by W Bro Gur Samuel LGR
Many of us find ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, following in family traditions. For Bro Glen, he followed not only in the footsteps of his father and grandfather into their line of work - but also into Freemasonry.
Born and raised in Barking, Bro Glen left school at 16, noting that he “didn’t particularly enjoy being locked in a classroom at a desk!”. Wanting to enter into a career as a tradesman, preferring to work with his hands, he originally considered going into carpentry. “I spoke with my dad and a couple of his friends, but they said that being an electrician would be a better route, because they weren’t sure how carpentry would develop in twenty years’ time with machinery improving”.
So, with that advice in mind, Bro Glen began working at the family firm, founded in 1970 by his grandfather, and expanded from a small family concern into a medium size company, with over fifty employees, after his father took over as managing director in the early 90s. Joining as an apprentice electrician, Glen wanted to earn his progress in the trade step-by-step – something of a running theme throughout his life – so after becoming a qualified electrician, he worked to become the qualifying manager for the company, earning his certification from the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting.
Not wishing to rest on his laurels, Bro Glen undertook a two-year course to obtain electrical design qualifications, which he not only passed but received a distinction. In 2006, the company board elected him to the position of managing director, taking over the role from his father.
Bro Glen met his wife, Dee, when they were nineteen, and were married in 1995, welcoming a son the following year. A second boy followed in 1998, and then a daughter in 2003. His eldest son is currently studying mechanical engineering with a view to going into vehicle design – something Bro Glen suspects might be influenced by his own love of Aston Martins! His other son joined the family firm as an apprentice and is now himself a qualified electrician; his daughter has just begun studying to be a legal secretary.
“I’m really lucky that I went into something I enjoy , ” Glen reflects, “I’m mostly office- based now that I’ve moved into the role of MD, but I do still get involved if there’s a technical issue that some of the guys can’t resolve or we need to design something out. Day-to-day, I’m mostly running the
business, pricing work, advising clients – but I’m allowed loose sometimes! I can work in the office, be involved with the technical design of things, and if all else fails I can actually get involved with the screwdrivers and spanners!”
It was, however, back when Bro Glen was still working his way up the company when a particular job opened his eyes to something he had been surrounded by for much of his life. As the son, nephew and grandson of Freemasons, Bro Glen attended many ladies’ nights as a teenager. “We’d have a family table just of my brother, my cousins and I, with our partners, all between our early teens and early 20s, and it was very much a family night out.” These ladies nights made up the majority of Glen’s early awareness of Freemasonry – until he was sent to install an air conditioning system at the Oxford Masonic Centre. “Although the room was cleared out of pedestals and objects, there were still paintings, the carpet, the lay out of the chairs – that was my first view of a temple, and it opened my eyes to that side of Masonry.”
Having caught just a glimpse of what lay inside a Lodge Room, he felt ready to take the plunge when his father and grandfather approached him about joining the Order shortly after. “I know some people join at 21 or younger, but I probably wasn’t mature enough to join at that age! They picked the right timing for me.” Bro Glen was initiated into West Ham Abbey Lodge No 2291 on March 18th, 1999, with his father the Worshipful Master, his uncle as one of the Wardens, and a long-term family friend – and an engineer in the family business – guided him through the ceremony as Junior Deacon. Indeed, Glen had plenty of familiar faces around him as he progressed through the offices of the Lodge, not only from the many ladies’ festivals he had attended growing up, but also with several family members and colleagues being members of the Lodge.
About a year after being made a Master Mason – where he was given his grandfather’s apron – Bro Glen was installed as inner guard and began to make his way through the offices. Much as with his approach to his career as an electrical engineer, Glen wanted to make sure he took every step along the way, declining the opportunity to bypass one of the offices – “like the way I’ve been in business, I’m more a tortoise than a hare, I like to take my time and achieve a certain level, and then move up. I’m glad I took my time and did the full year in each office”.
With so many family members and other colleagues in the business being on the square, it wasn’t unusual for an office meeting room to host informal Lodges of Instruction – “not necessarily perambulating but making sure we had the words right. And as I was leading up to becoming W orshipful Master, this became more and more common, as I would ask colleagues, or my dad or uncle or brother, if we could run through certain parts of the ritual. ” In February 2007, Bro Glen became W Bro Glen as he was installed in the chair of West Ham Abbey, getting to perform all three degrees during his year - and even sharing the delivery of the Third Degree with this father . Towards the end of his year as Immediate Past Master, however, Bro Glen received a letter that would hugely expand his Masonic experience - he had been appointed a Metropolitan Grand Steward.
To that point, most of Glen’ s Masonic visiting was to Hugh Owen Lodge No 2593 - the mother Lodge of both his grandfather and father , and a Lodge with which West Ham Abbey had many members in common and plenty of mutual visiting – with maybe one other visit a year to another Lodge. “Being a Steward opened up a whole new world of visiting,” Glen recalls, “not only official visits, but visiting the Lodges of the other Stewards, getting to meet a lot of new people - it really opened up my eyes to wider London Freemasonry and just how big it is, and just how different it could be from just knowing one Lodge. ”
It was during his active year as Steward that Bro Glen finally joined the Royal Arch. It had been something Bro Glen always planned to do after his year as Immediate Past Master, though he says “looking back now, I probably would have joined earlier – but you live and learn!”. That decision was further confirmed after a long conversation with the West Ham Abbey secretary, who was initiated alongside Glen and who Glen followed into the Master’ s chair. With that added encouragement, Glen was Exalted into West Ham Abbey Chapter in October 2009.
No longer being Immediate Past Master at West Ham Abbey, Bro Glen had already booked himself a space on an upcoming Mentoring Seminar, run by then- Metropolitan Grand Mentor, W Bro Jon Leech PSGD. “Some of the other Stewards were on duty that evening, so I was talking to them, and then Bro Jon came over and said ‘I didn’t realise you were a Steward’, and he asked if would like to become a Mentoring Liaison Officer”. Bro Glen would further serve Metropolitan Grand Lodge as part of the Recruitment team. “After my active year, I emailed the Metropolitan office to thank them for the opportunity, and to say that I would be delighted to assist Metropolitan Grand Lodge in the future. Within two or three months, I was contacted by W Bro Peter Lewin PSGD about joining the Recruitment team.” He became active within the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Lodge No 9812, including serving a term as Assistant Director of Ceremonies.
In 2012, Bro Glen was appointed a Visiting Officer under then Metropolitan Grand Inspector , W Bro Robert Grant PSGD , and the following year was back in active office as Metropolitan Grand Deacon. He would be promoted to Senior Visiting Officer in 2015, and at the same time becoming the Inspectorate Adjutant, a role he continued to fulfil for Bro Robert’s successors, VW Bro Alister Townsend PGSwdB and W Bro Matthew Hampson PSGD.
As with his career as an electrical engineer, and as with the offices in his own Lodge, Bro Glen took each step on his wider Masonic journey, first as a Metropolitan Grand Steward, then a Visiting Officer, then Metropolitan Grand Deacon, then Senior Visiting Officer.
Continuing that pattern, Bro Glen once again found himself called to active office, being appoint Assistant Grand Standard Bearer for the 2017 Tercentenary year; two years later, he was promoted from Senior Visiting Officer to Metropolitan Grand Inspector. Glen is grateful to have gone through all those steps, as well as his time as part of the Metropolitan Mentoring and Recruitment teams. “I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to carry out all those roles - I found it really helped me feel prepared. It’s given me a good foundation to grow from, to know what I’d like to try to help with as an Inspector.”
As an Inspector, Bro Glen enjoys turning up to official visits early, so he has the opportunity to meet members of the Lodge who he may not have a chance to talk to later in the evening. He tries to convey to the Lodges in his Inspectorate the importance of enjoying Masonry, but also to always be looking to the future - for Lodges to find new ways to bring that joy to their members, and of nurturing and growing their Lodges to safeguard them for the next generation.
It’s looking at that next generation where Bro Glen sees Freemasonry having an extra strong appeal. “I look at my kids and their friends, and I think of all the pressures that they’re under - university fees, potential recessions, the job market - and the pressure to keep on top of social media too.
Freemasonry can offer a real pressure outlet, a release where you can take your mind off every-day worries and get involved in the ritual and enjoy each other’s company at the festive board. Where else could you see twenty to fifty people sit down to a meal in a restaurant and not a single person is checking their phone? Freemasonry has a lot to offer young people, a way to relieve pressures on their mental health and spend a few hours with a different mentality.”
And, still looking to the next generation, Bro Glen is keeping hold of his grandfather’ s Master Mason apron, his sons feel that same call to follow family tradition in future.
W Bro Glen McDonald - 5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW:
1. Played football at school and district level, and received a silver achievement award at the Bobby Moore School of Football from the man himself
2. Once fitted a loft ladder at Buckingham Palace, and has worked at Windsor Castle
3. Has an average golfing handicap of 14, but “10 or 11 on a good day!”
4. Refurbished and upgraded New Scotland Yard twice, once for the 2012 London Olympics and once for a state visit of Barack Obama
5. Built the emergency trauma centre for the victims of the London bombings in 2007
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 41 July 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 41.