Serious but not solemn
Written by the late John Mandleberg, The Freemason’s Bedside Book is an invigorating collection of bite-sized material from a respected scholar
John Mandleberg was both a scholar and gentleman who thoroughly enjoyed his Freemasonry, and this shines out in his last masonic work, The Freemason’s Bedside Book. The varied content – from stories and songs to poems and translations – takes us on a journey from serious pieces to light-hearted anecdotes and reflects the author’s wide-ranging research.
This, then, is a very unusual book. Typically, masonic historians have only added to the confusion of our origins by highly speculative ‘research’. As masonic historian John Hamill puts it: ‘There are two main approaches to masonic history: the authentic or scientific approach, in which theory is built upon and developed, out of verifiable facts and documentation; and the non-authentic approach, in which attempts are made to place Freemasonry in the context of the Mystery tradition by correlation of the teachings, allegory and symbolism of the Craft with those of the various esoteric traditions.’ This does not apply to this book, which captures the writings of others to emphasise Freemasonry’s more amusing side.
It cannot be denied that members are taught many descriptions of Freemasonry and these tend to centre on their lodge and the ritual book. The Freemason’s Bedside Book takes its reader beyond this. Covering so many years of masonic history, the book uses language that contrasts with the plain English in which Freemasons now communicate. Although some of the old-fashioned language of the masonic writers had style, it would be unintelligible to many members – let alone the non-mason. It is therefore fair to say that while this book is full of humour, it is very much for the serious Freemason.
Mandleberg’s book effortlessly moves from anecdote to verse and back again. One fascinating piece covers the opening of an East End lodge many years ago. The next minute we are enthralled by two poems from Rudyard Kipling before moving on to another anecdote. This serves to whet the appetite and is a reminder of the author’s varied research.
The book ends with the full sung version of the Tyler’s Toast. We could aptly apply its sentiments in memory of the author: John, we were happy to meet you, sorry to part with you and we will be happy to meet you again.
I am pleased to let you know that your magazine, as part of our wider communications campaign, has been shortlisted for another award – this time within the Best Corporate and Business Communications category at the ‘Oscars’ of the PR industry, the CIPR Excellence Awards 2013. This is encouraging and supports the excellent feedback we receive from members and their families.
This year is proving to be very interesting, especially with the bicentenary of the Royal Arch. It is particularly gratifying that, at the time of writing, the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons stands at more than £1 million. And from first-hand experience and the comments we have received, the presentations by Fellows of the College have been a great success.
Writing in the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England, I want to remind you that we value the opinions of our members. To that end, we spend a lot of effort surveying members’ views, as well as visiting and talking to members of all ages and all backgrounds throughout the English Constitution, at home and abroad. This gives us a good grasp of the issues for discussion.
Sometimes those holding minority views will be disappointed. A classic example is a tiny minority who think that by removing the need for a belief in a Supreme Being we would increase our potential for recruitment. This is an example where we think change would not be for the best. There are many other areas where we have been proactive and made changes to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation. A typical example being in the area of talking openly about Freemasonry and showing that the organisation is relevant today – and is one that members should be proud to belong to.
We all enjoy reading about masonic history, how our members have achieved great things and what they are doing to help those less fortunate in the community. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at an RMBI cookbook that has helped older citizens connect with the recipes from their past and the people in their present. A profile of the Rough Ashlar Club shows how the use of social media is bringing younger Freemasons together for a friendly pint. Meanwhile, we trace the origins of the Crimestoppers initiative back to a couple of masons in Great Yarmouth. I hope you find something that makes you proud to be a Freemason.
‘We have been proactive to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation’
Swanning around in Somerset
Masonic involvement in last summer’s Swans of Wells Somerset tourism initiative has led to an auction raising £110,000. Benevolent Lodge, No. 446, was involved in the project, which featured the public display of 60 magnificently decorated, 5ft swan sculptures in Wells and the Somerset countryside. Each swan cost £950 and 3 other lodges – Pilgrims Lodge, No. 772, St Dunstan’s Lodge, No. 7973, Lodge of Love and Honour, No. 285 – and Avalon Chapter, No. 446, each contributed around £200. At the final auction, mason Rod Deane purchased Naomi, the ‘masonic’ swan, which is now available to support any masonic charity event in the UK.
Help for Welsh flood victims
The small picturesque cathedral city of St Asaph and the market town of Ruthin in North Wales suffered devastating floods when the rivers Elwy and Clwyd burst their banks, following torrential rain, last November. One person was killed and more than 1,100 people were affected. In response to the disaster, the Province of North Wales raised £3,000 to help the St Asaph and Ruthin flood appeals. Provincial Grand Master Ieuan Redvers Jones was delighted when The Freemasons’ Grand Charity was able to support the efforts of local masons to help families in distress through the provision of a £10,000 emergency grant.
New heights for air ambulance
The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has announced its first large grant of the year: £192,000 for air ambulance charities. Freemasons have been regular supporters of air ambulance charities since 2007, donating £1.3 million in total to 22 rescue services. Every air ambulance in England and Wales has received funding.
Air ambulance charities rely on voluntary donations to operate. Support from grant-makers such as the Grand Charity means that doctors and paramedics reach patients in emergency situations as quickly as possible – saving lives in the process.
Speaking about the donation, chief executive of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, Laura Chapman, says: ‘We are delighted to be able to show our support for air ambulance charities once again.’
Practical support for MS sufferers
Buckinghamshire masons have joined the battle to help hundreds of Thames Valley people hit by multiple sclerosis (MS), which attacks the central nervous system and can lead to patients virtually becoming prisoners in their own bodies.
The Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund, which helps local non-masonic charities, donated £15,000 to the new Chilterns MS Centre in Aylesbury, which was opened by actor Sir David Jason in September 2012. The centre’s chief executive, Jo Woolf, says some 260 patients are treated each week, receiving practical support to face up to the disease.
The donation has paid for vital equipment to enable a new building to become operational immediately, without having to wait months to raise money for the badly needed kit. Equipment includes communications devices, training-room furniture, a fully equipped kitchen and landscape gardening for the surrounding area.
Freewheeling for life
Devon Freewheelers is a life-saving charity that ferries urgent supplies of blood by motorcycle between Devon hospitals round-the-clock. Run by volunteers, the charity relies solely on the money it raises and was running out of funds. Following media coverage of its plight, Devonshire masons came forward with an initial grant of £2,000 before also giving the charity an ex-police motorcycle (now named Masonic Life by the Freewheelers) and funding for a year.
The presentation of the bike and the opening of a new headquarters by Sir John Evans, former chief constable of Devon & Cornwall Police, took place at Honiton.
The Devon Freewheelers’ CEO, Daniel Lavery, says: ‘We cannot thank Devon Freemasons enough. Their initial grant helped us over a very difficult period and this new motorbike will help us to continue providing this life-saving service into the future.’
The cooking connection
From prawn cocktail to chicken tikka masala, the Recipes and Reminiscences cookbook provides an insight into UK diets over the past five decades. Anneke Hak finds that it is also connecting older citizens with people in their present
For many people living with dementia, short-term memory loss is a distressing challenge that they face on a daily basis. Imagine finding it difficult to remember what you ate for lunch, let alone what you did yesterday.
But what if you asked the same people what they liked to eat twenty or thirty years ago? The reaction might be very different. The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) has produced a cookbook called Recipes and Reminiscences, which takes a trip down memory lane to see how the food we eat has changed over the years, using recipe contributions from RMBI care home residents.
Going back in time
There are nearly eight hundred thousand people living with dementia in the UK; by the age of eighty, one in five is affected, and one in three people will have the condition by the time they die. ‘Dementia’ isn’t a definitive term, it’s a word coined to describe a collection of symptoms that affect the victim’s memory and thinking skills severely enough to reduce their ability to perform everyday activities. There isn’t currently a cure for dementia, so an effective way to connect with someone with the condition is to meet them halfway, through reminiscence work. If they are struggling with their short-term memory, many carers find it beneficial to take them back to a time that is easier to recall.
‘It’s a way of valuing what people have done and their own life history and story,’ explains Julie Heathcote, author of Memories Are Made of This. ‘You’re never going to make them better, but you can impact upon their mood and well-being. Talking about their memories boosts their self esteem and makes them feel they can contribute.’
‘It’s about building bridges to find out where there are similarities, to rediscover the importance of relationships and learn more about people,’ agrees Edna Petzen, assistant director in marketing and quality at the RMBI. ‘We find that as people age, we see them when they are frail, whether they have dementia or other complex needs. They’ve obviously lived a life before they move into our homes and we want to understand that in a way that helps us connect with them.’
The RMBI has been caring for older Freemasons and their dependants for more than one hundred and sixty years. It operates seventeen residential care homes across England and Wales and has used reminiscence activities for a number of years.
‘Reminiscence shows what people can do rather than highlighting what they can’t’ – Edna Petzen
From memory quilts to wedding walls, on which residents hang pictures from their wedding day to encourage conversation, activities coordinators organise reminiscence-based projects on a regular basis. ‘There are so many different ways that we use reminiscence to help people connect with positive experiences in their past and promote positive feelings in the present,’ says Edna. ‘It’s a way of connecting with people that shows what they can do rather than highlighting what they can’t.’
When Julie helped train RMBI staff in reminiscence work, one of the suggestions coming out of the sessions was to reminisce about recipes with elderly residents. ‘Most people took to it really well,’ says Edna, ‘and we were inundated with classic recipes, some from war years and others from the modern day.’ It was at this point that the RMBI decided to pull together a cookbook structured around the decades most likely to have had an effect on the people in its homes. ‘We broke it down into decades and focused on the different types of food and dishes available,’ explains Edna. ‘They’re based on the ingredients that were accessible at the time and really explain the history of the way we eat in the UK and the big influences that have come about in our whole dining experience.’
Recipes and Reminiscences features some unusual recipes – by today’s standards at least – such as spam fritters, as well as the shopping habits of the families that cooked them and more modern-day phenomena like processed meals.
‘If you go around to see someone, they will offer you a cup of coffee or tea and probably something to eat. Food aids social interaction and is something that a lot of people can remember,’ explains Julie. ‘It’s also a subject area that isn’t troubling. Talking about husbands and wives might be an upsetting subject, whereas talking about food is an enjoyable subject for everyone.’
With the success of TV programmes such as MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off, home cooking has never been so popular. So, who better to give a foreword to Recipes and Reminiscences than Mary Berry, one of the most iconic ladies in the kitchen. ‘We thought that Mary Berry would be fantastic,’ enthuses Edna. ‘As an older woman she has an understanding for what we do as an organisation, and as a food writer herself, I think the subject area really resonated with her.’
Promoting the cookbook might be a little hard for some of its contributors – the eldest, Phyllis, who supplied a recipe for Jubilee biscuits, became a centenarian in March – but RMBI homes will host events based on each of the book’s decades to celebrate its release. Talk about having your cake, eating it, then writing the recipe down.
Recipes and Reminiscences is available to buy at www.rmbi.org.uk. All proceeds go directly towards funding activities for residents in RMBI homes.
‘Talking about food is an enjoyable subject for everyone’ – Julie Heathcote
A taste of the decades
Music to their ears
Surrey masons Fred Scott and John Collins have composed their first piece of music: Sovereign Lord, an oratorio. Her Majesty the Queen accepted a presentation copy of the score to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. John is a retired banker and Fred is a pianist and composer who runs a music agency, regularly performing concerts raising funds for Skeletal Cancer Action Trust. Both are members of South Croydon Lodge, No. 4567.
Stay, play and learn
Three Zoë’s Place Baby Hospices are to receive packages of fun technology thanks to Lifelites.
The first was delivered to the Middlesbrough Hospice and contained an array of technology devices designed for babies and disabled youngsters. Simone Enefer-Doy, chief executive of Lifelites, says: ‘This is a great start to 2013 – we’re so pleased to turn our technological expertise to providing these babies and toddlers with new opportunities.’
A total of 13 children’s hospices will benefit from a Lifelites package this year, thanks to the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, which made a £60,000 donation towards the technology charity’s projects. A Lifelites package at each site costs around £37,500 to install and maintain over four years.
Lifelites was founded as a Millennium Project in 1999 and became a separate but subsidiary charity of the RMTGB in 2006, and continues to benefit from RMTGB support. Lifelites does not receive any central masonic funds, but raises money from different sources.
Masons make up the vast majority of Lifelites’ technical support volunteers for the projects it undertakes in children’s hospices.