Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

Meet the UK's oldest poppy seller

Don't let the armchair get you

Aged 103, Wally Randall is the Tyler for three masonic lodges, turned on his town’s Christmas lights last year and is the UK’s oldest poppy seller. Peter Watts meets the legend of Leighton Buzzard

Resplendent in a suit and jacket, Wally Randall sits on a wooden pew with a military bearing that belies his years. He has been coming to this masonic temple in Leighton Buzzard for 53 years, which sounds like a long time, until you remember he is 103.

One of the country’s oldest masons, Wally is also the UK’s oldest poppy seller, something this World War II veteran is particularly proud of. ‘I go to our local Wilko – they let me sit inside,’ he says. ‘People say they come specially to get a poppy off me. It’s amazing how generous they are. A lot of people give even though they already have a poppy. I collected over £1,000 last year.’ 

This year’s Armistice Day had particular resonance for Wally. Not only did it mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, it was also 100 years since the death of his father, who served in that war and died of Spanish flu the day before the Armistice was signed. ‘It was rather tragic,’ he says. ‘It might be one of the reasons I started selling poppies. I thought the Royal British Legion did a really good job looking after people who need it.’

Wally is described as ‘a legend’ by fellow Freemasons Roger Wood and David Cato, who are full of stories about his escapades, such as the time Wally fell on to the garage roof while collecting apples from his tree back when he was a mere slip of a man in his nineties. Then there’s the time the doctor warned him his blood pressure was a bit high. ‘That was just before he turned 100. Wally told the doctor, “Well, I did have to cycle here – you can’t find anywhere to park on a Tuesday,”’ laughs David.

With that track record, a spot of poppy selling once a year is not going to get him too out of breath. What’s his secret? ‘Well, it might be a bit dull, but I’ve never been a drinker and I never smoked either – maybe the odd glass of wine during a lodge dinner but I don’t drink apart from that.’

Wally is careful about what he eats as well. At the festive board, he has the starter and dessert, but takes the main course home for his lunch the following day – the kitchen staff are only too happy to wrap up his meal. David thinks Wally is inspiring, ‘On his 103rd birthday he recited the 15-minute traditional history during the rituals, without any notes to read from. He keeps doing things, and tells us, “Don’t let the armchair get you.”’

KEEPING HIMSELF BUSY

Wally lives alone and still drives. As well as selling poppies and masonic activity, he was an active and enthusiastic gardener up until this summer, but now contents himself with directing his granddaughter around the plot. ‘Well, I tell her what I’d like her to do, but she won’t always do it,’ he grins. ‘She doesn’t like slug pellets, so this year I finished up with one runner bean and the slugs had the rest.’ In keeping with his philosophy of staying active, Wally doesn’t just attend weekly masonic events, but acts as a Tyler for three lodges. ‘It’s important to do stuff, you have to keep busy,’ he says. ‘That’s what like about masonry – being the Tyler, I get to meet the candidates and that’s always nice. It’s very interesting and I enjoy getting them ready.’

LOCAL CELEBRITY

The esteem in which Wally is held can be seen in the anteroom to the Temple. In a prominent position is Wally’s stout wooden Tyler chair, which was a gift from fellow Mark masons on his 100th birthday. Above it is a large framed ‘Where’s Wally?’ poster, a present from the caterers, with Wally’s face hidden among all the cartoon characters. And his celebrity status extends beyond the lodge. In 2017, he was invited to turn on Leighton Buzzard’s Christmas lights. 

Wally became a mason in 1965, but it was only when he retired at 70 that he began to take his involvement up a gear. Wally’s mother lodge is Leighton Cross, No. 6176, but he is also a member of Old Cedarians, No. 8078 and All Saints, No. 8776, the latter of which he founded. ‘When it first started, the subs were only £15 a year,’ he smiles, adding, ‘I really enjoy being with the brethren, we are all very close to each other. They look after me and keep me going.’ 

Having appeared in newspapers and on the BBC, Wally’s masonic contribution as well as his longevity have been widely recognised. ‘I got a certificate of merit after I’d been a mason for 50 years and another saying I’d been selling poppies for 50 years,’ he says, before declaring that he has no intention of stopping any time soon, even if he does need a break every now and then. Having spent a couple of hours in the lodge being photographed and interviewed, Wally remarks, ‘It’s fish and chip day isn’t it, so I’ll go home and have some scampi and then a little snooze.’

‘I really enjoy being with the brethren, we are all very close to each other. They look after me and keep me going’

Looking back

Born in 1915, Wally Randall left school at 14 and entered the print trade, working for the local newspaper, the Leighton Buzzard Observer. ‘I was a comp machinist and I did a little bit of reporting, following the football team and so on. I got halfpenny a line,’ he recalls. After leaving print, he moved into transport, but one winter found himself out of work because the roads were blocked by snow. ‘I cycled to the labour exchange to sign on and there were hundreds of people queueing,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want to wait, so I biked up to Luton to look for a job. I went to the Vauxhall plant and got a job straightaway. I was there for 40 years.’

Wally served as a magistrate and on the local council, and it was a fellow councillor who got him interested in Freemasonry. At around the same time as he discovered the Craft, he started selling poppies, inspired in part by his own experiences during the Second World War. He’d signed up in 1940 and served in North Africa and Italy. ‘I was in the service corps,’ he says. ‘The nearest I got to combat was at El Alamein. The army was getting ready for the push and we took the 4th Indian Division in there. There was an artillery bombardment, it was like fireworks. That was about as close as I got.’

Members of the Beda Widows Chapter in Bedfordshire have delivered a box full of TLC teddies to the paediatric team at Bedford Hospital

Nicola Lane, Paediatric Sister at Bedford Hospital said: ‘We are so grateful to Bedfordshire Freemasons for their never ending supply of TLC Teddies. When a child is admitted to an A&E department, it is a very scary environment, and quite naturally children are very nervous. 

'We find the provision of a TLC Teddy helps calm them down and allows the medical team to work with the TLC Teddy to treat the child.’

Martin Wilson, Charity Steward for the Province of Bedfordshire, said: ‘Since TLC Teddies started some 17 years ago, Freemasons have donated over 2,500,000 TLC Teddies to local A&E departments in England & Wales. We receive numerous “Thank You Letters” from grateful parents, telling us how the provision of a simple TLC Teddy has comforted their child whilst attending an A&E department.’

It’s the journey  that matters

Via Rolls-Royce, camper van, horse and cart, speedboat and tandem bicycle, Lifelites chief executive Simone Enefer-Doy travelled 2,500 miles in two weeks to raise the profile of this hard-working charity

Providing life-changing assistive technology, Lifelites helps the 10,000 children and young people in hospices across the British Isles live their short lives to the full. On 25 May 2018, the charity’s chief executive, Simone Enefer-Doy, set off on an epic road, air and river trip to spread the word and raise funds.

The 2,500-mile challenge, called Lift for Lifelites, was to take in 47 famous landmarks in England and Wales in just 14 days. For each leg of the journey, Simone received a lift from Provincial supporters in an eclectic mix of transportation. After setting an initial target of raising £50,000 for Lifelites, the total now stands at over £104,000. Simone says she has been astounded at the support and generosity she encountered as she travelled around the country. 

‘Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so many people would come out to meet me on my journey and support my challenge. We have received a terrific welcome wherever we have gone, and it really spurred me on to continue whenever I felt myself flagging. I would like to thank everyone – drivers, donors and venues – for helping to make Lift for Lifelites happen. We couldn’t have done it without you.’

If you’d like Lifelites to come to one of your Provincial meetings to make a presentation about Simone’s adventure and how the charity will use the money, please get in touch via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 0207 440 4200.

Published in Lifelites

Lifelites Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy has left Freemasons' Hall to kick-start her 2,500 mile journey to 47 famous landmarks to raise awareness of Lifelites and £50,000 for the charity

Dubbed 'A Lift for Lifelites', Simone will see Freemasons in nearly every Province in England and Wales and will be stopping at landmarks such as Hadrian’s Wall, Angel of the North and Bletchley Park in vehicles including a classic Rolls Royce, a camper van, a four seater plane, an E Type Jaguar and even a zip wire.

Simone said: 'With the help of Freemasons and their vehicles around the country, I’m on a mission to raise the profile of our work and raise more funds to reach more children whose lives could be transformed by the technology we can provide.'

We'll be updating this page regularly, including images, as Simone continues on her epic quest.

Day 14 – Thursday 7 June

That's a wrap! Simone completed her 14 day challenge and finished in style on ThamesJet speedboat with guests including United Grand Lodge of England Chief Executive Dr David Staples. Her fundraising currently stands at over £103,000.

Day 13 – Wednesday 6 June

It's the penultimate day, starting with a trip to Bedfordshire at the Shuttleworth Collection. The next stop was Silverstone racetrack in Northamptonshire, which included completing a lap in a Jaguar, before driving this to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. The last trip was to the home, studios and gardens of former artist Henry Moore in Hertfordshire.

Day 12 – Tuesday 5 June

Day 12 took in journeys across Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The first stop was Gordon Boswell Romany Museum in Lincolnshire before using two vehicles, a Hudson Straight Six Touring Sedan and a Range Rover, to Bressington Steam and Gardens in Norfolk. There was still time to grab lunch at Bury St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk before a BMW took Simone to her final stop in Cambridgeshire, which included a punt on the River Cam.

Day 11 – Monday 4 June

Simone crammed in four locations to start the week, with a wide variety of vehicles used. The day started in Yorkshire Sculpture Park before driving a 1977 Bentley to the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire. It was from here that Simone then picked up a DeLorean to take her to Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire before completing the day by driving a gold Rolls-Royce to Victoria Park in Leicestershire.

Day 10 – Sunday 3 June

The week concludes with trips to Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire and East Riding, as well as the news that Simone had already hit her £50,000 target. Trips included the Millennium Bridge in Northumberland, the Angel of the North and a scenic drive across the Yorkshire Moors to Bolton Castle.

Day 9 – Saturday 2 June

Day nine saw visits to the Provinces of West Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmorland, with landmarks including Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria and transport provided by a horse and cart.

Day 8 – Friday 1 June

Two Rolls-Royces helped provide the transport on day nine, with Simone starting at the Avoncroft Museum in Worcestershire, driving down to New Place in Warwickshire and then to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. There was still time to conclude the day by visiting Manchester Cathedral in East Lancashire.

Day 7 – Thursday 31 May

At the halfway point, Simone made trips to Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire – starting out at the Georgian Hall Dunham Massey, then heading to the RAF Museum Cosford in a custom built Rewaco Bike and finally, to Arthur’s Stone.

Day 6 – Wednesday 30 May

Day six was solely focused in North Wales where Simone took on the challenge of the fastest zip wire in the world. This was then followed by making the journey to Chester in a six month old blue McLaren Spider and flanked by the Widows’ Sons motorcyclists and Blood Bike volunteers.

Day 5 – Tuesday 29 May

Day five was a journey across the borders for Simone as she ventured to Oxfordshire before heading west to Monmouthshire and continued to South Wales and West Wales. Landmarks included Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, Caerleon Amphitheatre in Newport, the Donald Gordon theatre in Cardiff and ending the day in the county town of Carmarthen to meet the Provincial Grand Lodge of West Wales.

Day 4 – Monday 28 May

Simone began day four by driving an Aston Martin DB9 to the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare with help from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset. A 1928 MG Riley saloon then took Simone to her next port of call, Clifton Suspension Bridge where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bristol had a 1966 Austin Mini Cooper waiting to take her to Caen Hill Locks. It was here that Simone met representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, before the final stop of the day saw her clock up the miles to Shaw House in Berkshire to be greeted by members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire.

Day 3 – Sunday 27 May

Day three involved journeys to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It started with a visit to Lulworth Cove in Dorset to be met by members from the Provincial Grand Lodge in a yellow camper van and to receive a donation of £2,000. Simone then ventured to Buckfast Abbey to receive a donation of £5,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire before departing in a classic Rover to head to Lanhydrock House and Garden in Cornwall, where she received another donation of £1,750.

Day 2 – Saturday 26 May

Simone took to the sky for day two, meeting a representative from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and Isle of Wight who drove her to Southampton to board a flight to Jersey, to meet members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Guernsey and Alderney.

Day 1 – Friday 25 May

Simone has begun her challenge, leaving in a taxi escorted by a fleet of Widows Sons motorcyclists. This is the start of her 14 day road trip with a difference, using a variety of unusual and extraordinary forms of transport.

The next destination for Friday was Richmond Park where Simone was met by representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex after arriving in a Porsche 550 Spyder. Further destinations included Guildford Cathedral, where Simone was met by a Noddy car, and Brighton Royal Pavilion, where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex made a donation of £5,000.

Lifelites has a package of their magical technology at every children’s hospice across the British Isles and their work is entirely funded by donations. Through the journey they are seeking to raise £50,000 – that’s the cost of one of their projects for four years.

You can sponsor Simone by clicking here

Published in Lifelites
Tuesday, 09 January 2018 10:55

New Year Honours 2018

A number of Freemasons have been honoured in HM The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List 2018

Sir Andrew Charles Parmley

Andrew Parmley was appointed a Knight Bachelor for his services to Music, Education and Civic Engagement.

Andrew served as Lord Mayor of the City of London in 2016/17 and is currently the principal of The Harrodian School in West London. He has been an elected Member of Common Council since 1992, and was elected Alderman of Vintry Ward in 2001.

To celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations 130 Grand Masters from all parts of the world attended a reception at Mansion House on 30th October 2017, where they were welcomed by Andrew in his role as the Lord Mayor of London at the time.

John Allan Hunter

John Hunter, lately chair of the Argentine-British Community Council, was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the Anglo-Argentine community in Argentina in the Diplomatic Service and Overseas Honours list.

The Diplomatic Service and Overseas Honours List is in recognition of truly exceptional and outstanding service to Britain internationally and overseas.

John was Chairman of the Argentine-British Community Council from 2013 to 2016. The Argentine-British Community Council was founded in 1939 and its mission statement reads: ‘The object of the Argentine British Community Council is to promote the welfare of the Argentine British Community in Argentina.

‘With that end in mind it will assure the closest coordination and cooperation amongst its members, and the social, cultural and welfare entities of the Community. It will endeavour to assist and conduct all activities within the spirit of the Constitution and the Laws of the Argentine Republic, strengthening in this way the links between the Community and the country.’

John is currently Worshipful Master of The Pampa Lodge No. 2329 which meets in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is also the Assistant District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of South America – Southern Division.

John Mervyn Cornish

John Cornish was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in Stewkley, Buckinghamshire.

After moving to Stewkley in 1963 to a rented farm, John joined the Stewkley Village Hall committee in 1967 and 20 years later took on the role of Chairman. John has always considered the Hall to be his main hobby and during this time as Chairman, worked tirelessly raising money to ensure it stayed a viable community asset including two major refurbishments.

John is a member of Leighton Cross Lodge No. 6176 and in 2013, was named Past Provincial Grand Pursuivant for Bedfordshire.

PAUL ANTHONY WATSON

Paul Watson was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for voluntary services to veterans. He is the Vice Chairman of the Lee-on-Solent Branch of the Royal Naval Association.

Paul was initiated into Pendenis Lodge No. 7520 in Cornwall in 1985 whilst serving in the Royal Navy. Paul would later move to Bristol where he became a joining member of Jerusalem Lodge No. 686 in 1989, before going on to become a founding member of the Lodge of Seafarers No. 9589 in South Gloucester in 1995.

Paul eventually moved to Hampshire and joined Fareham Lodge No. 8582 in 2011, where he is currently the Lodge Caterer and Lodge Almoner. Paul was named Past Provincial Assistant Grand Standard Bearer for Hampshire and Isle of Wight in February 2018.

Professor Christopher Liu OBE

Professor Christopher Liu was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to Ophthalmology.

Christopher is a Senior Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton and has worked there for more than 20 years.

He was the first surgeon in the UK to learn a pioneering technique that involved restoring sight through the reconstruction of a new eye using a small plastic lens and one of the patient’s own teeth. Christopher also founded the Sussex Eye Foundation, a registered charity with an aim to create a state-of-the-art eye facility for the South East of England.

Christopher is a Past Master of Royal Clarence Lodge No. 271 and last year, was named Provincial Senior Grand Deacon for Sussex.

Do you know other Freemasons who were honoured in the New Year Honours list? Please let us know by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in More News
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 15:12

Big surprise for Bedfordshire school

Bedfordshire Freemasons have donated £6,500 to St Mary’s Church of England Academy, in the village of Stotfold, to purchase a new trim trail for its playground

Sarah Webster, who chairs the School Association, had been trying to raise the money without success until she casually mentioned it to her father, Tony Forwell, a West Kent mason.

Tony told Sarah that the Province of Bedfordshire could be in a position to provide some assistance. Sarah wrote to the Province and was ‘absolutely amazed’ when she received a letter from Provincial Grand Master Tony Henderson informing her that they would fund 100 per cent of the cost.

The homeless charity NOAH Enterprise (New Opportunities And Horizons) has been given vital support from Bedfordshire Freemasons with a donation of £45,000

NOAH operates an award-winning Welfare Centre in Luton, Bedfordshire, helping to find accommodation for those who are homeless, providing three hot meals, health services, washing facilities and specialist advice on key topics such as immigration and finance. The charity sees an average of 70 people a day and over 800 individuals in a year.

John Carter, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Bedfordshire, commented: 'We are very pleased to be able to help NOAH, who do really excellent work with some of the most vulnerable people in the county.'

The donation will allow the charity to fund a Welfare Support Worker, who will be working with more than 800 clients annually.

They will be helping clients address the underlying problems in their lives, developing individual support plans to help find accommodation, manage money and deal with physical and mental health needs, including addiction.

Jim O’Connor MBE, Chief Executive of NOAH, said: 'We are very grateful to Bedfordshire Freemasons for their generous grant which will help us to help hundreds of the most vulnerable people in the county. Our services have never been needed so much as they are right now.'

NOAH were also recently bestowed the honour of the 2017 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for 'Recognising the dignity and worth of homeless people by supporting them from the streets and into the community'.

Ambulance service flying high with funding boost from Masonic Charitable Foundation in Bedfordshire

On Sunday 30th April, Bedfordshire Freemasons attended the Icknield Road Club, 2017 Spring Sportive, at Redborne School in Ampthill

During the Family Fun Day, they presented a cheque for £4,000 to the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Anthony Henderson, the head of Bedfordshire Freemasons told us: 'Freemasonry in England is 300 years old this year, and charity is one of the foundations upon which Freemasonry is built. As part of our Tercentenary celebrations, we are giving an additional £3 million to local and national charities during 2017. This is in addition to the £30 million we annually give to charities and good causes. The £4,000 we gave to East Anglian Air Ambulance today is part of the £192,000 Freemasons recently gave to the 22 air ambulance and rescue services in England and Wales. This brings the total Freemasons have donated to air ambulance and rescue services in England and Wales since 2007 to £2.1 million.'

Amongst the Bedfordshire Freemasons was Wally Randal (pictured above holding his walking stick) a 101-year old Freemason from Leighton Buzzard. Wally, a former Desert Rat, a member of the Royal British Legion for over 60 years and the oldest poppy seller in England told us: 'A member of the air ambulance crew told me that the first helicopter flew in 1939 – some 78 years ago – and just one year before I joined the British Army to fight for King and country in the Second World War aged 24.'

Let the games begin

In 1989 a group of people who worked with pupils with severe learning disabilities and complex and profound multiple learning difficulties were concerned with the sparseness of athletic events in Bedfordshire for them once they had left school.

An athletics meeting was organised in July that year for teenagers and adults with severe disabilities which was so successful that it has been repeated every year since and continues to give great pleasure to hundreds of competitors.

Since then literally hundreds of people with these most severe difficulties have taken part and competed in these annual events which are always held on the first Tuesday in July at the Bedford International athletic Stadium. Last years’ total of 330 was exceeded this year with over 350 competitors in a total of 75 track and field events.

The Bedfordshire Freemasons' charity has assisted for many years, presenting prizes and certificates, and providing a shield to be for the most deserving team. This year the Bedfordshire Freemasons sponsored the Bedfordshire Games by donating £1,500 towards this very special event.

Eric Barford, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Bedfordshire Freemasons, said: 'We have supported this event for around five years now, as when we first became aware of it we were simply enthralled by the dedication of those who volunteer to make this happen and the joyous looks on the faces of the competitors. Events like this don’t happen very often and it offers so much to everyone who takes part so we are happy to support this.'

Freemasons of Bedfordshire recently presented 49 different charities with donations totalling £72,061

Lodge members from across Bedfordshire raised the funds over the past 12 months and gave it to charities and good causes such as Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK, Bedfordshire Games, Keech Hospice Care, Help for Heroes, Autism Bedfordshire, Alzheimer's UK, Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Bedford Hospital, Midshires Search and Rescue Organisation, Bedfordshire Scouts and Sue Ryder.

The event was held on 26th February at the Luton Masonic Centre with around 160 people in attendance. Each of the charities were presented with their cheques by the representatives from the supporting lodges or the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Bedfordshire, Michael Sawyer, who said: 'All the money that we raise comes from Freemasons themselves and it gives them great pleasure to be able to contribute to these charities and the wonderful work that they do.'

Each charity representative present at the event responded with expressions of their gratitude and how important the Bedfordshire Freemasons donations are in helping them reach their targets for support.

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