Silver Jubilee for medical research

The Masonic Samaritan Fund has marked its 25th anniversary by donating a combined £1.125 million to 13 medical research charities

Freemasons across England and Wales nominated the worthy recipients of the MSF Silver Jubilee Research Fund last year, and presentations for the successful nominees took place in the Provinces throughout 2015 in the presence of the Provincial Grand Masters.

The final presentations took place in December 2015, with donations made to a number of good causes. 

The Macular Society was presented with £100,000 for research into a cure for age-related macular degeneration, the biggest cause of sight loss in the developed world. £90,000 was presented to Parkinson’s UK to support its research into a solution for life-threatening swallowing problems that often develop in people suffering from the disease. And £100,000 was also presented to the British Heart Foundation for research into a deadly variation of a protein called titin that can cause sudden death.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Getting to the heart of life-saving skills

Herefordshire Heartstart, a scheme that teaches emergency life support (ELS) skills to local people, has received a donation of £1,000 from Palladian Lodge, No. 120.

Denis Cox, Master of Herefordshire’s oldest lodge, presented the cheque to Heartstart’s coordinator and project manager, Loraine Coleman. She described how the donation would support school staff in training schoolchildren, in the classroom environment, to deliver ELS. The donation is expected to assist at least 4,000 Herefordshire schoolchildren in learning these vital skills.

It’s not every day that half a dozen Freemasons, including a Deputy Provincial Grand Master, are to be found at 6.30am congregating in a dark supermarket car park...

Well, not unless they’re gathering to start the biannual Walk2Welshpool 25-mile charity walk, that is.

So it came to pass that on Thursday October 9th a small but intrepid group of masons gathered in a rainswept Church Stretton in the masonic Province of Shropshire – the starting point for a challenging day’s hill walking.

The Walk2Welshpool is a sponsored walking event organised and administered by the Salopian Lodge of Charity No. 117, and in particular by the aptly named W Bro Kim March.

On this occasion the aim was to raise enough funds to pay for an Automatic External Defibrillator to be installed at Freemasons’ Hall in Shrewsbury. According to the British Heart Foundation, around 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the UK. Sadly, fewer than 10% of the victims survive to return home. If every victim received timely CPR and defibrillation the survival rate would rise to an impressive 75%. Freemasons’ Hall in Shrewsbury lends itself to having an AED: it’s a busy year round meeting place in an area prone to ‘ambulance delaying’ traffic congestion.

This project was very generously sponsored by other lodges and orders in the Province and further boosted by a £200 donation from our welcoming masonic hosts, Powis Lodge No. 7355. The walking group is also supported by its own version of International Rescue or ‘Thunder Brothers 1 & 2’ as they are appreciatively known, namely W Bro Marshall Cale and Bro Dave Woods, both members of the Salopian Lodge of Charity No. 117.

There’s some good news too for The Freemasons' Grand Charity, as the excess funds will go to this very worthy cause via the Province of Shropshire’s 2019 Festival Appeal. Nearly £1,800 has thus far been pledged.

Ranging from master mason to Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the group dutifully started the walk bang on time at 6.30am. The weather was certainly no respecter of rank!

Within minutes the first of four climbs was under way in the foulest of weather conditions. Clearing Rectory Woods (so dark it evoked fond memories of Mole and Ratty’s Wild Wood adventures in Wind in the Willows) the group forged their way through a near 1,000 feet of ascent to the top of the Long Mynd. In a style that would have made the grand old Duke of York terribly proud, an immediate descent ensued only to rise up again to the Stiperstones ridge – the second sustained climb of the day. 

Up until that point the group had been facing directly into stinging westerly winds for several hours in very open countryside. Mercifully the weather thereafter moderated, so a good speed across a rain sodden field section could be maintained. Up onto scenic Rorrington Hill and down into the village of the same name, then a two-mile tour on quiet country lanes to Marton and the welcome sight of the village shop. ‘Sorry, all the hot pies have been sold,’ was the shopkeeper’s lament. Never mind! Only one last long climb and we’ll be home, but not so dry!

Long Mountain seemed to take forever to surmount – it just goes on and on. Towards the summit the ‘Four Crosses’ road junction with its leaning milepost has been a traditional photo stop for previous walks. Walkers gathered round the milepost in a state of abject shock. Not only was the milepost no longer on the lean, but the remainder distance to Welshpool had apparently diminished – someone with a collection of Working Tools had clearly been at work!

The Welsh market town of Welshpool soon came into view and an hour later all had safely arrived, weary but happy, at the Masonic Hall. Another customary photograph and then off to a nearby hostelry-cum-B&B to revive, shower and change for the Installation Meeting of Powis Lodge No. 7355.

The warmest of masonic welcomes, a very good Installation Meeting and a hearty festive board later and the walkers were well and truly ready for their beds. Two of the group stayed overnight in Welshpool for the pleasure of walking back again to attend evening meetings. Perhaps they’re from Barking!

Appealing to the senses

A blossoming sensory garden initiative by the RMBI is helping to both lift the spirits of care home residents and connect with their past, as Sarah Holmes discovers

While gardens are a source of pleasure during the summer months, imagine if an uneven paving stone was enough to limit your enjoyment of a flower bed in full bloom. For the older generation, the great outdoors can sometimes feel like a hazardous place, with the security of indoors often seeming a far more sensible option.

Forty-one per cent of adults over the age of seventy take a twenty-minute walk less than once a year, according to statistics published by the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health in 2012. In care homes, the figures are more worrying still, with seventy-eight per cent of men and eighty-six per cent of women classified as inactive.

At Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno, however, the scene could not be more different. The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) care home is set in an acre of sprawling lawns that play host to an award-winning patchwork of raised flower beds and vegetable plots. And thanks to a network of pathways, the garden is completely accessible to its residents. But it is the home’s sensory garden, funded primarily by local Freemasons and volunteers from its Association of Friends, that’s the real pièce de résistance.  

One of the four central masonic charities, the RMBI is dedicated to looking after Freemasons and their dependants in retirement, and sensory gardens are its latest initiative to improve the lives of residents in its care homes. Designed to stimulate all five senses, the gardens are especially therapeutic for people with dementia. ‘We want all of our residents’ lives to be as fulfilling as possible,’ explains Debra Keeling, Dementia Care Advisor at the RMBI. ‘The sensory gardens are fine-tuned to provide a safe, stimulating space that benefits all residents, including those with dementia.’ 

Working with landscaping specialist Ward Associates, which has links with the University of Stirling’s leading dementia centre, the RMBI developed a sensory garden blueprint in 2011 that could be used in its homes, with the help of grants.

In a sensory garden, colours, shapes and special features are introduced to assist visual impairment. 

Wind chimes and water features aid hearing, with specially surfaced paths creating noise when residents walk on them. Plants with different textures are grown so that people can touch and enjoy the variety, while cultivating herbs and vegetables means the residents can taste fresh, home-grown produce. 

With an expanding dementia support unit, Queen Elizabeth Court was a natural candidate for a grant, and its sensory garden helped the RMBI home take second place in the 2013 Llandudno in Bloom awards – adding to its roster of wins. 

‘We want all of our residents’ lives to be as fulfilling as possible. Sensory gardens provide a safe, stimulating space that benefits all residents, including those with dementia.’ Debra Keeling

While his work may be award winning, for Alan Roberts, the horticulturalist at Queen Elizabeth Court, outstanding resident care is the only priority when it comes to maintaining the garden. ‘It’s nice to win awards, but at the end of the day it’s the residents’ garden,’ he says. ‘It’s here to benefit them.’ 

Roberts acknowledges that without the RMBI’s investment and expertise, the sensory garden would never have happened. From flower beds raised to wheelchair height through to sheltered seating areas, the garden is an accessible and engaging space for all. Plants and flowers that appeal to the senses are particularly important for residents with dementia, for whom the smell of lavender or the sight of a daffodil is enough to reinvigorate a host of comforting memories.  

Encouraging involvement

There are plans for more improvements, too. ‘We’ve decided to create a water feature to get the residents out more, and eventually we’ll have decking with more raised flower beds outside the dementia wing, so it’s easy to access,’ Roberts explains. At present, the home has eleven raised beds where residents plant their own produce, such as tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries – and it is up to the residents to nurture everything through to harvest, when it will go straight to the kitchens, then onto their plates. 

‘It’s a great confidence booster,’ says Gary Carr, Activity Coordinator at Queen Elizabeth Court. ‘Our residents’ faces light up when somebody compliments them on something they’ve grown.’ 

Although it can be difficult to entice people out of their rooms, Carr and Roberts are never deterred. They regularly organise sessions to make hanging baskets and sunflower-growing competitions. ‘It’s an incredibly useful space,’ says Carr. ‘It adds another level of engagement to the activities, and is a great source of stimulation for residents in the dementia wing.’

By high summer, many residents will be visiting the garden at least once a week – some even two or three times a day. One resident in particular, Valerie Morris, adored the garden. Having been a keen gardener throughout her life, Val could often be found planting her favourite geraniums or engrossed in a gardening book. When she was moved to the dementia wing during the last four years of her life, the sensory garden provided a great source of comfort. 

‘Val was a lovely lady,’ recalls Roberts. ‘The garden really helped in the last few years. It reminded her of when she used to garden with her son. We always made sure there was a vase of geraniums in her room.’

It’s the willingness of staff like Carr and Roberts to go the extra mile, combined with the RMBI’s strategic sensitivity to evidence-based innovation, that allows the care homes to excel in the field of dementia care. 

‘We are experts in this area, and the sensory gardens are a key part of our offering for people with dementia,’ says Keeling. ‘It’s all about facilitating people’s interests, and the great thing is that the gardens can be enjoyed by everyone. All RMBI care homes with specialist dementia units already benefit from sensory gardens, so the next step is to introduce them to our other homes. It’s something that we will continue to develop to give real quality of life to our residents every day.’

Sowing the seeds

In addition to central funding from the RMBI, each care home has a dedicated volunteer group known as the Association of Friends. Their activities support care home provisions, such as the sensory gardens, and members also volunteer as companions for residents. 

Every year, their efforts culminate in a big outdoor event. This year, Queen Elizabeth Court will be gearing up for its annual summer fete, which will see more than twenty lodges and local businesses arrive to peddle their wares from marquees. Last year’s attractions included artisan cheeses and charcuterie, a dog display, the West Mercia Lodge brass band and a residents’ strawberry stall. 

To find out more, visit 

Published in RMBI
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:41

LONDON to Brighton

More than 100 riders cycled the 56 miles from Clapham Common to Brighton Pier, an annual event that is now part of the Middlesex masonic season.

This year, six Provinces were represented, with a team of 10 Provincial Stewards from Essex taking part. The ride, which included non-masons,
is known as the Master’s Ride. A main charity is selected each year to receive at least £100 from each rider. In addition, riders are encouraged
to support any charity selected by their Master or Province.

This year’s main charity was WheelPower, which helps disabled youngsters participate in sport and lead a more fulfilling life. Other worthy causes included the Mark Festival, the Essex Festival, the British Heart Foundation, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Cancer Research UK and the Barford Court Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care Home. Some of the riders cycled the final part of the journey with children and grandchildren.

Paul Sully, from Middlesex, has organised the event for the past seven years, and the £30,000 pledged for this year’s event brought the total raised to more than £140,000. Next year’s ride is planned for Saturday 23 June. As the Paralympics will follow shortly after, it has been decided to run the event again in aid of WheelPower, who are the main charity sponsoring British wheelchair sport. Further details are available on the Middlesex Provincial website at

Friday, 16 September 2011 15:44


Hereford Hospital received a £98,000 ultrasound 4D echocardiogram machine, following a three-year appeal supported by local Freemasons.

Claire Cassidy, the British Heart Foundation fund-raising manager for Hereford and Worcester, said that the machine ‘places Hereford at the forefront of cardiac screening’.

The region has a higher-than-average incidence of heart disease, and the demand for cardiac screenings is on the rise. At the Heartbeat Appeal presentation, Herefordshire Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Reverend David Bowen, expressed his pleasure at local masons’ input.

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