Chris Band, Master of Arthur John Brogden Lodge No. 1715 in West Lancashire, along with lodge members Barry Saunders and Neville Chanin, popped into a meeting of the 1st Grange-over-Sands Brownies to present a donation of £700 on behalf of the lodge

Unit Leader Barb Littlewood, also known as Blue Koala in Brownie terms, received the cheque on behalf of the local Girl Guides Grange and Cartmel District group.

Barb explained: ‘The donation will be used to buy equipment for use by the district. All of the Brownies and Guides from ages 5-26 years as well as the helpers, are taught CPR. We will now be able to purchase a CPR manikin to help with the training of this important life skill.

'A projector for shared use is amongst the other items on the shopping list. We are very grateful to the Freemasons of Grange for their support, it is much appreciated.’

The donation was made from the proceeds of the annual fund raising evening held by Arthur John Brogden lodge. Organised by Barry, with support from Charity Steward Neville, the event this year featured a very well-received Simon and Garfunkel tribute act and an auction.

Barry commented: ‘The evening has gone from strength to strength. Last year, we donated to St Mary’s Hospice and we will continue to target worthy endeavours in the area. When you see the reaction of those who receive the money and know it is to be well spent, it inspires you to start on organising the next event.’

And what of the 'Tu-whit, Tu-whoo'? As the trio of masons were quietly making their exit from the hall they were summoned back into the middle of the room. The Brownies formed a circle around them and expressed their gratitude by according them the highest honour they could, the Grand Howl, which is a special way to show appreciation. The salutations of 'Tu-whit, Tu Whoo' were then followed by enthusiastic applause and completed with a flourishing bow.

Neville added: ‘The lodge is very grateful to all those who supported the fundraising evening, both our own members and the many visitors. I am sure they will agree that their contributions have been well spent.’

Around 200 West Lancashire Freemasons and their partners enjoyed a ‘grand day out’ at a charity event staged at the very top of their Province, in the town of Grange-over-Sands, and raised £2,500

The very appropriately named Cumbria Grand Hotel was taken over for the evening with the ticket price including overnight accommodation, which was supported by the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison, together with his wife Maureen.

The themed ‘Black and White Ball’ started with a ‘Fizz Reception’, followed by a four-course dinner, a spectacular firework display and then dancing into the early hours to the ten-piece band, ‘Soul Survivor’. To keep the party goers on their feet till late, a ‘Lancashire Hot Pot’ supper was served around midnight.

Organiser Richard Wilcock, who is the local charity steward, was delighted with the success of the event and paid tribute to the immense help given to him by his wife, Jackie. He said: ‘We’ve had yet another fantastic night, well supported not only by our local members but also by our friends from across Morecambe Bay in the Lancaster masonic group.

‘This year the event has raised at least £2,500 for charity and has been so popular that we are considering extending it to run over two nights next year.’

The Province of West Lancashire is currently hosting a festival in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, ending in 2021.

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.

A unique event took place on 22nd October 2018, as the Provinces of East and West Lancashire joined forces to create the fourth Chapter of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Universities Scheme

Palatine Chapter No. 2447, which is proud to have as honorary members the Grand Superintendents of both Provinces, Sir David Trippier and Tony Harrison, meets twice a year – once in East Lancashire and once in West Lancashire – and now has over 40 members from both Provinces.

This inaugural meeting of the Chapter worked an Installation Ceremony and then exalted into the Order three members from the Universities Scheme’s Craft lodge Old Mancunians’ with Mount Sinai No. 3140.

Published in Universities Scheme

Almost £230,000 has been distributed to good causes in 14 years from a trust fund administered by Hindpool lodge no. 1225 in the Province of West Lancashire

The news was publicly announced at its 150th anniversary and installation meeting, with the final total standing at £229,328. Fund chairman Keran Stalker explained: 'George Wood was initiated into Hindpool Lodge in 1929 and served as Worshipful Master in 1940. On his death in 1956 his daughter Dorothy Bird Wood, a well-known local school teacher, inherited his estate. She died in 2004 and the entire estate was bequeathed to the lodge so that a charitable trust could be established in the name of her father.'

Since then the George Wood Memorial Benevolent Fund has quietly made generous donations to various organisations of whom the majority are locally based. Amongst the beneficiaries have been youth, community and sporting groups including scouts, guides and air and sea cadets. An average of £16,500 has been distributed annually without fanfare or publicity.

In attendance at the installation was West Lancashire's Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison who commented: 'It is wonderful to see the legacy being put to such excellent use in supporting local good causes. The trustees are to be congratulated on the manner in which they have managed the fund.'

To mark the 150th celebration, a further six donations of £1,000 were made to groups within the Hindpool area of the town. The ward of Hindpool is nowadays recognised as one of the most deprived in England. The groups receiving a donation were Furness Homeless Support Group, The Salvation Army, Hindpool Tigers junior rugby league team, Furness Gymnastics Club, Brisbane Park School and St James Church of England School.

Newly installed Master of Hindpool Lodge Paul Musgrave added: 'As part of my role I will be involved with the day to day running of the fund. I am sure that I will find that very rewarding. We act very much under the radar but having passed the £200,000 mark in our donations, we felt now is the time to let the public know about this generous bequest which has helped so many. No doubt George and Dorothy would be pleased to see what has been achieved through their wonderful legacy.'

Hindpool Lodge was the second to be formed in Barrow-in-Furness. It is one of the oldest institutions in the borough. As late as 1843 Barrow boasted only 32 dwellings and two public houses. The discovery of high grade iron ore, and the industries which arose from that, saw the town boom and by 1881 it had grown to a population of 50,000. It became a borough in 1867, one year before Hindpool Lodge was consecrated, and was dubbed 'the little Chicago' because of its rapid expansion.

The friends and colleagues of Tom Jackson gathered at Chorley Masonic Hall, in the Province of West Lancashire, for a meeting of St George’s Lodge of Chorley No. 7161 to celebrate Tom's 50 years in the Craft

Tom has been a very well-known figure in Masonic circles nationally for many years, not least because of his current status as Grand Master of the Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees.

Indeed, in this Masonic Order, Tom has a ‘Council’ (the equivalent of a Craft lodge) named after him. It was a tribute to the regard in which Tom is held, that saw so many leaders of other Masonic Orders join him at his celebration.

As expected, the turnout was high with 105 lodge members and guests. The lodge was opened by Worshipful Master Paul Greenway who welcomed Tony Harrison, Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, into the lodge. On this occasion, Tony retained the gavel of the lodge to lead the celebrations.

Tom was initiated into St George’s Lodge of Chorley 50 years ago, being installed as Master in 1982. Since then he has found his way into Royal Arch, Mark Masons and many more Masonic Orders.

In UGLE, he was given Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies from 2000-2012 and appointed Past Senior Grand Deacon in 2012.

In summarising Tom’s achievements and service, Tony Harrison said: 'Tom is a fine example to the members of this lodge and indeed to us all. Now, having served as a Freemason for a period of 50 years, may I offer you my heartiest congratulations on this marvellous achievement and great milestone in your life.

'As the head of this great Province of West Lancashire, I have issued a certificate to commemorate this special day.'

The certificate of appreciation was then read and shortly afterwards, the celebrant and his many friends enjoyed a meal and the opportunity to reflect on 50 eventful years.

A £5,000 donation by West Lancashire Freemasons to the charity Lifelites has allowed them to provide a package of interactive technology for patients at local children’s hospice Claire House in Liverpool

The grant to Lifelites was made during a national fund-raising event that saw the charity’s Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy call at Blackpool as part of a national tour.

Simone was joined on a recent visit to the hospice by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Derek Parkinson, Royal Arch Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals’ Sam Robinson and local Liverpool Group Chairman Mark Matthews, who all had the opportunity to see the difference the technology is making in enhancing the lives of the children who are cared for at Claire House.

One of the technology packages they saw being used was the ‘Magic Carpet’, which is a fantastic sensory learning tool with the capacity to engage people of all ages and abilities. The system projects interactive games and images on to the floor that users can play with and control simply by moving on or over the projected image. 

After watching baby Phoenix interacting with the ‘Magic Carpet’, Derek Parkinson remarked: 'It’s very humbling to see the dedication of the staff here at the hospice and we can’t sufficiently express our gratitude for the incredible work that they do.'

'Giving aid and support to charities within the local and wider community is central to Freemasonry. It’s marvellous to see at first hand what the money we have donated is achieving and we thank both LifeLites and Claire House for this opportunity.'

‘Suicide is the major cause of death in all people under 35 years of age’. That alarming statistic is one that will probably come as a major shock to many people. It certainly was to the group of West Lancashire Freemasons who were visiting the Warrington headquarters of the charity Papyrus, who have received a grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) of £65,342

The MCF has made the grant on behalf of the Province of West Lancashire, but on this occasion the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was accompanied by his colleague from the neighbouring Province of Cheshire, Stephen Blank.

Papyrus, which was formed in 1997 in Lancashire, has three simple aims: provide confidential help and advice to young people and anyone worried about a young person; help others to prevent young suicide by working with and training professionals; and campaign and influence national policy. They summarise this as: Support, Equip and Influence.

The visitors were welcomed by CEO Ged Flynn, who explained the work that the charity does and also outlined the problems that are being faced nationally, as they try to de-stigmatise suicide and raise awareness of this tragic loss of young people. Ged stressed that the charity has values that it strongly promotes.

He said: 'We believe that many young suicides are preventable, and that no young person should suffer alone with thoughts or feelings of hopelessness. We believe that everyone can play a role in preventing young suicide.'

Stephen Habgood, who is the Chairman of Papyrus, then very movingly related his own story of the loss of his only child, Christopher 26, to suicide in 2009. Sarah Fitchett, a trustee of the charity, also shared her own tragic experience in speaking of the death of her 14-year-old son, Ben by suicide in 2013.

Their openness in speaking so frankly about their emotional experiences was a very moving revelation to the visitors but also cause for admiration, as they explained how they are working to try and prevent others having to experience the same trauma.

The £65,000 grant will enable the charity to engage another advisor to work on their HOPELineUK helpline (0800 068 4141), which is there to provide confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person.

The Lancaster and Morecambe Deaf Children’s Society have received much needed support, in the form of £886, from the Lancaster and District Masonic Group and the Morecambe Masonic Fellowship in West Lancashire

The chair of the charity, Helen Whitehouse, remarked that they had been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by the Freemasons. She said: 'We do struggle to keep funds coming in and only plan according to our means, these donations will help us book two very significant events.

'The first is a day of outdoor activities at Bendrigg Lodge, Kendal. These types of activities help to build confidence and self-esteem, whilst developing communication skills and support friendships between the children and parents within the group. The second activity is for ‘Music and the Deaf’, a performing group, to come and lead the children in a Christmas-themed workshop later in the year.'

On being presented with two cheques, one for £700 from Jim Wilson, representing the Lancaster and District Masonic Group, and another for £186 from Tom Hunter, representing Morecambe Masonic Fellowship, Helen expressed a huge thank you to everyone and later commented that the support of local Freemasons has been invaluable and has made a huge impact.

Riding Proud

Blood bike volunteers deliver vital medical supplies, whatever the weather, whatever time of day. Steven Short discovers how Freemasonry is helping

Blood bikes, often referred to as the fourth emergency service, act as an out-of-hours courier service for the NHS, delivering not just blood and plasma, but a variety of medical samples and equipment throughout the day and night. And they’re operated entirely by volunteers.

‘The most urgent thing I’ve ever delivered was very early on a Sunday morning,’ recalls blood bike volunteer John Watts, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Durham. ‘I got a call to go to a children’s ward at one of the hospitals we work with, and as I walked in a doctor came running up to me and put a small vial of liquid in my hand. “Please take this as fast as you can; a child’s life depends on it,” he told me.’

After delivering the vial, John discovered that it contained a sample from a very young baby with suspected meningitis. Until the sample had been tested, life-saving treatment could not be started. ‘It felt amazing to know that what I’m doing is helping save lives,’ he says. 

Strange as it may seem, the Greek authorities are partly responsible for John becoming a volunteer. ‘I’d heard that Greece was about to bring in a law that meant you couldn’t even hire a moped there without a bike licence,’ he recalls. ‘I’d been going on holiday to Greece for years, always hiring a bike while I was there, so I did my motorbike training and really caught the bug.’ 

When the retired policeman saw a feature in The Gazette (Durham’s masonic magazine) about a Freemason who was volunteering for a blood bike charity, he decided to investigate. ‘I’ve always been a keen volunteer, and I thought getting involved with blood bikes would be the perfect way to enjoy my new-found passion of riding motorbikes while doing something positive and useful.’ 

Digging a little deeper, John learned about the work of Northumbria Blood Bikes and got involved. He has now been riding for them for more than two years and recently earned his silver badge, which volunteers receive after working 50 shifts. 

‘It’s just so rewarding for our work to be appreciated’

INCREASED DEMAND

Pointing to the increased demand for blood bikes over recent years, Graham Moor, fundraising officer for Northumbria Blood Bikes and a member of Hammurabi Lodge, No. 9606, says there is a need to raise awareness as well as money. ‘All our groups need new volunteers so we can keep going. When we first started in my area, we might only get a couple of calls per night. Now, sometimes as soon as one call has been answered, another will come in. We might get 20 or 30 calls during a shift.’

Blood bikes primarily operate between 7pm and 7am on weekdays, and 24 hours on weekends and on bank and national holidays. ‘The NHS doesn’t have infinite resources, and we can help out logistically with no cost to it. We’re like taxis, but we don’t charge,’ John says. 

Volunteers typically do two shifts a month, either collecting and delivering goods or working as controllers to coordinate bikes. Cars are used if conditions are unsafe for bikes, or in winter when the temperature on the back of a bike with wind chill drops below 3°C, at which point blood can crystallise and can't be used. Riders can also be asked to deliver printed medical records as well as breast milk for premature babies or babies whose mothers have died in childbirth.

John once delivered a family photograph that a young man with autism had left behind in hospital so that it would be in its usual place when he woke up. ‘I was told he would have been extremely distressed to wake up and find it missing.’

There are more than 30 blood bike groups around the country currently providing this much-needed courier service. As well as delivering blood to and from hospitals, some groups supply air ambulances with their daily supplies of blood and platelets – blood typically has a five-day shelf life – allowing on-board doctors to do blood transfusions wherever they may be needed. 

‘Motorbikes get stuck in traffic much less than four-wheeled vehicles, meaning they’re faster and more efficient at getting to their destination,’ explains another volunteer, Neville Owens of Wrexhamian Lodge, No. 6715, and a member of the North Wales Chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association. ‘Bikes can better manoeuvre through traffic, we can avoid traffic jams, and because we’re liveried, people tend to get out of our way.’ Bikes are also cheaper to run, which is important, as funding comes entirely from donations. 

Neville volunteers as a controller, coordinating deliveries and pickups. ‘It’s high-concentration work. You have to calculate how long each journey should take and keep tabs on where all your riders are at any one time,’ he says.

‘We’re like taxis, but we don’t charge’

FREEING UP FUNDS

‘Like any emergency service, when we’re busy, we’re really busy,’ adds Colin Farrington of Wayford Lodge, No. 8490, who volunteers as a controller at SERV Norfolk. ‘Sometimes it can be 4:30am before you get a break.’ 

Last year, Colin’s group saved Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital enough from its transport budget that the hospital was able to replace some of its ageing freezers. 

‘They were always breaking down, but there was no budget for new ones,’ Colin says. ‘We saved them so much money on transport that they had free funds. It’s great to be able to actually see where your time and volunteering is going.’ 

While nothing would keep him off his bike, John says that shifts can sometimes be tough. ‘The weather can be challenging. No matter what protective clothing you’re wearing, when you’re doing 70mph in the pouring rain, the water will get in. It’ll start going down the back of your neck, then down your back…’ 

For John, the biggest reward comes when he’s sitting at a hospital waiting for a call. Someone will approach him and say that they or a relative needed a transfusion and a blood bike delivered the blood that saved their life. ‘They’ll shake my hand and say thank you. I’ll just well up – it’s just so rewarding for our work to be appreciated.’

Changing up a gear

Freemasons around the UK have donated funds, bikes and cars to blood bike groups. ‘With their livery and Freemasonry branding, the bikes are a great way to take masonic values into the community. When people see the masonic livery, they can see that we are doing good community work,’ says Graham Moor from Northumbria Blood Bikes.

Among the donated vehicles are two BMW police spec bikes from Cumbria Freemasons and two from West Lancashire Freemasons, which will help North West Blood Bikes Lancashire and Lakes to answer more calls. ‘We have completed 50,350 runs since we started in 2012,’ says trustee and founder Scott Miller, from Bank Terrace with King Oswald Lodge, No. 462, whose blood bike group has 365 volunteers – a mix of riders, controllers and fundraisers.

Local masons supported SERV Norfolk with the purchase of three motorbikes. ‘I was invited to various meetings to give talks about blood bikes and was invited to Norwich to pick up a cheque for £250,’ says controller Colin Farrington. While there, he was asked how much a bike would cost by the Provincial Charity Steward, who said they would organise a Christmas raffle to try to buy one. 

‘The Great Yarmouth lodges got together and by early December raised the £15,000 for the bike on their own,’ Colin says. ‘Then, at the end of January I was told Norfolk had raised enough money to buy another two fully equipped Yamaha FJRs. I was flabbergasted.’

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