would turn up at the ceremony, but didn’t know I would carry it out. So it was very amusing on entering the Lodge that the first voice he heard was mine.’ 

Having spent almost four decades in the City, Adrian joins a leadership team at UGLE that has a potent mix of talent and experience. His role as Grand Secretary involves acting as the link between the Rulers and the Board of General Purposes. With his background in finance and commerce, Adrian is exploring ways to optimise commercial income from Freemasons’ Hall while also exercising a tight grip on cost management. There will be innovations, such as closer collaboration with the women’s orders, Royal Arch and companion orders and, in Wales in September, the first Quarterly Communication to be held outside London since the war. 

Above all, he wants to improve the experience for members.

‘We are a membership organisation. The member experience needs to be the most important thing – whether it’s the process of joining, when you receive Grand Rank, when you come to Grand Lodge or when you are visiting or have a meeting at Freemasons’ Hall. The Grand Secretary’s role is to ensure we are organised effectively to deliver that members’ experience and optimise our unique asset – Freemasons’ Hall – to be enjoyed by members and maintained for future generations. My role is to apply the industry approach to UGLE. That means sharing best practice, allocating resources and facilitating change – but not sitting in an ivory tower pointing a finger and saying this is what you should be doing.’

Growing the membership will require evolution and flexibility to meet the demands of a younger generation. That might mean more Lodge meetings in the early evening rather than late afternoon, and adapting the Festive Board to suit the pockets of younger members. After his son’s third degree, the Festive Board took the form of pizza in the courtyard at Freemasons’ Hall, while others have featured sharing a curry rather than a traditional three-course meal. Adrian knows himself it can be hard to maintain Masonic life while juggling young children and/or professional commitments.

Here, Lodges can support absent members by keeping them informed of developments and making them feel appreciated and welcome.

‘These are things everybody can do, and we want to support and facilitate the energy and ideas and good practice. We use the Magazine for that as much as we can, but it has to be done at the grassroots level – and we are already seeing some great examples. As I wind down from my executive life, I’m starting to get out and about and I can see that energy in Lodges across all of UGLE.

At HQ, we’ve made changes to the leadership team and put in place a new structure, and are looking to build a team for the future. We want to bring out the best in people and ensure we are all aligned to the Strategy and understand the importance of the membership experience. That’s the excitement for me, working with a team who share that desire and enthusiasm and have a similar view on what success might look like. The key to any success, though, is that it must resonate at Lodge level.'

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