Invictus Games Competitor and British Army veteran Ashley Hall fought back after a terrorist bomb took off both his legs and part of his left hand while on duty in Afghanistan, but even he was unprepared by the callous thieves who stole his specially adapted bike – and his route back to mobility and a more normal life
Now thanks to Essex Freemasons, Ashley, aged 28, is back in the saddle four months after thieves broke into the shed at his Colchester home, taking the bike and most importantly, the special components that enabled him to ride it.
After his story was featured in the Colchester Gazette newspaper, Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex, immediately offered to replace the bike; a task that took four months and the skill of experts from across Europe to fulfil.
'Raising the £8,000 to replace the bike and purchase the modifications was the easy bit,' said Rodney, who officially presented Ashley with his new machine at the St Giles Masonic Centre in Colchester on 19th October.
'We had to approach a specialist company in Austria, the only one that could build the bespoke specification needed and even they had to order and adapt a wide range of additional components to complete the job. It was a long wait but worth it to be able to get Ashley back in the saddle.
'I was particularly appalled by the fact that thieves who have probably contributed little to the community, had deprived a brave Army veteran, seriously disabled serving his country, and my members agreed. I am delighted we could help.'
For Ashley, who was serving in the Royal Engineers in 2007 as part of a bomb disposal team at the time of his injury, it is a dream come true. 'I wanted to do all the things that I had enjoyed before the incident,” he said.
'One of these was riding a bike again on just two wheels, a thing that most people take for granted. The thieves stopped that on the day they broke into my shed.'
Not that Ashley is man who is easily deterred. In 2017, he competed in the wheelchair rugby event in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games and today practices martial arts – he is a blue belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. At the time of the robbery he was in Anglesey in North Wales competing for Team Brit, a racing car event.
Berkshire Freemasons have donated £5,000, via the Masonic Charitable Foundation, to local charity Me2 Club
The Me2 Club helps children with a variety of difficulties attend mainstream activities. As part of raising the charity’s profile, on 17th September 2018 the Me2 Club hosted a tea party which was attended by HRH The Countess of Wessex.
Amongst the guests were Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, and David Jarvis, the Provincial Almoner. Both were introduced to Her Royal Highness and explained how Berkshire Freemasons had helped the club in raising funds to support their activities.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton also joined in the fun at the tea party, helping children draw and read, as well as serving them cake and other goodies.
Bernadette Ferne, Me2 Club’s Chair, was delighted at the support from Berkshire Freemasons over the last two years. She said: 'It has supported general activities as well as trading courses for the volunteers. Without this support our charity would find things harder to achieve.'
Members of Blundell’s School Masonic Lodge have met at the school in Devon for the first time since the lodge was consecrated in 1934
The event in 2017 was arranged to coincide with the Tercentenary of the world's first Grand Lodge for Freemasons last year, and to mark the occasion members of Blundell's Lodge No. 5467 wanted to celebrate it in a unique way.
This led to the idea of approaching Blundell's School, and so with the help of the lodge's Senior Warden Craig Cox and his wife Sarah the permission of the Head of Blundell's Nicola Huggett was obtained and plans were set in motion.
The logistics of such an event was never going to be easy to arrange, but the outcome was a marvellous afternoon and evening culminating in 116 members and their partners sitting down for a gourmet dinner in the main dining room of the school.
Nicola Huggett and Richard Swarbrick, Chairman of the Old Blundellian Club, were guests of honour and both the Worshipful Master of the lodge John Shepherd and the Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Ian Kingsbury were each delighted to present the Head with a cheque for £1,500 – making a total of £3,000 to mark the celebrations of the Tercentenary.
This donation enabled year 11 students at the school to assist with projects identified by Community Learning International, who currently operate five learning centres in district towns of rural Luang Prabang in Laos, where they provide opportunities for children to develop their skills and knowledge.
This aid has now reached the children in Laos and the delight on their faces and the knowledge that without this sort of help the education of the children would be much poorer has made the project worthwhile in the eyes of everyone who took part.
In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset, nearly 100 Freemasons paraded through the centre of the City of Bath on September 30th 2018
Starting at the Masonic Hall, Old Theatre Royal, members paraded under the banners of Royal Cumberland Lodge No. 41 and Lodge of Perpetual Friendship No. 135, finishing at the Friends Meeting House building in York Street, which was the original Masonic Hall from 1819 to 1842.
The Provincial Grand Master Stuart Hadler, accompanied by the Leaders, full Provincial Team, Ruling Masters and members from all parts of the Province, all in full regalia, paraded along the route in two columns and were well-received by the public.
Upon arrival at the Friends Meeting House, Stuart Hadler presented representatives of ‘The Friends’ with a cheque for £1,000. Dignitaries in attendance included: The Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Somerset - David Medlock; The Lord Lieutenant’s representative - Annie Maw; The Chair of Bath & NE Somerset Council - Councillor Karen Walker; and The Mayor and Mayoress of Bath - Councillor Patrick and Deirdre Anketell-Jones.
Provincial Historian Malcolm Toogood then presented a fascinating history on the formation of the Province, following which the members and their guests returned to the Old Theatre Royal for welcome refreshment.
A Blue Plaque has been unveiled in Treorchy in Wales to commemorate the involvement of Freemasonry in the community
Locla Freemason Phil Hanney was invited to join South Wales Provincial Grand Master Gareth Jones OBE in the task of unveiling the Blue Plaque.
The plaque is now secured proudly on the RAFA Pub in Bute Street for all to see, as a long standing reminder to the community of the fine Masonic heritage and contribution established in the valley.
Cwm Rhondda Lodge No. 9692, which meets at the the RAFA Pub, was established in February 1999 and meets on the third Monday in September and March, and the first Monday in December and June.
Phil Hanney, who is a member of Cwm Rhondda Lodge, said: 'Our Blue Plaque will be a constant reminder to us of our heritage and our future. We are very proud to be a part of our local community and providing charitable assistance where we can.
'We welcome any enquiries from the public and from anyone interested in becoming a Freemason.'
South Wales Freemasons have been celebrating the Tercentenary to mark 300 years since four London Lodges met to establish the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons, and are affixing Blue Plaques to many of its Masonic Halls across South Wales. Early records exist of Freemasonry within the current South Wales region being established in Cardiff & Cowbridge in 1754.
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.
The Masonic Annual Charity Event (MACE) came to Melton Mowbray Bowling Club on 10th August 2018, bringing together 14 Provinces from around the country
MACE is an annual national inter-provincial bowling competition and was hosted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Leicestershire & Rutland. Rather frustratingly, the day experienced the first rain after weeks of warm fine weather, but undeterred by showers in the afternoon, a good day of bowling was completed with Gloucestershire emerging as winners after a close-fought final against Sussex, who will be next year’s hosts.
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Leicestershire & Rutland produced £4,000, boosted by a generous raffle and auction, to add to the £45,000 already raised by MACE since it began eight years ago.
Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire & Rutland David Hagger was on hand to present cheques to their two worthy charities, Rainbows and Dove Cottage, who expressed their delight at such meaningful support for the fantastic work they do.
People in East Devon living with dementia and other degenerative conditions will be offered ‘armchair adventures’ and ‘musical life stories’ as part of an expanded reminiscence service, thanks to a £44,000 grant from Devonshire Freemasons to the Action East Devon charity
The Forget Me Not project will see trained volunteers and project staff run themed sessions for people with early onset dementia, helping them to collect music associated with their life stories. Music is downloaded onto portable personal music players, including headphones which can accommodate hearing aids.
The Armchair Travel sessions takes participants on an armchair tour of a chosen country, including music, large screen videos, food, celebrations, clothing and decorations from the destination country.
Memory boxes are provided for those with sensory impairment and memory loss, containing a collection of objects from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. The boxes are based on a theme such as Christmas Past, Looking Good, Staying Healthy, Royalty, In the Kitchen, School Days, Travels and Holidays, Tools and Gadgets, Home Front. The items are textured, scented, colourful and noisy, appealing to all the senses and prompting participants to share stories and compare past experiences.
Dementia is now the leading killer in the United Kingdom. Dementia rates in East Devon are far higher than the national average, which makes Forget Me Not such an essential service to people in the area.
Charlotte Hanson, Chief Executive of Action East Devon, said: 'We’re very grateful to Devonshire masons for their generous grant which will help us to make sure older people in East Devon continue to have their stories valued and that they and their families and carers are supported throughout their lives.
'This year we are celebrating Action East Devon’s 20th birthday and we are very excited to be able to carry on this work for a further three years.'
The £44,000 donation comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, commented: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Action East Devon with this very valuable project to help people with dementia.
'Dementia rates in Devon being much higher than the national average, it’s especially important that we look at providing new services both for people with dementia and for their families and carers.'
Suffolk Freemasons Andy Gentle and Nick Moulton cycled all the way down to Freemasons' Hall on 12 September 2018, completing the final part of a four year challenge which has helped to raise over £21,600 towards their Festival 2019 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
The Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk Ian Yeldham, together with his partner Amanda, wishing to show their support, accompanied Andy and Nick on this last cycle. All arrived safely and were greeted by Sir David Wootton, UGLE Assistant Grand Master, and James Newman, Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, along with around 70 supportive members from Suffolk.
Back in 2014, Andy and Nick came up with the idea of cycling to every lodge within the Province to attend a meeting, looking to raise awareness of the Festival whilst also hoping to gain an extra donation from each lodge they visited. With the added bonus of getting a little fitter and also being some of the very few to have visited all 68 lodges in the Province.
Their original target of £6,600 had to be re-evaluated due to fantastic support, as in the end the total amount raised was over £21,600 with 2,260 miles cycled.
Andy commented: 'The cycling challenge has been just that, no easy task either physically or logistically, with one of the hardest aspects being the juggle with work trying to fit in around all the various lodges meeting dates.
'But it was rewarding in so many ways, seeing the beautiful Suffolk countryside in a way we would never have otherwise seen it, making so many new friends amongst brothers and of course being so very well supported by all the lodges.'
Devonshire Freemasons have donated £5,000 to the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education to go towards purchasing play, sports and electronic equipment which can immediately benefit their students
Ian Kingsbury, the Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, was inspired by a presentation given by Steve Morton, Director of Development for the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education, outlining the Academy’s aims and development plans for the future academy which is to be relocated to a new site in Exmouth.
When he came back to Devonshire he had a desire to help those who are affected by this very difficult sensory disability. To this end, he approached the Devonshire Freemasons Benevolent Fund Committee for help and they immediately responded by giving him a cheque for £5,000.
Accompanied by Dr Reuben Ayres, the Devonshire Provincial Grand Charity Steward, Ian paid a visit to the school which is currently based in Exeter. Here he met up again with Steve Morton and Appeals Manager Sarah Shaw and presented them with the cheque to purchase the equipment, which can also be transferred to the new school when the time is right.
The Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education has been located in Exeter for over 190 years and the current location is a property purchased many years ago which is no longer fit for the needs of the deaf students. The property and the land has now been sold and the proceeds will partially fund the new academy which is being been built with all the latest facilities available to the architects, to give the students what they really require.
All the students have additional needs, including multi-sensory disabilities, autism, epilepsy and physical disabilities which is why, when designing the new building, so much thought has gone into making each part of the facility user friendly. It is planned that completion of the new building will be within 18 months from now.
When presenting the cheque Ian Kingsbury said: 'Young people all need us to be there to help them grow for the future, none more so than those with a lack of hearing who are denied the normal things that we take so much for granted in the world we live in.'
Steve Morton added: 'One of the most important things we give to our young people is the gift of confidence; confidence to achieve whatever they wish to in life and to have pride in who they are.
'Donations enable us to provide our staff and students with the tools to succeed, but a gift, particularly one from such a well respected source, tells our students that others have confidence in them too. This is invaluable and on their behalf I sincerely thank the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire.'