Celebrating 300 years

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

Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are currently in full training getting ready to do a 300-mile cycle ride marking their 300th anniversary and aiming to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Children's Hospice in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)

On 24th June 1717, four masonic lodges, which had existed for some time in London, formed the Grand Lodge of England which has since continued to administer the 7,000 lodges and it's 200,000 members across England and Wales.

Leicestershire and Rutland have 3,000 members which meet in the 76 lodges across the two counties. Masonic lodges are based in Leicester, Loughborough, Hinckley, Syston, Uppingham, Melton Mowbray, Lutterworth, Market Harborough, Oakham, Coalville and Ashby de la Zouch.

At least 35 Freemasons, aged between 22 and 70 years old, from over 20 different lodges will be cycling in June 2017 to each of the 11 masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland. They will then head to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall, Covent Garden in London. When clocking up the 300 miles they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London where the first Grand Lodge was formed before they head back to Leicester.

Simon Oldfield, keen cyclist and organiser said: 'Cycling 300 miles will be a test of all those taking part, everyone is motivated to do the training knowing that we are raising money for two very worthwhile causes as part of our Tercentenary celebrations. It has brought together cyclists of varying age, experience and fitness, building a real team spirit for the challenge ahead.'

The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Lougborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for organising their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry and for supporting Rainbows. Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice – fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families.'

The MCF supports Freemasons, their families and the wider community. David Innes, Chief Executive of the MCF said: 'Our work depends entirely on donations from Freemasons and their families across England and Wales, and we are continually surprised and inspired by the unique and challenging ways that they raise funds for us. We wish all participants in the Leicestershire and Rutland 300 mile bike ride the best of luck and thank them in advance for their hard work and generosity.'

The Provincial Grand Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, added: 'We'll be holding several celebratory events in 2017 and this charity bike ride is a perfect opportunity for our members to raise money for good causes by undertaking this physical challenge. We're keen to shake off our bygone image and this bike ride is a great example of this. Recently we have found that more younger people are attracted to Freemasonry as they seek a social environment with strong values and traditions that also supports the local community.'

He continued: 'During 2017, we'll also be opening the doors to our masonic halls for everyone to see inside and an exhibition on Freemasonry at Newarke House Museum in Leicester highlighting the contribution of Freemasons to our local communities. We hope this will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.'

500 supporters of the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity dined and partied the night away at Edgbaston on Friday 8th July to celebrate 25 years of HELIMED service to the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Staffordshire

The AIR25 ball and awards ceremony celebrated the special achievements of individuals and organisations who had made continuous and significant contributions to the charity over the quarter century of its existence.

In the category of Community Partner there was only one nomination, the Freemasons of the four counties, who between them had contributed over £1,100,000 over twenty-five years. This amount excludes personal legacies from Freemasons, which in themselves have been significant. The donations from Freemasonry have come from individual lodges, from Craft, Royal Arch and Mark Provinces as well as from other Orders and from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity.

It was appropriate therefore that on the evening the award was presented to W Bro Dennis Hill PAGDC, who is the Treasurer of the Staffordshire and Shropshire Mark Benevolent Fund; Treasurer of the Shropshire Masonic Charitable Association; Treasurer of the 2019 Shropshire Festival Appeal in aid of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and a Trustee of the Masonic Charitable Foundation! Dennis was presented with the award by television celebrity Rusty Lee. The stainless steel representation of a helicopter with the distinctive heartbeat logo displayed on all three Midlands Air Ambulance helicopters is a scale model of a very large sculpture which is soon to be prominently sited somewhere in the West Midlands.

The Midlands Air Ambulance Charity has helicopters based at Tatenhill in Staffordshire, at Cosford in Shropshire and at Strensham in Worcestershire and has carried out over 46,000 life-saving missions over the past twenty-five years. Recent high profile incidents include the Alton Towers ‘Smiler’ accident and the Sutton Coldfield stabbing of a pregnant lady. It is a fact that if a patient who has suffered a major trauma can reach hospital within sixty minutes they are several times more likely to survive. The Midlands Air Ambulances take the hospital to the patient - there are many alive today who without the service would have perished. It is all the more incredible that this important life-saving service is funded entirely by public, community and corporate donations. It receives no central or local government contribution other than a recent Libor grant of £240,000. Each mission costs a minimum of £2,500.

At the MAAC ball and awards ceremony Freemasonry was celebrated by the charity as its premier Community Partner over the past twenty five years. It is hoped that the award will, over the next twelve months, travel to each of the Craft masonic Provinces and to the Mark Province of Staffordshire and Shropshire and that the brethren of these Provinces will have an opportunity to see it.

Announcement to the Craft about Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas

Sent on behalf of the President, the Deputy President, all Trustees and Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation

'Following the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas have decided to leave the charity.

Both Laura and Richard have served their respective charities, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, as Chief Executives with distinction for the last 15 years.

We are delighted that Laura has agreed to stay on with MCF until the end of July to help with merger transition issues and to advise on the creation of a new strategic development function. Likewise, Richard Douglas, has agreed to stay on with MCF until the end of September to continue his important work in establishing the new communications team and function.

During the last 15 years, both Laura and Richard have made a huge contribution to the charitable activities of the Masonic community and achieved a great deal, including being heavily involved in the creation and launch of MCF at the beginning of April this year. We are sure that you will all want to join everyone at MCF in wishing them both well for the future.'

Published in Freemasonry Cares

A beacon for us all

James Newman, Deputy President and Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, explores the evolution of the charity

Our new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities operated, how they could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.

In those intervening 43 years, some attempts were made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established, with Freemasonry and society both changing beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.

So why has this review succeeded in getting over the finishing line? As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it’s all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.

We worked together for a good number of years on the review, had some robust discussions along the way, but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, most long-term and most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities?

Whilst the presidents have set the policies, persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their trustees to support the review’s recommendations, we owe a big debt to our four chief executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it.

Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures, they have ensured that the standard of service you all have come to expect has been maintained at a consistently high level. 

The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way. To do this, we will over time create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from both masonic and non-masonic communities. Of course, the existing funds of each charity will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised.

A trustee board has already been formed and has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, which are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the trustees.

So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and able to get your views across to the trustees and executive team? Membership of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will consist of the trustees as well as two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members’ meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.

We are about to create a very large and, we hope, nationally recognised charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries to make it a success.

‘How do we create the best, long-term and most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities?’

Building enthusiasm

HRH The Duke of Kent looks forward to the Tercentenary as an opportunity to show the non-masonic world how relevant Freemasonry is in modern society

The successful launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation at the beginning of April is a very significant milestone. The new charity has been formed following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities operated and how they could work together most effectively. 

A fundamental benefit of moving away from the model of four separate charities was to make the message easier to understand about what support and services are available to the many and varied stakeholders. 

I congratulate all those involved in achieving this.

The Tercentenary planning is progressing well, with the Provinces and Districts organising their own celebratory events throughout 2017, culminating in the main event at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2017. There is much enthusiasm building for this great anniversary. I see it also as presenting an ideal opportunity to demonstrate to the non-masonic world how relevant the organisation is in society today and that Freemasonry has a long-term future.

After the investitures, Right Worshipful Brother Nigel Brown retired as Grand Secretary. Brother Brown has supported and encouraged my open communications policy and brought both Provinces and Districts to a much closer relationship with Grand Lodge.

He has served the office at a time of rapid change and introduced new initiatives including mentoring and communications, to name but two, aimed at ensuring the future of Freemasonry. On your behalf I wish Brother Brown good health and every happiness in the future.

‘A fundamental benefit of moving away from the model of four separate charities was to make the message easier to understand.’

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

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.’

Common culture

The Masonic Charitable Foundation’s CEO David Innes explains how the charity aims to create a single organisation with a shared vision

After many years of careful planning, it was exciting when on 1 April 2016 the staff from the four central masonic charities finally transferred to the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the new charity at the heart of Freemasonry. At the same time, legal control of the four charities passed from their individual boards of trustees to the MCF Board. The next stage will be to integrate everybody into a single staff team with a shared vision and a common culture. I am optimistic that this will be achieved over the next few months. 

In parallel, the new MCF Board will be formulating ideas as to how it would like the Foundation to evolve. Their thoughts will be shared with the members of the MCF (two representatives from each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge) later in the year.

One of our early initiatives has been to provide a number of leaflets and videos, as well as an informative new website. In addition, presentations are already scheduled in many Provinces to ensure that members of the Craft can hear about their new charity first-hand.

Our first year will be challenging and it is vital that the needs of our beneficiaries remain paramount. With your help, I am confident we will meet that challenge.

‘Presentations are already scheduled in many Provinces to ensure that members of the Craft can hear about their new charity first-hand.’

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