Promotion has come quickly for Mersey Valley Lodge of Installed Masters No. 9057 (which meets in Warrington, Widnes, St Helens and Leigh in the Province of West Lancashire) member John Bartley since becoming a member of Probus Ante Meridiem Lodge No. 9195.
Just 11 weeks after he became a joining member of Ante Meridiem Lodge which meets only four times a year, John was installed as Worshipful Master at the meeting in the Masonic Hall, Sidcup, in the Province of West Kent.
Among the many guests present was Derek Hunt who travelled more than 220 miles from Warrington to see his friend of 50 years installed. Derek gave the address to the Worshipful Master who he proposed into Mersey Valley shortly after its consecration in 1983. John has been a regular visitor to Derek’s mother lodge - St Oswald Lodge No. 5170 which also meets in Warrington for more than four decades.
It will be a special year for John for apart from being Worshipful Master he will also be celebrating his 80th birthday.
Despite John’s apparent rapid promotion, he was not a newcomer to Sidcup as he has been a tyler there for several lodges for some time. At the committee meeting where John’s application to become a joining member was on the agenda he was asked if he would like to progress in the Lodge. He said he would so at the next meeting when the ballot took place for him to join he also became master elect!
John joined Freemasonry in Cheshire in Egremont Lodge No. 2872 in 1959 and became its WM in 1973. He was appointed as a Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Province of Cheshire in 1984.
In 2004 John and his wife Jeanette moved from the north to Masonic accommodation in Aylesbury and in 2009 he was exalted into River Chapter No. 5126 in the Province of Buckinghamshire. Following his wife’s death John moved to the Duke of Kent Court in Chislehurst to be nearer his daughter and his skills as a tyler were soon in demand.
He is tyler at Sidcup for Alma Lodge No. 9792, Burnt Ash Lodge No. 6285, Falconwod Lodge No. 5826 and Sydney Lodge No. 829. He is also janitor at Sidcup for Bexley Heath Chapter No. 4918, Burnt Ash Chapter No. 6285, Ideal Endeavour Chapter No. 7379, Manor Way Chapter No. 6161 and Sydney Chapter No. 829. He is also tyler at Great Queen Street for St James Union Lodge No. 180.
When John completed 50 years as a Freemason he was sent a commemorative certificate by the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, Peter Hosker, which was presented to him by David Bearman, an Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Province of West Kent at a coffee morning in the home where John lived.
John is planning to join Probus Ante Meridiem Chapter in September but is not expecting rapid promotion there.
The 'Rough Ashlar Club', a social club for Junior Brethren, launches in Cheshire
The Rough Ashlar Club was born from the Master Masons’ Forum of Cheshire with the aim of being a social club for all junior brethren, who can share friendship and fellowship as well as have some fun with other like-minded Master Masons.
The club will organise various social events, some for masons only, some to include their partners and families, and others to bring friends along to. It is hoped that this will ensure that we embrace our members’ families and bring them into our masonic lives, as well as offering friends, who may be interested in joining, the opportunity to meet some junior freemasons in a social environment.
Bro. Phil Hopkins, one of the founders of the Rough Ashlar Club said “We are all tremendously excited about the Club, it will enable junior brethren to get together informally and socially, in order to grow and develop those shared bonds of friendship with our peers throughout the Province.”
WBro Mark Sellers ProvGStwd, Chairman of the Master Masons’ Forum, said “This is an initiative that was devised & developed by members of the Forum with the full support of the Province and we are delighted at the positive response received from Cheshire brethren so far”.
David approached David Heathcote, manager of Stockport Masonic Guildhall, to interview him on business management for his college work, and the subject soon turned to Freemasonry. David asked if he could become a mason, and was told that if he still felt the same in six months it might be considered. He showed his commitment by volunteering to help at open days, Guildhall events and even in the office, leading to his initiation by Meridian Lodge Master Barry Cooper Stevenson in January.
David Heathcote made enquiries at the Provincial Office and, after a meeting with Provincial Grand Master Steven Adcott, dispensation was given for the ceremony.
There is an important role for women in Freemasonry as one Cheshire group has shown
Bridgegate Lodge No. 5961 in the Province of Cheshire was consecrated in 1944, meets at the Masonic Hall, Cheshire View, Christleton, Chester and continues to attract candidates at the rate of about two a year.
Until 1993, Bridgegate, like so many other Lodges, held Ladies Nights, looked after their widows and supported the Provincial Festivals and local charities.
Then, in 1993, Mrs. Sheila Cowell decided that if the men could go out and enjoy themselves, then so could the Ladies and, what is more, they could challenge their men’s charitable donations with donations of their own, so she founded the Bridgegate Ladies Circle.
At first, the Circle met at Sheila’s home, but as the interest grew, and space became restricted, they had to move to the new Masonic Hall at Christleton.
Starting a Ladies Circle has been done many times before, but Bridgegate Lodge’s Ladies Circle quickly became friends and discovered they had lots of fun doing their own thing, while at the same time fundraising for the charities, both local and Masonic, by arranging a variety of activities to suit all tastes.
In a surprisingly short period, membership had grown to around 40 and has remained about this level ever since. The membership comprises not just the wives of Bridgegate Lodge members, but also their friends, ladies of the brethren of other Lodges visiting Bridgegate and their friends.
It says a lot that such a disparate group should survive for so long and their programme of dining, fashion shows, jewellery displays, speakers, discussions and other social functions is obviously so well pitched that they neither become bored with it, nor feel themselves to be in any sort of a rut.
Each year since 1993, the ladies have donated between £800 and £1,200, usually to the Lodge Charity Steward on the occasion of the annual Ladies Evening. While the Lodge is the final arbiter of what happens to the money, the ladies have been given the opportunity by the Charity Steward to have their say in making donations.
The unique thing about all this is that this Ladies Circle are well aware that there is no mechanism from within the Masonic organisation for any formal recognition of their efforts and achievements, but they do it anyway and deserve a great big “well done and thank you” from us all.
After 13 years, Sheila has decided to retire from the Chair of the Ladies Circle and has handed the tiller over to Anne Reynolds and Diane Crank. Both Anne and Diane have been part of the development of the Ladies Circle for many years and there is no doubt that they are well able to carry on the good work started by Sheila. Both Anne and Diane have a vested interest in raising money because both their husbands are the current Master and Charity Steward of the Lodge.
Perhaps it is time for Freemasonry to be more inclusive of its women for, as Bridgegate Lodge have seen to their advantage, fund-raising of this sort has kept them up to the mark and helped the task of the Charity Steward.