A leading Freemason is aiming to dispel myths that have dogged the organisation for years.
Up to 1,000 Freemasons travelled from across the country to the University of York on Saturday to see Jeff Gillyon appointed Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, North & East Ridings.
Mr Gillyon, whose duty will be lead 4,000 Freemasons in an area covering from Middlesbrough to Hull and from the East Coast to Leyburn in the Dales, insists they are “more open than they ever were”.
Mr Gillyon, from Pocklington, said they became inward-looking after the Second World War, but in the last 10 years had “realised the error of their ways”.
He added: “I think we are very unfairly dogged by myths. Do we have a way to go? Yes I am sure we do, because society becomes ever more open every year.
“I think we are very open already and I am sure we will be even more so in the future.”
The Freemason order is one of the oldest organisations in the world, and rumour and myth have surrounded it for centuries, from wild theories that its members plotted the French Revolution, to keeping the flame alive for the Knights Templar.
To some they represent “secret” handshakes and “jobs for the boys” – both of which Mr Gillyon says is untrue.
What is a fact, but less sensational, is that after the Lottery, they are the second largest giving organisation in the country.
Mr Gillyon, who was born in Hull and educated at the city’s Hymers College, said: “We get these stories and when we challenge them we never get any specific facts, but what they do do is undo all the good work and the openness we are trying to project.”
Nearly 15 years ago a previous Home Secretary Jack Straw tried to address the issue of Freemasons working in the criminal justice system.
For a decade judges had to disclose whether they were Masons, but that was dropped in 2009, after a European Court of Human Rights ruling.
No one – including police – have to say whether they are a Mason, and in recent years local authorities have had to stop asking candidates whether they are Masons on job applications.