Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bro. Lightfoote, R.I.P.

The Magpie Mason just read the obituary of Bro. Andrew “Monty” Montgomery, the alter ego of Bro. Lightfoote, the brilliantly insightful diarist who recorded for posterity the doings of Stonic Lodge more than two centuries ago. Bro. Lightfoote’s Journal has appeared in “Freemasonry Today” magazine for years, and in fact has been the Magpie Mason’s first stop upon receipt of each new issue.

From the Winter 2008-09 issue:


We were all saddened to hear that our Deputy Editor, Andrew Montgomery, (Monty) died suddenly early November.

Monty was the author of our very popular series detailing the wayward life and masonic times of the worthy and worshipful Brother Lightfoote, who, according to a very early story, was responsible for the deep gash across the brow of the carved head of the apprentice in Rosslyn Chapel when he stumbled and inadvertently discharged his pistol. Monty received his education at the Royal Masonic School for Boys and gained an early love of Freemasonry. He was initiated into Old Masonians Lodge, No. 2700 and after taking his three Craft Degrees moved on to join Royal Arch, Mark, Royal Ark Mariners and Knights Templar.

Monty attended the Bournemouth College of Technology graduating in 1974 when he obtained a post with the BBC in Television production. Two years later he left the BBC and worked freelance beginning as an assistant director in the commercial film industry. He moved up through the production grades to end as a producer. During this period he spent time in Thailand, Brazil, Austria, Germany, the United States and Pakistan working on film projects. He stayed for some months in the same hotel in Peshawar as Osama bin Laden and had a number of conversations with him. At the same time journalists were reporting how difficult it was travelling far into the mountains to interview this supposedly elusive fighter. During the filming of an Arthurian epic, the Irish horsemen were unhappy about the long hours and what they considered to be low pay. Monty solved the situation by adding a risk payment: any riders who fell off their horses into the water during filming received an extra daily payment. Thereafter all the riders contrived to fall into the water at least once a day. Writing was one of Monty’s many talents and he scripted Porterhouse Blue and Demob for British television among other projects. At the time of his death he had just finished working on a new film project in Paris and Portugal.

Monty loved music and played well. He also loved classic cars. He wrote a coffee-table book on great American cars and the definitive book on General Motors’ iconic sports-car designed by the great Harley Earl, the Chevrolet Corvette. He also loved photography, especially purchasing old cameras and film on the internet and then using them to produce powerful and often emotional images. But his old Leica IIIf remained a favourite.

In 1989, while both were working on a Television series, Monty met his wife Fleur and she continues in the film industry as a leading art director.

Above all Monty loved life and always saw the humorous side. He held a compassionate view of humanity. He followed a spiritually informed and creative journey with great optimism and enjoyment. He is much missed.

Bro. Lightfoote’s Journal has been the humor section of the magazine, and each entry of the diary indeed has been hilarious, but it would be a mistake to not look beyond the wit and absurdity. “Many a true word is spoken in jest,” says the old English proverb, and it is proven in Lightfoote’s log. Rosslyn Chapel, the pyramids in Egypt, Templars, female initiates… nothing was above a good-natured and cleverly crafted jibe.

Here he explains the nature of Masonry’s degrees.

Moral rectitude: “I then reminded Brother Secretary that he had, more than once, been so inebriate at the cessation of festivities that it had taken the combined efforts of three, five, seven or more brethren to bear him home. Further, they had been constrained to assist him in the urgent matter of passing water in a public place. Brother Secretary, the while, keeping up a loud and spirited rendition of the Sailors' Song from Purcell's celebrated Dido and Aeneas with lyricks of his own invention that I shall not here record. Not only was Brother Secretary guilty of drunkenness, disorderliness and indecency, but half the lodge were accessories, before, during and after the fact!”

Stuart Masonry: “Gentlemen-at-Arms rushed forward, fearing that an attempt had been made on the life of His Royal Highness and I was pulled to my feet with pistol pointed at my head. The Prince, regaining his feet and straightening his clothes, demanded of me if I were a supporter of the Stuart cause. I replied, trying to make light of the incident, that I was merely a Comedy Jacobite! The man lacks humour, doubtless due to his German ancestry. I was led away. Fortunately I was released without charge but the incident has been widely reported and I have become the butt of many a ribald joke, principally at the Stonic Lodge where I am currently referred to as The Prince’s Truss.”

Tongue of Good Report: “A candidate for initiation has been proposed in the Stonic Lodge and this has caused great consternation. His name is Andrews, Nathaniel Andrews, and he is a rat catcher by trade. When his curriculum vitae was read out by his proposer, a fishmonger, there was a distinct and uncomfortable stirring in the ranks. A brother who considers himself a gentleman, but is in fact a lawyer, raised objection on the grounds that having a rat catcher in the lodge might lower the tone of our proceedings...

“Consider this: as we are not all operative masons, but rather free and accepted, or speculative, might we not ponder the possibility of free and accepted rat catchers and, indeed, speculative rats? Intolerance, injustice, intemperance and insolence are spread, like the foulest canker, from the middens of mean minds to infect humanity at large? Who resists? Who remains steadfast in the faith? Who cuts off the tales of those that tell tales and holds tight to the truth? We do, brethren. Thus are we rat catchers all, are we not?”

Fine dining: “I attended a Lodge meeting recently, having partaken, rather freely, I admit, of Casbon’s Cleansing Ale with a light luncheon at The Antlers Club (jugged hare, cold capon, pork pies, gooseberries & custard, Cheshire cheese), and enjoyed a glass or two of fine Hollands gin, together with some quite exquisite smoked eels, with my doctor in the afternoon. I arrived at the Yorick Tavern a little early, suffering from a bout of flatulence that was positively escharotic, to employ a medical term. What can have brought this on I cannot imagine but something had to be done before the meeting commenced. A Brother was to be raised to the Sublime Degree and I didn't want the sepulchral silence of the ceremony’s central section interrupted by an unexpected eruption on my part. It took three large brandies to quell the storm, I fear. (A digression: I knew a boy at school who could produce, a posteriori, as it were, Handel’s celebrated Largo from Xerxes, which must have required quite exceptional muscular control. His name? Ramsbottom. I jest not.)”

Egypt-mania: “‘How do you know how old they are anyway? When was the first description of them given by a reliable witness, which is to say by an Englishman, eh?’ I sensed that I had him on the run and kept chasing. ‘I’ll wager, Brother, that the pyramids of Egypt are not more than fifty years old and probably built on a timber frame.’

“I could tell that he was outraged because he said ‘I’m outraged! The Egyptian pyramids are mentioned in Classical Greek texts!’ The man was gullible beyond belief, as most classicists are, in my experience. I spared not the rod of my derision. ‘So is the Cyclops, and the Minotaur, and the winged horse and, indeed, the wooden horse. I suppose you believe all those too, do you? I am sorry to be the one to have to disillusion you, Brother, but the Greeks are largely liars, except for the ones from Crete, who are all liars...’”

Grand Lodge pomp: “We keep our speeches brief at Stonic: ‘talk short, drink deep’ is the motto, and so it was until our honoured guest got up on his hind legs. He proceeded to lecture us on our several failings, claiming that our demeanour was, in general, irreverent and our ritual, in particular, irregular. He made special mention of my contribution, claiming that my witty paraphrase of the tale of Jephtha and Ephraimites constituted an innovation in the ritual and suggested that I, and everyone else, might care to attend a Lodge of Instruction. At this point, Lightfoote, already feeling clamorous and turbulent, broke out into full-blown fury. I rose to respond, noting that the Worshipful Master looked a little pale. I reminded the Grand One that he was a guest and it wasn’t a guest’s place to tell his host how to behave; if he didn’t like us, he would have to lump us. Further, I reminded him of the address made to the brethren on installation night, which points out, quite unequivocally, that our end and aim is primarily to please ourselves, not the Grand Lodge, the Emperor of China, my wife, the landlord’s dog or anyone else!

“Like a cup of last night’s claret, it didn’t go down well.”

Hospitality: “This very morning I was awoken at eight o’clock by stones being thrown at my bedroom window. I rose, for the first time, to ascertain the cause. A man was standing in the street below, smiling up at me. ‘Good morning, Sir,’ said he, ‘I trust that I haven’t disturbed you.’ ‘In whom do you put your trust?’ I enquired. ‘In the Metropolitan Insurance Company,’ he replied, quick as lightning, ‘and so should you!’ Now I knew what he was - and what he wasn’t – and what to do about it. ‘Against what should I be insured, do you think?’ I asked. He stepped closer. ‘Fire and flood, loss and damage, personal injury, robbery, acts of God…’ I emptied the chamber pot over him and shut the window.”

Masonry’s origins: “Now I’m an easy-going fellow, am I not? I enjoy a jest as much as the next man, possibly more. I am quite happy, if it makes them happy, for people to put forward suggestions about masonic ritual being founded on the long-lost practices of the Mediaeval Guilds, the Knights Templar (God bless them!), the Vikings, the Cult of Mithras (whoever she was) or whatever, but men from Mars is going too far – far too far. I could scarce restrain myself. ‘Spheres!’ I cried, though their synonym had first come to mind, ‘Orbs to the pair of you!’ ‘Globes – Celestial and Terrestrial!’ I could see that I had managed to discomfort them but a far more distracting interjection was supplied by our Junior Warden. Leaping on to his chair, he turned, dropped his breeches and announced that the pale moon was rising. It was acknowledged that the night was, indeed, waning fast and the Lodge was duly closed with some hilarity.”

Charity: “Just yesterday I was walking down Jermyn Street, thinking to buy Mrs. Lightfoote some perfume, when my ears were assaulted by what I at first took to be the cries of persons in panic and in pain. I hurried forward, ready to give what aid I could, assuming that a carriage must have overturned or some such similar catastrophe occurred –but it was carol singers! It was impossible to tell what carol they were singing, even assuming that they were all singing the same one, but whatever it was it came to a ragged conclusion as I came up. A young ruffian in a ruff rattled a box at me and demanded that I spare him a copper. ‘What for?’ I enquired. ‘Christmas, of course,’ the filthy urchin replied, bold as brass. I clarified my question. ‘For whom are you collecting, boy? Widows? Orphans? The poor and distressed?’ ‘No!’ he barked, ‘It’s for us, innit.’ The only thing this chubby little extortioner appeared to me to be in need of was a good hiding, but thrashing choristers in public, esp. during the Festive Season, might easily be interpreted as anti-social behaviour and one has to be so careful about that kind of thing nowadays.

“I advanced, pursued by a torrent of obscenities that would have made a naval surgeon blush, to the doors of my grocer’s shop. The place was heaving with humanity of every hue and it was only after some delay that I managed to collar a clerk and confirm the contents of the Lightfoote hamper: a ripe Stilton cheese, ditto Cheshire, a side of Hereford beef, three York hams, pork pies, rabbit pies, pigeon pies, game pies; hen’s eggs, quail’s eggs, duck’s eggs, plover’s eggs; French brandy, Scotch whisky, Plymouth gin and halfa- dozen cases of Yardy’s Wolfshead port to give away – I’m not wasting the ’59 on trades people! Five geese, four colley birds, three French hens – the usual stuff. It suddenly occurred to me that there were people in this world – in this city – who would not have enough to eat on Christmas Day or indeed on any other day and I suddenly felt quite guilty. I thought of cancelling my order but the thought soon passed; instead, I ordered that it should be doubled so that half may be given to those in need.”

Rosslyn Chapel: “I had to put my shoulder to the door to gain admission and fell through it to find myself on my arse, on a damp floor, staring at a rotting roof that threatened to join me at any moment. The place was encrusted with crude carvings, decayed to the point at which their content could be construed as anything that an over-fertile imagination might conceive. I stumbled about in the gloom, searching for meaning and busting for a piss. At the far end of the place were three pillars; I relieved myself, copiously, against what must have been wisdom as I had no strength and there was little beauty involved in the act. As I concluded my libation, I received such a fright that, had I not just emptied my bladder, I’d have wet myself. A dark shape swooped down at me: was it a bat?, was it a ball?, was it a heavy maul? I will never know, but I tumbled backwards, a cocked piece in both hands. Inevitably, one of them went off.”

Becoming a better husband: “I was invited to attend, as a guest, a new-founded Lodge that meets in some picturesque ruin over in Islington. I rarely travel out of town for meetings nowadays. Mrs. Lightfoote deeply resents my coming home very late and very drunk and so I restrict myself to returning fairly late and very drunk. Could a man be more reasonable? I think not!”

A distressed worthy brother: “It was decided that one of us must go immediately to see what could be done, either for W.Bro. Courts or for his dependents. Lightfoote, being able to spare the time and bear the cost, was the obvious choice....

“The trip was hell. Like the poor candidate in a state of darkness, Lighfoote risked death by divers dreadful means, finally coming to light on the shore of that ragged, rugged and remote rock that is known as the Isle of Man.... Lightfoote’s composure was almost restored when it was shattered anew by the arrival of a breathless messenger who could barely gasp out the awful words: ‘Mister Courts, he dead....’”

A healthy sense of skepticism couched in a hearty sense of humor.

It’s Saturday night. I think I’ll honor the good brother’s memory with a meal of scallops, gull’s eggs, the finest smoked herrings, stilton and of course a bottle of Yardy’s!

Alas, my brother.

1 comment:

AlphaLodgeNo116 said...

"I replied, trying to make light of the incident, that I was merely a Comedy Jacobite! The man lacks humour, doubtless due to his German ancestry."