Words from our
Founding Guild Head Master.
"At the Milan Gild Moot of 2006 when, in the presence of all the other eleven Guild Masters and our Grand Master, I agreed to take on the task of starting the process for the re-establishment of a St. Stephen's Guild and foundation of The Guild of St. Stephen & St. George, I did so with some conditions.
The main condition was that The Stonemasons' Guild of St. Stephen and St. George was to be a "Great Guild" in the same manner as the guild I had been involved with for so many years. A strong, forward-looking guild standing up for what is right, keeping respect and excellence alive. In this vein, we must act accordingly, often swimming against the tides of what we are told is modernity and "the way ahead" but is actually only the age old "cheapest is best" mantra given by quick-buck shareholders and accountants, we must stand for the fundamental unchanging human need for fellowship and community, unashamedly keeping traditions, history and etiquette alive but not allowing them to suffocate innovation.
On a visit to my guild in Greenwich last year I met with a couple of friends I have known through the guilds since 1969, they both, like myself came from poor beginnings. I spoke of my task to explain the feeling of being part of a Guild to people from a totally different background with a view to establishing a court in Norwich which is in no way lesser than that which we had come to expect.
Here follows a summary of the main points highlighted in our discussion about the value of the Guild in our lives:
- Once a stranger, with no expectation of personal gain, gave the three of us SELF CONFIDENCE, FREEDOM, SUPPORT, KNOWLEDGE AND A FEELING OF DUTY WITHOUT GUILT.
- In return for only our hard work and reliability we were given what most humans crave, security, a feeling of belonging, reward for hard work, training and knowledge a well-deserved pride in ourselves and our efforts, and in the records kept, a type of immortality. The only debt we feel is to help others and ensure the system continues into the future, if possible, in a stronger condition than we found it.
- The guild system, through taking notice of the small details, opens the mind and expands the knowledge of the better things in life, the important things.
- The general thought is, we stand on the shoulders of giants and will not allow the craft within the Guild to diminish in our custodianship. We say of the livery companies they are 'lesser sons of greater sires', we believe our greatest tests and achievements are ahead of us and when the time comes we must be ready.
- We cannot overstate the importance of teaching new members of all levels and types the links we have back through history - recorded links back to Ancient Rome and craft links back to Mesopotamia and Assyria - BUT also of impressing upon them we are a modern guild relevant and necessary in today's society.
- The Guild is a timeless association, at the same time European and British in its idiosyncrasies. All members should get a feeling of safety and belonging and the pride of being accepted by such an important international organisation and by people they professionally admire, for their merits alone, not payment nor privilege.
- It is vitally important that all qualifications, certification and advancement within the Guild are hard-won; this endows the receiver with both self-confidence and the skills to back it up.
- The Guild system has been formed over hundreds of years, dealing not with fads and fashions but human nature. The best of each age has been taken to form a living system with a healthy environment for people to thrive in, not a dry business where fear and stress are the driving forces.
- The Guild system relies on the most human of characteristics, personal relationships and trust built up over a number of years. In a world where young and old are feeling more and more alienated, a feeling of belonging and knowing where you fit in is a wonderful thing to have.
- The tradition and formality help to reinforce the connection with the Guild, especially with those who have had little experience of a healthy family life, leading to our ability to help young people at the vulnerable end of the spectrum. Coming from poor backgrounds and entering the system at a young ages and ourselves training and bringing on many young people, troubled and otherwise over the last 25 years, we three can attest to the system's value and rate of success.
- Progression within the Guild through meritorious servitude and the learning of the strange ways and words through years of involvement go to make the Guild feel like an eccentric family: slightly odd but something you are proud to be part of.
- The friendships gained through craft membership cut across class, race, political, national and religious divisions.
- There is a great feeling, when working in parts of the world alien in every way to our homes, of being able to find support and camaraderie from people with the same Guild background and core traditions and values as yourself.
- Although we have entry into parts of society money can't buy where we are treated as belonging, we are, in fact at our heart, anti-establishment. Stonemasons are professionally conservative but in Guild court, free-thinking is expected. On the craft side especially, the higher in the Guild the member, the more non-conformist they tend to be.
- We have found through our 900 year history discretion is sometimes the better part of valour, there are not enough of us to make huge changes to society but we can make lots of small changes from the inside that help a number of individuals. Not many bomb-site kids have the ear of ruling classes and royalty but 3 who have were putting the world to rights over a pint in Greenwich.
- Policy makers rarely meet, let alone have conversations with working class manual workers on an equal footing, with us they do and it's important not to let the side down.
May the Guild flourish root and branch and good health to our Prime Warden.