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Wiltshire Freemasons Gather for a Unique Take on the Initiation Ceremony

Freemasons of Sarum Lodge in Wiltshire talking a group photo in their Lodge Room after the Initiation of Bro Richard


It's not unusual for a partially sighted or visually impaired person to express an interest in becoming a Freemason, but what are the implications for the Lodge, and what changes should and can they make to accommodate the candidate.

This was the question facing Sarum Lodge, which meets in the cathedral city of Salisbury when they invited Richard Lamb, a visually impaired candidate, to be their newest Initiate.

Richard (63) was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a chronic hereditary eye disease affecting the retina and for which there is sadly no cure. However, despite experiencing the undoubted trauma of not being able to see, Richard was determined to lead as normal a life as his circumstances would allow, and his experiences have certainly shaped who he is and contributed to his clear and certain joie de vie.

After what Richard refers to as 'normal school' in Winchester and attending college to obtain his A levels, he secured employment in the then fascinating world of computers, what we now call IT. He was good at it, so much so that today, together with his wife Abigail, he runs his own computer software company, R J Ledger.

Richard was first approached about becoming a Freemason a number of years ago but decided it wasn't the right time for him. Eventually, his friends, including Dave Henery, a member of Sarum Lodge, persuaded him that he should seriously consider joining a local Lodge, and so it was that Richard found himself a candidate for Initiation into Freemasonry and, yes – into Sarum Lodge.

Lodge Director of Ceremonies Luke Facey and Secretary John Clough quickly realised that some of the elements of the ceremony would need to be changed to enable Richard to enjoy the experience and understand the symbology.  

Some may ask why Richard was hoodwinked; after all, he was incapable of discovering the layout of the Lodge or, indeed, of observing its form. It was explained to Richard that the blindfold (hoodwink) has a symbolic context. The wearing of the hoodwink is not voluntary; rather, the candidate submits to the hoodwink because the degree requires him to do so. It is a requirement to emphasise ignorance now and knowledge to come. It is not to suggest as some have premised to stop the candidate from seeing the layout of the Lodge Room or the symbols of Freemasonry, as interesting as that explanation might be. In this context, when the hoodwink was removed at the point the candidate asked for "light", it was not the ability to physically see that was important but an acknowledgement that the moment symbolically spoke of "enlightenment."

At the precise moment the Master told Richard, "You are now enabled to discover the three great though emblematical lights", his hand was placed on the Volume of the Sacred Law, and it was explained that it was The Bible. Richard was also told that if he had been of a different faith group, his obligation would have been taken on the holy book most relevant to him.

The three lesser lights were named, and their position was made known by an audible response from the Master and his Wardens; at the same time, their individual roles were explained. This certainly enabled Richard to orientate himself in the Lodge. Such was the success of this particular aspect of the ceremony the Lodge is considering making it a 'tradition' at future Initiations.

The Lodge Warrant was presented, and he was told that an explanation/description of the warrant would be given whenever he wished. During the whole ceremony, the Deacons ensured that there was contact with Richard at all times. The Lodge kept the changes to a minimum, and according to Richard himself, the ceremony was thoroughly enjoyable. Richard has recently attended an Initiation ceremony at which he was able to ask questions of a friend and discover more about what happened at his ceremony. He really does believe that he made a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge just by attending that meeting.

Making reasonable adjustments to assist a candidate in completing any of the ceremonies is simply the correct thing to do. The members of Sarum Lodge should be justly proud of how Brother Richard was welcomed into pure, ancient Freemasonry. Wiltshire is proud to have him as a member.

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