After the floods - Freemasons of Yorkshire, North & East Ridings donate a further £25,000 to the Two Ridings Community Foundation Flood Appeal in York
We can all remember the sight, over Christmas 2015/New Year 2016, of the floods cascading over the sides of rivers all over our country. We can also remember the sadness on the faces of the victims of these floods. We saw traumatised children and older people, being lifted from their homes by the Emergency Services. We were looking at people who had lost everything to the waters. This horrendous picture of despair had such an effect on the Provincial Grand Master, of the Freemasons of Yorkshire North and East Ridings, Jeffrey Gillyon that he had to do something to relieve the distress of these people in the York area.
The Freemasons' Grand Charity, which is based in London and administers a relief fund for such eventualities, had already set the wheels in motion by giving an immediate £75,000 donation to the flood-relief efforts, both in Cumbria and in York.
Jeffrey Gillyon wanted to directly affect the lives of our more local victims of the York floods, and so asked the Freemasons' Grand Charity for another £25,000 to be given for the benefit of the victims of the York floods. The immediate result was this extra donation for use by the Provincial Grand Master.
The next thing, for him, was to channel this money, to the most deserving of those people in need. So, the Freemasons of the Province of Yorkshire, North & East Ridings approached the Two Ridings Community Foundation (TRCF) for their assistance in distributing these funds. They had been involved from the start, Jan Garrill, the Chief Executive of TRCF, had received a telephone call from Colin Stroud on Boxing Day, to set up a fund for the victim relief effort.
In mid-February 2016, a small team of Freemasons attended at the offices of TRCF in York to, not only hand over a cheque in support of the fund, but to speak with the TRCF Team about their work. The Freemasons Team was also willing to offer their help and support. They met with Jan Garrill, the Chief Executive of the TRCF.
Terry Wolf, is the Flood Relief Manager and she told the Freemasons Team about a young couple, who had recently bought their new home in York. To their knowledge there hadn’t been any flooding in their area for over 40 years, so the taking out of insurance hadn’t been one of their priorities. She was pregnant and due to give birth soon, so was not at work at that time. This had put some pressure on their finances, which may have been a consideration when thinking of insurance purchase. The Freemasons Team could imagine the stress of moving into a new home, a pregnant mother-to-be and then the nightmare of the floods. The couple had lost nearly everything that they had built up, but what most hurt them, was that they had also lost their wedding photographs. They were devastated.
The TRCF Team had given this couple an immediate grant of £700, to cover their immediate finances and is staying with them until they can get them back on their feet. The £25,000 from the Freemasons will help this young couple directly.
It will also help another older couple, which was mentioned by Terry Wolf. This elderly couple are on a low income and the husband is in poor health with chest problems. They are a stoic couple and do not normally look for assistance from anyone, preferring to have their own independence. They had seen floods in former times, at their home and were ready for it. However, when these floods came, they were unprepared for the amount of flood water. Their home was flooded. When the waters eventually subsided, they got on with repairing their lives and just cleaned up as they had been used to doing. The dampness of the house made the husband’s chest condition worse and he had to visit the York District Hospital frequently. The TRCF Team were not initially made aware of this couple’s needs, as they had not made any application for assistance.
The TRCF Team, being on the ground and talking with victims of the flood, had gone to a local furniture store, which was acting as a pseudo-community centre, giving out ‘bacon butties’ and advice, where they were told of the elderly couple’s woes. (Praise must be given to the owners and staff of the furniture store, for re-kindling the fine community spirit that exists in York.) Terry Wolf helped to arrange de-humidifiers for the drying out of the elderly couple’s home. However, the chest problems of the husband were made more difficult by their use, so they then arranged for the landlord to re-house them, while he went about ‘Cooking’ the house with driers. The TRCF Team expect the couple to move back into their home very shortly.
The £25,000 donation from the Freemasons of Yorkshire North & East Ridings will help to provide assistance, in the months to come, to these specific people and generally to the people of York, who will still be suffering, even though the media story has started to fade.
The Freemasons will be working in the community with the TRCF in the future, not only with the flood victims, but on other projects to benefit the people of the two Ridings of North and East Yorkshire.
The latest TRCF venture is the “Surviving Winter Appeal”. This project helps older and vulnerable people to stay warm and well during the winter months.
The Government’s Winter Fuel Payment is paid automatically to all eligible older people. For many this is vital. But the Freemasons Team will be asking their members, ‘If you feel that you’d like to give some or all of your payment to help other local older or vulnerable people, please donate to the TRCF Surviving Winter Fund.’
The Surviving Winter Appeal will be match-funded by a new project which is tackling fuel poverty and supporting winter health across North Yorkshire.
Keeping Kirklees course accessible
The Kirklees Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Trust, which supports around 5,000 young people each year in pursuit of awards, has received a £20,000 grant from West Yorkshire masons. The grant was sponsored by Howley Lodge, No. 5012, which meets at Batley, and will be used to build a low-rope challenge course with a wheelchair-accessible path to allow access to the course and facilities at the Little Deer Wood site in Mirfield.
HG Wells said that whenever he saw an adult on a bicycle, he had hope for the human race. A three-hundred-mile ride brought out the best in forty-five masons when they pedalled the perimeter of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding. Simon Lewis met some of the participants
The August bank holiday started beautifully in Sheffield, remembers retired civil servant John Boyington, a Freemason since 1994. John was there at dawn to watch forty-five Lycra-clad masons set off on a bicycle tour of the entire perimeter of the Masonic Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, visiting all twenty-three masonic halls along the way.
‘The Grand Départ was from Tapton Hall,’ John says. ‘Funny how we speak French now – up until last year we’d have called it the “Start”. When I arrived at 8am, the car park was full of bits of bikes and all I could hear was the clip-clopping of cycling cleats. As the lads came into view, I could see the excitement on their faces from twenty yards off. The trepidation, too.’
No wonder they were daunted. West Riding is one of the biggest Provinces in the country, spanning both sides of the Pennines, ranging from industrial Sheffield to the hill farms north of Lancaster, taking in the Three Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales and some of the toughest cycling roads in the country. The participants would be covering nearly three hundred miles over three days.
‘The first real climb took us over the Pennines to Uppermill,’ says Phil Atkinson, a menswear retailer from Addington and a member of Olicana Lodge, No. 1522, in Ilkley. ‘We were going down the high street towards the Lodge of Candour when this guy steps out, stops the traffic and ushers us into the lodge like royalty. Then a brass band starts up. It brought a lump to my throat. A lot of people had gone to an awful lot of trouble.’
At Hebden Bridge, a bit further on, the cyclists were greeted by a piper in full Highland dress playing Danny Boy. That night they were invited to Waddington’s Royal Forest Lodge to have dinner with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, resplendent in their chains of office, while the cyclists limped around bow-legged in Lycra.
All twenty-three masonic halls along the route opened their doors. ‘My aim was to raise awareness of Freemasonry,’ says Martyn Bolt of Woodsmoke Lodge, No. 9317, in Mirfield, who is a cycling development officer and designed this year’s Tour de France route through Yorkshire. A mason since 1993, he spotted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something new for the Craft. ‘Two years ago there was huge Olympic cycling success and we were about to host the Tour de France. I figured that by the summer of 2014 there’d be a huge boom in cycling.’
He was right – cycling participation in the UK has doubled in the past few years. When his Province began its Festival to raise money for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), Martyn’s suggestion of a three-hundred-mile bike ride was the right idea at the right time. ‘It chimed with the goals of our five-year Festival,’ says John Boyington, who heads the Province’s fundraising committee. ‘When it started in 2012, the economic climate wasn’t good and our Provincial Grand Master didn’t want to set arduous targets. Another goal was to raise the profile of Freemasonry. I think there’s a misconception that we just look after ourselves, when we also look after lots of other people. We give to almost every type of charity you can imagine.’
‘I’ve seen one of the RMBI homes in York,’ says Martyn, ‘and I know how people depend on our charities.’ And so he began planning, beginning with sticking pins in the map to show all the masonic halls in the Province, working out the best routes between them, and recruiting fellow mason Craig Johnson, a senior lecturer at Bradford University School of Management and member of Lodge of Connaught & Truth, No. 521, in Huddersfield.
‘Cycling is not normally something you associate with masonry,’ says Craig. ‘In fact, it’s almost the beginning of a joke: “What do you call a Freemason on a bike?” A lot of the events we do are based around dinners and galas, so for me this was something new and exciting.’
The planning took eighteen months. Craig took two weeks off to design a website to keep everybody informed and to make it easy to donate. The site alone raised £1,000 and Craig gave talks about the ‘Provincial Perimeter Pedal’ at all the lodges in the Province and elsewhere.
The real hard work, however, came on that August bank holiday – particularly on the second day, when the forty-five cyclists faced some of the steepest roads in the UK. ‘There was one hill just outside Settle that was so steep some of the sheep were falling off it,’ says Craig. ‘I’d heard about it but had never been up it, and now I know why.’
With a gradient of one-in-four over two miles, cobbles at the bottom and an unseasonal hailstorm at the top, it was all a bit much for Chris Oldfield, who only started cycling a few years ago. ‘I’ve never seen a hill like it,’ says Chris, of Mirfield Lodge, No. 1102. ‘I had to get off and push, which I’m annoyed about. One of our group was over seventy and he managed to stay in the saddle – if only because his hips were so bad he said he couldn’t walk.
We looked after each other. If anyone had a mechanical problem, we’d stop. If anyone needed a breather, we’d stop.’
There were compensations for the near-vertical ascents. The views, for one thing: the valleys around Keighley and Hebden Bridge, where Last of the Summer Wine was filmed, and the beautiful James Herriot country around Ripon. More importantly, however, was the friendship.
‘I got to meet likeminded masons who I wouldn’t have met otherwise,’ says Phil. ‘We’ve been out riding since and just today I got an email from one of them who’s having a get-together at his lodge. There’s also the buzz of raising money. And with the training, I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.’
‘The fact that all the masonic halls opened their doors to us on a bank holiday and gave the public a chance to come in will have had a beneficial effect for Freemasonry,’ says Martyn. ‘Hopefully we’ll have broken down some of the myths about us – including the notion that masons are all grey-haired blokes who sit around and eat.’
Martyn is already planning an even bigger event for 2016: a walk around the Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales, with various levels of difficulty so people can bring their families, and he hopes hundreds will get involved.
Are we seeing the start of a new era? John, who was there to see the cyclists off that Saturday morning, was also there at the end when the exhausted riders returned to Tapton in a freezing downpour. ‘There was an enormous cheer,’ he remembers. ‘Some of the guys were done in. It does my heart good to know that people are willing to put themselves through that sort of trial for the benefit of people they’ll never know. In these days, when the media is full of how a minority of people in the world can be so unkind and cruel, it’s great to be reminded that the majority of us want to live good lives and do good for others.’
Donate to the Provincial Perimeter Pedal at www.everydayhero.co.uk/event/E2057A
Tour de Yorkshire
Yorkshire is to host the start of this year’s Tour de France in July, so Martyn Bolt of Woodsmoke Lodge, No. 9317, suggested a cycle event navigating the boundary of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding to raise funds for the 2017 RMBI Festival.
In the style of the Tour de France, the 280-mile Provincial Perimeter Pedal will be broken into stages as the route takes in 23 masonic halls after setting out from Tapton Hall in Sheffield.
The charity cycle will take place over the three days of the August bank holiday weekend, enabling many more riders to join the core group for part of the journey as they approach or leave a masonic hall.
For more information, go to www.provincialperimeterpedal.info
Challenging the south african heat
Two brethren from Mirfield Lodge, No. 1102, in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, cycled 400km over five days to raise money for Regain, the charity supporting those who have become tetraplegic as a result of a sports or leisure injury. Sometimes referred to as quadriplegia, tetraplegia is the complete or incomplete paralysis from the neck downwards as a result of severe spinal cord injury, affecting all four limbs and the trunk. Rod Dyer and Chris Oldfield completed the arduous event in the heat of South Africa’s Western Cape and raised around £8,000 from sponsorship and organising a number of social events.
Sanctuary help for youngsters
Thanks to West Yorkshire Freemasons, 20 children from an inner-city primary school in Leeds enjoyed a Christmas-themed party at the Hope Pastures horse and donkey sanctuary. As well as rescuing and rehoming horses, ponies and donkeys, Hope Pastures aims to educate people in animal welfare and provide a city sanctuary for community groups.
David Wignall of Allerton Lodge, No. 3047, applied to the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding for funding for the party, and a cheque for £500 was presented to Sue Huggins-Geering, a Hope Pastures trustee.
In tune with the band
Members of Rokeby Lodge, No. 6301, who meet in Halifax, Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, gave a big helping hand to local musicians by putting forward a request to the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund. As a result, Queensbury Scout Band and Revolution Show Corps found themselves £20,000 better off, and able to buy instruments as well as transport, so they can get their equipment to competitions. Oliver Richardson, band director, expressed his ‘sincere thanks’ to the Freemasons.
Freemasonry explained in Yorkshire
Thanks to a donation to Harrogate’s Royal Hall, a masonic exhibition has returned a portrait of Henry Lascelles to Yorkshire
The Royal Hall at Harrogate, one of the finest Edwardian theatres in the country, is a Grade 2 listed performance hall and theatre. With support from many local benefactors, led by industrialist Samson Fox, the building opened in 1903 as the Kursaal. Designed by Robert Beale and Frank Matcham, one of the most prolific theatre architects of his time, it was loosely based on the design of the Ostende Kursall in Belgium.
Over the years, the Royal Hall has provided a superb home for the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Yorkshire, West Riding, the first one being held in 1937. However, its masonic links go back to the Royal Hall’s origins. Samson Fox, Robert Beale and Frank Matcham were all Freemasons, as was Julian Clifford, the Royal Hall’s musical director for many years, and Alderman David Simpson, four times Mayor of Harrogate, who laid the foundation stone in 1902.
In 2001, the Royal Hall Restoration Trust was formed to raise funds towards the restoration of this important National Heritage building. Supported by the actor Edward Fox, a great-grandson of Samson Fox, donations were received from local benefactors, Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate International Centre and the Heritage Lottery Fund which allowed for a fully authentic interior redecoration and the restoration of the Dress Circle. In 2008, the patron of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust, HRH the Prince of Wales, led the Hall’s official re-opening.
Since that time, the Trust has remained in existence to continue with those improvements not included in the major project, including the further development of the Heritage Lounge. In 2010, the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, was pleased to make a generous donation towards the Restoration Fund, and, in particular, towards the refurbishment of the Heritage Lounge.
Part of this work included the provision of a run of seven large display cabinets, some of which the Trustees intended to fill with items of interest from those heady days when the Royal Hall attracted many outstanding 'stars' of international reputation.
Furthermore, another part of the refurbishment included an ambitious project to provide a 2 screen audiovisual system which would show different aspects of Harrogate and the Royal Hall.
As the Royal Hall, including the Heritage Lounge, is a feature of the ‘Harrogate Heritage Trail’, it is open to the public on a good number of days each year. It is also used for a variety of corporate events and as a bar during concerts or other performances held in the Hall.
When the Trustees, therefore, offered us the long term use of two of the display cabinets to house a masonic exhibition and also the opportunity to develop a module to be incorporated into the audio-visual system, W Bro Martin Stray, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, had no hesitation in gratefully accepting this very generous offer. After all, this would be the first time that a permanent exhibition of Freemasonry would be available for public viewing in a non-masonic context.
It soon became clear that there was much work to be done if we were to develop an exhibition of which the Province would be proud, hence we – W Bro Stuart Ross and W Bro Peter Smith – were commissioned in July 2011 with the task of making it happen.
Immediately we busied ourselves finding out exactly what was available in the way of interesting items suitable to be included in the exhibition. A trip to the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Grand Lodge proved to be a very positive starting point. Diane Clements (Director) and Mark Dennis (Curator) offered invaluable assistance in creating a wish list of available items. Rooting through various cellars, cupboards and other dark and mysterious places around the Province soon unearthed further treasures which could be included.
Early in the project, from research pursued by W Bro Stray, we were made aware of a magnificent portrait of George Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, who was Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding 1926–1942, Pro Grand Master 1935–1942 and Grand Master 1942–1947. This portrait was commissioned by the Province in 1937 and to which each of its lodges subscribed. The portrait was painted by Sir William Nicholson and presented to the Earl to be hung in Freemasons’ Hall, London.
Having expressed our interest in bringing this painting back to Yorkshire, representations were made to the Board of General Purposes, which agreed to the loan for an initial period of five years. This is the first occasion that the portrait has been seen outside London since it was presented all those years ago. Whilst we were naturally delighted to hear this news, it very soon became apparent that moving a fifteen foot painting from London to Harrogate was not going to be such an easy proposition. However, that was a problem for the future!
Having instigated our search for interesting exhibition items, it now became important to switch our attention to the development of our audio-visual module and to define the structure and content. We settled on the module being split into three parts i.e. an introduction, then two options: ‘What is Freemasonry’ and ‘Freemasonry and the Community’.
From the start, we were clear that everything to do with this exhibition was to be aimed at non-masons. With this in mind, suitable text was prepared for each of the three modules and appropriate images sourced or created to support our message. When the text had been recorded as an audio file, the software company had all that they needed to work their magic on our base material, which they did with great skill. The final flourish to the module was the development of an interactive keyboard, which appears on the touch screen at the end of each module, allowing for the entry of a name and email address for anyone wishing to receive more information. Data collected in this way is then immediately sent via the internet to the Provincial Office at Bradford.
Meanwhile, having agreed on a goodly number of artefacts from the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, it was time to look at what would be available from some of our local Lodges. We were fortunate in that De Grey and Ripon Lodge No. 837 agreed to lend us the Provincial chain, jewel and apron of the Earl de Grey and Ripon (later the Marquess of Ripon), Provincial Grand Master 1861–1874 and Grand Master 1870–1874. We then raided the Provincial archives where we found a wonderful set of Consecration Vessels, some charity posters and the beautiful Registrar’s Purse. Finally, we found some interesting items from Philanthropic Lodge No. 304.
Once transport had been arranged to bring the portrait and artefacts from London to Harrogate, we then had to consider just how the portrait was going to be raised some thirty feet in the air without damaging it. The weight of the portrait was such that special brackets had to made and cemented into the wall so that the portrait could hang safely. These brackets could only be fixed in position with the help of a scaffolding tower. Once the cement was set, the portrait would need to be hoisted up the wall and hung on to the brackets. All this had to be carefully timed to coincide with the portraits’ arrival from London.
With the portrait in place and the artefacts chosen, one would have thought that there was very little more to do other than arrange the displays in the cabinets. However, before that could be done, loan agreements had to be drafted for all the items which were to feature in the exhibition. Each artefact needed to be described in great detail, indicating any damage, and in most cases photographic evidence was required to support the description and value.
Once insurance was in place, the displays and information cards for the individual items could progress. We decided to use quite different approaches to the displays in our two allocated display units.
Firstly we decided that the public would be interested to see items that a Freemason would himself use or see on a regular basis as a member of the Craft. Hence the main feature of the first cabinet is a Mason’s case overflowing with items of regalia, dress, jewels and other printed ephemera.
A full box of working tools is to be found nearby, together with a number of ceremonial mauls and trowels commemorating the laying of various Foundation stones around the Province. This part of the display is supported by a superb collection of interesting glassware and ceramics, including a collection of Leeds Creamware complete with masonic symbols and two rather interesting ‘dice’ glasses.
The second cabinet holds a more limited number of larger, spectacular items, with the central focus being the Registrar’s Purse. This purse is a replica of the one belonging to United Grand Lodge and was used by the Provincial Grand Registrar to carry official documents on ceremonial occasions. This magnificent piece is a work of art in its own right and was created from silk velvet, using stump work with raised gold bullion thread, plate and sequins.
The purse is complemented by a set of decorated gilt Consecration vessels, comprising the Cornucopia (for corn), the two Ewers (for wine and oil) and the Salt.
The colourful Provincial Grand Master’s apron and chain, used by the Earl de Grey and Ripon, then show an interesting contrast with the light blue Master Mason’s apron in the adjoining cabinet.
To provide an eye-catching backdrop to the displays, a series of superbly ornate Charity certificates from the late 19th Century were borrowed from our Provincial archives and attached to the back wall.
The exhibition opened on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge on May 29th 2013, when many of the distinguished visitors and brethren attending the meeting were able to view the exhibits, watch the audiovisual presentation and admire the portrait of the Earl of Harewood on its return ‘home’. Seeing the way the exhibition was received made all the hard work and effort worthwhile, but it must also be remembered how important the support of both Harrogate Council (particularly the Royal Hall staff) and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry had been to the overall success of this development.
The exhibition is now open to the public on various days throughout the year and is also usually available for those attending events and performances in the Hall. If you would like to see the display, visit the Royal Hall website: www.royalhall.co.uk and follow the link to Royal Hall Open Days.
Very shortly after this exhibition had been completed, the opportunity arose for another exhibition to be created at the Bradford Industrial Museum. This exhibition has the double benefit of a much greater floor area to work with and an impressive attendance of around 40,000 adults pa.
At the time of writing this article, we are in the process of selecting and agreeing the items to be displayed, creating the loan agreements and putting the finishing touches to what will be yet another opportunity for the non-masons within this Province to share in the wonderful history of Freemasonry.
The exhibition, entitled 'A masonic Experience: Freemasonry Explained' is on schedule to open to the public in early December. Once again, we are indebted to the Library and Museum of Freemasonry for their continued support. We also appreciate all the hard work and effort from the staff at the Bradford Industrial Museum and the Bradford lodges: their assistance has been invaluable in helping to create this exhibition.
West Yorkshire supports scouting milestone
An event celebrating a scouting milestone has been funded by the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, with a cheque presented by Tobias Reece of Beacon Lodge, No. 4066, based in Halifax. The occasion was the West Yorkshire Scouts’ 65th anniversary awards ceremony, when scouts from across the county were entertained by the Spen Valley Scout and Guide Band and a service was held in Bradford Cathedral.
The weather couldn't have been better at this year's Great Yorkshire Show
Freemasons from the Provinces of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, and Yorkshire, West Riding, spoke to hundreds of interested members of the public about Freemasonry, its history, and its place in today's society.
On the first day of the show representatives from the Dove House Hospice in Hull spent the day on the Stand, after having received a substantial donation from the Province of North and East Ridings.
On Wednesday, representatives from Horticare in Wakefield visited the stand and brought pictures of their new vehicle, which had only been delivered the day before. The purchase was only made possible thanks to a major grant of £16,000 from the Provincial Grand Master's Fund of Yorkshire, West Riding. Read the full story and see a picture of the van.
On the last day, representatives from the Queensbury Scout Band spent the day on the stand (pictured) after receiving a major grant from the PGM's Fund of £20,000. The grant will be used to purchase new instruments and a vehicle. Scouting has had a long association with Freemasonry, Baden-Powell himself being a Freemason.