Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003)
Debuting on 8 September 1981, there are several references to Freemasonry in four of the sixty-four episodes of Only Fools and Horses (seven series and sixteen Christmas specials). The first reference appears in "Danger UXD" (s6/e2. 1989/01/15), when the show's principal character, Del Trotter, describes his image, comparing his ability to influence people as being more effective than a Freemason's handshake:
This is a harmless enough reference, but another character, Boycie, posed a more serious threat to Freemasonry's reputation. Boyce makes his first appearance in "Go West Young Man" (1981/09/15) but it is not until "Dates" (1988/12/25) that it is revealed that Boycie is a Freemason:
Del: "The right appearance can fool the customer, right? Take me for instance. I am a perfect example."
Rodney: "But you look exactly what you are."
Del: "Well, thank you very much. It's only because I have the right image. No, it is. It's the little things, my aluminium briefcase there, my Mercedes keyring, my Filofax. When people see these things they know exactly what I am."
Rodney": "It is a bit of a give away, in'it?"
Del: "Better than a Mason's handshake." [00:04:30]
Later in the episode, Del Boy asks to join the lodge.
Boycie; I'm very rarely in here these days. I spend most of my free time down at the lodge."
Rodney: Oh of course, the lodge. What is it you've become, a Buffalo?"
Boycie: I am not a Buffalo! I am a pukka mason, secret hand-shakes, initiation ceremonies, the works!"
Del: What d'you wanna join that bunch of dipsticks for?"
Boycie: It is a great honour to be chosen! It is not something you turn down lightly, Derek. Oh no, it's changed my life. I'm involved with a lot of charity work. I'm helping the local needy and underprivileged. It's got it's good side as well. Us masons vow to help each other in business whenever humanly possible."
Rodney: It sounds like a load of old snobs trying to clone another load of old snobs."
Boycie: We're not snobs! Anyone can join. We come from all walks of life, right across the social spectrum. We've got estate agents, a judge, a commissioner of police, the mayor. We've got all sorts!"
Rodney: Yeah, so's Bertie Bassett! That is not all walks of life, Boycie!"
Boycie: We got, a...er, we got... a... got a television director!"
Rodney: Yeah, what's he do? Film the secret handshakes in case you wallies forget?" (s6/e2)
Del is later told that he has been blackballed:
Del: "Hello Boycie. Del Boy. Yeah listen, I want you to do me a very big favour. I want you to recommend me for membership to your masonic lodge."
Boycie: "What's the matter Del, has someone slipped some angel dust in your pina colada? Only the most respected members of our society can join my lodge."
Del: "You said they take anyone!"
Boycie: "Yes, well, it wouldn't stretch to you. You'd be black-balled at the first go."
Del: "No, it'll be a doddle. My best friend's a member.
Boycie: "Oh no! No Del! I couldn't even consider proposing someone like you.
Del: "I could be a very good mason. In fact I'll prove it to you. Masons are supposed to do each other favours, right? Well you do me the favour of proposing me and I'll do one for you."
Boycie: "And what might that be?"
Del: "I won't tell Marlene about that little bird in Sheffield." (s6/e2)
Eight years later, in the Christmas special, Heroes and Villains (1996/12/25), Del complains about being turned down for housing assistance, and mentions that Boycie is a freemason:
Del: "Oy, Boycie. Boycie over here, over here. Sit yourself down Boycie. Have the committee come to a decision yet?
Boycie: "Yes, it has Derek, and it's bad news, well bad news for you at least. You were black-balled.
Del: "Oh no, someone put a black ball in the bag? Who?
Boycie: "When they emptied the bag there was more than one black ball.
Del: "How many?
Boycie: "Well, let's put it like this. Have you ever seen the bottom of a rabbit's hutch? Sorry, Derek, I did my best."
Later in the same episode, when The Nag's Head landlord, Mike Fisher, is selling tickets for the Publicans' Annual Ball, Boycie remarks: "Yes, well I've got to go. The host is a fellow Mason." [00:31:10]
In "Strangers on the Shore" (2002/12/25) Boycie remarks, "I am in the motor trade, right? And recently a fellow Mason from my lodge mentioned my firm to a certain big time player whose name I cannot possibly divulge." [00:16:20]
The fictional character, Herman Terrance Aubrey Boyce, known as "Boycie" to his friends, is not a good representation of Freemasonry. There are allusions to Boycie having had at least two extramarital affairs: in "Go West Young Man", he reveals he has a 'bit on the side', while in "Dates" (1988/12/25), Boycie is revealed to be having an affair with a woman in Sheffield. The second time he appears, he is seen cheating at cards in "A Losing Streak" (s2/e3. 1982/11/04) [00:22;10]. It is revealed in the episode 'From Prussia With Love' (1986/08/31) that Boycie spent some time in prison while younger, having been convicted of "perjury, embezzlement, conspiring to pervert the course of justice, the fraudulent conversion of traveller's cheques and attempting to bribe the Mayor of Lambeth." Boycie lends Del his country cottage with the understanding that he would share the profits of a salmon poaching expedition in "Friday the 14th" (s3/e3 1983/11/24), while in the 1985 Christmas Special, "To Hull and Back" (1985/12/25), he is involved in a scheme to fence thirty smuggled blue diamonds purchased with fifty thousand pounds in counterfeit money.
There is one other, unconfirmed reference noted elsewhere on this website
It is not possible to determine if this is an intentional swipe at Freemasonry on the part of the script writer, John Sullivan, or yet another example of Freemasonry's value as a meme in pop culture. Regardless, it illustrates a profound misunderstanding of the rôle of Freemasonry, and the process of joining.
Only Fools and Horses. Created and written by John Sullivan. Starring David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Lennard Pearce, Buster Merryfield, Tessa Peake-Jones, Gwyneth Strong, Roger Lloyd-Pack, John Challis, Sue Holderness, Paul Barber, Patrick Murray, Kenneth MacDonald, Jim Broadbent. Executive producers: Ray Butt (1981-87), Bernard Thompson (1981), Gareth Gwenlan (1988-93, 1996, 2001-2003), John Sullivan (1991-2003) BBC One, UK, Colour, Mono.
Del: "I've never been so humiliated in all my life."
Boycie: "Derek, when you have the time, you must tell me all about it."
Del: "Hey, do you mean that some of your friends down at the masonic lodge have got influence in the town hall?"
Boycie: "No, it's just that I've often wondered what it must be like to apply for a council grant."[00:15:55]