A golden and unique Masonic evening took place on 22nd November, at the always welcoming Derwent Lodge No. 4250 in the village of Chopwell, which saw over £10,000 donated to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS)
This was achieved through the collective charitable efforts of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and Durham Benevolence, as well the efforts of Derwent Lodge itself.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Watts was in attendance to firstly recognise the charitable efforts of Derwent Lodge and proudly presented Ken Cook, the Lodge Charity Steward, a well-deserved Gold Award on behalf of the Province for meeting their Durham 2021 festival five-year target in only 22 months.
Durham Freemasons and, in particular, Derwent Lodge have a strong charitable association with the GNAAS and upon closing the Lodge, Ben McWilliams of the GNAA then gave a short presentation in the Lodge room regarding their work. He played a specially recorded video where the Director of Operations at the GNAAS thanked Derwent Lodge and Durham Freemasons for their ongoing support towards this crucial service.
John Watts then had the privilege, on behalf of the MCF, to present Ben McWilliams with a £4,000 grant as well as an additional £1,000 on behalf of Provincial Grand Lodge Durham to contribute towards the next generation of motor vehicles, to assist them with their life-saving work on both land and in the air.
Keith Walker, Derwent Lodge Treasurer, also presented GNASS with an additional £5,300 which had been raised through the support of Lodge members and friends at the annual Derwent Lodge Barbeque. This special event has increased in attendance from 37 to 141 people in the five years that it has been in existence and is now widely supported by the Lodge members, other local Freemasons and the business community.
Monday 11th August 2014 was an important night in the history of Derwent Lodge No. 4250, special for one man in particular and indeed for anyone lucky enough to be present on this marvellous occasion
At the end of January 2014, the lodge Secretary made representation to the Provincial Grand Master that they were desirous of holding an emergency meeting in August 2014.
They had a very good reason for wishing to hold such a meeting.
The lodge’s oldest and longest serving member, Harold Rutter, reached his 100th birthday on Sunday 10th August 2014, and the lodge wished to celebrate this outstanding achievement. The Provincial Grand Master was delighted to accede to this request and so granted the dispensation.
The brethren of Derwent Lodge sent out their summons, advertising this emergency meeting, and were delighted when about 70 brethren indicated their desire to join together to celebrate Harold’s centenary.
Among the brethren present were the Provincial Grand Master, Norman Eric Heaviside, and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, George Clark, who had visited Derwent Lodge as recently as Monday 23rd December 2013, when he presented Harold with a certificate congratulating him on 60 years continuous service to Derwent Lodge.
After the Worshipful Master had opened the lodge and the Secretary had read the dispensation for the meeting, the Director of Ceremonies asked the ‘Guard of Honour’ consisting of Harold’s good friends, Colin Urwin, Ronnie Noble, Winston Ridley and Edwin Stanger to retire. After a few moments the Brethren were re-admitted accompanying the man of the moment and guest of honour, Harold Rutter to a thunderous standing ovation by the brethren present.
The Director of Ceremonies then walked the floor of the Lodge to collect Harold and present him to the Worshipful Master, informing the brethren that Harold was the Director of Ceremonies, when he was initiated into the lodge, in 1981, and he was scared of Harold at that time, to which Harold quipped back that he knew the feeling as he was scared of the DC now!
Harold was presented to the Master, who congratulated him on his milestone anniversary, informing him that he would be honoured if Harold would take the chair of Derwent Lodge once again. Harold graciously accepted this honour and the Director of Ceremonies called on the brethren to offer suitable salutation to the centurion, to which Harold thanked them for the warmth of their welcome.
After calling upon the brethren's generosity in the way of a collection in aid of masonic charity, Harold closed the lodge in true Director of Ceremonies fashion, not missing a beat or a word!
The brethren were once again asked to be upstanding, in order to receive the other special guest of the evening, Harold’s daughter Margaret Rutter, there to share in her father’s extra special evening. After photographs, the brethren and Margaret adjourned downstairs to the festive board.
After occupying the Chair of the lodge, Harold also added a first, as he became the first official user of the new stair lift that had been installed by the lodge in Chopwell Masonic Hall, so that members who found stairs a challenge were able to get from the ground floor to the lodge room on the first floor and to the banquet room and bar on the lower ground floor. It is hoped that this chair lift will aid brethren who are infirm attend their Lodge meetings.
Also in recognition of this auspicious anniversary the new toilets on the ground floor were named after Harold, they would be known as the Harold Rutter Centenary Restrooms for the foreseeable future.
65 brethren joined Harold and his daughter, Margaret, for an excellent festive board of Harold’s favourites. These dishes were thoroughly enjoyed by all the brethren present. On the completion of the meal the immediate past master of Derwent Lodge, Dr Paul Mundell, stood to deliver the toast to the special guest, by outlining his life and achievements, both personal and masonic.
Paul also read an email from Peter Kipps, President of the River Lodges Association, in the email he wished Harold a happy birthday and informed him that the greeting was also posted to their Twitter account reaching 18,500 followers.
At the completion of the toasts and being a birthday party after all, the birthday boy received his presents and a fabulous birthday cake on behalf of the lodge and his many friends, before being visibly moved as the brethren stood and sang happy birthday to him.
In his reply, Harold thanked everyone for coming, but felt overwhelmed by the turnout. He thanked the brethren of Derwent Lodge for their friendship over the years and Margaret, well, just for being there!
At 10pm Harold and his daughter took their leave, mentioning that even at the age of 100 years old he still needed his beauty sleep! He left to a standing ovation!
All of the brethren present on this magnificent occasion had spent the evening in the company of a very special man and mason and a true gentleman in every sense of the word!