One of the key figures of the suffragette movement, Annie Besant, was not only a socialist, rights activist, author and orator, but also one of the founders of the society of Co-Freemasonry, which has evolved into the present day The Order of Women Freemasons organisation

This was one of the interesting facts revealed by Geraldene Greenhalgh from The Order of Women Freemasons in an absorbing talk she gave to West Lancashire Freemasons at Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall. The host lodge was Lonsdale Lodge of Installed Masters No. 9422.

Geraldine is a Senior Grand Warden in The Order of Women Freemasons and holds responsibility for Lancashire. She further explained how Annie had become head of the Order and had led a public march through the streets of London by her members, dressed in their regalia, during one of the important demonstrations in support of the campaign for universal suffrage.

Previously the lodge had been opened, the business conducted and duly closed before Geraldene was then welcomed into the lodge room to give her talk. She was not the only woman in attendance as the wives and partners of Lonsdale members were also admitted to enjoy the oration. Amongst the attentive onlookers was the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison who was accompanied by his wife Maureen together with Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger and his wife Beryl.

Geraldene outlined how the Order was founded and its subsequent history. It shares many of the principals of Freemasonry and its ceremonies reflect those performed by their male counterparts. The first head of the order in 1908 had in fact been a man, the Rev Dr. William Cobb. Since 1912, the Grand Masters have all been women and in 1920, it was decided to restrict admission exclusively to females which continues to this day.

One of the principal objects of The Order of Women Freemasons, which is open to all faiths, is charity. It was revealed that the ‘Race for Life’ fundraiser in aid of Cancer UK in 2016 saw the Order raise £100,000 for the campaign. Recent years have also seen donations of £100,000 each to charities in aid of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer research. In its centenary year in 2008 donations of £250,000 had been made to Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK. Rather than a levy on the members, the Order relies on charitable funds being raised at social events. A Gentleman’s Festival replaces the Ladies Night held by Craft lodges.

The Order, which now boasts 6,000 members in this country and abroad in 350 lodges, is administered from premises in Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill which were left to them by a member. Their Grand Lodge meetings are held in Birmingham and regularly attract over 1,000 members.

In addition to the Craft, The Order of Women Freemasons also has a degree equivalent to the Holy Royal Arch Chapter as well as several other orders. Geraldine added that women who wished to enjoy Freemasonry could also join The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons which also only admits women as members.

The lodge’s Master Bill Edmonds thanked Geraldene for a talk which had proved both informative and interesting and kept everyone enthralled throughout.

East Kent Freemason Warren Hyder, a Past Master of Wakefield of Hythe Lodge No. 6059, has taken on the Jurassic Coast Challenge to raise over £18,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support

The Jurassic Coast Challenge involves either walking or running 100km, starting out at Poole Harbour in Dorset and then along the Jurassic Coast. Warren and his family wished to take on this challenge in recognition of the valuable support that Macmillan has given to several members of his family over the last few years.

Back in 2004, Warren’s brother-in-law Paul Ripley, a member of Wakefield of Hythe Lodge, fought and lost a tough battle with bowel cancer. During his illness, he and the wider family were supported by Macmillan Cancer Support, whose help was invaluable, especially as the family was advised that it needed to embark on genetic testing.

Within a month of losing Paul, aged 43, tests showed that Warren’s wife, Lynn, needed major surgery at a London hospital to save her life. The surgery was carried out within weeks, but that was not the end of the battle they were facing as, during the week leading up to Lynn’s surgery, her sister Tina received the same diagnosis. This resulted in identical surgery nine weeks later.

Fortunately, both Lynn and Tina made good recoveries but there was more bad news to follow. Sadly, in March 2017, they received the devastating news that Paul’s brother, Warren’s brother-in-law, Steve Ripley aged 52, was diagnosed with stage 5 prostate cancer. Steve is also a Past Master of the Wakefield of Hythe Lodge and a Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer. Having had surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment, he has recently been advised that this has not been successful and he is to undergo an intensive regime of chemotherapy.

Macmillan supported the whole family throughout all these difficulties and to give them focus at this difficult time, they wanted to do something positive. Ten members of the family, including Warren, Lynn and their youngest son Joe, Steve’s wife June and their son Brad, all signed up to take part in the Jurassic Coast Challenge in July 2018. Three of the group took on completing 100km over 24 hours, whilst the rest of the group took on 44km, which is the equivalent of a marathon.

The family members were hoping that this crazy adventure would allow them to raise £10,000 collectively to support the amazing work of Macmillan Cancer Support, but instead they managed to raise the magnificent sum of over £18,000.

Local communities are set to benefit following a surprise £50,000 donation to Brecon Hospital from Brecon Freemasons, in the Province of South Wales

The generous donation was made at the Brecon Freemasons’ Festive Board, which took place at the Castle Hotel in Brecon, to mark 300 years since the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.

Professor Vivienne Harpwood, Chair of Powys Teaching Health Board, receiving the donation on behalf of the hospital, said: 'I am so grateful and humbled by this generous donation from Brecon Freemasons. We knew in advance that the Freemasons wished to make a donation to Brecon War Memorial Hospital, but the size of the donation was very much under wraps until the cheque was presented to us.

'This will make an amazing difference, and we look forward to working with the Brecon Freemasons to use this donation for the benefit of local communities.'

Graham Richards, Charity Steward of Brecknock Lodge No. 651, presented the cheque saying: 'The highlight of our Tercentenary celebrations was the presentation of a cheque for £50,000 for the benefit of the Brecon War Memorial Hospital in appreciation and a recognition of the services and care given to Freemasons and their families and indeed to the whole community of Brecon & District.'

The Tercentenary has been an opportunity for fundraising and charitable works across the UK. John Ingham, Worshipful Master of the Brecknock Lodge, said: 'The first lodge in the UK was established in 1717, and here in Brecon our first recorded meeting was in 1764 with the Brecknock Lodge meeting in its current form since 1855. What better way to mark this momentous occasion than by upholding one of the main tenets of our organisation, the support of charity.

'Over £70,000 was donated to good causes and I would like to thank all Lodge members for their support.'

Donations by Brecon Freemasons included £5,000 to Wales Air Ambulance, £200 to Calan Domestic Violence Services and £15,000 shared between the following 15 local and international charities:

More than 30 charities have benefited from £150,000 donated by West Wales as part of the Province’s Tercentenary celebrations

Grants were presented at a dinner held in Fishguard attended by local Freemasons and charity representatives, with entertainment provided by The Goodwick Brass Band.

Among the beneficiaries were Macmillan Cancer Support nurses, Marie Curie and the Paul Sartori Foundation, receiving £10,000 each.

Dedicated cancer support in Truro

At the annual meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall held at Newquay, Provincial Grand Master Stephen Pearn presented Macmillan Cancer Support with a cheque for £75,792 towards its Cove Appeal, to build a new cancer support centre in Truro.

The Cove Macmillan Support Centre will provide a dedicated support facility for people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly affected by cancer, whether they are the patient, caring for someone or simply worried about cancer. More than 21,000 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are living with cancer.

Local support for Macmillan nurses

Katie Farmer, fundraiser for Wye Valley NHS Trust Charitable Fund, met Richard James and Alison, wife of Keith Price of Saint Peter’s Lodge, No. 7368, to receive a £1,500 donation in support of Macmillan nurses. Charity Steward Richard stated that such funding was in keeping with local Freemasons’ policy of supporting regional charities whenever possible, and was confident that this approach would be fully maintained.

Katie Farmer, Fundraiser for Wye Valley NHS Trust Charitable Fund, recently met with W Bro Richard James and Alison, the wife of W Bro Keith Price, the Past Master of Bromyard’s Saint Peter’s Lodge No. 7368

The meeting took place in the glorious spring sunshine at the Hop Pocket, Bishop’s Frome, where Alison Price on behalf of her husband and the members of Saint Peter’s Lodge, presented Katie with a £1,500 donation in support of Macmillan Nurses.

Charity Steward Richard James stated that such funding was in keeping with local Freemasons’ policy of supporting local charities whenever possible, and was confident that this approach would be fully maintained.

Katie Farmer sincerely thanked the representatives present for the significant and continued support for Wye Valley Trust.

Ghostly happenings in Dagger Lane

Hull’s masonic hall in Dagger Lane, which has a purpose-built lodge room that has been in constant use since 1804, is rumoured to be haunted, so a real-life ghost-buster was called in to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

Paranormal investigator Mark Lindsay has hunted for ghosts there six times, with the public invited to join his latest search to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support

He said: ‘There have been quite a few things that have happened in the building and a lot of the items inside there are quite old … We have had some unusual readings on our meters that we couldn’t explain and electromagnetic fields we couldn’t find the cause of.’ The building dates back to 1782 and is adorned with old furniture, regalia, swords and paintings. 

Freemasons from Bromyard are championing Macmillan Cancer Support in Herefordshire by sponsoring the charity’s Not Alone campaign which was launched just over a year ago

Paul Beaumont, Worshipful Master of Saint Peter’s Lodge in Bromyard, together with Richard James, Lodge Charity Steward, presented donations totalling £600 to Jenny Goddard Fundraising Manager of Herefordshire and Forest of Dean – money raised personally by the Bromyard members in a variety of ways including a recent Farm Walk, with match funding from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity.

The presentation took place in the Patient Garden Area of the Macmillan Renton Cancer Unit, Hereford. Jenny Goddard in thanking the Freemasons, emphasised that such support will enable Macmillan Cancer Support, 'to create more vital new services and reach more people than ever before, and together with the public of Herefordshire, we can make sure that no one faces cancer alone.'

Richard James indicated that he would keep in contact with Macmillan Cancer Support in Herefordshire in the hope of maintaining support for this worthy cause. Every day over 900 people in the UK hear the news that they have cancer, and a quarter of them will have no support from family and friends.

Shropshire’s Freemasons gave over £40,000 to 49 local and regional charities at a special presentation on Monday, 10th June

Awards included £5,000 to the Midlands Air Ambulance, £1,000 each to Shrewsbury MENCAP, SSAFA Forces Help (Shropshire Branch), Macmillan Cancer Support and the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries. Hope House Children’s Hospice received £1,500 and Combat Stress £1,000. The Severn Hospice at Shrewsbury and Telford, which both received major grants last year, were each given £1,500.

Many smaller grants were also made to local charities which struggle to match the profile of larger national organisations. The Shrewsbury Ark, which cares for homeless people, Shropshire MIND, local Scouts and Guides and the Movement Centre each received £500. Donations were also made to Shrewsbury Street Pastors, the Friends of Whitchurch Community Hospital and the Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest. In most cases the cheques were received by representatives of the charities, who spoke – occasionally very movingly – of the difference these grants would make to their work.

Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor explained the importance of these grants to Freemasons.

'All of the money distributed today has been raised from within our own membership – the majority by the 1,300 Freemasons in Shropshire. Over the years we have developed strong links with many of charities – both great and small – which benefit our community. Some of our members have very compelling personal reasons to support these good causes, and we believe that these donations show Freemasonry to be a real power for good both in Shropshire and in the wider world.'

The continuing work of Shropshire’s Freemasons can be seen on twitter by following @ShropshireMason

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