It was tremendous to hear the news of the new Royal baby, Prince George. You will be glad that a message of congratulations was sent on behalf of members to Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Talking of good news, it is heart-warming to hear, as I go around the Provinces and Districts, more and more members speaking openly about the fun of membership as they enjoy, each in their own special way, their hobby, Freemasonry. This enjoyment is becoming infectious, helping to both recruit and, importantly, retain members. Together with the increasing support from family members, this is a clear reflection of the success of the current initiatives that are making sure there is a relevant future for Freemasonry.
In this autumn issue, we take a ride with the Showmen’s Lodge to discover that the ties binding Freemasons can also be found in the people who run the waltzers and dodgems at the fairground. We go on the road with a welfare adviser from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, as she helps a family get back on its feet. We also meet Mark Smith, a Provincial Grand Almoner, and find out that while masonic support can involve making a donation to a worthy cause, it is also about spending time with people in your community.
I mentioned hobbies earlier, and to thrill anyone with a taste for classic cars we get in the driving seat with Aston Martin as it celebrates its one hundredth birthday at Freemasons’ Hall. There is also an interview with Prestonian Lecturer Tony Harvey, who has been travelling around the UK to explain how Freemasonry and Scouting have more in common than you might first think. I believe that these stories and features show why Freemasonry not only helps society but is also very much a part of it.
On a final note, I was pleased to have had the opportunity to speak on Radio 4’s Last Word obituary programme about the late Michael Baigent, our consultant editor. He was a good friend with an enormously inquisitive mind, about which John Hamill writes more fully later in this issue of Freemasonry Today.
‘It is heart-warming to hear, as I go around the Provinces and Districts, more and more members speaking openly about the fun of membership.’
17 September 2012 - UPDATE: It has just been announced that 'The Queen has been graciously pleased, on the ocassion of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee' to award Brian Todhunter with the Royal Victorian Medal (Silver) for 'Restoration of Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia's Royal Barge and Escort Boats'.
Brian Todhunter, a member of Tuscan Oak and Lamberthead Lodge No.6387, will be on board the Royal Yacht Britannia's tender, the Britannia Royal Barge, transporting Her Majesty The Queen to the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant this weekend.
Brian is a former Royal Navy engineer and a member of the Association of Royal Yachtsmen, having served on the Royal Yacht Britannia between 1975 and 1978. Last November, at the Association's Annual General Meeting, he was asked to inspect the Britannia Royal Barge and an escort launch in order to get them both running. He quickly put together a team of ex-Royal Yachtsmen from the engineering branch, and, based in Leith, Scotland (Britannia's current home), they have worked tirelessly for the past seven months in order to recommission their engines and get the boats shipshape. This has included extensive sea trials on the Firth of Forth in Force 4 winds - although he is not expecting anything quite so rough on the Thames!
The royal barge was used to transport The Queen and other members of the Royal Family to and from Britannia, until she was decommissioned in 1997. Brian, who also served on HMS Hermes, said: “Its remarkable how well she ran after 15 years of idleness. We are all looking forward to carrying out Royal duty again - although probably for the last time”.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, who is Patron of the Pageant, and the Duchess of Cornwall, will board the Britannia Royal Barge, at Chelsea Pier. They will then be transported some eight hundred yards downstream to Cadogan Pier, where they will disembark and board the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will join them onboard.
The Britannia Royal Barge will then proudly escort the Royal Barge at the head of this spectacular pageant until the Royal party disembarks close to Blackfriars Bridge and boards HMS President, where they will watch the pageant go by.
The Association of Royal Yachtsmen was founded in 1989 by Albert ‘Dixie’ Deane and is dedicated to bringing together many of the estimated 1,767 ‘Yotties’ who served on-board HMY Britannia between 14 January 1954 and 11 December 1997. HM The Queen is Patron of the Association and the Duke of Edinburgh is its President. Its headquarters are on the Royal Yacht Britannia, where many Yotties return annually for their working party week. Throughout this sociable week the Yotties work alongside Britannia’s maintenance crew to undertake a wide range of jobs throughout their old home. They also mix with visitors, who are enthralled by their stories of the 'good old days'.
This winter witnessed the successful completion of the Scott-Amundsen Centenary Expedition to the South Pole comprising two teams, each team including three serving members of HM Forces.
One such serving member of the British Army was Warrant Officer Kevin Johnson. His team retraced the longer 900 mile plus route undertaken by Captain Robert Falcon Scott from Cape Evans.
Like the intrepid Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton before him, Kevin Johnson is a Freemason. He is a relatively new Master Mason of Cantilupe Lodge No.4083. On successfully completing the Antarctic expedition, Bro Kevin Johnson proudly unfurled the blue and gold Masonic Flag, given to him by the Brethren of his Lodge, at the Geographic South Pole – a true celebration of past heroic achievements. Bro Kevin is, at 43, the same age as Captain Scott in 1911.
All members of the Expedition attended a royal reception at Goldsmiths’ Hall, Foster Lane, London Friday 26th April. In attendance were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Prince William is patron of both the Expedition and the Royal British Legion – the expedition has raised vital funds for the Royal British Legion’s £30 million commitment to the Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall to help wounded, injured and sick Service personnel on their journey of recovery.
The Ipswich Treehouse Children's Hospice was formally opened by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, Royal Patron, on 19 March 2012. The Province of Suffolk raised over £171,000 towards the £3m total cost to build and equip this new children’s hospice in Ipswich, for life-threatened children and their families in Suffolk & North Essex.
Barry Ross, Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk, stated: "We were absolutely delighted that we were able to support this very worthy cause in this way. Our Suffolk lodges really got behind this initiative and the magnificent total was raised in under two years. The Duchess was very charming and most impressed with the support given by Suffolk Freemasons”.