'I have only once, I think, been a member of an organisation that excluded someone right before my eyes.
I’m not counting the Cubs in this – I’m not sure if there was a blanket ban on girls joining back in the Seventies, it’s just that there weren’t any girls in my troupe, and I packed it all in after a couple of months because the meetings were on Friday nights and I wanted to watch The Incredible Hulk. Nor am I referring to my lifelong membership of the Straight White Male club, for which I was signed up while still in the womb.
No, I’m talking about the Lower Ince Labour Club junior coarse fishing society. Fishing was a popular pastime when I was a kid, with rod and float on the canal, or the River Douglas, or various flooded quarries or former pit land. I vividly remember the first meeting of the fishing club, when the organiser, almost as an afterthought, checked that our parents were all active members of the Labour Club.
One boy, a couple of years older than me, called Jonathan, said this his parents weren’t. Red-faced and almost in tears, he was asked to leave. He’d just bought a new rod, as well.
I think it was that experience that gave me a healthy distrust of elitist clubs and societies, so you’ll understand and perhaps forgive me when I break out the world’s smallest violin to accompany the Freemasons’ claim that they are facing discrimination and are being “unfairly stigmatised”.
In fact, they have taken out advertisements in two national newspapers to complain. The papers are The Times and The Telegraph, which is perhaps curious; you might have thought that most Masons would actually be readers of those twin colossi of the British establishment anyway. Surely their complaint would have better avoided preaching to the converted in the centre-straddling or left-wing press?'
Read more: From Freemasons to frat houses: The secret societies we know very little about