Freemasons warmly welcomed by Herefordshire Samaritans
While it is appreciated that members from individual masonic Lodges have supported Herefordshire Samaritans in the past, the recent £500 donation to refurbish the organisation’s vehicle, was the first support given by the central Herefordshire Masonic Charity Association
In the words of Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Herefordshire, this assistance should be maintained in the light of the invaluable work undertaken by the Samaritans, as exemplified by the 18,835 contacts made to the local branch in 2013. David Bowen was impressed by the fact that Herefordshire Samaritans was a self funded charity with no paid employees, everyone involved being a volunteer.
Dorian Lower, Branch Director of Herefordshire Samaritans situated in Berrington Street, warmly welcomed the Freemasons who attended with David Bowen, namely Mike Roff, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Allan Lloyd and David Knowles, Provincial Grand Charity Steward. He expressed his great appreciation for such support and hoped that the link with between the local Freemasons and Herefordshire Samaritans Group would continue and prosper.
Samaritan: Helping the distressed
When actor Ray Gardner takes off his make-up after playing fictitious characters, he usually participates in real-life drama as one of 17,000 volunteers with the Samaritans.
Now Ray, a Walton-on-Thames Mason, has played a key part in an award-winning Samaritans work-life CD-Rom, an interactive learning resource to help busy managers tackle the causes of stress in the workplace.
Ray plays the role of stressed-out Brian in the fictitious scenario played out on the CD-Rom. Luckily, Ray has not found himself in such a stressful situation in real life, but he did empathise with the character.
This fictitious scenario was commissioned by the Samaritans to highlight stress in the workplace in the CD-Rom which went on to win the IVCA (International Video Communications Association) Gold Award, the equivalent to a BAFTA in the corporate world.
Ray said: 'I know of people, friends and family, exactly like Brian, who have high powered jobs and find themselves in very stressful situations, both emotionally and mentally and yet have no one that they feel they can talk to in confidence – enter the Samaritans.
'They are recognised as the fourth emergency service, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, unlike the other emergency services, the Samaritans is run purely by volunteers.'
In the CD-Rom, Brian is a married man with two children. He has a demanding and stressful job as sales director to a successful team in a large corporation.
Until recently, he had a very good relationship with his team, but this is now rapidly deteriorating due to an affair Brian is having with a female member of his team. His colleagues are split between loyalty to their boss and the fact that the ‘lady’ concerned seems to be getting ‘preferential treatment’ at work.
So, who does Brian turn to for advice? The Samaritans.
A registered charity, the organisation was formed in 1953 and offers 24-hour confidential emotional support to anyone in emotional distress. The Samaritans aim to make emotional health a mainstream issue.
Their vision is for a society where fewer people commit suicide because they are able to share feelings of emotional stress openly without fear of being judged. Samaritans believe that offering people the opportunity to be listened to in confidence, and accepted without prejudice, can alleviate despair and suicidal feelings.
Although Ray is obviously pleased to receive a Gold Award for his acting skills, he is equally proud that it was for such a worthwhile organisation as the Samaritans, whom he supports both as an individual and as a Freemason.
Ray’s acting career began in 1979. He trained at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), winning the award for Best Actor. An extensive theatre career followed, including London West End roles in such shows as Arcadia, West Side Story and Billy Budd. Rep theatre work has included roles in Lucky Sods, Oklahoma!, Up’n’Under and Barefoot in the Park.
He has also had TV work in programmes such as Eastenders, Our Mutual Friend, Doctors, Bugs, Chernobyl and more. Ray won ‘The ITV Best Actor in a Commercial’ award for portraying a patriotic Englishman in the Blackcurrant Tango commercial, described as the ‘ad of the century’.
Ray’s voice has also been heard on countless radio commercials, including the official voice of Mastercard during the European Cup 2004. He has also worked in radio, acting in plays for the BBC, and has narrated various documentaries and corporate videos.
Ray is also a successful playwright, recently winning the Edinburgh Fringe Report ‘Best Play’ award, at the Edinburgh Festival, for his play Mrs. Lemon’s Lodger.
Currently, Ray is spearheading a campaign in New York City for an area of Greenwich Village to be officially known as ‘Little Britain’ (not the comedy show!).
There is an important role for women in Freemasonry as one Cheshire group has shown
Bridgegate Lodge No. 5961 in the Province of Cheshire was consecrated in 1944, meets at the Masonic Hall, Cheshire View, Christleton, Chester and continues to attract candidates at the rate of about two a year.
Until 1993, Bridgegate, like so many other Lodges, held Ladies Nights, looked after their widows and supported the Provincial Festivals and local charities.
Then, in 1993, Mrs. Sheila Cowell decided that if the men could go out and enjoy themselves, then so could the Ladies and, what is more, they could challenge their men’s charitable donations with donations of their own, so she founded the Bridgegate Ladies Circle.
At first, the Circle met at Sheila’s home, but as the interest grew, and space became restricted, they had to move to the new Masonic Hall at Christleton.
Starting a Ladies Circle has been done many times before, but Bridgegate Lodge’s Ladies Circle quickly became friends and discovered they had lots of fun doing their own thing, while at the same time fundraising for the charities, both local and Masonic, by arranging a variety of activities to suit all tastes.
In a surprisingly short period, membership had grown to around 40 and has remained about this level ever since. The membership comprises not just the wives of Bridgegate Lodge members, but also their friends, ladies of the brethren of other Lodges visiting Bridgegate and their friends.
It says a lot that such a disparate group should survive for so long and their programme of dining, fashion shows, jewellery displays, speakers, discussions and other social functions is obviously so well pitched that they neither become bored with it, nor feel themselves to be in any sort of a rut.
Each year since 1993, the ladies have donated between £800 and £1,200, usually to the Lodge Charity Steward on the occasion of the annual Ladies Evening. While the Lodge is the final arbiter of what happens to the money, the ladies have been given the opportunity by the Charity Steward to have their say in making donations.
The unique thing about all this is that this Ladies Circle are well aware that there is no mechanism from within the Masonic organisation for any formal recognition of their efforts and achievements, but they do it anyway and deserve a great big “well done and thank you” from us all.
After 13 years, Sheila has decided to retire from the Chair of the Ladies Circle and has handed the tiller over to Anne Reynolds and Diane Crank. Both Anne and Diane have been part of the development of the Ladies Circle for many years and there is no doubt that they are well able to carry on the good work started by Sheila. Both Anne and Diane have a vested interest in raising money because both their husbands are the current Master and Charity Steward of the Lodge.
Perhaps it is time for Freemasonry to be more inclusive of its women for, as Bridgegate Lodge have seen to their advantage, fund-raising of this sort has kept them up to the mark and helped the task of the Charity Steward.