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The Royal Arch RA Home Page

Royal & Select Masters


This interesting degree (sometimes referred to as the Cryptic degree) with its unusual triangular apron, covers the 410 years between the end of the Craft and the beginning of the Holy Royal Arch.
If you are or have been a Mark Mason and a Chapter Mason then come and find out what happened during this period, and a whole lot more, over four beautiful ceremonies.


The Grand Council of the Order of
Royal & Select Masters
of England & Wales and its Districts
and Councils Overseas

Grand Master
M Ill Comp John Alan Wright


District of Lancashire


District Grand Master of Lancashire
R Ill Comp Robert SC Mitchell  JP


Deputy District Grand Master
Ill Comp David H Connor

District Grand
Principal Conductor of the Work
Ill Comp Ian Ronson


The Order of Royal And Select Masters - The Missing Link

The Order of Royal and Select Masters, often known as the Cryptic Degrees, is
open to those who are both Royal Arch and Mark Master Masons and consists of four
highly dramatic degrees. These outline the initial steps taken during the building of the
Temple to preserve copies of the holy vessels and sacred treasures in a secret
vault, the burial of the Word by the two surviving Grand Masters after Hiram’s
death, the completion and dedication of the Temple and finally the fall of Jerusalem to
Nebuchadnezzar and his army. It can be seen, therefore, that the Cryptic Degrees
form a vital and interesting link between the Craft and Royal Arch, making the connection
much more logical and completing the legend of King Solomon and his Temple.


The Four Degrees are as follows:

Select Master

The preparations for the building of the Temple having commenced in the Mark Degree,
the three Grand Masters are anxious that the form of the sacred treasures,
including the Ark of the Covenant, could be lost forever in the event of the Temple being sacked.
They therefore arrange for a small number of Select Masons, sworn to secrecy,
to construct a secret vault beneath the Holy of Holies and deposit replicas therein.


Royal Master

The Temple is nearing its completion and certain Overseers are anxious to receive
the Master Word and be honoured with the rank of Royal Master before their
employment ceases. Shortly before his death Hiram Abif explains to one of these
Overseers, Adoniram, that with patience and industry he will, in due time, receive it.
This discourse is widely regarded as the most beautiful in any Masonic Degree.


Most Excellent Master

Hiram Abif has been slain and after a period of mourning, the holy relics are
transferred into the completed temple. King Solomon prepares to dedicate it to the
Most High and, to celebrate this joyous occasion, confers the Degree of Most
Excellent Master on his most trusted and skilful workmen, amongst whom are those
who built the secret vault.


Super Excellent Master

The Temple had stood in all its glory for nearly 400 years but had then fallen to
Nebuchadnezzar and his army. The King and his principal citizens were taken into
captivity in Babylonia.  Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet King,
has rebelled against him and fled, leaving the remaining citizens to defend the Temple
and pledge their devotion to God.


The Degree of Thrice Illustrious Master

This degree, colloquially known as the Order of the Silver Trowel, has been
performed in America for a number years and was introduced into this country in
2009. A select number of Installed Masters from each District are approved each year
by the Most Illustrious Grand Master to receive it. Recipients of the degree are
entitled to have a hallmarked Silver Trowel attached to the flap of their apron.
The degree is both extremely interesting and colourful and takes place during the
final days of King David and recounts the abortive attempt of Adonijah, the
half-brother of Solomon, to assume the throne and then the latter’s anointment as
King. It concludes with a remarkable discourse between David and Solomon.


The Excellent Master Degree

The Excellent Masters Degree, more commonly known as Passing the Veils,
is one of the degrees in Freemasonry that can be placed at a specific time in history.
The Ceremony of Passing the Veils may be considered as emblematical
of the wanderings of the Israelites in the Wilderness,
and of their return from Babylon to Jerusalem.
The Decree of Cyrus for the Jews to return to Jerusalem
and to rebuild their Temple was given in 538 B.C.,
the year after he had taken Babylon and
is the setting for the Excellent Master Degree.
It is an invitational degree and, usually, will only be available
to those members who are already in possession of the Order of the Silver Trowel.


Lancashire District Grand Recorder

J Fraser McCord, 12 Harlyn Avenue, Bramhall, Stockport, Cheshire  SK7 2HN
0161 440 9204  


St. John's Council No.8

Stanley House, Manchester Road, Audenshaw, Manchester  M34 5GB.
Second Thursday in May (Inst.), First fifth weekday (Monday - Thursday) in October
and Third Thursday in December.
Recorder – J.Fraser McCord 12 Harlyn Avenue, Bramhall, Stockport, Cheshire  SK7 2HN
0161 440 9204  


Royal Solomon Council No.24

Masonic Hall, Kingsway, Widnes, Cheshire  WA8 7QH
First fifth Friday in January, February, March or April, First Fifth Friday in May, June, July,
and First fifth Friday in September, October or November (Inst.)
Recorder - John A. Goodrum, 27 Warren Road, Appleton Warrington  WA4 5AG 
01925 269 656  


Saul Council No.136

Garstang Masonic Hall, Wyrebank, The Moorings, Garstang, Preston  PR3 1PG
Fourth Thursday in May. (Inst.) and First Tuesday in September.
Recorder - Colin Williams, "Invergordon", 3 Queens Drive, Fulwood, Preston  PR2 9YH
01772 717 736  


Blazing Star Council No.224

Masonic Hall, Mill House, Whalley Road, Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire  BB5 5HD.
Third Thursday in March (Inst.), Third Monday in June and Fourth Thursday in October.
Recorder – Kenneth Laidlaw, 29 Meadow Way, Tottington, Bury  BL8 3HU
01204 885 503


St. George’s Council No.262

Masonic Hall, Cunliffe Street, Chorley  PR7 2DB
First Wednesday in March (Inst.), September and November. (Daytime Council)
Recorder – Geoff Catterall, 35 Worcester Place, Duxbury, Chorley  PR7 4AP
01257 273 810


Adoniram Council No.272

Thornton and Cleveleys, Masonic Hall, West Drive, Cleveleys  FY5 2BL
First Tuesday in February, (Inst.) April, and September. (Daytime Council)
Recorder – David K Rhodes, Kimberley Lodge, Walker Lane, Fulwood, Preston  PR2 7AP
01772 719 660


J Alan Wright Council No.321

Hemsley House, The Crescent, Salford M5 4PE
First fifth Tuesday in January to April, third Tuesday in June (Inst.),
first fifth Tuesday July to November.
Recorder – Dennis Schiff, 16 Highmeadow, Radcliffe, Manchester M26 1YN
0161 724 6171

Coiuncils at Rochdale, Uppermill and Southport are currently under discussion.


Officers of the District
(Appointed 15 February 2015)


Deputy Master Ill Comp David H. Connor PGStB
Principal Conductor of the Work Ill Comp Ian Ronson PAGDC
Chaplain VIll Comp Brian S. Raby GChap
Treasurer Ill Comp Malcolm I Bell PGStdB
Recorder Ill Comp J Fraser McCord
Director of Ceremonies Ill Comp Shaun Higson
Lecturer Ill Comp Stuart Mowbray
Deputy Director of Ceremonies Comp John Bicknell
Captain of the Guard Ill Comp Peter Connolly
Conductor of the Council Ill Comp Howard Emmett
Assistant Director of Ceremonies Comp J Michael Green
Sword Bearer Ill Comp Nathaniel Killen
Standard Bearer Ill Comp Edwin Schofield
Assistant Recorder Comp Michael P Birks
Organist Comp Michael Hatton
Steward Ill Comp Stephen Bolton
Manciple Ill Comp David G Rainford
Manciple Ill Comp Edwin Fisher
Sentinel Ill Comp Peter Hegarty PDGStwd





The Old “North Western Counties” District was briefly reformed on Friday 25th April at Oaklands Council Nº.245 in the District of Cheshire, Shropshire & North Wales when Companions from that District and from the District of Lancashire came together once more.

The soon to be Consecrated J. Alan Wright Council Nº.321, which will meet at Hemsley House in Salford, has attracted many petitioners – including three Companions not yet fully qualified to be Founders.  It was a race against time to find ceremonies for these Companions to attend and become fully fledged Members of the Order and so obtain the all-important certificate number!

Hearing of the difficulty, Right Illustrious Companion Shaun B. Crutchley, the District Grand Master for C.S. & N.W., invited the Companions concerned to join with Oaklands Council's Robert Jordan who was to take the degrees of Most Excellent Master & Super Excellent Master. Accordingly, Michael Green of Vale of Weaver Council together with Len Hayes and Dennis Schiff, both from St. John's Council Nº 8, met at Hyde to complete their reception into the Order.

Also invited was Right Illustrious Companion Robert SC Mitchell, the District Grand Master for Lancashire, who was able to thank the District, the Council and the District Grand Master for their kindness in supporting a neighbouring District.

So, documentation now in place, it's full-steam ahead for the new Council which, not only has the honour of being named after the Grand Master of the Order, but which will also have the Grand Master himself as its first Thrice Illustrious Master. Watch this space for details of the Consecration.

Our picture shows, from left to right, Dennis Schiff, Michael Green, Shaun Crutchley, Robert Mitchell, Robert Jordan and Len Hayes.



St John's Council No.8 meets at Audenshaw and had its Installation on Thursday 8th May.  On that happy occasion Professor Fraser McCord (seated) was Installed in the Chair as Thrice Illustrious Master for the first time.

Present at the Installation was the District Grand Master, Right Illustrious Companion Robert SC Mitchell who can be seen in the picture presenting a Grand Council certificate to Companion Dennis Schiff.  This is the conclusion to the story above.

Everything is now in place for the Founders of the new Council at Salford for which we await the date of its Consecration.  The Grand Master himself, Most Illustrious Companion J Alan Wright, has agreed to be the first Master of the new Council. 


Grand Master to be First Master of New Council


The Grand Master - MIllComp J Alan Wright


The Grand Master graciously agreed to be the first Master of the new Council, named after him, which was Consecrated at Salford Masonic Hall on Wednesday 6 August.   In attendance were many District Grand Masters as well as Consecrating team  from London.

Amongst those pictured with the Grand Master (seated centre) are The Deputy Grand Master, RIllComp Kessick John Jones, clothed in red, the Grand Principal Conductor of the Work, RIllComp His Honour Ian Douglas Gavin Alexander, QC, clothed in purple, and our own District Grand Master, RIllComp Robert Simon Curtis Mitchell, JP, on the extreme right of the picture

In honour of the occasion, the Grand Master authorised the wearing of his initials upon the ribbon of the breast jewel.  This honour has previously only been granted to his own Council "Euston" and to one in Cheshire, "de Tably".
The companions of the new J Alan Wright Council were presented with their monogram at the first meeting of the Council on 30 September and it can be worn upon the ribbon of the breast jewel throughout the English Constitution by current, honorary and future members of the Council.


Any Mark Man & RA Companion interested in becoming a Royal & Select Master should  contact the District Recorder, Professor Fraser McCord.  There are Councils meeting all over Lancashire and details of them can be found on this site.





EComp Stuart Hughes chosen to be a Select Master

You may well recognise EComp Stuart Hughes, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principles for Manchester, who on Thursday 22 May was Chosen to be a Select Master at Saul Council No.136 which meets at Garstang.  The Ceremony was beautifully worked by Ill Comp Ian Scott, the DC, shown shaking hands with Comp Hughes.  Mention should most certainly be made of Companion Geoff Glover who Conducted Comp Hughes around the Council and did an excellent job (standing right).


Also shown (L to R),  Ill Comp David H Connor, District Grand Principal Conductor of the Work; Comp Eric J Sarti, Deputy Master (seated left); R Ill Comp Glyn J Davies, Past District Grand Master  and V Ill Comp Mel Cross, PGLect, Principal Conductor of the Work (seated right).                  

New Companions at Blazing Star



On 16 June, at the Blazing Star Council No.224 in Clayton, Companion John Radford was Chosen as a Select Master (First Ceremony) and on the same evening Comps Ivan Eastwood and Ken Olive were Honoured as Royal Masters (Second Ceremony).  The Ceremonies were worked by the Master, IllComp Peter Hegarty (robed centre) assisted by IllComp Geoff Catterall (seated left) and Comp John Green (seated right).

In attendance were (left to right) VIllComp David H Kirkham, Deputy District Grand Master, RIllComp Glyn Davies, Past District Grand Master and RIllComp Robert SC Mitchell, District Grand Master.  On the other side of Peter Hegarty are Comp Ken Olive, as cheerful as ever, Comp Ivan Eastwood and the newest member of the Council Comp John Radford.

At the next meeting on Thursday 23 October, Companion David Gallear will be Chosen as a Select Master.  Invitations may be requested from the Recorder whose details are given above.




Below are links to some other Districts

Grand Council                     
Channel Islands (inspectorate)     
Cheshire, Shropshire & North Wales
Cumberland and Westmorland     
Dorset, Hampshire & Isle of Wight
East Anglia                                
Leicestershire & Rutland              
Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire
Oxfordshire, Berks & Bucks        
Somerset & Wiltshire                  
South Wales                               
Yorkshire, West                                   
Yorkshire, North & East