Stewart Rankin sent the following to Kevin Jones for conideration for the steamindex website. It should be noted that the Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers frequently records membership of this organization, that the late Ian Allan was an eager member and owned shops which sold regalia, but was happy to publish Maxwell Dunn's record of unhappy relationships with Masons.

Thinking the other day (I have a lot of time to think now!) about influences for good or ill on my railway life, I realised that i n the notes which I sent to you I failed tomention one external factor, which influenced many railway careers, but not mine, membership of thr Freemasons.

Nepotism is easily spotted (Paget's on the Midland, Watkins on the South Eastern, Pollitt's on the GCR) but there are less obvious relationships — in-laws, (Raven Thompson on the NER), cousins,  the "Quaker Mafia" etc., and of course "Old School Ties. For example, I cannot think of anone who has examined the Gresley-Thompson relationship in the light of them both being "Old Marlburians, as indeed was Alexander Butterworth, GM of the NER, which would have done Thompson no harm at all during  his time with that railway.

In the late 1960s I became friendly wth Gerry Wintour, son of Frank, sometime Works Manager at Doncaster. He was a regular at my local pub in Yorkshire, and I had several conversations wth him, while helping Peter Grafton with research for his Edward Thompson of the LNER.  Gerry had been a Doncaster Premium for a time, before leaving. One of the frst things he said to me was "Are you 'On The Square' i.e. a Mason. "You wll get nowhere on the railway unless you are."

Thompson was a very senior member, having passed the "Royal Arch". According to Gerry, membershp was endemic on the LNER from Sir Ronald Matthews down, particularly on the locomotive and running side. There were two Masonic Temples inside the Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street. Gerry, who despite his father urging him to do so, refused to join, and left, because he said non-members failed to progress n their careers. It was a very "clubable" atmosphere at Doncaster, wth Masonic functions, horse racing and hard drinking (apart from the abstemious Thompson) being the main activities outside of work. According to Gerry, his father was "a vey bad tempered drunk". Thom was "an unpleasant, sneering sarcastc drunk" "Pepps" was always "a happy drunk" while after the death of his wife, Gresley was "morose and withdrawn" after a few lunchtme drinks. All were members of the same Lodge. Bulleid was not, being RC.

It seems possible that Ivatt was refused Maunsell as Works Manger, beause he was not a brother, and the job went to Wintour instead.

Reverting to Thompson and Gresley, it seems that the two did not like each other that much, and Mrs Thompson (Miss Raven as was) did not like Gresley at all feelig that his atttude to her husband, while perfectly correct, was lacking in warmth and appreciation. Gresley certainly moved Thompson aroud quite a lot, perhaps not wanting him to stay too long in one place where he might become troublesome.  If Gresley had survived in reaonable health until 70, Thompson would not have become CME. Perhaps Gresley's thoughts were still running on Bulleid as a successor, whose departure for the Southern had felt almost like a betrayal. To return to the question of their shared school, was this a factor n keeping Thompson, or ws this senior Freemason unsackable?

Do you know if anyone has done research of ralway officers/directors as Masons. I am sure this would throw up some fascinating links.

Well I am all in favour of sending a ferret down a promising rabbit hole, so long as you are not worried about possibly offending somebody.

I mention this because a senior railway official, former Doncaster Premium and a railway author, who may still be alive, once behaved iin a despicable manner, when Peter Grafton sought help for his Edward Thompson, and wrote to him seeking an interview. This individual offered him an appointment, warning that he could not help much. The same day, he wrote to my then boss C.W.F. Cook, PR&PO Eastern Region, and a  low grade mason, but senior in railway rank. The letter was along the lines — there is a man called Grafton wantiing to write a b8ook about Edward Thompson. Do not cooperate with hi9m. Hs work is unlikely to enhance the reputation of a Senior Brother.  As the chap in charge of public information, I was told not to give him any help.  Curious, I looked through the files and found the letter.  I was furious,and contacted Grafton in a private capacity (in fact my little private publshing company. Nidd Valley Narrow Gauge Railways,eventually published the work. As it happened Grafton had been starting on the wrong track, his thesis being that Thompson having married the boss's daughter expected to succeed Raven, but Grouping intervened, leaving him with a chip n his shoulder. In fact had the NER continued to exist there were better more senior candidates  like Stamer and Smeddle.