Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are currently in full training getting ready to do a 300-mile cycle ride marking their 300th anniversary and aiming to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Children's Hospice in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)

On 24th June 1717, four masonic lodges, which had existed for some time in London, formed the Grand Lodge of England which has since continued to administer the 7,000 lodges and it's 200,000 members across England and Wales.

Leicestershire and Rutland have 3,000 members which meet in the 76 lodges across the two counties. Masonic lodges are based in Leicester, Loughborough, Hinckley, Syston, Uppingham, Melton Mowbray, Lutterworth, Market Harborough, Oakham, Coalville and Ashby de la Zouch.

At least 35 Freemasons, aged between 22 and 70 years old, from over 20 different lodges will be cycling in June 2017 to each of the 11 masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland. They will then head to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall, Covent Garden in London. When clocking up the 300 miles they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London where the first Grand Lodge was formed before they head back to Leicester.

Simon Oldfield, keen cyclist and organiser said: 'Cycling 300 miles will be a test of all those taking part, everyone is motivated to do the training knowing that we are raising money for two very worthwhile causes as part of our Tercentenary celebrations. It has brought together cyclists of varying age, experience and fitness, building a real team spirit for the challenge ahead.'

The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Lougborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for organising their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry and for supporting Rainbows. Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice – fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families.'

The MCF supports Freemasons, their families and the wider community. David Innes, Chief Executive of the MCF said: 'Our work depends entirely on donations from Freemasons and their families across England and Wales, and we are continually surprised and inspired by the unique and challenging ways that they raise funds for us. We wish all participants in the Leicestershire and Rutland 300 mile bike ride the best of luck and thank them in advance for their hard work and generosity.'

The Provincial Grand Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, added: 'We'll be holding several celebratory events in 2017 and this charity bike ride is a perfect opportunity for our members to raise money for good causes by undertaking this physical challenge. We're keen to shake off our bygone image and this bike ride is a great example of this. Recently we have found that more younger people are attracted to Freemasonry as they seek a social environment with strong values and traditions that also supports the local community.'

He continued: 'During 2017, we'll also be opening the doors to our masonic halls for everyone to see inside and an exhibition on Freemasonry at Newarke House Museum in Leicester highlighting the contribution of Freemasons to our local communities. We hope this will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.'

Right royal knees-up

The bunting was out as Freemasons' Hall, Leicester dressed to impress with the Union Flag flying high to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the style of a street party

The dining halls were packed as Freemasons, family and friends gathered to celebrate the Royal birthday with sandwiches, tea, cakes and songs from the 1920's through to modern day.

The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger kicked off the occasion, before handing over to the microphone to stars of the show, Phillip and Judy Dodd, and Marguerite Beatson, who raised the roof with expert renditions of classic hits from throughout the ages. Songs were selected from each of the decades, with titles such as Somewhere over the Rainbow, (There'll be Bluebirds over) The White cliffs of Dover, and Abba's Thank you for the Music.

The afternoon had something for everyone, for the many children that were present a table had been prepared just for them, with activities such as crown making and colouring, enough to keep them entertained whilst they waited for the cakes to be served! The fun was rounded off with flag waving and singing which had everyone up on their feet.

Treasure trove returned

On May 17th 2016, the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger received, on behalf of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, a magnificent collection of masonic jewels, regalia and documentary material from the surviving children, Dr Anthony Howe and Mrs Elieen Mann, of W Bro Harry Billson Howe who was part of the vibrant textiles business in Leicester.

Dr Howe discovered the hoard in a case at his home in Poole, Dorset and contacted the Lodge of Gratitude No. 5614 via its website. W Bro Richard Brocklehurst of the lodge subsequently arranged a meeting, with representatives from several lodges and chapters, at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester so that the collection could be returned.

W Bro Harry Howe was initiated into the Commercial Lodge No. 1391 in 1919 and became the first Junior Warden of the newly consecrated Holmes Lodge No. 4654 in 1924, becoming its third Master in succession to his friends and business colleagues from Leicester's industrial core industries, W Bro George Hunt and W Bro Sir John Corah. 

W Bro Howe was a Lewis and his father also had a distinguished masonic and business career, and has a memorial window in the St Katherine's Chapel at Leicester Cathedral. At a Provincial level, W Bro Howe served for many years as Provincial Director of Ceremonies and was honoured by receiving Grand Rank as PAGDC. W Bro Howe was also heavily involved with the Holy Royal Arch degree and the Ancient and Accepted Rite in both of which he also received Grand Rank.

W Bro Howe was a keen supporter of the Leicester Union Lodge of Instruction and it was through that body that the Lodge of Gratitude came to be formed as a token of thanks from the Union Lodge's preceptors for the fellowship they had enjoyed. W Bro Howe was the 'Primus' Master of the lodge and he was given a particularly fine jewel in token of this. Despite leaving Leicester, he retained his subscribing membership to the Lodge of Gratitude while accepting honorary membership of Holmes Lodge and St Margaret's Rose Croix Chapter No. 92.

W Bro Howe’s regalia, which was generously and thoughtfully returned by the Howe family, include collars and jewels for various Grand Rank appointments, and also a number of highly valuable and precious jewels in connection with his appointment in Holmes Lodge and the Lodge of Gratitude. In addition to the regalia and jewels, W Bro Howe's papers include a considerable number of fascinating items giving insights into the life of freemasonry between 1919 and 1960. 

However, it was not just masonic material which was received. There was a wealth of matter relating to the Howe family business which was situated in Curzon Street and Birstall Street and which ultimately became part of the Curzonia Group. This will be invaluable in the staging of exhibitions to demonstrate the links between Freemasonry and Leicester's industrial heritage. In addition, material relating to his service in the Great War was also received when he was involved in espionage behind the German lines as an agent for what is now known as MI6.

Breathing easier

Six nebulisers were presented by local Freemasons to the children’s ward at the Leicester Royal Infirmary via the Asthma Relief charity

The presentation was made at a special event held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester on the 28th April 2016 hosted by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland RW Bro David Hagger.

Nebulisers are devices that converts liquid medication into aerosol droplets suitable for inhalation, using compressed air, thus enabling patients to breathe more easily. Each nebuliser will help 150 children over a six-year life.

Dhiraj Vara, Clinical Investigations Manager, said: 'On behalf of the Trust and the children's ward thank you to the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons. There is always a shortage of nebulisers on the wards so this will certainly help provide those therapies and therefore they are going to make a big difference.'

Members of the Grey Friars Lodge No. 6803, which meets in Leicester, also donated a total of £1,400 to the Leicestershire Royal Infirmary Children and Young People’s Cancer Unit to provide play equipment and materials together with updating medical equipment.

Kamlesh Mistry, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at Leicester Hospitals Charity, said: 'Thank you to the Grey Friars Lodge for raising a fantastic amount. The Children’s Cancer Unit at the Leicester Royal Infirmary really appreciate the money, so thank you from the kids, young adults, staff, and everyone on the wards.'

David Hagger said: 'I’m proud and delighted that the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have been able to make a contribution to society by supporting the Leicester Royal Infirmary particularly helping many sick children and young people in the local community.'

Junior's journey

Two-year-old Junior, who was born with cerebral palsy, won the hearts of all those present at a recent charity award ceremony held by the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons as he determinedly walked the length of the room, with the aid of special walking sticks, to collect a donation of £2,310 on behalf of the members of the Granite Lodge No. 2028, which meet in Leicester, and the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association.

Cerebral palsy affects the part of the brain responsible for the control of body movement senses, co-ordination and muscle tone and it is estimated that 1 in 400 babies in the UK are born with the condition. Junior was diagnosed with cerebral palsy 11 months after he was born and as he grew has suffered from muscle and joint stiffness in his legs.

Richard Barnett from Granite Lodge said: 'Junior's Journey was chosen by the Lodge to support because of the heart warming story and pure dedication shown by Rosie, the family and friends, in raising money to improve Junior's quality of life. When the suggestion was put before the lodge, it was quickly agreed that we would hold a raffle as well as receive donations from individual lodge members.'

Junior's mum, Rosie Exon, who lives in Shepshed, Leicestershire said: 'The kindness and generosity of the Freemasons has been extremely overwhelming and the donation will make a massive difference to Junior’s rehabilitation. Junior has recently undergone an operation known as selective dorsal rhizotomy which means they go into the spine, take a piece of bone out and cut the damaged nerves that are sending the bad signals from brain to the legs. This has enabled him to walk flat-footed. However his legs are still quite weak and he has to build his strength every single day. The money will go towards transforming one of the rooms in our house into his very own physio room which will enable him to keep his strength and mobility going.Thank you to all of the Freemasons for their amazing help and support.'

The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, RW Bro David Hagger, who hosted the event said: 'We are full of admiration for Junior and Rosie and it has been very humbling to be able to support the family via the Tree of Hope charity.' He continued: 'I’m proud and delighted that the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons continue to make a large contribution to society by helping many children and young people, such as Junior, in the local community.'

Fairytale finale

Freemasons across Leicestershire and Rutland, including the Provincial Grand Master, have been celebrating their local football team, Leicester City Football Club, on their fairytale end to the season when they were crowned unlikely champions of the English Premier League

Having been near to relegation in the previous season, Leicester City Football Club had odds of 5000/1 to win the Premiership at the start of the 2015/16 season. Under the management of Claudio Ranieri and players such as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes have beaten those odds in an extraordinary climb to the Premiership title, the first in their 132-year history.

Former player and captain of Leicester City and Past Master of the Lodge of Welcome No. 5664, W Bro Jeff Blockley, said: 'I would like to offer my congratulations to all the staff and supporters. What a fantastic once in a lifetime achievement brought about by the owners, manager, players and supporters which has brought untold success to Leicester.'

Provincial Grand Mentor W Bro Ken Wylie, of St John's Lodge No. 279, missed the last home game when the champions lifted the trophy: 'After supporting Leicester City for years and not missing a home match all season we have ended up on holiday in Cologne Germany on a river cruise on the most prestigious game of our life. Not to be outdone we were wearing our shirts with pride and cheering them on lifting the Premier League Cup.'

Bro Karl Coles, Edward Sherrier Lodge No. 6757 said: 'I've waited since 1983 for this dream to come true!'

W Bro Jamie Mollart, Past Master of the Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448, said: 'What we’re seeing is beyond my wildest dreams. I can’t believe it’s happening in my lifetime and I’ve been in the stadium to witness it throughout the season. If you’d have told me at the start of the season that we would claim the world’s biggest football prize, I would have just laughed it off. It is truly an amazing achievement.'

The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger said: 'As a season ticket holder for Leicester City, I congratulate them on behalf of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons on their wonderful achievement which has captured the hearts across the footballing community. I very much look forward to the year ahead when Leicester City are competing in Europe.'

Nearly £50k of donations distributed in Leicestershire

Representatives from 33 diverse local charities attended Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester on Saturday 27th February 2016 as recipients of awards totalling £43,537 from the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons

Amongst those receiving donations from the kind generosity of the members of the fraternity were:

Heart Link (East Midlands Children's Heart Care Association) received £1,000 to help provide facilities for children with heart defects, their families and providing much needed valuable medical equipment at Glenfield Hospital. Gill Smart, Treasurer of Heart Link, said: 'We are very grateful for this donation which will go towards paying for a latest 4D scanner so that children which a heart defect can have a better quality of life and help the families.'

CHICKS, Country Holidays for Inner City Kids, is a national children's charity providing free respite breaks to disadvantaged children from all over the UK. Kelly Tones, said: 'This money will go towards funding breaks in our new retreat in Derbyshire giving children the opportunity to be involved with activities such as rock climbing and horse riding and let them live their lives and let them be kids again.'

Toys on the Table provides new toys and gifts at the holiday season for those children in Leicester and Leicestershire, regardless of faith, who might otherwise not receive anything. On receiving £1,000 from the Freemasons, Terry Watts, Chairman of the Trustees, said: 'Last Christmas we gave 4,000 children around 8,000 toys. We thank the Freemasons for this donation which will enable us to purchase toys and make certain that no child is left without.'

Melton Community First Responders received a donation of £1,000. It provides voluntary support to the East Midlands Ambulance Service and serves Melton Mowbray, Asfordby and many of the surrounding villages. Peter Scott said: 'On behalf of all of the community of Melton thank you to the Freemasons for their donation. Last year we provided over 19,000 hours on call and attended more than 2,000 patients. As we have been going for 12 years our defibrillators are getting old and therefore this donation will go towards paying for a new defibrillator which will enable us to continue our work.'

The Dove Cottage Day Hospice, which is situated in Stathern, offers palliative day care to those living with advanced progressive life limiting illness received a total donation of £1,000. Chris Gatfield, Registered Manager and Founder of Dove, said: 'Thank you to the Freemasons very much indeed for this wonderful donation. We are a comparatively small hospice started 20 years ago to serve the people in rural communities. We couldn’t do any of this without the support of organisations such as the Freemasons which is very much appreciated.'

Leicestershire and Rutland 4x4 Response, which provides a network of volunteers that are able to respond to situations likely to cause danger to the general public, received a donation of £500. Chairman Simon Dale said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for the donation. Leicestershire and Rutland 4x4 Response are a group of volunteers that help out the emergency services. We are 100% self funded and this money will be used for training our responders.'

Loughborough Group for People with Disabilities received a donation of £500 from the members of Beacon Lodge which meets in Loughborough. Tony Wilkinson from the charity said: 'Thank you so much to the Freemasons for this money. We are very humbled and grateful to receive this donation which will go towards a trip to Lourdes, France and repairs to our minibus.'

Rainbows Children’s Hospice received £3,338 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. Dana Simons, Appeal Manager at Rainbows said: 'We are now needing over £5 million pounds each and every year to run the hospice to provide one to one care, respite stay, palliative care, symptom control, end of life care and bereavement support. Sadly that need never goes away and we are increasing our services and extending them for cancer patients and new born babies. Thank you to the Freemasons for this donation which we are extremely grateful.'

On behalf of the Westfield Community Development Association, Dave Roberts received a donation of £1,000. He said: 'We have 65 volunteers delivering over 300 hours a week many of which are centred on our elderly, disabled and socially isolated projects. Thank you to the Freemasons for this generous gift which is help support these projects in the the Hinckley and Bosworth area. It really is an important contribution to the work that we do and it is much appreciated.'

Upon receiving a donation of £2,000 Diane Morgan, Director of the Hinckley Homeless Group said: 'We are small charity that runs a hostel, Lawrence House, for homeless young people aged between 16 and 25 in the Hinckley area. We have lost our statutory funding recently and the trustees would like to thank the Freemasons for this generous donation which will go towards providing the cost of the project workers which really are the key to the success of Lawrence House.'

On behalf of Voluntary Action Rutland, Director Lindsay Henshwaw-Dann received a donation of £1,500 from the Enderby Lodge. She said: 'Thank you so much to the Freemasons for this donation which we are so pleased to receive. We have had our funding slashed by half and this money will allow us to complete the furnishing of a new counselling room at our centre in Oakham which will be used by community groups and other charities.'

Rutland Sailability were given £500 from the Beacon Lodge. Chairman of Rutland Sailability Martin Sutcliffe said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for this generous donation and their help. We provide facilities at Rutland Water for people will all varieties of disabilities to enjoy the sport of sailing. This money will go towards training a small group of people representing Team GB at the World Championships in Holland.'

Other charities receiving funds included Lady Gretton, Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, who received £1,000 on behalf of the Lord-Lieutenant's Award for Young People 2016 which seeks to identify, celebrate and reward the very best examples of achievement by young people in Leicestershire. Upon receiving the donation, Lady Gretton replied ‘We thank the Masons most sincerely for the wonderful support for these awards which recognises young inspirational people in Leicester and Leicestershire for bravery, sport, and volunteering.'

ENRYCH Leicestershire and Derbyshire, based in Coalville, received £1,000. Sonia Lear, Volunteer and Social Event Coordinator, said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for this generous and wonderful donation. Our small charity was formed to support adults with physical disabilities to enjoy leisure and learning activities. This donation will enable us to continue recruiting volunteers that do wonderful work and are the lifeblood of our charity.'

People's Accessible Transport for Harborough (PATH) received a donation of £1,000. Michael Cheeseman, from PATH, said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for this generous donation which will enable PATH to continue to function for a few more years. There is a major shortage of community transport and this funding will support our buses to help mobilise isolated elderly, disabled and vulnerable people in the Market Harborough area.'

A total of £500 was presented to Lutterworth-based Heartsafe by the Head of the Royal Arch Masons Peter Kinder. Heartsafe aims to ensure that every young person passing through secondary education in the County schools is provided with training in Emergency Life Support, including vital cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Dr Doug Skehan said: 'We are run by a group of volunteers who spend time in schools. We have a modest amount of administration costs and therefore are very grateful to the Freemasons for their generous donation.'

David Hagger, the Head of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, concluded the meeting by applauding all the charities and their volunteers who give their time to such good causes: 'I’m proud that the Freemasons have been able to make a major contribution to society by supporting charities particularly those helping many children and young people in the local community.'

Taking the lead with canine partners

Canine Partners helps people with disabilities to enjoy greater levels of independence by providing assistance dogs. The charity has received a £50,000 grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for its new Midlands training centre based at Osgathorpe in Leicestershire. Leicestershire and Rutland PGM David Hagger said, ‘We are very happy to make this substantial grant to Canine Partners to help improve the training facilities at the centre here in Leicester. The joy and practical support these dogs bring to their owners is life-changing and invaluable.’ A new building will provide accessible accommodation for all attendees, enabling Canine Partners to train around 80 individuals each year.

Published in The Grand Charity

Lord-Lieutenant opens Wycliffe Rooms

The Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton has officially opened the new Community Room at Lutterworth Freemasons’ Hall along with Leicestershire and Rutland Provincial Grand Master David Hagger and town Mayor Tony Hirons. The building, known as the Wycliffe Rooms, has undergone extensive redevelopment to include a new large multifunctional room, bar and kitchen, which is available for local hire. 

Lutterworth Masonic Association chairman Malcolm Longley, said, ‘We are deeply indebted to many organisations and individuals who have contributed to the completion of this development with either financial or physical help, or both.’

In July 2015, 36 Scouts between the ages of 12 and 18 from the South Leicestershire Scouts visited Kandersteg in Switzerland for an International Expedition which was made possible by a generous donation of £1,500 by the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons

Kandersteg International Scout Centre is the world centre of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. The centre began in 1923 with Lord Baden-Powell, who, after the first World Scout Jamboree, had a dream about a place where all Scouts from all over the world could meet: the Permanent Mini Jamboree.

The Centre allows Scouts to have an international experience in fantastic surroundings. The Scouts visiting from south Leicestershire participated in a week of International and Friendship Activities at the Campsite including river rafting as well as experiencing part of the Swiss Alps.

Jospeh, one of the Scouts who attended the Expedition said: 'This is best thing I've ever done in my life,' whilst Edmund asked after river rafting: 'We don't have to paddle back upstream do we?'

Robert Row, Contingent Leader for the South Leicestershire Scouts said; 'In Scouting, international activities play a huge part and scouts of all ages work towards badges to show their increased understanding of religion and cultures. They help our members to understand the part that they play in the worldwide organisation of Scouting. Their experiences will remain with them or the rest of their lives and we thank the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for their help in giving them that opportunity.'

RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland said: 'There are many similarities between Freemasonry and Scouting both providing a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships, and achieve their potential. We are therefore very pleased to have been able support our local Scouts on their expedition.'

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