Shoring up in Somerset

Flooding in England and Wales caused widespread damage and disruption to many communities during the winter. Somerset masons, backed by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and other Provinces, came to the rescue with help for the Somerset Community Foundation.

Grand Charity President Richard Hone, QC approved a £20,000 emergency grant for the British Red Cross in support of its UK flood relief efforts.

The grant was backed by a special appeal among Somerset masons, who raised more than £175,000 for the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund, becoming one of the four main donors to the local appeal. Other Provinces also sent generous donations. 

The Grand Charity is working closely with masons in other affected areas of England and Wales to establish the best way to offer further support. In parallel with support for wider relief efforts, the charity will assist individual eligible masons who have been affected by events, and their dependants, by providing Masonic Relief Grants to relieve hardship.

Helping hand for special horse charity

Nyanza Lodge, No. 1197, in Ilminster, Somerset, has presented a cheque for £1,400 to the Horseshoes and Handprints charity, which provides sensory therapy and special riding for adults and children with behavioural and communication difficulties. Close contact with horses can relieve stress within people with conditions such as Asperger’s, autism and neurological disorders.   

Nyanza Lodge raised £700 from a charity lunch that attracted matched funding from the Charities Committee of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset, with the total figure of £1,400 adorning the neck of one of the charity’s horses, Josh. 

When the Provincial Grand Master, Stuart Hadler, launched his appeal on February 17 he did not appreciate the level of support that would be received from Somerset lodges and from Freemasons around the country

Hoping to achieve £50,000, the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund has passed £125,000 and has become one of the four major contributors to the Somerset Flood Appeal.

The Provincial Grand Master has been overwhelmed by the generosity not only of brethren in Somerset but of many other Provinces and, of course, The Freemasons' Grand Charity.

Commenting, Stuart Hadler said: 'The concern shown towards those in great need on the Somerset Levels by brethren from far and wide has been overwhelming. We will be able to make a most significant contribution to helping families and communities to recover and rebuild over the coming months. The need is immense. With the continuing contribution of brethren and Lodges in Somerset, I hope that we will be able to achieve a target of £175,000.

'I express my heartfelt thanks to all those who are supporting the appeal.'

The Provincial Grand Master has also announced that he is setting up a Flood Recovery Grants Committee to work with the Somerset Community Foundation to identify and approve grants for suitable projects. A number of areas of possible support are being clarified that will aid individuals and communities in their recovery. This committee will be lead by John Winston, AsstProvGM, and include brethren with knowledge of the Somerset Levels.

The Somerset Community Foundation (SCF), having been tasked to provide financial support to those affected by the floods, launched an appeal for £150,000 in January. It quickly became clear that in the months ahead a far greater sum would be required, not only to provide emergency grants to those in need, but much more would be needed to support the recovery and re-building of lives and communities. The SCF set up a system for emergency grant payments. Since January this has helped over 200 households and awarded over £120,000. Through working alongside community workers and other organisations longer term needs have begun to be identified.

Having recognised that the SCF would be well placed to identify genuine need and manage the use of grants, Stuart Hadler elected to use the SCF as the main route through which Freemasonry could best support those affected by the floods. The Emergency Grant phase was adequately covered by donations to the SCF. The subsequent stages of recovery and rehabilitation would take yet more money and fill gaps not covered by government, other agencies and insurance.

The SCF has now increased its target to £1,000,000. This week £750,000 has been received including over £125,000 allocated by the Somerset Masonic Recovery Fund. A tremendous achievement on the part of Freemasonry.

Peter Whyman CBE, Chairman of the SCF said, 'On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation may I thank everyone involved in raising this money which I am certain will make a real difference to the communities currently affected so badly by the flooding'.

Current flood situation

We have all seen and heard reports of the personal experiences of those affected by the flooding on the Levels. At its height around 200 households were affected and of those 90 families were evacuated, in many instances with little notice and therefore without the chance to collect and take clothing and personal effects.

This week (beginning of March) the reduced rainfall and pumping efforts have seen the waters begin to subside and some residents have for the first time been able to visit their homes. They have witnessed severe water damage and contamination of their homes, sewage pollution and staggering accumulations of debris. One can but imagine the horror, heartbreak, overwhelming sense of loss and hopelessness experienced when faced with a much-loved home that has effectively been devastated and devalued.

The process of drying out, clean-up, repair and restoration will take months.

Loss adjusters are beginning the process of assessing the damage. Many of those affected have been advised that it will be up to twelve months before they will be able to return. In some cases homes are beyond repair. The impact on house values can be imagined. Some families will have had enough and look to move elsewhere. It has been estimated that around 25% of properties are uninsured and others underinsured because of the high premiums required.

The floods have also affected many small businesses that offer local employment and services. They too will need financial and practical assistance to find alternative premises, re-equip and address cash-flow issues.

Village and community life has been disrupted, in part because of being cut-off or having extended journeys to move from one place to another. Community facilities are out of action. Many residents have been evacuated or moved away temporarily.

The farming community has had pasture under water for weeks, fodder and foodstuffs destroyed. Livestock has either been moved or sold. Some farms remain under water and will be out of action for a considerable time. Many areas remain under water.

Immediate support

While the various agencies have been present on the ground and provided a range of help and support, much of what has been needed has been provided by a huge groundswell of voluntary effort and community spirit. This has responded to individual and collective needs, lobbied for support and assistance and been very successful in maintaining morale and mutual support.

Many individuals and groups have come together and participated in the emergency relief effort.

Help for home from home in Somerset

CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people. One of its Homes from Home, where families can stay for free during a child’s cancer treatment, Sam’s House in Bristol is a purpose-built residence with a garden, close to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC). The Lodge of Agriculture, No. 1199, of Yatton in Somerset, has donated four iPads to the centre.

The charity is close to the heart of WM David Megilley, whose family stayed at Sam’s House when his nephew underwent a procedure for leukaemia at BRHC.

Centenary walk for Somerset lodge

On Tuesday October 8 Nyanza Lodge, No. 1197, in Somerset celebrated 100 years in their existing Lodge building in Berrymans Lane, Ilminster, by walking from their first home in North Street, Ilminster, now a doctor’s surgery, to the current Temple.

The lodge was founded in 1867 and members moved to their current home in October 1913. In that year the brethren processed in full regalia from North Street to Berrymans Lane, via the High Street of the Somerset town, to celebrate the move. To re-enact that celebration, and to mark this historic occasion, the current members repeated that walk on October 8 in full masonic regalia, the first time that any lodge in Somerset has paraded in public since the Second World War.

The Worshipful Master of Nyanza Lodge, Hall Smyth, was joined in the procession by Stuart Hadler, the Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, together with eighteen lodge brethren. The lodge has thus continued the ‘openness’ theme, following their very successful ‘Open Day’ in 2011 when the building in Berrymans Lane was visited by several hundred members of the local residents of Ilminster.

The procession through Ilminster has since received considerable sympathetic news coverage in both local newspapers.

Swanning around in Somerset

Masonic involvement in last summer’s Swans of Wells Somerset tourism initiative has led to an auction raising £110,000. Benevolent Lodge, No. 446, was involved in the project, which featured the public display of 60 magnificently decorated, 5ft swan sculptures in Wells and the Somerset countryside. Each swan cost £950 and 3 other lodges – Pilgrims Lodge, No. 772, St Dunstan’s Lodge, No. 7973, Lodge of Love and Honour, No. 285 – and Avalon Chapter, No. 446, each contributed around £200. At the final auction, mason Rod Deane purchased Naomi, the ‘masonic’ swan, which is now available to support any masonic charity event in the UK.

The Freemasonry in the Community diesel 12-seat Renault Master minibus has been handed over to the Weston and District Community Transport group. It has air conditioning and a power-operated wheelchair lift located at its rear. The minibus was acquired by Somerset Freemasons in 2010 and has since completed 130 respite day trips, carrying about 1,250 people in total.

The handover was made by Somerset Provincial Grand Master Stuart Hadler to Weston and District Community Transport trustees chairman David Ray in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Weston, Cllr David Hitchins and Mrs Carol Hitchins. Somerset lodges have contributed to the running costs and the vehicle will be driven by a team of masonic volunteer drivers.

Mrs Eileen Jackson, the Founder and Chair of the Somerset Masonic Widows Association, has been named in the New Year's Honours list by HM The Queen by the award of an MBE for her services to charity in north Somerset.

Commenting on this honour, Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset said: 'Eileen is a fine example of selfless dedication to the needs of others whether in her local community or more especially the Masonic Widows Association in Somerset. Her drive and commitment has been the predominent factor of the success of the Association over the last fifteen years. She has made a positive difference in the lives of countless widows and their families and to many other needy people through her campaigning and fund-raising for a range of charities and support projects. We congratulate her on this honour from HM The Queen, which is well deserved'.

Somerset and Dorset Freemasons have each presented the local Air Ambulance with a grant of £4,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, part of the total of over £1 million donated by the charity since 2007, providing funding to every Air Ambulance in England and Wales.

On average, an emergency Air Ambulance takes off every 10 minutes in the UK, reaching people as quickly as possible to help save lives. Air Ambulances operate almost entirely from donations from charities such as The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, as well as from the general public.

Justin Martin, speaking on behalf of both Provinces, said: ‘Air Ambulances across the country play such a vital role in taking the hospital to the patient, saving precious time and consequently saving lives. We are proud to provide this further support.’

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

South Down Lodge’s helicopter hero

Sixteen members of the Heal family from Sussex are in the same lodge, including former RAF pilot Marc, who won the DFC in Afghanistan for evacuating 29 casualties in his Chinook helicopter while under fire. Marc, 31, flew eight combat missions in as many days. On one occasion his helicopter’s landing site was mortared by insurgents and some of the missions took place without an Apache escort.

Somerset mason James Heal began the family connection with South Down Lodge, No. 1797, in 1963 when he moved to Brighton, followed by his five sons – all of whom went through the chair – as well as three brothers-in-law and seven grandsons.

Four of the five sons were Directors of Ceremonies, while three of the family are Grand Officers and one, Keith Schofield, is the Provincial Grand Mentor for Sussex. His uncle John was Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and later an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, while his uncle Victor was Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, both of whom – with his father – have been his mentors.

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