In Praise of the Frontline - Freemasons come together to honour frontline health workers

Wednesday, 01 September 2021

At 10am on 5 July, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), invited its 200,000 members to fly specially designed flags to celebrate a day dedicated to the NHS, social care and all the workers on the frontline who saved so many lives during the pandemic

UGLE is one of the core supporters of the NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day, alongside the Cadet Forces, English Heritage and the Women’s Institute. A £5 donation from every flag and length of bunting made will be equally divided between NHS Charities Together and the National Care Association.

Freemasonry for Women and the Order of Women Freemasons also joined the UGLE in this initiative, as Freemasons aimed to set a record for the number of flags raised simultaneously across the country.Freemasonry marked the occasion throughout the day.

At 11am, the UGLE headquarters in Great Queen Street raised the flag, while a trumpeter played the Last Post. At the same time, Freemasons held a moment’s silence to remember NHS workers and all those who have died from COVID-19. The day continued with a toast to the NHS at 1pm, and a cuppa was raised during afternoon tea at 4pm.

At 8pm, Freemasons joined the country in an evening clap for NHS workers, while church bells rang 73 times – one for every year of the NHS. There was a #timetotoast for all NHS workers to close the celebrations at 9pm.

Nearly 130 lodges and Provinces made a commitment to the raising of the flag and other elements of the day. In addition, Northumberland Freemason James Horner hosted a special live-streaming show from the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, featuring a compere, comedians, singers, readings, video footage and messages of support to raise money on the day.

As part of the commemorations, the Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) scheme, managed by the Freemasons, produced a limited edition of TLC teddy nurse badges for the medical staff who use the bears in their day-to-day work. Some 48 Provinces across England and Wales took part in the campaign distributing them to NHS staff. 

Freemasons have been donating teddy bears to NHS accident and emergency units for 20 years. Almost 3.5 million teddies have been provided to hospitals, minor injuries clinics and other NHS services to comfort young children during times of distress. Many Freemasons also volunteer hundreds of hours each year to manage the scheme, deliver bears to hospitals, campaign to raise funds and increase awareness through events and talks.

Pageant master Bruno Peek OBE, creator of NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day, said, ‘We are delighted that Freemasons, whose members come from all walks of life, are playing such a high-profile and active role to start this special day of celebration. It commemorates those within the NHS, social care and on the frontline, who undertake so much for us all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks a year, without any thought of their own safety.’

In addition, Dr David Staples, CEO and Grand Secretary of the UGLE and a consultant in acute internal medicine at Peterborough Hospital, said, ‘We are facing the greatest pandemic in living memory, and the NHS has never been so tested in its history. Its staff have been stretched beyond comprehension during the last year and they deserve our gratitude, our applause and all the support we can give.’

Since the start of the pandemic, Freemasons have been supporting the NHS in many ways. So far, they have donated more than £2.5 million to the COVID-19 effort and completed 18.5 million hours of volunteer work. The donation is being used to help with food, personal protective equipment, supplements for hospitals and hospices, funds for NHS workers and ambulances.

Freemasons have also offered their lodges as bases to administer the vital vaccinations. In Hertfordshire, for example, Halsey Hall is being used as a vaccination centre, supporting three local GP surgeries. It has been operational since 15 January and, once fully scaled up, around 1,000 vaccinations will be provided there each day.


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