In their 50th anniversary year the members of Ashwell Lodge No. 4074 in Hertfordshire have raised a magnificent £15,000 which is being donated in equal share to a local children’s hospice and the Masonic Samaritan Fund
This generous donation has been raised through a variety of events including raffles and ladies' nights.
The Worshipful Master, W Bro Don Edwards explained: 'It took two minutes for our members to decide to support the Masonic Samaritan Fund. A Brother was recently supported by the Fund and he was greatly helped so we wished to take this opportunity to give something back.'
Richard Douglas, MSF Chief Executive said: 'On behalf of the Fund I am delighted to accept this very generous donation from the members of Ashwell Lodge which is gratefully received and will be faithfully applied in support of those in need of health and care support. In recognition of this generous donation I am delighted to present to Don Edwards the Lodge’s Grand Patron certificate.'
The generous £7,500 donation from Ashwell Lodge will enable the Masonic Samaritan Fund to restore five people’s sight after cataracts surgery or fund a lifesaving pacemaker.
Pro Grand Master family connection
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes was taken on a journey into his masonic lineage when he visited Berkhampstead Lodge, No. 504, in Hertfordshire, in which his great-grandfather, William Lowndes, was Master in 1893. A trawl through the lodge’s records by its Secretary Brian Meager revealed several documents and photographs that referred to the Pro Grand Master’s ancestor. The documents were copied and bound in a folder, which Brian presented to Peter Lowndes, who was made an honorary member of the lodge.
Masonic gift from 1883
Nearly 800 Hertfordshire masons and their families attended the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban for a service of thanksgiving and the rededication of a pulpit, a gift from English Freemasons in 1883. Most of the original funding for the carved stone pulpit came from the Province of Hertfordshire and three lodges in particular – Watford, No. 404, Gladsmuir, No. 1385, and Halsey, No. 1479.
Its £6,000 restoration, under the guidance of Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Orator and Cathedral Clerk of the Works, George Laverick, was made possible by many lodge donations, as well as three other local orders: Knights Templar, Rose Croix and Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.
At the service, Provincial Grand Master Colin Harris and Dean the Very Rev Jeﬀrey John both referred to the relationship between the Abbey and Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge, No. 8984, which regularly assists at major Abbey events. The restored pulpit is situated in the crossing of the cathedral, under the great Norman Tower.
When it comes to brightening someone’s day, never underestimate the power of fishing. Miranda Thompson signs up for an afternoon with the Masonic Fishing Charity to find out how young people are finding companionship and catching the smile
Matthew’s smile is radiant as the sunlight glints off the scales of the mirror carp in his hands. It’s reflected in the face of George Brutnall, the Freemason fisherman who’s helped him land perch and roach, and is now pointing out the translucent dragonflies. On one of July’s rare sunny days, this is not your usual fishing expedition. Organised by the Northamptonshire branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity (MTSFC), a team of volunteers together with 20 disabled and disadvantaged children and adults have gathered for a day of coarse fishing.
The proceedings are brought alive by the volunteer fishermen, who smile as their companions spray feed into the water – good for getting the fish to nibble around the bait. They spring into action as the fluorescent floats disappear under the water, the tell-tale sign that they’ve hooked a fish. The group will fish throughout the day, only breaking for lunch, before a special prize-giving in which every participant will be rewarded for their efforts.
Inside the gazebo-cum-kitchen, burgers are already sizzling ahead of the barbecue lunch. Chief executive of the Masonic Fishing Charity Ken Haslar recalls how, under the leadership of Jim Webster, a group of six Middlesex and London Freemasons with a common interest in fishing first came up with the idea 12 years ago. ‘We ran a raffle to raise a bit of money for something where the prize was a day’s fishing. The winner wasn’t a fisherman and he was partially sighted, so he said, “Don’t take me, take some children.” He organised it with a school he was associated with and so we had our very first event at Syon Park in Brentford.’
Ken explains that the original intention was for the day to be a one-off event: ‘But when the school left saying, “When can we come again?” we realised that we’d started something that was worth pursuing.’ Now some 1,400 volunteers are involved in the 60 events that the Masonic Fishing Charity will be holding this year, welcoming around 1,000 children across the country to fly-fishing as well as the coarse fishing events. ‘At the moment we have 25 branches in 25 different provinces,’ Ken says. ‘And we’re always on the lookout for volunteers. People are vital to us and they don’t need to be masons – about 60 per cent of our volunteers are not.’
But what is it about fishing that makes the day work? ‘Teachers find that the children who will run riot in class will happily sit here and hold a rod. I’ve lost count of the number of times that teachers have said to me, “Can we bring them here again?”’ says Ken.
Today, little blonde-haired Izzy – known by her teachers for her non-stop ‘twiddling’ and fidgeting – has stunned them by becoming quietly absorbed in the activity. Further down the bank, Freemason Richard Cullinan sits in companionable silence with William, who will later go on to win ‘Most Patriotic Outfit’ for his England cap and Union Jack wellies. As William sprays a shower of sweetcorn onto the still water, Richard reflects on the experience. ‘It’s incredible how much it’s grown since it started,’ he says. ‘The very first time I attended was at Syon Park, with a little girl who was blind. We caught the largest trout that day.’ Why does he come back? ‘I just like being able to do something for the adults and the children.’
That sense of companionship is the crux of the project, explains Ken. ‘They sit next to their fishermen who will show them as much as they are able to do. We say to them that it’s not for you to prove how good you are, but to show them how good they can be,’ he says, adding that there are also charity days for young offenders. ‘The relationship that’s formed is just as important. For many of these children, it restores a confidence in adults that they maybe don’t get at home.’
The day has certainly captured the imagination of teacher Nikki Clark, who is here with children from the Corby Business Academy. Pointing to a young teen in a pink baseball cap, she says: ‘If you see Jessica with Howard, she’s been a real star today. She’s never been fishing before and yet caught 20 fish this morning. She’s learning new skills, mixing with people she doesn’t know and really improving her communication.’
Nikki’s days out with the Masonic Fishing Charity have inspired her to create an AQA (Awarding Body for A-levels, GCSEs and other exams) award that children can gain if they do a day’s coarse fishing experience – with an award for the slightly trickier fly-fishing also in the pipeline.
‘We have a list of six different outcomes for them to achieve, then it’s accredited by AQA and they receive a separate external certificate. Anyone who is signed up to the AQA unit award can sign up to the unit and then be accredited for it.’
For Ken, the AQA award is the icing on the cake. ‘It’s amazing,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘It means that any special needs child or young adult can achieve something. It never ceases to amaze me.’
BENEFICIAL TO ALL
VIP of the day Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Northants & Hunts Dr Viv Thomas is in charge of presenting the certificates. He believes that the charity benefits Freemasonry just as much as its participants. ‘It takes Freemasonry away from the masonic halls and gets us out in the community. It gives so many people opportunities to get away from another existence. The most important thing is the joy that people have on their faces.’ Ken has coined the phrase ‘Catch the Smile’ to capture the mood of these days spent by the water. ‘We’re catching fish, we’re catching smiles,’ he says. ‘Why do people come back? We are all volunteers and what started as a simple idea of taking a few disabled children fishing has turned into a major organisation that not only catches fish but delivers a whole lot more – that’s the number one reason for everything we do.’
The hospice has strong links with the school, as does their chairman, David Ellis of Tudor Lodge No.7280. Hospice staff, including clinicians and nurses, were available to chat with guests about their work.
Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Master, Colin Harris, said, ‘Charitable giving is a huge part of Freemasonry and hearing from hospice staff really brings home how vital their work is and just how much financial help they need. This charity supports local people from across south-west Hertfordshire free of charge, and we are honoured to be playing a part in that.’
Hospice community fundraising manager, Gill Crowson, said, ‘This evening was really a celebration of the close ties between the hospice, the lodges and the school. We are very grateful for all the support they give to the hospice. All of us care deeply about our community and are well aware of the necessity to be available to those who need our help, both now and in the future.’
When the brethren of King Henry the Eighth Lodge raised substantial funds for the charity Canine Partners two years ago, wheelchair-bound Brian Haynes and his dog Beasley were invited to the lodge to receive a cheque for the charity. He was so impressed with what he saw that he became a mason.
Last year, Brian presented another cheque on behalf of the lodge for £3,000 to Canine Partners, which enables working dogs like Beasley to assist disabled people in living an independent life. The lodge, which meets at St Albans in Hertfordshire, wants to fully fund the training of a puppy through to it becoming a fully-fledged canine partner. With the 22-month training of a dog costing up to £12,000, continued fundraising is needed.
Once trained, the dogs’ repertoire is virtually endless: they can pick up the phone, open doors, take off socks, open refrigerator or washing machine doors, help an owner who may have fallen, summon help, switch the lights on and off, and go shopping with their owner, where they can take items from the shelf before gently offering the sales person a credit card or wallet.
When Freemasons’ Hall hosted the launch party for West End musical Rock of Ages, Anneke Hak slipped past the celebrities to find out what goes on behind the scenes
Jeremy Clarkson schmoozes with paparazzi on the purple carpet while Ronnie Wood’s ex-wife Jo Wood mingles with friends in the foyer. Glasses clink together, Champagne flows and loud chatter fills the room as the band takes centre stage in the Grand Temple. All the while, everyone is wholly oblivious to the fact that just one hour ago their spectacular venue, Freemasons’ Hall in London’s Great Queen Street, was a picture of organised chaos.
Having hosted some of the biggest events in the British social calendar, including London Fashion Week catwalk shows, Freemasons’ Hall isn’t afraid of glitz and glamour, it oozes it. However, the Rock of Ages launch party was a very different beast.
On 28 September, the production team had only a three-and-a-half hour slot between the departure of 700 Freemasons visiting from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hertfordshire at six in the evening, and 1,000 party guests arriving at 9.30pm. In this small time frame, they had to transform the building into a venue fit to celebrate a musical that takes audiences back to the times of big bands with big egos playing big guitar solos and sporting even bigger hair. The Grand Temple in Freemasons’ Hall needed to be fitted out with a dance floor, disco ball and stage for a rock band to perform on. No mean feat, especially considering how precious the Grade II-listed building is to hundreds of thousands of Freemasons.
Helping smooth the proceedings was Lee Batty, Production Manager at Stoneman Associates. As Freemasons left the Grand Temple, Batty’s team moved in, quickly assembling their scaffolding to start the mammoth task of hoisting the lighting and glitter ball 93ft to the top of the Temple roof, before focusing their attention on the dance floor and rock band sound check. ‘We did a little bit of prep work the day before,’ Batty reveals. ‘Well, I say a little bit, we worked eight hours to programme all the lighting, and then when we got into the venue we had to go hell for leather to get it all up and working.’
Technicalities of transformation
Of course, moving scaffolding, heavy lighting and sound equipment around an 80-year-old building, and one of the finest Art Deco creations in the country, can prove challenging. ‘I’ve not worked at Freemasons’ Hall before,’ says Batty, ‘but I’ve done events in historic palaces and English Heritage properties over the years. So I’m aware that you have to look after furniture and any element of the building that’s been there for a long time – you have to be very careful.’
As a result, every little detail is thought about months in advance, and some elaborate ideas are thrown straight out. Karen Haigh, Head of Events at Freemasons’ Hall, explains, ‘There was talk about hanging some Harley Davidsons from the ceiling at one point. I feel anything is possible, so long as I know it’s going to be safe.’
As the last piece of purple carpet is laid, the Rock of Ages signs go up and the façade of the glorious building is lit from below, Matthew Quarandon, Director of Moving Venues, makes sure all of his staff are in place to welcome the guests with food and drink, and one thing he can’t help but notice is how easy-going everything is. ‘Freemasons’ Hall seems to be very liberal,’ says Quarandon, who’s used to working in old, protected properties. ‘They’re allowing us to push cages across old stone floors and serve red wine on their marble floors upstairs.’
Most excited about tonight’s event has to be Grand Secretary Nigel Brown, who praises the great job Karen Haigh does booking events for the Hall and thinks these nights are the perfect opportunity to show the public that Freemasonry isn’t about secret handshakes. ‘Can you imagine, you’re at a dinner party and the lady next to you says, “You went into Freemason’s Hall? What did you go in for? A fashion show!”’ laughs Nigel. ‘It’s breaking all these myths and, although being teased about Freemasonry doesn’t matter much, people are often making a decision based on false impressions. I think hosting these events is changing people’s preconceptions.’
Batty admits that the mystery surrounding the organisation is a great reason to hold events like the Rock of Ages party at Freemasons’ Hall. ‘It’s nice that people come in and see it in a different light,’ he says. Karen Haigh agrees: ‘The best thing about it is that you bring a group of people that have never been in the building before and they come in and say, “Oh, wow!” It’s like opening a little package.’
So, after months of planning, which began back in June, how does it feel when it all finally comes together? ‘You get a massive buzz from the final product,’ admits Batty. ‘The response that we got when we opened the main doors to the Grand Temple was worth all the pressure.’
As the guitar amplifiers and purple carpet are packed up and glasses of half-drunk Champagne cleared away, all the hard work and preparation has paid off – the Rock of Ages launch party has been a brilliant success. So, the only question left now is when’s the next one?
Durham mason Michael Willis, who has lived in Bulgaria for six years, said, ‘I have visited numerous lodges in Bulgaria. However, while on a visit to a lodge in Romania with two Bulgarian brethren over two years ago, we discussed English Freemasonry and the idea of a new lodge was born.
The list of founders rose steadily and early in 2010 we received permission.’
The new Grand Master of Bulgaria, Ivan Sariev, consecrated the lodge in Bulgarian, followed by a team from Hertfordshire, led by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Allan Atkinson, who consecrated the lodge in English.
Masonry is growing in Bulgaria as Chris Radmore explains
The Past Grand Master of Bulgaria, MW Bro Borislav Sarandev, is an energetic and enthusiastic Freemason. During his term of office as Grand Master he was a leading light in the process that saw the two Grand Lodges in his country combine to become the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria and achieve recognition from the United Grand Lodge of England.
Bro Sarandev has also started the process of introducing the Royal Arch into Bulgaria and, through his efforts, suitably qualified Bulgarian brethren are being exalted into the Treaty of Uxbridge Chapter No. 8379.
There are many Freemasons within the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria who are anxious to learn more about Freemasonry and especially how it is practised in England.
To facilitate this, Bro Sarandev asked the Grand Secretary of England if he would arrange for a team to demonstrate Emulation working to Bulgarian brethren in Sofia.
So it was that in the middle of July a party of Freemasons from Hertfordshire, lead by the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Colin Harris, arrived in Sofia to demonstrate the three Degrees and the Installation ceremony in Emulation working.
In front of more than 100 Bulgarian Freemasons ranging from Past Grand Masters to the newest Entered Apprentices, the Hertfordshire demonstration team opened a Lodge in the First Degree and proceeded to demonstrate that degree.
This was followed by the Charge and then the team moved seamlessly into opening the Lodge in the Second Degree and passing the 'candidate' who had just been initiated, together with a full explanation of the Second Degree tracing board.
The following morning, in the same hotel conference room in Sofia, the team opened the Lodge in all three Degrees, resumed in the First Degree and proceeded to approve the minutes of the previous evening’s proceedings, as would take place in a normal Lodge meeting.
The Lodge was then resumed in the Third Degree and the ceremony of raising was demonstrated. After lunch, the team then proceeded to install the Master-Elect, with the RW Provincial Grand Master acting as Installing Master and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Allan Atkinson, acting as Master-Elect.
The hospitality provided by our Bulgarian hosts was unsurpassed and the timetable had been arranged so as to allow us to visit some historic parts of Bulgaria before departing homewards.
That weekend has proved to be the hors d’oeuvre. Many of the Bulgarian brethren wish to found a Lodge under the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria to work Emulation in English. This will be the first Lodge in Bulgaria to work any form of English ceremonial.
The consecration of this proposed new Lodge, which will be called Hiram, is scheduled to take place in Sofia on 8 April 2006. Our Bulgarian brethren have asked if RW Bro Colin Harris will undertake this task and the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria has asked the Grand Secretary if the United Grand Lodge of England will agree. Permission has been granted and planning for the event is now in full swing. Bro Harris will consecrate the Lodge and Bro Atkinson will install the first Master.
Chris Radmore is Masonic Assistant to the Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E