During the summer, the Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works of Leicestershire and Rutland led the redecoration of the Provincial headquarters on London Road, Leicester.
W Bro Fred Harris and his son Bro Freddie Harris, both of Beacon Lodge No. 5208, along with a small team, began the four week process in mid-June 2015 and is focussed on a complete redecoration including repairs to joinery and preparation of external surfaces prior to the complete repainting of the façade.
No doubt these efforts by W Bro Fred Harris over the summer will not only prolong the life of the building but vastly increase the appearance of Freemasons' Hall doing justice to the magnificent Grade II listed Georgian building that many Leicestershire and Rutland masons call home.
During the summer barbecue held by Granite Lodge No. 2028 at the home of W Bro Mark Stewart-Halford, guests were encouraged to purchase a helium balloon which would be set free with a tag attached asking the finder to contact the lodge via its website.
Guests old and young were eager to try their luck and keen to see how far the balloons would go.
After the barbecue, results started to come in of balloon sightings, starting in Lincolnshire and then all the way out to Belgium in the North Sea.
Nothing however prepared the lodge to expect the farthest distance travelled, over 1,000 miles to Kullaberg in Sweden where a local diver, Mr Ian Fernheden spotted one of the balloons underwater on one of his dives. The moment the diver found the balloon underwater can be seen here: Granite Lodge balloon find.
The day raised over £1,000 for the Master's chosen charity, the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
On 30th November 2015, the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896, which meets at Freemasons’s Hall, Leicester, received a lecture on the ‘Masonic Echoes in Gilbert and Sullivan’ by W Bro David Hughes.
W Bro David is someone rather well qualified to deliver it as not only is he a well known masonic researcher and current Master of the Lodge of Research No. 2429, but he has a long 'performing pedigree' in the Savoy Operas having commenced his on-stage life with them in 1961 at his school in Dudley. He subsequently went on to be a leading member of both the Liverpool and Cambridge University G and S Societies, and later becoming a regular stage director of the Operas in Leicester.
W Bro Hughes began by outlining the masonic careers of both Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert originally joined a masonic lodge in Scotland while he was a volunteer officer in Aberdeen, while Sullivan was initiated most appropriately into the Lodge of Harmony No. 255. Both were subsequently exalted into the Royal Arch and perfected in the Ancient and Accepted Rite.
Sadly, the masonic influence on the works of "G and S" have been neglected by their biographers, though most recently the tide seems to have turned in this respect, especially with regard to Sullivan where it is increasingly accepted that his membership of the Craft had an influence on all his output, and certainly assisted in moulding his character and conduct. It must also be remembered that Sullivan was a unique figure in English Freemasonry, being the only holder of Grand Rank as a Rosette appointment – but he did have friends in very high places in the person of the MW Grand Master His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
W Bro Hughes demonstrated that there are explicit masonic references in The Grand Duke of 1896, where one character states 'we are all tiled here'. Then in the Song of the Sausage Roll, reference is made to the giving and receiving of signs whereby one brother learns he may fully trust another.
However, it is rather through Gilbert's use of Topsy-Turvey arguments that the allusions become more plain. Gilbert used a dramatic method whereby everything is turned on its head so that it becomes its own opposite. Thus good is bad, bad is good, day is night and night is day, vice is virtue and virtue is vice and so on. By this means Gilbert constructs his satires. In The Grand Duke the Masonic satire hinges on a touring company of actors planning to overthrow a minor German prince. Thus Freemasonry which is most certainly not about the seizure of political power and the advancement of the private interests of its members is turned on its head to become exactly the opposite of itself.
Similarly in Ruddigore of 1887, masonic ritual is parodied both in words and music in telling the tale of a man who is condemned by an ancient curse to commit a crime each day or perish in agony which 'gets worse by degrees', inflicted on him by his ghostly ancestors who form a mock lodge for the purpose of making him make, not a daily advancement in masonic knowledge, but a daily descent into a life of crime and wrongdoing. Once again our beneficial and moral order is turned on its head to become its exact opposite for the purposes of satire.
At the close of the meeting, the Master of the lodge, W Bro Ian Johnson, thanked W Bro Hughes for an enlightening and entertaining talk.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire Jennifer, Lady Gretton, JP officially opened the new Community Room at Lutterworth Freemasons’ Hall on Saturday 21st November 2015 alongside the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger.
Over the past year the Freemasons’ Hall at Lutterworth, known as the Wycliffe Rooms, has undergone extensive development to include a new large multifunctional room, bar and kitchen which is available for hire by the local community.
The Chairman of the Lutterworth Masonic Association, W Bro Malcolm Longley, said: 'We offer our thanks to Lady Gretton for finding time in her busy schedule to perform the official opening ceremony. Similarly, our thanks must also go to RW Bro David Hagger for also being with us on this special occasion. We are deeply indebted to many organisations and individuals who have contributed to the completion of this development with either financial or physical help, or both.'
Other parts of the former cinema have also been refurbished including the reception and toilet facilities and a lift installed to allow less able brethren access to the lodge room without having to climb the stairs. The main kitchen has also been extended.
More than 70 people, including the Lutterworth Town Mayor, Tony Hirons, together with many local Freemasons and their partners, attended the opening after which a luncheon was served. The Provincial Grand Master gave an address congratulating all those involved in the project and concluded that he was proud that the Freemasons have provided wonderful facilities for the community of Lutterworth to use.
Finally, W Bro Clive Weston, Honorary Secretary of the Lutterworth Masonic Association, and Project Manager finished the event by presenting flowers to Lady Gretton and to the wives of members who had assisted in the development and refurbishment.
The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger, visited the new Centre for Medicine at the University of Leicester on Thursday 26th November 2015, which is currently being completed.
The Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association (LRMCA) generously donated £50,000 towards the building which will provide a state of the art academic research and teaching environment for medical students.
A multifunctional room on the lower floor of the new centre will be proudly named the ‘Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons’ Room’. The Provincial Grand Master, along with the Chairman of the LRMCA, W Bro John Peberdy, the Provincial Grand Almoner, W Bro Anthony Molyneux, a Grand Charity Representative, W Bro Anthony Wood and their partners were given a guided tour of the centre by Estates Project Manager, Dave Vernon.
The tour started at the room to be named after the local Freemasons which is located to the left of the main reception of the building. Other parts of the new building were shown during the tour including the lecture theatres, communal spaces and offices particularly highlighting its Passivhaus (very little energy required for heating and cooling) features.
The Centre for Medicine has also recently had a green 'living' wall installed which is the largest green wall in the UK outside of London. This will provide year round colour from the flowering plants and a habitat for birds, bees and butterflies.
The centre is due to be opened during the next couple of months and will be in full use by Easter 2016.
Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have donated £10,000 to the children’s educational charity Warning Zone towards the funding of a new interactive zone based on the dangers of the internet
The new E-Safety Zone is an interactive experience, based on a trip to the fairground, for Year 6 students which aims to educate children about online safety including learning about internet security, cyberbullying, grooming, digital identity and unsuitable material.
Warning Zone was first launched in October 2006 and is the adopted charity of the High Sheriff of Leicestershire and Rutland. It combines vital messages in a single stimulating and memorable experience which helps to prepare youngsters for increased independence and their transition into early adolescence. Located on Frog Island in Leicester it aims to foster an understanding of risk, consequence of actions, peer pressure and personal responsibility. It is not about wrapping children in cotton wool, rather presenting the plain and honest facts in a memorable and understandable way in order to encourage responsible behaviour and sound decision making while living full and active lives.
The new zone was officially opened by Sir Clive Loader, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire and Rutland, on Monday 5th October 2015. The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, along with other members of the fraternity, also attended the opening ceremony and were given a most interesting and informative tour of the new learning zone.
David Hagger said: 'We are very proud to have contributed to this excellent learning facility for children. As Freemasons, we follow five principles which encompass the fundamental values of good citizenship. Educational facilities such as Warning Zone similarly help youngsters to develop the concept of their own personal and social responsibility. The E-safety zone is an excellent new facility that will ensure the risks of using the internet are highlighted to children.'
Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons held a grant award ceremony at Freemasons' Hall, Leicester on Saturday 26th September 2015 where 24 local charities were gifted a total of £92,845
Among the charities receiving awards was the University of Leicester. Dr Kevin Harris, Interim Dean of the Medical School, was pleased to receive an award for £50,000 towards the building of the new Centre for Medicine which will provide a state of the art academic research and teaching environment for medical students. Dr Harris said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland for this generous gift. This will be the newest and most advanced medical school in the country and not only will it train the next generation of doctors and healthcare professionals it will also promote the health of the local population.'
LOROS Hospice, who care for over 2,500 people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, were granted £8,363. John Knight, Chief Executive of LOROS, said: 'Thank you to the Freemasons for this donation which will go straight to the work of the organisation for the whole of Leicestershire and Rutland.'
Within the region, other charities received donations included:
Home Start North West Leicestershire, based in Ashby, which supports families with a child under the age of five who have been experiencing difficulties with family life, received a donation of £600 to purchase 40 Christmas Hampers. Scheme Manager Pamela Moretta said: 'It will be so nice at Christmas to be able to take each family that we home visit a Christmas Hamper full of goodies.'
MRC Community Action, which is based in Coalville, received a donation of £1,200 to provide social and therapeutic activities for those over 60 years of age affected by acute loneliness, social isolation, poor physical or mental health. Operations Manager, Lesley Massey said: 'This is going to provide to start to delivering services on a Sunday in the Marlene Reid Centre including transport, entertainment and food.'
The Harley Staples Cancer Trust received a donation of £2,112, raised in part by the Wyggeston Lodge which meet in Leicester, to provide a years rent for ‘Harley’s Caravan’ allowing families with children suffering from cancer to spend quality time together at the seaside and away from hospital. Upon receiving the donation, Jamie Staples said 'A massive thank you to all the Freemasons for this donation. We have had 25 families stay in our Caravan this year and we now don’t have to worry about the rent for next year as it is now sorted.’
Leicester-based the Laura Centre, which offers specialist bereavement counselling to parents whose child has died and to children or young people who have been bereaved of a parent or significant person, received a donation of £2500. Co-founder Gail Moore said: 'On behalf of everyone at The Laura Centre and the children and families we were founded to serve, I would like to thank the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for this extremely wonderful gift.'
Loughborough based charity Leslie Edwards Trust received £2,000, including £1,000 from the members of Beacon Lodge who meet in Loughborough, which will provide lip reading classes to help people with hearing difficulties across Leicestershire including Loughborough, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Coalville and Hinckley.
Home Start Charnwood was granted £1,000. Director, Elena Folkes, said: 'A huge thank you on behalf of Home Start Charnwood for such a generous donation which will go towards training a volunteer to support a family in need.'
The Castle Donnington Volunteer Centre (CDVC) received £1,500 towards the cost of a volunteer co-ordinator. Chair of the CDVC, John Williams, said: 'There are a lot of people that become isolated and this donation will go a very long way to assist with our Help@Hand service to help people in their homes.'
Lutterworth Community Transport Community Bus Scheme who was granted £2,000 which will provide enough funds for weekly lunch and social activities for those that are socially isolated in Walcote. Stephen Jeffries said: 'We are enormously dependent on funding and this award will continue to help us to keep the operation going.'
St Mary's Church at Broughton Astley who was granted £2,000 to provide a new heating system. Rev Sharon Constable said: ‘I would like to thank the Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland very much for this donation. Having a new heating system is going to make such a difference so that we can offer our space, not just as a place to worship, but also for the whole community to use.'
Somerby based Mount Group Riding for the Disabled was granted a total of £2,000 by St Mary’s Lodge, who meet in Melton Mowbray, towards the cost of upgrading a riding simulator. Peter O’Connor from the charity said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for this generous donation. We provide riding facilities for disable children and adults and this donation will go a long way to help with out with upgrading our riding simulator which allows children and adults who want to ride but do not have the confidence to get on a real animal.'
Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, David Hagger, said: 'Freemasonry is one of the biggest contributors to UK charities and the generous donations we have given locally were raised by our members themselves through contributions and social events. We continue to raise funds for a large variety of good causes as well as contributing to society and these grants are a wonderful example of the generosity of Freemasons.'
The reinterment of Richard III
The Province of Leicestershire and Rutland and the Grand Charity have donated £15,000 to Leicester Cathedral Charitable Trust for the reinterment of Richard III. The contribution went towards the £2.54 million appeal, which has funded a tomb and alterations to the cathedral, including a new chapel.
David Monteith, Dean of Leicester Cathedral, said, ‘We were delighted to have had the support and interest of the Freemasons from the very start of this project on both a national and local level.’
Beacon Lodge No. 5208 held an emergency meeting on Friday 29th May 2015 for a very special ceremony where they initiated a 'Lewis' on the very day of his 18th birthday
Whilst the normal age for joining Freemasonry is usually 21 years old, there are special circumstances where those aged 18 years and above can join.
A ‘Lewis’ is the name given to the uninitiated son of a mason. In stonemasonry, a lewis is an iron cramp that is forced into a cavity of a stone to enable the lifting or lowering of that stone. Although it is not a working tool used in masonic ritual it can be seen as a symbol of strength, which a son is to his father.
Joshua Symonds, who is the eldest son of W Bro Garry Symonds and Past Master of Beacon Lodge, became what is most probably the youngest Freemason in the country thanks to a dispensation granted by the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger.
The ceremony was witnessed by over 70 brethren including visitors from far and wide, including a good contingency of younger masons from the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club. The ceremony was first class and a very proud father took the Master’s Chair to Initiate his son and give those attending a memorable and very unforgettable evening.
Beacon Lodge has one of the lowest age profiles in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland with an average age of just 51. The addition of Bro Symonds will undoubtedly continue the trend in the lodge for younger men to join the fraternity and enjoy Freemasonry at an early age.
After the meeting, a very enjoyable Festive Board was held after the ceremony where £475 was raised for Leicester Children’s Holiday Centre who provide free seaside holidays for disadvantaged children across the county.
A grand introduction in Ireland
Coming from eight different lodges, members of the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club, including Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Kinder, visited the Grand Master’s Lodge in Dublin, Ireland. Prior to the meeting, the visitors were treated to a private tour of Freemasons’ Hall by the Grand Tyler of Ireland. The Light Blue Club’s visit (pictured above) took place when the Grand Master of Ireland, Douglas Grey, was attending his own lodge.
The installation ceremony offered a fascinating insight into the differences between the English ritual and that practised in Ireland.