Masons must stay men only - despite declining numbers, says senior Freemason

s: Left to right: David Begg, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Ewan Rutherford, Depute Grand Master, Ramsay McGhee, Depute Grand Master at time of filming, Clark Wilson, Grand Tyler. Picture: BBC Scotland/Matchlight - Photographer: Graham Hunter
s: Left to right: David Begg, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Ewan Rutherford, Depute Grand Master, Ramsay McGhee, Depute Grand Master at time of filming, Clark Wilson, Grand Tyler. Picture: BBC Scotland/Matchlight - Photographer: Graham Hunter
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MASONS must involve women in events, says one of Scotland’s most senior Masons, though he stops short of saying they should be accepted as members.

Depute Grand Master Ramsay McGhee insists a female focus is crucial, but he says the Masons must stay men-only.

Membership has slumped over decades and a fresh approach is required, according to the former senior police officer.

“I think we need to make this an organisation where the whole family can participate,” said Mr McGhee, 70.

Speaking ahead of a BBC Scotland documentary being screened tonight he said: “We need to change and involve wives and families far more than we have in the past. It’s abundantly clear that successful lodges in Scotland and around the world are ones that have them as an integral part.

“But I honestly believe there are times that men want to be with men and women want to be with women.

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Secrets Of The Masons, narrated by Bill Paterson, gives a rare glimpse into the normally closed world of “The Craft”.

For the first time, Freemasons allowed cameras into a number of their Scottish lodges to shed light on the organisation, although the camera crews were barred from actual ceremonies.

It is an organisation relatively few know much about, with some seeing it as a club characterised by funny handshakes and raised trouser legs.

To others, it’s a secret group with genuine power which still exerts questionable influence in many areas of society.

Edinburgh is still the iconic home of Freemasonry and the Grand Master Mason presides over 1,000 lodges and 100,000 Scottish Freemasons across the world.

The roots in Scotland go back to the time of James VI and Bob Cooper, curator at the George Street Grand Lodge, has ledgers dating back centuries.

The oldest is from January 9, 1598, and the treasure trove of archive material there and at other lodges shows the Masonic influence on major historical figures. Robert Burns, whose local lodge was at Tarbolton, in Ayrshire, had his masonic connections to thank for promoting his literary career.

The influence spread throughout the world. It was to Masonic Scots that one of America’s Founding Fathers, first President George Washington, turned to learn vital lessons in setting up the new Republic.

At its peak, a tenth of the eligible population in Scotland were Masons, the highest anywhere in the world.

But numbers have declined and Lodges have closed.

In a bid to reverse the trend, moves have been made to recruit younger members, including the re-designation of one in Edinburgh as a Student Lodge.

“My biggest frustration is that some of where we are has been brought on by ourselves,” said Mr McGhee. “In the past there has been a tendency not to speak about Masonic matters unless you are in the company of Masons. So the lack of knowledge is our own fault. “