South Wales Freemasons held a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at St Lythans, near Wenvoe, to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry and raise money for the Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) Appeal

More than 3,000 distressed children and their families will be helped by the £4,000 raised at the event.

The picnic will help to provide TLC Teddies to A&E hospitals in South Wales, including Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital.

Port Talbot Masonic Lodges marked the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England by ‘adopting’ an ornamental garden in Margam Country Park and installing a commemorative monolith which was engraved with references to the 300th anniversary and Port Talbot Lodges

Future plans to further establish the Garden with the help and co-operation of Margam Country Park staff will include bilingual information boards and seating, along with the planting of flowers in the box hedge beds, to provide both the local community the facility to sit, quietly relax and reflect in a peaceful area, with the aim to be a lasting legacy for all.

The impressive monolith was donated by Michael Walton, an Officer of the Afan Lodge No. 833 in Port Talbot.

The Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Gareth Jones OBE unveiled the stone in the company of many masonic members and partners, including the Rev Edward Dowland-Owen, the Vicar of Margam Abbey, who blessed the Monument and Garden, as well as Leaders of the Neath Port Talbot Council Rob Jones and Neil Evans, the Estate Manager of Margam Country Park Michael Wynne and Head Gardener Jeannette Dunk.

It was also particularly fitting that the stone be laid within the Park and Margam Castle, which was formerly the home of the Talbot family, who assisted with the cost of the impressive Port Talbot Masonic Hall and generously enabled Masonic progress in the town.

A pioneering programme of non-contact boxing, combined with intensive one-to-one support will be helping young people from deprived backgrounds in South Wales to turn their lives around, thanks to a grant from South Wales Freemasons

The £16,000 grant will pay for 150 young people go through the Empire Fighting Chance charity’s programme of non-contact boxing combined with intensive, tailored support focused on education, employability and wellbeing.

Run from boxing gyms in Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil and Barry, the programme uses punch bags, skipping and a focus on technique, which improves discipline and physical and mental health. Participants also receive regular mentoring, numeracy and literacy classes, counselling and help preparing for the job market.

The grant from South Wales Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends from across England and Wales.

Despite significant progress over recent years, there are still parts of South Wales that suffer from some of the worst poverty in the UK. Young people face a devastating mix of issues that limit life chances, most notably low academic achievement, poor mental health and high unemployment. Despite the huge challenges they face, few services exist to support them.

Results from the charity’s pilot programme in Bristol point to success. An impressive 87% of the pilot’s participants progressed into employment, education or further training, while 92% reported that they felt more confident in themselves after completing the programme.

One young person suffering from very low self-esteem, depression and anxiety had this to say about the Empire Fighting Chance programme: 'Getting involved has changed my life, I now have a job, my own property and life is looking good. I feel more confident in pursuing my career and I no longer have any problems with my rent.'

Martin Bisp, CEO of Empire Fighting Chance, is confident that the new project will be a success: 'We’re very grateful to South Wales Freemasons for their help in making this project possible. Together we’ll transform the lives of many vulnerable young people.'

Alan Gardner from South Wales Freemasons commented: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Empire Fighting Chance. This is a charity that does what it says on the tin – it helps some of our most deprived young people to have a fighting chance of making something of their lives.'

On Saturday 14th October, Penarth Masonic Hall celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a special dinner to commemorate their forefathers foresight, exactly 90 years to the day

14th October 1927 was the date that the Foundation Stone was laid for the building of Penarth Masonic Hall by RW Bro Col Sir Charles L.D Venables Llewelyn, Bart., in a public ceremony attended by hundreds of people.

The Foundation Stone can be seen inside the Penarth Masonic Temple in the North East corner. As well as Sir Charles' association with the Hall through the Foundation Stone and the remarkable picture of that event, he also donated a chair which bears his name.

Sir Charles Venables Llewelyn was the Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Eastern Division from 1913 to 1938. Penarth Masonic Hall was one of two that he laid that Foundation Stone for during his tenure, the other being Maesteg in 1924.

He was also responsible for consecrating 30 Lodges throughout South Wales, although he was unable to be present at many due to his War Service. He was able to preside however, at Rhondda Lodge in Pontypridd, and Vale of Glamorgan Lodge in Barry, both in 1919.

Windsor Lodge was founded in 1878 and sought new premises, as its then home in Station Approach, Penarth - now Penarth British Legion - struggled to seat 250 members. Penarth Masonic Hall was built on playing fields at Stanwell Road, once used by Penarth Athletic Club. This was to accommodate the growth in Freemasonry due to the expansion of Cardiff & Penarth Docks.

The first sod was cut in 1927 by 87 year old Frederick George (Daddy) Hodges. The Grand Temple, which was open to the public recently as part of Cadw’s Open Heritage Events, has a magnificent domed ceiling decorated with stars and planets representing the Northern Heavens in September. It was designed Dan Jones, FRAS, and built by Tucker Bros, Broadway, Roath, Cardiff at a final cost of £10,500. The Hall was opened to coincide with the 50th Anniversary Jubilee of Windsor Lodge.

During a fine meal, pictures of the Founding Forefathers and of the historic laying of the Foundation Stone were projected on a large screen, as well as pictures of all the Honours Boards. Paul Haley, Provincial Communications Officer for South Wales, then explained how the evening had enabled past, present and future Freemasons to dine together and look ahead in making the Hall fit for another 90 years, as well as giving a brief history of the Hall. Chris Pratt of Windsor Lodge then gave a Toast to Penarth Masonic Hall, before a further toast was taken from special commemorative shot glasses that were manufactured for the occasion.

All proceeds from the evening will go to making the building fit for another 90 years and, of course, to prepare for its Centenary.

A grant of £4,000 to the Wales Air Ambulance from South Wales Freemasons has brought the total Masonic support given to air ambulances across the country to almost £4 million since 2007

Wales Air Ambulance operates right across Wales, covering over 8,000 square miles of remote countryside, bustling towns and cities, vast mountain ranges and 800 miles of coastline.

The grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, is funded by Freemasons and their families from across England and Wales. During 2017, Freemasons from around the country will be presenting 20 regional air ambulances with grants totalling £180,000.

Catrin Hall from Wales Air Ambulance said: ‘We are very grateful to South Wales Freemasons for their continuing generosity.

'Without support like this the Air Ambulance would not be able to carry on flying and our life-saving work could not continue.’

Roy Woodward, Deputy Grand Master from South Wales Freemasons, recently visited Wales Air Ambulance, accompanied by John Davies, Freemasons Charity Officer. He said: ‘We are proud to be able to support the Wales Air Ambulance. Thanks to the tireless efforts of their doctors and aircrew, many lives of local people are saved every year.’

Wales Air Ambulance relies entirely on charitable grants and donations. To make a donation, please click here.

A blue plaque has been unveiled on Cardiff Masonic Hall in Guildford Crescent to commemorate 263 years of Freemasonry within Cardiff

Brian Langley, the Chairman of Cardiff Masonic Hall, was invited to join the Provincial Grand Master for South Wales Gareth Jones OBE in the task of unveiling the blue plaque.

The plaque now sits secured proudly above the front doors of Cardiff Masonic Hall for all to see. It was also proudly shown to all those who recently visited the Hall as part of the CADW Open Doors Heritage Initiative during September 2017.

Original records show Corinthian Lodge No. 226, the first Cardiff Lodge, was warranted in August 1754.

Lodges met at the Cardiff Arms Hotel until 1855, when moved to its own premises at 4 Church Street. Again, with the growth in membership, new lodge premises were established in Working Street on 12 January 1877.

In 1893, the United Methodist Church was determined to sell their building in Guildford Street and relocate. The premises were originally built in 1863 for the United Methodist Church at an initial cost of £1600 and boasted seating for 800 parishioners.

The architect Mr John Hartland was well known at the time and other Cardiff examples of his work still in existence are Capel Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church in the Hayes and Bethany Baptist Church in Wharton Street, now incorporated into Howells department store. 

Three Masonic Lodges, Glamorgan Lodge No. 36, Bute Lodge No. 960 and Tennant Lodge No. 1992, who were at that time meeting above a potato store in Wharton Street, made an offer of £4,500 which was accepted. In 1894, the Cardiff Masonic Hall Company was incorporated, funded by member's subscriptions raising the necessary sum plus a further £2,300 for alterations and furnishings.

The premises were finally opened to Freemasonry on 26th September 1895 by the Provincial Grand Master Lord Llangattock, who presided over its first meeting assisted by officers of Provincial Grand Lodge and distinguished brethren totalling around 500.

The building is based in design on Regency Classical coupled with the ancient Doric architecture of Greece.

In 1904 the building was fitted with Electric Lighting at the expense of the Master of Duke of York Lodge. A suitable illuminated scroll was presented to him in recognition of his gift.

In 1918 and in the following eight years, the directors acquired the cottages to the north of the building. These acquisitions enabled the building of a new temple which was named after the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of that time, Edgar Rutter.

The contribution to the community during those 263 years is immeasurable and represents a social history of the life and times of an emerging capital city from its beginnings.

South Wales Freemasons are celebrating the Tercentenary 300 years of Freemasonry within the United Grand Lodge of England and are affixing blue plaques to many of its Masonic Halls across South Wales.

A dementia support house has been opened at the RMBI’s Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court care home in Mid Glamorgan, South Wales, following a £300,000 donation from the Province

The new dementia support house, E Wyndham Powell, has 12 bedrooms, reminiscence areas, themed corridors and an internal courtyard with sensory plants. The new facilities are designed to support older people with complex needs and include additional nursing rooms with overhead hoists, a palliative care suite and specially equipped bathrooms.

Sir Paul Williams, Chairman of the RMBI Care Company, and Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, welcomed Lord and Lady Northampton to the official opening at the home in Porthcawl. Lord Northampton addressed guests before unveiling a commemorative plaque.

Gareth paid tribute to the late Edward Wyndham Powell, after whom the support house is named. Edward played a key role in organising the £300,000 donation from the Province to support the renovation.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00

First Guernsey public parade for 100 years

More than 300 Freemasons and their families attended a service in Guernsey in celebration of the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England, which was represented by Past Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

The service was held at the island’s principal church and was led by the Dean of Guernsey, the Very Reverend Tim Barker.

Prior to the service, the brethren paraded in full regalia through the town of St Peter Port for the first time since the bicentenary in 1917.

They were joined by Jersey Provincial Grand Master Kenneth Rondel, who formally handed over the South West Provinces Tercentenary banner to Guernsey & Alderney Provincial Grand Master David Hodgetts. The service was followed by a festive lunch, at which the Dean was an honoured guest.

A project which will support around 1,300 people living with and affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) in Wales has received a huge boost with a grant of £55,000 from South Wales Freemasons

The My MS; My Rights, My Choices project, financed by the Big Lottery Fund, is starting this month and will champion the lives of people living with MS in Wales.

The grant from the Freemasons will fund a crucial part of the project – a series of self-management and advice workshops and courses for people with MS, which also have specific sessions for families and carers. These are aimed at providing awareness of rights and choices around health and social care, welfare benefits and employment support.

There are 4,900 people with MS in Wales, and more than 100,000 across the UK. The symptoms typically appear when people are in their 20s and 30s, when MS attacks the nervous system and can lead to pain, fatigue, sight loss, incontinence and various forms of disability.

South Wales Freemasons are providing the grant through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) which receives funding from Freemasons and their families from across England and Wales. The grant is being given in memory of Jessica Maynard, a long-serving member of staff at the MCF, who was a person with the condition.

MS Society Cymru Director Lynne Hughes said: ‘We are very grateful to South Wales Freemasons for their generous grant, which will enable us to make major improvements to the lives of Welsh people with MS, with specific sessions tailored for their families and carers.

‘These will help the more than half of people in Wales with MS who are unable to manage their condition. They are unable to advocate on their own behalf because of a lack of information, advice and support.’

Roger Richmond from South Wales Freemasons said: ‘We are very pleased to be able to help the MS Society which is doing fantastic work improving the lives of people with multiple sclerosis across the country.’

Always in good form

With Visiting Volunteers helping Freemasons and families in need complete the crucial paperwork required to access grants, Steven Short discovers that masonic support comes in many guises

Away to meet Freemason Robert James at his home in Bridgend, South Wales, to do some paperwork. Arwyn is a Visiting Volunteer, a recently introduced role with a remit to help those seeking assistance from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to fill in the application forms correctly.

‘The forms aren’t complicated once you get to know them,’ says Arwyn, who is a member of Dewi Sant Lodge, No. 9067. ‘But it’s a bit like when you get a tax return: you look at the paperwork and you think, “Oh crikey, I’ll have a look a bit later,” then a couple of weeks pass, you realise you haven’t done it, so you have a go and send the form off… then you realise you haven’t filled in all the right sections.’

Every year the MCF supports hundreds of members of the masonic community. The support can come in many different forms, from help with essential living costs to grants following redundancy or bereavement. Grants can also be allocated for education or training for children and young people, for medical treatment or counselling, or even for minor home improvements.

The first step for anyone applying for financial assistance from the MCF is to fill out the relevant paperwork – something that, historically, wasn’t entirely straightforward.

In the past, whenever a Freemason or their dependant wished to apply for a grant, it was a requirement that they be visited by someone who would help them complete the relevant paperwork. This person would also need to ensure that all necessary supporting evidence was in place, that Ts were crossed and Is were dotted. 

This task often fell to the local lodge almoner and it would come on top of existing pastoral care responsibilities – which might include attending funerals in a lodge’s name, visiting widows and brethren who no longer attended their lodge, and making hospital visits. Furthermore, the almoners would have no formal training or receive any support in this additional administrative work.

This increased workload combined with a lack of specialist knowledge meant the application forms submitted could sometimes contain errors. As a result, the system was revised in 2014 and a programme of Visiting Volunteers trialled across seven Provinces.

The role of the Visiting Volunteer is, as the name suggests, to visit the Freemasons and their families who apply for grants, helping them to correctly complete application forms, and to collect and collate all the information necessary for a request to be considered. The volunteers also have to prepare an objective, detailed report to support the application.

Unlike the overworked almoners – who are now able to dedicate their time to their community-focused duties – Visiting Volunteers are thoroughly trained in the application process.

George Royle, South Wales Provincial Grand Almoner, helped to develop this new model and recruited the Visiting Volunteers who now help with applications in his Province. ‘We have an initial two-day residential training programme,’ he says, ‘which is followed by regular refresher training.’

‘The scheme means that those in need have their applications dealt with more efficiently… It’s a great step forward’ George Royle

IN THE KNOW

The intensive training means that the Visiting Volunteers (also known as Petition Application Officers in the Province of South Wales) are up to speed on how forms need to be completed and aware of all the documentation that is required to support an application.

‘We learnt about things such as state benefits,’ says Arwyn, ‘so that we can highlight to applicants what benefits they might be entitled to. We also looked at confidentiality, data protection and safeguarding issues.’ 

Once a form has been completed and all the documentation collated, the Visiting Volunteer sends the application straight to London. Previously almoners submitted everything to their Provincial Grand Almoner. ‘I would check everything,’ says George, ‘and if something was missing, I would have to go back to the almoners, who would have to go back to the applicants. I would then countersign an application and send it off. Now all I get is an email copy for reference, and much less paperwork in the office.’

POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

To date, Arwyn has worked with around 18 brethren and describes the experience of helping others as hugely satisfying. Someone he has assisted recently is Robert James, who applied for a grant for medical assistance with a heart condition. ‘I was on the NHS waiting list for an operation,’ says Robert. ‘The list just seemed to be getting longer. Some fellow Freemasons said I might be eligible for help from the MCF to get seen privately.’

As with every request he is asked to oversee, Arwyn’s involvement with Robert began with a phone call. ‘Calling someone and introducing yourself is a great way to start, as you can put applicants at ease and they have the name and number of a real person who can help them.’ The initial call also gives the Visiting Volunteer the opportunity to tell the applicant what to expect from a visit and what documentation they will need to gather ahead of it.

‘Within a couple of days of initially applying, I had spoken to Arwyn on the phone and arranged a time for him to come around. It was really quick and easy,’ says Robert.

George agrees that the new system has streamlined the application process considerably. ‘The scheme means that those in need have their applications dealt with more speedily and efficiently. I’ve known decisions about grants being made in a fortnight,’ he says. ‘It’s a great step forward.’

‘The first time Arwyn visited we discussed my situation in a bit more detail and looked at what I might be eligible for,’ says Robert.

The pair also discussed confidentiality issues – Visiting Volunteers are bound by the codes and policies of the MCF as well as by data protection laws. ‘People are sharing personal and sensitive information,’ says Arwyn, ‘they need to feel you can be trusted.’

It is also felt that divulging delicate information to a properly trained, objective third party is easier than sharing it with a local almoner, who the applicant may know well and see regularly at lodge.

A visit from a volunteer can last anything from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on what needs to be done, and the number of visits required varies. The second time Arwyn visited Robert at home, they completed the application form together and checked that all supporting documentation was in order.

‘The experience was marvellous,’ says Robert. ‘Within three weeks of Arwyn sending off the forms I was in having my operation. My heart is fantastic now. I feel like a new man.’

What does it take to be a Visiting Volunteer?

To recruit the much-needed Visiting Volunteers in South Wales, Provincial Grand Almoner George Royle placed an advert on the Freemasons’ website. ‘I interviewed 21 people,’ he says, ‘and selected 12.’ George describes his team as ‘extremely dedicated officers who are all willing to go the extra mile’.

Visiting Volunteer Arwyn Reynolds says he applied because the role requires many of the skills he honed in his professional life.
‘I had a keen sense of confidentiality because of my work in HR and as a manager,’ he says, ‘and I know the importance of communication skills and being able to engage with people.’

Other desirable attributes for being a Visiting Volunteer are an ability to remain objective and a good level of literacy, numeracy and IT skills. For Arwyn, the role also appealed because it came at a time when he was winding down his professional life but wanted to continue to use his time in a positive, useful way.

Find out more: For support, contact the Masonic Charitable Foundation in confidence on 0800 035 60 90 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Features
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