A golden and unique Masonic evening took place on 22nd November, at the always welcoming Derwent Lodge No. 4250 in the village of Chopwell, which saw over £10,000 donated to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS)
This was achieved through the collective charitable efforts of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and Durham Benevolence, as well the efforts of Derwent Lodge itself.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Watts was in attendance to firstly recognise the charitable efforts of Derwent Lodge and proudly presented Ken Cook, the Lodge Charity Steward, a well-deserved Gold Award on behalf of the Province for meeting their Durham 2021 festival five-year target in only 22 months.
Durham Freemasons and, in particular, Derwent Lodge have a strong charitable association with the GNAAS and upon closing the Lodge, Ben McWilliams of the GNAA then gave a short presentation in the Lodge room regarding their work. He played a specially recorded video where the Director of Operations at the GNAAS thanked Derwent Lodge and Durham Freemasons for their ongoing support towards this crucial service.
John Watts then had the privilege, on behalf of the MCF, to present Ben McWilliams with a £4,000 grant as well as an additional £1,000 on behalf of Provincial Grand Lodge Durham to contribute towards the next generation of motor vehicles, to assist them with their life-saving work on both land and in the air.
Keith Walker, Derwent Lodge Treasurer, also presented GNASS with an additional £5,300 which had been raised through the support of Lodge members and friends at the annual Derwent Lodge Barbeque. This special event has increased in attendance from 37 to 141 people in the five years that it has been in existence and is now widely supported by the Lodge members, other local Freemasons and the business community.
The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham held a special convocation on Friday 18th November at the Masonic Hall, Alexandra Road, Gateshead. For this meeting 12 companions from The Provincial Grand Chapter of Bristol including their Grand Superintendent EComp Alan Vaughan travelled to Durham where they were accommodated overnight at a local hotel.
Having set off at 6.30am they arrived in Gateshead at 1pm where they immediately proceeded to 'ransack' the Chapter Room which had been carefully set up in the Durham format, before practicing their ceremonial making a few adjustments to fit into the Gateshead building. All Lodges and Chapters in the Province of Bristol meet in one city centre Masonic Hall.
It was only earlier this year when Supreme Grand Chapter authorised the demonstration of the unique Bristol ceremony and this was the first time in over 200 years it was performed outside of the Province of Bristol. Much of the equipment including a series of coloured "veils" had been specially constructed by the Bristol Companions for the occasion. Durham's Past Deputy GSupt Derek Warneford was the lead Durham organiser of the occasion and he evidenced skills akin to ‘Blue Peter’ in constructing a pair of white pillars made from MDF, carpet inner rolls, 2 footballs and copious amounts of mastic and emulsion paint!
By 6pm when the Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham Officers of the year and Officers of Supreme Grand Chapter had processed to their places the main Lodge room at Gateshead was full for this ‘sell out’ occasion. After a short historic introduction by their Grand Superintendent the Bristol Demonstration Team entered and gave an excellent demonstration of ‘The Passing of the Veils and a Bristol Exaltation Ceremony’ with a Chapter of Industry No. 48 Companion, Ian Knighting acting as the candidate. This was a challenging role as the exaltee had questions to answer on the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees as he passed through a series of veils towards the Chapter room and exaltation ceremony. It was a further challenge as Knighting is clearly an uncommon name in the South West and Ian answered questions without hesitation no matter what name he was given!
The 120+ Durham Companions present were then entertained by an extremely well delivered exaltation ceremony. They noticed significant differences between the Durham and Bristol ceremonies, perhaps the most significant was the absence of any lectures. In Bristol most of the information in our lectures is delivered within the main body of their exaltation ceremonial.
The Provincial Convocation was followed by a 4 course meal and in fitting with the convivial nature of the evening the toasts were announced by EComp Stephen White, ProvGDC of Bristol leaving our own ProvGDC EComp John Watts only to introduce the Grand Superintendent of Bristol when he responded to the visitors toast. During his response EComp Vaughan presented a set of Bristol Cufflinks to the Grand Superintendent, Provincial Principals, Director of Ceremonies and the representative candidate EComp Ian Knighting for their assistance in making the evening such a success.