The University Lodge of Chester No. 4477 and the Association of Medical, University & Legal Lodges (AMULL) have recognised Connor Elliman for his outstanding contribution and commitment to Performing Arts over his three years of study at the University of Chester
Connor was delighted to receive an award for academic and artistic excellence at level 6 and equally pleased to learn that the award is complimented with a cheque to support his progression and help him through his Masters year.
The award was presented by Professor Andrew Thomas, Worshipful Master of the University Lodge of Chester, at the University’s Valedictory Prize-Giving held on 9th June 2018.
Professor Thomas said: 'It was a fabulous evening and Connor is a worthy recipient of the award. During his time at the University he has shown complete dedication to do well and it’s great to see this is paying off.'
Stephen Blank, Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cheshire, said: 'The AMULL’s Student Prize-Giving programme is a great example of Freemasonry working hard for the wider community, in this case in higher education. I would like to congratulate Connor for his achievements to date and wish him well with his future studies.'
The President of AMULL, David Williamson, said: 'We congratulate Connor on his outstanding achievements and are thrilled that the University Lodge of Chester has awarded him this prize in recognition of this.'
Supported by AMULL, this activity is part of a five year commitment to support excellence in achievement by outstanding individuals.
David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding, was a special guest at the consecration of the Britannic Lodge of Madeira No. 134 under the Grand Lodge of Portugal (Legal)
The consecration was held on 17th March 2018 at the O Lagar Restaurant in Câmara de Lobos by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge (Legal) of Portugal Julio Meirinhos, with around 70 brethren in attendance including visitors from local lodges, the Portuguese mainland, United Grand Lodge of England, Grande Loge Nationale Française, Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia and Grand Lodge of India. This was followed by a sumptuous celebration banquet of local delicacies and wine where the brethren were joined by their families and friends.
The history of Freemasonry in Madeira goes back to 1767, and Britannic Lodge of Madeira No. 3683 was a lodge under UGLE which was consecrated in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, in 1913. The lodge moved to London in 1935 after Freemasonry had been banned in Portugal, and handed in its warrant after its last meeting in 2006. It wasn’t until 2009 that a new lodge, Zarco Lodge No. 71, was consecrated under the Grand Lodge of Portugal (Legal) – 74 years after the ban.
The new Britannic Lodge of Madeira’s founders are mainly expats, and the lodge will work in English using Emulation Ritual and meet four times a year at the Masonic Hall in central Funchal. The lodge’s badge pays tribute to its predecessor with a similar design and they have adopted the former lodge’s motto: ‘Labor Omnia Vincit’ ('Work conquers all').
David Pratt’s involvement came about from both a passion for Madeira and an inquisitive nature to discover more about the former UGLE lodge, Britannic Lodge of Madeira No. 3683 at the request of the founders.
David said: ‘The history is fascinating and I've managed to track down some of the former members who are delighted that a new lodge bearing that distinguished name is being formed. I’ve been the ‘go-between’ to research information about the former UGLE Lodge.
'The consecration was a wonderful event, and it’s fascinating that a number of the former members of the UGLE lodge travel to Madeira on holiday frequently and had no knowledge of the local masonic activity.
‘I pay tribute to the founders from UGLE lodges who are keen to promote Freemasonry as full participating members of the family of the four lodges now on the Island. Ed Barrow, Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon (East Lancashire), the Founding Master, and Stuart Condliffe, Past Provincial Assistant Grand Superintendent of Works (Cheshire), the Founding Secretary, have worked tirelessly to create the new lodge. Octavio Sousa of the Grand Lodge (Legal) of Portugal also provided excellent support and guidance to bring about this momentous achievement.’
The lodge welcomes visitors from UGLE – please remember to contact the Grand Chancellor’s Office before visiting any foreign Grand Lodges.
Enough is Enough
With the misconceptions surrounding the nature of Freemasonry commonplace, one particular news story in 2018 proved the catalyst for a nationwide campaign that would confront these beliefs head on, as Dean Simmons discovers
The doors to Freemasons’ Hall in London may be open to the public, but this hasn’t stopped rumours, myths and conspiracy theories from grabbing the headlines over the decades. However, it was a news story in The Guardian at the beginning of 2018, which was subsequently covered by other national newspapers, accusing the Freemasons of blocking policing reforms, that proved to be a turning point for the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of UGLE, rejected the claims as laughable in a letter to the newspapers. With the accusations following a well-trodden path of inaccurate and misleading information about Freemasonry, he called for an end to the discrimination against its members, citing the 2001 and 2007 European Court of Human Rights rulings that Freemasonry was not a secret or unlawful organisation.
Reflecting on the decision to respond, David says, ‘It’s something that has been building up over the past 20 years, as we haven’t argued our case or countered the increasingly ridiculous claims of our critics. I think the trouble, as we’ve seen in the past, is that if we don’t answer those critics, the vacuum is then filled by further ludicrous accusations.’
More was to come. In February 2018, The Guardian alleged that two masonic lodges were operating secretly at Westminster. ‘This was on the front page of an award-winning national newspaper and it was complete nonsense,’ David says. ‘Every aspect of that story was deliberately designed to give a false impression of Freemasonry and its influence.’ David again wrote to the newspaper, drawing attention to several inaccuracies, including the fact that the lodges did not operate in Westminster and that their existence is not secret – all of which could have been verified by a quick search on Wikipedia. While the letter led to corrections being made, there was clearly an appetite for these types of stories, and therefore a pressing need for Freemasonry to debunk the myths.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
‘In light of a new approach towards how we manage the media and how we represent ourselves and our members, we needed to go on the offensive – it was a good one to put the gloves on for,’ says David.
Contesting accusations is one thing, putting a stop to them in the first place is another. It was to this end that UGLE responded with a letter from David, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, which ran as a full-page advert in both The Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers. The letter called for an end to the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000-plus members.
‘We need to open up and talk about what we do; we needn’t be afraid of being both proud of who we are and our membership,’ David says. ‘We are the only organisation that faces repeated calls to publish our membership lists. We are the only organisation linked to a whole host of rumours and conspiracy theories, despite there being no substantial evidence to any of it. It’s important to not allow these myths to perpetuate in the public eye, and take on the critics with the facts.’
In the spirit of transparency, David embarked on a series of interviews with the press. Whether it was laying to rest myths, highlighting community work and charity fundraising or outlining what it means to be a Freemason, no stone was left unturned. ‘I did 24 interviews in one day,’ he recalls. ‘But if you’re portraying yourselves as an open organisation, you need to make yourself available in order to demonstrate that openness.’
With Freemasonry thrust into the spotlight, David believes the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign provides a strong communication platform going forward. ‘We need to be out there, as we have been for the last few months, taking journalists around our masonic centres, introducing journalists to Freemasons and letting them make their own minds up, according to what they see and what they find.
‘The Open Days being held in our Provinces are also important, as they allow us to engage not just with potential members, but also with our critics,’ continues David. ‘We shouldn’t shy away from that – we won’t convince everybody and we certainly won’t change everybody’s mind, but we want to give a true impression of who we are and what we do, and allow people to make up their own minds. Ultimately, we need to be in the public space for the things we should be known for.’
Opening up, inviting in
Freemasons’ Hall in London may have initially taken centre stage, but Provinces up and down the country have now embraced the campaign. Open evenings and interactive Q&A events have been taking place in masonic halls, inviting members of the public to find out more about Freemasonry and ask any questions.
Demonstrating the effectiveness of the campaign, there has been a rise in membership enquiries as people seek to find out more. Philip Bullock, Wiltshire Provincial Grand Master, says, ‘It’s had an effect in raising our profile, which has had a positive effect on the number of enquiries made to our Provincial office and website. Our Sarsen Club for younger members is also proving extremely popular and is growing in terms of membership and activities.’
‘Enough is Enough’ has been an opportunity to further highlight the ongoing efforts of many Provinces. ‘For the past four years we’ve taken a very proactive approach in making ourselves more visible,’ says Philip. ‘At the end of last year, we acquired a new display trailer that will be out and about appearing at county fairs, shows and marketplaces. This will allow us to expand our visible presence in the community.’
Further north, in West Lancashire, the Province has been busy giving the media guided tours of its masonic halls. ‘The reaction across the Province has been positive,’ says Tony Harrison, West Lancashire Provincial Grand Master, ‘and most agree that it’s about time we answered back.’
Cheshire Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank, who also faced the cameras in an interview with the BBC, echoes those sentiments: ‘The reaction from my members has been overwhelmingly positive,’ he says. ‘We’ve always been proactive with our open evenings at masonic halls. We’ll continue to publicise these across the county, alongside our charitable and community activities. I think it’s very important that we continue to react swiftly and positively to any future attacks on Freemasonry.’
University Lodge of Chester No. 4477, welcomed Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Cheshire Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank and more than 100 masons to witness the initiation of seven new members
The ceremony was conducted by Professor Andrew Thomas. The Provincial Grand Master presented Sir David with a bottle of Scotch whisky, while the lodge presented him with a bottle of Cheshire gin.
Lifelites Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy has left Freemasons' Hall to kick-start her 2,500 mile journey to 47 famous landmarks to raise awareness of Lifelites and £50,000 for the charity
Dubbed 'A Lift for Lifelites', Simone will see Freemasons in nearly every Province in England and Wales and will be stopping at landmarks such as Hadrian’s Wall, Angel of the North and Bletchley Park in vehicles including a classic Rolls Royce, a camper van, a four seater plane, an E Type Jaguar and even a zip wire.
Simone said: 'With the help of Freemasons and their vehicles around the country, I’m on a mission to raise the profile of our work and raise more funds to reach more children whose lives could be transformed by the technology we can provide.'
We'll be updating this page regularly, including images, as Simone continues on her epic quest.
Day 14 – Thursday 7 June
That's a wrap! Simone completed her 14 day challenge and finished in style on ThamesJet speedboat with guests including United Grand Lodge of England Chief Executive Dr David Staples. Her fundraising currently stands at over £103,000.
Day 13 – Wednesday 6 June
It's the penultimate day, starting with a trip to Bedfordshire at the Shuttleworth Collection. The next stop was Silverstone racetrack in Northamptonshire, which included completing a lap in a Jaguar, before driving this to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. The last trip was to the home, studios and gardens of former artist Henry Moore in Hertfordshire.
Day 12 – Tuesday 5 June
Day 12 took in journeys across Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The first stop was Gordon Boswell Romany Museum in Lincolnshire before using two vehicles, a Hudson Straight Six Touring Sedan and a Range Rover, to Bressington Steam and Gardens in Norfolk. There was still time to grab lunch at Bury St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk before a BMW took Simone to her final stop in Cambridgeshire, which included a punt on the River Cam.
Day 11 – Monday 4 June
Simone crammed in four locations to start the week, with a wide variety of vehicles used. The day started in Yorkshire Sculpture Park before driving a 1977 Bentley to the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire. It was from here that Simone then picked up a DeLorean to take her to Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire before completing the day by driving a gold Rolls-Royce to Victoria Park in Leicestershire.
Day 10 – Sunday 3 June
The week concludes with trips to Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire and East Riding, as well as the news that Simone had already hit her £50,000 target. Trips included the Millennium Bridge in Northumberland, the Angel of the North and a scenic drive across the Yorkshire Moors to Bolton Castle.
Day 9 – Saturday 2 June
Day nine saw visits to the Provinces of West Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmorland, with landmarks including Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria and transport provided by a horse and cart.
Day 8 – Friday 1 June
Two Rolls-Royces helped provide the transport on day nine, with Simone starting at the Avoncroft Museum in Worcestershire, driving down to New Place in Warwickshire and then to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. There was still time to conclude the day by visiting Manchester Cathedral in East Lancashire.
Day 7 – Thursday 31 May
At the halfway point, Simone made trips to Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire – starting out at the Georgian Hall Dunham Massey, then heading to the RAF Museum Cosford in a custom built Rewaco Bike and finally, to Arthur’s Stone.
Day 6 – Wednesday 30 May
Day six was solely focused in North Wales where Simone took on the challenge of the fastest zip wire in the world. This was then followed by making the journey to Chester in a six month old blue McLaren Spider and flanked by the Widows’ Sons motorcyclists and Blood Bike volunteers.
Day 5 – Tuesday 29 May
Day five was a journey across the borders for Simone as she ventured to Oxfordshire before heading west to Monmouthshire and continued to South Wales and West Wales. Landmarks included Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, Caerleon Amphitheatre in Newport, the Donald Gordon theatre in Cardiff and ending the day in the county town of Carmarthen to meet the Provincial Grand Lodge of West Wales.
Day 4 – Monday 28 May
Simone began day four by driving an Aston Martin DB9 to the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare with help from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset. A 1928 MG Riley saloon then took Simone to her next port of call, Clifton Suspension Bridge where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bristol had a 1966 Austin Mini Cooper waiting to take her to Caen Hill Locks. It was here that Simone met representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, before the final stop of the day saw her clock up the miles to Shaw House in Berkshire to be greeted by members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire.
Day 3 – Sunday 27 May
Day three involved journeys to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It started with a visit to Lulworth Cove in Dorset to be met by members from the Provincial Grand Lodge in a yellow camper van and to receive a donation of £2,000. Simone then ventured to Buckfast Abbey to receive a donation of £5,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire before departing in a classic Rover to head to Lanhydrock House and Garden in Cornwall, where she received another donation of £1,750.
Day 2 – Saturday 26 May
Simone took to the sky for day two, meeting a representative from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and Isle of Wight who drove her to Southampton to board a flight to Jersey, to meet members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Guernsey and Alderney.
Day 1 – Friday 25 May
Simone has begun her challenge, leaving in a taxi escorted by a fleet of Widows Sons motorcyclists. This is the start of her 14 day road trip with a difference, using a variety of unusual and extraordinary forms of transport.
The next destination for Friday was Richmond Park where Simone was met by representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex after arriving in a Porsche 550 Spyder. Further destinations included Guildford Cathedral, where Simone was met by a Noddy car, and Brighton Royal Pavilion, where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex made a donation of £5,000.
Lifelites has a package of their magical technology at every children’s hospice across the British Isles and their work is entirely funded by donations. Through the journey they are seeking to raise £50,000 – that’s the cost of one of their projects for four years.
You can sponsor Simone by clicking here
Best remembered for bringing soap to the masses, William Lever was driven by Freemasonry’s strong philanthropic values
On 19 September 1867, 16-year-old William Lever received a birthday present that was to not only influence his future profession, but also his entry into masonic life. Later labelled ‘the bible of mid-Victorian liberalism’, Self-Help by Samuel Smiles (published in 1859) was a moral treatise on the promotion of self-improvement and the denouncement of materialism.
William Lever had humble origins that were to provide a springboard for his eventual success. Born in Bolton in 1851, Lever was the seventh child of local grocer James Lever and Eliza Hesketh. His education at Bolton Church Institute and membership of the Congregationalist Church were later reflected in his life’s work and politics. In 1867, Lever was recruited into the family grocery business, where one of his chores was to cut large blocks of soap into slices and wrap them so they were ready to be sold to customers.
A HEAD FOR BUSINESS
Echoing his rigid yet productive personal routines, Lever’s business model was one of meticulous planning, canny advertising and, in some ways, overbearing paternalism. He was a perfectionist who insisted on managing all aspects of business, much to the chagrin of his co-workers. Nevertheless, this drive would take him to the pinnacle of international success. Not content with the rapid expansion of his father’s business, Lever wanted to create his own.
Looking at his father’s humble empire, Lever’s gaze fell upon one thing – soap. In 1885, along with his brother James, he established the Lever Brothers company and brought soap to the masses. After much research and international travel, they began to corner the market: Sunlight Soap, the world’s first packaged and branded laundry detergent, was born.
When demand for soap began to outstrip production at the original factory in Warrington, Lancashire, it was time to expand. Thorough searching of land registry maps offered a solution in the Wirral, not far from Liverpool. Lever designed and oversaw the building of what was in effect a large-scale social experiment. Between 1899 and 1914, 800 houses were built for a permanent population of 3,500-4,000 workers, managers and administrators.
Once completed, Port Sunlight housed not only the new factory and offices, but also a hospital, church, technical institute, museum and library, auditorium, gymnasium, a heated outdoor pool and refectories for workers.
It was in Port Sunlight that Lever’s masonic career began when a group of local masons, many of whom were employees of Lever Brothers, decided to open a lodge in the village. To honour their chairman, they named it William Hesketh Lever Lodge, No. 2916. Lever was duly initiated at the first meeting of the lodge in 1902 and went on to become Master in 1907. He later formed Leverhulme Lodge, No. 4438; was a co-founder of no fewer than 17 lodges; became Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England; and was appointed Provincial Senior Grand Warden of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cheshire.
Lever was also a prominent Liberal MP and instigator of the Old Age Pension Bill. He was made a baronet in 1911 and a peer in 1917, taking on the title Lord Leverhulme (the ‘hulme’ in honour of his wife Elizabeth), and in 1922 was elevated to a viscountcy. His philanthropic reach was large, endowing a school of Tropical Medicine at Liverpool University, while the Leverhulme Trust today provides funding for education and research publications.
Lever died at his London residence in Hampstead on 7 May 1925. The writer and columnist AN Wilson once remarked, ‘The altruism of Leverhulme [is] in sad contrast to the antisocial attitude of modern business magnates, who think only of profit and the shareholder.’
Did you know?
As well as housing and the factory, Port Sunlight had its own hospital, museum and library, and even a heated swimming pool
Did you know?
The Lever Brothers’ Sunlight Soap was the world’s first packaged and branded laundry detergent soap
Words: Philippa Faulks
Cheshire masons donated £55,000 to The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust in September for a 14-seat minibus, and PGM Stephen Blank presented the keys of the vehicle to charity president and football legend Sir Bobby Charlton
The minibus has been adapted to transport disabled, ill and disadvantaged children from north-west England to participate in activities such as sports, animal care, arts, crafts and music therapy.
The Cheshire Freemasons’ Charity will be supporting its community during the Tercentenary year by donating more than £300,000 to charities, including £55,000 for the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust (CAFT) for a specially adapted bus
Noddy Holder, former frontman of pop group Slade and a patron of CAFT, thanked Cheshire PGM Stephen Blank for the donation, saying it would normally take one to two years for the charity to raise £55,000 through events.
Hospitality with a capital ‘H’ started for the 46 visiting brethren from six Provinces (some of whom had their wives and partners with them), when they were picked up at the airport or ferry office and driven to their respective hotels where a welcome pack was waiting for them
The pack contained a welcome letter from Keith Dalrymple the Provincial Grand Master for the Isle of Man, which gave details of the plan for the ladies to go to Milntown House for a tour of the beautiful walled garden, followed by a buffet supper, while the brethren attended the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting.
Details were also given about the church service at St George’s Church on Sunday afternoon, followed by afternoon tea at Freemasons' Hall in Douglas. All of which had timings for the minibuses to pick up and drop off everyone at the venues and return to their hotels!
After settling in to their hotel Fred Wright, Mark Holloway, Tony (APrGM) and Linda Bent were picked up by two long-time friends of Fred’s: Alan Fielding and Hughie McCallon to go for lunch. After lunch they returned to their hotel to get ready for PrGL and the trip to Milntown House.
Provincial Grand Lodge was tyled and the parade consisting of a number of Provincial Grand Masters and their deputies and APrGMs from surrounding Provinces on the adjacent isle. (Not the mainland as any Manx man will tell you). On opening Provincial Grand Lodge, Keith thanked all the visiting brethren and asked each of the Provincial Grand Masters to stand with their officers and brethren. After everyone had been introduced, the brethren from the Isle of Man showed their appreciation of those attending the meeting with acclamation.
Keith then invited Fred Wright to stand as he said he and the brethren in the Isle of Man very much appreciated all the care and attention Fred has given to the brethren and their wives or partners on the island over many years when they need to come across for cancer treatment at Clatterbridge Hospital and heart treatment at Broadgreen Hospital. The Provincial Grand Almoner of the Isle of Man Laurie Henley readily contacts Fred when one of the brethren or wife or partner is due over for treatment and Fred is the welcoming smile that is always there to greet them and attend to the needs of the patient and his or her spouse in making sure that they are transported to and from hospital and if necessary to find accommodation. The brethren clearly agreed as they responded with prolonged acclamation.
After the investiture of his officers, Keith went on to appoint and promote the brethren and it was a delight to see them receive their honours.
The next day the visitors were invited by Alan Fielding to join him for a tour of the island and a private tour of the Manx Parliament by Alex Downey, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the IOM and past member of the House of Keys.
The Tynwald is the oldest parliament in the world. The Manx Parliament, which meets regularly throughout the year, but most notably outdoors at St John's on 5 July, is a direct legacy from our Viking ancestors. Norsemen first came to Mann around the year 800 AD and ruled the island for four-and-a-half centuries before finally ceding it to the King of Scotland in 1266. By then they had firmly imposed their own administrative system, which continued even while the island's ownership passed between Scotland and England, to the Stanley family of Lancashire (Lords of Mann from 1405-1736) and to their kin the Dukes of Atholl, who held it until it was revested in the British Crown in 1765. King George VI was the first British Sovereign ever to preside at St John’s in July 1945 and Her Majesty The Queen is acknowledged as Lord of Mann, she presided in 1979 when the Millennium of Tynwald was celebrated.
After the tour, Alan took brethren from West Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland to Peel, a harbour town in the south of the IOM where they enjoyed eating ice creams on the pier and having a jolly good laugh, then it was back to the hotels for a quick change before being picked up by one of the minibuses driven by Alan Fielding and Martin Blackburn (PrGSecretary) to go the Keith’s house where his wife Hillary had prepared a wonderful buffet for the visitors, Hospitality with a capital ‘H’.
The following morning offered time for the visitors to enjoy a walk along the sea front before attending the church service, followed by afternoon tea at Freemasons Hall in Douglas.
For some, this was the time to say farewell and thank you to Keith and Hillary and the brethren on the Isle of Man for their Hospitality with a capital ‘H’.
The sociable network
With social media and a pint at the local pub attracting a new following of junior Freemasons, Caitlin Davies meets the Rough Ashlar Club
These days, a recommendation to become a Freemason doesn’t have to happen at the local pub. Ubiquitous internet access and devices mean that social media is now proving an ideal way for Cheshire Freemasons to reach out to new, younger members. Launched last November for junior masons, the Rough Ashlar Club has a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed that’s gathered nearly five hundred followers to date.
The club is a result of the Cheshire Master Masons Forum, whose aim is to make Freemasonry a modern, appealing and fun organisation, while retaining its core traditional values. ‘Our leaders in Cheshire identified that we needed to engage with young guys.
Now the forum has various projects and we’re bringing Cheshire into the modern era,’ explains Master Masons chair Mark Sellers, thirty-six, a Freemason for nearly ten years.
The Rough Ashlar Club launched with a Greek-themed night, attended by around forty people. ‘The idea was to bring mates along to meet your masonic friends,’ says Mark. ‘We’ve not got two heads, we’re normal guys who enjoy friendship and raise money for charity.’
Forum member Tom Browne, forty-seven, says they surveyed lodges and found that people wanted more social events. So the club held a Fancy a Pint night in pubs around Cheshire.
Events so far have been as inclusive as possible, targeting the young but not excluding seniors, and open to family and friends. Plans are now afoot for cheese and wine evenings, casino nights, a family fun day and a Christmas ball. In February the club sold well over one hundred tickets for a race night – and raised £1,770 for charity. Upcoming events include a trip to the Chester Charity Beer Festival.
So, beer features quite prominently in the club’s activities? Tom laughs, ‘It seems to be a running theme.’
Another theme is the use of social media. Forum member Phil Hopkinson set up a website (www.roughashlarclub.org), which advertises events and keeps people up to date with news. A Facebook page has also been launched, but it’s the Twitter feed (@RoughAshlarClub), with news, comments and photographs, that has been the biggest success.
‘Twitter has been phenomenal. Older guys say, “I wish we’d had this while I was growing up!”’ Mark Sellers
Entering a new age
While posting regular tweets and keeping the website and Facebook page fresh is a big time commitment, the Rough Ashlar Club is already seeing the results. ‘Younger brethren are constantly asking when the next event will be,’ says Tom. ‘Social media is definitely working and this is only the beginning.’
Forum member Adam Collantine describes his role as ‘ambassador, champion and a bit of a mouthpiece’. He says the club was started for ‘young’ masons; then the forum realised the median age of new masons is between forty and fifty, so they changed the word to ‘junior’.
Adam, thirty, became a mason by simply writing to the Province saying he wanted to join. ‘I’d read up on it and I was feeling slightly disheartened about the state of the world, the country and the way people behave to each other. I liked the core values of Freemasonry.’
It was Adam and other forum members who made a concerted effort to bring Cheshire Freemasons into the twenty-first century.
‘We said we’d run a Facebook page and a Twitter feed as a trial for the Province,’ he says, revealing that the Province has just started a Twitter feed of its own. ‘I was a Facebook man, but Twitter is faster and constantly updated.
The point of social media is short pieces. I’m at work, I don’t have time to read an article, but I can read one hundred and forty characters.’
Open and honest
‘The people in the Province didn’t understand social media and there was a fear of exposing themselves to criticism,’ admits Mark. ‘There has been a lot of interaction, but no negative press. Twitter has been phenomenal. All the people I bump into think it’s great. Older guys say, “I wish we’d had this while I was growing up!”’
As for the social events, Mark explains that masonic activities are not exclusive from the rest of the member’s life: ‘Wives, partners and girlfriends get to enjoy them too.’ The club’s website, meanwhile, includes a section for people thinking of becoming a Freemason.
It explains the organisation’s history and dispels the myth that becoming a mason is difficult.
Mark says new members are now applying though the internet; the days of having to be invited to be a Freemason are well and truly gone. ‘We need to be open and honest and let people find out about us. People join, they go through their Three Degrees and then they wonder what’s next – especially if there aren’t younger guys at their lodge. They want to know how to get more involved.’
The Rough Ashlar Club’s aim is to help the Craft both survive and thrive. It has created a list of Cheshire-based masonic tweeters to encourage communications between all corners of the Province. And if social media continues to thrive as a communication and recruitment tool, what’s happening in Cheshire could provide a template for other Provinces to use – so watch this space. Or for those already on Twitter, watch this ‘#’.
Letters to the editor - No. 24 Winter 2013
Getting to know you
I was interested to read in your most recent edition of the concerns that many members have with regards to recruitment policies, and the quality and speed in which a member advances through the offices.
All views expressed seem to have merit but there are a complex number of issues that one has to consider with regards to recruitment within masonry. Quality is undoubtedly the major influencer in sustaining good numbers years after many others have come and gone.
Our lodge, White Eagle, adopted a policy some years back, which has some extremely encouraging results.
The basis of recruitment had been to identify a character that a member could recommend, and put it to him on the first occasion whether or not he wished to be a mason – this often without any real knowledge of the organisation or any of the people within the particular lodge he might be joining.
We identified this as being a policy which failed to produce the right quantity and quality of prospective masons. We therefore embarked on creating some ‘fringe events’, which include a dinner between 6pm and 7.30pm on Thursdays (as our Lodge of Instruction meets later that evening). Members are encouraged to invite anybody, without the slightest notion of recruiting them into Freemasonry.
This provides a way by which, through regular attendance, a prospective member could consider the characters involved in Freemasonry before making the enquiry to join himself. It is only once that person has proved themselves as somebody who would attend each Thursday for dinner, drinks and a social occasion (for say a year) do we begin to enquire if there is a deeper interest in them joining the organisation.
By encouraging these dinners, the potential candidate also has the chance to introduce other friends with the possibility of them becoming interested. We have found it a most useful and successful recruitment policy. Because it is not an obvious recruitment event, it attracts more enquiries.
It should also be noted that by creating an event on our regular Lodge of Instruction evenings, it maintains the interest and attendance of existing members which, in my own opinion, is the primary challenge that lodges face. On that point, we are purposefully delaying progress through the ranks, as rapid advancement has a tendency to put too much pressure on some, and they have a tendency to fall by the wayside, so to speak. I hope some other lodges find these ideas helpful.
Robin Norris, White Eagle Lodge, No. 4384, London
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 23 Autumn 2013
What an inspiration it was to read the article by Caitlin Davies in the summer 2013 edition. To see young Freemasons embracing new technology so successfully lifted my spirits.
At seventy-five years of age and twenty-six years a member, I have long wondered what the young guys make of us older brethren, with our old suits and tales of crowded lodge meetings of the past. Looking forward, I have long been convinced that once encouraged, modern communication systems would prove a great advantage in recruitment and retention.
Looking at the photographs accompanying the article I noticed not a musty old suit in sight; the confidence shone through the happy faces and demonstrated our openness to anyone in doubt – we are not a load of old fuddy-duddies with funny clothes and two heads.
Clearly, modern communication is the way forward and these brethren are proving their success in the interest they are generating. Despite occasional bad press about certain media sites, I hope the powers that be will encourage activity like this in all Provinces.
It must, of course, have clear guidelines in which to operate but please don’t strangle it at birth. No doubt some of the ‘suits’ will rail against my comments but I fear they might be the ones whose outdated attitudes slow down the future progress of this wonderful fraternity.
Brian Fairweather, Old Rectory Lodge, No. 6651, Caversham, Berkshire
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
Spread the word
Seventy per cent of our lodge’s new members have been secured directly through our website. Their enthusiasm and the renewed enthusiasm shown by our existing members has proved a draw for others. In 2011 we were fortunate to have initiated four members, in 2012 eight new initiates, and now have seven in line for next year plus three joining members. This takes the total to about thirty-nine – almost double our previous membership.
With almost thirty outstanding ceremonies projected at the start of 2012, we had to make sure new candidates didn’t lose interest while waiting to progress through their respective degrees. Mentoring and communication play an important part. As we are busy in the lodge, we are able to give them work at the earliest opportunity without them feeling under any pressure, and progression is now by merit and ability. We have also been fortunate to have support from a number of other lodges in Middlesex who have had no scheduled work. This means that our candidates can progress as quickly as they want and it boosts the numbers at the meetings of the other lodges because we will attend to support our candidates. Most importantly, visiting enables friendships to be made between the lodges.
By putting our efforts into digital and social media, we have been able to tap into a growing online community of existing and would-be Freemasons.
In doing this, we have provided a place where people can learn about, discuss and eventually join our lodge more easily than they have been able to in the past.
Nigel Harris-Cooksley, North Harrow Lodge, No. 6557, Harrow, Middlesex
A member of Thermopylae Lodge, No. 4386, in the Province of Cheshire created a Facebook page last year to help provide information about the lodge and to help dispel the myths about Freemasonry. Within months it became popular to the point where people were approaching asking for further information about charity work, activities and membership. The current following is little under four hundred and the page can reach up to forty-five thousand people some weeks.
The first to ask for more information were a father and son. After attending social events and getting to know the members of the lodge they decided to join and their double initiation was in February. They have fitted in brilliantly and taken on the true spirit of the lodge. We get asked by enquirers for more information daily. We offer links to Grand Lodge or the Province as appropriate and the benefit of the page is incredible: www.facebook.com/wirralfreemasons
Dale Bland, Thermopylae Lodge, No. 4386, Wallasey, Cheshire