Freemasonry is a subject that I have stayed well away from with regard to the activities of the Keenan/Canvin administration in Somerton. Its always better to base commentary upon documented fact and, whilst there are always rumours about the freemasons involvement in many walks of life, there was little to document a connection in Somerton. Until, that is, the appearance of Mr Paul Audemars.
Mr Audemars first came onto my radar when he started asking questions relating to the police investigation into the Etsome Terrace/Tin Dunny asset swap and what he seemed to believe was my part in it. From memory, that would have been in November of last year, 2011. To say that I didn't know anything about Mr Audemars would have been something of an understatement but some casual digging revealed that, at the time, Mr Audemars was the secretary to Portcullis Lodge No.2038 which meets in the Hanging Chapel in Langport. (Mr Audemars has since been replaced as secretary by an ex-SCC staffer, a Mr Helliar.)
This connection, however vague caused me to look slightly closer at local Freemasonry and I was surprised to find that 3 lodges meet in Langport with, I believe, 7 meeting in Yeovil and 11 in Taunton. So, its fair to observe that there are a lot of masonic lodges within easy reach of Somerton and, by extension, fair to observe that there are probably a lot of freemasons in the general locality.
When I did a little more research, into actual memberships, I met something of a brick-wall. It is very difficult to find out anything about masonic membership other than by attending a lodge meeting and that, as you might expect, is unlikely to happen, certainly not in my case. It is also noticeable that such published photographs of freemasons tend to show older members rather than younger and I have wondered why that might be. Could it be that people still active in commercial and public life might not want their identities to be disclosed?
This possibility is, in some ways, supported by masonic documentation advising lodges on how they should and should not use the internet. There is specific advice with regard to websites and their content, where lodges are advised that photo galleries should not be public and, if photos are to be placed on a website, written permission is obtained from all individuals shown in the photos. This advice is interesting because it indicates that some masons may not want their identities made public and the rather indistinct image below might offer an explanation of why.
An enquiry of South Somerset District Council earlier this year provided the information that, since it was a requirement to do so, no council employee or elected member (and I assume that this includes town and parish as well as district councillors) had ever declared membership of a masonic organisation. Yet ex-Cllr Kevin Morgan was clearly a member of Portcullis Lodge in July of 2009, some three months before he joined in the 'great resigning'.
Whilst it can't be used as a basis for generalisation, this single instance does indicate that masons, who are elected representatives, cannot be relied upon to declare their membership and this begs the question, "How many other masons operate within SSDC at local and district level without declaring their membership?".
The problem with freemasonry is that, whether it is a 'secret society' or a 'society with secrets' until those in public office are required to declare membership (with real penalties for failure to so do), there will always be suspicions that instances like that of Kevin Morgan might, just might be the norm. There will also be suspicions that decisions made by town, district and county councils may be subject to influence as a consequence of such undeclared allegiances.
Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly