Lord-Lieutenant opens Wycliffe Rooms
The Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton has officially opened the new Community Room at Lutterworth Freemasons’ Hall along with Leicestershire and Rutland Provincial Grand Master David Hagger and town Mayor Tony Hirons. The building, known as the Wycliffe Rooms, has undergone extensive redevelopment to include a new large multifunctional room, bar and kitchen, which is available for local hire.
Lutterworth Masonic Association chairman Malcolm Longley, said, ‘We are deeply indebted to many organisations and individuals who have contributed to the completion of this development with either financial or physical help, or both.’
Silver Jubilee for medical research
The Masonic Samaritan Fund has marked its 25th anniversary by donating a combined £1.125 million to 13 medical research charities
Freemasons across England and Wales nominated the worthy recipients of the MSF Silver Jubilee Research Fund last year, and presentations for the successful nominees took place in the Provinces throughout 2015 in the presence of the Provincial Grand Masters.
The final presentations took place in December 2015, with donations made to a number of good causes.
The Macular Society was presented with £100,000 for research into a cure for age-related macular degeneration, the biggest cause of sight loss in the developed world. £90,000 was presented to Parkinson’s UK to support its research into a solution for life-threatening swallowing problems that often develop in people suffering from the disease. And £100,000 was also presented to the British Heart Foundation for research into a deadly variation of a protein called titin that can cause sudden death.
Festive appeals total tops £8m
The closing months of 2015 saw the conclusion of two successful Festival Appeals from Bedfordshire and East Lancashire Freemasons. Both Provinces held special events to celebrate raising more than £1.5 million for the RMTGB and over £2.5 million for the RMBI, respectively.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes attended both events along with the Presidents and Chief Executives of the charities, Mike Woodcock and Les Hutchinson for the RMTGB, and James Newman and David Innes for the RMBI.
The funds raised by Bedfordshire and East Lancashire bring the total raised for the central masonic charities through 2015 Festival Appeals to a staggering £8.2 million.
Launching in 2016
In January, the Province of Durham launched its 2021 Festival Appeal for the RMTGB at the Sage Gateshead.
Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside said: ‘We come across many distressing cases of children who need our help. This is our opportunity to help give them a better life.’
The Provinces of Buckinghamshire, West Lancashire, Leicestershire and Rutland, and Worcestershire launch their Festivals for the new Masonic Charitable Foundation later this year.
Fly high for charity
The end of 2015 saw some fantastic and exhilarating fundraising efforts by members of the masonic community
The Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, and Kevin Lyons, Past Master of Delphis Lodge, Hereford, completed freefall tandem skydives from 12,500ft and raised over £7,000 for the Herefordshire 2020 Festival in support of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Meanwhile, Nigel Moran and Andrew Paice from the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight completed the Sky Tower 100ft freefall challenge in Tivoli Friheden, Denmark. They completed the feat dressed as Batman and Robin to raise funds for the 2016 Festival for the RMTGB.
At the top, Andy suggested that Nigel (Batman) should go first. Nigel shouted, ‘So mote it be!’ before plunging into the net below. Their sense of achievement was reinforced by raising over £1,000, double their original target.
Fresh intake for Universities Scheme
Five years ago, Lincoln’s Saint Hugh Lodge, No. 1386, was admitted to the Universities Scheme. The undergraduates have brought vitality to the lodge and introduced many new young people to Freemasonry. PGM Graham Ives, Deputy PGM John Hockin and the Provincial team visited the lodge to witness the raising of five candidates in November. This was followed by the raising of five brethren and five initiations in subsequent months.
Over in Stoke-on-Trent, Universities Lodge of Staffordshire, No. 9907, has been consecrated at Shelton Masonic Hall, becoming the 65th lodge in the Universities Scheme. The Consecrating Officer was Past Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, President of the Universities Scheme.
A better life
As the Masonic Charitable Foundation builds on a proud history laid down by the four charities, two families tell their stories about the masonic support they have received
When the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) launches in April, it will be the culmination of a major review that concluded last year as members of the four central masonic charities indicated their approval to consolidate their work under a new single organisation.
While the Foundation is new, the grants it makes will continue to support people like Geoff and his family (pictured above). Geoff was an active Freemason from West Lancashire, who suffered two strokes. ‘It was the worst time of my life,’ he says. ‘I thought I wouldn’t leave hospital.’
Geoff’s daughter Sue explains that the support he received meant he could return home. ‘The masonic charities helped us with everything from physio to all the equipment we needed at home. It wasn’t just the grant, it was the fact that Dad could be with his family again. Without the masonic charities it would have been impossible for him to come home.’
Making an impact
That a simple grant can reunite a family is testament to the impact the charities have had on so many lives. The story of Caroline and her children, David and Louise (pictured above), is another moving example. The family received support from the masonic charities after the unexpected death of Caroline’s Freemason husband Tony in 2011. ‘We were on a family holiday and Tony became poorly,’ says Caroline. ‘We took him to the hospital and discovered that he had melanoma. Within six weeks we lost him.’
The family was naturally concerned about the future. ‘As a 13-year-old losing your dad, it’s a very unstable time,’ says Louise, now 17. ‘I knew things were going to change and that was a massive worry.’ While the charities could not undo the tragedy, they could ensure that David and Louise were not otherwise disadvantaged.
‘The masonic charities helped David and Louise with their education,’ says Caroline. ‘David is now at the University of Oxford and Louise is applying for university thanks to them.’
Geoff, Caroline and their families are typical of the tens of thousands of masonic families who have received support from the charities. The launch of the Foundation will ensure that the same support continues to be available long into the future. The combined amount awarded by the previous charities to non-masonic causes in recent years has exceeded £3 million annually and the Foundation will continue to award a similar amount.
In 2014 a survey of Freemasons identified the causes that matter most to the membership. As a result, the Foundation’s community grant-making will focus on education and employability; financial hardship; health and disability; and social exclusion and disadvantage. Grants will also continue to be awarded to support hospices, air ambulance and rescue services, worldwide disaster relief appeals, and medical and social research for charities such as Anthony Nolan, which works to save the lives of those with blood cancer and blood disorders.
‘The support has enabled us to launch a project to improve survival and quality of life for transplant patients’, says Henny Braund, Anthony Nolan’s chief executive. The Foundation will award its first round of grants to charities over the coming months.
‘Dad could be with his family again. Without the masonic charities it would have been impossible.’
A stronger platform
The new Foundation also faces the challenge of combining fundraising activities. With only one central charity to support, new donations will be used to fund the full range of grant-making.
Later this year, one of the first Festivals in support of the Foundation will be launched in the Province of Buckinghamshire. ‘I am delighted that our 2021 Festival will be on behalf of the MCF,’ says Gordon Robertson, Provincial Grand Master. The Provinces of West Lancashire, Worcestershire and Essex will also launch Festivals for the Foundation over the next few years.
The new launch is exciting news. At its heart, however, the Foundation will continue a mission that is centuries old – using the generous donations of Freemasons to care for families like those of Geoff and Caroline.
The MCF’s Chief Executive David Innes shares his vision for the charity here
Business as usual
The MCF will become one of the largest charities in the country, assisting thousands of people each year as well as awarding millions of pounds to charities and medical research programmes.
Bringing together four charities is not easy, but Freemasons can be reassured that the Foundation will continue to provide the same types of support as currently available.
The Foundation will be in a position to offer an even wider range of grants. Support will continue to take the form of financial grants, along with advice and practical support.
In the largest gathering of its kind for a decade, over 500 rugby fans and Freemasons filled the Winter Gardens in Margate on Monday 29th February to witness the founding of a new masonic lodge dedicated to the spirit of rugby
Spirit of Rugby Lodge, No. 9922 was formed by a group of over 50 East Kent rugby enthusiasts who recognise and value the strong connections between rugby and Freemasonry.
Medway Rugby Football Club member and founding Master of the lodge, Roger Waltham explained: 'Rugby Union has significant parallels with the core values of Freemasonry – in particular with respect to integrity, cooperation, and of course, benevolence and charity. Thus it’s hardly surprising that many rugby players also find their way into Freemasonry.'
Roger, who is also an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the Province of East Kent, added, 'These links go back to the very roots of rugby. William Webb Ellis was himself a Freemason.'
The lodge was consecrated at a special meeting of East Kent’s Provincial Grand Lodge, by a team presided over by the head of East Kent Freemasons, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing. He said: 'This was a very special occasion. I was absolutely delighted to meet so many rugby fans and Freemasons from across the UK and Europe, who came to join in the celebrations. An event like this shows the increasing value of Freemasonry in everyday life.'
The event was quite a spectacle as observers had the chance to witness the pageantry of Freemasonry combined with the fun and camaraderie of rugby football. The founding members sported especially commissioned rugby caps along with their traditional masonic regalia.
So called ‘special interest’ lodges have become increasingly popular over recent years and are helping Freemasonry to remain relevant and develop as an integral part of modern society. Sporting connections are a natural ally for those formed in a masonic lodge and rugby in particular is leading the way, with several lodges already formed across the UK.
Also present was Colin Broughton, Master of the oldest lodge in East Kent, the Royal Kent Lodge of Antiquity, No. 20.
Following the meeting the attendees shared a celebratory meal and raised over £2,500 for charity.
Among those visiting were representatives of rugby lodges from other part of the UK. Alan Hurdley, from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, commented: 'I must congratulate everyone involved in setting up the Spirit Rugby Lodge for making this initiative a reality. It was a wonderful ceremony and most convivial festive board, all conducted in the true spirit of rugby!'
And a spirited success it seems to have been, with prospective members already lining up to join.
There was a big surprise for one member of an East Kent Lodge, when a very special visitor made an unexpected visit to present a long service certificate.
Members of Rochester Castle Lodge No.9260 had gathered at the Stanley Rooms in Chatham on February 3rd to celebrate Frank Holding’s 60 years in Freemasonry. So popular is Frank that the meeting had to be moved from the usual venue, in order to accommodate almost 70 brethren who had booked in for this very special occasion.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Peter Williams, arrived as expected and was admitted into the lodge to deliver Frank’s award. However, a few moments later there was an unexpected knock at the door. A “Friend you will know” was announced.
To (almost) everyone’s surprise the unexpected guest was non other than Provincial Grand Master, Geoffrey Dearing. Lodge Secretary Roy Goodhew had discreetly arranged this special visitor and had managed to keep it a secret from everyone else in the lodge.
Retired farmer Frank was “dumbfounded and delighted” to receive such an honour and felt spurred on to lead the rest of the meeting. This included Passing Jake Rowan, during which Frank was ably assisted by Jake’s Father Ian.
“We were delighted to make this such a special evening for Frank.” said Roy. “He was our founding Master and has always been a driving force in the lodge. He is a fine ritualist and one of the kindest men you could hope to meet. As an example, rather than accepting a personal gift for his long service, he asked for a pair of commemorative wands to be purchased for the lodge to use.”
On presenting the certificate, Geoffrey Dearing gave a retrospective of Frank’s life and distinguished masonic career, including a look back at World events from 1955, the year he became a Freemason.
Following the meeting and a fine festive board, Frank went home happy and still somewhat pleasantly shocked by the events of the evening. One member remarked “It was a great night. We were all totally surprised when the PGM walked in, everyone’s jaws hit the floor!”
Tim Henderson-Ross, Provincial Grand Master for Gloucestershire, welcomes the BBC's Michael Portillo to Cheltenham Masonic Hall
Last night's episode of Great British Railway Journeys featured a brief masonic cameo in the form of Tim Henderson-Ross, who discussed Freemasonry in Cheltenham with the presenter Michael Portillo.
The episode can be watched on iPlayer for the next 29 days here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06yjxkh/great-british-railway-journeys-series-7-12-redditch-to-gloucester
Portillo arrives at Cheltenham Masonic Hall at around the 9min 30sec mark.
The full episode summary is as follows:
Michael Portillo heads for the sharp end of the Victorian industrial revolution at a needle manufactory in Redditch.
The Freemasons of Cheltenham invite Michael into their lodge to share the secrets of their society. In Gloucester, he learns how to make Gloucester cheese.
Continuing on to Highnam, Michael is glad to discover the beautiful Victorian Gothic church of Thomas Parry and to join the Gloucester Choral Society in a rendition of Jerusalem composed by Thomas's son Hubert.
You can read more about Freemasonry's historic links with our railways in this article by John Hamill from 2013: http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/features/parallel-lines-john-hamill-public-transport-railways-freemasonry