When Augustus John Smith signed a lease to run the Isles of Scilly, he created an infrastructure that would transform living conditions for the poor

While the Victorian era produced countless well-educated young men from wealthy British families, Augustus John Smith stood out. Provincial Grand Master and Chapter member of both Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Smith saved the people of the off-islands of Scilly from starvation.

While Smith was in his 20s, his father gave him a very large sum of money. With such serious funds in a bank account, many young men would have embarked on the grand tour, seen Europe end to end and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. But Smith, a studious and serious young man, toured Britain, studying the working class – their living conditions, employment, finances and education.

Raised in Berkhamsted, Smith established two schools in his home town at his own expense, where ‘the three Rs’ were taught alongside instruction in industry. He suffered abuse from his peers for his support of the poor, with wealthy industrialists fearing that education would make workers unwilling to slave for the pittance they were paid. It was this opposition to progress that caused him to search for somewhere he could turn his dream of reformation into reality. Smith toured England and Ireland looking for such a place before setting his heart on Scilly.

A SCENE OF POVERTY

The needs of the islands, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and deemed ‘unprofitable’ by their previous tenant, were summed up in a Duchy Report that stated, ‘No corner of Great Britain stood in greater need of help than Scilly.’ A similar comment was voiced by the Rev George ‘Bosun’ Smith, who stated in 1818, ‘Oh, that some of our wealthy and benevolent countrymen, whose hearts are as generous as their means are ample, could but witness these things.’

After signing a lease for 99 years at an annual rent of £40, Augustus Smith was asked by the owners to pay a fine of £20,000 – a refundable surety, he was told. The off-islands were in a deplorable state; the Duchy wasn’t prepared to invest in its own property, yet it demanded this sum.

Smith also spent £5,000 building a new quay, and £3,400 on the parish church. A lesser man would have walked away, but not Smith. He arrived on Scilly in 1835 as Lord Proprietor and began a huge construction plan, offering employment and paying wages out of his own pocket.

EDUCATION FOR ALL

Smith set out a policy that cut to the quick of the old Scillonian ways. In future, every child would attend school until the age of 13. New dwellings went up, quays and roads were repaired, and new ones created, all at his own expense. He banned smuggling, introduced a magistrates’ court and upset a lot of people who were reluctant to change.

With no property on Scilly sufficiently large enough for his own personal needs, Smith built Tresco Abbey as his private residence, overlooking two lakes in the grounds of the old St Nicholas Priory.

One of Smith’s great passions was Freemasonry. He was initiated into the brotherhood in Watford Lodge, No. 404, in London in 1832 at the age of 27, and later became a member of numerous other lodges. In 1855, when he was aged 51, the Phoenix Lodge of Honour and Prudence, No. 331, in Truro sponsored his election as Deputy Provincial Grand Master; by 1863 he was chosen as the sixth Provincial Grand Master of Cornwall.

In 1872, Smith died aged 67 from gangrene of the lungs in Plymouth. Buried in St Buryan, Cornwall, he had in his lifetime worked tirelessly for the benefit of Scilly’s inhabitants. A hero to many, he got the post office to connect the islands to the mainland by telegraph cable, established a regular packet service, mail collection and delivery, and encouraged new enterprise including the island’s burgeoning flower industry.

Did you know?

Smith’s support of the poor was scorned by his wealthy peers, as they felt education would lead to demands for fair wages

Words: Richard Larn OBE

Published in Features

Freemasons from both Cornwall and Devonshire Provinces have joined together to present a life changing state of the art mobility scooter to a young Freemason

Sean Mitchell-England, aged 33, who lives in Plymouth, is a young member of St. Stephen’s Lodge No. 9147 meeting across the Tamar Bridge in Saltash, Cornwall. Sean has been struggling with severe health issues over the last few years which rapidly progressed into exacerbated hyper mobility and fibromyalgia. In this extremely short space of time, Sean has gone from being a fit and healthy young man to literally being bed ridden due to the severe pain he has to endure each day.

Following the relentless dedication of John Pritchard, a local visiting volunteer on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the process for acquiring the funds from the MCF for the chair has been relatively straightforward. What has been difficult and quite a complicated process was to have the chair custom built to suit Sean’s specific needs. The chair, having cost almost £4,000, will without any shadow of doubt be an absolute life changer for Sean. Having already taken delivery of it and with a few days of practice, it’s already making a massive impact with his mobility.

Sean said: 'I cannot thank John Pritchard enough for his persistence in assisting me with my claim; he has worked tirelessly to aid me and my family. Now I have this marvellous chair it will enable my wife Dominique and my two young daughters Ophelia and Talulah the added benefit of quality family time with me. I now have the means of unhindered mobility.

'Without the help and assistance of the Masonic Charitable Foundation I honestly have no idea what we would have done. Having struggled to work due to my fatigue and illness my daily living costs spiralled out of all control and as the sole earner in the family with a new born baby, I soon became unable to repay my mounting debts. At first depression set in followed by additional health issues together with further incurred costs and additional debt, which resulted in my embarrassment of having to declare myself bankrupt. I was at the lowest point of my life and I honestly knew of no other options. Things also became so bad we had to sell our personal items of any real value just to live. At that time, we thought we had no one to help us, not even family members could assist, and we ended up being given care parcels by the local authorities.'

Hearing Sean and his family’s plight, David Sands, the Worshipful Master of St. Stephens Lodge, stepped in to offer some advice. Following a few meetings together with John Pritchard, along with a few essential emails and phone conversations, it wasn’t long before the Masonic Charitable Foundation offered assistance. The Masonic Charitable Foundation have also helped Sean with his application for his Personal Independence Payment, which he was unable to complete himself due to chronic fatigue and pain he suffered.

John Pritchard commented: 'On meeting Sean it was obvious to see he and his young family were in desperate need of help. Not only was Sean unwell but he was completely embarrassed by his situation and I knew we would do everything to assist. Having made the initial enquiry with the MCF it wasn’t long before a plan of action was in place. Following the initial assessment it was clear that funds were needed urgently, which included food and even school uniforms for the girls. The Masonic Charitable Foundation assistance was exceptional and a termly allowance was agreed which included some ballet lessons for Ophelia. In my opinion the support I’ve received in dealing with the case on behalf of Sean and his family has been outstanding.'

Graham Bennett, the Provincial Grand Almoner for Cornwall stated: 'The working relationship between the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire  have been outstanding. The bond we’ve struck up together for this application, greatly assisted by the United Grand Lodge of England was essential to ensure the smooth application process would be signed off without any delay. My sincere thanks go to the brethren from Devonshire who have helped create a perfect result for a serious problem. To meet Sean and see him with his mobility chair is very humbling and shows what an incredible charity the MCF is.'

Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Sean has seen numerous doctors and a rheumatologist who initially explained what long-term complications he might expect. He has also received many treatments and therapies, but none have really helped and only made the condition worse or more painful for him.

Dominique, Sean’s wife added: 'Our youngest daughter Talulah turns two years old in a couple of days and Sean has not really been out of the house with her, for virtually 95% of her life. We cannot begin to express what a difference this mobility chair is already making, it’s absolutely amazing. We are now able as a family to enjoy the simple task of going to the shops. To see Sean enjoy his mobility and independence after so long of not being able to do anything, is very emotional. To all those who have helped us, particularly the brethren and the MCF, we will be forever grateful. We have been given an amazing opportunity to grow as a family once again.'

To conclude, Sean insisted on the final word: 'I have given my story as my way of thanking the MCF and the people who have worked with me during the last few years, as they are our unsung heroes in my eyes and have made such a big impact on my hopeless situation. I am starting to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Freemasonry.'

Over 50 Freemasons from the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire assembled in the Cornish seaside resort of Bude for the annual installation meeting of Granville Chapter

The members and guests were delighted to be able to welcome the leaders of both provinces, David Pascoe from Cornwall and Simon Rowe from Devon. The Masonic Hall was packed to near capacity to witness the installation of E Comp Charles Yelland as MEZ of the Chapter.

Also elected and installed to serve alongside him for the next 12 months were Derek Prouse as H and Mike Johns as J. This is the second year running that three companions living in Devon have held the top offices in a Cornish chapter.

After their installation, the Principals appointed and invested their team of officers to work with them. The appointments always include a Secretary, Treasurer, Charity Steward and an Almoner, and these posts were filled by Keith Taylor, John Weller, Mike Johns and Barrie Rose respectively.

After the main meeting, a celebration dinner was held in the refectory and a toast was proposed to the three newly installed Principals. The MEZ replied on behalf of the Principals, and thanked everyone for attending and supporting a very special and happy occasion in the life of Granville Chapter.

A raffle and bottle draw was also held during the meal and raised £310 for Masonic charities.

iSight Cornwall has received a significant donation of £15,000 via the Masonic Charitable Foundation Grant Awards

iSight Cornwall, who are based in Newham, Truro, were presented with a £15,000 Community Award from the Freemasons of Cornwall following a successful public vote organised with the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The Community Awards are a major part of Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary celebrations.

iSight Cornwall was one of six self-funded charities who were recently nominated by the Cornish Freemasons with everyone encouraged to vote, including family members, friends and the general public, the public vote deciding the level of Award each charity would receive. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is distributing three million pounds to 300 charities across the country, with awards ranging from £4,000 to £25,000.

It is estimated that there are some 22,000 people living with sight loss in Cornwall, a figure that is expected to grow to 32,000 over the next 15 years. Founded in 1856, iSight Cornwall is the only charity in the county dedicated to supporting people with sight loss to lead active and independent lives.

Terri Rosnau-Ward, Chief Executive of iSight Cornwall, said: ‘We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that took the time to vote for us, we really appreciate your support. This award will help us to extend our Community Development service so that we can reach even more people living with sight loss across Cornwall and to give them the support and advice they need. We would especially like to thank the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall for nominating us for these amazing MCF Awards.’

Mike Pritchard, the Provincial Grand Charity Steward for the Province of Cornwall, commented: ‘The response we’ve received to the MCF Awards, nationally, has been outstanding, but especially so here in Cornwall. The support for the six self-funded charities nominated has also been immense and shows how much local charities mean to the Cornish communities. I feel extremely proud to have been invited to present this award and see for myself what an incredible charity iSight Cornwall is.

'The support and equipment available to visually sight impaired people is staggering, I’ve seriously had my eyes opened to some very special equipment that I didn’t realise even existed, but clearly is essential to so many.’

The Provincial Grand Master for Cornwall Stephen Pearn added: ‘To have met so many wonderful Cornish charities in the last few years is a truly remarkable and emotional experience. The welcome, together with the extra special tour I received at iSight Cornwal,l has been extremely special and a day I will remember for a long time to come.

'To present £15,000 to this special charity fills me with joy knowing what a difference this will make for them and it’s so well deserved. The support all the charities have received in these MCF Awards has been staggering and I sincerely wish to thank everyone – especially the Cornish public for their support.’

To find out more about iSight Cornwall’s services please click here.

The Freemasons of Cornwall have donated £25,000 via the Masonic Charitable Foundation Grant to the Cornwall Blood Bikes charity, after it received the most votes in a countywide public poll

Thanks to this remarkable donation, the charity is buying a brand new 1200cc BMW response bike and two further second-hand bikes upgrading its ageing fleet that runs throughout the year in all weathers.

Cornwall Blood Bikes was one of six self-funded organisations in the county to be nominated for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) Awards, which saw £3 million handed out to 300 charities and other organisations across the UK as part of its Tercentenary Year of celebrations.

All 80 Lodges, their Brethren, together with family members and friends took part in the vote. The promotion and support for the MCF Grant Awards within the local communities resulted in an unprecedented local response.

The Blood Bikers received the highest out of a £58,000 pot of cash for Cornwall, with iSight Cornwall receiving £15,000, Bosom Buddies UK £4,000, Penhaligon’s Friends £4,000, Young People Cornwall £4,000 and Ellie’s Haven Cornwall £6,000.

The volunteer bikers, who transfer life-saving medical supplies out of hours across the county and further afield saving the NHS in Cornwall around £250,000 each year in taxi fares, arrived at Truro Cathedral to meet the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cornwall, Stephen Pearn for the official cheque presentation.

Ian Butler, Fundraising Manager for the Blood Bikes, thanked the public and Masonic Lodges of Cornwall for their amazing support: 'To have this amount of money donated to us is fantastic. It is an iconic day in the Blood Bikes history. We have been overwhelmed by the public response and want to thank the Freemasons across all of Cornwall for their support. It would take nearly two years and a lot of hard work to raise that amount of cash.

'We have already ordered a brand new BMW that is due to arrive in April next year. We are also buying two second-hand bikes to replace two in the fleet that have clocked up 140,000 miles each. The new bikes will cut down on maintenance and off-road time as well as making us more efficient. This is a brilliant start to our campaign to update our fleet of machines.'

Speaking at the official presentation, Provincial Grand Master Stephen Pearn said he was delighted for the Blood Bikes: 'The donation from The Masonic Charitable Foundation will literally save lives and it’s also a great way to advertise what the charity does. Cornwall’s Masonic Benevolent Fund has been supporting a lot of communities across Cornwall for many years. It’s a great organisation that is fun to be a part of as well as helping others. Our members come from all walks of life.”

The Charity Steward for Caradon Lodge No. 8543, who meet in Saltash, Ross Fisher, has been giving blood since he was 18 was especially pleased with the Blood Bike's donation: 'Since 1995 I have been donating platelets (these are formed in the blood and help it clot and to stop bleeding). Last week was my 250th donation. I have four times more platelets in my blood than the average man. I keep fit and well and feel very proud that I’m able to help others in times of need. The Blood Bikes are a dedicated team giving their time to keep such a vital service running.'

Also attending Saturday’s presentation were several volunteer bike riders local to the St. Austell area. The oldest member of the Blood Bikes team, Conrad Dowding 80, from Launceston, who is still enjoying life on two wheels, said: 'I joined the charity after I lost my wife, Pam to breast cancer. I couldn’t do anything to help her which is why I joined the Blood Bikes team. It was my way of giving something back. I feel part of a great team that is working together to do something worthwhile. We get no NHS funding, we use our own bikes and we work out of hours and can be called on at anytime.'

Five other local Cornish charities also won substantial grants totalling £33,000 and can be viewed here.

Following a brief encounter with young Marshall Janson - the exceptionally courageous quadruple amputee who was violently struck down with Meningococcal Meningitis, aged just one year - Freemason Mike Trevorrow from Penwith Lodge No. 8538 in West Cornwall, made it his ambition over a 12-month period to organise a fund-raising campaign with the support of fellow Lodge members

Marshall had just celebrated his first birthday on the 22nd December, 2008. A few days later on Boxing Day morning, Marshall was rushed into hospital following an attack of the brutal, unforgiving disease, Meningococcal Meningitis. While Marshall thankfully escaped brain damage, regretfully, due to the devastating effects of the disease, he had to have both his hands and both his legs amputated. Marshall is now facing a lifetime of rehabilitation while adapting to the use of prosthetic limbs.

Because Marshall is so young he will continually require new prosthetic limbs as he grows. He will however, celebrate his 10th birthday in a few months. To put this into perspective, Marshall will require at least one pair of hands per year, and then every year until he is 18. Marshall's first legs cost £9,727 each and his first hands cost £14,172 each. As Marshall continues to grow, and as the functionality required from his prosthetic limbs increases, so too will the costs. Those costs will easily escalate upwards of £850,000 - £950,000.

Mike has dedicated the last 12 months of his Masonic career by visiting the local Lodges from Penzance to Perranporth. During the business agenda of the Lodge meetings he’s visited, he has been allowed to address the brethren and inform those present of his aims and ambitions in support of young Marshall.

Mike Trevorrow said: ‘I was so upset hearing about Marshall’s plight that I had to do something to help this incredible young lad. It really touched me and I simply couldn’t imagine for one minute how he and his family cope each day. Right away I knew I could do something to assist, especially with the support of my fellow brethren, so I set out with a goal to try and raise £1000.

'The support I have received has seriously moved me to tears. Each Lodge has its own special charities they nominate and fund raise for throughout their calendar year, and yet every single Lodge I’ve attended without hesitation have helped boost my fund. It was only recently as the 12 months drew to a close was I given the final figure raised, by my Lodge Charity Steward. I’m absolutely delighted to report but virtually lost for words at the same time to announce we’ve raised the unbelievable sum of £2,000. I simply cannot thank everyone enough for all they have done in supporting Marshall and myself.'

A presentation was arranged at the Masonic Centre in Perranporth for Mike Trevorrow and representatives of all the Lodges who donated funds to assist in helping to present the money raised to young Marshall Janson and his father Moss.

Fellow Freemason Martin Brockman said: ‘Mike made it his goal to set out and fund raise for Marshall and he’s delivered in true style, we are so proud of him and in awe of his determination. Today was such a privilege for all those who attended todays presentation as Marshall is such an incredible inspiration for everyone. I could never imagine how anyone could cope with the life altering changes that he has had to deal with. To meet Marshall and watch him adapt to daily life and the surroundings of a Lodge room here today, is amazing.'

Marshall didn’t need any prompting from his father Moss, as he proudly sat in the Worshipful Masters chair in the Lodge room, he turned and said to Mike: ‘Thank you for all you have done to help me, you are so kind.'

The cost of providing Marshall with a decent quality of life is quite breathtaking - and beyond the resources of Marshall’s family or, indeed, most families. It is because of the huge cost involved that the family have launched ‘HANDSTAND -The Appeal for Marshall Janson’.

For more information on the HANDSTAND Appeal and to donate, please click here.

The final journey of the Provincial Tercentenary travelling banner made its way through Cornwall on Saturday 14th October, terminating with a Civic Parade through the streets of St. Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly

The Provincial travelling banner has been specially designed by all eight Provinces that make up the South West region. Each of these Provinces have enjoyed being the custodian of the banner throughout its entire journey arriving at many special locations.

The final leg was supported by the Provincial Grand Masters for Cornwall, RW Bro Stephen C Pearn, and Devonshire, RW Bro Ian Kingsbury, together with a special guest, the United Grand Lodge of England's Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton.

Despite the arrival of the impending Storm Ophelia, the weather, whilst overcast, remained dry and warm. Proceedings started with a bumper lunch at The Mermaid Inn on St. Mary’s Quay, followed by an enthusiastic Civic Parade in full Masonic regalia through the streets, which was supported by local islanders.

The parade continued its way through the streets until it reached Godolphin Lodge No. 7790, where those who had paraded assembled in the Lodge room together with several lady guests to hear an historic oration by the Provincial Orator for Cornwall, W Bro Mike Murton.

The special events then concluded with a Festive Board held in the stunning conservatory at the Star Castle Hotel.

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 00:00

Somerset deliver Tercentenary banner to Devon

Despite inclement weather, the Province of Somerset safely delivered the special south west Tercentenary banner to the Province of Devonshire in the magnificent Exeter Cathedral

The banner recognises the special fraternal bond that exists between the South West Provinces and has toured to the Provincial Grand Lodges of Jersey, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Devonshire will pass it on to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall later in the year.

The Provincial Teams from Somerset and Devon paraded in regalia and met in the nave of Exeter Cathedral where the banner was formally passed over.

Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devon, greeted one another and expressed their delight to be able to publicly show and acknowledge the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.

Thursday, 24 August 2017 06:00

The Classic 300 makes it mark at Land's End

The latest Classic 300 run saw the travelling gavel cross the River Tamar, affectionately known as the Cornish border separating Cornwall from England

It arrived safely in Saltash, which is located in the South East of Cornwall, to begin the Cornish Leg of the Classic 300 on 20th August 2017.

The idea for the Classic 300 was conceived by the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club (now Square Wheels) to celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary. A series of 15 non-competitive classic car runs taking place in England and Wales throughout the year, it was launched back in May at Windsor Great Park when the first vehicle was waived off by The Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent.

Hosted by the Cornwall Masonic Classic Car Club, 12 cars from across the county braved the wet conditions, created by the tail end of hurricane ‘Gert’, to converge at the designated starting point.

Before embarking on the 120 mile plus coastal trail, the travelling gavel, which was fashioned from a Jaguar ‘Con-Rod’, was formally handed over from Bro Kit Marquand to W Bro John Cole PAGDC, in anticipation for the next stage of its epic journey to the most South Westerly point in the England.

The route deviated from what would traditionally be the quickest road to Land’s End, with the cars peeling off towards the historic town of Looe at Trerulefoot. This was the start of a series of B roads that would dominate the day, winding their way down through to Lostwithiel and beyond towards Fowey.

The route ended with everyone arriving at the final destination of Land’s End with the addition of a beautiful post vintage Austin RP Standard. It was here that the finish line arch was inflated and positioned behind the iconic ‘Land’s End Sign Post’ – a real challenge to achieve in the wind, situated 250 feet above sea level and perched on top of the cliff.

Roy Harry-Young, one of the passengers from New Zealand, and a relative of one of the entrants, volunteered to act as an anchor holding on to the guide ropes behind the arch whilst the gavel was presented to the Provincial Grand Master of Cornwall Stephen Pearn. The sign post itself adorned the Grand Lodge address.

Roy Harry-Young commented: ‘I am not a Freemason myself, but I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and sense of inclusion that I have felt today. These sorts of events really put a human perspective on to your Fraternity, making them very visible and accessible to a greater audience. It’s obvious everyone is having a great deal of fun and sharing in a common passion of classic cars.

'This morning I never dreamed that I’d flown half way round the world to hang off a cliff holding on to a giant inflatable arch!’

Published in More News

A Surrey Freemason will be donning his hiking boots and preparing to take part in the Nijmegen March this July

Spread over four days from 18th – 21st July 2017, W Bro Nigel Feltham will be taking part in the 101st International Four Day March in Nijmegen, Holland, for the fourth time.

During the four days, Nigel Feltham will be walking approximately 100 miles, alongside a total of 47,000 starters of this popular event. He will be joined by his friends Andrew Bignold and Cornish Freemason Michael Wierenga, who is also a member of Stoneleigh Coronation Chapter in Surrey and will be completing the walk for the ninth time.

Nigel Feltham commented: ‘The party and carnival atmosphere in the village every night is incredible, hundreds if not thousands of walkers sharing their experiences of the day. The last day is the best, with bands playing and people cheering; it’s a very emotional experience with a medal waiting for you at the finish line.’

Nigel Feltham will be raising money for the Surrey 2019 Festival appeal, with proceeds going to the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI).

You can sponsor Nigel Feltham by clicking here

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