There are many misconceptions about freemasons but for Agen mason Ron Benner it means “meeting like-minded people and being involved in charity fund-raising activities”.
Mr Benner was a mason in the UK for around 50 years before retiring to France nearly six years ago and said he was keen to continue his freemason activities. It took time to find a group but he finally found the Agen lodge, which he says is small with mostly British, but some French, members.
It is important for him as it gives him an interest outside the home: “Not many people realise how much money we make for charity, as it is not something we talk about much publicly.
“In the UK, for example, the only other group that raises more money than the masons is the National Lottery. Many lifeboats are named after the wives of grand masters because it was freemason money which paid for them.”
As for various ideas on freemasons, he says they are just not true: “People think our members are all rich and part of the establishment but I can certainly say I am not among that category. People also think there is a network allowing people to get jobs more easily, but this is not true either.
“We are a fraternal group which tries to do good for people; for its own members but also for other people too.”
This year freemasons marked the 300th anniversary of the first grand lodge in London.
Mr Benner says the only prerequisite to being a mason is to be able to answer the question ‘Do you believe in a supreme being?’ with a yes. After that, which religion you choose and how you worship is up to you. Religion is a banned subject within the lodge.
Lodges are single sex and while there are some women’s lodges most are all men.
As for his own lodge in Agen, he says they have both English-speaking and French members and they would welcome more.
Mr Benner says you can be of any age and do not have to have been a mason in the UK.
Meeting each month in Agen, the lodge membership fee is about €100 a year and people interested should contact Mr Benner at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mike Dowsett on email@example.com or Bruno Gramitica who is French but speaks fluent English on 06 88 33 16 83.