Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

Modern masons: Arthur Vaughan Williams


After a car crash in 2007 left him paralysed from the waist down, Arthur Vaughan Williams’ military career came to an abrupt end

At 21 years old, Arthur had to rethink his entire life. ‘To go from peak physical fitness to somebody who can’t control two-thirds of their body – it’s unimaginable,’ he says.

Bedridden for six weeks, Arthur was incapable of showering, dressing or even sitting up without help. It took two months of painful rehabilitation before he was allowed to return to his parents’ house. Gradually, Arthur began to rebuild his life piece by piece, starting with his initiation into White Ensign Lodge, No. 9169, in 2008.

‘My dad was a Freemason, and his father before him, so it’s a path I’ve always been interested in,’ he says. ‘As a military lodge, it’s no coincidence that many of the Freemasons there are successful, but it’s not through greed or selfishness. It’s because we want to lead a good life, to raise a decent, good family and to play our role in society well.’

With this newfound positivity, Arthur threw himself into his sporting passions. But it was television that gave Arthur his big break. After submitting a video to a national talent search, he was chosen as one of six new disabled presenters to front Channel 4’s coverage of the 2012 Paralympic Games. Since then, his career in television has allowed Arthur to combine his passions for flying and presenting on the documentary series Flying To The Ends Of The Earth.

‘Obviously my accident completely changed my life,’ says Arthur. ‘Back then, the young boy in me wanted to blow everything up and burn it all to the ground. But now, as an adult, I want to create, to have something to show for my work that I can always be proud of. It’s the only direction my life could’ve gone if I wanted to survive.’

What does the Tercentenary mean to you?

‘In the 21st century, particularly in 2018, we are losing the basic human ability to share and love one another. Freemasonry, 300 years on, is helping keep that alive.’

Published in Features

In 1986 I was invited to join my brother to become a Freemason and a member of Grove Park Kent Lodge. During my tenure I have been fortunate and humbled to have been Master of the Lodge twice (1994 and 2001) as well as various other offices of which I am currently Lodge Secretary. As a mason I have been involved in much charitable work both masonic and non-masonic, as many of us are, however in 2012 my involvement in the charity sector took on a new meaning to me when I was elected to become the chair of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. I would like to share a little of how this charity was formed and why it has had such an impact on my life.

Barry and Margaret Mizen lost their son Jimmy five years ago. He was only 16 when he was murdered by a 19-year-old during an unprovoked attack in a bakery in Lee, southeast London. It was a senseless crime that shocked the nation.

But the horrific nature of the attack is not the only reason that the crime is remembered. Almost the whole country, it seemed, was moved by the quiet dignity of Jimmy’s parents. In the immediate aftermath they spoke eloquently of their grief and love for their son, and about how their faith allowed them to feel empathy for the family of Jake Fahri, who was convicted of Jimmy’s murder.

They called for peace and forgiveness, not retaliation, and then they asked a listening Britain to make society more safe, courteous and fair. These seemingly instinctive remarks - and the courage the Mizens showed at a time of great pain - meant that the horrific crime has had a positive legacy.

Barry and Margaret, devout Catholics and parents to eight other children, have since become high-profile campaigners, called upon for their unique view of the criminal justice system as they set out to change young lives. The couple, who still live in southeast London, have visited more than 200 schools and pupil referral units throughout England in the years since their son’s death, speaking to thousands of children about violence and the consequences of crime.

Their close working relationship with the nation’s schools started just a few months after Jimmy’s death, when a friend who worked as a school chaplain at St Michael’s Catholic College in Bermondsey, southeast London, asked them to come in and tell their story. Neither had done anything like it before, but both admit that they have since ‘grown’ into their new role.

‘We are so fired-up to want to do things for Jimmy. We want to do it; we feel like we have something to say,’ Barry says. They are determined to get their message across: ‘A peaceful response will bring about change.’

When they are with pupils, Barry and Margaret first explain what happened to Jimmy and share pictures of their son. They stress the importance of caring for one another. Children respond to the Mizens’ message, often listening in rapt silence. But pupils can and do ask questions. Among the most frequent are how the couple managed to forgive, if they cry much and how their eight other children are coping. Sometimes pupils want to hug the couple, and many come up to them afterwards to try to express their sadness about Jimmy’s death.

After the sessions, teachers often comment that some of the children had initially complained about having to sit through ‘another’ talk on knife crime.

‘When they came in for the first time to speak to Year 11, they were phenomenal,’ says Grainne Grabowski, head of St Michael’s. ‘They spoke calmly and quietly, but you could hear a pin drop because the impact of their story was so strong. They had a completely different approach and children were very touched by what they had to say.’

Barry and Margaret have since returned to St Michael’s several times; pupils recently made them a picture of Jimmy composed of individually decorated tiles. Speaking to the couple, it soon becomes clear that endlessly reliving the horrific events of May 2008 is not easy for them or their family, but they are determined to create something good in Jimmy’s name.

Before Jimmy’s death, neither of his parents ‘had spoken to half a dozen people’ publicly. Now they have made speeches to thousands. The response to Jimmy’s case, Margaret says, has helped them to do this. ‘If you share something personal, it provides a safe place for another person to do the same; it allows them to open up.’

The Mizens’ campaign is not complicated. Nor is it revolutionary. They simply want children and teenagers to contribute to their community, to make it a safer, better place.

The Jimmy Mizen Foundation

Through the Jimmy Mizen Foundation, the charity created for their work, they have encouraged teenagers to organise ‘100 days of peaceful events’ to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. At the end of these 100 days, on 28 October 2012, they held a concert in London, with tickets given as a reward to children.

‘We want to encourage young people to do something for their schools and local communities,’ says Barry, who still works in the family shoe repair business. ‘We find when they are given responsibility, they grab it with both hands and are excited by it. All of us have a responsibility towards our communities.’

Such work has made the Mizens household names and brought celebrity backers for their campaign. London Mayor Boris Johnson, broadcaster Dermot O’Leary, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Saracens rugby team have signed a ‘Release the Peace’ car, which is currently travelling around schools, spreading the message.

‘For some children, the only stability they have in life is at school,’ says Barry.

The couple are insistent that discipline in schools should not be confrontational, and should instead be about firm guidelines. One of the most striking aspects of their involvement in schools is their grasp of the day-to-day details. They explain how early intervention, including ‘managed moves’ of children to different schools, can benefit them.

‘It is so important to catch children early on. If you speak to teachers, they are able to look at their class and make accurate judgements about which children have particular problems,’ Barry adds.

The Mizens feel Jake Fahri’s problems should have been spotted sooner. Instead they built up ‘little by little’ and he ended up taking their son’s life. For this reason, the Mizens also visit adult jails and young offender institutions.

‘So many people stay locked up for life. We say we should prevent them from getting there. Society should be ashamed by the number of young people who get to that situation and have ended up committing horrendous crimes,’ Margaret says.

Rather astonishingly, Barry adds that ‘children in these situations (often) have a lot of natural leadership. We should help them use their skills for something positive rather than negative.’ It is this kind of extraordinary observation - and their determination to see the best in some of society’s worst - that makes the Mizens remarkable and has, most recently, seen them team up with St John Ambulance, through Youth United, to start to provide joint workshops that benefit from their testimony and the practical first aid skills of St John to increase the number of leaders participating within uniformed youth organisations. They have optimistically targeted 500 new leaders.

Following Jimmy’s death, his parents made a pact not to cry in public because they ‘don’t want people’s pity’.

‘We can scream and shout but it won’t bring anybody back,’ says Margaret, quietly. But in their work, they make a very real difference to those who are still alive.

Barry and Margaret Mizens actions, I feel, are closely linked to the values of Freemasonry. However, I do not know whether I could have responded in the same way if I had lost one of my children or grandchildren in such tragic circumstances. Additionally, I am in awe of how they found the strength to act upon those values every day over the last five years through the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. What I do know is that being a mason has allowed me to be in a position to help them. Being a mason have given me the skills to manage a culturally diverse team of people with a shared aim. I am thankful to the members of Grove Park Kent Lodge for supporting The Foundation in various fundraising activities.

I take my membership in Freemasonry as seriously as I will take my role as chair of the Foundation, not only because of the responsibilities these jobs include but also because Margaret Mizen is my cousin and the death of her son has had an impact not only on myself but also on my family as a whole.

If you wish to find out more information on the Jimmy Mizen Foundation then please visit www.jimmymizen.org

A year to remember

With the help of Freemasons around the country, the Grand Charity provides an invaluable service to those in need

For many people 2012 will be a year to remember, from visions of bunting and the Queen’s Jubilee to the sporting excellence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Yet many people struggled due to financial problems, illness or other difficult circumstances. The Grand Charity exists to help these people in need – Freemasons, their families or the wider community – and 2012 was no exception.

Masonic relief

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity received over two thousand applications for financial assistance and approved support of more than £5 million. The charity noted a continued increase in applications from younger members facing redundancy and business difficulties due to the economic crisis.

Support for the wider community

The charity provided £2.5 million in funding for non-masonic charitable causes. This included continued support for research into age-related deafness; support for ex-Armed Service personnel with grants for Help for Heroes and Combat Stress; and support for projects that tackle youth unemployment, which grew to 20.5 per cent in 2012.

Air Ambulances

2012 saw the Grand Charity celebrate more than £1 million in grants to the Air Ambulances and equivalent services since 2007. These grants provide funding for what is considered to be the country’s busiest voluntary emergency service. In 2012, each Provincial and Metropolitan Grand Lodge presented a share of £192,000 to its local service.

Hospice services

In 2012, £600,000 was distributed amongst two hundred and thirty-nine hospice services, bringing the total given since 1984 to £9.9 million.

We hope it is clear how valuable the work of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity is. The impact achieved through its funding might be difficult to measure, but it is immense. It is only thanks to the support of the Freemasons and their families that the charity is able to make such a contribution to people’s lives.

The grants listed above are only a small selection of charitable causes that have been assisted by Freemasons through the Grand Charity in 2012; a full list is available to view at www.grandcharity.org

Enclosed within this issue of Freemasonry Today you will find the Grand Charity’s Annual Review 2012 – we hope you enjoy reading it.

Published in The Grand Charity

For well over a decade Herefordshire Freemasons have sponsored a named horse at the Riding for the Disabled Centre at Holme Lacy. One such horse was aptly called Mason.

The present horse, Gypsy, took part in the recent Paralympic procession in Hereford, and is a most suitable horse in the Holme Lacy stable for riders who suffer from cerebral palsy.

Presenting the annual donation to Janet Alderton, Manager of the RDA Centre, Mike Roff, the newly appointed Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, expressed the continued support of local Freemasons for the Centre’s excellent and significant work with the disabled.

In the photograph, Mike Roff is accompanied by the Yard Manager Helen Powell, with Gypsy back at the Centre following a few weeks of freedom 'in the fields'.

Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2012

As we all know, time seems to go by at an ever-increasing rate and, with that in mind, our great celebrations in 2017 are not that far away. Just think, as the Mother Grand Lodge of the world, we will be the first Grand Lodge to reach three hundred years – what a fantastic milestone.

On this subject I want to address a point of huge significance. The Pro Grand Master in his last Quarterly Communication speech, which you can read in this issue’s Senior Insights, stressed that this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to celebrate the occasion is for everyone. It is quite simply the members’ celebration. To that end we will be working tirelessly with the Provinces and Districts to make this a memorable experience for us all.

Our magazine continues to go from strength to strength and this is supported by a recent online readership survey. We were particularly impressed that forty-six per cent of our readers’ wives and partners are now enjoying the magazine. I have also just heard that Freemasonry Today has been shortlisted for an award by an external body as a membership magazine that has made the most progress for its readers. This is fantastic news.

In this issue, we find out about brethren who are inspiring communities, challenging preconceptions and contributing to society. We fly back to the Second World War to find out how Squadron Leader, mason and secret hero Jerry Fray played a covert but hugely important role in photographing the destruction wrought by the Dambusters.

We explain why RMBI homes are now using pioneering techniques that focus on the quality of life for someone with dementia. And we go along to the ihelp finals to report on how Buckinghamshire Freemasons are giving young people the chance to show they care about the communities they live in.

I hope you enjoy the issue and that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Published in UGLE
Saturday, 22 September 2012 12:18

Colin plays a part in the London 2012 Olympics

Sometime last year whilst browsing online newspapers, Colin Shannon of Bootle Pilgrim Lodge No. 1473 read an article about the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and how the organisers were looking for volunteers.

Colin’s application was accepted and he was invited to 3 Mills TV studio in London for an audition where he performed various pieces of choreography and other routines.

The following day, he received an email calling him back for a second audition where the choreography was more complex. Six weeks later whilst on holiday in India with his wife Vilma, the email came through confirming he had been successful. It was champagne all around that night.

He was to have 26 rehearsals and due to the timings of them, would mean about 40 nights in London. It was a huge commitment to make and meant he would have to make some adjustments. Fortunately, he did not have to miss too many lodge meetings and, being a once in a life time opportunity, he accepted.

His first rehearsals were at 3 Mills. That was where he first met Danny Boyle as he explained his vision and what he hoped to achieved. Danny was hands on all the time and Colin saw him at most of the rehearsals. He was very approachable and spent a lot of time 'chatting' in general to people. It was whilst he was at 3 Mills that he had his costume fit.

His next rehearsal site was on a piece of ground at the old Ford plant in Dagenham. The area was set up with a big top to have talks, leave bags etc. Outside there were two areas set up each the size of the area of the stadium enabling two segments of the show to be rehearsed at the same time.

Eventually, rehearsals were moved to the stadium itself. Walking into the stadium for the first time and seeing his segment set out in the centre of it brought it home as to what they were doing. Colin says that when he was in the centre, just looking around at all the stands and seats it sent a shiver down him knowing that there would be 80,000 people sitting there watching them in addition to the 1,000,000,000 or so people around the world on TV.

After a few rehearsals there, the time came for his first dress rehearsal in front of an invited audience of 40,000. Lined up in the vomitory waiting the cue to go out, Colin says he could see the stands on the opposite side of the stadium full of people. That, the general music, lighting effects and then the sudden beating of the drums was a sure way of getting the adrenalin flowing. After receiving his cue, they went out fully focused on their roles. Colin said he could not describe the feelings he, and others, had when the audience applauded them.

The following dress rehearsal was even more intense as the participants had been given tickets for their families to attend. That was to an audience of 60,000.

The big day of the opening ceremony came. When they were called to go to the stadium, he recalls it was very impressive to see thousands of people in the various costumes walking to the stadium en mass. His section, which was the industrial revolution, had a thousand people involved all dressed in old style working clothes, then there was the NHS section all dressed in old nurses’ uniforms. Following them was a variety of costumes from the different eras of music.

Before entering the stadium they were held in another area of the Olympic Park. As they walked through the park and approached the stadium, the world’s media was lined up alongside the route filming and photographing them. Some of were stopped for a quick interview. Colin gave a quick interview to an Australian TV company. Closer to the stadium, there were volunteer workers lining the route, applauding and wishing them good luck.

Lined up ready to go on, the atmosphere was electric. As his group reached the end of their segment after performing their choreography, the choreographer Steve Boyd spoke through their in-ear monitors and said how amazing they looked and pointed out that they were the closest people on the entire planet to the Olympic rings. All too soon it was over and after their bow, they left the stage

Colin says “The entire journey from getting invited to the first audition, to final bow has been an incredible experience, it is one I will never forget and one that I felt honoured to have been part of.”

A few weeks later Colin also took part in the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Freemasonry and the Olympics

Gold doesn't tarnish

Susan Snell, Archivist and Records Manager for the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, reveals connections between the Craft and the Olympics

The London 2012 organisers revealed in 2011 that they received applications for more than 20 million tickets from 1.8 million people for the Olympic Games – more than three times the 6.6 million tickets available to UK sports fans. Compared with this mad scramble for tickets, attendances at the first London Games were low according to The Times on 18 July 1908. Expensive ticket prices, ranging from five shillings to a Guinea (£45 to £60 in today’s money) were blamed for poor sales. 

Thankfully, visits by the Royal Family boosted gate returns to the 1908 Games, with over 20,000 people attending the White City Stadium, constructed by the entrepreneur and Freemason, Imre Kiralfy. The masonic connections do not stop there. A keen sportsman and Freemason, Lord Desborough fenced at the unofficial Athens Games of 1906 and served as a member of the International Olympic Committee until 1913. Desborough was initiated in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford, on 23 February 1875, the same day as Oscar Wilde.

The games begin

The 500 British athletes at the opening of the Olympic Games wore caps and blazer badges manufactured by the masonic regalia company, George Kenning & Son. Britons achieved sporting success in real tennis (jeu de paume), athletics, swimming, boxing, tug of war and cycling, with several masonic participants, including Richard Wheldon Barnett of St Alban’s Lodge, No. 29, London, who represented Great Britain in the rifle, military pistol class competition.

This was just the beginning of the 1908 success stories. A Great Britain team won the gold medal in the Olympic football competition, with Vivian John Woodward, an amateur player at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs, scoring the second of two goals. Woodward, from Clacton, Essex, worked as an architect with his father and later designed the Antwerp stadium for the 1920 Olympics. Four years after his Olympic triumph, he was initiated in Kent Lodge No. 15, London.

Sir John Edward Kynaston Studd carried the British team flag and most track and field events were organised by the Regent Street Polytechnic, founded by Quintin Hogg. Studd became honorary secretary of the Polytechnic from 1885 and after Hogg’s death, president. Many sportsmen, including Studd, joined Polytechnic Lodge, No. 2847, after it was consecrated in 1901.

Studd and others formed Athlon Lodge, No. 4674, in 1924, the year Harold Abrahams won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres, as featured in the film Chariots Of Fire, beating an American, Charley Paddock, and another British athlete, the New Zealand-born Freemason, Sir Arthur Espie Porritt. Bronze medal winner Porritt, who later served as Governor-General of New Zealand, became a consultant surgeon and then chairman at the Royal Masonic Hospital from 1974 to 1982. Athlon Lodge member Abrahams and Porritt dined together on 7 July at 7pm every year to celebrate the anniversary of their double medal success in 1924, until the former died in 1978.

British sporting success

With the 1908 Games encouraging participation in competitive sports, Britons excelled at subsequent Olympic competitions. The Thames-based rower, Jack Beresford, won a silver medal in the single sculls at the 1920 Olympics and then won medals for rowing at each of the four subsequent Games. He carried the British flag at the opening and closing ceremonies of the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the double sculls. He was initiated as a Freemason in Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, London, in 1944.

Forty years after its first visit to UK shores, the Olympics came to London again. Ernest James Henry ‘Billy’ Holt, who was initiated in Black Horse of Lombard Street Lodge, No. 4155, in 1922, served as director of organisation for the 1948 London Games. Holt, Master of Athlon Lodge in 1938, had coached the long-distance athlete, Gordon Pirie.

Cycling Freemasons, Gordon ‘Tiny’ Thomas, formerly of Lodge of Equity, No. 6119, Yorkshire West Riding, won a silver medal in the team road race and Tommy Godwin, formerly of Lodge of St Oswald, No. 5094, Worcestershire, won bronzes in the 1km time trial and in the team pursuit. Godwin coached the British cycling squad at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be an Olympic torchbearer in Solihull in July, aged 91. This blend of local and national interests, where Olympic and masonic aspirations combine, points to a time when members and non-members can enjoy the pleasure of a game well played, and a race well run.

 Sport by all
The Paralympic Games, which began at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948 also have masonic ties. Professor Guttman, director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the hospital, encouraged WW2 veterans to play sport for rehabilitation. The Middlesex Masonic Sports Association has supported Paralympians, including Tracy Lewis, basketball, and Anthony Peddle, weightlifting, at the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Grand Charity contributes to WheelPower (formerly the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation).
Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport exhibition at the Library and Museum on Great Queen Street runs from 2 July-21 December 2012
Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Neil Smith is 2012 Paralympic torchbearer

Carrying the torch

To coach a world champion is the pinnacle of the career of many coaches, but to achieve this twice takes a very special individual

Since 2005, Monmouthshire Freemason Neil Smith has lifted athletes to some of the greatest heights in Paralympic world cycling, well supported with grants from masonic charities in the Province.

Neil cares passionately for his individual riders, and they have shown their gratitude by successfully nominating him as a 2012 Paralympic torchbearer. His first world champion cyclist, Jody Cundy, benefitted from Neil’s coaching, which was paramount in his transition from Paralympic swimmer to cyclist. Now he has a second world champion, Mark Colbourne, who won the Paracycling World Championships in Los Angeles in February.

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