Freemasonry provided its own version of the Six Nations when two Provincial rugby teams locked horns for the first time in Wigan, as they competed for the Freemasons Rugby Challenge Cup on 9th February 2019
Leicestershire & Rutland Light Blues RFC accepted an invitation to participate in the inaugural match of the Province of West Lancashire’s new masonic rugby team, with the cup donated by both clubs to encourage the development of provincial masonic rugby teams and a healthy rivalry.
Wigan, a town more familiar with Rugby League, was the battleground and despite stormy conditions throughout the night, the sun was shining in front of a 200-strong crowd and the pitch in excellent condition.
Both sides began the match with enthusiasm and, with ‘brotherly love’ being temporarily put to one side, a true rugby spirit. Despite it being their first match – and for some of their players, the first ever game – West Lancashire were competitive with resilient defence and probing attacks, but the first half finished with Leicestershire & Rutland holding a narrow 13-10 lead.
While West Lancashire Freemasons Rugby Football Club (WLFRFC) fielded an all-masonic team, part of the ethos of Leicestershire Light Blues RFC, who have been established for a number of years, is to work as a recruiting platform and a conduit into Freemasonry. The fresh, and somewhat younger, legs of the Leicestershire & Rutland team proved decisive and, after a hard-fought second half, they were victorious with a 30-10 victory.
The Freemasons Rugby Challenge Cup was presented to the Light Blues RFC Captain Andrew 'Jock' Keenan by the WLFRFC Honorary Patron, Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, Tony Harrison for a well-deserved victory.
WLFRFC Honorary President, linesman and Deputy Grand Superintendent from Royal Arch Province of West Lancashire Dr Paul Renton presented man-of-the-match awards to West Lancs’ Hooker Mark Brant and to Leicestershire & Rutland’s Fly Half Ollie Stanley.
Fundraising on the day raised £960 which included a generous donation of £103 by Leicestershire and Rutland members.
WLFRFC Chairman & Founder Garry Hacking praised the generosity and support of all who attended the match from both Provinces and thanked Daniel Quelch and Andrew Keenan for their guidance, advice and help in setting up the West Lancashire team.
On a snowbound and extremely foggy morning of January 30th 2019, members of three provinces came together to present a grant of £12,000 to North West Air Ambulance
David Walmsley, Assistant Provincial Grand Master in West Lancashire, Simon Palfreyman, Assistant Provincial Grand Master in Cheshire, and John Farrington, Deputy Provincial Grand Master in East Lancashire, ably assisted by provincial charity stewards from Cheshire and East Lancashire, all braved the snow to meet with staff from North West Air Ambulance to take a short tour of the facilities and learn a little more about what they do.
On this particular morning, the two impressive Eurocopter EC135 helicopters were grounded due to poor visibility. One of the pilots, Lee, took the opportunity of telling them that from the City Heliport (Barton Aerodrome) there is an easily referred to visual point which denotes the flying limit of 1500m; Barton Bridge.
North West Air Ambulance now have two rapid response cars which can take the place of the helicopters on days such as this should they be required, and are also able to carry blood supplies.
For the helicopters to operate it costs £9 per minute in fuel, while an average call out costs £2,500. The recent grant of £12,000 will go a fair way to providing fuel for one air ambulance for a month.
North West Air Ambulance operate three helicopters. two at City Heliport (Barton) and one over at Blackpool. A chart on the wall showed they can cover a fair proportion of the North West in 20-30 minutes travelling at up to 160mph, and 20 minutes to Lancaster and North Wales.
Members of Silverdale Lodge No. 6926 in West Lancashire have raised £1,126 for Bleasdale School to allow six special needs pupils to attend a residential outdoor learning course
Bleasdale School is based in Silverdale which is a small village on the north edge of the Province. It only has a population of around 1,300 people, but boasts its own masonic hall and a very active and supportive lodge, working with the community.
Bleasdale School, which is located a short distance from the masonic hall, is a school for pupils aged 2-19 with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD).
Speaking about the impact the donation would have, Headteacher Kairen Dexter said: ‘Outdoor activities and inclusion within the community form a large part of our curriculum. This is why I want to thank Silverdale Lodge for its generosity in donating money to allow our pupils to access a residential at Bendrigg Lodge which is a residential activity centre specialising in high quality courses for disabled and disadvantaged people, of any age or ability.
'The pupils enjoy these activities so much and they are able to access activities such as the climbing wall, abseiling, archery and water sports, all activities which their mainstream peers, access without hesitation.'
It was another sell out event at the annual Charity Boxing Night, organised by West Lancashire Freemasons, which helped to raise over £11,000 for charity
Held at the Cumbria Grand Hotel, Grange over Sands, on the edge of the Lake District, it was in this idyllic setting overlooking the natural grandeur of Morecambe Bay, that the tournament celebrated its 33rd year. With over 200 Freemasons and guests in attendance, a dinner and raffle preceded the main event, setting the stage for a great night of sport for everyone.
This year there were 14 bouts on the card which saw some very keenly contested competition between young boxers from amateur boxing clubs based in Barrow, Kendal and Carlisle, with each bout limited to just three rounds.
Peter Schofield, who is the chairman of the Furness and South Lakes masonic group, was full of praise for the organiser, Barry Bray and the evening’s regular MC Ralph Spours. Commenting on the amount of money raised by the event and its impact on local charities, Peter said: ‘I am personally delighted that the money given locally goes to those smaller, often unheralded, good causes who add so much to our communities and to whom a donation of a few hundred pounds makes a great difference. Some of the stories we hear at the presentation evenings are quite moving and confirm that our efforts really are worthwhile.
‘Last year saw this boxing event pass the £200,000 total as regards monies raised, we are now in a position to head for the £250,000 mark and that should be our focus over the next couple of years.’
It was confidently predicted at the end of the evening, that the total raised that night would exceed £11,000, which would be divided between the Masonic Charitable Foundation and local charities.
As usual, the event attracted widespread coverage in the local and regional press, giving many people an opportunity to learn a little more about the support Freemasons give to their local communities.
Chris Band, Master of Arthur John Brogden Lodge No. 1715 in West Lancashire, along with lodge members Barry Saunders and Neville Chanin, popped into a meeting of the 1st Grange-over-Sands Brownies to present a donation of £700 on behalf of the lodge
Unit Leader Barb Littlewood, also known as Blue Koala in Brownie terms, received the cheque on behalf of the local Girl Guides Grange and Cartmel District group.
Barb explained: ‘The donation will be used to buy equipment for use by the district. All of the Brownies and Guides from ages 5-26 years as well as the helpers, are taught CPR. We will now be able to purchase a CPR manikin to help with the training of this important life skill.
'A projector for shared use is amongst the other items on the shopping list. We are very grateful to the Freemasons of Grange for their support, it is much appreciated.’
The donation was made from the proceeds of the annual fund raising evening held by Arthur John Brogden lodge. Organised by Barry, with support from Charity Steward Neville, the event this year featured a very well-received Simon and Garfunkel tribute act and an auction.
Barry commented: ‘The evening has gone from strength to strength. Last year, we donated to St Mary’s Hospice and we will continue to target worthy endeavours in the area. When you see the reaction of those who receive the money and know it is to be well spent, it inspires you to start on organising the next event.’
And what of the 'Tu-whit, Tu-whoo'? As the trio of masons were quietly making their exit from the hall they were summoned back into the middle of the room. The Brownies formed a circle around them and expressed their gratitude by according them the highest honour they could, the Grand Howl, which is a special way to show appreciation. The salutations of 'Tu-whit, Tu Whoo' were then followed by enthusiastic applause and completed with a flourishing bow.
Neville added: ‘The lodge is very grateful to all those who supported the fundraising evening, both our own members and the many visitors. I am sure they will agree that their contributions have been well spent.’
Around 200 West Lancashire Freemasons and their partners enjoyed a ‘grand day out’ at a charity event staged at the very top of their Province, in the town of Grange-over-Sands, and raised £2,500
The very appropriately named Cumbria Grand Hotel was taken over for the evening with the ticket price including overnight accommodation, which was supported by the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison, together with his wife Maureen.
The themed ‘Black and White Ball’ started with a ‘Fizz Reception’, followed by a four-course dinner, a spectacular firework display and then dancing into the early hours to the ten-piece band, ‘Soul Survivor’. To keep the party goers on their feet till late, a ‘Lancashire Hot Pot’ supper was served around midnight.
Organiser Richard Wilcock, who is the local charity steward, was delighted with the success of the event and paid tribute to the immense help given to him by his wife, Jackie. He said: ‘We’ve had yet another fantastic night, well supported not only by our local members but also by our friends from across Morecambe Bay in the Lancaster masonic group.
‘This year the event has raised at least £2,500 for charity and has been so popular that we are considering extending it to run over two nights next year.’
The Province of West Lancashire is currently hosting a festival in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, ending in 2021.
One of the key figures of the suffragette movement, Annie Besant, was not only a socialist, rights activist, author and orator, but also one of the founders of the society of Co-Freemasonry, which has evolved into the present day The Order of Women Freemasons organisation
This was one of the interesting facts revealed by Geraldene Greenhalgh from The Order of Women Freemasons in an absorbing talk she gave to West Lancashire Freemasons at Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall. The host lodge was Lonsdale Lodge of Installed Masters No. 9422.
Geraldine is a Senior Grand Warden in The Order of Women Freemasons and holds responsibility for Lancashire. She further explained how Annie had become head of the Order and had led a public march through the streets of London by her members, dressed in their regalia, during one of the important demonstrations in support of the campaign for universal suffrage.
Previously the lodge had been opened, the business conducted and duly closed before Geraldene was then welcomed into the lodge room to give her talk. She was not the only woman in attendance as the wives and partners of Lonsdale members were also admitted to enjoy the oration. Amongst the attentive onlookers was the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison who was accompanied by his wife Maureen together with Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger and his wife Beryl.
Geraldene outlined how the Order was founded and its subsequent history. It shares many of the principals of Freemasonry and its ceremonies reflect those performed by their male counterparts. The first head of the order in 1908 had in fact been a man, the Rev Dr. William Cobb. Since 1912, the Grand Masters have all been women and in 1920, it was decided to restrict admission exclusively to females which continues to this day.
One of the principal objects of The Order of Women Freemasons, which is open to all faiths, is charity. It was revealed that the ‘Race for Life’ fundraiser in aid of Cancer UK in 2016 saw the Order raise £100,000 for the campaign. Recent years have also seen donations of £100,000 each to charities in aid of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer research. In its centenary year in 2008 donations of £250,000 had been made to Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK. Rather than a levy on the members, the Order relies on charitable funds being raised at social events. A Gentleman’s Festival replaces the Ladies Night held by Craft lodges.
The Order, which now boasts 6,000 members in this country and abroad in 350 lodges, is administered from premises in Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill which were left to them by a member. Their Grand Lodge meetings are held in Birmingham and regularly attract over 1,000 members.
In addition to the Craft, The Order of Women Freemasons also has a degree equivalent to the Holy Royal Arch Chapter as well as several other orders. Geraldine added that women who wished to enjoy Freemasonry could also join The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons which also only admits women as members.
The lodge’s Master Bill Edmonds thanked Geraldene for a talk which had proved both informative and interesting and kept everyone enthralled throughout.
A unique event took place on 22nd October 2018, as the Provinces of East and West Lancashire joined forces to create the fourth Chapter of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Universities Scheme
Palatine Chapter No. 2447, which is proud to have as honorary members the Grand Superintendents of both Provinces, Sir David Trippier and Tony Harrison, meets twice a year – once in East Lancashire and once in West Lancashire – and now has over 40 members from both Provinces.
This inaugural meeting of the Chapter worked an Installation Ceremony and then exalted into the Order three members from the Universities Scheme’s Craft lodge Old Mancunians’ with Mount Sinai No. 3140.
Almost £230,000 has been distributed to good causes in 14 years from a trust fund administered by Hindpool lodge no. 1225 in the Province of West Lancashire
The news was publicly announced at its 150th anniversary and installation meeting, with the final total standing at £229,328. Fund chairman Keran Stalker explained: 'George Wood was initiated into Hindpool Lodge in 1929 and served as Worshipful Master in 1940. On his death in 1956 his daughter Dorothy Bird Wood, a well-known local school teacher, inherited his estate. She died in 2004 and the entire estate was bequeathed to the lodge so that a charitable trust could be established in the name of her father.'
Since then the George Wood Memorial Benevolent Fund has quietly made generous donations to various organisations of whom the majority are locally based. Amongst the beneficiaries have been youth, community and sporting groups including scouts, guides and air and sea cadets. An average of £16,500 has been distributed annually without fanfare or publicity.
In attendance at the installation was West Lancashire's Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison who commented: 'It is wonderful to see the legacy being put to such excellent use in supporting local good causes. The trustees are to be congratulated on the manner in which they have managed the fund.'
To mark the 150th celebration, a further six donations of £1,000 were made to groups within the Hindpool area of the town. The ward of Hindpool is nowadays recognised as one of the most deprived in England. The groups receiving a donation were Furness Homeless Support Group, The Salvation Army, Hindpool Tigers junior rugby league team, Furness Gymnastics Club, Brisbane Park School and St James Church of England School.
Newly installed Master of Hindpool Lodge Paul Musgrave added: 'As part of my role I will be involved with the day to day running of the fund. I am sure that I will find that very rewarding. We act very much under the radar but having passed the £200,000 mark in our donations, we felt now is the time to let the public know about this generous bequest which has helped so many. No doubt George and Dorothy would be pleased to see what has been achieved through their wonderful legacy.'
Hindpool Lodge was the second to be formed in Barrow-in-Furness. It is one of the oldest institutions in the borough. As late as 1843 Barrow boasted only 32 dwellings and two public houses. The discovery of high grade iron ore, and the industries which arose from that, saw the town boom and by 1881 it had grown to a population of 50,000. It became a borough in 1867, one year before Hindpool Lodge was consecrated, and was dubbed 'the little Chicago' because of its rapid expansion.
The friends and colleagues of Tom Jackson gathered at Chorley Masonic Hall, in the Province of West Lancashire, for a meeting of St George’s Lodge of Chorley No. 7161 to celebrate Tom's 50 years in the Craft
Tom has been a very well-known figure in Masonic circles nationally for many years, not least because of his current status as Grand Master of the Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees.
Indeed, in this Masonic Order, Tom has a ‘Council’ (the equivalent of a Craft lodge) named after him. It was a tribute to the regard in which Tom is held, that saw so many leaders of other Masonic Orders join him at his celebration.
As expected, the turnout was high with 105 lodge members and guests. The lodge was opened by Worshipful Master Paul Greenway who welcomed Tony Harrison, Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, into the lodge. On this occasion, Tony retained the gavel of the lodge to lead the celebrations.
Tom was initiated into St George’s Lodge of Chorley 50 years ago, being installed as Master in 1982. Since then he has found his way into Royal Arch, Mark Masons and many more Masonic Orders.
In UGLE, he was given Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies from 2000-2012 and appointed Past Senior Grand Deacon in 2012.
In summarising Tom’s achievements and service, Tony Harrison said: 'Tom is a fine example to the members of this lodge and indeed to us all. Now, having served as a Freemason for a period of 50 years, may I offer you my heartiest congratulations on this marvellous achievement and great milestone in your life.
'As the head of this great Province of West Lancashire, I have issued a certificate to commemorate this special day.'
The certificate of appreciation was then read and shortly afterwards, the celebrant and his many friends enjoyed a meal and the opportunity to reflect on 50 eventful years.