Acting and Freemasonry have been at the centre of Neal Arden's life, including hosting BBC radio's popular Housewives Choice programme for many years.
In November I shall celebrate 60 years
as a Freemason, having been initiated into
Green Room Lodge No. 2957, famous for
its actor members, at Freemasons’ Hall,
London, in 1944.
Sir Donald Wolfit was Master of the
Lodge in 1965, and as a Shakespearian actor
he was rated only second to Laurence
Olivier. Donald Wolfit played all the great
Shakespearian parts in the theatre, King
Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet and others, some
in London but mainly on tour.
Indeed, one of the sharper tongued
actresses of his time had said, “Olivier’s
performances were a tour de force, but
Wolfit was forced to tour.”
When The Green Room Lodge was
consecrated in 1903, it was open only to
actors, although now it welcomes all good
men from wherever they may come.
Actors then had only one place to work –
the theatre – for in 1903 films were only a
twinkle in the inventor’s eye, there was no
television or radio, and no TV commercials
from which some actors today make fine
Sir Donald joined the Green Room
Lodge a good many years before he was able
to give sufficient time to become Master.
Like so many others, he was often away
from London, so it was suggested he should
be appointed permanent Inner Guard, thus
placing him on the ladder.
So matters remained for several years.
But when, eventually, he was able to attend
regularly, and believing it to be his duty, he
proceeded through all the offices until, in
1965, he was elected to the Chair of King
Two years later, he and I were stewards
at the 250th anniversary celebrations of the
United Grand Lodge of England at the
Albert Hall, London where the Duke
of Kent was installed as Grand Master.
Neal Arden in
Neal Arden (left)
with Rupert Davies
as George Simenon's
detective Maigret in
the popular BBC TV
series of the 1960s.
The following year Donald, most
untimely, passed away and was buried at
his local church in Hurstbourne Tarrant,
near Andover in Hampshire, with Masonic
Lodge members acted as pallbearers of
whom I was one, and at the graveside we
threw sprigs of acacia onto the coffin. Lady
Wolfit and family were present with many
other mourners. Earlier, in church, we
recited the lines from Shakespeare’s play
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
Nor the furious winter’s rages,
Thou thy worldly task has done
Home art gone and t’aen thy wages.