Sunday, 01 April 2007 01:00

Cheshire Ladies Circle

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. 

This has benefitted such bodies as the Samaritans, the Breast Cancer appeal, Riding for the Disabled, the Multiple Sclerosis Society etc., as well as the Masonic charities supported by the Lodge.

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. 

Published in Features
Sunday, 01 April 2007 01:00

Showmen's Lodge No. 9826 is consecrated

Specialist lodges: all the fun of the fair

A newly-consecrated lodge has been set up for travelling showmen, John Jackson reports

When the ancient Goose Fair, well over 700 years old, gets underway at Nottingham in October, among the showmen who will be entertaining the thousands of visitors will be members of a newly consecrated Lodge, The Showmen’s No. 9826. 

Showmen have been associated with fairs as far back as at least Roman times, the word ‘fair’ deriving from the Latin word ‘feria’ meaning ‘holiday’. As fairgrounds became established, many were granted charter status by the sovereign, and a number of these charter fairs exist today with their showmen in attendance. 

These include King’s Lynn, under a charter granted by King John in 1204, which traditionally starts the travelling showmen’s season on St Valentine’s Day – 14 February. 

The association with the church still continues to this day, for the opening ceremony at King’s Lynn begins with a blessing from the Mayor’s Chaplain. 

These early fairs were originally for the sale of livestock, but quickly attracted the travelling showmen, and many fairs were associated with Saints’ days and the early Christian church. 

The granting of a charter by the sovereign was much prized, as it laid down the dates, provided protection against rival fairs and gave the right to collect dues and tolls. In return, there was an obligation to hold the fair on the stated dates. 

Many autumn fairs did not have a charter and were known as ‘Mop’ or ‘Hiring’ fairs, and some still exist. At these fairs, prospective employers reviewed potential employees. 

Sometimes a second fair – known as a Run-Away Mop – was held for those seeking to change jobs or those who had not found work on the first occasion. 

With the showmen travelling hundreds of miles, it has not been easy trying to put a Lodge together for such a mobile group of Masons. The original idea came from secretary Paul Maltby, but it would not have got off the ground but for the enthusiasm of Darren Jones, first Master, and his Uncle Jimmy Wheatley, first Senior Warden. 

The Lodge, consecrated in February, has 31 founders – all showmen – and many of them run the big rides, so popular with children. It was because they were so scattered that the idea of a Lodge arose. However, the plan has been an instant success, with seven candidates lining up to become Masons as well as five joining members waiting to come on board. The Lodge will hold its meetings at Loughborough in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, whose Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Michael H Roalfe, officiated at the consecration meeting. 

The Lodge was also given a great deal of help by Richard Moss of Belper Masonic Regalia in Derbyshire. 

Summer is the busiest time for showmen, so the Lodge will be meeting five times a year ‘out of season’ in September, November, December, January and February. 

Although showmen are spread over the country, there is a central organisation, the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, which is both a trade union and trade association, and was originally formed around 1888-1889 as the United Kingdom Van Dwellers Protection Association (the Guild). There is also a Showmen's Guild Lodge No. 9089 associated with the Guild, which meets at Clevedon in Somerset. 

Further information:

Emergency services: right place, right time

Serving the community: two Masons win major rescue awards

Lightning, they say, never strikes twice in the same place. Be that as it may, a unique event has hit home twice to Eureka Lodge No. 3763, which meets at Bootle on Merseyside in the Province of West Lancashire. 

Each year the Ambulance Service Institute (ASI) presents awards for outstanding achievements, and Eureka Lodge members Dave Seel, a paramedic, and Dave Anderson, an emergency medical technician, have together achieved an amazing double akin to lightning striking twice in the same place. 

In each case, they were in the right place at the right time at an emergency situation, and were able to play a major role in saving life and limb in what were extremely serious incidents. 

Last year, Dave Anderson was awarded the ASI Private Ambulance of the Year Award, presented at the House of Commons, following action he took when he was first on the scene involving two motorway pile-ups. 

Previously, in 2005, Dave Seel won exactly the same award following a road traffic collision on Manchester’s A57. And to complete the unique double event, Dave Seel had proposed Dave Anderson into Masonry a year earlier. 

Both Masons work for the medical and rescue services division of Safety Provider Ltd, which provides cover for medical rescue occurrences for organisations such as the Highways Agency, the Rockingham race circuit at Corby – where they manage the £100,000 medical centre provision – as well as being an emergency nuclear response team in the event of a national emergency at a power station for British Energy. 

Dave Anderson was the first on the scene at two motorway pile-ups as he drove home. As he approached Junction 25 on the M62, near Brighouse in West Yorkshire, he saw three cars collide, throwing debris across the motorway. 

He explains: “I was driving a marked response vehicle, and as a consequence, I was able to slow the traffic down to make it safe to approach the damaged vehicles and check on the injured drivers. I then helped the police get the victims to the safety of a lay-by as an ambulance arrived. But just moments later, three more cars crashed in an almost identical manner.” 

Dave sprang into action again and helped get three more injured people to safety, but was working, with the support of the police, very much on his own. Luckily, he knew that an ambulance crew was on the way.

Dave Seel was travelling on the A57 Manchester to see a customer when he noticed a collection of vehicles beside a canal on a bridge. There were a few people standing looking over the bridge and they seemed concerned. 

He says: “I was noticed by one bystander who signalled to me to get assistance. I got out of my vehicle and looked at what was causing the interest. To my horror, I observed a small vehicle that looked as though it had travelled approximately 20 feet down an embankment, through two fences and then a further 15 feet into a canal. 

“The vehicle was upside down with only the four wheels and 1/10th of the underbody showing. It is alleged that the vehicle was hit from the rear by a HGV, which caused the incident.” 

Dave Seel shouted down to a bystander, who was in the canal, as to whether there was anyone in the vehicle, and was shocked to discover that there was. Donning his high visibility jacket and helmet, he proceeded down the route the vehicle had taken into the canal. 

He continues: “I was wearing a suit at the time. By the time I got into the canal a further bystander had ventured into the water to assist and they had managed to get one occupant out of the vehicle – a female passenger. I managed to get the driver’s door open and pulled her husband out of the vehicle. 

“He was unconscious and submerged. I realised that he could have been in that state prior to my arrival, some 10 to 15 minutes. 

With the assistance of the bystanders, we got the husband and wife to the edge of the canal, where there was a small stone and sand-filled embankment for my assessment of their injuries.” 

An ambulance arrived along with the fire service, which was a welcoming sight. The fire service checked the vehicle in case there were any further occupants, as well as the surrounding area, and fortunately, there was none. 

A primary and secondary survey Dave carried out on the couple found only cuts and bruises. He then trudged back out of the canal, up the 15ft ladder, up a 1 in 4 muddy embankment of 20 feet and back to his vehicle. 

He sums up the experience thus: “I have been a member of the Red Cross for over 25 years and was a paramedic for Mersey Regional Ambulance Service for over 12 years. I can honestly say I have never dealt with an incident quite like this before. 

“The bystanders who were on scene prior to my arrival were the real heroes. None of them had any formal training to deal with an incident like this, and yet set up a ladder for the rescue and even made attempts to get into the water.” 

Dave puts his actions on that day down to the level of training and exposure to similar incidents over the years he had received from the Red Cross and the ambulance service.

The Spanish hero: How a mason of Spanish descent discovered his father's extraordinary masonic roots is revealed by Tom Forsyth

When retired Keswick hotelier Teodoro Lopez, a Spaniard by birth, applied to become a Mason in Derwentwater Lodge No. 6375 in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, he was anxious to follow in the footsteps of his late father, Teodoro Lopez Serrano, who had been a Freemason in Spain. 

He knew nothing about his father’s Masonic career, but was anxious for the Lodge to help him trace any background that would help enlighten him, given that Spanish Freemasonry was banned during the dictatorship of General Franco. 

The story that was to unfold was remarkable and terrifying, as it transpired that Teo’s father was no ordinary Mason. Indeed, following research in England and Spain, it was revealed that his father had been none other than the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient of Spain. 

Moreover, his father had been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for his Masonic beliefs, and served seven years of this sentence, being released in 1948. During this difficult time the needs of the family had been assisted by persons unknown to Teo. 

His father, undaunted by his years in prison for his Masonic beliefs, had been proactive in the reintroduction of Freemasonry into Spain, joining the reincarnated Lodge la Matritense No. 7 of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Castille, which meets in Madrid. 

This Lodge itself has a most distinguished history, having been consecrated as Lodge No. 1 in Spain in 1728, but following turbulent times in Spanish Freemasonry, has twice been reorganised. As the current Grand Lodge of Spain is recognised as regular by the United Grand Lodge of England, it seemed appropriate that Teo and other members of Derwentwater Lodge should visit his father’s old Lodge in Madrid. 

Contact was made with Manuel Calvo, then Master of Lodge la Matritense No. 7, and 14 brethren and three wives flew out to Spain for a meeting last September. A lecture was given at the meeting for the benefit of the visitors, who also included a Mason from Cuba and one from Chile. 

At the meeting Teo presented the new Master, Primitivo Mendoza, with a wall clock manufactured from Lakeland slate and suitably inscribed with Masonic symbolism and a presentation plaque, a fitting and lasting tribute to his father. The Master broke with tradition and embraced Teo in open Lodge and presented him with his father’s application form to Lodgela Matritense No. 7 and a Lodge tie. 

The toast to Absent Brethren included Lionel Nutley of Derwentwater Lodge who, at 100 years of age, thought the trip would be too much for him. Then the visiting Masons rounded off the evening with a rendition of the Absent Brethren song. For the two Lodges, regular communication now takes place, and Derwentwater Lodge has added Spain to its list of overseas countries it has visited for Masonic gatherings such as Canada, the United States, Thailand and Australia, underlining Masonry worldwide. 

The trip was a great success, due largely to the arrangements made the Master and the Immediate Past Master, Manuel Calvo, and one Brother has discovered the courage and tenacity of his father. 

Tom Forsyth is secretary of Derwentwater Lodge No. 6375

Welsh award: keep the wheels turning

A Welsh national sporting award has been won by Monmouthshire Mason Neil Smith

Welsh Mason Neil Smith, from Newport, has won a prestigious national award for coaching and encouraging disabled riders to the top of the sport of cycling by spending many hours at the trackside of the Welsh National Velodrome. 

He was awarded the Sports Council for Wales Coach of the Year Award for 2006 in the Disabled Sports People: Performance category, and was presented with his award in Cardiff by Alun Pugh AM, Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport in the Welsh Assembly. 

Neil, a telecommunications operations director, is a Past Master of Lodge of Concord No. 9010, Province of Monmouthshire, and the Lodge has been giving its backing to his efforts by donating £1,000 towards purchasing a tandem for visually impaired riders. 

Among Neil’s achievements is seeing Jody Cundy win two Paralympic gold medals, breaking two UCI world records and become the UCI world champion over one kilometre. 

Neil commented: “I think seeing Jody at the World Cup in Manchester was the greatest thing for me.” In addition, he has helped Welsh juniors Nathan Tyrell and James Brookman to the top in their respective disciplines in Great Britain. 

Sports minister Alun Pugh said: “Without the valuable contribution of coaches, both professional and community based, we would not be able to fulfil the aspirations of Climbing Higher, our sports and physical activity strategy.” 

The official award citation said: “Neil has mentored and encouraged athletes to some of the greatest Paralympic heights in British cycling. His cyclist, Jody Cundy, has benefitted from Neil’s excellent coaching and feels that Neil has been paramount in his transition from Paralympic swimmer to cyclist. 

“Neil has provided the skill, encouragement and leadership in the lead up to competitions which has helped Jody to win two IPC Paralympic Gold Medals, two UCI World Records and become IPC World Record holder in the 1km Sprint. 

“He spends many hours a week coaching at Newport, where he not only coaches Jody, but lends his experience and knowledge to a squad that includes Nathan Tyrell and James Brookman – two talented Welsh Juniors who are number one in Great Britain. Neil is a fantastic coach and a great motivator who cares passionately for his individual riders.” 

It is a tribute to Neil that he should have won such a prestigious national award arising out of his part-time work for disabled people who want to enjoy their sport. 

Ancient crafts: recreating the dawn of history

An ancient boat building skill has earned Peter Faulkner an international reputation

Britain, being an island, has long had a tradition of being involved with the sea, and among the most historic craft used to navigate both inland waters and the open sea are the ancient coracles and currachs, which go back to the dawn of history. 

But these craft are still around today, and among those who build them is Herefordshire Mason Peter Faulkner, a leading specialist in skin boats, who made his first hide coracle in 1987. 

Peter’s boats are constructed from wholly sustainable materials mirroring the geographical inertia of ‘old-time’ craftsmen, as all raw materials – hazel, willow, timber and hides – are sourced locally. 

He is planning a cross-Channel venture next year using a currach with a crew of eight to ten, all members of Arrow Lodge No. 2240, Province of Herefordshire. 

However, he is also bringing along two extras in case of ‘mal de mare.’ A TV crew is also expected to follow them – but not in a currach! The journey is for charity – the Province’s 2008 Festival as well as local organisations such as Air Ambulance. 

Peter explains: “A coracle is a keel-less fresh water craft propelled by one paddle, whereas a currach is a sea-going craft. The former may well have existed in some form as long as 100,000 years ago. We do know that currachs were being used around these islands in Mesolithic times.” 

The Mesolithic – or middle stone age – period was nearly 10,000 years ago, and last year Peter built a 21-feet currach of the period for Archaeolink, Aberdeenshire. He adds: “I was not taught how to make a coracle but in 1987 went to a traditional maker at Ironbridge in Shropshire and took photos, measurements and notes, then went back home and constructed my first coracle, ‘Teme Dipper.’ 

“In this boat I traversed the river Teme – 85 miles – the Severn – 165 miles, the Wye – 100 miles – and part of the Shannon. This coracle hangs in my workshop today, rather battered but proud. The learning curve continues to this day.” 

But, as he will be 65 in August, is it not time to hang up his paddle? Not a bit of it, he says. “Retirement isn’t in my vocabulary. My big dream is to build a 38-feet currach, using my usual materials, and to cross the Atlantic. I already have a crew list.” 

So how did he get into such an unusual occupation? He explains: “Returning to the village where I grew up – Leintwardine in Herefordshire – I built a coracle to travel down the local river – the Teme – in which I learned to swim and explore. My three brothers and I, together with other village children, had a Tom Sawyer-type childhood in the 1950s – we roamed freely and learned to survive. 

“My prototype was, I thought, a one-off, but a chance meeting with John Leach, the Somerset potter, changed all that, when he asked me to make him a coracle – my first customer. Now, some 200 skin coracles later, I have an international business and reputation.” 

In 1996 he was commissioned by the Kilmartin House Trust in Argyll to lead a project to construct a sea-going skin boat or currach. Peter sourced all the materials for the framework and the eight hides this craft required. 

He also designed the hull, and with a team of volunteers constructed the 22 feet by seven feet basket at Mayo Abbey, Co. Mayo, Ireland and later sailed from Ballycastle in Northern Ireland to Argyll in Scotland. The journey was featured in BBC Scotland’s documentary Columba’s Crossing, about St Colombo, who founded the Iona community on that remote Scottish island. 

In 2002 he attempted to cross the Channel from France to England on the prevailing wind, but unfortunately the wind died and they had to be towed back to Dover. However, the following month he competed successfully in the Great River Race down the tidal Thames in a 13-feet coracle with a crew of six, completing the 22 miles in four hours and 20 minutes. 

In 2005, he did the same journey again – in less than four hours. However, in 2003, during the memorable August heatwave of that year, he took 11 days to travel down the Thames from Cricklade in Wiltshire to Teddington Lock in a coracle – four feet six inches in diameter – but it was very slack water, and he was paddling for seven hours a day. 

Peter, who lives at Clungunford in Shropshire, is a Yeoman member of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, and is currently chairman of The Coracle Society. He travels abroad to exhibit his craft, and is regularly featured in the media from boating magazines to numerous TV appearances, and recently received an invitation to visit Japan. 

On a cold February morning in 1940 I was born the fourth child of a Regimental Sergeant-Major stationed at Catterick camp in Yorkshire. He was also a life-long Salvationist. He became a Freemason many years later and had been Chaplain to Eden Park Lodge No. 123 in Surrey. 

On his death-bed he turned to me – I was dressed in my uniform as a full-time Salvation Army officer – and said wistfully: “I always wondered, David, why you never asked to join my Lodge?” 

He then proceeded to recite the working tools of an Entered Apprentice Freemason: 

“The twenty-four inch gauge represents the twenty-four hours of the day, part to be spent in prayer to Almighty God, part in labour and refreshment, and part in serving a friend or Brother in time of need…” 

Was this, in essence, so different from the Covenant and Dedication that I had signed and pledged my allegiance to, 17 years earlier, at the time when I was Commissioned and ordained to serve God through the ranks of the Salvation Army? 

I spent many days, months – indeed, over five years thinking and pondering on these thoughts before a very fine friend asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a Mason? 

I answered – ‘Yes!’ And so, on the first day of April 1981, I was initiated, as a Lewis, in company with a second candidate, into Freemasonry and became a member of the Lodge of Integrity No. 5149, which meets at Chelmsford. 

‘….Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every Candidate for its mysteries. It is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue…vows of fidelity are required; but let me assure you that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties….’ 

Oh! I have found this to be so very true. 

Freemasonry is not a religion – ‘it is a peculiar system of morality’ but its teachings provide so much of…‘what’s good to be understood by a …mason.’ 

Twenty-six years have now passed and they have been a most thrilling and rewarding part of my life. As a Salvationist and a Mason there has been no conflict with my faith, no conflict in my daily living, and no conflict in my dealings with other people. 

Both the Salvation Army, a branch of the Christian Church, and the Fraternity of our Brotherhood, have parallel ideals – both require an acknowledgement of God as the Creator, both require truth in all our dealings, and both require commitment to the care and service of others – so there need be no conflict. 

Prior to my present Masonic appointment as Provincial Grand Chaplain for Buckinghamshire, I enjoyed the great honour of being the Provincial Almoner. 

The role of Almoner is very special and I have felt privileged to be able to seek out those who were experiencing difficult circumstances, and to be able to bring about change in quality of life for so many of our brethren and the dependents, by accessing our various Masonic Charities. 

Those years have truly been a most fulfilling period, not only of my Masonic experience, but of my life. This ‘work’ has been so very compatible with my religious duties, and the great joy for me has been that I have always been able to carry out those Masonic duties as if I was wearing the Salvation Army uniform ‘S’ insignia on my collar. 

There will inevitably be those who will say “Ah! But what about the Gospel of Christ – where does that fit into your belief as a Salvationist and your Masonic teaching! 

Well, I don’t have a problem with that - but perhaps it could, or maybe should, be for a future discussion or article! 

David M Sawyer is Provincial Grand Chaplain, Province of Buckinghamshire 


Published in Features

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