Just getting started
With the Tercentenary celebrations raising awareness and improving perceptions, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes there has never been a better time to be a Freemason
It has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro Grand Master during the Tercentenary year. At the outset, Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction that their brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, they all did this in spades, and I include our groups of lodges in that.
Quite rightly, there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the Masonic Charitable Foundation with its multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and wherever we have been, brethren have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity. Thank you all so much.
Since our last communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at the Royal Albert Hall. The events of 29 to 31 October were a resounding success, and I must single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout. Diane Clements and the museum staff managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly. These are now all displayed in the museum.
A JOB WELL DONE
Finally, thanks to James Long and his team, who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of masonry across the three centuries. The whole London experience was beyond my expectations, and from the comments we have had since, it astounded all our hundreds
of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.
Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason? I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky documentary, which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless, I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride.
We head now into 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the great successes of 2017, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the year. We will also be remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of World War I, after which Freemasons’ Hall was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of more than 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that conflict.
‘I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride’
Sean Mitchell-England, aged 33, who lives in Plymouth, is a young member of St. Stephen’s Lodge No. 9147 meeting across the Tamar Bridge in Saltash, Cornwall. Sean has been struggling with severe health issues over the last few years which rapidly progressed into exacerbated hyper mobility and fibromyalgia. In this extremely short space of time, Sean has gone from being a fit and healthy young man to literally being bed ridden due to the severe pain he has to endure each day.
Following the relentless dedication of John Pritchard, a local visiting volunteer on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the process for acquiring the funds from the MCF for the chair has been relatively straightforward. What has been difficult and quite a complicated process was to have the chair custom built to suit Sean’s specific needs. The chair, having cost almost £4,000, will without any shadow of doubt be an absolute life changer for Sean. Having already taken delivery of it and with a few days of practice, it’s already making a massive impact with his mobility.
Sean said: 'I cannot thank John Pritchard enough for his persistence in assisting me with my claim; he has worked tirelessly to aid me and my family. Now I have this marvellous chair it will enable my wife Dominique and my two young daughters Ophelia and Talulah the added benefit of quality family time with me. I now have the means of unhindered mobility.
'Without the help and assistance of the Masonic Charitable Foundation I honestly have no idea what we would have done. Having struggled to work due to my fatigue and illness my daily living costs spiralled out of all control and as the sole earner in the family with a new born baby, I soon became unable to repay my mounting debts. At first depression set in followed by additional health issues together with further incurred costs and additional debt, which resulted in my embarrassment of having to declare myself bankrupt. I was at the lowest point of my life and I honestly knew of no other options. Things also became so bad we had to sell our personal items of any real value just to live. At that time, we thought we had no one to help us, not even family members could assist, and we ended up being given care parcels by the local authorities.'
Hearing Sean and his family’s plight, David Sands, the Worshipful Master of St. Stephens Lodge, stepped in to offer some advice. Following a few meetings together with John Pritchard, along with a few essential emails and phone conversations, it wasn’t long before the Masonic Charitable Foundation offered assistance. The Masonic Charitable Foundation have also helped Sean with his application for his Personal Independence Payment, which he was unable to complete himself due to chronic fatigue and pain he suffered.
John Pritchard commented: 'On meeting Sean it was obvious to see he and his young family were in desperate need of help. Not only was Sean unwell but he was completely embarrassed by his situation and I knew we would do everything to assist. Having made the initial enquiry with the MCF it wasn’t long before a plan of action was in place. Following the initial assessment it was clear that funds were needed urgently, which included food and even school uniforms for the girls. The Masonic Charitable Foundation assistance was exceptional and a termly allowance was agreed which included some ballet lessons for Ophelia. In my opinion the support I’ve received in dealing with the case on behalf of Sean and his family has been outstanding.'
Graham Bennett, the Provincial Grand Almoner for Cornwall stated: 'The working relationship between the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire have been outstanding. The bond we’ve struck up together for this application, greatly assisted by the United Grand Lodge of England was essential to ensure the smooth application process would be signed off without any delay. My sincere thanks go to the brethren from Devonshire who have helped create a perfect result for a serious problem. To meet Sean and see him with his mobility chair is very humbling and shows what an incredible charity the MCF is.'
Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Sean has seen numerous doctors and a rheumatologist who initially explained what long-term complications he might expect. He has also received many treatments and therapies, but none have really helped and only made the condition worse or more painful for him.
Dominique, Sean’s wife added: 'Our youngest daughter Talulah turns two years old in a couple of days and Sean has not really been out of the house with her, for virtually 95% of her life. We cannot begin to express what a difference this mobility chair is already making, it’s absolutely amazing. We are now able as a family to enjoy the simple task of going to the shops. To see Sean enjoy his mobility and independence after so long of not being able to do anything, is very emotional. To all those who have helped us, particularly the brethren and the MCF, we will be forever grateful. We have been given an amazing opportunity to grow as a family once again.'
To conclude, Sean insisted on the final word: 'I have given my story as my way of thanking the MCF and the people who have worked with me during the last few years, as they are our unsung heroes in my eyes and have made such a big impact on my hopeless situation. I am starting to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Freemasonry.'
More than 30 vulnerable young people will have the chance to transform their lives, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons
Milton Keynes charity Ride High helps disadvantaged and vulnerable children by teaching them to ride and care for horses. They also deliver projects and activities to develop confidence and skills that many of the children lack, but desperately need, so they can fully participate in life.
The grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons of £4,576 comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and is helping Ride High to work closely with their teenage members and to encourage and support their future ambitions. Ride High seeks to instil confidence and to give the children opportunities such as work experience placements to broaden their horizons and give them something to aim for.
Since it was established in 2008, the charity has supported nearly 1,000 children across Milton Keynes and over 90% of leavers are in full-time education, work experience or employment and thriving six months after leaving.
Helen Dixon, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Ride High, said: 'We are delighted to have received this generous grant from Bucks Freemasons. It will allow us to provide our older members with extra support, guidance, experiences and skills to give them a real chance at having a successful future career.'
Phil Blacklaw, the Assistant Grand Master for Buckinghamshire, commented: 'We are very pleased to be able to help Ride High in their hugely important work with some very vulnerable young people. Helping them at this crucial point can give them a much higher chance of making a success of their lives in the future.'
Young adult carers in Buckinghamshire are being helped to overcome social isolation and improve their wellbeing, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to Carers Bucks
The £20,000 grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and will support the ‘Same Chances’ programme, designed to work with young people as they transition into adulthood and independence whilst continuing to provide unpaid care for an ill or disabled family member.
In the UK there are an estimated 700,000 young carers, 2,500 of them in Buckinghamshire. The Young Adult Carers service started in September 2015 with the target to support 50 young adult carers living in Buckinghamshire within the first 18 months. In just over two years, the Young Adult Carers team have connected with and supported double that figure within the county.
Young Carers Bucks believe a young person who is the primary carer for a family member should not have fewer chances for further or higher education and employment compared with their peers.
The Young Adult Carers team help young people overcome the barriers they may be facing, while knowing the person they care for is safe and looked after. The team offer regular Life skills sessions, support worker drop in sessions, social meet ups, targeted group work and one to one support. There is also a Young Adult Carers steering group, which gives young people a voice to share their experiences with other young people and professionals.
Sally Mansi, Young Carers Service Manager at Carers Bucks, commented: 'We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant. It will support 80 young carers as they move into adulthood, giving them some of the same life choices and opportunities as their peers.'
Mike Clanfield, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Buckinghamshire, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to support the Carers Trust in Bucks who do hugely important work with young people who are the primary carers for ill and disabled family members. These young people deserve the same chances as everyone else.'
As part of their annual support of Hospices throughout the country, Devonshire Freemasons have donated over £1,000 to Children’s Hospice South West’s Little Bridge House in Barnstaple, North Devon
The Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Ian Kingsbury presented a certificate denoting £1,083, given on behalf of the Devonshire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, to Ann Juby from the hospice.
Little Bridge House is one of three Children’s Hospice South West hospices offering home from home care and support for families across the South West region. Each hospice offers respite, emergency and end of life care for local children who are not expected to live until adulthood, as well as support for the whole family including a dedicated sibling service.
Devonshire Freemasons have been long-term supporters of Children’s Hospice South West and along with individual donations made by many of their 133 lodges that meet throughout the county and the MCF, together have donated over £100,000 to the hospice since it opened in 1995.
On receiving the certificate, Ann Juby, Trusts and Grants Fundraiser for the Hospice, said: ‘The Freemasons fundraising over the years for Children’s Hospice South West has been incredible and we are extremely grateful for the support.
'It costs £3.4 million each year to run our Little Bridge House hospice and these costs are met almost entirely by voluntary donations. Support such as this is vital to ensure that we can continue to make the most of short and precious lives well into the future. Our thanks to the Freemasons and the many Lodges who support us.’
Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury said: 'It is always very sad when a child is taken from us without ever having the chance to reach their potential. If in some way we as Freemasons can contribute to their care at this moment in their short lives, then we can continue to hope that one day cures can be found.
'It was wonderful to meet some of the people who give so much of their time and energy in caring for the children.’
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex has been recognised in the Community Stars Awards after been nominated for Charity of the Year
It was a huge honour for the Province to have been nominated, with the nomination for the award itself coming from their local newspaper The Argus who hosts the awards, which recognise the outstanding achievements of men, women, children and organisations across Sussex.
Each year the public and the Argus nominate those who have made a considerable difference to the communities in which they live and how through their activities change people’s lives.
Maurice Adams, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Sussex, commented: ‘Although we didn’t win, it was a real surprise to have been nominated and esteemed recognition for all the hard work that takes place across our province to raise money for such worthy causes.’
The awards citation read as follows: ‘The Freemasons have donated £38,000 in a big cash giveaway to six charities. The six were nominated by Freemasons and members of the public to receive a grant from the national charity, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Groups helping the sick were among those to benefit; Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, Sussex MS Centre, Sussex Heart Charity, The Clock Tower Sanctuary for the homeless and the domestic abuse charity Rise.
‘Freemasons across the country observe the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England and to celebrate the occasion they donated money to 300 charities across the country from a £3 million fund. Although the £38,000 was donated from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Sussex Freemasons also support a lot of local charities from their own pockets.’
Traditionally, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex, in conjunction with the Editor of the Argus newspaper, present the final and emotional award – The Child of Courage – and this year the presentation was made by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Martin Mitten.
Kent-based disability charity Compaid has been awarded a three year grant by East Kent Freemasons to train disabled adults in computer skills
The training will be delivered by a team of volunteers and staff at Compaid’s dedicated centre in Paddock Wood in Kent, as well as by a further team of Outreach trainers supporting people in their own homes and in day centres across the county.
The grant, totalling £45,000 over three years, will pay for two staff posts within the training service, supporting over 250 disabled learners to gain skills in a variety of topics, such as use of social media, internet shopping, online safety and digital design.
Digital exclusion remains a key barrier for disabled people. Almost 50 per cent of disabled people do not use the internet regularly and 27 per cent never use it at all. This equates to more than 32,000 disabled people in Kent.
The grant from East Kent Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends from across England and Wales.
Stephen Elsden, Chief Executive at Compaid, said: 'We’re very grateful to East Kent Freemasons for their generous grant which will help hundreds more disabled people to realise their dreams and aspirations by gaining skills and confidence with computers.'
East Kent Freemasons Mark Bassant said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Compaid who do outstanding work helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community get online, with all the opportunities the internet offers.'
The District Grand Lodge of Cyprus was proud to host the visit of the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 20th October 2017, where he had the opportunity to meet many members of the District, visit a local lodge and attend a Gala Dinner
It was a very important day for the District with plans for the visit having been started by the District Grand Secretary Robert Humphries several months in advance.
Together with his own Director of Ceremonies Charles Hopkinson-Woolley, the Pro Grand Master visited Apollo Lodge in the village of Episkopi where they were welcomed by the Worshipful Master Alan Cook. During his visit, he was also introduced to Gordon Rowell, an active member of the lodge at the ripe old age of 89.
In common with other visitors to the rather ancient Nissen hut which houses Apollo Lodge, the Pro Grand Master was astonished to see the attractive and well maintained interior of the building, including the beautifully laid out dining room.
The Pro Grand Master learnt a great deal about Apollo Lodge and the District Grand Lodge of Cyprus. On completion of his visit, he was then presented with a framed print of an original painting by Brian Howard which depicted the Apollo Lodge building and the surrounding gardens.
The day continued with a business lunch with the District Grand Master Theodosios Theodossiou and District Grand Secretary Robert Humphries. The main event in the evening was a Gala Dinner Dance in the Panorama Room of the St Raphael Hotel, which was attended by 160 Freemasons and guests including the Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus and the Grand Lodge of Greece.
During the evening, the Pro Grand Master addressed the assembly and explained some of the highlights of the Masonic year including visits to other Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, where he had witnessed first-hand the charitable work that the Districts had been involved in. He also thanked the District Grand Master of Cyprus and the organisers of the visit.
After rousing applause, Theodosios Theodossiou thanked the Pro Grand Master on behalf of the District and presented a cheque for €10,000 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation – to which, in reply, the Pro Grand Master expressed his heartfelt thanks on behalf of the charity.
Wiltshire Freemasons have donated £5,000 to Swindon Foodbank to help the charity cover their operational expenses
Provincial Grand Master Philip Bullock presented the cheque from the Masonic Charitable Foundation to manager Cher Smith MBE, one of only two paid employees at the central warehouse located in Westlea.
Every day, seven days a week, the Swindon Foodbank central warehouse is receiving, sorting and despatching food parcels to the seven town-wide outlets for collection by people in real need.
Philip Bullock said: 'It’s such a deserving cause. It helps people who are in need, which is what Freemasons are all about.'
Wiltshire Freemasons have been real supporters of Foodbanks throughout the Province, particularly at Christmas when demand often exceeds available supplies.
This year Philip Bullock and Charity Steward Ian Priest visited the Swindon warehouse where they were shown around the facility which had just received a huge delivery of grocery product.
Cher Smith commented: 'We are very grateful to Wiltshire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation for all their help; it wouldn't be wrong to say that £5,000 really will make a huge difference to what we are able to do.'
Salisbury Hospice has a very special place in the hearts of Wiltshire Freemasons which explains why the Hospice receives such tremendous support from many of the Lodges in the county
The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) also provides regular funding to Salisbury Hospice and this year Provincial Grand Master Philip Bullock visited the Hospice to meet Corporate Fundraiser Celia Scott and present a certificate acknowledging an MCF donation of £1,900.
After presenting the donation, Philip Bullock commented: 'I am delighted to once again be here at Salisbury to not only give the Hospice this donation, but to also thank every member of staff for the incredible work they undertake in making this facility one of the very best in the region.'
Having received the cheque, Celia Scott thanked Philip and the MCF for their continued support and also provided a detailed update on the work of the Hospice and how the donation would help to make a difference.