Celebrating 300 years
Friday, 14 September 2012 15:20

Coming together

Would the of the two Grand Lodges have gone ahead in 1813 if the Royal Arch had not been recognised? John Hamill takes a whistle-stop tour through Antient history

The earliest documentary evidence for the Royal Arch in England comes in the minutes of the Antients Grand Lodge. At their meeting on 4 March 1752, charges were laid against a group claimed to have been made masons ‘for the mean consideration of a leg of mutton’. Of one of the miscreants it was said that he had not ‘the least idea or knowledge of Royal Arch masonry’. A small detail, perhaps, but over the next 60 years the relationship between the Antients and the Royal Arch was to prove pivotal in shaping English Freemasonry.

1752: Antient recognition
At a meeting on 2 September 1752, the minutes of the Antients Grand Lodge record that ‘every piece of Real Freemasonry was traced and explained: except the Royal Arch’ by the Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott. An Irishman who had become a mason in Dublin before moving to London, Dermott claimed to have entered the Royal Arch in Dublin in 1746.

1759: Part of the Craft
It was ordered at an Antients meeting on 2 March 1759 that ‘the Masters of the Royal Arch shall also be summoned to meet and regulate things relative to that most valuable branch of the Craft’. Those last few words encapsulate the Antients’ attitude to the Royal Arch. They regarded it as a part of the Craft and considered their lodge warrants as sufficient authority to work the Royal Arch. In later years they often called themselves ‘the Grand Lodge of the four degrees’. Dermott himself characterised the Royal Arch as ‘the root, heart and marrow of masonry’ and ‘the capstone of the whole masonic system’.

1771: Dermott protects
Dermott, who had a positive loathing for the premier Grand Lodge, was clearly far from happy when its members formed the first Grand Chapter in 1766. He had to wait, however, until 1771, when he had become Deputy Grand Master, before he could take action. During that year he engineered a question in the Grand Lodge as to whether or not the Grand Master was Grand Master ‘in every respect’. His successor as Grand Secretary, William Dickey, stated that he had heard it claimed that the Grand Master ‘had not a right’ to enquire into Royal Arch activities. The Masters of the Royal Arch were summoned to discuss this and other Royal Arch matters.

1773: Royal Arch regulates
In November 1773, Dermott got his way when it was agreed that ‘a General Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch shall meet on the first Wednesdays in the months of April and October in every year to regulate all matters in that branch of masonry’. Whether or not the General Grand Chapter ever met it is not possible to say as no minutes for it survive and there is no further reference to it in the Antients Grand Lodge minutes. If it did meet it can have had no greater status than as a special committee of qualified members of the Antients Grand Lodge. Any decisions it might have made would have to have been ratified by the Grand Lodge itself. Certainly there was no separate administration, list of Grand Officers or individual Chapters under the Antients system.

1794: In black and white
It was not until 1794 that regulations for the Royal Arch were printed, and these were incorporated as a supplement to their Book of Constitutions. These regulations would be used within their lodges as and when candidates came forward. Some Antients lodges had, by the 1790s, developed a regular progression of degrees within the lodge. After the three Craft degrees you moved towards the Royal Arch but first went through the Mark Degree, Passing the Chair (if the candidate was not already a Master or Past Master of a Lodge) and the Excellent Mason Degree. After the Royal Arch you could then join the Knights Templar followed by an early version of the Rose Croix, which they termed the Ne Plus Ultra of Masonry.

This progression was often depicted on the aprons worn by members of the Antients, which in addition to symbols of the Craft would include those for the degrees listed above. A very rare example of a multi-degree tracing board turned up some 20 years ago at an auction in Suffolk with other masonic artefacts, which had been in the possession of a local clerical family for more than 150 years. East Anglia had been a stronghold of the Antients and it may well have been commissioned by one of the local lodges.

1813: A very English compromise
That the Antients did much to foster the Royal Arch is beyond doubt. It could also be argued that it was their attitude towards the Royal Arch that preserved it and produced that very English compromise: the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, by which the premier Grand Lodge acknowledged the Royal Arch as the completion of ‘pure ancient masonry’, provided that it was worked separately from the Craft in chapters rather than in lodges as had been the Antients’ custom.

I think it more than probable that had that compromise not been reached the Antients would have withdrawn from the negotiations, the would not have taken place and the future progress of English Freemasonry would have taken a very different path.

 

Published in SGC
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

The scarlet men

Ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael and Sandy found their way to London’s famous Royal Hospital via very different paths. As Sophie Radice reports, they have both discovered a fellowship of kindred spirits in the Chelsea Pensioners

It is easy to see why The Royal Hospital Chelsea has been called ‘the most beautiful elderly people’s home in the world’. It provides sheltered accommodation, nursing and medical care for 300 Chelsea Pensioners, otherwise known as The Scarlet Men. Not only does the hospital sit within 66 acres of parkland overlooking the Thames, but the buildings – designed by Sir Christopher Wren – are breathtakingly elegant and impressive.

Completed in 1692, The Royal Hospital has been looking after old and infirm veteran soldiers for well over three centuries. Charles II decided that the nation had a duty of care to the men who had risked their lives in battle, now known as ‘The Nations Covenant’. Phases of redevelopment and sensitive modernisation started with the opening of the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary in January 2009, which can care for up to 120 pensioners, and the completion of 34 en-suite study bedrooms.

Each of the nine foot by nine foot ‘berths’, which lead off a communal corridor with shared bathrooms, will be modernised in time. One of the spurs to start refurbishment was the introduction in 2009 of the first female Chelsea Pensioner, Dorothy Hughes, aged 85. Now there are six women, and the numbers of female Chelsea Pensioners will increase over the years in order to reflect women’s growing role in the armed forces. Although there was some initial grumbling about ‘change’ echoing through The Long Wards, the four-storey wings containing the pensioners’ living quarters, it seems that most of the residents are quite proud of the ladies in their midst. As one said: ‘There are complaints when the puddings alter slightly so there is always going to be resistance about a major change like this.’

GENEROUS BENEFACTORS
Although the Freemasons do not have a formal relationship with The Royal Hospital, they have long been generous benefactors. In 2009, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity presented donations totalling £550,000 to ten charities nominated for consideration by HRH The Duke of Kent in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of his installation as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. The Royal Hospital Chelsea received £50,000 to assist with the building of the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary.

Several Chelsea Pensioners who are also Freemasons have been hoping to encourage a greater number of fellow masons who have served in the army to consider spending their later years at this prestigious London address. Former servicemen Sandy Sanders and Michael Allen are the driving force behind this push to increase awareness of what life is really like at The Royal Hospital. Both go to lodges to give talks and encourage follow-up visits and tours of the buildings and grounds by Freemasons and their families.

CARING ORGANISATION
Sandy originally became interested in the Freemasons while serving with the army in Cyprus in the 1960s. ‘One of the officers went with his wife on a trip to Egypt for the weekend leaving their children with friends. The couple were killed in a plane crash and when I started to sort out fundraising for the youngsters, another soldier told me not to worry because he belonged to an organisation that was already covering it. I remember saying that I wouldn’t mind belonging to something as caring as that,’ recalls Sandy.

Sandy eventually joined the Freemasons in 1982 when he left the army and became a member of a lodge in Buckinghamshire. When he decided to move to Portugal in the hope that the climate would better suit his wife who had polycystic kidneys, he helped set up the Prince Henry The Navigator Lodge in the Algarve but had to return to the UK as his spouse became increasingly unwell.

In 1999 Sandy found that his kidneys were a match and he donated one of them to his wife, who enjoyed a further eight years of life before passing away. Sandy had a cousin whose father-in-law was a Chelsea Pensioner and after a four-day trial Sandy decided that this was the place for him now that he was a widower. Sandy works in the development office, is a tour guide and is still a Freemason at a London lodge. He has a ‘lady friend’ who lives nearby and ‘obviously found the red coat irresistible’.

Michael Allen also has a girlfriend who he met since becoming a Chelsea Pensioner so perhaps there is something about the distinctive scarlet jacket. He became a Freemason in his forties when he left the army to work at St Paul’s Cathedral.

‘I had been born into the army and lived in army housing all my life until then. I found that I didn’t speak the language of civilian life. I felt there was no work ethic, loyalty or comradeship. When I was initiated into the St Paul’s Cathedral lodge it was such a relief to be back with men who believed in all the qualities I felt non-army life lacked. People who I trusted and who were decent.’

Michael divorced and found himself as a 60-year-old in sheltered accommodation with 24 women in Cambridgeshire. It was his GP who suggested that he would be eligible to become a Chelsea Pensioner and as soon as he went for his trial Michael knew that it was the place for him. ‘It is such a sociable place. The Royal Hospital has its own bars, cafes, allotments, shops and restaurants. As it is catered, we eat communally in The Great Hall so there is always an interesting conversation going on.’ Michael also has two jobs, working in the internet café and as a tour guide.

QUALITY OF LIFE
The lieutenant governor Peter Currie is understandably proud of the quality of care The Royal Hospital offers its residents, whose average age is 83. ‘While I know that the buildings and grounds of The Royal Hospital are exceptional and we are lucky enough to be considered an essential part of British culture, I do think that there is a great deal the rest of society could learn about looking after the elderly in all the different stages of later life.’

Currie explains how the hospital offers sheltered accommodation, an onsite GP and an extremely active and communal life to those that are fit and well. ‘For those that have health problems we have an excellent care home and hospice for end of life care,’ he says. ‘A pensioner who joins us at 65 and stays here for 20, 30 years will have enjoyed a high quality of life, working if he or she wants to, surrounded by like-minded people and will die somewhere he or she knows and is known. I can’t see why this sort of model couldn’t be replicated in towns and cities throughout the UK, with the rest of the community considering this sort of provision
of care as a moral and financial duty.’

The Royal Hospital has an exceptionally friendly and warm atmosphere. There is a lot of laughter with pensioners sitting together not only in the armchairs in The Long Wards but outside on benches and in the cafés and bars. The requirements to become a Chelsea Pensioner are that you are over 65, have served in the army, give up your army pension on coming to live at the hospital and that you don’t have any family who are financially dependent on you. For ex-servicemen who are Freemasons, it would seem like a natural progression and an enviably convivial way to spend your later years.

 

If you want to find out more about becoming a Chelsea Pensioner or would like a Chelsea Pensioner to speak at your lodge meeting, go to www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk

Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Diamond Jubilee Greetings

The Grand Master, MW Bro HRH The Duke of Kent, sent a message of congratulations to Her Majesty The Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee on behalf of all members of United Grand Lodge of England.

Her Majesty's response to this message can be seen above.

Published in UGLE
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Right Place, Right Time

Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft

How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.

Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.

What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.

How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’

Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.

Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.

What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.

What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.

 

 

Published in UGLE
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Hope in the Making

By creating an artificial pancreas, Dr Roman Hovorka and his team hope to improve the wellbeing of children with Type 1 diabetes. Luke Turton reports on this Freemason-funded medical breakthrough

At Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, Dr Roman Hovorka sits on a bed. In his hands he holds a small black device about the size of a DVD box. If it performs as Hovorka hopes, it will help children with Type 1 diabetes to sleep through the night, calm the nerves of their anxious parents and reduce the likelihood of the long-term complications that can come from low blood glucose such as blindness.

The black box in Hovorka’s hand is a computational device that wirelessly connects a tiny glucose sensor sitting just under the skin with a pager-sized pump that delivers insulin into the body through a catheter. Together they can do the job of a healthy pancreas.

In 2007, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity donated £50,000 to diabetes charity JDRF to help fund research commissioned by the University of Cambridge into an artificial pancreas for children that would take place at the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facilities at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. It could be used overnight to monitor blood glucose levels and administer insulin automatically. Five years later, Hovorka and his colleagues are at the testing phase with technology that has the potential to bring relief to not just the 29,000 children in the UK with Type 1 diabetes but to young sufferers worldwide.

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed during childhood. With this type of diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with Type 1 diabetes must therefore carefully monitor their glucose levels every day and inject insulin. Children are a particularly vulnerable group: they do not necessarily understand the seriousness of their condition or comprehend that if they do not keep a tight control over their glucose levels they may begin to see the early signs of complications in their late teens or early 20s.

CLOSING THE LOOP
The artificial pancreas has the potential to help protect these children by automating what was previously a manual process. The computational device receives data from the glucose sensor that it processes in order to advise how much insulin is needed, which the pump can then automatically deliver. Hovorka describes the artificial pancreas as ‘closing the loop’, with the devices able to talk to each other without the need for human intervention.

‘Closing the loop is an old idea. A group in Canada and Germany came up with it in 1979. There was even a commercial device about the size of a fridge that cost $50,000. For around 20 years, people tried to make it smaller and implant it into the body but it never worked,’ explains Hovorka, who is a mathematician by training. ‘Then in early 2000, Medtronic came up with a sensor that could sit outside the body and monitor the glucose on the skin. When I saw the data, the current levels of treatment and control, it clicked that if we combine the devices we can improve the lives of those with the condition, as well as those of their carers.’

Hovorka is keen to emphasise that the artificial pancreas is an interim measure, what he terms a bridge to cure, but that it can nevertheless be a crucial component in the management of Type 1 diabetes for the short to medium term: ‘Biological research could provide the final cure but I believe that’s 20 to 30 years away. In the meantime, closing the loop is low-hanging fruit. We can make the devices smaller, we can do things like combining the sensor and pump – we are not aiming for perfection but for gradual improvement.’

INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS
A trustee of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, Dr Charles Akle, sat on the committee that decided to fund the research. He echoes Hovorka’s point about why the artificial pancreas is so valuable. ‘People think that medical advances happen in huge leaps, but it’s not the case – sometimes you jump a couple of steps with incremental improvements,’ he says, adding, ‘I’m a Freemason and what makes me tick is the philanthropy. Because I have a clinical and research background, I was asked if I could sit on the committee to look at all these applications for worthy causes. The decision process is always difficult, but it is made easier when we are certain that projects have the potential to succeed – which we felt this did from the beginning.’

After the Daily Mail reported on the Cambridge team’s work in June this year, Hovorka received an email from a family who had a child with Type 1 diabetes. ‘They were two doctors and they explained how their child was missing school because of chronic fatigue syndrome,’ he explains. ‘People can see that this technology is in reasonable shape and can revolutionise the way Type 1 diabetes is managed, so there’s been enormous interest from families.’

Over the last five years, research nurse Janet Allen has been diligently recruiting children to come and try out the artificial pancreas in a special hospital ward at the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facilities. ‘We started off by signing up 12 children between five and 18 who had Type 1 diabetes. There had been a lot of media attention about the research so they were easy to sign up. We compared controlling glucose with a computer in a hospital to how they managed the condition at home and the first pilot study results were very encouraging.’

Janet describes the dawning realisation by parents when they first see the tight control that the artificial pancreas is able to achieve. ‘Hypoglycemia is the real fear. It’s where the glucose drops suddenly and tends to happen more frequently overnight. That’s the reason parents are so nervous with their kids ­– they don’t sleep at night and are up two or three times checking their child’s glucose levels. With the artificial pancreas doing this automatically, the parents in our focus group said half their worries were gone.’

ADVANCED TRIALS
With the trials moving on from overnight stays for the children to 24-hour tests and then 36-hour, Janet is full of admiration for the resilience of both the children and their parents. ‘They’ve been so patient and positive. We need to insert a tube into the child called a canula to take blood samples, but they understand that’s part of the study. When they see the results, they’re so happy and I’ve sometimes felt very sad to turn the computer off because after one hour you see the glucose go sky high when it’s been in a steady state during the night.’

The next stage of testing for the artificial pancreas sees the devices being used overnight in children’s homes. While the hope is that the technology will function in exactly the same way, a whole host of new factors come into play once the test subject steps out of a hospital ward and into the real world. ‘Once people think that the system can work, they can get a little bit careless with the treatment,’ says Hovorka. ‘It’s about finding which group will benefit the most. We also have to justify the artificial pancreas on an economic basis, weighing up the benefits against costs. The big push is then how we take this to market – we can do only so much and then the commercialisation happens with big companies getting involved.’

Theodore Collins is an eight-year-old who has been part of the hospital trials. If his experiences are anything to go by, then the artificial pancreas deserves to find a global audience. ‘When I took part I was one of the youngest children and so nervous. Everyone took care of me and was extremely kind. I felt brilliant helping to achieve the artificial pancreas goal – I wanted to help all the children in the world who have Type 1 diabetes,’ he says. Asked what the artificial pancreas would mean for him, Theodore doesn’t hesitate. ‘Better blood sugars all day, freedom to be a child doing any sport and no worries throughout the night. My mum and dad can finally relax and not wake up. More importantly, it would mean having a normal life again.’

 

Healthier for Longer

For more than four decades JDRF has been searching for new ways to treat Type 1 diabetes. ‘It’s run by people with Type 1 diabetes for people with Type 1 diabetes. We get no government funding so committed individuals give us what they can afford, as well as foundations and trusts such as The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. Getting ideas out of the laboratory and into the clinic is crucial to JDRF – enabling that first transition from Petri dishes, to animals, to humans. Roman Hovorka had some great ideas in simulation and our funding allowed him to trial them in the real world,’ says JDRF’s Head of Research Communication, Rachel Connor.

‘We are not just pursuing the artificial pancreas, we also want to cure Type 1 and prevent it – JDRF put $170 million into lots of different types of research last year,’ she adds. ‘A cure would allow people to make their own insulin but this would involve a restoration of the cells that produce insulin as well as stopping the destruction of these cells. While the artificial pancreas is not a cure, it could have a transformative function in keeping people healthier for longer. I’d like to say that in three years we’ll have first generation machines being used outside of a clinical setting, but there’s a lot to do.’

Published in The Grand Charity
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

The Frequent Flyer

In a journey that stretched from Mumbai to Miami, John Bailey from Wakefield Lodge, No. 495, visited lodges around the globe to experience how masonic ceremony and fraternity is interpreted worldwide

In October 2007, I started on a 14-month journey that would have me back in the UK just in time for Christmas 2008. Armed with a 65-litre rucksack holding, among other things, a Past Masters apron, a copy of the UGLE Masonic Year Book and my Grand Lodge certificate, I hoped to have the opportunity to visit a lodge overseas. Hitherto, my lodge visits had been confined to Yorkshire and Wiltshire. In the event, I was able to make 26 foreign visits – 13 to UGLE lodges and 13 to lodges of foreign constitutions.

IT’S ALL IN THE PLANNING
I had established contact with Peter Roberts in the Grand Secretary’s office and quickly found that arranging a visit to a UGLE lodge in an overseas district was basically the same as in the UK. However, the protocol for arranging a casual visit to a lodge in a foreign constitution required some preparation. An email to Peter was always required to check that the constitution concerned was in amity with UGLE. By return, he would also provide contact details for the foreign grand lodge in question. No contact can be made with a foreign constitution until you arrive in their territory. Of course, there is no restriction on the research that you can do beforehand, for which the internet was an indispensable supplement to Peter’s information. Suitably prepared, I was usually invited to a foreign lodge within a day or two of making contact. In Adelaide, I made enquiries of the Grand Secretary at lunchtime, only to be invited to an installation meeting that very evening.

What to wear to a meeting was always going to be a problem for me, as I could not carry a jacket in the rucksack that would remain presentable. Gloves, shirt, tie, dress shoes and black stay-pressed trousers were an ever-present part of my kit. They, of course, were easy to maintain. The jacket problem was frequently resolved by helpful secretaries or lodge members, who were only too willing to loan me one when my circumstances were explained.

Arriving as an ‘unknown’ visitor at any lodge is always a challenge. You will need to provide vouchers of your bona fides and be expected to demonstrate proof that you are indeed a brother. My ‘provings’ ranged from a friendly chat with a group of Past Masters, to the more usual one-to-one testing by the Junior Warden. At the Chula Lodge, No. 9745, in Bangkok, I was well and truly tested by the District Grand Secretary and a senior Past Master from the lodge into matters concerning all three degrees and the installation inner workings.

It is impossible in this short piece to detail the ceremonies and procedures that I witnessed in the 26 overseas lodges. That there were some differences from the way that we do things in the Wakefield Lodge, No. 495, would be to seriously understate the case. Generally, I was very familiar with most of the practices in all of the English lodges that I visited, but there were many subtle differences – not least with knocks, openings and closings.

UNFORGETTABLE MEMORIES
I am often asked which was the best lodge that I visited and it was a privilege to have visited so many. All of them had something which was memorable, but the St Helena Lodge, No. 488, in the South Atlantic stands out. It is so remote that it is not administered by an overseas UGLE District or by a Grand Inspector. It is one of only a handful of lodges that reports directly to Great Queen Street. The lodge room is tiny, and I believe that due to the absence of outside influences, its rituals and procedures have remained exactly as when the lodge was founded.

Looking back on my back-packing trip, it was a wonderful journey, made all the more fulfilling because of my masonic experiences. I would certainly recommend an overseas visit as the perfect way in which to advance your masonic knowledge. I will be looking to add to my 26 visits in the future.

 

John's World Tour

Wynberg Lodge No. 2577 Cape Town
St Helena Lodge No. 488 Jamestown
Rising Star Lodge No. 1022 Bloemfontein
Lodge of Square & Compasses No. 7198 Mumbai
Lodge of St George No. 1152 Singapore
Chula Lodge No. 9745 Bangkok
Victoria Lodge of Hong Kong No. 1026 Hong Kong
Batong Buhay Lodge No. 27 Manila
Lamington Lodge No. 110 Brisbane
Lodge of Tranquillity No. 42 Bondi, Sydney
Lodge of Excellence No. 1032 Sydney
Western St. United Lodge No. 94 Melbourne
Poulett Lodge No. 18 Wynyard, Tasmania
St Andrew’s Lodge No. 19 Adelaide
Civic Lodge of Service No. 135 Perth
McDouall Stuart Lodge No. 219 Alice Springs
Remura Lodge No. 1710 Auckland
Lodge Whetu-Kairangi No. 201 Wellington
Southern Star Lodge No. 735 Nelson, NZ
Southern Cross Lodge No. 9 Invercargill, NZ
United Forces Lodge No. 245 Christchurch
DGL South America, Southern Division Buenos Aires
Tolerancia Logia No. 4 Buenos Aires
Lodge Star of the South No. 1025 Buenos Aires
Silver River Lodge No. 876 Montevideo
Hibiscus Lodge No. 275 Miami

Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Higher Ground

Jonathan Fairclough is in a tiny but impressive minority – he is a care leaver who has attended university. Anneke Hak finds out how masonic support for groundbreaking research into higher education is helping people like Jonathan  

The standard joke about university students is that their main concern is where and when their next pint will come from. For a care leaver, however, concerns about going to university are likely to be a little more down to earth. They include uncertainty about the availability of financial support, where they’ll live during the holidays, and even how to get advice about which university to go to.

Each year, Buttle UK provides thousands of grants to some of the most vulnerable children in the UK, often when there is no other source of help available to them. In 2001, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity awarded Buttle £100,000 to help finance an action research project called ‘By Degrees’, exploring the experience of children leaving care and continuing into higher education. The aim was to study 129 care leavers throughout their time at university and use the evidence to improve their experience.

BARRIERS TO ADVANCEMENT
The research project was the perfect opportunity for The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to give financial support. ‘Freemasons are very focused on trying to help young people gain both the employment and social skills that they need to participate fully in society,’ explains Laura Chapman, CEO of the Grand Charity. The research findings provided clear evidence that care leavers’ abilities and potential were being systematically underestimated and they were deprived of the educational opportunities open to children growing up in their own families.

‘There are a substantial number of barriers for young people leaving care, progressing through education and into university,’ says Susan Mueller, Quality Mark Manager at Buttle UK. ‘Those that were really resilient and got to university managed to get there against the odds.’

RAISING ASPIRATIONS
Jonathan Fairclough is a care leaver who studied social studies at the University of Salford in his thirties. He understands the challenges facing those from disadvantaged backgrounds. While he was in his twenties, some social workers suggested Jonathan join their ranks but he was hesitant as the position would require higher education. ‘I thought I couldn’t do it,’ he explains. ‘I had no academic qualifications – I didn’t even pass my maths GCSE, so would have to retake my exams. However, after applying, I had an interview and to my complete shock was accepted.’

Jonathan now helps care leavers attending Salford University and he’s very aware of the low aspirations some children from a care background have. ‘I didn’t think I was worth anything,’ he says of his attitude to education. ‘You get into a state of mind where survival is more important than aspirations. You live from day to day.’ Jonathan recalls one girl he encountered who wanted to be a nurse but was told by a careers advisor that children like her didn’t go to university. ‘Can you imagine that?’ he exclaims.

The findings of the research have helped government, local authorities, universities and schools to recognise the potential of children in care and provide the support they need in higher education. Recommendations from the research were also included in the 2007 ‘Care Matters: Transforming The Lives Of People In Care’ White Paper and are now incorporated in legislation.

Buttle UK didn’t stop there. Following on from the research project, it set up the Quality Mark for Care Leavers accreditation scheme, which aims to increase the number of care leavers entering and staying in higher education. It represents a statement of commitment for higher education institutions, with the charity awarding the Quality Mark only once candidates have met certain criteria, thus demonstrating their dedication to supporting this group of students.

With over half of the UK’s universities now signed up, the Grand Charity has been a keen supporter of the Quality Mark scheme. In June this year, a grant of £60,000 was awarded to Buttle UK, to help the organisation further develop the scheme and encourage more universities and higher education facilities to seek accreditation. ‘It is our hope that as the number of Quality Mark accredited institutions increases, more and more care leavers will receive the help they deserve,’ enthuses Chapman.

ONGOING PROGRESS
The ramifications of Buttle UK’s research have been significant: an introduction of a £2,000 bursary; a change to the UCAS application form so candidates can identify themselves as care leavers; a change in local authority policies to provide more support, such as leaving halls of residence open to care leavers during holidays; and the new Quality Mark to keep educational institutions on their toes. ‘The Quality Mark isn’t static, you don’t have it forever,’ says Susan. ‘It’s a three-year award, but it’s a continuous exercise where institutions look at what they are doing and how they could do it better, and therefore develop.’

Back in 2001, an estimated one per cent of students at university were from a care background, it’s now six per cent. While government policy may be the best way of smoothing the path for care leavers into university, Jonathan Fairclough believes that Buttle UK’s Quality Mark is the next best thing. ‘There isn’t a government guideline to recruit more care leavers. Thankfully, we’ve got Buttle UK to introduce a framework for what they think is good practice.’

The Grand Charity’s Chapman acknowledges the far-reaching impact of the scheme. ‘While the project has had really positive outcomes for the children who were directly supported during the few years of our funding, it has also seen changes being made to the whole infrastructure meaning that the benefits will be felt over many years.’

Susan expresses her gratitude to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for the support it has given. ‘It’s really nice to be able to say, five or 10 years down the line, that the initiative is still going strong and that we’re now rolling it out in the further education sector.’

 

 

 

 

Published in The Grand Charity
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Diamond days

Whether sailing down the river, lighting a commemorative beacon or parading through a town centre, masonic lodges the length and breadth of Britain were out in force to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

A selection of the events can be seen in the gallery above.

 

 

Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

On the right lines

When it comes to brightening someone’s day, never underestimate the power of fishing. Miranda Thompson signs up for an afternoon with the Masonic Fishing Charity to find out how young people are finding companionship and catching the smile

Matthew’s smile is radiant as the sunlight glints off the scales of the mirror carp in his hands. It’s reflected in the face of George Brutnall, the Freemason fisherman who’s helped him land perch and roach, and is now pointing out the translucent dragonflies. On one of July’s rare sunny days, this is not your usual fishing expedition. Organised by the Northamptonshire branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity (MTSFC), a team of volunteers together with 20 disabled and disadvantaged children and adults have gathered for a day of coarse fishing.

The proceedings are brought alive by the volunteer fishermen, who smile as their companions spray feed into the water – good for getting the fish to nibble around the bait. They spring into action as the fluorescent floats disappear under the water, the tell-tale sign that they’ve hooked a fish. The group will fish throughout the day, only breaking for lunch, before a special prize-giving in which every participant will be rewarded for their efforts.

HUMBLE ORIGINS
Inside the gazebo-cum-kitchen, burgers are already sizzling ahead of the barbecue lunch. Chief executive of the Masonic Fishing Charity Ken Haslar recalls how, under the leadership of Jim Webster, a group of six Middlesex and London Freemasons with a common interest in fishing first came up with the idea 12 years ago. ‘We ran a raffle to raise a bit of money for something where the prize was a day’s fishing. The winner wasn’t a fisherman and he was partially sighted, so he said, “Don’t take me, take some children.” He organised it with a school he was associated with and so we had our very first event at Syon Park in Brentford.’

Ken explains that the original intention was for the day to be a one-off event: ‘But when the school left saying, “When can we come again?” we realised that we’d started something that was worth pursuing.’ Now some 1,400 volunteers are involved in the 60 events that the Masonic Fishing Charity will be holding this year, welcoming around 1,000 children across the country to fly-fishing as well as the coarse fishing events. ‘At the moment we have 25 branches in 25 different provinces,’ Ken says. ‘And we’re always on the lookout for volunteers. People are vital to us and they don’t need to be masons – about 60 per cent of our volunteers are not.’

But what is it about fishing that makes the day work? ‘Teachers find that the children who will run riot in class will happily sit here and hold a rod. I’ve lost count of the number of times that teachers have said to me, “Can we bring them here again?”’ says Ken.

WONDERFUL CAMARADERIE
Today, little blonde-haired Izzy – known by her teachers for her non-stop ‘twiddling’ and fidgeting – has stunned them by becoming quietly absorbed in the activity. Further down the bank, Freemason Richard Cullinan sits in companionable silence with William, who will later go on to win ‘Most Patriotic Outfit’ for his England cap and Union Jack wellies. As William sprays a shower of sweetcorn onto the still water, Richard reflects on the experience. ‘It’s incredible how much it’s grown since it started,’ he says. ‘The very first time I attended was at Syon Park, with a little girl who was blind. We caught the largest trout that day.’ Why does he come back? ‘I just like being able to do something for the adults and the children.’

That sense of companionship is the crux of the project, explains Ken. ‘They sit next to their fishermen who will show them as much as they are able to do. We say to them that it’s not for you to prove how good you are, but to show them how good they can be,’ he says, adding that there are also charity days for young offenders. ‘The relationship that’s formed is just as important. For many of these children, it restores a confidence in adults that they maybe don’t get at home.’

The day has certainly captured the imagination of teacher Nikki Clark, who is here with children from the Corby Business Academy. Pointing to a young teen in a pink baseball cap, she says: ‘If you see Jessica with Howard, she’s been a real star today. She’s never been fishing before and yet caught 20 fish this morning. She’s learning new skills, mixing with people she doesn’t know and really improving her communication.’

Nikki’s days out with the Masonic Fishing Charity have inspired her to create an AQA (Awarding Body for A-levels, GCSEs and other exams) award that children can gain if they do a day’s coarse fishing experience – with an award for the slightly trickier fly-fishing also in the pipeline.

‘We have a list of six different outcomes for them to achieve, then it’s accredited by AQA and they receive a separate external certificate. Anyone who is signed up to the AQA unit award can sign up to the unit and then be accredited for it.’

For Ken, the AQA award is the icing on the cake. ‘It’s amazing,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘It means that any special needs child or young adult can achieve something. It never ceases to amaze me.’

BENEFICIAL TO ALL
VIP of the day Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Northants & Hunts Dr Viv Thomas is in charge of presenting the certificates. He believes that the charity benefits Freemasonry just as much as its participants. ‘It takes Freemasonry away from the masonic halls and gets us out in the community. It gives so many people opportunities to get away from another existence. The most important thing is the joy that people have on their faces.’ Ken has coined the phrase ‘Catch the Smile’ to capture the mood of these days spent by the water. ‘We’re catching fish, we’re catching smiles,’ he says. ‘Why do people come back? We are all volunteers and what started as a simple idea of taking a few disabled children fishing has turned into a major organisation that not only catches fish but delivers a whole lot more – that’s the number one reason for everything we do.’

 

The Masonic Fishing Charity is on the lookout for more volunteers, Freemasons and non-Freemasons alike, especially fishermen willing to give up a day or two a year to help. People with organisational skills are also needed to help introduce this simple idea into more Provinces. The charity is a masonic initiative and relies on donations from masonic units and individuals. You will find all the information you need on the website at www.mtsfc.org.uk. 
You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Freepost – RSRE-AUSX-EAAK, MTSFC, Greenhill House, 26 Greenhill Crescent, Watford WD18 8JA

  

WIDENING THE NET

Formed by 30 or so Freemasons who were part of the Masonic Fishing Charity, the Lodge of Opportunity, No. 9777, is a Hertfordshire lodge that was founded in 2004.  

As with the MTSFC, it was Jim Webster’s idea to found the lodge and to spread the word of the charity into other Provinces. The lodge is therefore inter-Provincial and has members who decided to become Freemasons after attending events. The lodge’s badge represents the link between Freemasonry and fishing with a rainbow trout leaping against a blue sky – the intention is to show that the lodge wants to bring happiness to those less fortunate by introducing them to fishing.

 

 

 

Published in More News

From building staircases and painting intricate floral plasterwork through to restoring corridors to their former glory, Stan, Damien and Stuart are part of a devoted team of craftsmen at Freemasons’ Hall who ensure that the building is preserved in all of its Art Deco grandeur. Luke Turton reports

Stan Johnstone gazes at the exquisitely polished doorways and columns that frame the Processional Corridor in London’s Freemasons’ Hall. ‘Everyone said I was mad when I did this – it was in a terrible state and had never been polished,’ he says with a mixture of pride and relief as he recalls the amount of effort he had to put into the job. ‘I was on my own and it took three months but it’s a lovely building and I’ve always tried to do the job that I believe it deserves.’

Stan is a French polisher and is part of a team of professionals who keep Freemasons’ Hall looking as pristine as it did when it was built 80 years ago. Not just the heart of the United Grand Lodge of England, the hall is a heritage site in itself. As well as being one of London’s most beloved landmarks, the Great Queen Street building is one of the finest Art Deco monuments in the country, and its operations team has the tricky task of keeping it in tip-top shape.

‘The upkeep of the building means looking after its structure and its parts, as well as keeping it up to date with current legislation,’ explains Roger Carter, Director of Special Projects (Technical) at Freemasons’ Hall. ‘It has individual requirements and we have specialist skills that would be difficult to obtain in normal circumstances. We have more than enough work here to keep these skilled craftsmen working full time.’

Freemasons’ Hall has invested a lot in its crop of craftsmen and is home to electricians, heating engineers, plumbers, painters and an upholsterer. ‘All of these people do things that require more than what would be expected of an ordinary builder,’ Roger says, pointing to the carpenters at the hall who, while more than capable of making standard repairs to the woodwork of the building, are also able to create new things – from furniture through to structural features.

BUILT FROM SCRATCH

‘We repair all of the masonic furniture; there are lots of original chairs that have been here since the 1930s. The joints dry out because they used animal glue and the tendons snap. Then you get project work like the goods entrance on the ground floor. We built that from scratch,’ says carpenter Damien Nolan of the impressive access entrance that seamlessly blends in with the rest of the hall. ‘I also made the staircase cladding for the masonic charities, it was one of the first jobs I did. There was nothing there before and it all came from my head – there were no drawings and then I built it.’

While Damien will deploy modern carpentry techniques where the work will be hidden, old methods and materials will be used for anything visible, for example using old flat head screws rather than their contemporary equivalent. ‘When you’re repairing something old, you’re putting it back to the way it was, there’s no modern method of restoring it. If I have a broken scroll-arm chair, I’ve got to fit a new bit that will make it look like the original. That’s a lot of work cutting the piece out and matching the grain.’

Stuart Alloway has worked for five years as a painter at Freemasons’ Hall. With highly detailed, decorative paintwork throughout the building, Stuart admits to initially finding his job a little intimidating. ‘It was the first historical building that I’d worked on but getting up close, it wasn’t as daunting as I’d feared. It was quite a challenge but when I looked back at it a year later I thought it looked really good. To be part of that and to put your own stamp on it is a nice feeling – it’s a little bit of a buzz.’

Standing in the Prince Regent Room, Stuart peers up at the intricate floral plasterwork that patterns the ceiling. ‘We’re due to decorate this room at the end of the month and we’ve been given five weeks. Even with three of us in the painting team, that’s a lot of neck and back ache but I like it,’ he says. ‘I go back and look at the jobs I’ve done and have a good feeling. We’ve recently talked over a five-year plan that will touch all parts of the building. They’re looking for us to do it all in time for the tricentenary in 2017. It’s going to be a very busy period for us, but it’s good to be working.’

Freemasons’ Hall is particularly proud of its French polishers who employ an intensive technique that achieves a high shine and finish on wood. ‘These skills are very hard to obtain,’ says Roger Carter. ‘Our French polishers are highly skilled – one’s a real artist – and we’ve had contractors in who haven’t always produced the standard we expect.’

ARTISTS AT WORK

The artist Roger is no doubt referring to is Stan Johnstone, who is retiring next year after working at the hall for 12 years. His trolley is filled with different shades of shellac, from a deep garnet through orange to pale yellow, which he can apply to wood using a rubbing pad lubricated with oil. Stan is passing his knowledge onto his replacement Michael as he makes his way methodically around the corridors, lodges and meeting rooms that make up the hall, repairing 
and maintaining its surfaces as he goes.

‘Polishing is all about colouring and you can’t get it out of a can. Whatever colour we use, we create ourselves. When we do repairs, a lot of it is about getting that colour so you lose the scratch. The wood soaks up the oils and you’re building it up in order to get the shine,’ explains Stan. ‘We take pride in it and I’ve enjoyed my time here. When I arrived it was in a bit of a state and the lodge rooms still need a bit of work, but what we’re trying to do is to bring the building back to its former glory. I hope what I’m passing on is a craft.’

Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012

 

Running out of time

 

Sir,

 

I refer to your article ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ in the autumn issue. It gave real insight into the interior of Grand Lodge and the way it is being preserved and returned to its original condition. As I read the article I thought how different it is to the building I have attended for the past 45 years. Our temple is almost 200 years old and in a very bad state of repair, with water, roof and ceiling damage and quotations out of our range. The two lodges that meet there have only raised about half the cost for one small roof repair. The cold, unsatisfactory environment means some brethren will not attend and there is a subsequent loss of dues and charities. I fear that without help in five years’ time both lodges will cease to exist and the Craft will be left with a derelict building. I am sure we are not alone, yet letting lodges fail is killing the goose that lays the golden egg and we need help before it is too late.


Peter Brake, Castlemartin Lodge, No. 1748, Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire


 

 

Published in Features
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