Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

It's more than just a game

Pass it on

Drawing upon the teamwork found in a game of football, sports charity Street League is giving unemployed young people new prospects. Sarah Holmes reports on how Freemasons are supporting the charity as it reaches out to even more communities

It’s a blustery winter afternoon at the Moberly Sports and Education Centre in north-west London and, despite the menacing grey sky above, twenty or so lads have gathered to play their weekly game of football. Refereeing is Adam White, a twenty-three-year-old sports coach from Wembley. He used to play in these games all the time, before he was referred on to study for a Football Association (FA) coaching qualification by Street League, the charity that organises the matches. 

‘Three years ago, I would have been more inclined to stay in bed on a day like this,’ admits Adam. ‘But Street League gave me the opportunity to change my ways. It made me more motivated and confident.’ 

Established in 2001, Street League uses football to engage unemployed young people – both girls and boys – from disadvantaged backgrounds across England and Scotland. 

The aim is to get as many individuals as possible back into training and employment through its innovative academy network, which teaches essential employability skills and GCSE-equivalent qualifications through a ten-week programme. 

Now, thanks to a grant of £20,000 from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), Street League will be able to run an additional academy in south-west London – helping a further twenty young people to find employment in 2015. 

Football focus

At school, Adam was better known as the ‘naughty one’ – a reputation that only fuelled his disruptive behaviour. Things reached a head in 2006, when, at the age of fifteen, he was expelled. ‘School wasn’t the best time for me,’ he says. ‘I used to be silly and mess around. Football was the only thing that mattered, so my parents and teachers used it as a carrot to dangle in front of me to make me behave. I remember my mum hiding my trainers whenever I was naughty.’

After completing the Street League course in 2012, Adam went on to achieve his Level 1 FA coaching qualification, later returning to the charity to volunteer at two of its academies. 

Now a paid Street League staff member, he is helping others to find focus in life, as he did. ‘As someone who has been through the process, it’s incredibly gratifying to see the lads come out the other side and get jobs,’ he says.  

The passion of Street League’s latest cohort is clear at today’s match. Although the pitch isn’t in the best nick – the faded AstroTurf is torn and chewed up and mounds of leaves have piled up against the corners of the metal grate fencing – it doesn’t faze the youngsters. They bound enthusiastically around the pitch, chanting and encouraging their teammates as if they were playing at Wembley. For them, this is more than a simple football match: it’s a chance to turn their lives around. 

‘Street League gave me the opportunity to change my ways. It made me more motivated and confident.’ Adam White

Playing ball

Street League attracts its numbers through free weekly football sessions for unemployed sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. When a player shows the desire to change their life, they will be invited to attend one of the quarterly ten-week academies, which are structured around two hours of classroom-based learning followed by two hours of football practice. It’s an innovative approach that continues to attract the attention of funders, including the RMTGB. 

‘We found out about Street League through our Stepping Stones scheme, which the charity applied to,’ says Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB. ‘We always receive more requests for funding than we can possibly provide, but Street League stood out for its unique approach to helping young people.’

‘The academies offer both sport and education, giving their participants the opportunity to keep fit and achieve key qualifications,’ he continues. ‘That’s not to mention the careers guidance, mock interviews and CV-writing sessions they include in their curriculums. We award our grants to charities that are shown to have the biggest impact, and Street League proved to be a worthy recipient.’

The grant from the RMTGB acts as a formal seal of approval, which will hopefully encourage other sources to invest in Street League’s cause. With interest in the academies on the rise, expansion is a real priority for the charity. ‘This newest academy will help us branch out into communities facing real challenges in Lambeth and Wandsworth,’ says Nathan Persaud, Street League’s north London operations manager. 

Typically, forty-three per cent of the young people Street League works with in south-west London will have previous criminal convictions, and only twenty-three per cent will have left school with any qualifications. They are some of the hardest-to-reach individuals in the city, but Street League’s football-oriented initiative is connecting with some of them.

‘Football is our hook,’ says Nathan. ‘It’s our unique way of engaging young people who might not otherwise be interested in the course. It gives it credibility in their eyes.’

Football is incorporated into every aspect of the academy, including the classroom hours. Participants brush up on their basic maths skills using fantasy football leagues, while the CVs of professional football players provide templates for the participants to learn how to apply for jobs. Many also study for FA-approved coaching qualifications, so they can go on to complete their mandatory work placements in local coaching clubs. ‘All participants have to complete one hundred hours of work experience, so we try to set them up with a meaningful placement in local businesses,’ adds Nathan. 

Tackle the future

The support of Street League’s corporate sponsors TM Lewin, Barclays and Premier Inn has also proved integral in placing participants by offering internships, and in some instances long-term employment, to academy graduates. Last year, eight hundred and forty-seven young people went into employment, training or education after graduating from Street League, and this year that figure will exceed 1,000 for the first time. 

But it’s not just the work done in the classroom that has an impact. 

As Nathan explains, what these young people learn on the pitch is just as important: ‘It’s difficult to discuss softer skills like communication and teamwork with these guys. In a classroom environment, it might seem too intimate and too confrontational, but on the pitch we can teach them how to control their anger and communicate effectively within their team so that hopefully those skills will filter into their everyday lives.’

Wayne Smith is one such youngster whose confidence and career aspirations enjoyed a massive boost after participating in Street League. He joined the Kensal Rise academy in January 2014, then a shadow of the confident young man who captains his team through the match today. ‘At first, I just wanted to play football. I never dreamt I’d be able to establish a career in it,’ he says. 

Through the academy, Wayne completed his Level 2 FA coaching qualification and gained experience as a volunteer coach by setting up drills and refereeing training sessions for successive groups. Now, he’s working towards his Level 3 award with hopes of going into coaching full-time. 

For Wayne, the encouragement he has received has transformed his life, and it’s a sentiment that also rings true for Moussa Silakwa. Struggling through a media studies course at college when he first came to Street League, Moussa didn’t even have the confidence to talk to his own teammates during a match. Two years later, he runs a football academy in Battersea Park for teenagers pursuing a career in the industry. ‘It’s unbelievable how many opportunities are available through Street League,’ he says. ‘It can really take you places if you are willing to work.’

If you could offer a work placement, apprenticeship or entry-level job to one of Street League’s academy graduates, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information

New life goals

Not all participants at Street League come straight from school. Filip Ricardo (pictured above) was studying politics in Manchester when he decided to pursue a career in football. ‘I only went to university because I didn’t know what else to do,’ he says. ‘If vocational options like Street League had been made more apparent in school, then I would definitely have gone for them.’

Having already achieved his A-levels, Filip used his time at Street League’s open football sessions to access one-to-one careers advice and support. Within two weeks he had been set up with a part-time job coaching school children. It was the first, fundamental break that enabled Filip to get a foot in the door of the football industry. 

‘I realised you don’t need a degree to make it in life,’ he says. ‘If people don’t fit the mould at school, it’s easy to brand them the badly behaved kid. Teachers treat them differently, they miss out on opportunities, and that can make them more rebellious. But if these kids were told what they can do, instead of constantly being told what they can’t do, it could make a big difference.’

Published in Features

Combined knowledge

Assistant Grand Secretaries Shawn Christie and Tony Rayner may be responsible for different areas of UGLE, but they share a strong desire to help members get the most from the Craft

Q: How did you become the Assistant Grand Secretaries?

Tony Rayner: I had been a police officer for thirty-two years and retired in 2011. I decided that I was going to take a gap year – youngsters do it before they go to university, so I thought I’d do the same before committing to anything else. Just at the point that I was thinking about returning to the workplace, I saw this position advertised on the Freemasonry Today website. In terms of masonic rank, I thought it was like going from lieutenant to brigadier in one go, but I believed that I had the CV to do the paid employment, so applied.

Shawn Christie: My background is in banking, where I started and progressed my career. I had always wanted to complete an MBA, so took some time out to pursue it, expecting that I would return to banking. Given some regulatory changes and the knowledge gained from my MBA, I decided to also consider other opportunities. 

A member of one of my lodges spotted the posting for this job and drew it to my attention. I had previously volunteered for Metropolitan Grand Lodge, gaining insight into masonic administration and operational matters, and felt confident that I would be able to add value to an organisation I hold in high regard, so I applied.

Q: What do your jobs entail?

TR: I’m responsible to the Grand Secretary for the administration of Freemasonry for both United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter throughout the Constitution. As such, I oversee the Secretariat and Registration departments. The former has a very wide-ranging remit, from the approval of lodge and chapter by-laws, banners and badges, through to the production of the Masonic Year Book and the Directory of Lodges and Chapters. The Secretariat also works with the Provinces and Districts to arrange the installation of Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents. Meanwhile, Registration processes all the paperwork concerning initiates, exaltees and joiners; annual and installation returns; and the production and issue of Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter Certificates. 

SC: Reporting to the Grand Secretary, my role involves being an in-house masonic adviser to Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Secretaries. I am also active with a number of key committees; on some my role is limited to taking the minutes and on others I participate. By-laws come under my remit and I am involved with the approval of designs of items such as banners and badges, which the Deputy Grand Secretary is currently responsible for. I’m very happy to be involved in the Membership Focus Group (MFG) as this was one of the areas I was hoping to contribute towards when I first applied for the job. The MFG is looking at areas that are critical to our organisation’s success. Both Tony and I also have the privilege of representing the Grand Secretary on occasion at ceremonial functions that he is unable to attend. 

Q: You’re both Assistant Grand Secretaries, so why do you have other job titles?

SC: My full job title is Assistant Grand Secretary, Director of Technical and Specialist Services. Tony is Assistant Grand Secretary, Director of Secretariat and Registration. Assistant Grand Secretary is our masonic title and rank, whereas the director titles reflect our practical day-to-day duties. 

TR: Our roles are very distinct, yet we overlap when it comes to helping Provinces and Districts. For example, a question that falls into Shawn’s area may be addressed to me simply because the Provincial Secretary knows me better and vice versa.

Q: What are you learning in your roles?

SC: I thought I had diversity of experience in my previous roles, having been involved in private banking, corporate banking and advising major law firms, but here the diversity is at an entirely different level. You’re providing advice to Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial Grand Masters one moment and the next you’re setting up a system to send mass emails to the Provinces. With such a range of activities, learning to balance priorities is critical. I am also gaining a wealth of technical and legal masonic knowledge from the Deputy Grand Secretary, which he has accumulated over a number of years.

TR: For me it’s about gaining knowledge as quickly as possible. I’m working ever closer with the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team on planning. In terms of the great ceremonial occasions, we want everything to appear effortless and seamless every time. We shouldn’t be stressed doing masonic ceremony. There’s enough pressure out there without bringing it in here to something that we enjoy doing. I want it all to be painless, both for my people and for the brethren coming along to what might well be a once-in-a-lifetime event. 

Q: What does communication mean to you?

TR: At a Provincial and District level, we’re now giving the Secretaries more detailed guidance so they know exactly what we want, and why. We want to tell them what is expected right from the beginning. We can make huge demands on Provinces; for example, with the installation of a new Provincial Grand Master, the Provincial Grand Secretary will be the focal point for all enquiries. He might have a full-time job, no staff, and is trying to organise the ceremony when he gets home in the evening. We have to recognise this, to understand that not all the Provinces are the same and communicate our messages effectively. As another example, in the Districts I quickly learned that sending out multi-megabyte emails wins no friends if the country is still on dial-up internet.

SC: Society doesn’t operate in a rigid, top-down way anymore. Several years ago it may have been that a new mason would be willing to join our organisation and not question anything, but these days we all ask questions, and rightly so. More often than not there is a very good reason why things are done the way they are, but we have not always been good at communicating this. We are being more collaborative in working with Provinces and we hope they will be more collaborative in working with lodges. It’s a positive step and we’re already seeing results. Communication – both internal and external – provides an area of tremendous opportunity for Freemasonry.

Q: How are you preparing for the Deputy Grand Secretary’s retirement in 2017?

TR: There is an agreed plan in place to deal with succession and the transfer of knowledge. I was in awe when I came here and started working with Graham Redman. I know that I have to find a way of absorbing his knowledge about this area of the organisation and he is signed up to producing instructional documents for me over the next few years as responsibilities are handed over. 

SC: We’re both competing for Graham’s time, to find out what the reasons are for doing certain things. 

His knowledge of all things masonic is universally acknowledged – some might even say legendary. I will be continuing to absorb as much of this as possible over the next two years.

Q: Do you have an average day?

SC: I would deem very few of my days as ‘average’, so planning them is not always possible. There are certain meetings and dates that are set in stone but outside of this there are many tasks that present themselves without warning, such as a call from a Provincial Grand Secretary who needs a piece of information immediately. 

TR: Like Shawn, I get my fair share of crisis telephone calls, but in many respects the working day is no different to that of anyone who manages people. I juggle priorities and try to keep everyone happy. Where my working day differs is that if I want to get away from it all, I can get up and walk the corridors of this incredible building, enjoy the peace and just think.

Published in UGLE

Notes from history

The Grand Temple organ has finally returned to Freemasons’ Hall for reassembly. Ian Bell, consultant to the restoration project, traces its origins to discover a proud dynasty of organ builders

When the components of the Grand Temple organ were packed off to Durham for a year of restorative therapy, it was the first time they had left Great Queen Street since their installation. More than eighty years of wear had taken its toll on the complex mechanism of an instrument that proved to be a feat of technical engineering when it was installed in 1933.

The Grand Temple organ was by far the largest of the three fitted by organ builders Henry Willis & Sons at Freemasons’ Hall. The others, in what became Lodge Rooms 1 and 10, have long since fallen into disuse. However, their sister in the Grand Temple has continued to serve with character and distinction, only beginning to show her age comparatively recently – and only when viewed at close quarters.

The Willis dynasty had been major participants in the world of organ building since the company’s founder, Henry Willis, produced a startlingly bold and groundbreaking instrument for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park. Considerable success followed and the baton of team leader was in due course handed to successive generations of the family, each named Henry, who modestly numbered themselves in the manner of royalty. The man in charge of the installations at Freemasons’ Hall was Henry Willis III.

Though relatively young, Willis III had just overseen the installation of a grand new organ in Westminster Cathedral before coming to Freemasons’ Hall. Prior to that, he had installed the largest church organ in the country at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. The organist at Liverpool was Henry Goss Custard, whose brother Reginald was Grand Organist. As such, Reginald presided over the Grand Temple organ at the opening ceremonies in July 1933, and had approved the designs that Willis, himself a Freemason, had put forward.

It is clear from his writings that Willis was very proud of the opportunity offered to him, but the project was not without its difficulties. Money did not seem to have been in short supply, but space certainly was. The awkward and irregularly shaped spaces left for the organ meant that it had to be packed in very tightly. Standing uncomfortably inside it today, one might imagine that the brief to Willis would have been something like: ‘Here are two remaining spaces we are able to offer you – pack as much organ into them as you can.’ 

Muted roar

The organ’s 2,200 pipes are ingeniously crowded into two very narrow spaces, each triangular in floor area and tapering from the widest end next to the balconies, down to virtually nothing at the eastern end where the openings into the Grand Temple are located. So although the pipes are shouting very loudly, they are unavoidably shouting in the wrong direction, away from the listeners, and their output is being squeezed down until the point where, like toothpaste bursting from a tube, it can eventually escape sideways into the room. 

To the organist against the east wall, and indeed to those seated on the dais below it, the organ clearly has considerable power; to those in the body of the Grand Temple, however, it has instead a somewhat muted roar.

To add to the difficulties, the acoustics were extensively treated with absorbent material to minimise reverberation and clarify speech. This was anathema to what an organ builder dreams of: the sound of pipes speaking without restriction or obstruction, creating a flattering and reverberant cathedral acoustic, inappropriate though such an acoustic might have been here. Willis’s pleasure at the chance of making his mark in the heart of the masonic peace memorial was therefore unavoidably dampened by the hazards thrown into his path. Writing in his house magazine in September 1933 he says:

‘I was clearly given to understand from the very start that the acoustical properties of the Temple would be such that the requirements of speech would be considered first, last, and all of the time; and that it would not be possible to modify this requirement to suit the needs of the organ in any way. It was under these onerous conditions of restricted space and an almost non-existent reverberation period that I had to make my plans.’

One can sense a heavy heart going about the making of those plans. But whatever his misgivings, Willis succeeded in putting up a good fight. By the end of the same article he cannot resist quoting a letter of congratulation from Goss Custard: ‘Everyone is more than delighted with the Temple organ and I must say that personally I consider it one of the most beautiful that you have ever made. Considering the difficulties that you have had to overcome with the site, the effect is nothing short of marvellous.’ 

And, not unusually, it has to be admitted, Willis felt moved to pat himself on the back too: ‘If I may say so, a noble organ in a noble edifice. Only the best has been good enough for the masonic peace memorial in every part of its structure and furnishing. The Temple organ is worthy, in every way, of its superb setting.’

Cleverly planned, beautifully built, and packed with cutting-edge technical innovations designed to cope with all that a modern, centrally heated environment could throw at it, the organ was to be one of the last entirely new instruments that Willis III was to build on such a scale. 

The organ remains not only a worthy tribute to a proud Freemason, but one where the daring technicalities proved well-chosen. The new addition of a separate section that is able to speak without restriction along the Grand Temple, providing the clarity that has been elusive for eighty years, has allowed the organ to be restored without alteration. As Willis would surely have wished.

‘Only the best has been good enough for the masonic peace memorial… The Temple organ is worthy, in every way, of its superb setting.’ Henry Willis III

Published in More News

The caring community

David Maddern and Geoff Tuck discuss the importance of the Grand Charity in bringing Freemasonry to a wider audience

Charitable giving has been a masonic tradition from the earliest days of Freemasonry, three hundred years ago. Since 1981, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has supported members and their dependants in financial distress, as well as the wider community, with grants totalling more than £120 million.

This tremendous achievement has only been possible because of the generosity of Freemasons and their families. Wherever possible, the Grand Charity involves members in its activities, with Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Almoners and Grand Charity Stewards playing a crucial role in service delivery and fundraising.

David Maddern (Provincial Grand Charity Steward of Somerset) and Geoff Tuck (Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Hampshire and Isle of Wight) have been central figures in masonic charity in their Provinces for many years. They both understand the importance of involving the masonic community in Grand Charity activities and the positive effects this can have. 

With the Province of Somerset currently in Festival for the Grand Charity, David has encountered a perception that the Grand Charity does not support local communities, something that he believes could not be further from the truth. 

‘By involving Freemasons in the donations to non-masonic charities and projects, a true understanding of the Grand Charity is gained,’ he explains. ‘The annual cheque presentations to hospices and air ambulances are a great way to involve members from across the Province, especially as these fantastic services are close to the hearts of many.’

It is a priority for the Grand Charity that it supports the causes that matter to masons. Geoff remarks, ‘Details of the non-masonic grants have a positive ripple effect on members; they are recalled with pride and often lead to further financial and volunteering support for the charities.’ 

David echoes this point: ‘The charities that have received the largest donations from Somerset lodges are also charities that the Grand Charity has supported – Help for Heroes, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, and St Margaret’s Hospice. I would not be surprised if other Provinces were to report the same thing, as I sense that the Grand Charity’s actions inspire local masons to follow its lead.’

Provincial involvement with the supported charities can also help Freemasonry. ‘Being part of non-masonic grant-giving creates rare public opportunities to overcome prejudices, myths and unfair publicity,’ says Geoff. ‘As a result, I know of at least two gentlemen who have become masons, and innumerable others who now have a totally different and positive view of Freemasonry.’

Geoff sees the work of the Grand Charity in respect of non-masonic grants as an essential element in the future of the Craft and its reputation. ‘It is a clear demonstration that Freemasonry is an influence for good and something of which future members wish to be a part.’

It is important to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity that all masons feel involved with its work. To find out more, visit or contact your Provincial Grand Charity Steward and discover how you can get involved

Published in The Grand Charity

Investing in the future

RMBI care homes Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno and Prince Michael of Kent Court in Watford have been recognised with a prestigious award for their care of people living with dementia

The Butterfly Service status is a nationally recognised ‘kitemark’ awarded by Dementia Care Matters to identify care homes that are committed to delivering excellent dementia care and providing residents with a high quality of life.

Only a handful of care homes in the UK have been awarded the status, and Queen Elizabeth Court and Prince Michael of Kent Court now join four other RMBI care homes around the country to have received the award. 

RMBI care homes Devonshire Court in Leicester, Shannon Court in Surrey, Barford Court in Hove and Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court in Essex have also received the Butterfly Service status.

Debra Keeling, RMBI Deputy Director of Care Operations, said, ‘To have been awarded the Butterfly Service status is testament to the dedication of our care home staff providing exceptional care. We have made a substantial investment in dementia care training for staff and hold regular events and initiatives for our residents as part of our drive to support their welfare and wellbeing.’

Debra believes that the award demonstrates the RMBI’s commitment to delivering innovative care techniques to maintain the highest quality of life for its residents, as well as putting solid foundations in place to continue to provide excellent care as the number of those with dementia increases over the next few years.

‘As a charity we have been working closely with Dementia Care Matters since 2009, and with a number of other specialist dementia providers to deliver our dementia care strategy,’ said Debra. ‘Dementia Care Matters works with care providers with the aim of improving the quality of life for residents of care homes – not only for those with dementia, but also for the other residents living in the same home.’


Published in RMBI


The RMBI was delighted to be recognised for a second time at the Great British Care Awards last year with seven shortlisted nominations, and for the first time in the Third Sector Care Awards with one nomination

The Great British Care Awards celebrate excellence across the care sector and pay tribute to those who have demonstrated outstanding excellence in their field of work.

Congratulations go to Joanne Pinkney at Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court, Essex, who was shortlisted for the Ancillary Care Worker award. The home also made the shortlist for the Care Innovator award – an achievement likewise enjoyed by the first RMBI Day Service at Barford Court in Hove – as well as the Creative Arts accolade in the Third Sector Care Awards. 

In addition, Jane Baldwin, Learning and Development Officer for the South, made the shortlist for the Great British Care Awards Care Trainer accolade; Erisilia Antohe from Prince Michael of Kent Court in Watford for Frontline Leaders; Sandra Robson from Scarbrough Court in Northumberland for Putting People First; and Sue Goodrich from Prince George Duke of Kent Court in Kent for Care Home Activity Organiser. 

To add to these achievements, Jane Geraghty, Care Support Worker at RMBI care home Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno, was announced as the winner of the Excellence in Dementia Care Award at the Wales Care Awards 2014. 

Published in RMBI

Informal occasion

In a bid to ensure that new recruits to Freemasonry feel part of their Province, the Adair Club embraces a relaxed ethos. Simon Lewis finds out how a modern outlook and traditional masonic values combine in Somerset

About five months after I became a mason I was made redundant,’ remembers Griff Bromfield-Jenkins, a thirty-year-old mature student from Bristol. ‘Redundancy can sap the life out of you.’ 

At the time, Griff was the youngest Freemason he knew. Many young men in his position, without a wide network of support, might start to lose their taste for lodge business. Luckily for Griff, his Province has a club for the rising number of young Freemasons in Somerset. Established in late 2012 and named the Adair Club after youthful Crimean War hero Colonel Alexander Adair – Somerset’s youngest ever Provincial Grand Master – it’s an informal network of friends who help each other through the early years of their masonic journey.

Founder and Club Secretary Sam Mayer explains how he got the idea: ‘I joined Freemasonry in Devon in a small village lodge and felt very much at home, but then I moved up to Bristol and joined a lodge that was much older. I was quite young in the chair at twenty-seven and the next youngest was probably double my age. I could see that being an issue for some of the younger guys coming into Freemasonry. So I set up a website, a Facebook page and a Twitter account and we started a club, initially for the under-thirties, doing local visits to other lodges. We did a tour of the Bath Ales brewery back in August.’

‘Could it be a nationwide movement? I’d certainly be keen to form a network with other groups.’ Sam Mayer

‘There were about fifteen of us,’ says Griff, who’d heard about the Adair Club at a talk given by his Provincial Officer. ‘We had a few drinks and it was a relaxed way of getting people together who’d never met, since we were all from different lodges.’ 

One of them was Dave Gleeson, a sales manager from Bristol who, at thirty, is about to have his first child. ‘It’s nice to get a wider mix of friends from my own age group,’ says Dave. ‘We’re all at a similar stage in our journey through Freemasonry, still learning the traditions, finding our feet. Sam’s a good guide because, although he’s still quite young, he’s been a Freemason since he was twenty-one. He has a great understanding and is able to impart that to me and the other guys. One of the first events he arranged was a visit to the Bath temple where Colonel Adair’s regalia is on display, so that was a good starting point.’

Dave cites the history, rituals and morals of Freemasonry as key reasons for joining. Sam and Griff agree. But what keeps them coming back is the social side – and the Adair Club has been crucial for that. ‘We’ve done a couple of curry nights, had Christmas drinks and visited some university lodges. Sam, Griff, Harry – they’re all from different lodges and I’d never have come across them if not for this club.’

‘It’s important to have a steady stream of new guys who stay around long enough to make a difference.’ Dave Gleeson

Ageless appeal

Harry Blinston, an insurance sales manager from Weston-Super-Mare, has, like most of the group, been a Freemason for less than five years. Unlike them, he’s forty-nine and married with three kids. ‘Freemasonry has been seen as a bit fuddy-duddy,’ Harry says. ‘People think it’s a bit dusty, a bit “old gentleman’s club”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My ten-year-old son has made some fantastic friends through my lodge, Saint Kew (No. 1222), which is incredibly active. But it’s obvious that if you don’t retain new members, the thing will struggle.’

With a core membership of around thirty and rising, no subscription fees and easy communication by social media, the Adair Club is not only building stronger ties within the Province but also further afield. On a trip to Freemasons’ Hall in London last year they met members of the Connaught Club, a young masons network founded in 2007, and saw how things are done at the Lodge of the West Indies, No. 9424. ‘Halfway through they stop, have a shot of rum, then go back to finish off the ceremony,’ recalls Griff.

Club rules

‘There are quite a few clubs like ours now,’ says Sam. ‘As well as the Connaught in London, there’s a new one in Bristol called The Dunckerleys. Then there’s The Trelawny Club in Cornwall and various Light Blue clubs around the country. Could it be a nationwide movement? I’d certainly be keen to form a network with other young masons groups as they develop. I’m already in touch with South Wales, Devon and Cornwall. I’m sure it will go from strength to strength in the future as more people take it up.’

So is it working? Are new masons more likely to stay when these groups support them? John Winston, Somerset Assistant Provincial Grand Master, who becomes Deputy Provincial Grand Master in April, has the figures to hand: ‘We’ve seen a definite boost in retention,’ he says. ‘Sam said he wanted to start with a small nucleus in Bath, where there are a lot of younger masons thanks to the Universities Scheme. We have held on to them. Now the club is spreading to the other big towns. They’re getting on well, organising social events and supporting new members.’

Recruitment in Somerset has gone up in the past eighteen months, too – which is not the case in every Province. ‘I used to think it was unusual for people to become masons in their twenties,’ says Harry, ‘but I’ve got two friends who joined last year. One’s twenty-four and the other is twenty-one.’ 

‘I met a mason the other day at the University of Bath who was twenty-four and already Junior Warden,’ adds Dave. ‘It’s important to have a steady stream of new guys taking over the reins, and staying around long enough to make a difference. A lot of the older guys are from the police and civil service, those more institutional backgrounds, whereas most of the Adair Club are from sales or professional services.’

‘Change doesn’t imply a criticism… It doesn’t have to be about throwing out tradition.’ Harry Blinston

Along with fresh blood come fresh ideas. ‘As Freemasonry grows in Somerset, we’re keeping the traditions that we love, some of which have been unchanged for centuries,’ says Dave, ‘but we’re also modernising. We shorten the rituals wherever we can to give people time back to spend with their families. 

I think we were the first in the Province to get a Twitter account and I’ve built a website for my lodge (Eldon, No. 1755), which is primarily for recruitment but also has a social element. It all helps us with our charity work and keeps us in touch with other lodges.’

None of the Adair Club would dream of changing the core tenets of Freemasonry. They’re unanimous in their love of the ritual, the history and the traditions. Keeping those alive is what the club is for. ‘Change doesn’t imply a criticism,’ says Harry. ‘I was speaking to a senior Provincial Officer the other day who was concerned: he didn’t want to throw out tradition. 

But change doesn’t have to be about that. If you don’t evolve, you go the way of the dinosaurs.’

With a growing membership, the support of a progressive Provincial Grand Master and a wealth of youthful energy, the future looks bright for the Adair Club. ‘I’d like another visit to London,’ says Griff. ‘Sam’s looking into a clay pigeon shoot, which would be fantastic, and another brewery visit! We’re toying with the idea of a lodge tour of Scotland. But we’ll have to see what the wife says about that.’ Progressive as the Adair Club may be, family still comes first. 

To find out more about the Adair Club or discuss a national young masons network, contact Sam Mayer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or keep in touch via Twitter @TheAdairClub

Published in Features

Meeting of minds

Thanks to the research of Professor Susan Short, doctors could be using a common cold virus to shrink deadly brain tumours within five years. Sarah Holmes finds out how the Freemasons are supporting this groundbreaking work

There are six hundred and fifty kilometres of blood vessels in the human brain. If unravelled from London, they would stretch just short of Glasgow, yet coiled they fit into an organ just fifteen centimetres long. 

This incredible network keeps the brain’s one hundred billion or so nerve cells supplied with oxygen and nutrients. For decades, researchers have been investigating ways of using these blood vessels to administer life-saving treatments for complex diseases, including brain tumours. 

The current anti-cancer armoury relies on invasive treatments of brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can cause debilitating side effects in patients. They range from hair loss and vomiting to the development of cancer in healthy tissues that have been exposed to radiation.  

By contrast, the pervasive network of blood vessels in the brain could allow doctors to send cancer-killing agents directly to the site of the tumour. It’s a targeted approach that could cut down recovery times significantly, but the treatment possibilities have remained underdeveloped as brain cancer research struggles to attract funding. 

Last year, however, new hope was instilled at the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology. During a clinical trial of twelve NHS brain tumour patients, Professor Susan Short successfully delivered a commonly encountered, non-toxic virus capable of killing tumour cells, without harming healthy ones, directly to the brains of some patients. 

‘At present, the survival rates of brain cancer are not only disappointing, but the treatments themselves can also be harmful and invasive.’

Cerebral matters

It was a major breakthrough that brought the possibility of non-toxic brain cancer treatment one step closer to reality. Shortly after the clinical trial, Professor Short and her team were awarded a five-year grant worth £3 million, half of which came from The Brain Tumour Charity. Included in this was a joint contribution of £100,000 from the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity – a sum that enabled Professor Short to hire two more post-doctoral researchers.  

‘The research was recommended to us by distinguished cancer surgeon Charles Akle,’ says Richard Dunstan, Chairman of the Non-Masonic Grants Committee. 

‘We were fortunate enough to have him on our deciding committee and he spoke very highly of Professor Short, so that greatly boosted our confidence in her research.’

At present, the survival rates of brain cancer are not only disappointing, but the treatments themselves can also be harmful and invasive, explains Richard. 

‘If successful, this project could provide non-invasive and non-toxic forms of treatment that are an all-round safer option for brain cancer sufferers. In our view, that constitutes research of the utmost importance.’ 

For John McCrohan, Grants Director at the MSF, the fact that the project was being carried out in Leeds, away from the usual centres for funding, gave it extra significance. ‘It proves that not all high-quality research happens in London or Cambridge,’ he says. ‘We were eager to show the masonic community that our funding could be helping research happening right on their doorsteps.’

‘In Professor Short’s research, a harmless household pathogen is used, producing mild, flu-like symptoms at worst.’

The funding gap

It’s not the first time the Grand Charity and the MSF have combined to support a medical research cause, with previous contributions benefiting work with both prostate and ovarian cancer. This latest award, however, will help to find desperately needed treatments for a cancer that has been nationally overlooked for the past decade.

Between 2002 and 2012, brain cancer research received just £35 million in National Cancer Research Institute funding compared to the £351.5 million spent researching cures for breast cancer. As a result, survival rates have not changed much in the past forty years.

In fact, recorded cases of brain cancer have increased since the 1970s, rising twenty-three per cent for men and twenty-five per cent for women. Despite accounting for just one per cent of cancer diagnoses, brain tumours are responsible for three per cent of all cancer deaths each year. Such damning odds have driven development of The Brain Tumour Charity’s latest research strategy, A Cure Can’t Wait, which aims to secure at least £20 million of investment over the next five years. The hope is to attract more people like Professor Short into the field. 

‘I worked with patients suffering from brain tumours very early on in my career,’ says Professor Short. ‘I enjoyed it, but it was very obvious that more research was needed to improve the outcomes of their treatments. So when I started my PhD, I decided to apply the work to glioma.’

Glioma is a primary form of brain tumour made up of cells resembling the supportive glial cells in the brain and spine, and the focus of Professor Short’s latest research. 

It is one of the most aggressive and fastest-growing tumour types, with patients usually surviving for between twelve and eighteen months after diagnosis, depending on how advanced the tumour has become.

Over the next five years, Professor Short’s work will look at how harmless viruses can be used to help attack and diminish these primary tumours, as well as secondary metastatic varieties. Called oncolytic viruses, these parasitic agents can preferentially infect and kill cancer cells.

‘The aim is to develop a non-toxic form of treatment that can be used in conjunction with the traditional methods to increase the number of tumour cells that we kill,’ says Professor Short. ‘In theory, the viruses would be injected into the patient intravenously before being carried through their bloodstream to the brain where they could act on the tumour cells.’ 

The success of this theory has already been proved in the earlier clinical trial, and it’s an outstanding feat given the numerous biological obstacles that have developed to protect the brain from foreign agents – even if they are cancer-killing viruses.

The most complicated is the blood brain barrier, a unique protection system that prevents harmful pathogens from infiltrating the brain’s bloodstream. 

The second is the body’s own immune response against the virus while it is in circulation.   

‘We believe that at least some of the virus is carried intracellularly through the bloodstream and released only at the tumour site,’ explains Professor Short. ‘The immune cells, which are derived from bone marrow, protect the virus from antibody attack so that it can’t be neutralised before it reaches the brain.’

Professor Short theorises that once in the brain, the virus invades the tumour cells, causing them to explode and die. ‘There are two ways that the virus could act on the tumour cells,’ she explains. ‘Firstly it could be a direct toxic effect of the virus, which stops the tumour cells from being able to divide and grow so they die. The second is that the virus triggers a response from the local immune cells. This would encourage the immune cells to break down the tumour cell along with the virus.’

Known as immunotherapy, this form of cancer treatment is particularly advantageous for brain cancer sufferers because it lacks the painful side effects of conventional treatment. In Professor Short’s research, a harmless household pathogen called reovirus is used, producing at worst mild, flu-like symptoms in the patients. 

Ultimately, Professor Short hopes that the treatment will be available for all brain cancer patients through mainstream healthcare, although she estimates that this would be unlikely to happen for another two to three years. First, she aims to improve her understanding of how the virus attacks the tumour cells, before opening it up to more patients through clinical trials. 

Alongside this main tranche of research, Professor Short’s team will also be investigating ways to stop tumour stem cells from reseeding after radiotherapy, as well as improving their understanding of the cell-based delivery system of the virus. It’s early stages yet, and although the team can’t confidently calculate the impact the research will have on patient survival rates, Professor Short remains optimistic.

‘One of the nice things about this study is that it’s a completely new treatment option,’ she says. ‘So many other approaches to treating tumours haven’t worked, but this gives patients hope. It’s another positive step towards overcoming brain cancer.’ 

The case for research

Tim Clarke

Tim, forty, was diagnosed with a grade IV brain tumour in February 2011. The prognosis was not good, and he was told he probably wouldn’t survive beyond eighteen months. 

Even so, he went through the usual treatment process. Four years later, Tim is still here. ‘Nobody knows why I’m still around, and in a sense that makes it harder,’ he says. ‘There’s such a lack of understanding about the disease; even the treatments all seem a bit random. There’s no guarantee they will work. I have friends who were diagnosed and died within a year. Nobody can tell what’s going to happen, and that is what’s most frustrating.’

Tim hopes that with more essential research, brain cancer patients can someday be given the same odds of survival as other cancers. ‘When you don’t understand what’s happening inside your mind, it’s impossible to go forward. That’s where the research comes in.’

Cariss Evans

As a nurse, Cariss, twenty-nine, knew something wasn’t right when she kept suffering from bouts of intense déjà vu. ‘I could be driving the car, and all of a sudden my face would prickle with heat and this horrible feeling of panic would strike me,’ she recalls. 

It turned out to be a grade III oligoastrocytoma growing behind her eye. Cariss was devastated. In June 2014, she had brain surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, before undergoing intensive rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy over the course of the rest of the year. ‘The treatment made me feel even worse than the tumour itself,’ she says. ‘It was such a gruelling process.’

The lack of understanding about what caused this disease was equally disheartening. ‘In the news, they put it down to bad luck, but there’s got to be a reason. That’s why research is so vital, so we can find out what causes brain cancer and treat it effectively.’

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Fight for sight

A grant funded entirely through donations made by Freemasons and their families will aid pioneering research that could restore sight

The Masonic Samaritan Fund has provided a grant of £91,500 to eye disorder charity Fight for Sight. This will fund pioneering research that could restore vision for thousands of patients affected by degenerative eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The grant will support research for three years at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, which is investigating ways to restore the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye that are lost in conditions such as AMD and inherited retinal diseases. The research explores advances in stem-cell replacement therapy, in which photoreceptors at an early stage of development are transplanted into a degenerating retina.

Dr Dolores Conroy, director of research at Fight for Sight, thanked Freemasons for contributing such a generous amount. ‘Sight is the sense people fear losing the most. It’s an exciting time for eye research and we are delighted to be the UK charity leading the way.’

John McCrohan, MSF Grants Director, added, ‘Each year, we provide grants totalling £100,000 to people affected by eye conditions such as macular degeneration and retinal disease. This project gives us the opportunity to fund cutting-edge research with the power to develop truly effective treatments and ultimately preserve the sight of millions. It’s a valuable cause that Freemasons and their families are delighted to support.’ 

Twenty-five years of dedication

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund. Established in 1990 with the working title of New Masonic Samaritan Fund, it continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of eligible beneficiaries.

Over the years, the Fund has benefited from careful stewardship by trustees who gave freely of their time and experience. A similarly dedicated staff team have ensured that its original ethos remains as strong as ever. 

In its two and a half decades, the Fund has awarded 17,700 grants totalling more than £64 million on behalf of over 11,500 individuals. This remarkable achievement has only been possible due to the hard work and dedication of all those who have so generously supported the Fund, enabling it to help those in need. On behalf of the trustees, staff and, more importantly, beneficiaries, the MSF offers its sincere thanks.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

The escape artist

Sam Derry was born in 1914 at the outbreak of a war that took the lives of 49,076 members of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Evading German capture then aiding the escape of thousands, Derry went on to become one of its finest soldiers. Tony Narroway reflects on a life rich in exploits

Samuel Ironmonger Derry was born in Newark, Nottinghamshire on 10 April 1914. Educated at the Magnus Grammar School, he embarked on his army career in 1936 at the age of twenty-two after receiving a Territorial Army Commission into the Royal Regiment of Artillery. In 1939 Derry married Nancy Hindley, leaving for France with the British Expeditionary Force two months later following the outbreak of war. 

Derry was posted to the Middle East in 1941 and in May of that year, at the height of the Iraqi rebellion, served as part of the Kingcol force during the relief of RAF Habbaniya and the entry of Baghdad. He was promoted to the rank of major after taking part in the Syrian campaign and transferred to 1st Field Regiment Royal Artillery, where he received an immediate Military Cross for his leadership and bravery. 

Derry was still serving in the Western Desert in 1942 when he was captured by the Germans in February. Despite being under rifle fire, he managed to escape by hurling himself into a ravine. Ironically, some five months later and eight hundred miles away, Major Derry was recaptured near El Alamein by the same German unit. Alas, this time there would be no quick escape as he was transported to Italy and interned with 1,200 officers at Chieti (Camp 21) for almost a year. 

Battle of wills

After the Italian armistice in September 1943, the camp was taken over by the Germans and Major Derry and others were put on a prison train for transportation to Germany. However, en route between Tivoli and Rome, Derry managed to escape for a second time when, in broad daylight, he evaded a German paratrooper guard and jumped off the moving train. Badly bruised, he headed for the hills and was taken in by an Italian family who gave him food and shelter. 

While hidden one hundred and twenty miles behind enemy lines, Sam discovered there were another fifty Allied prisoners living in conditions of extreme hardship in the nearby hills and immediately took over their welfare. With winter setting in, he decided that he must obtain help for them from the neutral Vatican in Rome, some fifteen miles away. Major Derry wrote a letter to the Vatican asking for money and clothing to ease the plight of his adopted men. The message was carried by a friendly priest who later returned with 3,000 lire and requested a receipt. Major Derry gladly obliged, duly signed it ‘S Derry, Major’, and promptly added a postscript asking for more.

The communications reached the ears of a Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who had toured prisoner of war (POW) camps during the early years of the conflict seeking news of prisoners who had been reported missing in action. 

If he found out that they were alive, he tried through Vatican Radio to reassure their families. 

When Italy changed sides in 1943, thousands of POWs were released but remained in grave danger of recapture when Germany forced occupation. Some, remembering O’Flaherty’s visits, managed to reach Rome to ask for his help. Instead of waiting for permission from his superiors, O’Flaherty promptly set up an underground movement to assist them, recruiting others to the cause including the British envoy to the Holy See, Sir D’Arcy Osborne, his butler John May, and sympathetic priests and nuns. 

Secret service

On hearing about the communications from Major Derry, O’Flaherty instantly liked their tone and as he and Sir D’Arcy were looking for someone to bring a little order to the growing number of escaped soldiers, decided that Derry should be brought into Rome. 

On 19 November 1943, with the Germans established in the district, Major Derry journeyed to Rome at great personal risk. He was smuggled into the Vatican for a meeting that was to result in the twenty-nine-year-old officer embarking on a secret mission in enemy-occupied territory. O’Flaherty and Sir D’Arcy requested that he stay in the city and assume control of the Rome Escape Line, which was helping Allied escapees but only operating in a small way at that time. By agreeing, Major Derry officially became a compatriot.

Under Derry’s leadership, the organisation grew, with his military mind bringing much-needed order. 

He started to list names and next-of-kin for the escaped POWs and to keep track of the money involved. Billets, food, clothes, supplies and funds were made available to ex-POWs in the Rome area and, through a network of agents, it was possible to offer almost the same facilities to the thousands of Allied escapees hiding in the country. 

Finding billets meant leaving the sanctuary of the Vatican and scurrying about Rome right under the nose of the enemy. When travelling on trams in the city, Derry would pretend to be asleep, merely grunting if an Italian or even a German soldier sitting next to him tried to make conversation, thus making sure that no one discovered that he neither spoke nor understood Italian. 

Major Derry eventually became head of a British escape group that grew out of, and worked alongside, O’Flaherty’s organisation. While O’Flaherty’s focus had always been humanitarian, the aim of the British group was to get men back into active service and, if possible, to gather intelligence on the enemy. 

The German authorities had become aware of the existence of the Rome Escape Line as early as January 1944, which meant that there had been a great danger of infiltration, yet by April 1944 a total of 3,975 Allied escaped POWs were under Derry’s care. Following the liberation of the city, Derry was granted an audience with Pope Pius XII who had been totally unaware that the young officer had been his ‘guest’ in the Vatican for many months. In recognition of his work with the Rome Escape Line, the now Lieutenant Colonel Sam Derry was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. 

Following demobilisation in 1946, Derry returned home to Newark and devoted himself to business before embarking on what was to become a very full and active life of civic service. He was a prominent Freemason in Newark and was initiated into Corinthian Lodge, No. 5528, on 13 January 1949, remaining a member until his death on 3 December 1996. In June 1970 he was a founder member of Newark Lodge, No. 8332, only resigning on 30 March 1993. He was a Grand Officer in the Mark Degree, a member of Fleming Mark Lodge and Trent Mark Lodge, and received Provincial honours as well as achieving Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden in the Craft. 

A celebrated life

In 1963, Derry was surprised by Eamonn Andrews and his big red book outside the BBC Television Theatre when he became the subject on This is Your Life. He had been taken to London by his friend and fellow Freemason Bob Wilkinson, ostensibly to talk about making a film of Derry’s 1960 book, The Rome Escape Line, but in reality he was in for a very big surprise. His wife Nancy and their four sons Richard, William, James and Andrew along with daughter Claire had kept the making of the programme secret, sneaking down to London to take part in the filming. 

While a national television audience watched, old colleagues and former POWs came forward and spoke about the occupation of Rome and the escape organisation to which most of them owed their lives. As the tributes came to an end, a surprise guest was announced and O’Flaherty walked falteringly from the wings to embrace his old friend. Derry wouldn’t let him get away without first paying tribute in his turn, explaining to the watching audience: ‘Had it not been for this gallant gentleman, there would have been no Rome escape organisation.’ 

This was to be the last time the two friends would meet. Eight months later, O’Flaherty died peacefully at his home in County Kerry, Ireland. 

Shortly after Derry had died in 1996, his son Richard said, ‘He was a very shy man in the sense that he was not one to make a big thing of what he had done. When we were on This is Your Life, some of the things that came out were things that we never knew about.’ 

Published in Features
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