On a sunny Saturday in August, members of the Light Blue Club, some 48 in total, all arrived at The White Hart in Loughborough, to begin the first Magical Mystery Bus Tour
Arriving in Hawaiian shirts, which was the dress code for the day, the members were in good spirits and excited about the day ahead.
The day was organised by Freddie Harris, of Beacon Lodge No. 5208, and Andrew Yorke, of Highcross Lodge No. 4835, and proved to be a great opportunity for the members to meet up during the summer break, blow off some steam and have a good time together.
Visiting picturesque establishments in Walton on the Wolds, Hoby, Sileby, Rearsby, Thrussington, and Quorn to name but a few the journey on the vintage double decker bus was most enjoyable.
There were even a few non-masons on the tour; one is joining Highcross Lodge very soon and another enjoyed it so much, meeting the members plus hearing about all the good deeds undertaken by Freemasons, that he has just applied to join Beacon Lodge.
At the end of the tour, they all returned to Loughborough, where the venue had live music and bands playing throughout the rest of the evening. £100 was also raised for Leicestershire's 2022 Festival appeal.
At the end of February 2018, members of the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club travelled to Rome in order to visit the Keats and Shelley Lodge No. 1, on the register of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy
The brethren had an early departure from Stansted Airport on a morning flight and arrived in Rome well before lunch where the weather was somewhat inclement and to be later described during their visit as some of the worst rainfall they had seen in the city.
Despite this, they started on a tourist trail around the city taking sights including the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican, and the Altare della Patri (Alter of the Fatherland). On arriving at the Cinabro Masonic Hall, the Light Blue Club were warmly welcomed by the brethren of the lodge; a mixture of expats, members travelling from the UK and Italians.
The lodge room was small but perfectly formed. A ceiling of small lights created a great star scape with lighting around the edge, representing the sunrise and sunset together with night and day, which made for an impressive sight. The lodge meeting itself was a Raising Ceremony which was performed in English and very recognisable.
After the meeting, the brethren enjoyed a fairly informal festive board of traditional Italian fayre which had been prepared by a member of the lodge.
The Light Blue Club then continued on to a second Lodge meeting at Santa Cecilia Lodge No. 180 which is a lodge of musical research. This truly was a different experience with the entire ceremony and lecture in Italian. Once the lecture, translated as, 'Orpheus and the trial, the story of a Thracian singer who became a mason', was complete there was further discussion before the lodge was closed.
Robert Reay, a member of the Light Blues Club and Highcross Lodge No. 4835, said: 'It was a fantastic trip and lodge visit. The Light Blue Club were made so welcome by the local brethren who have extended an invitation on to any other brother that may wish to visit.'
On 12th March 2016, W Bro David Hughes (Rothley Temple Lodge No. 7801), ably assisted by W Bro Donald Salt (Guthlaxton Lodge No. 7717) and Bro Carl Heslop (Highcross Lodge No. 4835), welcomed the Leicester and District Organists' Association (LDOA) to the Holmes Lodge Room in Freemasons' Hall, Leicester to experience the rebuilt organ
LDOA is very proud of the local organ building tradition established by the firm started by Stephen Taylor and who built the magnificent concert organ in the De Montfort Hall. Taylors, a firm with strong masonic connections, also created the organ which initially stood in the old Halford Street Masonic Hall, and which still forms the core of the Holmes Temple organ following its rebuild by Bro Carl Heslop.
The first thing to strike the notice of the members of LDOA was the Edwardian Baroque splendour of the Holmes Lodge Room and to say they were impressed by its beauty and fine acoustic property is to put it mildly. W Bro David Hughes, who is himself an LDOA member and organist of Newton Harcourt and Wistow churches, gave a short history of the lodge room and how it came to be built, and then handed over to Bro Carl Heslop to talk about his work and how he been drawn to both Freemasonry and the task of undertaking the rebuilding of the instrument.
Bro Carl demonstrated the various stops on the organ and how they can work either in solo form or in combined patterns. He put the organ through its paces from delicately mild to ferociously magnificent. The members of the association, many of whom are local church organists, were then invited to try their hands on the organ and quite a number responded to the challenge. What impressed all those present was the way in which the rebuild has combined traditional organ pipe work with current digital technology to produce an instrument of astounding versatility. And, yes, Bro. Carl did end the afternoon by sending everyone off to Blackpool in Theatre organ style with 'I do like to be beside the seaside!'
The members of the association were entertained for two hours and went on their way having declared themselves more than happy with what they had heard and also highly delighted to have been given the chance to see inside our fine Provincial Headquarters.
The history of the Holmes Lodge Room organ in Freemasons' Hall, Leicester
Lodge of Research No. 2429 was recently treated to Bro Carl Heslop, a young member of Highcross Lodge No. 4835, giving a presentation on the history of the organ in the Holmes Lodge Room in Freemasons' Hall, Leicester, and its current versatility following the extensive restoration it underwent over the summer of 2014.
W Bro David Hughes, the current Master of the Lodge of Research and who has also been involved with the restoration, introduced the speaker and stated that he had commenced playing the organ at the age of 8. He had then become much involved in the theatre organ world, before being apprenticed to the world famous firm of organ builders, Harrison and Harrison of Durham.
Bro Heslop, who is now working for another most prestigious organ builder, Peter Collins of Melton Mowbray, then proceeded to give the assembled audience a most illuminating lecture on the arcane mysteries of organ building, by showing how various types of traditional organ pipes are made and can be combined to produce a very wide range of sounds and differing volumes.
He then brought the science and art of organ building into the 21st century by introducing the modern system of digital sound production, with which the Holmes Temple organ is now equipped, in addition to its older traditional wood and metal pipes.
Bro Heslop revealed that the origins of the organ can be traced back to the early years of the 19th century, when it started life as a small chamber instrument built by the famous London craftsman William Gray.
By some unknown process this had made its way to Leicester and was utilised by the local organ builders Taylor and Co. as the basis of the instrument installed in the old Masonic Hall in Halford Street in 1903. This was moved to the present Hall in 1910 and was extended by Taylors in memory of W Bro Billson in the 1940s.
After many years of faithful service the old instrument fell into disrepair and silence until being rescued by Bro Heslop, who volunteered his services shortly after attending an open evening meeting at London Road – where he was invited to become an initiate in Highcross Lodge, the lodge of our current Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger.
The lecturer then became the recitalist and demonstrated with great virtuosity the amazing versatility the organ now has in its new 'hybrid' form, which places it at the vanguard of organ building technology and gives us one of the finest instruments available to Freemasonry.
Bro Heslop showed how the organ can produce sounds in the English cathedral tradition, those of the north German and French Baroque styles and then by simply pressing a few switches he transported the entire company present to the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool with a recreation of the sounds of 'the Mighty Wurlitzer' school of organs.
It was subsequently pointed out that the world renowned Reginald Dixon, for so many years the organist of the Tower Ballroom and who was known as 'Mr Blackpool', was a prominent mason in Lancashire.
Following the recital, Bro Heslop answered questions and was then thanked and congratulated by the Provincial Grand Master, who pointed out that the selfless devotion of this young mason had saved the Province a very considerable sum of money while giving us an instrument of which we may be truly proud.
Bro Heslop was then thanked by W Bro David Hughes, who presented him with a copy of the Transactions of the Lodge of Research for the current year as a token of the lodge's thanks for his efforts. Bro Heslop responded by presenting W Bro Hughes with a redundant pipe from the organ which prompted the response that the Master of the Lodge of Research would now be able to blow his own trumpet!
It can honestly be said that this event was historic in that it was the first combined lecture and recital to be given to the Lodge of Research, and it was most enthusiastically received by all those who were present.
Over the festive period a band of determined and enthusiastic brethren from the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club undertook a unique and historic feat, visiting 12 different lodges across 12 different evenings in December
The lodges visited were:
1st December - Jason Lodge No. 7716 (Leicester)
4th December - Highcross Lodge No. 4835 (Leicester)
5th December - Edward Sherrier Lodge No. 6757 (Lutterworth)
9th December - Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 (Leicester)
11th December - Beacon Lodge No. 5208 (Loughborough)
12th December - Rothley Temple Lodge No. 7801 (Leicester)
13th December - Old Oakhamians No. 8033 (Oakham)
15th December - Lodge of the Golden Fleece No. 2081 (Leicester)
16th December - Temperantia Lodge No. 4088 (Leicester)
17th December - Reynard Lodge No. 9285 (Loughborough)
18th December - St Peter's Lodge No. 1330 (Market Harborough)
19th December - Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448 (Leicester)
The event was organised by Samuel Harris (Lodge of the Golden Fleece), and was conceived not only as an enjoyable test of endurance (and waistlines), but also to achieve three specific aims:
- To introduce brethren to the joys of visiting and meet other masons across the Province, by providing a unique opportunity to attend any of the 12 lodges during this period knowing there were a group of likeminded individuals also attending
- To raise awareness of the Light Blue Club and its aims across the Province and
- To raise a significant amount of money for LOROS Hospice as one of the designated charities
Over the course of the event, over two dozen individual brethren took part at various stages, including a few who had only been in the Craft for a matter of weeks but were keen to take part. Indeed, one brother who was initiated at one of the meeting, then came to visit another first degree ceremony the day immediately after his own!
In total, visits under the guise of the 12 lodges accounted for over 60 individual visits during the period, with the Light Blue Club attended meetings across the Province, from Leicester to Loughborough and Lutterworth, from Oakham to Market Harborough.
The brethren were overwhelmed with the warm welcome and hospitality they received at every lodge, and enjoyed seeing a wide variety of ceremonies performed, as well as the peculiarities and traditions unique to each Lodge either in the meeting or at the Festive Boards.
Every degree was witnessed at least one, as well as an Installation, although due to the time of the year, Christmas dinner was more often than not the menu of choice! The brethren enjoyed being able to explain to other junior Freemasons the aims of the Light Blue Club, the events put on, and how much they enjoy meeting and socialising with others across the Province. As a result, many more are now aware of the club and intend to get involved in the future.
Samuel Harris was supported in organisation of the event by Karl Coles (Edward Sherrier Lodge), and both deserve full credit for their commitment being the only members who managed to attend all 12 lodges. By the end of the final visit, both stated they would be happy if they never had to see turkey on the menu again!
Over £800 has been raised so far for LOROS, with contributions still coming in.
Pulling out all the stops
Carl Heslop, who was initiated in 2013 into Highcross Lodge, No. 4835, has dedicated his spare time and expertise during the past year to refurbishing the pipe organ in the Holmes’ Lodge Room at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester.
The 1903 Stephen Taylor of Leicester pipe organ was a mechanical action organ of modest size, comprising eight stops spread over two manuals. The work conducted by Carl over the past year involved significantly enlarging and modernising the existing Taylor, while retaining everything that was already there and re-using it in the specification.
Provincial Grand Master David Hagger thanked Carl on behalf of the Province for the tremendous effort and time he has put in to restoring the organ to its former glory.
David Hagger has been installed as Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire and Rutland by the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. David is a member of the Royal Arch and the Mark, Royal Ark Mariners, Rose Croix and Red Cross of Constantine.
1972 Initiated, Highcross Lodge No. 4835
2000 Provincial Grand Secretary
2003 WM, Leicestershire & Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896
2005 Assistant Provincial Grand Master
2006 Past Senior Grand Deacon
2007 Deputy Provincial Grand Master
2008 Past Grand Sword Bearer