Celebrating 300 years

Devonshire Court was opened on the 2nd of November 1966 by the Late Queen Mother

It was the first of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) purpose built homes to be opened after a period of about 116 years since the formation of 'the Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons' was opened in Croydon.

The event was attended by many invited guests and residents of the Home. W Bro David Watson a trustee of the Masonic Charitable Foundation addressed the assembled guests, and residents on the work of the Charity, and that of the RMBI. Devonshire Court was then toasted in the usual manner with a glass of bubbly.

W Bro George Stamp a Past Master and Chaplain of the Holmes Lodge No. 4656, a past first Principal of the St Peter’s Chapter, and a member of the St. Peter’s Mark Lodge delivered a eulogy on behalf of the late Fred Lifford who had on his death bequeathed substantial sums to both Devonshire Court, and the Market Harborough Masonic improvement fund.

W Bro George then unveiled a plaque naming the newly refurbished lounge Lifford Lounge.

The residents and guests then continued to enjoy the afternoon and the entertainment.

 

Published in RMBI

Bringing eye care into focus

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has provided £44,608 to SeeAbility’s Children in Focus Campaign to transform eye care at schools for children with learning disabilities over the next two years.

SeeAbility, which supports people with sight loss and multiple disabilities, will use the grant to part-fund a National Manager for Children and Families. This vital role oversees the running of a sight-testing research programme in specialist schools.

SeeAbility external affairs director Paula Spinks-Chamberlain, said, ‘We are delighted to receive this grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which will help us deliver more specialist sight tests in more special schools.’

Shropshire goes walk about

A band of walkers completed a 45-mile hike from the masonic hall at Constitution Hill, Wellington, to the masonic hall at Brand Lane, Ludlow, in Shropshire, in two 10-hour journeys.  

Deputy Provincial Grand Master Roger Pemberton, who had been on the walk, later travelled back to Ludlow for a meeting of the Lodge of the Marches, No. 611, where he received a cheque for £5,000 for the 2019 Festival Appeal in aid of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

Tackling food waste in the West Midlands

One of the first major grants awarded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has gone to FareShare West Midlands. John Hayward, Provincial Charity Steward for Warwickshire, visited the charity and presented a grant for £60,000 over three years, a contribution to the salary of the warehouse manager, together with assistance with transportation of food.

FareShare is a national operation with more than 20 centres. It is estimated that there are more than 3.4 million tonnes of food wasted every year by the UK food industry.

A day of festivities at the Raby Gala

Durham Freemasons celebrated a successful gala at Raby Castle on behalf of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).

The Gala was officially opened with the X Company Fifth Fusiliers band marching into the main arena followed by a horse and carriage transporting Provincial Grand Master Norman Heaviside, Festival Director John Thompson and MCF Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchinson.

Great North Air Ambulance director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe received a cheque for £4,000 from the MCF. Norman presented Les with a cheque for £250,000, bringing the total donated, just six months in
to the Festival, to £1 million.

Spreading the word

The Masonic Charitable Foundation’s Chief Executive David Innes reflects on how the charity is progressing in its goal to make support simpler to understand and easier to access

In the months since the Masonic Charitable Foundation launched, a great deal has already been achieved towards our ambition of a unified central masonic charity. Our staff have now come together as a single, stronger team, all the while continuing to deliver the same level of service that the masonic community expects and deserves.

In the first three months of operation we received almost 1,000 applications for support from Freemasons and their family members with a very high percentage (85 per cent) being approved. But we want to do even better – we want every masonic family to know we are here to help. 

The purpose of bringing together the four charities was to make our support simpler to understand and easier to access, with straightforward eligibility criteria and clear processes.

Our representatives have been delivering talks across the country for the past few months, our new website is now live and we have distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets. We are working hard to ensure that our message is heard, and we are relying on Freemasons to spread the word and make sure that no potential cases fall through the cracks.

‘In the first three months of operation we received almost 1,000 applications for support from Freemasons and their family members.’

Staff appointments

The staff structure for the Masonic Charitable Foundation has begun to take shape, as follows:

Relief Chest Director – Suhail Alam
Head of Community Support and Research – Katrina Baker
Head of Masonic Support – Gareth Everett
Head of Strategic Development and Special Projects – John McCrohan
Head of Communications and Marketing – Harry Smith
Provincial Support Programme Lead – Natasha Ward
Grants Manager – Gill Bennett
Financial Controller – Philip Brennan
Donations Manager – Sue George
Advice and Support Manager – Maggie Holloway
Marketing Manager – Rachel Jones
Digital Communications Manager – Heather Crowe
Fundraising Manager – Alison Lott
Legacy Manager – Duncan Washbrook
Administration and Support Manager – Sarah Bartel

Following the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas, Chief Executives of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund respectively, left the team during the summer. Everyone at the MCF would like to thank both Laura and Richard for their years of dedication and wish them all the best for the future.

Annual General Meeting

The first Annual General Meeting of the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be held on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London, from 3:15pm to 4.45pm

Setting the stage

Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jasmine Elcock is hitting the high notes thanks to strong masonic support for her family, as Peter Watts discovers

‘Jasmine has always been singing,’ says Julian Elcock, adding with a laugh, ‘She even used to sing in her sleep.’ Julian, a mason since 2008, is talking about his 14-year-old daughter Jasmine, who provoked standing ovations, tears and Golden Buzzers as she sang her way to fourth place in the final of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent.

The result of talent and hard work, Jasmine’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the masons, who provided financial and emotional support after her dad’s business collapsed.

Jasmine beams as she recalls her audition on Britain’s Got Talent when her performance of Cher’s Believe wowed presenters Ant and Dec so much that they activated the Golden Buzzer, which automatically put her straight into the semi-final. ‘When Ant and Dec ran on to the stage I thought they were going to give me a hug, but then they pressed the Golden Buzzer and everything changed. To touch people’s emotions like that was amazing.’

After the audition, the family drove all the way from London to Durham so Jasmine could appear at a masonic event. ‘We drove for four hours, but nobody felt tired because we were on such a high after what had happened,’ says Julian.

Tremendous support

As she progressed to the final, Jasmine received tremendous support from those around her. ‘My friends were very supportive,’ says Jasmine, who had to keep her involvement in Britain’s Got Talent secret for six months. ‘That was very hard – but when they found out, they leafleted the streets and put posters up asking people to vote for me.’

Jasmine is delighted to have come this far. ‘Just to get to the final and get fourth place out of thousands of people from all over the UK – as a 14-year-old, that’s something I’m proud of,’ she says.

More support came from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Les Hutchinson, Chief Operating Officer of the MCF, has known Jasmine for years, as he attends the same lodge as Julian, Fortis Green, No. 5145. ‘We always knew Jasmine was special,’ he says. ‘Julian would come to meetings with YouTube clips of her performing in talent contests. She was competing in Britain’s Got Talent on the same evening as a lodge meeting, so I encouraged all the members to get their phones out to vote.’

A way of life

The Freemasons supported the Elcock family with a grant to ease the financial distress they faced and provided a package of support for Jasmine and her brother Michael, including termly maintenance allowances and dancing and music lessons. In the time that the masons have supported her, Jasmine has also performed on the West End stage.

For the Elcocks, entertainment is a way of life. All three of Julian’s brothers are musicians and Jasmine’s brother Michael is a talented actor, poet and dancer, who has performed at London’s Barbican and studies at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. ‘Whenever Michael is looking for some advice for a song he turns to Jasmine and singing starts all over the house,’ says Julian.

Jasmine admires artists like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, whom she terms the ‘big belters’. Their diva approach seems a world apart from Jasmine’s unassuming personality, but she explains that their voices and how they presented themselves on stage inspires her. ‘It’s the hand movements, the gestures, how they stand,’ she says. ‘It helps me with my own performances. It’s the whole package.’

Both Michael’s and Jasmine’s talent has been nurtured by a succession of teachers and courses, while Jasmine has been attending talent shows for years. It takes discipline to make the most of such a talent, and Jasmine has to attend regular one-on-one lessons, complete singing homework after school, and watch her diet. ‘With using your lungs and diaphragm, you need to be fit,’ she explains.

Since the support of the masonic charities was fundamental in nurturing Jasmine’s voice, it’s no surprise that Julian describes his decision to join the masons in 2008 as one of the best he ever made. ‘Everything I read said it helped you to become a better person,’ says Julian, an accountant who ran his own transport business. ‘I met interesting people who could give advice and support, and developed rapport and friendships with people I could trust.’

‘They pressed the Golden Buzzer and everything changed. To touch people’s emotions like that was amazing.’ Jasmine Elcock

Making a contribution

When Julian lost his business in 2009, Les suggested he apply for help. ‘But I had a lot of pride and felt the business was always going to survive,’ remembers Julian. ‘Then I was given 28 days before the bank repossessed my house, and that was when I called the charity. It stepped in straight away and I also got back into employment. Through that, Jasmine and Michael could continue to develop. I can’t think what would have happened without that.’

Les is delighted that the support of masons has had such an inspiring, tangible result but emphasises that the MCF should not be seen as a last resort but a source of assistance as and when it is needed. ‘If you are a Freemason or the son, daughter, stepchild or grandchild of a Freemason and are in need of support, we urge you to come forward as soon as possible,’ he says. ‘I know that pride can be a stumbling block, but please come forward. We noticed in the last recession that we did not reach the peak in applications until about two years after it happened. People in need of support were struggling on for far too long.’

Mindful of the support she received from the masonic community, Jasmine has become a patron of the masonic charity Lifelites. Visiting children’s hospices and backing Lifelites’ fundraising campaigns, she is proud to take part and make a contribution: ‘Freemasons supported me and my family, so it’s nice to give something back in return.’

‘We always knew Jasmine was special. Julian would come to meetings with YouTube clips.’ Les Hutchinson

Triple backing for Midlands Air Ambulance rescue services

Three Provincial Grand Masters, Robert Vaughan (Worcestershire), Tim Henderson-Ross (Gloucestershire) and the Reverend David Bowen (Herefordshire) with his deputy Michael Roff, presented cheques totalling £12,000 to Midlands Air Ambulance.

Receiving the cheques was Michelle McCracken, fundraising manager at Strensham air ambulance base. The donations form part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation’s support for all of the 22 air rescue services in England and Wales, which since 2007 has totalled more than £2 million. An additional £6,000 was presented by the Reverend David Bowen from the Herefordshire Masonic Charity Association.

Grant underlines core values

A £20,000 Masonic Charitable Foundation grant to the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) will fund a social care caseworker to help people affected by spinal cord injury reintegrate into society.

The cheque was presented by Buckinghamshire Provincial Grand Master Gordon Robertson, who said: ‘This is one of the many ways in which masonic core values of friendship, integrity and charity are used to benefit the local community.’

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 01:00

Why the membership comes first

Here to help

Having had a career in the army and charities that has focused on safeguarding the welfare of others, Willie Shackell, new UGLE Grand Secretary, wants to ensure that Freemasons have all the support they need

Did you always want to be in the army?

Well, the first thing one has to decide is what career best suits you. In my early days, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to be a vicar or be in the army, but I ended up joining the latter. 

I went off to Sandhurst in 1960, was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1962, then went to the University of Cambridge from 1963 to 1966, which was paid for by the army. What a lucky chap. I came out as a young officer, having been a student for three years. It took me some time to settle back into army life, but fortunately I had a very persuasive Commanding Officer.

I then went off to the Naval Staff College and did a couple of tours in Germany as a Major before getting promoted and going off to Nigeria to the staff college in Jaji. I was 39 and the placement was an indication for me that I wasn’t in the top flight of Lieutenant Colonels. Throughout one’s career, one’s got to accept that there are people better than you and it’s a great lesson in life.

I got promoted in 1988 to Colonel and was made responsible for the army’s Welfare, Conditions of Service and Casualties Procedures. The Gulf War took place during that period and it was the first time in my army career that I’d had a large degree of autonomy. I brought in computer networks and extra staff and we ran a very successful operation. I was appointed CBE for this work, promoted to Brigadier and went to command a brigade up in York, before becoming the first Director of Reserve Forces and Cadets. Realising I wasn’t going to be a General, I retired at the age of 52 having had a great career and absolutely no regrets – I would recommend it to anyone. 

What did you do after leaving the army?

My attention was directed towards charities when I came to leave the armed forces. I felt I had an empathy with that side of life, having dealt with service welfare and enjoyed that aspect of work. 

I moved on to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and my first job was to set up a contract for SSAFA to run the community health services in Germany. We had a very successful partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and the Army Medical Service. I ran the department for three years, then supported the volunteer network and managed the housing assets for five years. My last five years on the staff were spent as Company Secretary, and I finished as the Vice Chairman of Trustees. During this time, I also held a number of posts in the voluntary sector.

When I retired from SSAFA, I applied to become the UGLE Grand Secretary. I was interviewed, but got a letter saying I hadn’t got that particular job. 

I was, however, rung up a little bit later and asked if I would be the President of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI). It was a total surprise, I can tell you, but I said yes and what a marvellous experience it was.

What was your agenda coming into the RMBI?

I suppose it’s rather like my agenda on joining any organisation. I go in, look at it for three months, and then decide what my goals are. There were a lot of plans for rebuilding care homes to bring us into the 21st century – I took the opportunity to go to all the care homes because I believed I couldn’t discuss change unless I’d visited them all.

I then looked at the trustee board. My feeling was that we needed to have more people with the right skills and I wasn’t bothered whether they were Freemasons or what gender they were. It was a culture change for the RMBI, but my reasoning was accepted and we brought our first lady on to the board. We put more emphasis on accommodating those with dementia, improved fire safety and updated the homes. It was a major undertaking costing about £35 million, but we had tremendous staff support and it all needed to be done.

After six years, I felt that I had achieved what I set out to do and when asked to do another four years I said no. I was then made President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund, taking over from Hugh Stubbs, who had been a quite outstanding president. I just had to keep the ship ticking along, which gave me time with my fellow charity presidents to start work on planning the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. My task was to coordinate the governance and then bring together the grant-making activities of the four charities.

Having retired as President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund on the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation at the end of April, I then got a phone call asking if I would take on the position of Grand Secretary on an interim basis. I spent a weekend chewing it over with my wife before accepting it on a three-day-a-week basis and on the understanding that I was fully accountable to the board. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

What is your approach as Grand Secretary?

Communication is the key to most things. Certainly at the United Grand Lodge of England, one of the first things I’m trying to do is to improve the internal communications. We’ve got a good team; we’ve just got to talk among ourselves a bit more.

My first goal is to get the trust and respect of the people here. Until you’ve got that, you’re not going to achieve a great deal. And probably the second most important thing I’ve tried to do is to make sure everyone understands that we’re all here as servants of Freemasonry. We’re here to support the many volunteers working in Provincial and District offices as well as any other Freemason with a problem – we’re the paid staff and our job is to help members promote the values of masonry out in the field, to understand it, to enjoy it and to have fun. 

‘I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career... but because I love Freemasonry.’ Willie Shackell

A lot of the administration of the building is done by the Chief Operating Officer, whereas I’m involved in the administration between the Provinces, the lodges and Great Queen Street. Freemasons should see me as the person they contact and I’m very content in that role. I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career or because I need to be employed but because I love Freemasonry and believe I can contribute to our future.

Why did you become a Freemason?

I joined Freemasonry back in 1963. My dear old dad had been a mason for many years; he became one before the war. Dad was in the Infantry, which hadn’t been very pleasant, and there were no counselling services for people like him. You just had to get on with life and re-establish yourself. After the war, life wasn’t easy. Dad was a teacher, which wasn’t particularly well paid, and as a child I could feel the tension. But whenever he went off to one of his masonic meetings with his little brown bag, he’d come back relaxed. It was noticeable.

I joined my father’s lodge at 22 in 1963. I found that wherever I was in the world, there was masonry. I joined the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany and went through the Chair; in Nigeria I joined the Northern Nigeria Lodge in Kaduna; when I went to Northern Ireland with my Territorial Army regiment, I attended the Belfast Volunteers Lodge; and in the Netherlands I joined a French Constitution Lodge. 

What do you want to have achieved by the time you leave?

I’d like to have improved the systems and internal communications and to have run a happy ship. We know people will grumble at us because we’re the headquarters, but we’re here to support them.

An American at the Naval Staff College once said to me, ‘You appear a really laid-back guy, but I can tell you’re paddling like mad underneath that water!’ Maybe he was right. I think I always want to do the best I can. I’ve never had a problem with accepting responsibility – I think I’m better at that than the fine detail. I’ve always had a vision as to what I want to achieve, and I’m a believer that as you aim for a goal the detail will get sorted as you get nearer to it.

Published in UGLE
Page 9 of 12

ugle logo          SGC logo