Updated: Oct 25, 2018
On the 6th September 2018, members of the Morley Lodge No.8320 along with the Provincial Grand Master R.W. Bro. David Hagger and his Provincial Officers gathered at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, to celebrate 50 years since the dedication of the Morley Lodge Room.
The Morley Lodge Room was on this evening the focus of attention as it was 50 years since the Lodge room was opened as part of the new extension to Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester by the then Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro. Brigadier C. Bernard S. Morley. It was also a celebration for one family within the Lodge, as Bro. Alexander Mattock, the fourth brother within the Mattock family to join Morley Lodge was passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft.
Before the evening was over, W.Bro. David Hughes, the Provincial Grand Orator delivered in expert fashion a lecture on R.W.Bro. Brigadier Morley to an enthralled audience.
“Bernard Morley served King and Country in both World Wars in an active capacity that gives him a special record of honour in local masonic circles. Born in 1899, he took his first forename from his father who was a hosiery manager, and his third from his Mother's maiden name. In 1901 the Morley family lived on the Evington Road in Leicester. Young Bernard was educated at Mill Hill and Wyggeston Schools. During the First World War he was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the London Scottish Regiment of the Corps of the Gordon Highlanders, while he maintained his military connection by joining the Territorial Army in 1926 taking a commission in the 4th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment. He was promoted to Captain in 1931, and later transferred to the Royal Artillery, though serving some short time with the Royal Engineers. With the outbreak of the Second World War he was rapidly promoted from Major, a rank he had achieved in 1937, to Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, in 1941, and temporary Brigadier in 1944. He was temporarily attached to the War Office in 1941 which may well have marked him out for further promotion. His rise in rank corresponded to the massive expansion of the armed forces during the war time years. Temporary promotions were common at the time. For a while he was the commander of the 64th AA Brigade which was part of the 2nd AA Division. He continued after the war as commander of the local Territorial Brigade, and though substantively a Colonel, he was given the honorary rank of Brigadier in 1945. The distinction between substantive and honorary rank is basically financial. The holder of an honorary rank does not receive the same pay and pension benefits as the holder of an equivalent substantive rank. One would guess that Bernard Morley rightly prized the honour more than the mere financial reward. He received the Territorial Distinction in 1942, The CBE in 1944 and was an Aide de Camp to the Monarch between 1947 and 1956. He was Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire from 1950 and finally retired from military Service in 1957.
So far as the local business community is concerned, Bernard Morley was prominent in one of Leicester's principal industries, textiles and clothing. He set up his own company as a Yarn Agent shortly after the end of the First World War, a considerable achievement for a young man. He continued in this occupation for many years, and was listed in a Trades Directory for the City of Leicester of 1954 as Bernard Morley and Co., having premises at No.97 London Road, which is now largely occupied by Topkapi Interiors, and which was certainly most conveniently situated for our Hall! He later became in 1956 Chairman of the Derby and Midland Mills. This company, which was primarily, though not exclusively, based in Derby and Ashbourne was brought into being in 1935 to amalgamate a number of smaller undertakings. It produced knitted fabrics, dyed textiles, worsted cloths and ladies` hosiery. The Company was taken over by Courtaulds in 1965 for a sum of £2m.
Bernard Morley was prominent in local charities, particularly the local branch of the British Limbless Ex Service Men`s Association, and also in local politics in the Conservative cause being elected to Leicester City Council in 1945, becoming an Alderman in 1948 and serving until 1955. He was a Freeman of the City of London and was a PM of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters, as were so many other prominent Leicester industrialists. He was also prominent in the affairs of the Diocese of Leicester, as a member of the Diocesan Board of Finance. He was active in the local Chamber of Commerce and from 1958 he was a member of the Regional Committee for Resettlement of Regular Members of the Armed Forces.
However, tonight we pay special attention to Bernard Morley's masonic career which began in 1926 when he was initiated into Lodge Semper Eadem. He went on record later stating that his First Degree Ceremony was one for which he was not well prepared outside the door of the Lodge and that less than happy experience determined him to pursue high standards of ritual. He became WM of the Lodge in 1938, and the length of time it took him to reach the chair formed the basis of much of his thinking with regard to progression and the promotion of new lodges in the Province. He became DC of Lodge Semper Eadem in 1945 and held that office until 1954, while he was also a member of the Lodge of Research serving as WM in 1961. Between 1961 and 1977 he published extensively in the “Transactions” of the Lodge of Research, primarily in the form of addresses given at Lodge Consecrations and Building Dedications. Throughout the late 1940s and into the 1950`s he was very active at the Provincial level, having been made Provincial Grand Registrar in 1946, later serving as Deputy Provincial Grand Treasurer and Provincial Grand Treasurer until 1954. At this time he was especially active in using his military connections to secure the return of our Hall to Masonic use following its wartime requisition by the army. He was promoted to Grand Rank in 1953 and became Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden and Deputy Provincial Grand Master in 1954. He then succeeded Sir John Corah as PGM in 1959.
That appointment began the period of his masonic life for which he is now most remembered. Bernard Morley favoured the growth of small lodges in which the advance to the Chair was measured in just a few years, as he saw this as the best way to ensure that brethren retained their enthusiasm for the Craft and also to maintain the vigour of the Province. Indeed in 1959 he expressly declared: “Keep your Lodge small!” During his period of office the number of lodges in the Province rose from thirty nine to sixty seven, while he was an honorary member of forty six! The increased number of lodges also allowed him under the Rules of the Book of Constitutions to appoint for the first time locally an Assistant Provincial Grand Master. He toiled long and hard for the extension to our Hall here on London Road, for which he raised the funds to buy the land on which the Morley Extension now stands, and which we celebrate tonight, some fifty years on from its completion and dedication. Perhaps in this connection he only made one mistake in that he sold off the double fronted house on the corner of Prebend Street, but that may well have been because the money was need to complete the larger project. Certainly without Bernard Morley's efforts we would not have our present car park. He also assisted at the laying of the foundation stone of Devonshire Court in Oadby, another proud achievement for the Province.
As PGM he was assiduous in issuing ceremonial instructions to Lodges, in particular with regard to the suppression of music in some lodges which had been condemned by UGLE in the 1960s and 1970s on the basis that masonic ceremonies were becoming too close in pattern to Anglican religious services. It should also be noted that he attempted to suppress the singing of carols at Christmas lodge meetings—but he was less than successful in that respect! I think it can be said that nowadays here at London Road only Prince Rupert Lodge still enjoys its December meeting's Festive Board without seasonal music—for which the Lodge Organist is duly thankful!
Bernard Morley was, however, a stickler for protocol, and it is said that when he and his DPGM between 1959 and 1975, WG Fox, met in a morning to discuss Provincial business their conversation began by reflecting their wartime ranks: “Good Morning, Colonel, Good Morning, Brigadier.” You will note that “the Brig” spake first as in those days it was always the case that the most senior mason present always opened the dialogue.
Bernard Morley stepped down as PGM in 1978, and died in 1981. His death was reported as a sad loss to Leicestershire, and was, of course a particularly heavy blow to our Province. Few men in its history have done more to shape freemasonry locally, and the great legacy that Bernard Morley left behind is vigorous today in the lodges founded in his time of office, all of which survive, and in this building which is truly a jewel in the masonic crown.”
The meeting was concluded as the Provincial Grand Master stood to deliver “The Oration” given by the Provincial Grand Chaplain at the Dedication Ceremony.