Following months of meticulous planning, 6th July 2019 was an early start for many Cheshire members in anticipation of the first procession through the streets of Chester in regalia for many years. The reason – to celebrate 150 years of Royal Arch Freemasonry in Cheshire
The Provincial Grand Superintendent, Stephen Blank, led a procession of distinguished guests, partners, family, friends, uniformed organisations and well-wishers through the streets of Chester from the Town Hall to Chester famous 13th century Cathedral. More than 800 attendees sat together to recognise and celebrate the Province of Cheshire’s’ Royal Arch sesquicentenary. Remarkably, it was noted that the Town Hall at the heart of the City was also 150 years old this year, so it seems 1869 was a busy year for Chester all round.
Guests attending the event included the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire David Briggs, The Lord Mayor of Chester Mark Williams (himself a member of Cheshire Craft and Royal Arch) and from their own Supreme Grand Chapter they were delighted to welcome their Second Grand Principal, Russell Race, alongside their own Provincial VIP’s, including Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson and Deputy Grand Superintendent for the Royal Arch in Cheshire J. Robert Bramley.
The service was informed, interesting, light hearted in parts and poignant in others – the preparation and execution was fabulous and congratulations were made to all those who had worked so hard to organise the celebratory event.
At the end of the service a small contingent visited the Chapel of St Erasmus to unveil a plaque detailing the work funded by Cheshire Freemasons to support the restoration of the famous mosaics originally produced by the prodigious railwayman Thomas Brassey – sadly water damaged over previous years, it will take an investment of almost £35,000 to secure these valuable works for future years, which Cheshire Freemasons have agreed to fund entirely.
Following the service, photos were taken of the brand new minibus provided by Cheshire Freemasons to local Scouts as well as an opportunity to meet the rider of the newly funded Blood Bike and his motorcycle proudly branded with the Square and Compasses.
Following a sumptuous lunch, it was announced that for the celebration of 150 years of the Royal Arch in Cheshire, Companions of the Province had committed a total in excess of £150,000 in order to support projects for the communities of Cheshire and beyond.
Later this year, on 26th October 2019, the Provincial Grand Chapter of Cheshire is 150 years old and will be celebrated at that time with the consecration of a brand new Royal Arch Chapter at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight – the village created by none other than William Hesketh Lever, the First Viscount Leverhulme and himself a prominent Cheshire Freemason. 2019 will certainly be a year to remember and so far the celebrations are being thoroughly enjoyed by all concerned.
Last year, Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank set a challenge to members to organise an event promoting awareness and building support for the Cheshire Freemasons Charity
John Miller was first to step forward and so developed the idea of organising a sponsored bike ride from Chester to London, utilising only the intricate canal network and towpaths that weave between Cheshire’s’ county town and capital city.
The route was agreed from the Masonic Hall in Queen Street, Chester, to Freemasons’ Hall at Great Queen Street following the Shropshire Union Canal to Wolverhampton, then the routes through Birmingham, picking up the Grand Union Canal near Solihull and following that into the heart of London, some 230 miles and crossing several masonic Provinces.
The team consisted of 16 riders with a support team of two and given the rough terrain and general riding conditions it was agreed to limit each day to between 40 and 50 miles allowing the challenge to be completed within five or six days. Riders were tasked with raising sponsorship and several Cheshire businesses sponsored the exclusive team shirts produced in order to support logistical costs such as travel, accommodation and food.
A black tie benefit event was also held within the Province which greatly contributed to the costs of the task ahead. To make the most of the fine English weather, the departure date was set for 6th June and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson was present to see the team off safely from the Chester start point, and the Provincial Grand Master put a date in his diary to meet the exhausted riders outside the doors of Great Queen Street on the 11th June, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is Storm Miguel – which for three days of the journey tested each and every rider for their tenacity, and for how waterproof their kit truly was.
In the main the team discovered that waterproofs aren’t that effective in the face of a tropical storm, and indeed for two of the riders who managed to fall in to the canal, and are now affectionately referred to as the ‘Cheshire Splash Masters’. Cheshire’s Provincial Office reached out to Provinces that the riders would pass through en route.
Shropshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were all kind enough to offer a warm welcome and kind words of encouragement, as well as contributions, a true reflection of communication, commitment and teamwork by Freemasons. It is noteworthy that during the ride, many conversations with members of the public took place, lifting the profile of Freemasonry in general, and additional contributions were made by many of these non-Masons met along the way in support of the rider’s objectives.
A joint effort between the riders and HQ meant the Communications team were able to promote the event on social media platforms, using the dynamic mapping of GPS, daily blogs and great pictures sent by the riders each day.
Followers loved watching the daily progress made by the cyclists. The event organiser, John Miller, was keen to ensure the fundraising aims were kept clearly in the spotlight throughout the event via the online donation link and ‘interviewed’ members of the team at each overnight stay so this could be broadcast. The ride ended with the entire team completing the journey.
The total fundraising was then announced that over £22,000, which this was increased at Quarterly Communications the following day when the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes made a donation to the Cheshire Freemasons Charity of a further £1,000.
Steve Holloway, County Commissioner was delighted to take ownership of the vehicle and on receipt of the keys said: ‘We are very grateful to the Cheshire Freemasons for providing us with the minibus which will be used to carry Scouts, Cubs and Beavers to Camps and other outdoor events and the fact it has a wheelchair ramp at the rear is a real bonus.’
In recognition and thanks of the £33,000 vehicle, Steve presented the Cheshire Freemasons with unique ‘neckers incorporating both Masonic and Scouting emblems. They were delighted to be informed that they could be worn at all Scouting events as they were presented by a County Commissioner.
After the official presentation, the delegation were given a tour of the ‘Join in Jamboree’ site which occurs every four years and were advised there were over 1,600 adults and young people taking part in the three day event.
They were encouraged to join in some of the activities and David Dyson, Cheshire's Deputy Provincial Grand Master, proved to have a talent for Tomahawk Throwing, which was just one of the many activities available to the attendees during the weekend.
At a Gala Dinner and fundraising event, a cheque for £25,000 was presented to the Neuromuscular Centre on behalf of the Cheshire Freemasons’ Charity
The centre is based in Winsford and support those in need from across the whole of Cheshire, the Wirral and beyond. The donation will enable the centre to purchase specialised equipment including two Thera Trainer Bikes, which will be used in the Neuromuscular Gym, and 27 pairs of specialist orthotics gloves, which give a range of positive outcomes. The benefit of using orthosis may be the difference between an individual being able to ‘drive’ a wheelchair independently or not. Separately, funds will also be used to purchase powered wheelchairs.
Matthew Lanham, the Neuromuscular Centre’s Chief Executive, said: ‘I want to say a huge thank you to Cheshire Freemasons, as well as the South Cheshire Masonic Golf Society (SCMGS) who organised the event. The bikes we will now purchase will make a life changing difference to so many. People with muscular dystrophy have very little muscle strength, but still need to exercise to stay healthy. This donation will make that possible for hundreds of people.’
Matthew also went on to thank the SCMGS for some other specialist orthotic equipment to enable people with muscular dystrophy to keep on using their hands and fingers to do everyday tasks for longer.
On the night, which was in memory of Chester Freemason Gil Auckland, one of the driving forces behind the success of the society’s charity fundraising, a wheelchair was donated to Lee Herbert.
Lee, who receives treatment at the Winsford Centre, was thrilled to receive the modern and sophisticated powered wheelchair saying: ‘I am very grateful to the SCMGS for my new power wheelchair. It has changed my life for the better and helps me a lot with my daily life. I can get out more and really enjoy life. I’m so appreciative of your kind generosity.’
The South Cheshire Masonic Golf Society was originally formed by golfing Freemasons from Upton and Chester Golf Clubs, with their prime aim to raise funds for good causes in Cheshire. However, after some years it was decided to support the Peter Alliss Wheelchair Appeal. The South Cheshire Masonic Golf Society provided the Peter Alliss Appeal with donations of many thousands of pounds from 1974 to 2016, resulting in the purchase of 55 powered wheelchairs for deserving recipients.
In 2018, a slight shift to provide disability aids to a wider range of beneficiaries has been made by the society members and they have selected the Neuromuscular Centre in Winsford as a major recipient for 2018/19.
When Alife, the 17-year-old son of a Suffolk Freemason, won a place on a course at the British School of Watch Making in Sale, Cheshire, there was a huge logistical problem
The course was full-time, 3,000 hours duration – the new student needed to put the weekly hours in – but living near Felixstowe some 225 miles away and needing accommodation his options were limited – and being a ‘minor’ of 17 compounded the problem.
That was when Mum, Bernadette and Dad, Nick Doncaster, of Gyppeswick Lodge No. 4254 in the Province of Suffolk, had the idea of contacting Cheshire Freemasons. A phone call was made in early 2018 to Provincial Office at Altrincham and answered by Graham Monaghan who was on duty at that time in the Almoners Office.
The predicament was explained to Graham who promised to see what he could do and enquire whether there were any members who might have a spare room to offer Alfie, the student watchmaker. Graham started to make enquiries using his local knowledge as a Sale Freemason himself.
Mike O’Brien, who lives in Sale and is a member of De Sala Lodge No. 5657, who lives in Sale, heard of the plight and went home to discuss it with his wife Liz and son Lewis, also 17. They got in touch and the two families met up in Sale. To quote Nick Doncaster ‘all the boxes were ticked’ and Alfie moved in with them on 2nd September 2018 and has thrived there ever since.
Alfie’s course is unique within the UK and there are students from Portugal and France also taking part, although Alfie is the youngest student that the school has ever had. He hopes to gain a work experience place with a leading Swiss watchmaker in early 2020.
An interest in watches and clocks and how they worked took him to visit the Birmingham Watch Fair a couple of years ago where he learnt about the British School of Watch Making. At Mike and Liz’s home in Sale, he has his own bedroom and the company of Lewis who is his own age, as elder daughters Danielle (26) and Lauren (28) no longer live at home.
Liz said: ‘Alfie has settled in very well. He uses his bike to get to and from the school and has recently joined a gym. He has been out with Mike and Lewis to some of the social functions of the Lodge and has met quite a few of the members.’
Alfie will be living with the O’Brien family until the end of his course in July 2020. In the meantime, the Sale family will be travelling to the Doncaster family home in July this year to visit Nick and Bernadette for a family social occasion.
A delegation of Cheshire Freemasons attended local charity Charles Thompson’s Mission to present them with cheque for £14,000 towards their work helping men and women who are homeless, poor and needy out of poverty
Mission Manager Bernie Frost was delighted to meet the volunteers who ‘chose’ to sleep out on a very cold night last year in an effort to raise awareness of homelessness and poverty, as well as help raise much-needed funds for the Mission.
Those sleeping out included 14 members of Bohemian Chapter No. 3294 and Combermere Lodge No. 605 plus two of their wives. Their collective efforts raised £12,600 through sponsorship, which was topped up by a donation of £1,400 from the Cheshire Freemasons Charity.
Cheshire’s Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson said: 'What the members have done is incredible, not just in raising funds, but also to highlight the issue of homelessness and the human story that sits behind it. The men and women who slept out will be the first to say they ‘chose’ to do so, yet sadly many don’t have the ‘choice’, they sleep out all the time.
'The Charles Thompson’s Mission is a great charity doing an incredible job and one we have supported for some time. It is clear to see the positive effect the work they do has on those in need.’
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.
More than 210 men visited Wallasey Masonic Hall in Cheshire in January 2019 to undergo a simple blood test, which only takes a few minutes, and can help detect prostate cancer
The session, open to any man, is free, although most who attended are keen to leave a donation for the Prostate Screening Team who travel over from Leighton Hospital in Crewe to carry out the tests.
The donations raised almost £1,600 which will be put to good use by the screening team who are always in need of replacement items for the testing kits.
Cheshire Freemason Jeff Cunningham said: ‘It was wonderful to see so many men taking advantage of this life-saving service. This is another great example of Freemasonry supporting local communities and it was great to see so many non-masons as well as masons taking the test.
‘As always we extend our thanks to the volunteers from the Leighton Hospital Prostate Screening Team who give their spare time to run these sessions. At last year’s session three men were identified by the test as being in need of immediate treatment and this just goes to show how invaluable it is. The donations go some way to show our thanks and gratitude.’
Further testing sessions will be held across Cheshire throughout the year, with the next taking place at Cheshire View, the Masonic Hall in Christleton, Chester, on Saturday 30th March 2019.
Cheshire Freemasons Keith Howbrigg and Harry Wright had great pleasure in visiting Men in Sheds in the village of Hartford to present a donation for £580
This donation will enable the project, which is run by Age UK Cheshire, to add to their Air Filtration system, with the purchase of two new high volume units.
The sheds are places where men over the age of 50 can come together to learn and share their skills and make new friends.
They always guarantee a warm welcome within the shed community, with activities including wood working and turning, pen making, bespoke commissions and community projects.
A number of Freemasons have been honoured in HM The Queen’s New Year Honours list 2019, which recognises the outstanding achievements of people across the United Kingdom
Charles Pearson was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to West Mercia Police.
Charles has been a special constable for 45 years, holding the rank of a Sergeant, serving his community in Shropshire with postings to Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock and presently, Church Stretton. In May 2014, he was awarded the Freedom of Much Wenlock for services to the local community, with 40 years police service in the town of Much Wenlock.
He was initiated into Caer Caradoc Lodge No. 6346 in Shropshire in 1997 and joined West Mercia Lodge No. 9719 three years later, where he is the current Master.
In 2012, Charles was named Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon for Shropshire and in 2017 was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works.
Thomas Clive Johnson
Clive Johnson was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal (QFSM) for Distinguished service to Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service.
Clive joined the Westmorland Fire Service as a Retained Firefighter in 1968 and was based at Staveley where he lives. In 1974, the Fire Services of the region amalgamated and then became the Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service.
Clive continued his service at Staveley until he retired on 31st May 2018, having achieved the high rank of Station Watch Manager. To mark his retirement having completed 50 years of exemplary service, he and his wife Julie were invited to attend a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Her Majesty.
He was initiated into Eversley Lodge No. 4228 in 2001 in the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland. In 2016, he received Provincial Honours when he was appointed Provincial Senior Grand Deacon.
Bill Edward Bowen
Bill Bowen was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community of Oswestry in Shropshire.
This included actively serving in The Lions Club of Oswestry for 44 years and being honoured in the Lions Clubs International organisation as District Governor which necessitated training in Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii.
Bill also served as Churchwarden at the Parish Church of St. Oswald for 25 years, followed by 14 years as a licensed local minister in the Church of England. He also organised a Christian Men's Fellowship Breakfast for 22 years and served as Chaplain to the RJAH Orthopaedic Hospital for 15 years. In fact, he is still serving in all these different organisations.
Bill was initiated in 1986 into the Lodge of St Oswald No. 1124 in Oswestry in the Province of Shropshire and was made Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in 2014.
Michael Goldthorpe was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Naval Personnel.
Michael served in the Royal Navy from 1978 until 2010, reaching the rank of Commander. His most recent activity has been as CEO of the Association of Royal Navy Officers and the Royal Navy Officers Charity.
He was initiated into Pinner Hill Lodge No. 6578 in Middlesex in 1989, although the lodge has since been erased. Michael is also a member of Fortitude Lodge No. 6503 in the Province, where he is their current Master, and was appointed Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in 2018.
Francis Wakem QPM
Francis Wakem was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to victims of crime.
This involved working with the charity Victim Support, which provides emotional and practical support to victims of crime, since it was founded 30 years ago, originally as a serving police officer and later as a volunteer.
Francis remains an active volunteer in Wiltshire and in London where he serves on committees dealing with governance of the charity.
Francis was initiated into Corsham Lodge No. 6616 in Wiltshire in 1976 and went on to serve as Provincial Grand Master in the county for over 10 years (March 2004 - October 2014).
Frank Handscombe was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Judo in the community in South Molton, North Devon.
Frank is a 4th black belt and has been involved with South Molton Judo Club for 38 years, where he has served as chief instructor and principal.
Frank was initiated into Temple Bar Lodge No. 5962 in Hertfordshire in 1961 and later joined Loyal Lodge of Industry No. 421 in Devonshire, where he gained Provincial honours including Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 2005 and Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden in 2006.
In 2009, he was given Grand Lodge honours when he was named Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies.
Trevor (Tex) Calton
Army Cadet Force Major Tex Calton has been awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the annual New Year Honours list.
Tex enjoyed a successful military career of 26 years with the last eight serving as the Bandmaster of the famous Black Watch Regiment. He retired from teaching music in schools at the end of 2013 and now serves in the Army Cadet Force in the rank of Major, as National Music Advisor.
Tex became a Freemason in 1988 when he joined Phoenix Lodge in Berlin. On being posted to Tern Hill, near Market Drayton, he joined St Mary’s Lodge No. 8373 in 1992. Tex was given Provincial honours in Shropshire when he was named Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon in 2014.
Cheshire Freemason Steven Leigh was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to local businesses and the economy in Yorkshire.
Steven has had an impressive business career, including the flotation of his company to a full listing on the London Stock Exchange in 1993, and running it as Chief Executive.
Steven will celebrate 50 years as a member of the Lodge of Harmony No. 4390 in November 2019, a month after taking the Chair of the Lodge as Master for the second time (previously in 1976). He was also Director of Ceremonies from 1978 – 1983, following in the footsteps of his father, George Leigh, who was Director of Ceremonies of the lodge for many years.
Reg Dunning was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to education and the community in Sandbach, Cheshire.
Reg has been a Governor of two local schools for over 40 years concurrently and has been the parade marshal for the Royal British Legion in Sandbach for over 60 years.
92-year-old Reg is an honorary member of Penda Lodge No. 7360 and Sanbec Lodge No. 8787 in Sandbach. He joined Freemasonry in April 1955 when he was initiated into Kinderton Lodge No. 5759 in Middlewich.
Tony Brian Arthur Rowland
Tony Rowland has been awarded an MBE for services to undertaking and the community in Surrey.
Tony is a Funeral Director who has supported bereaved families through their grief for 65 years and has done voluntary work for many local charities and community projects. He became an apprentice at the age of 15 in 1953 and is now, at the age of 80, still working full-time.
Tony is a member of Croydon Sincerity Lodge No. 7575 in Surrey, where he was made a Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer in 2016.