Celebrating 300 years

Members of the oldest Masonic Lodge in Dorset have given £2,000 to help fund local charity Diverse Abilities

The donation was the result of money raised by members of the Lodge of Amity No. 137 in Poole at social events during Martin Barker’s year as Master of the Lodge in 2017. Martin was delighted to nominate Diverse Abilities as his chosen charity for the year.

Diverse Abilities work to enable children and adults with disabilities to achieve their full potential by providing a lifetime of sustainable support and educational services since 1955. Diverse Abilities supports 700 children and adults in the local community, at a cost of £18,000 per day to run the charity.

Mark Powell, Chief Executive of Diverse Abilities, commented: 'We had a lovely surprise when Martin came into the office with a £2,000 donation from the Lodge of Amity.'

Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, said: 'As Masons, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures regularly; it’s wonderful that the Lodge of Amity have been able to help this local charity.'

Dorset Freemasons have given over £4,300 to save a historic photo collection at the Dorset History Centre

The Dorset Archive Trust have been trying to save the “Herbert Collection” – thousands of images which show 20th century life in Dorset. When Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, heard about the project to save the pictures, he stepped in to help.

The collection is suffering from “Vinegar Syndrome”, an irreversible breakdown of the acetate, which has been destroying the negatives. To save this fascinating insight into the county’s history, the Dorset Archive Trust needed to act quickly.

Dorset Freemasons visited the archives on 20th December 2017 and presented a cheque for £4,370 to allow the charitable foundation to complete the digitisation of all the images. Richard Merritt said: 'We are privileged to provide some extra funding for this project. As Freemasons, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures regularly.

'Allowing the photographs to become digitalised will allow them to live on forever for future generations – the benefit is so valuable.'

Sam Johnson, the County Archivist, commented: 'I wanted to thank the Freemasons for the very generous support offered to the Herbert photographic project. The donation has made all the difference and means that we can now finish the job.'

The Herbert Collection is the work of Graham Herbert, a professional Weymouth photographer. He captured many aspects of local life from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The Lodge of St Cuthberga No. 622 in Dorset have supported Dorset Cancer Care Foundation (DCCF) this Christmas with a £3,432 donation

St Cuthberga's Family Christmas Lunch was made extra special as Chris Hawkes from the Lodge presented Leslie May Harrison, the founder of DCCF, with the cheque for £3,432.

DCCF provides financial support to families affected by cancer in Dorset, to aid with the recovery and treatment when traditional care may be insufficient. The foundation also supports and works with other Dorset-based groups to assist with cancer research and education, as well as helping fund medical equipment required for the treatment of cancer patients.

The charity will use the donation to provide services such as transport and parking costs for travelling to treatment, counselling, wigs and prosthetics, as well as respite breaks for patients. 

Lesley May Harrison said: 'Thank you from all at DCCF and those we will be able to help.'

Leslie then joined the Lodge for a Christmas lunch at Wimborne Masonic Hall, with special guests including eight widows of past lodge members.

All present were able to join in the singing of carols accompanied by the Wimborne Musical Theatre Society (WMTS). The Lodge also gave a donation to WMTS at the dinner and raised a further £425 for Teenage Cancer Trust.

Vote of confidence

In celebration of the Freemasons’ Tercentenary year, the public was invited by the MCF to vote for their favourite charities. John McCrohan, Head of Strategic Development & Special Projects at the MCF, explains the rationale behind this initiative

Tell us about your role…

I support the CEO and Board to bring together the activities of the four legacy charities that were amalgamated into the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to ensure they continue to meet the needs of both the masonic community and the wider community through our non-masonic grant-making. In January 2011, I started working for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, one of those four legacy charities, as Grants Director and Deputy CEO. I held the post until the consolidation of the MCF in April 2016, when I took on my current role. As well as respecting the legacy of the four charities, it’s also my job to focus on the future and think about how we can do things differently – and better.

What are the Community Awards?

The full name is the MCF Community Awards –Tercentenary Fund. These are 300 grants totalling £3 million that acknowledge the 300-year anniversary of UGLE. The Awards were created in part to raise MCF’s profile within the masonic community, but also externally. This initiative was our first large-scale, public-facing activity, and was designed to let the wider public know about the good work that happens as a result of the generosity of the Freemasons. We typically spend up to £5 million a year supporting UK charities and responding to disasters and emergencies, both here and abroad. But to celebrate the Tercentenary, we wanted to do something in addition to that, which is where the idea for the £3 million Community Awards came from. We also wanted to celebrate the formation of the MCF.

How do the grants work?

They were for either £4,000, £6,000, £15,000 or £25,000, depending on how many votes a charity got. The grants were spread across all of our Provinces, and we allocated either four, six or eight grants to each depending on size. London got 26 because of its size. It was important that the charities we supported were operating, and helping people, locally. We wanted the grants to reassure masons that the MCF is pushing money back to their communities, to see that the money they give doesn’t get swallowed up in a black hole here in London. And, of course, we wanted to show that we apply good grant-making practice and observe good due diligence.

How did you decide who would qualify for a grant?

Firstly, I went to Provinces and said, ‘We’ve got money for you, we’ll be giving grants in your region, but we’d like you to tell us which charities are close to your heart.’ We then asked each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to compile a list of their chosen charities, filtered down to their allocated number. The shortlists came to us and we carried out initial due diligence to make sure charities were eligible, that they weren’t already an active recipient of a grant, and so on. We then confirmed shortlists with the Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge and began contacting charities, inviting them to formally apply for a grant. They still needed to complete an application, though by this stage they were guaranteed at least £4,000 – but could potentially get as much as £25,000 if they got the most votes.

What types of charities were nominated?

We had charities in every sector – from financial hardship, social exclusion and disadvantage through to health and disability, education and employability. We had community centres, initiatives reducing isolation and loneliness for older people and complementary emergency services – things like blood bikes, for example, which take blood supplies around a county.

And how did the general public phase of the vote work?

People voted primarily online – we promoted the vote on our website, and through our social media and masonic contacts. Having spoken to some charities that had already worked with the public on that kind of scale, however, it became clear that to really make the voting work, we needed the charities themselves to lead the promotion – on their own social-media sites and during public events. To do this, we provided them with materials showing masonic iconography and branding that they could use. And, of course, the competitive element of ‘more votes equals a bigger grant’ really spurred them on.

What were the responses like?

We ended up with 177,801 votes, which really blew away our expectations. Almost 160,000 of those votes were made online, with another 18,000 cast at local events. After people voted, there was an optional short survey of just two questions. One asked if the initiative had improved the voter’s opinion of Freemasonry. Some 57% of those who completed the survey – 36,000 people – said that it had improved their perception of Freemasonry. We believe that’s pretty strong evidence that the initiative really worked.

What did you learn from the project?

We’d never done anything like this before so we were all on a massive technological learning curve. We were very exposed, so the pressure was on – we only had six months to develop the project before it went live. We were still testing the voting pages, making sure the images were right and the copy was okay the day before launch. That was a bit stressful. It was all worth it when the charities, and public, told us they didn’t realise we operated on this scale or supported so many people in this way. Given that raising this awareness was one of our key drivers, I think we’ve been really successful. Going forward, we’ll be able to do something like this much more easily because all our building blocks are now in place.

What happens next?

We are going to monitor the projects throughout the 12 months that the grants last, and do a full evaluation at the end. We want to make sure that what we have done with this grant fund has made a real impact. In a year’s time we’ll go back and see what has worked, what hasn’t worked so well and what lessons have been learned. We’ll see how we can improve, if we do something like it again in future.

Find out more - click here.

Around the world

Four charities that have benefited from the Community Awards

Dorset
Social Exclusion and Disability: Veterans in Action
£25,000
Veterans in Action (VIA) helps armed service veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition back to civilian life difficult. For the past six years, VIA has been organising walking expeditions that have needed support vehicles – Land Rovers and minibuses – which are now ageing and require maintenance. The funds from the MCF grant will be used to fund a new project called the Veterans Restorations Project, which aims to restore and upgrade the existing vehicles.

Durham
Financial Hardship: Centrepoint North East
£6,000
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity working with homeless people aged sixteen to twenty-five. It supports more than 9,000 people a year, 800 of whom are from the North East. The grant will be used for its Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (RDGS), which aims to increase the supply of affordable rented accommodation to disadvantaged sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds and those at risk of homelessness. As part of their acceptance on to RDGS, the person agrees to save with Centrepoint so they can afford their own cash bond as and when they move tenancy. This will enable them to have a secure base from which to build their future.

East Kent
Education and Employability: Romney Resource Centre
£4,000
Romney Resource Centre (RRC) was founded in 1999 and has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence, being the only provider of careers and skills advice, training, education and employment support in Romney Marsh for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds and adults. Due to significant cutbacks in adult skills at the Skills Funding Agency, there is little further-education funding available for Romney Marsh communities – a critical situation if they are not able to upskill or attain updated qualifications. As a consequence, RRC is now seeking grant-funding support in order to continue its mission.

West Wales
Health and Disability: HUTS
£15,000
Now established for more than two decades, the Help Us To Survive (HUTS) Workshop supports individuals suffering with mental-health issues and learning disabilities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The therapeutic arts-based centre currently has more than 100 active members attending its workshop. The MCF award will go towards maintaining a full-time qualified ceramics and silkscreen-printing support worker. They provide support for members to explore creativity, gain confidence and to reduce isolation and deprivation within the rural community.

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 00:00

Somerset deliver Tercentenary banner to Devon

Despite inclement weather, the Province of Somerset safely delivered the special south west Tercentenary banner to the Province of Devonshire in the magnificent Exeter Cathedral

The banner recognises the special fraternal bond that exists between the South West Provinces and has toured to the Provincial Grand Lodges of Jersey, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Devonshire will pass it on to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall later in the year.

The Provincial Teams from Somerset and Devon paraded in regalia and met in the nave of Exeter Cathedral where the banner was formally passed over.

Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devon, greeted one another and expressed their delight to be able to publicly show and acknowledge the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.

The efforts of Dorset Freemasons, with the support of Freemasons across the country, have given over 200 children a free adventure holiday for a week

This project, conceived in Dorset, was a unique way for Freemasonry to work for the benefit of the wider community, as well as providing an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry in England.  The Masonic Province of Dorset was delighted to host 209 deserving children for a Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure holiday.   

122 children from Dorset schools were joined by a further 87 from 14 other Provinces as far afield as Durham and Cumberland and Westmorland at a cost of £500 for each participant, which was funded by Freemasons.

At the beginning of their stay, each child was given £20 pocket money, two specially designed t-shirts and a matching baseball cap as souvenirs. One of the organising team commented: ‘All the young people and many of the leaders on arrival were overjoyed and amazed at what Freemasonry had provided for them. Several children were moved to tears at not only being presented with t-shirts and a cap but pocket money as well. You could see on many faces that they were experiencing something beyond their imagination and dreams.’

One of the highlights of the week was the visit by the Assistant Grand Master and former Lord Mayor of London Sir David Wootton who, in the company of Dorset’s Provincial Grand Master Richard Merritt and the organising team, spent the morning watching the delight of the children dragon boat racing and raft building at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.   

After joining the children for lunch at Osmington, he witnessed a host of activities including abseiling, fencing, aeroball, the giant swing, archery, a sensory trail and a beach walk.  Following the children’s dinner, and before the evening camp fire, he had pleasure in presenting children with a group photograph and certificate in memory of and testament to their exciting stay.

The free holiday was organised by Dorset Masons and was entirely funded by many Masonic Lodges and their members across England and Wales.

Beaminster Museum in West Dorset is hosting a ‘300 years of Freemasonry’ exhibition which commemorates the Tercentenary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England

The exhibition gives an insight into Freemasonry and in particular, Beaminster Manor Lodge No. 1367, showing some of its activities and personalities. 

It shows important aspects, including memorabilia of the history of Beaminster Manor Lodge and how it had played its part in local life in a rural community. It also aims to dispel some of the myths and mysteries around Freemasonry and answer questions posed by members of the general public.

The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 10:30am – 4pm and Sundays 2pm – 4:30pm.

The exhibition will be running until 29th October 2017.

On a hot summers night, the meeting of the Lodge of Amity No. 137 held on 19th July was anything but regular when Wiltshire Freemasons travelled to the Masonic Hall in Poole  the occasion being the Tercentenary banner handover between Dorset and near neighbours Wiltshire

Two Provincial Grand Masters, two Past Deputy Provincial Grand Masters and two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters added lustre to the occasion, which saw over 100 brethren witness the moment when Wiltshire's RW Bro Philip Bullock invited Dorset PrGM RW Bro Richard Merritt to receive the banner and pass it on to the Provincial Grand Master for Somerset.

In a ceremony planned and executed to perfection, the banner took its place in the Lodge room following an insightful explanation of its origins and journey around the South West Provinces thus far.

RW Bro Richard Merritt explained how the banner has travelled from Jersey, through Guernsey and Alderney to Hampshire and Isle of Wight before being entrusted to Wiltshire.

Having now been passed to Dorset, the next destination will be Somerset when RW Bro Richard Merritt will transfer the banner to his Somerset counterpart RW Bro Stuart Hadler during a special presentation ceremony to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance at Henstridge on 9th August.

RW Bro Philip Bullock thanked the Province of Somerset and in particular, the Master and brethren of Lodge of Amity No. 137 for the generous and warm fraternal hospitality extended to the Wiltshire team.

Freemasons in the beautiful Georgian town of Blandford Forum in Dorset have been celebrating the Tercentenary in a unique way

Local Freemasons have been closely collaborating with the local museum, publicly celebrating the role of Freemasons in their community over the past 250 years.

The Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, Richard Merritt, encouraged Dorset Freemasons to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry in England by engaging with their local communities. Blandford Freemasons leapt to the task with enthusiasm. 

At an initial meeting with the Blandford Town Museum it became clear to all present that local Freemasons had a wealth of information about centuries of Blandford residents. The Museum soon realised that while there was a long list of well-known men of Blandford whose deeds were known, their membership of Freemasonry was not.

In a terrific exercise in collaboration between Blandford Freemasons and the museum, they identified 917 Freemasons with a Blandford connection from 1771 to date. These included farmers, shopkeepers, doctors, school teachers, Mayors and servicemen, the respected tradesmen of their town and ancestors of today’s Blandford residents.  

This meticulous research was put on display at an open day at Blandford Masonic Hall to coincide with the town’s Georgian Fayre. During the Fayre, the town was closed to traffic, but the streets were full of visitors, hundreds of whom visited the Masonic Hall. The hall was decked with displays with a modern twist; looped audio visual displays sharing the space with posters, information boards, historic artefacts and other displays sharing a wealth of information

All the visitors gained an understanding of how closely the history of the town and the history of Blandford Freemasonry have been linked for 250 years. Visitors saw their ancestors stretching back beyond living memory and their connection with the town across the centuries.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 06:00

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Dorset’s Blackmore Vale Lodge, No. 3625, donated £500 to Sturminster Newton High School to pay for airport transfers when its choir and band recently went on tour in New York

The students performed in the Empire State Building and on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as well as visiting many landmarks in the city.

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