Celebrating 300 years

When history is written

Director of Special Projects John Hamill defends the accuracy of the documentation detailing Grand Lodge’s formation

 Were it possible to travel back and forth in time, it would be fascinating to bring back some of those fewer than 100 brethren who came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in London on 24 June 1717 to elect the first Grand Master and bring into being the first Grand Lodge in the world. 

The brethren can have had no conception of what they were starting and would be amazed that they were responsible for what has become a worldwide brotherhood, now existing in places that to them were unexplored spaces on the maps of their time.

Masonic historians lament the fact that there is so little documentary evidence for the period, forgetting that those who brought about the formation of Grand Lodge were not aware that they were taking such a momentous step. They did not keep records of their actions until the first minute book of Grand Lodge was begun in 1723. Indeed, had it not been for James Anderson producing his historical information to be incorporated into the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions, we still might not have known what happened in 1717.

That lack of additional documentation in support of Anderson’s facts has caused some academics to question their veracity. My answer would be to repeat the mantra with which my history tutor began each of our tutorials in my first term as a student: you cannot look at the past with the eyes of the present, you can only look at it in the context of the period.

The four lodges that came together in 1717 became just another group among many other societies and clubs of the time. As no one of social consequence of the day appears to have been involved, it is not surprising that the event was not recorded in the primitive press that existed in the 18th century. 

What seems to have been forgotten is that when Anderson wrote his histories there were still many around who would have attended or have known some of those who were present at the Goose and Gridiron in June 1717. 

Not only that, Anderson’s writing was approved by a Committee of the Grand Lodge and I have no doubt that had he recorded recent facts wrongly it would have been forcefully pointed out to him and that they would have been corrected before the Book of Constitutions went into print.

Celebrate the past

To cast doubts on Anderson’s statements regarding 1717 because the rest of his early history contains undoubted errors of fact is to ignore how the current definition of what constitutes history has changed. 

In Anderson’s day, rather than being a collection of carefully documented and verifiable facts, history was an amalgam of fact, folklore, biblical stories and mythology. 

It was not until after the profound effect that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species had on Western intellectual life that historians began to apply the rigorous rules of scientific research to their studies.

Anderson does attempt to trace masonry back to Adam in the Garden of Eden and includes many biblical, legendary and historical figures as at least promoters of masonry if not actual Grand Masters. However, to cast doubt on events that Anderson records as taking place within the lifetime of his readers because of this ‘history’ is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Whatever academics might try to prove, I believe James Anderson. He had no reason to invent the meeting on 24 June 1717 and we have every reason to continue to celebrate it. More importantly, we should commemorate what has been built since that simple meeting elected a Grand Master to preside over an annual feast.

‘To cast doubts on Anderson’s statements regarding 1717 because the rest of his early history contains errors of fact is to ignore how the current definition of what constitutes history has changed.’

Published in Features

Career climbing

A combination of physical and classroom activities is helping young people in Wales to take more control of their lives. Peter Watts learns how masonic funding is making this possible

Former Welsh rugby international Philippa Tuttiett watches with pride as a group of 16 young people encourage each other to tackle a climbing wall. ‘I never thought anything would get close to the feeling of playing for my country, but the last few days of this course are up there,’ she says. 

The course in question is Get On Track, which is organised by the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and invites former athletes to provide mentoring and training for some of the 848,000 young people in England and Wales currently not in education, training or employment.

‘Some are really quite lost, with no confidence, and need some kind of goal or plan that will lift them back into society,’ says Tuttiett. ‘We give a lot of control back to young people. It’s a big step for them to come here and an amazing transition that they go through. When you see them come out the other side, with renewed confidence and able to get a job or a qualification, it’s incredibly rewarding.’

In 2015 the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust received more than £16,000 through a Community Support and Research grant from the Masonic Charitable Fund. The grant partly funded the delivery of a 14-month programme in Bridgend, the first Get On Track course to take place in Wales. This began in March and was spearheaded by Tuttiett and fellow mentor Christian Roberts, a former footballer for Cardiff and Swindon.

Using their sports backgrounds, Tuttiett and Roberts have helped young people such as 21-year-old Natasha, who has been out of work for two years. ‘I went to college and got a job, but the company I worked for went bankrupt,’ says Natasha. ‘That knocked my confidence a lot, and that’s what Get On Track is helping with. I wanted to feel more confident about myself. It’s been difficult without work. Also when you’re in work you need to be a team player and a problem solver. Philippa and Christian are very inspiring; they push you in a good way to get more out of yourself and not to be scared of doing something different.’

‘We turn lives around. It sounds corny, but it’s true. We see an incredible change in the directions lives are going.’ Philippa Tuttiett

Getting on track

The course enables the mentors to work alongside local corporate volunteers to teach employability skills such as CV-writing, interview techniques and filling in application forms. Qualifications in subjects such as first aid, food hygiene and sports leadership are also available. The results are impressive, with 72 per cent of young people who have taken part in Get On Track moving into employment, education or training within eight months. 

Tuttiett first heard about the Trust’s work when she was still playing rugby, but was only able to take a more active involvement upon retirement. ‘I did my first course last year and this is my second,’ she says, adding that the course not only helps young people in need of support, but also gives a fresh start to sports professionals as they face retirement, allowing them to use the skills they have developed in their sporting careers and transfer them to a new role. 

‘You develop so many skills that allow you to achieve your sporting goals, and these are perfect for the workplace or just everyday life,’ says Tuttiett. ‘I didn’t understand I was doing all these things; it was only when I trained to be a mentor that I realised.’

Get On Track draws on the skills learnt by athletes that enabled them to successfully manage their careers, from medal triumphs to sustaining an injury or loss of form, all while balancing family and work life. Whether it is communication, goal setting or time management, Tuttiett believes anybody can use these skills to develop a career or simply be a better person. ‘It’s not a sports course – although if they want to play football in the break, we can do that.’

The course encompasses numerous methods, all designed to boost confidence. ‘It’s a social and personal development course,’ says Tuttiett. ‘We build skills in a variety of ways. Every young person who comes on the course will have a different goal – some will want a job and others will want to return to education. Some will be doing their first CVs, while others need help to create a new CV that will present them in the best light.’

Tuttiett particularly appreciates that mentors can stay in touch with the participants. ‘We remain in contact and are available for a year after the course,’ she says. ‘We can find out how they are getting on and if there’s anything else we can do to help with their development. The young people also get to catch up with others on their course, so they can see how they are all getting on. As an add-on, they get a bursary of £80, which can be claimed at any point for 12 months after the course. Some spend it on clothes for interviews or on further training.’

Making it possible

Tuttiett is quick to acknowledge the role of masonic donations. ‘It’s fantastic,’ she says. ‘This would not happen without the support of organisations like the masons backing us. We turn lives around. It sounds corny, but it’s true. We see an incredible change in the directions lives are going. We get young people who are excluded from their families, from society, who are incredibly low, and after a couple of weeks they are motivated and confident and start to believe that they deserve to have a good life.’ 

Roberts, like Tuttiett, relishes the chance to help to make a difference. ‘I love this work more than playing. You can win a game of football and feel good for 24 hours but this has an impact on people’s lives and it’s an honour to be involved. 

The change in all of them from day one is amazing. We almost have to hold the reins in on them as they develop that swagger. Now we want to make sure they use that in the right way.’

Shared values

The value of the Get On Track course, developed by the charity founded by Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, was apparent to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). ‘This is an innovative project that trains world-class athletes to become mentors for young people,’ says Les Hutchinson, the MCF’s Chief Operating Officer. ‘Athletes use their experiences to teach young people how to overcome adversity, stay focused and have the confidence, as well as the resilience, to deal with the highs and lows in their future careers.’

As Les highlights, the UK has a growing problem with young people who have left school and are struggling to find direction. Over the past five years, more than £17.4 million of masonic funding has been awarded to hundreds of local and national charities, many of which have improved the lives of thousands of children and young people by removing barriers to education and employment. 

For Les, these causes reflect Freemasonry’s central tenets. ‘At the heart of Freemasonry is a concern for people and a responsibility to help those in need. Mentoring has been embraced by the Craft to help new brethren grasp the main principles of Freemasonry and become involved in their lodges. These core values are clearly reflected in the mission of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.’

Never stumped

When a group of lodges in Kidderminster wanted to relocate from the cellar of a hotel, joining a local cricket club proved to be the perfect solution

In December 2015 the Membership Focus Group launched a strategic paper that identified masonic centres as a key area for improvement in the organisational development of Freemasonry. With many centres not considered fit for purpose by the members who meet in them, the challenge for lodges is how to turn a legacy problem into an opportunity. 

‘It is not uncommon for lodges to find that their existing premises become unsustainable owing to lack of critical mass if membership levels fall, or simply because of the structural integrity of the building itself,’ explains Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Jeff Gillyon, who heads up the Masonic Centres Study Group.

For a group of lodges in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, this was particularly true when their 44-year tenure at The Briars pub came to an abrupt end. With the brewery selling up, the lodges moved to a local hotel’s cellar for four years while considering a new meeting place. 

‘It certainly wasn’t ideal,’ says Peter Ricketts, a Past Master of Lodge of Hope and Charity, No. 377, which was among those affected. ‘The cellar was small and the walls were covered in mirrors because it was planned as a nightclub. But for four years it was home to three lodges, a chapter and a Knights Templar unit.’

With so many members under one roof, amalgamating with a lodge in another property was out of the question, so the board considered buying a property of its own. ‘Then somebody suggested partnering with the local cricket club,’ says Peter. ‘It was perfect really, because the cricket season starts in summer just as the masonic season ends.’

With two bars and a large car park, the Chester Road Sports and Social Club easily catered to the social aspect of Freemasonry, but it clearly couldn’t provide a masonic temple. 

So, after prolonged talks, it was agreed that the Freemasons could build one adjoining the club.

Work started on the new temple in September 2011 under the careful watch of Mike Langdon of Old Carolian Lodge, No. 7599. As the retired owner of a construction company, Mike drew on his industry contacts to source supplies at cost. Mike, together with fellow Old Carolian Mick Insull and Martin Lawrence of Lodge of Hope and Charity, completed most of the building work themselves over six months. 

‘Until that point, my construction credentials extended to the wooden shed in my back garden, and that was a bit rickety,’ says Martin, a retired police officer from Aldridge. ‘But within a couple of months we’d laid the foundations and completed most of the brickwork.’ 

Progress was so quick, in fact, that by 3 April 2012 the first lodge meeting had been held in the custom-built premises. Staggeringly, the entire project cost just £150,000 – with key savings being made by Martin, Mike and Mick providing labour at no cost. ‘While quality was paramount, we made savings wherever possible and brethren helped tremendously,’ says Martin. ‘When we said we needed to insulate the loft, one brother went to B&Q and emptied the store of fibreglass rolls using his pensioner’s discount.’ 

A willingness to adapt traditional ideas of how a temple room should look, while not compromising on quality, also helped to keep the project on budget. For instance, Martin explains, ‘It would have cost £15,000 to have a masonic carpet woven, but a brother footed the bill for a magnificent marble and granite floor, which was a fraction of the price.’

The project is a great example of the flexible approach lodges need to start adopting to meet the changing landscape of Freemasonry. As the Masonic Centres Study Group’s Jeff Gillyon remarks: ‘This is a good example of how innovative thinking can solve the problem, but it is only one solution.’

For John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, while the history and familiarity of a lodge room is important, ‘what’s essential is that Freemasons can still meet, regardless of where that may be’.

If that means relocating to a more affordable property, John says the first port of call should be a qualified adviser to get an idea of the full value of the property being vacated: ‘Consider the property’s potential as a commercial building. As a masonic hall, it may no longer have value, but as a hotel or a restaurant it could have enormous potential.’

Should lodges decide to capitalise on the commercial possibilities themselves, John advises taking a serious look at the standard of competition, and considering how commercial facilities would sit alongside masonic purposes. ‘Only then should you consider any refurbishment works. You need to approach the running of your centre like a business – balance cost against income.’

For those staying where they are, John says looking after the fabric of the property should be the priority. ‘Keep an eye on the building’s condition to avoid any major expenditure further down the line, and consider establishing a contingency fund,’ he says.

Ultimately, every lodge is individual – what may work for one may not work for another. The key is to take a proactive approach, says John, and to think practically about future-proofing your lodge. It’s a sentiment Martin agrees with. ‘Looking back, I can’t believe we stayed in our room at the pub for so long. There was no heating, no space and no funding to maintain it. Now we have a custom-built temple with the lowest capitation costs in the Province.’

While Martin appreciates the prospect of change can be daunting, it is necessary to ensure that Freemasonry keeps pushing into the future. 

‘If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience it’s that when it comes to the crunch, Freemasons pull together. We didn’t make it through the past 300 years without adapting.’

‘It was perfect, because the cricket season starts in summer just as the masonic season ends.’ Peter Ricketts

Building blocks

PLAN AHEAD: If your building is rented, start thinking now about alternative meeting places and set up a contingency fund by adding an extra £1 to capitation.

REACH OUT: Invest in your connections with the local community to keep your options open. 

SCALE BACK: Charity starts at home, so if you’re struggling to cover costs consider reducing your charitable giving for a short while until the lodge is back on a stable footing.

Published in Features

A Canterbury tale

The links between Freemasonry and Canterbury Cathedral have helped preserve this iconic building. Glyn Brown gets to the foundations of a historic relationship that was only renewed 10 years ago

Canterbury Cathedral is a place of strange and majestic beauty, from the echoing cloisters and soaring Bell Harry Tower to the dazzling stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings. 

Founded in AD597, rebuilt and enlarged, it seems to sanctify and protect Canterbury. With the pale Caen-stone grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage Site dwarfing the modern buildings around it, the Cathedral has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. Chaucer’s motley crew are perhaps the best known of those travelling to its sanctuary to worship at the seat of the Anglican church and the shrine of St Thomas Becket. 

The sense of peace and the knowledge of the sheer human endeavour that went into its construction make the Cathedral a deeply moving place. Added to which, there are ties between Freemasonry and the very fabric of the Cathedral that go far back in time.

The building has survived all sorts of trauma, from the civil war to damage during World War II, and so requires ongoing restoration. And this, in part, is where Freemasonry comes in today. Not only does the Grand Charity donate regularly, but Kent Freemasons and their neighbouring Provinces have pledged to raise a substantial sum for a particularly urgent project. 

Launched by Provincial Grand Master of East Kent Geoffrey Dearing, the 2017 Canterbury Cathedral Appeal is being coordinated by Roger Odd (pictured), Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master of East Kent: ‘For a long time, I had no idea there had been links between the Cathedral and Freemasons,’ Roger admits. ‘Then I realised Archbishops of Canterbury had been Freemasons – people like Geoffrey Fisher, who crowned our current Queen. I also saw a picture of Past Provincial Grand Master of Kent Lord Cornwallis at a service in 1936. There had been connections, but the relationship hadn’t been re-established for some time.’

It was 10 years ago, when Roger was asked to find out if Freemasons could attend a Cathedral Evensong service, that this all changed. ‘I made an approach, met someone from the Cathedral Trust, which was about to launch an appeal for restoration work funding, and our relationship started again. It was really just us asking what Freemasons could do to help.’

The relationship has since blossomed and Roger now visits the Cathedral several times a month, often going behind the scenes. ‘It is such a privilege. You see the actual construction of this glorious, iconic building, how it’s survived, how bits haven’t survived – and why it needs such tender loving care.’

‘It is such a privilege to see the actual construction of this glorious, iconic building.’ Roger Odd

Investing in craft

One of the more resonant things to have come out of the relationship is the grant of £22,000, given for the past three years by the Grand Charity towards funding an apprentice stonemason. ‘The trainees are passionate about what they’re doing, and it’s lovely to see some of them now becoming master masons and trainers themselves,’ says Roger.

The Kent Museum of Freemasonry is currently mounting a timely exhibition to explain the bond between Freemasons and the Cathedral building. A video features a stonemason at work: ‘He’s a young stonemason who we supported and he’s so dedicated, so enthusiastic, and only too pleased to show you how to try the job yourself – he let me handle the tools so I understood it.’ 

How did that feel? ‘I was scared, first of all! It’s the skill of being able to chip stone away at an angle, to use that heavy maul and chisel correctly. Some of these tools are years old, but the masons know exactly how to make the right groove and create the perfect figure or moulding.’

Heather Newton, stonemason and the Cathedral’s head of conservation, sees the Freemasons’ support as nothing less than a blessing. ‘We’re desperately in need of funds,’ she says. ‘It’s a huge building, and there’s always something that needs doing. The Freemasons have been immensely generous, but the fact that they’ve given much of their donation specifically for training apprentices is particularly helpful. It’s proper, practical help, and in many cases it’s been a lifeline for some very talented people. You see them develop over the course of the apprenticeship – the experience enriches them.’

For Newton, the stonemasons are the ‘guardians’ of the Cathedral. It’s almost as if the building is a living, breathing thing that holds people’s hopes and beliefs within it. ‘It’s exactly like that, an extraordinary place.’ But like any living thing, it needs support. ‘The weather throws everything at the Cathedral. The south side gets lashed by rain and wind, then hot sun in summer. The north side is attacked by cold.’ 

Does it cause you pain when you see it start to crumble? 

‘It does sometimes, when you see really old little bits of detail just hanging on by a whisker. If something precious is on the brink we take it out and put it in a safe place, replacing it with as accurate a copy as we can. After all, the original will still bear that first stonemason’s marks.’

The most pressing issue is the deterioration of the north-west transept and its pinnacles. One of the oldest parts of the building, dating back to the 11th century, it supports the area of the Martyrdom, the small altar to St Thomas Becket, as well as one of the breathtaking stained-glass windows Freemasons of the past helped provide, dating from 1954. 

With the Cathedral in need of support, it was a happy coincidence that Roger was considering how best to mark the Freemasons’ Tercentenary. The result is that the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey have pledged to raise £200,000 by the end of the year to enable restoration work already underway to be completed.

‘The Freemasons have been immensely generous. They’ve given proper, practical help.’ Heather Newton

Masonic foundations

And so to the Kent Museum of Freemasonry, where you will discover – if you don’t already know – that Freemasonry is thought to have origins in English stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and churches of the Middle Ages. 

Tony Eldridge, a museum trustee and volunteer, says visitor numbers have risen notably since its refurbishment in 2012: ‘We’ve had 9,000 visitors in the past 12 months, over 5,000 of those non-masons.’ From the interactive children’s area to the surprising list of masons (including George Washington and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin), the museum opens a door on Freemasonry, particularly through the current exhibition tracing modern – and ancient – bonds with the Cathedral. 

A semi-professional singer, Tony often sings at Canterbury Cathedral and knows it well: ‘A Canon, Tom Pritchard, once said to me, “If you think of the prayers that have soaked into the walls, it’s no wonder people feel so uplifted here.”’ Or as Roger says, ‘The more I get involved with the Cathedral, the more I feel, “Aren’t I lucky to be a part of this?” ’ 

Find out more about the Kent Museum of Freemasonry at www.kentmuseumoffreemasonry.org.uk 

Published in Features

Community spirit

When considering a major celebration, we often focus on the nationwide events. Keith Gilbert, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning, explains  why local activities can mean so much more

The major celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s recent 90th birthday are very important for national and individual pride – from the 900 horses and 1,500 participants in the private grounds of Windsor Castle through to the Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral and the 10,000 attending the Patron’s Lunch in The Mall. But it is at the street parties and the gatherings in local halls and civic centres where the many who have been unable to attend the big central events can celebrate our Sovereign’s wonderful reign, and which individuals will remember in the years to come.

In a similar vein, our Tercentenary celebrations are being held at various levels. Nationally, the Tercentenary will be marked at a meeting to be held on 31 October 2017 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, which will be followed by a banquet at Battersea Evolution; arrangements are progressing well. More than 190 Grand Masters from around the world have been invited as our guests, and although many would wish to bring several other brethren from their Constitutions to accompany them at those events, it has been explained that there is great demand for the available places. 

Instead, those other brethren, along with wives and partners, are being invited to a parallel, ticketed event in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where proceedings at the Royal Albert Hall will be streamed live. This facility will also be offered to the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges.

On 30 September 2017, UGLE will also hold a Grand Ball in Freemasons’ Hall. The Temple will be transformed with an illuminated dance floor, while surrounding rooms will host bars and buffet areas, with food and drinks included in the one price. 

Other events in 2017 include the opening of the Freemasons’ Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 18 April; the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Paving Stones at Freemasons’ Hall on 25 April; the classic vehicle rallies across the country between May and July; and a series of organ concerts. 

The global gala

Around the Provinces, Districts and in London, the number of events has now exceeded 100. In India there will be a performance of masonic plays, with a concert and the production of a documentary by the District of Madras, as well as the holding of an Asia Oceanic Conference; there will be a major celebration in East Africa; a meeting of Freemasons in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands; an evening of masonic music in Johannesburg; celebrations in Ghana; and in Rotorua, New Zealand, there will be a meeting of all Grand Lodges in the region. These are but a few of the events in our Districts.

All Provinces have planned at least one event to celebrate the Tercentenary, with some choosing to hold several. Certain activities, such as the refurbishment of part of Bradgate Park near Leicester, supported by Leicestershire and Rutland, will have a lasting legacy. Musical concerts and choir festivals with Freemasons, friends and the community are planned in Truro, Worcester, Kendal, Middlesbrough and Hull. 

Celebratory dinners and balls are to be held in Blackpool, Gorleston, Ipswich, Bushey, Exeter, Bury St Edmunds and Great Yarmouth, as well as on HMS Drake in Portsmouth and at Guildhall in London (to name but a few). Services of Thanksgiving were referred to in the spring edition of Freemasonry Today and there will also be family and fun days at Marwell Zoo, the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, Windsor racecourse, Weston Park, in Wokingham and in Nottingham city centre, and parades will take place in Guernsey and Jersey. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but rather to give a flavour of the celebrations.

Local celebrations

As with the Queen’s birthday celebrations, however, it is at the local events organised by brethren in their own lodges where many of us will celebrate the creation, 300 years ago, of the first Grand Lodge in the world.

In New Zealand, United Manawatu Lodge, No. 1721, has purchased an adjacent building, the site of the first Baptist church in Palmerston North, to save it from being turned into offices. Built in 1928, the current church structure is one of the few historical buildings left in the city centre and, once refurbished, it will be reopened as a community theatre. Through this project, the lodge is connecting itself and the longevity of English Freemasonry with the preservation of an early historic building. 

Also in New Zealand, Prince of Wales Lodge, No. 1338, has been working on a Roll of Honour comprising all the members who have served their country in times of war. More than 150 brethren, who served in many major and minor conflicts, will be honoured with their names recorded and a recognition of the medals awarded, including the Victoria Cross. 

A suitable board on which to display the Roll of Honour is in preparation and a formal dedication with national and local dignitaries will be held as close as is possible to ANZAC Day – Tuesday, 25 April in 2017. The theme of the ceremony will be the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge and the service of the members of Prince of Wales Lodge over many years. 

Meanwhile, Lodge of Loyalty, No. 358, will be celebrating its bicentenary in 2017. It has chosen to link its own celebrations to the Tercentenary, widening the invitations to produce an event with even greater impact.

Other plans include the enactment of a 1717 ceremony; an old-time musical; Burns celebrations on a greater-than-usual scale; a grand banquet involving members of the Time Immemorial lodges; a celebration of the music of Daniel Purcell, who died in 1717; and a White Table event involving four lodges to be held on 24 June 2017.

The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on Freemasonry today. It is an opportunity for our lodges to celebrate and consider their position as we look forward to the next 100 years. Likewise, it gives individuals a chance to reflect upon their own part in the development of the Craft, and how they might enjoy their Freemasonry with more of their friends who are yet to see the fellowship we have.

If your lodge is planning a special event to celebrate the Tercentenary, please send details to Keith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Published in UGLE

Better equipped

The Counselling Careline is a free, confidential helpline that offers support for Freemasons, their wives, partners or widows, and children between the ages of 17 and 25 in full-time education

Stuart, a Surrey Freemason, had been feeling low for some time. His hours had been cut at work and he was so worried about being made redundant that he couldn’t sleep at night. 

‘I had heard about the Careline, but stubbornness and pride kept me from picking up the phone. I also didn’t want my lodge to know about my difficulties, but then I found out the Careline is independent of the charity – and as usual my wife made me see sense.’

A face-to-face appointment was arranged for the day after Stuart’s first call. ‘Since then, my counsellor has helped me deal with work-related anxiety as well as other issues that had been affecting me for a long time. I now feel better equipped to deal with life’s challenges.’

To access the Counselling Careline, call the MCF’s freephone enquiry line on 0800 035 60 90

A very large tea party

On 16 March, residents and staff at 12 RMBI care homes joined in an attempt to break the record for the world’s largest multi-site tea party

RMBI Marketing and Communications Officer Maricel Foronda said: ‘We were very excited to be involved in this record-breaking attempt. RMBI homes are located throughout England and Wales, and this has brought people together and made them feel part of something bigger.’ 

The event was organised by catering company WhiteOaks. The current record is held by the Yorkshire Building Society, involving 667 people across six UK locations in June 2015.

Published in RMBI

Help where  it’s needed

This year, Freemasons around the country will be presenting their regional air ambulance services with donations from the Masonic Charitable Foundation that total £192,000

The Foundation and its four predecessor charities have been regular supporters of air ambulances since 2007, with more than £1.9 million awarded to 22 different rescue services, and every Air Ambulance charity in England and Wales has received masonic funding.

Air ambulances rely on voluntary donations to operate. The Foundation’s support saves lives by enabling doctors and paramedics to reach patients in emergency situations as quickly as possible. 

Funding vital research

An annual UK-wide awareness week began on 12 June for Diabetes UK, a charity that cares for and campaigns on behalf of those affected by, or at risk of, diabetes

Diabetes UK is one of the largest funders of research into diabetes in the UK. Last year, the masonic charities provided grants totalling £105,000 to Diabetes UK to fund two vital projects: research into links between diabetes and dementia, and research into a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes.

In 2015, more than £1.5 million was awarded on behalf of the Craft to fund a wide range of medical and social research into disabilities, diseases and conditions that Freemasons and their families have said they care about greatly. The Foundation continues to support such causes.

Our first donor

While the Masonic Charitable Foundation officially launched on 1 April 2016, it was in late 2015 that the first donation was received, when John Grimwood sent a £5 text donation upon receipt of his MCF lapel pin

‘I was surprised to learn that I was the first donor,’ said John, who joined Freemasonry more than 36 years ago. ‘I think this must be the first time in my life that I have been the first at anything!’

When John was asked to describe himself, the word ‘busy’ cropped up several times. When not at the office, he can be found tending his small collection of classic vehicles, watching games at Norwich City FC or spending time with Patty, his wife of 48 years, and his two grandchildren. The rest of his time is devoted to his role as Provincial Grand Almoner for Lincolnshire, which, as one of the largest Provinces geographically, keeps him very busy indeed. 

John’s passion for charitable work was influenced by his early experiences. Although he had an idyllic childhood in the village of Moulton, his mother was a widow and money was tight. Understanding what it is like to face hardship, John says he feels a huge sense of relief each time an application for support is successful. 

For John, the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation is a positive step for masonic charity: ‘I believe that the confusing perceptions of the previous four charities will fade away and the Foundation will encourage more financial contributions and a better understanding of what we do. Our message and story is now so much easier to tell – so, let’s tell it.’

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