Celebrating 300 years

A club for everyone

With the New and Young Masons Clubs Conference 2017 seeking to build on Freemasonry’s foundations, Matthew Bowen meets the organiser, Dan Thomas, to see why the future is in safe hands

On 14 October 2017, the walls of the Severn Street Masonic Hall in Birmingham echoed with the sounds of progress. Within the ancient building, 100 new and young Freemasons from across the country gathered to discuss ways of ensuring the Craft’s relevance in the 21st century. They were there for the annual New and Young Masons Clubs Conference (NYMCC).With more than 30 new and young masons clubs operating in Metropolitan and the Provinces, the annual conference – now in its third year – plays a vital role in inspiring change. This change can occur within clubs themselves by offering ideas and advice on best practice. It can also happen across Freemasonry as a whole by bringing new brethren face-to-face with some of the most senior masons in the country.

FRESH PERSPECTIVES

The responsibility of hosting the event this year fell to The Five of Nine Club and its chairman, Dan Thomas. Dan joined St Peter’s Lodge, No. 7334, in Warwickshire eight years ago, aged 27. As a young policeman, Dan finds that Freemasonry complements his life and he enjoys every challenge it brings. Attending the NYMCC in 2015 inspired him to share his enjoyment among his peers and launch The Five of Nine Club for new and young masons. 

‘I went to that conference just wanting to have a look at what was going on, and came away with so much information that, when we launched the club, it was like we had been given a two-year head start,’ says Dan. ‘These clubs are all about bringing young masons together. There may only be one young brother in a lodge within the Province, but by getting them involved in the club, they feel a wider sense of community.’

Aside from pulling together to organise the NYMCC, The Five of Nine Club also arranges regular social activities that have so far included go-karting, paintballing and a brewery tour. ‘The focus is on enjoyment,’ explains Dan, with the hope being, he adds, that ‘enjoyment translates into higher retention rates among junior masons.’

Recruitment and retention are equally important goals for masonic clubs, as reflected by the theme of this year’s conference – ‘Building and Maintaining the Foundations’. According to Five of Nine Club patron and Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire David Macey, Dan and the club have excelled at both. ‘We set Dan some fairly optimistic targets to hit within 18 months, and he smashed them in six,’ he says. 

Though new and young masons clubs champion the views of a specific group of masons, the benefits they bring are being felt across the board. As David says, ‘The club’s energy and vitality is brilliantly infectious, not just within the youngsters they’re influencing, but on us senior masons as well.’

One of the senior masons present, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, delivered a keynote speech on how new and young masons clubs and the UGLE can work together. Dan was honoured when the Deputy Grand Master announced he’d like to attend. ‘The fact that he wanted to give a talk shows how important new and young masons clubs are to Freemasonry, and recognises the phenomenal work being carried out by every club,’ he says.

EVERYDAY FREEMASONRY

Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Deputy Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group Gareth Jones also took the stage. He joined Freemasonry as a 26-year-old in the 1980s, and believes it is as relevant today as it has ever been. For Gareth, Freemasonry is ‘a place away from the pressures of everyday life to sit quietly, reflect, learn and make daily advancements’. He spoke on the need for masonry to become more intertwined in communities, about the Improvement Delivery Group and on how Freemasonry must improve its reputation. ‘Let’s be frank – our image has traditionally been stuffy, middle-class and only for older people who can afford to join. It’s these ways of thinking that we need to get away from,’ he said, praising efforts being made by the clubs to revitalise the Craft.

QUALITY CONTROL

‘We talk about [the] reduction [of] membership over last two years,’ Gareth adds, ‘but this is a symptom rather than a problem in itself. The problem has been, to a growing extent, one of quality in how we have engaged with communities and the media, and the way we’ve brought people in and looked after them once they’ve joined. We’ve put in a lot of effort in the last few years to address those problems, and these clubs are proving to be an effective way of arresting the decline we’ve seen since the mid-nineties.’

With the buzz around the new and young masons clubs, it would be easy to get carried away in the excitement. A key theme of the conference, however, was the importance of installing proper governance and setting clear objectives. David stressed at the conference that ‘structure is imperative to channel enthusiasm and pass it on to others’.

David led the conference into a breakout session on how to launch, manage and grow successful new and young masons clubs. Reflecting on the event and on his role as patron of The Five of Nine Club, David says, ‘It sounds as if I’m being condescending when I say, from the bottom up, that we’re learning so much from an age group we were in danger of neglecting.’

With buy-in at such senior levels, Dan is confident this is just the start for new and young masons clubs, and expects to be attending conferences for years to come. ‘Since last year’s conference, there’s been an unbelievable increase in numbers of clubs across the country,’ he says. ‘We’ve seen more recognition in Quarterly Communications and more senior support coming forward in support of the clubs.’

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The Province of West Lancashire was anxious to ensure that it celebrated the Tercentenary in style and with that in mind, two gala dinners took place within a few weeks of each other

At the main event, held at the Hilton Hotel, Blackpool, over 400 brethren and their partners gathered to attend the Provincial Tercentenary Gala Dinner. The evening began with the entrance of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wife Maureen, who were accompanied by the principal guest, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Hugh Wootton. Also joining them was the chairman of the West Lancashire Tercentenary committee, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent and his wife Lynda.

Following the dinner, the entertainment began in dramatic style when a waiter dropped a large tray of cutlery, apparently accidentally on to the dance floor. This got everyone’s attention but rather than a mishap, this was the start of a performance in which several theatrical ‘waiters’ performed a set of popular operatic arias to the delight of the audience.

As the customary toasts were made, Tony Harrison proposed the toast to the ‘Premier Grand Lodge’ on the occasion of its Tercentenary and then, following a brief synopsis of Sir David’s professional and Masonic career, offered a toast to the Assistant Grand Master. To further mark Sir David’s visit, Tony presented him with a cheque for £5,000 from the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity to pass on to the Lifelites charity, of which he is a patron.

He was also presented with a ‘Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland’ and a special bottle of Martell Cognac which commemorated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Martell Distillery. Sir David thanked Tony for his kind words and very generous gifts.

The evening’s raffle, which raised £1,920 in favour of the West Lancashire 2021 Masonic Charitable Foundation Festival, saw the lucky winners claiming a variety of prizes, including a coach holiday in the UK, flying lessons and a widescreen television.

At another event, held earlier in the north of the Province, over 200 Masons and their partners gathered at the Cumbria Grand Hotel to celebrate what was billed as ‘A Spectacular Banquet and Ball’, organised jointly by the Furness and Lancaster Masonic Groups. Once again, the revellers were joined by Tony and Maureen Harrison at a wonderful event that combined great food, marvellous entertainment and a spectacular firework finale.

Speeches were kept to a minimum with the emphasis firmly on having a relaxed and fun filled evening. The speech and double toast given by Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger was so uncharacteristically short that it earned him rapturous applause!

Everyone pronounced both evenings to be a great success and a fitting way to celebrate such a memorable Masonic milestone in true West Lancashire style.

Wednesday, 06 December 2017 00:00

Catching a smile with the Masonic Fishing Charity

Thanks to a donation from Durham Benevolence, and the support of brethren from all around the Province, the Durham Branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity hosted its very first event at the Aldin Grange fishing lakes, near Bearpark, in Durham, on Saturday 23rd September

On this bright autumnal morning, the Branch Chairman David Grey, along with Graham Snell, Deputy CEO of the Masonic Fishing Charity, greeted 11 pupils, together with three staff from The Oaks, a large, local authority secondary school, based in Spennymoor, which caters for young people with special educational needs from across South West Durham.

The weather conditions were ideal, apart from a slight breeze; however, they all needed some luck to start catching. This came, surprisingly, in the form of the Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside who had come along to support the event. Shortly after Eric’s arrival, the students were into their first catch which continued at an erratic rate, depending on where Eric was standing. The enthusiastic shouts of ‘got a fish!’ continued right up until it was time to break for lunch, by which time 10 of the students had caught fish.

After the final cast of the day, all the participants retired to a barn to attend an awards ceremony where David Grey and Eric Heaviside presented special trophies, medals and certificates of achievement to each youngster. In response, Harry Wilkinson, the teacher in charge from The Oaks School, thanked everyone concerned for the time given voluntarily by all those who organised the event to bring an interactive fishing and countryside experience to all of his students who had attended this very memorable day.

The Durham Branch held another event more recently at Aldin Grange fishing lakes, which was a recruitment and training day for participants identified from within the Province. Once again, the venue was kindly provided by Brian Hodgson from Agricola Lodge No. 7741.

To find out more about the Masonic Fishing Charity click here.

News that her organisation was going to be given £15,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation reduced Pat Ebbs to tears

“Words can’t explain what this means to us. No-one has even done anything like this for us before, and saying thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough,” she told Lincolnshire's Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Graham Ives, when he went to Scunthorpe to make a formal presentation of the funds given to Magic Moments for Autisic Kids.

Pat is the driving force behind the charity, and knows better than most about life in families with autistic children – she has seven grandchildren suffering from it. 

The money is the largest single donation ever made to the group, which has the objective of preventing sufferers of autism from feeling isolated, of training them and giving them life experiences. 

Pat said the donation was a colossal sum of money and would make a significant difference to the families helped by the charity, which itself has been awarded an MBE. All of the money will be spent on providing experiences for the children, which will include a sledging trip and possibly a holiday in Wales at a venue specialising in holidays for disabled children.

Six Lincolnshire charities have benefited from Lincolnshire’s Community Awards after unprecedented public involvement. The Awards are a major part of Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary celebrations, with the Masonic Charitable Foundation distributing £3 million to 300 charities across the country.

All of the Lincolnshire charities were presented with their Awards by RW Bro Graham Ives who commented: 'It was uplifting to hear the stories of the people who have been helped by these donations. Volunteers work so hard and to be able to provide the wherewithal for them to make an even more effective contribution is the perfect way to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry. 

'We’ve been active in charity work for all of Freemasonry’s 300 years, but this is the first occasion we’ve asked the public to help us decide how to spend our money. We are very pleased that so many people from Lincolnshire took part in the vote.'

Brethren from all four craft lodges in Boston have attended the very first meeting to form a Light Blue Club committee for the Province of Lincolnshire, which has been setup for new and young Freemasons

Although the speeches had to compete with the local football club’s firework display during the meeting led by W Bro Gary Cadle, a committee was formed. All committee members are below Provincial rank and include a brother who had taken his Second Degree just two days previously, as well as many Master Masons who have not yet been through the chair of their Lodge.

The meeting followed the formation of Lincolnshire’s Light Blue Focus group by the Provincial Grand Master Graham Ives and overseen by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master. The group will help to set up similar clubs in the Province wherever there is a need – and there has already been interest from brethren across the Province. It is envisaged that although each club will be run separately, they will work under the Lincolnshire Light Blue Club Banner so that a member of one club will be able to attend events organised by any other club.

Many events will involve casual social activities open to anyone (masons, non-masons, partners and families) when invited by a member. The network of clubs will work under the DARE initiative, to Develop, Attract, Retain and Encourage, and it is predicted that through the social and Masonic activities organised, brethren and non-masons from across Lincolnshire will meet and enjoy companionship in a variety of ways.

W Bro Gary Cadle said: ‘It really has been encouraging to see Brethren from across Boston coming together so enthusiastically with the aim of increasing their Masonic knowledge and social circle. We have some great ideas for events and activities which we will be publicising across the Province soon.’

He added: ‘It would be great if we can work with other similar groups in Lincolnshire. We have already met with members of Light Blue Clubs from Warwickshire, London, Essex and Wales.”

Following the meeting, and as an indication of the social spirit of the new club, many members went for a meal at a local Indian restaurant.

Anyone interested in forming a club is invited to get in touch via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More than 30 carers will be able to take a break next year, thanks to a £2,000 grant from Lincolnshire Freemasons via the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The grant to Respite Association will pay for the annual rent of a caravan at Richmond Holiday Centre in Skegness.

The caravan will be used by families of mentally and physically disabled children and spouses of people with various forms of dementia. While alternative short-term care is arranged, the carer can have a well-earned and much-needed rest beside the sea.

Lincolnshire's Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Graham Ives said: ‘We’re really pleased to be able to help the Respite Association with its wonderful work in the community.

‘Carers are often forgotten by the rest of us and Respite gives them the opportunity to take a well-earned rest.’

Freemasons from Leicestershire and Rutland, who cycled 300 miles during the summer, made their last short trip from Leicester to Loughborough to present a cheque for £11,704 to Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough

In June 2017, 23 Freemasons cycled around the Masonic centres in Leicestershire and Rutland and down to Freemasons’ Hall in London and back – completing a total of 300 miles as part of their 300th anniversary celebrations.

A total of £23,408 was raised from Freemasons, family and friends which was split equally between Rainbows and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

A number of the cyclists took the short ride to Rainbows Hospice at Lark Rise in Loughborough to present the cheque to David Strudley, Rainbows CEO. The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger was also on hand to formally present the cheque.

After light refreshments, the cyclists were delighted to have a guided tour of the Hospice and hear first-hand about the amazing care and support provided by Rainbows for life-limited children and their families.

Simon Oldfield, who organised the ride, said: ‘Riding 300 miles in four days was a first for many of us. After seeing the excellent work that Rainbows do, it makes me very proud to be a Freemason and to have been part of the team to help raise funds for such an amazing charity.

‘We all felt very humbled and everyone who took part in the ride, the cyclists and support team, felt immensely proud of our fundraising achievement and the opportunity to support such a deserving local charity. It made all the hard work of training through the depths of winter so very worthwhile.’

David Strudley, Rainbows CEO, commented: ‘We are especially grateful to Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons in making Rainbows Hospice part of their 300th anniversary fundraising event. The magnificent total raised from their cycling marathon will go a long way to supporting youngsters with life-limiting conditions and their families when they need it most.’

Provincial Grand Master David Hagger added: ‘I most sincerely thank the cyclists and assisting crew on behalf of all the Freemasons and their families in Leicestershire and Rutland for the generous contribution they have made – it is truly a magnificent achievement.’

The Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England coincided with the end of the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Wales 2017 Festival Appeal, with two major events held in aid of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys

Recognising the unique opportunity that these two milestones presented to involve and interact with the public, they organised events in July and September this year.

A gloriously sunny 1st July saw the Tercentenary being recognised with a hugely successful ‘Big Party’ in the extensive grounds of Queen Elizabeth Court RMBI Care Home in Llandudno. Attracting over 1,400 attendees, including many young families from the local community, the day was a festival of live music, charity and market stalls, games of skill, fun fair rides, circus performers, circus workshops and craft demonstrations all supported by the Goose & Gridiron licensed bar and catering outlets.

A number of national charities that have benefited over the years from funding by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) were present, giving the public a real insight into the way in which Freemasons have an impact on their local communities.

Visitors were astounded to see a secretly planned landing by a Wales Air Ambulance helicopter on the adjoining school field. Children, in particular, stood in awe as the big red helicopter settled no more than 100 metres from them. Provincial Grand Master Ieuan Redvers Jones, accompanied by the MCF's Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchison, presented a cheque for £4,000 to the helicopter pilot on the big stage.

All proceeds from the day, which amounted to over £21,000, were donated to the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Court to be used for the benefit of the elderly residents.

Following hot on the heels of the Big Party success, a spectacular Welsh flavoured Festival Gala was held at Venue Cymru, a modern theatre complex in Llandudno, on 9th September, during which the Province revealed the total raised by North Wales brethren for their 2017 Festival Appeal in aid of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

In the presence of the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and the Provincial Grand Master for North Wales Ieaun Redvers Jones, members and the public alike watched as short video clips highlighting charitable credentials were tantalizingly shown between acts until, nearing the finale, the stage screen lit up to reveal that the target set at £2.75million had been exceeded by a considerable amount – reaching £3.1 million!

This total raised represented an impressive achievement by the North Wales Freemasons, upon which they were enthusiastically congratulated during the formal addresses. Les Hutchison confirmed that the amount raised represented the second highest total raised per capita for any Festival Appeal.

Throughout the evening, the audience was treated to a spectacular and inspiring mixture of modern and traditional Welsh music and song by artists of local, national and international repute, which provided a most fitting tribute to the brethren of North Wales who have worked tirelessly to achieve such a magnificent Festival Appeal total.

The Tercentenary celebrations of Freemasonry in Leicestershire and Rutland culminated in a Service of Thanksgiving at Leicester Cathedral on Sunday 29th October 2017

Before the service, the Freemasons processed in glorious sunshine from Jubilee Square to the Cathedral. This was the first the time in 94 years that a public procession by the Freemasons has taken place through the streets of Leicester.

Upon arriving at the Cathedral, the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger was welcomed outside by the Dean, Very Reverend David Monteith. They both then welcomed the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton and the Lord Lieutenant of Rutland, Sir Laurence Howard. Other guests present included Civic leaders Councillor Rashmikant Joshi, Lord Mayor of Leicester, Janice Richards, Chairman of Leicestershire County Council, Craig Mitchell, High Sheriff of Rutland, Councillors Pauline Ranson, Mayor of Charnwood, Tejpal Singh Bains, Mayor of Melton Borough Council, Ozzy O’Shea, Mayor of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, Graham Spendlove-Mason, Chairman of Harborough District Council, and Trevor Matthews, Chairman of Blaby District Council.

The service began with a rousing rendition of the Old Hundredth Psalm supported by the Junior Girls and Songmen of the Cathedral Choir accompanied by David Cowen, Assistant Organist. The Provincial Grand Master gave the first lesson, Old Testament 1 Kings 8.22-30, and after the congregation sang 'Now thank we all our God', the Master of Granite Lodge No. 2028, Richard Barnett, gave the second lesson, New Testament Matthew 5.1-16.

The Reverend Cannon Michael Wilson, Canon Emeritus Leicester Cathedral and Grand Chaplain gave a thought provoking Sermon on the contribution of Freemasonry in the local communities.

Over many years, Freemasons and their wives, families have taken an active role in Leicester Cathedral and have made significant gifts, both financially and otherwise. Those gifts have included the Coronation Bell of King George VI in 1937, a silver cyborium, two stained glass windows, and more recently, to a large donation to The Richard III Reinternment Appeal.

To mark the Tercentenary, the Provincial Grand Master then presented the Dean with a sliver Verge, to be known as the Dean’s Verge saying: ‘I present to you for Leicester Cathedral’s blessing and use this Deans Verge to mark with Thanksgiving 300 years of the Grand Lodge of England.’

The Verge consists of a dark wooden staff with a ribbon of silver winding decoratively down it that portrays the four mystical creatures that denote the gospels of St Mathew, St Mark, St Luke and St John, together with the Masonic Square and Compasses, and also together with the arms of the United Grand Lodge of England. It was crafted by contemporary designer silversmith, Phil Jordan, who is based in Leicestershire.

The Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: ‘Four Lodges met on the 24th June 1717 in the Goose and Gridiron Public House adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral in London and formed the first Grand Lodge in the world. Little could they have realised at that time, we would be celebrating this event 300 years later all across the world including today’s service of thanksgiving in Leicester Cathedral.’

The service concluded with 'God be in my head' and the National Anthem before the Ecclesiastical, Civic and Masonic Processions retired from the Cathedral. Many guests returned to Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, for a wonderful afternoon tea served with plentiful sandwiches and cake.

As part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th Anniversary celebrations, Freemasons from across Leicestershire and Rutland took part in a historic parade through the streets of Leicester – which last occurred in 1923

In glorious sunshine, over 100 Freemasons of all ages gathered in Jubilee Square wearing their Masonic Regalia and subsequently paraded to Leicester Cathedral via the High Street, Gallowtree Gate, Market Place, Grey Friars and on to St Martins prior to a Service of Thanksgiving. 

During the 18th and 19th Century, Freemasons regularly took part in public processions including assisting with the laying of many foundation stones for buildings such as the Town Hall and the Children’s Hospital at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The last occasion was on the 24th June 1923, when a special Masonic Service was held at St George's Church to commemorate the Centenary of the laying of the first Foundation Stone in 1823.

A 20-piece brass band, consisting of members from Croft Silver Band, Wigston Band, Kibworth Band and Foresters Band, began to play at precisely 2pm and proceeded on the route. The Freemasons, including several Masters of Lodges, were lined up in two rows, and followed the band in procession and a steady pace. At the rear was the Provincial Standard Bearer bearing the Leicestershire and Rutland Banner, who was leading the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Kinder and the UGLE’s Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman.

Many shoppers in the area were intrigued at the unusual sight of the Masonic procession and stopped to watch as it went by. The Procession arrived promptly at Leicester Cathedral at 2.15pm and was welcomed by the Dean, Very Reverend David Monteith who conducted the Service of Thanksgiving. 

The Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: ‘This was a wonderful occasion to mark the Tercentenary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge in the world. I sincerely thank all the brethren who took part in this historic procession, the likes of which Leicester hasn’t seen for nearly 100 years.

‘I hope that it will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic society which has been an integral part of our local communities for 300 years.’

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