Michael Leonard Baker – A Tribute

Michael Leonard Baker born 8th August 1960 passed away 23rd April 2020

Mike “Barker” Baker

It is still hard to take in, close to a year after his death, that Mike is no longer with us. He was a driving force behind both Petts Wood Lodge and Chapter and he and I had just completed this article about Mike’s contribution to the 300th Anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England. I had known Mike from the time I attended, as a guest, his Initiation to Kynaston Studd Lodge in 2001 and we had been working closely on the website and its contents and social media contributions for which he was such a great advocate.

The tribute below was produced for an online meeting attended by hundreds of fellow Freemasons and non-masonic friends to coincide with Mike’s funeral which was broadcast as part of the meeting. My grateful thanks to Perri Ahmet for allowing us to use his tribute below.

Michael Leonard Baker or just Mike to many of his friends was born on the 8th August 1960 at The British Military Hospital Iserlohn in the Federal Republic of Germany. He was the third born son of proud parents Leonard and Yvonne Baker and the younger brother of Leonard Stephen Baker and Geoffrey Leonard Baker.

Michael was always and fondly called Mouser by the family.

Michael was to grow up within an Army family his father being a career soldier.  This meant numerous house and school moves for him from a very early age. Michael’s first school was to be the Bordon County Junior School in Hampshire.

Michael’s father was posted back to Germany in the spring of 1966 and Michael’s next two Primary Schools were to be British Families Education Service Schools in Osnabruck and Hannover respectively.

Even at an early age, Michael was proving to be quite the academic, although, at that time, his favourite read was his ‘Beano’ comic for those who can remember such things.

Michael’s parents were then posted to Berlin, so in 1970 Michaels next school along with his two brothers was to be a Boarding School, Chard School for Boys, in Chard Somerset.  Michael was to be known as M L Baker 3.  Michael and his brothers did have one claim to fame whilst at Chard; they were the first family to have had three brothers all on stage in the school’s production of Shakespeare play Julius Caesar all at the same time.  It was also whilst at Chard School that Michael first found his love of collecting certain types of antiquities and memorabilia.

On leaving Chard School in the summer of 1970 Michael went to live with his parents in Chilton Polden. His next school was to be Dr Morgan’s Grammar School in Bridgwater, Somerset, followed in turn by (based upon his Academic and Sporting abilities) attendance at the Public School in Edington, Somerset, followed in turn by Sexeys School, Bruton, Somerset, where he was a weekly Boarder.

Michael whilst at school excelled at most sports but had a specific love for both Cricket and Football.  Michael did very well in his GCE O Levels and in turn with his A Level Examinations and was accepted at University in London. He attended Royal Holloway University Windsor studying English.

Michael’s working life began with jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors and it was while he was the store manager at Habitat in Bromley, Kent in 1986 that he met Tina. They were married in September 1988. Together they had three children, Oscar born in 1994, Jemima in 1996 and Daisy in 1998.

In the year 2000 Michael went to work for the Post Office where he remained for 13 years.

Michael’s brothers were both Freemasons in Somerset and Bristol. Mentioning it to a work colleague at the Post Office, he found that his colleague was also a Freemason and this conversation led to Michael being initiated on the 3rd March 2001 into Kynaston Studd Lodge, which met in London. 

He joined the Petts Wood Lodge in January 2005 and was immediately invested as Senior Deacon. In 2006 he became Master of Kynaston Studd (which he held for two consecutive years) and in 2008 the Master of Petts Wood Lodge. Following the Chair he was Director of Ceremonies, Mentor, and most recently, Secretary of the Lodge.

Michael acquired the nickname “Barker” after Graham Higgs misquoted his surname in a response to Michael’s visitors toast. At first a bit miffed, as members constantly ribbed him for it, he grew to like the name and even signed his emails “Barker”.

Michael joined many other Lodges and Chapters including Clerkenwell Lodge of Installed Masters, Letchworth (the Lodge most notably associated with the staff at United Grand Lodge of England) and St. Pauls in Cyprus (which was a place he and Tina loved to visit) where he was an honorary member, and London First Principals’ Chapter.

Michael joined the Petts Wood Chapter in 2016 and immediately made his mark. Being an excellent ritualist he immediately and significantly helped structure the Chapter. He gave several talks when the Chapter struggled for ceremonies. He served as MEZ from 2017 until his passing, and was looking forward to Exalting a Candidate in April.

In United Grand Lodge he was appointed to Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2015. In Supreme Grand Chapter he was appointed to the Active rank of Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, a huge honour, and in no small measure for his huge contribution to the “Talking Heads” presentation.

Michael joined many other Orders and held a number of Metropolitan and Provincial Offices, many of which were active working ranks.

Michael was passionate about the symbolism and history of both the Lodge and Chapter and presented many learned papers about the meanings behind many of the ceremonies and traditions associated with Freemasonry.  He was appointed as the Cornwallis Lecturer in 2016, (named after Lord Cornwallis, a Past Provincial Grand Master of Kent), which was a great honour. As it was the Jubilee year of England winning the World Cup Michael researched and delivered his lecture ‘1966 And All That, The Beautiful Game & Freemasonry’. Starting with the founding of the Football Association in 1863 the talk looked at the many, often surprising, links between Freemasonry and football. He followed that with a Lecture on the connections between Freemasonry and Rugby, to mark the Rugby World Cup of 2019. All his talks were thoroughly researched, delivered with passion, and with hints of humour. They were always very well received.

Michael became the Director of Communications at the United Grand Lodge of England in 2013 and worked on many projects that coincided with the Tercentenary event at the Royal Albert Hall.  He was instrumental in commissioning commemorative postage stamps and limited edition coins minted by the Isle of Man Post Office.  The £3.80 postage stamp bears the Lodge number of Petts Wood Lodge, No 5435, and the commemorative coin – of which there are just 300 – bears Michael’s initials on it. As Director of Communications, Michael was directly responsible for Public Relations and involved in much of the marketing and social media work that went on up until the event itself. 

Mike had been working on this article ‘The Stamp of Approval? Marking 300 Years of Freemasonry 1717 – 2017’ until a few weeks before his untimely death which adds some more detail around the part he played in the minting of the stamps and coin to mark the Tercentenary.

He travelled widely in England and Wales and overseas, such as India, Cyprus and Kenya.  He made friends wherever he went and, under his guidance, many Provinces and Districts took their first steps into engaging with the wider world through websites, social media and better communications. 

Michael was also instrumental in the development of two important initiatives that have been rolled out Worldwide; the “Membership Pathway” and the “Talking Heads Presentation”. These two initiatives were huge steps forward for Freemasonry and in no small measure down to Michael’s involvement.

He then moved from the United Grand Lodge of England, and had recently been reviewing social media and Communications for Mark Masons Hall – which administers the Mark Degree and 8 other Orders of Freemasonry.  Huge progress was being made, but sadly this work now remains incomplete.

Michael was advanced into Orpington Mark Lodge in 2003 and later joined Orpington Royal Ark Mariners, he was the Worshipful Master of Orpington Mark Lodge in 2013. He was given his First Appointment to Provincial Grand Rank in 2015 as Provincial Grand Steward. In 2017 he was promoted to Provincial Grand Inspector of Works an office he held for two years. In 2019 Michael received his First Appointment in Mark Grand Lodge as Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. In 2015 Michael joined the Kent Mark Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge which for the last three years he held the Office of Assistant Director of Ceremonies. In 2017 a Recovery Plan was initiated for Greenwich Mark Lodge and Michael was delighted to support this and joined the Mark and Royal Ark Mariner, serving as Director of Ceremonies up until his passing. Michael was also part of the Fore Cantia Consecration Team and was made an Honorary Member in 2019.

Many in the Mark degree believe although Michael’s real talents were in the History and Administration of Freemasonry those who knew him well realised his passion was Ceremonial and he became an active member of the Kent Mark Deputy DCs Mess in 2016. He assisted at the Annual Provincial Grand Lodge meetings as well as an Escorting Director of Ceremonies for the Provincial Grand Master and the Chains.

Michael was also a member of the Order of the Secret Monitor, Scarlett Cord and Rose Croix

His impact on Freemasonry cannot be underestimated. He has been influential in projecting Freemasonry as a valuable and relevant Institution in our time, and instrumental in the way Freemasonry and the United Grand Lodge of England is viewed by the outside world.  He encouraged the use of open social media channels, transparency and to emphasise that relevance and usefulness and his legacy will be the introduction of those changes and building the foundation of a new relationship with the general population outside of Freemasonry.

The Mark Province of Kent inaugurated The Mike Baker Memorial Lecture.

“With the kind permission of Mike’s widow, Tina, the Mark Province of Kent has introduced an annual lectureship in Mike’s memory. The Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro. Archie Torrance invited V.W.Bro. Tony Harvey to write and deliver the inaugural lecture entitled “How to grow the membership of your Mark Lodge”, a topic that Mike would have truly appreciated.”

We have a very poignant expression in Freemasonry, and Michael exemplifies it perfectly – “to live respected and die regretted”. 

RIP Michael Leonard Baker (AKA Barker)