THE MEN AT THE TOP: W Bro Kieron Mallon
W Bro Kieron Mallon PJGD PGStB Metropolitan Grand Inspector in conversation with W Bro Simon Bennett LGR LGCR MetJGD
Kieron McGrory/Breslin was born February 1963 to a teenage Donegal girl in a Roman Catholic Mother and Baby Home. He spent the first six months of his life in what we now call a Magdalene Laundry; institutions usually run by Roman Catholic orders, which operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. With all we know now about these institutions, he was a lucky one and survived to be adopted by a mixed faith couple. Stanley Mallon a proud Protestant Ulsterman and his wife Joan, a Roman Catholic.
Sectarianism in Northern Ireland meant that the small family had little option but to live in London and they moved into a terrace tenement type house in Notting Hill with one set of ablutions for four flats in the converted house. Kieron’s father can recall the signs on the lodging houses that read ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’ he said he could never understand why the dogs got a higher billing than he did.
They gained the opportunity to move to the country under the London County Council overspill scheme, the government policy of moving residents out of Greater London into other areas in the South East of England between the 1930s and the 1970s. The council house the family moved into had indoor facilities and a garden, it was like heaven. Soon a sister and two brothers arrived by conventional means and the happy family were set up, or so they thought.
Kieron’s father had undiagnosed Huntington's disease, also known as Huntington's chorea, a neurodegenerative disease that is inherited. This led to an accident that cost his father’s life when Kieron was twelve. Kieron has since lost an aunt and a Sister to this dreadful and incurable condition, one of his brothers is also diagnosed. Kieron has raised money for the Huntingdon’s Society to try to find a cure or to even understand the hereditary element behind it.
So as the eldest child, Kieron’s sporting activities and educational attainment went on the back burner as he worked in the early mornings for a dairy and at the weekends on the local fruit and veg market to bring in not only money but food for the family. For this reason, he did not complete his secondary education. By the time Kieron was fifteen he was working on building sites and bringing home a man’s pay. This has led, in his adult life, to a striving for continued self-improvement and education. Or as Kieron comments, “I am well balanced, I have a chip on both shoulders!”
The late 1970s and with unemployment at a high level, rather than go on the dole Kieron did a ‘Norman Tebbit’ and got on his bike looking for work. He ended up in Dublin and spent some time living rough, and taking casual work. He made his way north to Co. Armagh where his father’s family lived and spent the next four years there working, learning and qualifying as a precision optical lens maker. This was before plastic lenses meaning every prescription being ground and polished from thick glass blanks. Kieron, with his nationalist name but with an English accent, came in for quite a lot of interest from both sides of the political and religious divide!
He thought “well if they all think I am a squaddie, a British Army soldier, I might as well become one”. Kieron’s father had served as a Sergeant in the Irish Guards, his grandfather fought in World War 1 in the North Irish Horse, a yeomanry unit of the British Territorial Army raised in the northern counties of Ireland in the aftermath of the Second Boer War, and his great uncle was killed in action in the Boer War serving with another reserve unit, the 5th Royal Irish Rifles, the former South Down Militia. Kieron was steeped in the history of the Irish Regiments of the British Army, he says with his mixed faith background his family had always fought, but not necessarily on the same side!
After pledging allegiance to her Majesty in Belfast, Kieron was off to the Guards Depot at Pirbright for six months of basic training. He was good at it as he had always worked hard, and with a previously unknown talent for distance running, the physical side, whilst hard, did not faze him. He was posted to the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards based in Munster, West Germany and spent the next two years running about Sennelager and Soltau Training Areas in NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical warfare) suits and gas masks waiting for the Soviets to come over the Inner German Border, the dividing line between the Western and Soviet occupation zones of Germany.
The next posting was to Chelsea on Ceremonial duties. This was London in the mid-1980s. For a young Guardsman it was the place to be and Kieron took full advantage of his good fortune. In between wearing the scarlet coat and bearskin, Kieron was lucky to have two tours in Canada where he finally got to live fire the large, heavy, 84mm infantry anti-tank weapon known as the Carl Gustav or "Charlie G", he had been running around with since joining the battalion.
It was during this time that Kieron met Sandra, a Fulham Girl, who had been invited to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Chelsea by her friend. “We were introduced and told we hit it off”. Kieron having started the day at 6am with a mug of Gunpowder – Irish Whiskey mixed with tea, then having carried on in a similar manner all day, he was lucky Sandra turned up for their date the next day.
After turning down promotion twice having completed the course, just to prove he could do it, Kieron left the Army in 1988 and, after a short time as a manager with London Transport, was again homeless. Having sofa surfed around Chelsea and Pimlico, he then took up a position with British Alcan, in Banbury, Oxfordshire and quickly rose to be the shift production manager.
It was whilst working at Alcan that Kieron married Sandra, he explained “I asked Sandra, who was still living in Fulham, to bring a posh frock and a hat as we were going to a wedding. On her arrival on the Friday evening I asked her to marry me, she said yes, good said I, because the car will pick us up at 10am tomorrow for the Registry Office”. With two witnesses the ceremony took place and they eloped. The worst was yet to come; Kieron had to face and tell his new in laws!
Kieron’s interest in Masonry coincided with his involvement in Politics. He was asked to stand for the local council in 1994 and, as predicted, lost, but this only spurred him on. In total, he lost four times in three years before, against the odds, when the whole country turned Red on 1st May 1997, a little bit of Banbury turned Blue as Kieron chalked up his first election victory by tipping out the incumbent.
Kieron’s mentor in local government was the former Metropolitan Grand Inspector, W Bro Keith Mitchell PSGD. Kieron said, “Keith and I got on well and he introduced me to London masonry in 1997, the Lodge of Mercy No 6821, quickly followed by Quadratic Mark No 895 and Beneficentia Chapter No 5308. I didn’t have much choice, I just did what I was told”. With hindsight, introducing Kieron into Masonry rekindled Keith’s Masonic pathway, at that time he was a country member”.
Kieron’s progress was steady, occupying each office, in each Order. Once out of the chair, his military bearing and organisational skills were noticed, and he became DC. Kieron explained, “I really enjoyed planning ceremonies and multiple candidates didn’t faze me at all, I started to share out the ritual to keep both new and senior masons keen and attending. Keith and I also introduced an early Permanently Invited Guest scheme where we brought in mainly Oxfordshire masons who soon became joining members, so much so that the then Provincial Grand Secretary of Oxfordshire paid me a visit at home!”
Kieron took a small redundancy package and left heavy industry in 1995 to set up a small property letting, management and grounds maintenance business with Sandra. This along with his by now increased local government and political roles took up most of his time. He still kept up his London masonic duties in the three orders and units in which he had progressed.
Kieron made the decision early on that he would not join a Provincial Lodge. This was at the time National Government was trying to supress freemasonry, and people in politics, police and the civil service were leaving in droves because of the fear that being a freemason would hinder their careers. Kieron explained, “I didn’t want anyone in the local council, etc. saying I was in the local Lodge for advancement. So, by keeping to London those accusations wouldn’t wash, it was the best decision I made.”
Kieron has never kept his membership a secret and recounted that during one meeting at Oxfordshire County Council, a group was trying to embarrass Keith Mitchell over his membership. Keith stood up and said to a packed chamber and press gallery, “I am a mason” so Kieron stood up and did the same, as did two others. This was embarrassing for some as those other masons were from different political parties; they called it their ‘Spartacus moment’.
Kieron was noticed by a Visiting Officer and gained his first honour as a Metropolitan Grand Steward, receiving LGR. Kieron expanded saying “that being a MetGStwd is the best role in masonry and all who serve in this position are amazed and humbled by the breadth and diversity Metropolitan masonry has to offer”.
Kieron’s organisational skills were also noticed by his MP and fellow mason W Bro Tony Baldry who asked him to become his political agent, a role he held for six years until the now, Rt. Hon. Sir Antony Baldry DL PJGW, retired. Kieron’s work rate and grass roots political knowledge in organising elections gave Tony, as an MP, his biggest majority in 32 years. They are still good friends and neighbours, telling tales of what it was like in their day, much to their wives dismay.
A few years later Kieron was asked to become a VO for W Bro Keith Mitchell and an SVO with W Bro Alastair Redpath Stevens. Kieron said, “I was lucky to have had the privilege to serve with two great Inspectors and their teams, I am proud that every promotion, including my latest, has been a tariff rank due to my work rather than through the Lodge nominating system, I must have done something right. I am now extremely proud to lead my Inspectorate team; they are a great bunch”.
Until recently, Kieron served Metropolitan in the recruiting team and as a volunteer steward at many Metropolitan events, including The Lord Mayor’s Show, the WW1 Centenary event and the Tercentenary event. “I just volunteered, I didn’t mind if I wasn’t in the Grand Temple, it was usually by the back lifts or behind the scenes.” Once a Steward always a Steward.
Kieron’s public service record is wide ranging: Mayor, long term Army Reservist, Chairman or committee member on numerous charities, President of the Banbury branch of the Royal British Legion, Banbury Household Division Association and the Oxfordshire Army Benevolent Fund committee, He even serves as a Royal Air Force Association Trustee but this one he keeps quiet about.
Kieron and Sandra do not farm but live on a working farm in North Oxfordshire where they rescue dogs, enjoy the countryside, entertain and as they have, by choice, no children, look after each other or, as Sandra says, “Who needs children when I have to look after Kieron”.
Five things you didn’t know about Kieron
1. He was jailed overnight by the Regimental Police for gate crashing Prince Andrew and Fergie’s engagement Boaters Ball.
2. His right leg is an inch shorter than his left following an accident, breaking it in five places as a teenager.
3. He is a Freeman of the City of London and member of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers. Number 60 in the list of City of London Livery Companies by order of precedence.
4. He is an accomplished amateur cook and has entertained and cooked for up to 50 people on a regular basis.
5. He does not suffer hangovers no matter how good the Festive Board.
1997 Initiated Lodge of Mercy No 6821
2003 Founder Metropolitan Grand Lodge
2010 Appointed Metropolitan Grand Steward / London Grand Rank
2010 Joined Metropolitan Grand Stewards Lodge No 9812
2013 Appointed Visiting Officer
2016 Joined Victoria Rifles Lodge No 822 (London Past Masters Lodge)
2018 Appointed Senior Visiting Officer / Senior London Grand Rank
2021 Appointed Metropolitan Grand Inspector / Past Junior Grand Deacon
2001 Exalted Beneficentia Chapter No 5308
2003 Founder Metropolitan Grand Chapter
2018 London Grand Chapter Rank
2021 Senior London Grand Chapter Rank
2021 Appointed Metropolitan Grand Inspector / Past Grand Standard Bearer
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 49 August 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 49 here.