The doors of Paddock Wood Masonic Hall in the Province of East Kent have been opened to visitors on several occasions, but this year, to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, Peter Hayler made the ‘Heritage Opening’ even more meaningful by staging a comprehensive and moving display

On 8th September 2018, he told the story of the local men, some less than 20 years of age, who lost their lives in that dreadful conflict. 

There were photographs of the men themselves, their graves and memorials, and newspaper cuttings giving information about their lives before going off to war and, in each case, the families who mourned their loss when they did not return home. It was a wonderful tribute by the present-day Freemasons of Paddock Wood to those from the town who made the ultimate sacrifice during the years 1914-1918, many of whom will have been known to the Freemasons who founded Paddock Wood Lodge No. 4291 in 1921.

The exhibition was enhanced by personal letters, photographs and memento’s from the First World War belonging to the relatives of Stanley Wykeham Lodge members Don Foreman and Martyn Evans.

Besides members of the three lodges meeting at the Hall, namely Paddock Wood, Stanley Wykeham and Bradley Lodge No. 7929, several accompanied by their wives, and two candidates for initiation, around 25 visitors attended to view the exhibition and tour the Temple.

Among them was a party from the South-East Chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association who enjoyed a chat and refreshment before setting off on the next leg of their journey. The whole day was a most enjoyable social occasion as well as an opportunity to show what a gem of a building is hidden away in Paddock Wood.

Borough and County Councillor Sarah Hamilton, who is also the Chairman of ‘Heritage Paddock Wood’, paid a visit and praised the Freemasons’ commemoration of the town’s war dead, describing the Open Day at the Masonic Hall as a splendid community event.

With the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire entering a five-year festival this year, the Widows Sons South west Chapter were keen to add their support

How best to raise money for the Festival and combine motorbikes? That’s when their secretary Michael O'Meara came up with the idea to attempt the Saddlesore 1,000; the first of the Ironbutt Endurance Runs. Their aim was to ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours. A tough ordeal driving that far in such a short space of time, whilst sat on a tiny seat exposed to the elements.

The route was worked out, the date confirmed and a target was set to raise £1,000, however due to the generosity of family, friends and members the day the ride took place they had already raised £1,500 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). In fact, this figure will eventually exceed £2,000.

The day finally came on Saturday 25th August 2018 and they met at Exeter Services with family and friends to see them on their way. They headed north towards Glasgow, stopping only for fuel, then turned east to Berwick on Tweed, when they arrived they were greeted by a piper, drummer and members from the Northumberland and Durham Chapter of the Widows Sons.

They then headed south on the return leg of the journey, accompanied by the Northumberland and Durham Chapter riders, stopping off at the Angel of the North for a photographic record of the occasion.

Continuing south they met up with members of the Yorkshire Chapter who had a small food package for each of the riders and rode with them part of the way, finally stopping for coffee at Peterborough Services just before midnight having racked up 791 miles in under 15 hours. Topped up, they set off once again heading south, skirting London before picking up the M4 heading west to Bristol. They arrived back at Exeter Services at 04.44 hours in the morning having travelled 1,099 miles in 19 hours 45mins.

It was a great achievement for Jim Hayward, Gary Thomas, Tom Kingman and Michael O’Meara. They had a day riding the length and breadth of the country, meeting friends old and new and doing what they love best as Widows Sons – but more importantly they raised funds for the MCF, whose hard work helps countless people and supports charities both masonic and non-masonic around the country.

Riding Proud

Blood bike volunteers deliver vital medical supplies, whatever the weather, whatever time of day. Steven Short discovers how Freemasonry is helping

Blood bikes, often referred to as the fourth emergency service, act as an out-of-hours courier service for the NHS, delivering not just blood and plasma, but a variety of medical samples and equipment throughout the day and night. And they’re operated entirely by volunteers.

‘The most urgent thing I’ve ever delivered was very early on a Sunday morning,’ recalls blood bike volunteer John Watts, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Durham. ‘I got a call to go to a children’s ward at one of the hospitals we work with, and as I walked in a doctor came running up to me and put a small vial of liquid in my hand. “Please take this as fast as you can; a child’s life depends on it,” he told me.’

After delivering the vial, John discovered that it contained a sample from a very young baby with suspected meningitis. Until the sample had been tested, life-saving treatment could not be started. ‘It felt amazing to know that what I’m doing is helping save lives,’ he says. 

Strange as it may seem, the Greek authorities are partly responsible for John becoming a volunteer. ‘I’d heard that Greece was about to bring in a law that meant you couldn’t even hire a moped there without a bike licence,’ he recalls. ‘I’d been going on holiday to Greece for years, always hiring a bike while I was there, so I did my motorbike training and really caught the bug.’ 

When the retired policeman saw a feature in The Gazette (Durham’s masonic magazine) about a Freemason who was volunteering for a blood bike charity, he decided to investigate. ‘I’ve always been a keen volunteer, and I thought getting involved with blood bikes would be the perfect way to enjoy my new-found passion of riding motorbikes while doing something positive and useful.’ 

Digging a little deeper, John learned about the work of Northumbria Blood Bikes and got involved. He has now been riding for them for more than two years and recently earned his silver badge, which volunteers receive after working 50 shifts. 

‘It’s just so rewarding for our work to be appreciated’

INCREASED DEMAND

Pointing to the increased demand for blood bikes over recent years, Graham Moor, fundraising officer for Northumbria Blood Bikes and a member of Hammurabi Lodge, No. 9606, says there is a need to raise awareness as well as money. ‘All our groups need new volunteers so we can keep going. When we first started in my area, we might only get a couple of calls per night. Now, sometimes as soon as one call has been answered, another will come in. We might get 20 or 30 calls during a shift.’

Blood bikes primarily operate between 7pm and 7am on weekdays, and 24 hours on weekends and on bank and national holidays. ‘The NHS doesn’t have infinite resources, and we can help out logistically with no cost to it. We’re like taxis, but we don’t charge,’ John says. 

Volunteers typically do two shifts a month, either collecting and delivering goods or working as controllers to coordinate bikes. Cars are used if conditions are unsafe for bikes, or in winter when the temperature on the back of a bike with wind chill drops below 3°C, at which point blood can crystallise and can't be used. Riders can also be asked to deliver printed medical records as well as breast milk for premature babies or babies whose mothers have died in childbirth.

John once delivered a family photograph that a young man with autism had left behind in hospital so that it would be in its usual place when he woke up. ‘I was told he would have been extremely distressed to wake up and find it missing.’

There are more than 30 blood bike groups around the country currently providing this much-needed courier service. As well as delivering blood to and from hospitals, some groups supply air ambulances with their daily supplies of blood and platelets – blood typically has a five-day shelf life – allowing on-board doctors to do blood transfusions wherever they may be needed. 

‘Motorbikes get stuck in traffic much less than four-wheeled vehicles, meaning they’re faster and more efficient at getting to their destination,’ explains another volunteer, Neville Owens of Wrexhamian Lodge, No. 6715, and a member of the North Wales Chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association. ‘Bikes can better manoeuvre through traffic, we can avoid traffic jams, and because we’re liveried, people tend to get out of our way.’ Bikes are also cheaper to run, which is important, as funding comes entirely from donations. 

Neville volunteers as a controller, coordinating deliveries and pickups. ‘It’s high-concentration work. You have to calculate how long each journey should take and keep tabs on where all your riders are at any one time,’ he says.

‘We’re like taxis, but we don’t charge’

FREEING UP FUNDS

‘Like any emergency service, when we’re busy, we’re really busy,’ adds Colin Farrington of Wayford Lodge, No. 8490, who volunteers as a controller at SERV Norfolk. ‘Sometimes it can be 4:30am before you get a break.’ 

Last year, Colin’s group saved Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital enough from its transport budget that the hospital was able to replace some of its ageing freezers. 

‘They were always breaking down, but there was no budget for new ones,’ Colin says. ‘We saved them so much money on transport that they had free funds. It’s great to be able to actually see where your time and volunteering is going.’ 

While nothing would keep him off his bike, John says that shifts can sometimes be tough. ‘The weather can be challenging. No matter what protective clothing you’re wearing, when you’re doing 70mph in the pouring rain, the water will get in. It’ll start going down the back of your neck, then down your back…’ 

For John, the biggest reward comes when he’s sitting at a hospital waiting for a call. Someone will approach him and say that they or a relative needed a transfusion and a blood bike delivered the blood that saved their life. ‘They’ll shake my hand and say thank you. I’ll just well up – it’s just so rewarding for our work to be appreciated.’

Changing up a gear

Freemasons around the UK have donated funds, bikes and cars to blood bike groups. ‘With their livery and Freemasonry branding, the bikes are a great way to take masonic values into the community. When people see the masonic livery, they can see that we are doing good community work,’ says Graham Moor from Northumbria Blood Bikes.

Among the donated vehicles are two BMW police spec bikes from Cumbria Freemasons and two from West Lancashire Freemasons, which will help North West Blood Bikes Lancashire and Lakes to answer more calls. ‘We have completed 50,350 runs since we started in 2012,’ says trustee and founder Scott Miller, from Bank Terrace with King Oswald Lodge, No. 462, whose blood bike group has 365 volunteers – a mix of riders, controllers and fundraisers.

Local masons supported SERV Norfolk with the purchase of three motorbikes. ‘I was invited to various meetings to give talks about blood bikes and was invited to Norwich to pick up a cheque for £250,’ says controller Colin Farrington. While there, he was asked how much a bike would cost by the Provincial Charity Steward, who said they would organise a Christmas raffle to try to buy one. 

‘The Great Yarmouth lodges got together and by early December raised the £15,000 for the bike on their own,’ Colin says. ‘Then, at the end of January I was told Norfolk had raised enough money to buy another two fully equipped Yamaha FJRs. I was flabbergasted.’

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

As part of Freemasonry’s Tercentenary celebrations, Buckinghamshire masons hosted a picnic for children and their teddy bears in July at Drayton Parslow Sports and Social Club

Travelling from as far away as Southampton, members of Buckinghamshire Motorcycle Lodge, No. 9926, and the South East chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association arrived in a convoy to join members of the newly formed Buckinghamshire Classic Car Lodge, No. 9945.

They were joined by the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councillor David Hopkins, and the Mayoress.

Peak Time Viewing

With a new documentary series revealing the workings of the Craft, Edwin Smith talks to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes about why this is the perfect opportunity for Freemasonry

For certain members of the general public a misconception persists that Freemasonry is a mysterious organisation shrouded in secrecy. A Sky 1 five-part television documentary series that debuted on 17 April is hoping to finally put these rumours to bed.

Coinciding with the celebration of the Craft’s 300-year anniversary, the timing of Inside The Freemasons could not have been better. ‘We’ve targeted the Tercentenary as a catalyst to being as open as we possibly can,’ says Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, adding that the decision to let the cameras in does not signify a major shift in philosophy. ‘I actually don’t think our openness is anything new. What is new is the way we’re going about it.’

The series meets members of the Craft at every level, from the Pro Grand Master to James Wootton, a Bedfordshire farmer preparing to take the First Degree under the watchful eye of his father in the first of the five episodes. The second and third episodes follow the fortunes of an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft Freemason undertaking the Second and Third Degrees. After an introduction to Freemasonry in the first episode, each programme takes a theme, exploring masonic charity, brotherhood, myths and the future of the Craft.

BEHIND THE SCENES

It took a year of discussion before the project got off the ground, with the episodes then taking a further year in the making, explains Emma Read, executive producer and managing director of Emporium Productions, the company behind the documentary series.

‘These things always take a long time because everyone’s got to be comfortable [with the process]. But once we started, everyone was 100 per cent committed,’ says Read, who was also responsible for 2013’s Harrow: A Very British School documentary series and has made over 1,000 hours of factual television for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Discovery.

Read believes that UGLE felt comfortable working with Emporium and Sky because they specialise in getting access to institutions and individuals who have a reputation to protect, but about whom there are misconceptions.

‘The way that we make programmes with people is to explain that we are not here to express our opinion – this is not investigative, this is not current affairs, this is a proper documentary where we show people and places as they are,’ explains Read. ‘We film people going about their various activities and they then tell the story themselves. It could also have been called “The Freemasons in their Own Words”. It’s that kind of approach.’

With two small teams carrying out the filming, recording for hundreds of days in total, Lowndes was impressed with the discreet way in which the project was managed. ‘They’ve been very unobtrusive and therefore got the best out of people,’ he says.

‘The most effective way to make observational documentary is not with a hoard of people,’ adds Read. ‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. Why would somebody allow you to carry on filming if they didn’t like you? I wouldn’t. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work.’

‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work’ Emma Read

A DEGREE OF SURPRISE

Despite the levels of trust, certain elements of Freemasonry had to remain off camera. Some of the Second Degree is filmed, but almost nothing of the First or the Third appears on screen. ‘Naturally we would have liked to film elements of both the First and Third Degrees,’ says Read, ‘but that was where the line was drawn. As a mason, you only do those once and each is supposed to be this amazing moment – so if you know what’s coming, it’ll spoil it.’

Read did discover a great deal about Freemasonry, however, and was struck by the scale of the charitable work that is done – ‘they hide their light under a bushel, I think’ – as well as the powerful bond of brotherhood that exists throughout the Craft.

In particular, there were two men whose stories resonated with Read. The first, Peter Younger, draws on the support of his fellow Widows Sons masonic bikers after unexpectedly losing his wife, and the mother of his seven-year-old daughter, after she suffered a heart attack. The second, Gulf War veteran Dave Stubbs, recounts the way that he used to sit up at night and feel as though he had ‘been thrown away’ after leaving the army. Later, says Read, ‘we see him being elected and installed as Worshipful Master of his lodge, which is a tearful moment’.

Read expects the series to draw a varied range of responses from the public. ‘My feeling is that some people will have this ridiculous, conspiratorial approach and say, “You’re not showing X, Y and Z.” There will be other people who already love Freemasonry and hopefully there will be some people who go, “Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. It’s completely opened my eyes to it.”’

Although Lowndes expects some concerns from within the brotherhood, he’s anticipating a positive response overall. ‘I’m sure there will be criticism from some of our brethren that we should never have got involved with the documentary. There will no doubt be things in it that some people think we should not have done. However, the general impression I have is that it will be well received – I think we’ll get a lot of support both internally and externally.’

Marking the Tercentenary of Freemasonry naturally raises the question of what the next 300 years will hold. ‘I think we have a very exciting future ahead,’ says Lowndes. ‘We now have more young people coming in and I think we’re giving them better chances to find their feet in Freemasonry than ever before. Within that age group, I can’t remember the Craft being in better shape.’

Published in UGLE

Widows Sons remember the fallen

Thousands of bikers from across the UK made a special journey to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay tribute to their fallen colleagues

Members of the South West Chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association represented by Matthew Crook (Lodge of the Chisel, No. 9398), Ian Wyle (Excester Lodge, No. 6228) and Michael ‘Gunny’ O’Meara (Vale of Haldon Lodge, No. 7949) laid a wreath at the Freemasons’ memorial to commemorate fallen brethren.

Around 70 of the Widows Sons were in attendance and an Entered Apprentice chain was formed in respect, as part of the memorial ceremony.

Bikers rally to masonic memorial gardens

An estimated 10,000 motorcyclists gathered during the annual Ride to the Wall event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in October, in memory of members of the Armed Services killed in action since the end of World War II. 

Home to ‘The Wall’ – the 43-metre Armed Forces Memorial, constructed from Portland limestone – the Arboretum also encompasses the Freemasons Memorial Garden of Remembrance. Last year more than 60 masons from around the UK, mainly members of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, gathered there to pay their respects to fallen comrades, friends and relations. 

Published in More News

Ten years on the road for Widows Sons

The Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association celebrates its 10th year in the UK this year. Since its formation, the association has grown rapidly and now boasts hundreds of members in chapters throughout the UK. Members from the UK and Europe recently came together in July for their annual rally in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire. 

In the past, the bikers have distributed Easter eggs and Christmas gifts to children’s homes and adult centres, and backed Help for Heroes and SSAFA. They also visited Ypres in Belgium in remembrance of brethren who fell in World War I, in an event which culminated with laying a wreath at the Menin Gate.

Published in More News
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