Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are currently in full training getting ready to do a 300-mile cycle ride marking their 300th anniversary and aiming to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Children's Hospice in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)
On 24th June 1717, four masonic lodges, which had existed for some time in London, formed the Grand Lodge of England which has since continued to administer the 7,000 lodges and it's 200,000 members across England and Wales.
Leicestershire and Rutland have 3,000 members which meet in the 76 lodges across the two counties. Masonic lodges are based in Leicester, Loughborough, Hinckley, Syston, Uppingham, Melton Mowbray, Lutterworth, Market Harborough, Oakham, Coalville and Ashby de la Zouch.
At least 35 Freemasons, aged between 22 and 70 years old, from over 20 different lodges will be cycling in June 2017 to each of the 11 masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland. They will then head to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall, Covent Garden in London. When clocking up the 300 miles they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London where the first Grand Lodge was formed before they head back to Leicester.
Simon Oldfield, keen cyclist and organiser said: 'Cycling 300 miles will be a test of all those taking part, everyone is motivated to do the training knowing that we are raising money for two very worthwhile causes as part of our Tercentenary celebrations. It has brought together cyclists of varying age, experience and fitness, building a real team spirit for the challenge ahead.'
The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Lougborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for organising their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry and for supporting Rainbows. Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice – fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families.'
The MCF supports Freemasons, their families and the wider community. David Innes, Chief Executive of the MCF said: 'Our work depends entirely on donations from Freemasons and their families across England and Wales, and we are continually surprised and inspired by the unique and challenging ways that they raise funds for us. We wish all participants in the Leicestershire and Rutland 300 mile bike ride the best of luck and thank them in advance for their hard work and generosity.'
The Provincial Grand Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, added: 'We'll be holding several celebratory events in 2017 and this charity bike ride is a perfect opportunity for our members to raise money for good causes by undertaking this physical challenge. We're keen to shake off our bygone image and this bike ride is a great example of this. Recently we have found that more younger people are attracted to Freemasonry as they seek a social environment with strong values and traditions that also supports the local community.'
He continued: 'During 2017, we'll also be opening the doors to our masonic halls for everyone to see inside and an exhibition on Freemasonry at Newarke House Museum in Leicester highlighting the contribution of Freemasons to our local communities. We hope this will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.'
W Bro Martin Oliver and Mike Rowe from St Mary's Lodge No. 7164 presented three local charities with £250 each which has been generously donated by its members
Representatives from Motor Neurone Disease in Leicestershire and Rutland, Parkinson's Disease Melton Mowbray Support Group, and the Melton and Rutland Branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society each received the award at a presentation ceremony at Freemasons' Hall, Wicklow Lodge, Melton Mowbray on Saturday 30th July 2016.
Martin Oliver said: 'Some of our members have been affected by the illnesses supported by these wonderful charities and we're delighted to be able to offer these donations to help the local community.'
On the 3rd June 2016, the Uppingham in Rutland Lodge No. 9119 presented a cheque for £925 to the Leicester Hospitals Charity to be spent on treating children with rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints resulting in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.
The master, W Bro Chris Cockerill said: 'Those who have had contact with someone who has this painful disease understand the impact it has on them. However, to have this as a child brings further challenges and one that I wished to contribute towards in order to help them. We think this disease is something we may get when older and forget that people can get rheumatoid arthritis at any age.'
The cheque was received in a presentation by the Master to Kamlesh Mistry of the Leicester Hospitals Charity who thanked the members of the lodge for their fantastic support in raising the money which will go towards helping children with the disease.
Wally's proud moment
W Bro Walter Greenwood, a Past Master of Commercial Lodge No. 1391 which meets in Leicester, has recently received the Legion d’Honneur Medal presented by the French Government for his contribution to the liberation of France during the Second World War
The Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur is the highest French order for military merit, established 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte.
Bro Wally joined the RAF in 1943 at 18 years old and chose to train as an Air Gunner in preference to either a Flight Engineer or Wireless Operator. His initial training was based on Wellington and Sterling Bombers before converting to Lancaster Bombers and was duly assigned to 106 (Bomber) Squadron based at Metheringham, Lincolnshire.
Wally recalls: 'On arrival at the Squadron we were all put in an aircraft hangar and instructed to sort ourselves into crews over a three day period. It was naturally essential that the individuals in a crew got on with each other and I agreed to join a crew after meeting some fellow recruits in a pub.'
He began operations soon after and was very actively involved in supporting the D-Day landings. The instructions were to drop the bombs and then fly into France before turning for home, thus avoiding aircraft on following missions. Wally said: 'I clearly remember spotting and being attacked by Fokker Wolfs at which point I, in no uncertain terms, told my pilot to fly into the clouds and make a quick turn to escape.'
In total, Wally completed a total of 34 operations with several entries in his log book detailing when they were hit by flak (anti-aircraft shell fire). The 106 Squadron lost a total of 59 Lancaster bombers by the end of the war with the loss of over 1,000 airmen.
Wally subsequently transferred to training and it was during one of the training sessions when the Wellington bomber he was flying failed to take off correctly. Wally’s quick reactions enabled him to jump out and roll off the wing to safety albeit suffering with two fractured hips. Sadly, the rest of the crew did not survive.
He was invalided from the RAF as a Flight Sergeant in 1944 and completed his civilian life as a plumber. Bro Wally was initiated into Freemasonry in 1962 and was Master of Commercial Lodge in 1978. He was promoted to PPJGW in 2004. He was Exalted into Royal Arch in the Granite Chapter No. 2028 and was MEZ in 1986.
Wally’s survival during the war was, as he puts it, 'down to having a good pilot' but he thoroughly deserves his appointment to Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur having risked his life to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.
Treasure trove returned
On May 17th 2016, the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger received, on behalf of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, a magnificent collection of masonic jewels, regalia and documentary material from the surviving children, Dr Anthony Howe and Mrs Elieen Mann, of W Bro Harry Billson Howe who was part of the vibrant textiles business in Leicester.
Dr Howe discovered the hoard in a case at his home in Poole, Dorset and contacted the Lodge of Gratitude No. 5614 via its website. W Bro Richard Brocklehurst of the lodge subsequently arranged a meeting, with representatives from several lodges and chapters, at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester so that the collection could be returned.
W Bro Harry Howe was initiated into the Commercial Lodge No. 1391 in 1919 and became the first Junior Warden of the newly consecrated Holmes Lodge No. 4654 in 1924, becoming its third Master in succession to his friends and business colleagues from Leicester's industrial core industries, W Bro George Hunt and W Bro Sir John Corah.
W Bro Howe was a Lewis and his father also had a distinguished masonic and business career, and has a memorial window in the St Katherine's Chapel at Leicester Cathedral. At a Provincial level, W Bro Howe served for many years as Provincial Director of Ceremonies and was honoured by receiving Grand Rank as PAGDC. W Bro Howe was also heavily involved with the Holy Royal Arch degree and the Ancient and Accepted Rite in both of which he also received Grand Rank.
W Bro Howe was a keen supporter of the Leicester Union Lodge of Instruction and it was through that body that the Lodge of Gratitude came to be formed as a token of thanks from the Union Lodge's preceptors for the fellowship they had enjoyed. W Bro Howe was the 'Primus' Master of the lodge and he was given a particularly fine jewel in token of this. Despite leaving Leicester, he retained his subscribing membership to the Lodge of Gratitude while accepting honorary membership of Holmes Lodge and St Margaret's Rose Croix Chapter No. 92.
W Bro Howe’s regalia, which was generously and thoughtfully returned by the Howe family, include collars and jewels for various Grand Rank appointments, and also a number of highly valuable and precious jewels in connection with his appointment in Holmes Lodge and the Lodge of Gratitude. In addition to the regalia and jewels, W Bro Howe's papers include a considerable number of fascinating items giving insights into the life of freemasonry between 1919 and 1960.
However, it was not just masonic material which was received. There was a wealth of matter relating to the Howe family business which was situated in Curzon Street and Birstall Street and which ultimately became part of the Curzonia Group. This will be invaluable in the staging of exhibitions to demonstrate the links between Freemasonry and Leicester's industrial heritage. In addition, material relating to his service in the Great War was also received when he was involved in espionage behind the German lines as an agent for what is now known as MI6.
Kidney disease exercise in Leicester
A group of scientists from the University of Leicester, funded by Kidney Research UK together with the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, are working towards understanding which exercise methods will best help people with kidney disease to stabilise their conditions.
Dr Alice Smith and a team of doctors, psychologists and physiotherapists, all based at Leicester General Hospital, aim to determine how exercise can help kidney patients maximise their health, quality of life and independence.
Royal Arch club formed by Leicestershire and Rutland
Following the success of Craft Freemasonry social groups such as the Light Blue clubs, the Royal Arch Executive in Leicestershire and Rutland has sanctioned the creation of a similar scheme for the Royal Arch. Named after the white breast jewel worn by newly exalted companions, the White Ribbon Club will work alongside the Province’s Light Blue Club for master masons.
The aim is to attract and inspire members and to encourage retention through chapter visits and social events. Grand Superintendent Peter Kinder said, ‘It is hoped the encouragement and recruitment of many new Craft members will equally apply to the Royal Arch membership.’
Six nebulisers were presented by local Freemasons to the children’s ward at the Leicester Royal Infirmary via the Asthma Relief charity
The presentation was made at a special event held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester on the 28th April 2016 hosted by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland RW Bro David Hagger.
Nebulisers are devices that converts liquid medication into aerosol droplets suitable for inhalation, using compressed air, thus enabling patients to breathe more easily. Each nebuliser will help 150 children over a six-year life.
Dhiraj Vara, Clinical Investigations Manager, said: 'On behalf of the Trust and the children's ward thank you to the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons. There is always a shortage of nebulisers on the wards so this will certainly help provide those therapies and therefore they are going to make a big difference.'
Members of the Grey Friars Lodge No. 6803, which meets in Leicester, also donated a total of £1,400 to the Leicestershire Royal Infirmary Children and Young People’s Cancer Unit to provide play equipment and materials together with updating medical equipment.
Kamlesh Mistry, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at Leicester Hospitals Charity, said: 'Thank you to the Grey Friars Lodge for raising a fantastic amount. The Children’s Cancer Unit at the Leicester Royal Infirmary really appreciate the money, so thank you from the kids, young adults, staff, and everyone on the wards.'
David Hagger said: 'I’m proud and delighted that the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have been able to make a contribution to society by supporting the Leicester Royal Infirmary particularly helping many sick children and young people in the local community.'
Two-year-old Junior, who was born with cerebral palsy, won the hearts of all those present at a recent charity award ceremony held by the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons as he determinedly walked the length of the room, with the aid of special walking sticks, to collect a donation of £2,310 on behalf of the members of the Granite Lodge No. 2028, which meet in Leicester, and the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association.
Cerebral palsy affects the part of the brain responsible for the control of body movement senses, co-ordination and muscle tone and it is estimated that 1 in 400 babies in the UK are born with the condition. Junior was diagnosed with cerebral palsy 11 months after he was born and as he grew has suffered from muscle and joint stiffness in his legs.
Richard Barnett from Granite Lodge said: 'Junior's Journey was chosen by the Lodge to support because of the heart warming story and pure dedication shown by Rosie, the family and friends, in raising money to improve Junior's quality of life. When the suggestion was put before the lodge, it was quickly agreed that we would hold a raffle as well as receive donations from individual lodge members.'
Junior's mum, Rosie Exon, who lives in Shepshed, Leicestershire said: 'The kindness and generosity of the Freemasons has been extremely overwhelming and the donation will make a massive difference to Junior’s rehabilitation. Junior has recently undergone an operation known as selective dorsal rhizotomy which means they go into the spine, take a piece of bone out and cut the damaged nerves that are sending the bad signals from brain to the legs. This has enabled him to walk flat-footed. However his legs are still quite weak and he has to build his strength every single day. The money will go towards transforming one of the rooms in our house into his very own physio room which will enable him to keep his strength and mobility going.Thank you to all of the Freemasons for their amazing help and support.'
The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, RW Bro David Hagger, who hosted the event said: 'We are full of admiration for Junior and Rosie and it has been very humbling to be able to support the family via the Tree of Hope charity.' He continued: 'I’m proud and delighted that the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons continue to make a large contribution to society by helping many children and young people, such as Junior, in the local community.'
On the 3rd May 2016, three members of the Beacon Lodge No. 5208 travelled to France to accompany Bro Joshua Symonds to a meeting of La Loge Ad Augusta, Per Angusta No. 617
Bro Joshua Symonds was initiated, on his 18th birthday in May 2015, into the Beacon Lodge No. 5208 in Loughborough. Joshua, who is a gamekeeper, subsequently gained a position as under-keeper on a large estate at the Chateau de La Verrerie in Aubigny-sur-Nere in France. This meant that, as Joshua was working abroad, he was unable to regularly attend his Mother Lodge. His father, W Bro Garry Symonds and other brethren, therefore decided to arrange a visit to a French lodge in Bourges, near to where Joshua works.
W Bro Garry Symonds said: 'The lodge is a small Provincial Lodge way off the beaten track and had never received foreign visitors before; we received a very warm and generous welcome.'
At the Festive Board, the hand of friendship was further extended to Bro Joshua when the Master, W Bro Frédéric Heurtebise, invited him to attend the lodge at their next meeting and for him to continue this practice through the next season.
The brethren from the Beacon Lodge kindly presented an engraved silver loving cup to the lodge, to mark their visit and to be used in ceremonial form at the Installation meetings.