LEIGH Masonic Hall held its first ever open day on Saturday which was attended by Myra Whiteside, Mayor of Wigan and Leigh, who was accompanied by Shadow Health Secretary and Leigh MP Andy Burnham.

From the moment the doors opened at 10am to the close at 4pm, there was a steady flow of people, including several family groups, wanting to know more about this so-called ‘secret’ society.

Masonic group chairman Malcolm Parr said: “Until recent times, Freemasonry, internationally, nationally and locally has probably been guilty of allowing the common misconceptions about ‘secrecy’ to develop. "So we decided it was time to invite members of the public to look around and learn more about the truth behind the myths.”

The numbers attending made it clear that there is no doubt that the people in the Leigh area are inquisitive and wanted to know more.

As people entered the smart, capacious and inviting dining hall they were able to see a display of Masonic regalia and information on the history of the organisation.

Everyone was invited to look around the Lodge Room, which was set out exactly as though ready for a Masonic meeting.

An explanation of the history of this ancient institution and the reasons for the origin and use of ‘secret passwords’, was clearly and logically explained.

The ‘secret passwords’ simply revolve around the fact that in days gone by, stonemasons were typically illiterate. Before the introduction of written qualifications, the only way to prove your skill level to a potential employer was by the use of passwords; kept secret for obvious reasons. They were the modern day equivalent of a ‘trade’ qualification or university degree.

Masonic ‘ceremonies’ reflect this history and effectively re-tell the journey of someone joining the craft.

Mayor Myra Whiteside said: “I found the visit fascinating and have learned much more about Freemasonry.

"The open day was a great idea and I was amazed at the extent of charitable support that Freemasons give to local and national charities.

"I had no idea that Masonic charitable giving to non-Masonic charities in the UK is second only to the National Lottery – that is amazing!

" I commend their voluntary work and fundraising for so many worthy causes. I am also delighted to receive a cheque for the Mayor’s charity of £1,100.”

Malcolm Parr added: “It is clear that by dispelling the myths and explaining the reality, more people see the value of being part of an organisation that prides honour and virtue at its core.

"There are more than 200 masons currently meeting at Leigh Masonic Hall, many times more than other local organisations of a similar charitable nature, so we must be doing something right.

"We had 10 enquiries on the day from people interested in joining. If you would like to know more about Freemasonry and are interested in supporting those less fortunate, then visit http://www.westlancsfreemasons.org.uk/ or e mail leigmo@westlancsfreemasons.org.uk"