Celebrating 300 years

Breaksea Lodge, No. 8358, presented a donation of £1,630 to the Barry Dock RNLI in memory of lodge members Dai Sam Davies, Doc Stephens and Ted Powell who sadly passed away last year

Ted had received an MBE for his services to the RNLI.

The lodge has historical maritime connections, having been named after the Breaksea Light Ship. The donation was raised at a social event at the Seashore Grill and Bar, Sully, attended by many friends and Freemasons, as well as Beryl Davies, wife of Dai Sam.

Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00

Charity on the Welsh coastline

All walks of life

This summer, lodges across Wales united in a challenge to trek 1,000 miles in sixty days to support a children’s hospital. Sarah Holmes put on her hiking boots to spend a day on their epic journey

Picture the scene – it’s a balmy afternoon in late July. The sunshine beats mercilessly down over a golden belt of sand dunes on South Wales’s Bridgend coastline. In the distance, music echoes through the granular valleys as a trail of trekkers in matching white T-shirts slowly emerge, their Welsh voices chorusing in booming unison. They look like explorers venturing through the Saharan plains and, as they come closer, it becomes apparent that they’re singing Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’.

The lead crooner, Gareth Jenkins of Afan Lodge, No. 833, is an undertaker from Port Talbot. But today, equipped with his Bose speaker and backwards cap, he’s DJ Jazzy Jenks, self-appointed MC for the twenty-two-mile walk around this stretch of the coast. Along with thirty fellow Freemasons from lodges across Port Talbot, he’s attempting to complete the Glamorgan leg of the Walk Around Wales campaign to raise money for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity

Until now, it’s been a leisurely ramble through the woodlands and heather fields of Kenfig Nature Reserve, passing by the candy-coloured attractions of Coney Beach funfair. But the toughest route has yet to come. 

Ahead, the grassy ridges of the Merthyr Mawr dunes rise dramatically upwards. They are the second-highest dunes in Europe, and the place where Peter O’Toole filmed his 1962 adventure epic, Lawrence of Arabia. Luckily, the Port Talbot lodges are well prepared for the challenge. A fortifying hip flask is offered around the group before they dare tackle the ascent – a dose of liquid encouragement for the heroic fundraisers. 

‘If your family ever needed to use the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital, you know they’d be in safe hands.’ John Bendall

There are just three days left before the Walk Around Wales campaign comes full circle. Today, it falls to the Port Talbot lodges of Afan, No. 833; Baglan, No. 6079; Celtic Eagle, No. 9132; Margam Abbey, No. 5257; St Theodore, No. 8536; and Ynys, No. 8274, to complete the penultimate stretch. For Paul Haley, Worshipful Master of Services Lodge, No. 7139, this is the pinnacle of many months of careful planning. In January, inspired by a friend who had trekked the Welsh coastal path in just sixty days, Paul set about organising a fundraising event that would see lodges from across Wales come together to cover the same 1,000-mile stretch in relay. 

‘The idea had a fantastic reception from the masons at Services Lodge,’ explains Paul. ‘So we started to build up the schedule with the idea of enrolling a different lodge to complete each leg of the coastal path.’

Paul eventually managed to get twenty-six lodges to commit to the challenge, with members of his own lodge offering to fill in the gaps along the north coast. He also appropriated a mascot, a travelling gavel that would be carried through each stage of the journey by the participating walkers. On Sunday, 25 May, the first group left Penarth Masonic Hall on a counter-clockwise adventure around the Welsh border. Their aim was to raise £12,000 for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity, which supports the only children’s hospital in Wales. But the campaign quickly surpassed its target with the total now standing at £12,678. 

First-class care

For John Bendall of Baglan Lodge, the walk was a fantastic opportunity to give back to a worthwhile cause. ‘The Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital is first class,’ he says. ‘Obviously, you hope your family would never need to use it. But if they did, you know they’d be in safe hands. It’s a reassuring presence in the community.’ 

While Noah’s Ark is a familiar Welsh charity, less well known is the vital role Welsh Freemasonry had to play in the hospital’s establishment, with Freemason Lyn Jones launching the Noah’s Ark campaign in 1990.  

‘It took ten years of knocking heads together,’ Lyn explains. ‘But finally, in 2000, the public appeal got the green light.’ Since then, the charity has raised £10 million and overseen the successful completion of a state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Cardiff that treats over 100,000 seriously ill children every year.

In 2008, an appeal for a further £7 million was launched to fund the building of the second phase of the hospital, which will include two additional operating theatres, a new Critical Care Unit, and a hydrotherapy pool, as well as various improvements to its existing facilities. With completion due in 2015, this latest donation from the Walk Around Wales campaign is essential to helping the hospital reach its target. 

For Alan Bolger of Ynys Lodge, the walk was as much about enjoying the camaraderie of the day as raising money. ‘It’s a great way to meet other lodges and get to know people who you might never have spoken to before,’ he smiles. ‘The reward of making lifelong friendships is enough for me. If we raise awareness about a good cause – that’s even better.’  

Word spread about the walk via social media. Paul created his own hashtag, #circlecymru, which he used in tweets to local organisations and councils, encouraging their support. The campaign even drew the attention of Welsh TV personalities, including weather presenter Sian Lloyd, and The One Show host Alex Jones. 

‘It’s a great way of connecting with the community outside of Freemasonry, which is something I hoped this campaign would achieve,’ explains Paul. 

Back in Glamorgan, the midday heat has coalesced into an orange haze as the army of masons amble along the cliffs at Ogmore Bay. It’s the home stretch and, after scaling Merthyr Mawr dunes followed by some tiptoeing across the stepping stones by Ogmore Castle’s enchanting ruins, it’s safe to say all are now firmly focused on closing the gap between themselves and The Three Golden Cups pub in Southerndown. Even DJ Jazzy Jenks has gone quiet.

A crowd of family and friends cheer the masons across the tavern threshold. Having walked non-stop for ten and a half hours, a pint or two is well deserved. However, the real celebrations won’t take place until the following Saturday when the masons cross the final finish line at Barry Rugby Club.

‘The highlight for me has been seeing how willing everyone was to get involved,’ Paul beams. ‘The dedication of the lodges has helped to raise awareness of both Noah’s Ark and Freemasonry, which is fantastic.’

To donate to the Walk Around Wales campaign, visit www.justgiving.com/walk-around-wales

On the move

Special mention goes to the Provincial Wardens John Roberts and Rex Plowman, as well as the following Freemasons from Services Lodge, No. 7139, who spent a considerable number of days on the walk: Allun Jones and Alun Punter (ten days); Steve Hill (eight days); Mike Rudall, Clive Thomas and Martin Flanigan (four days).

The following lodges took part in the walk: Afan, No. 833; Baglan, No. 6079; Beehive, No. 6265; Breaksea, No. 8358; Celtic Eagle, No. 9132; Industria Cambrensis, No. 6700; Dinas Powis, No. 5997; Gnoll, No. 5057; Ionic, No. 6626; Llanilltud Fawr, No. 8644; Lodge of Three Pillars, No. 5857; Margam Abbey, No. 5257; Old Barrians, No. 6671; Penllergaer, No. 5567; Porthkerry, No. 6299; Preswylfa, No. 5792; Services, No. 7139; St Cecilia, No. 8748; St Quentin’s, No. 4778; St Theodore, No. 8536; Striguil, No. 2186; Wenvoe, No. 9038; Windsor, No. 1754; Wings, No. 8651, and Ynys, No. 8274

The Epilepsy Society has received a £38,000 grant from the Grand Charity to help fund research

Professor Sanjay Sisodiya, the society’s head of genetics, said, ‘I am grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for this generous grant. Genetics research is very important, with changes such as deletions and duplications in a person’s genome recently emerging as important risk factors for epilepsy.’

Buckinghamshire Provincial Grand Master Gordon Robertson and Provincial Grand Secretary Derek Watts visited the charity’s site at Chalfont St Peter. ‘Sometimes, such changes have led to the identification of a particular gene, alterations in which are a direct cause of the epilepsy. Over time the understanding that this brings may prove to be the best way to find new treatments for epilepsy,’ said Professor Sisodiya.

For more information on the Epilepsy Society please visit www.epilepsysociety.org.uk

Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012


Valuing care 




I greatly appreciated your report in the autumn issue on Epilepsy Society. The support that has been given by the Grand Charity is immeasurable. My son, a research scientist, was diagnosed while completing his PhD. However, he went on to research stem cell analysis, cancer of the brain, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy in the US and Germany. Unfortunately, employment in the UK proved difficult, which emphasises a point made in the article. As parents, although aware of occasional seizures we were never totally aware of the traumatic consequences that could happen at any time. It is this concept that the general public are not aware of.

My son passed away in his sleep three years ago from sudden unexpected death from epilepsy (SUDEP). May I take this opportunity of offering my sincere thanks and gratitude to the generosity of Grand Lodge, individual lodges and members who have supported the charity, which is totally independent of the NHS system and reliant on individual contributions.

Sydney Pycroft, Breaksea Lodge, No. 5358, Barry, South Wales



Published in The Grand Charity

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