Celebrating 300 years

County council honours local masons

The great work of Freemasons from the Provinces of East and West Lancashire has been praised by Lancashire County Council at a specially organised reception at County Hall, Preston.

Cllr Margaret Brindle, Lancashire County Council chairman, welcomed masonic representatives from across the county and thanked them ‘for the voluntary, charitable and fundraising work done throughout Lancashire to support a range of important and needy causes’.

Dorset help for Thai school

When Tony Birch married his wife Anan he did not imagine that he would end up adopting a failing school in Thailand, or that friends and members of Amphibious Lodge, No. 9050, in Dorset would help restore and support that school.

Anan comes from a remote village called Todnoy, near the Cambodian border. Seven years ago its village school was in disrepair and close to shutting down. 

With masonic help, Tony has protected the education of these children, and what began as a rundown one-room shack is now a three-classroom school with a canteen, kitchen and washing facilities.

The right response

The Bucks Masonic Centenary Fund has donated the cost of a volunteer emergency kit to Community First Responders, an emergency service that is often first on the scene of an incident. At £1,500 each, the kits contain equipment that is necessary for emergency life-saving action and trauma treatment.

Marc Lister, community liaison and training officer for South Central Ambulance Service, said, ‘Currently there are over 60 new volunteers in our area so there is a need for more volunteer emergency kits, and these require funding.’

Come full circle

Stonehenge’s history has inspired many outlandish theories linking Freemasons and druids. John Hamill recounts the real life of Freemason Cecil Chubb, who bought the landmark on a whim 100 years ago

Considering its status as a World Heritage Site, it is strange to reflect that until 1918 Stonehenge was private property. Interest in it was stimulated in the early 1700s through the writings of an early Freemason, Dr William Stukeley, a clergyman and archaeologist, whose voluminous manuscripts are now preserved in the British Library and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. The connection between Stonehenge and the druids is usually ascribed to Stukeley, who not only made a study of the order but was one of those responsible for its revival in 1717.

By 1800 Stonehenge was owned by the Antrobus family, but when the heir to the baronetcy was killed in action in 1915, the family decided to sell the stone circle and the surrounding 35 acres of land at public auction. 

The sale took place at the new theatre in Salisbury on 21 September 1915. The purchaser was Cecil Chubb, who paid £6,600 (about £460,000 in modern terms) for the site. Family legend has it that he had gone to the auction to buy some chairs but having lived near Stonehenge for much of his life, decided to make the purchase to save it from a foreign buyer. Chubb bought the landmark as a gift for his wife, for which he was apparently not thanked. 

In 1918, knowing that there had been government interest in the stone circle, Chubb contacted what was then the Office of Works and offered to give the site to the nation as a gift. He had three provisos to his bequest: that Salisbury residents should continue to have free access to it; that the entry charge should never be more than a shilling; and that no building should be erected within 400 yards of the ancient stones themselves.

The government accepted the gift with alacrity, and to mark his generosity, created a baronetcy: in 1919, Chubb took the title Sir Cecil Chubb, Baronet of Stonehenge in the County of Wiltshire.

From humble beginnings 

Cecil Herbert Edward Chubb came from modest beginnings. Born in 1876 in the village of Shrewton, Wiltshire, where his father was the saddler and harness-maker, he was educated at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. For a short period he was a teacher at the school before going for training at St Mark’s College in London. From there he went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he earned a first in natural sciences in 1904 followed by a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1905. Returning to London, he was called to the Bar from Middle Temple and began a successful law practice.

In 1902 Chubb married Mary Finch, and when her uncle died in 1910, she inherited the Fisherton House Asylum psychiatric hospital near Salisbury. Chubb gave up law and moved back to Salisbury to run the asylum, which was one of the largest in the country. 

Chubb made a great success of the asylum and introduced innovative treatments to make the patients’ lives easier and return them to their families. Fisherton House also gave great service to military casualties affected by the horrors of trench warfare, to the extent that Chubb used his own home, Bemerton Lodge, as an overflow for the main asylum. It became a limited company in 1924 and part of the National Health Service in 1954.

Eye on the future

Chubb was also an astute investor, particularly in medical laboratories producing medications to aid the mentally ill. His careful financial management made him a rich man, enabling him to buy Stonehenge almost on a whim. He developed his own estate, keeping a notable breed of shorthorn cattle and had a number of very successful racehorses. In civic life, he served for many years on Salisbury City Council and was a Justice of the Peace.

Chubb came into Freemasonry in Salisbury, where he was made a mason in Lodge Elias de Derham, No. 586, on 26 October 1905, taking his second and third degrees in the two following months. He never sought office in the lodge or took part in any of the other orders of Freemasonry, being content to enjoy the company of his fellow lodge members as a backbencher and remaining a subscribing member of the lodge until his death.

There have been attempts to link Freemasonry with both the stone circle at Stonehenge and the druids who were reputed to have worshipped there. In reality the only true masonic connections are the figures of Stukeley, who did so much to bring Stonehenge to public notice, and Chubb, who had so much love for the stone circle that he bought and presented it to the nation so that it would be preserved as a part of our national heritage for all time.

‘Family legend has it that Chubb had only gone to the auction to buy some chairs.’ 

Set in stone 

Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated and only surviving lintelled stone circle in the world:

• In its earliest form, the monument was a burial site. It is the largest late Neolithic cemetery in the British Isles.

• Two types of stone were used in its construction, both of which were transported over very long distances. The larger sarsens probably came from the Marlborough Downs 19 miles to the north, with the smaller bluestones coming from the Preseli Hills, more than 150 miles away.

• The stones were erected using precisely interlocking joints, unseen at any other prehistoric monument.

Published in Features

Plain sailing for Jubilee Trust

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Provincial Grand Master Mike Wilks had a special mission when he boarded the sailing vessel Tenacious at Southampton Docks: to present the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s (JST) chief executive Duncan Souster with a cheque for £15,000 from the Grand Charity

The donation will be used for the JST’s Buddy Bursary scheme, which funds sailing expeditions for both disabled and able-bodied people, promoting equality by teaching them how to crew a tall ship together, sharing challenges and celebrating their individual differences. Since the JST began in 1978, more than 40,000 people have set sail to destinations including Tenerife and Costa Rica. 

Launched 15 years ago, the Tenacious is one of two tall ships used by the group – the only tall ships in the world designed so they can be sailed by a crew with widely varied sensory and physical abilities, including wheelchair users. 

A centenary of medical care

The history of the Royal Masonic Hospital and the work done by its staff is the subject of the latest exhibition in the Library and Museum

The First World War created a host of new charitable causes for which Freemasons and their lodges raised funds. The health and care grants that are provided today have their origins in the work of the Freemasons’ War Hospital in London’s Fulham Road. The hospital accepted its first 60 patients in September 1916 and treated over 4,000 members of the armed forces during the course of the war. 

The premises reopened as the Freemasons’ Hospital and Nursing Home in 1919, providing care for 46 inpatients who were Freemasons, their wives or dependent children. Having outgrown its original site, in 1933 the hospital moved to Ravenscourt Park. The new building was opened by King George V and Queen Mary, and renamed the Royal Masonic Hospital.

Staff at the hospital pioneered many modern medical treatments, and it was known for its nurses’ training. The Wakefield Wing, with new physiotherapy and pathology departments, accommodation for nurses, and a chapel, opened in 1958, and a new surgical wing in 1976. When the hospital closed, its Samaritan Fund, which helped Freemasons afford private treatment, was taken on by the Masonic Samaritan Fund

The exhibition opens spring 2016 and can be visited Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm

Published in More News

The heart of Australia

Freemason John McDouall Stuart is considered to be Australia’s greatest inland explorer. Kevin L Gest uncovers his intrepid career

For a Freemason to have a small town named after him would be seen as an honour. That another Freemason should erase that name from the map, and replace it with the name of a lady, seems bizarre. Yet that is exactly what happened to a young Scotsman – John McDouall Stuart, an acclaimed explorer whom most Britons have never heard of, but whose feats are recognised by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in London.

As the British Empire expanded during the 19th century, so the new colonies, and the prospect of finding fame and fortune, attracted many British men. Some were Freemasons before they left, others joined on their return or were initiated in the territories that afforded them protection. 

John McDouall Stuart was born in September 1815 at Dysart, Fife. Both his parents died when he was still in his early teens. His brothers and sisters were placed in the care of family members, but Stuart was sent to the Scottish Naval and Military Academy where he studied civil engineering. In 1834, when he was 20, Parliament passed the South Australian Colonisation Act with the objective of establishing a colony for free settlers – unlike New South Wales (Botany Bay) and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), which had been penal colonies. 

South Australian Freemasonry pre-dates the 1834 Act, however. A group of men had petitioned the United Grand Lodge of England for a lodge that would be based in the new colony. This lodge was warranted the South Australian Lodge of Friendship, No. 613, and in order to initiate new members, met twice in London before the first ships sailed.

Stuart arrived in the new colony in 1839. The fledgling town of Adelaide was just two years old, and had barely progressed beyond canvas tents and huts. His surveying knowledge was put to good use by the authorities and settlers, anxious to secure the boundaries of land allocated to them. 

First expedition

Soon after Stuart’s arrival, a new Surveyor-General, Captain Charles Sturt, was appointed to the colony, a man already acknowledged as an explorer. He had identified that land in South Australia was good for settlement and his report became the driving force behind the 1834 Act. Stuart came to the attention of the captain, who appointed him as draughtsman on an expedition to the centre of the continent. 

Captain Sturt hoped to be the first European to plant a flag at Australia’s geographical centre. 

He came close to achieving his objective but the harsh conditions experienced over nearly 18 months in unexplored territory forced a return to Adelaide. 

Both men had become ill with scurvy and it took nearly a year for the Scotsman to recover. His health broken, Sturt returned to England but nevertheless commended Stuart for the quality of the maps he had produced. Over the next few years Stuart threw himself into survey work and searching for minerals. 

In 1858 Stuart set out on a short expedition. He mapped some 40,000 square miles of previously uncharted territory and was granted 1,000 square miles of it. Two further expeditions followed, pushing further north each time. On the third one he reached what he calculated to be the centre of Australia, in April 1860. Nearby is a hill he named Mount Sturt, where he planted a flag in the captain’s honour. It was later renamed Central Mount Stuart. 

Stuart and his companions pressed on for a further 300 miles before being forced back to Adelaide. In recognition, the proceedings of the RGS of 27 May 1861 state: ‘…and the Patron’s Gold Medal to the Duke of Newcastle, on behalf of John McDouall Stuart, for his explorations in the interior of Australia…’ 

The South Australian Government offered a reward of £2,000 for the first man to cross the country from south to north. Stuart departed with a group in January 1861, but events conspired against them and the party was forced to return to Adelaide.

‘During one expedition Stuart claimed he recognised a masonic greeting when he encountered a party of Aboriginal people.’

Not deterred

In October 1861 Stuart set out again. Nine months later he arrived at a beach on the Indian Ocean, just east of where Darwin now stands. He carved his initials in a tree as a record of his arrival. He and his companions had been the first Europeans to cross the continent, south to north, a distance of some 1,900 miles. His health in tatters, and nearly blind, he arrived back in Adelaide in December 1862.

Just before he embarked on these expeditions, Stuart was initiated into Lodge of Truth, No. 933, English Constitution. During one of his expeditions Stuart claimed he recognised a masonic greeting when he encountered a party of Aboriginal people in northern Australia. In one of his journals, he noted:

‘I endeavoured to get information as to the next water, but we could not understand each other … Having conferred with his sons, he turned around and surprised me by giving one of the masonic signs. … I looked at him steadily. He repeated it … I then returned it, which seemed to please him very much, the old man patting me on the shoulder and stroking down my beard…’

The effect of the expeditions had damaged Stuart’s health and in March 1864 he returned to England. 

In November of that year he presented a paper to the RGS. The proceedings note: ‘The President recalled the attention of the Society to the great achievements of Mr McDouall Stuart … the only man who had traversed Australia, from south to north, a feat for which he had received the highest honour in the power of the Society to confer.’

When the tree into which Stuart had carved his initials was rediscovered, a section was fashioned into a set of masonic gavels. These, along with his Grand Lodge Certificate and Master Mason apron, are on display in the museum of the Grand Lodge of South Australia and Northern Territory, Adelaide. 

From Stuart’s expeditions an overland route for a telegraph line was identified. A permanent waterhole called Alice Springs became the site for a repeater station, around which a town formed called Stuart. In 1933 Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs, who was also a Freemason, changed the name of the settlement and it became a town called Alice Springs. However, Stuart Highway remains, and closely follows the same route explored by the Scotsman.

John McDouall Stuart died in June 1866 at the age of 50 and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery, London. He is now regarded as Australia’s greatest inland explorer.

The author would like to acknowledge with gratitude the assistance of the Grand Lodge of South Australia and Northern Territory in substantiating elements of this article

Published in Features

Dame Esther Rantzen in Lifelites video

The national children’s technology charity Lifelites has launched a fundraising video campaign featuring its latest patron, television presenter and broadcaster Dame Esther Rantzen.  

Last year Lifelites was a 2015 Nominet Trust 100 winner, and is the only charity to provide assistive and inclusive technology packages for terminally ill and disabled children in hospices across the British Isles. 

Dame Esther is featured in Lifelites’ latest awareness video, shown speaking to staff and young people at children’s hospices about the impact of the charity’s donation.

Published in Lifelites

East Lancashire festival triumph

East Lancashire masons held an end-of-Festival banquet at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium to celebrate raising more than £2.6 million for the RMBI. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and Bolton’s mayor, Cllr Carole Swarbrick, attended.

PGM Sir David Trippier said that despite one of the worst economic depressions since the war, which had hit the region hard, the amount raised per capita was much higher than during the previous Festival. Entertainment on the night was provided by the Opera Boys, guitarist Neil Smith and the band of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

New approach to child protection

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Warwickshire has obtained a £47,500 grant from the Grand Charity for a new approach to detecting and preventing abuse of young children.

The grant is for the salary of a clinical psychologist, who will head up the implementation of the New Orleans Intervention Model, which works with infants under five years old who are in care, aiming to safely reunify them with their biological parents where possible. 

The aim is to protect and promote the mental health of infants by working with their key care relationships, including both biological parents and foster carers.

Published in The Grand Charity
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