Monday 14 May 2018 proved to be a memorable day for members of the Lodge of Saint Mark No. 8479 in Dorset, with 92-year- old, World War II veteran Ray Fuller being installed as their Worshipful Master
Ray joined the Royal Navy as a 17-year-old in 1943 and served on HMS Illustrious. The carrier's aircraft attacked targets in Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies and took part in the Battle of Okinawa.
In early 1944, the aircraft of HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga joined forces to strike a naval base at Sabang in northern Sumatra.
Nearly 80 Brethren gathered in the village of Kinson to see Ray take the chair, which created a fantastic atmosphere on this remarkable evening. It wasn't Ray’s first time in the chair though having previously been Master of Bisley Lodge No. 2317 in Surrey, but that didn't detract from making this a special occasion for him. Over £700 was also raised for three charities during a bumper raffle.
Giving a moving response to the visitors toast was one member who had travelled down in a minibus from Surrey. He had known Ray since they were seven-years-old and they're both proud holders of the Burma Star, a military medal awarded to those who served in World War II.
The Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, Richard Merritt, commented that it was a remarkable coincidence that it was Ray's second time in the chair and that he was the 46th Master, as doubling this figure equalled Ray's exact age.
He went on to add that having made enquiries with UGLE, Ray was one of the oldest brothers to be installed into the chair of a lodge.
Dorset Freemasons have donated a lifesaving defibrillator to Branksome Chine Surf Lifesaving Club
The defibrillator is available for use by the public and is situated right on the promenade within a few yards of Branksome Chine car park. Dorset's Provincial Grand Master Richard Merritt commented: 'As Freemasons we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures. It’s an honour to be able to supply this machine to the club.'
A defibrillator gives a high energy electric shock to the heart through the chest wall to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It's an essential lifesaving step in the chain of survival.
This defibrillator is the latest in a succession of similar donations by Dorset Freemasons who have placed public access defibrillators on all 17 Masonic buildings across Dorset. In the summer of 2016, a man’s life was saved in Swanage when a Masonic defibrillator was successfully used.
Branksome Chine Surf Lifesaving Club is a voluntary organisation involved in both actively lifeguarding and promoting sea/surf safety in and around Bournemouth and Poole. The club was formed in 1990 and provide voluntary first aid and rescue cover, as well as beach and water safety advice, re-uniting lost children/people with their families/groups and information for tourists.
Dorset Freemason Bruce Graham Clarke DSC, one of the last surviving crew members of the Second World War XE midget submarines, has passed to the Grand Lodge above aged 95 years
A public servant and talented artist, Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the mission to cut the undersea telephone cables connecting Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The success of this operation forced the Japanese to use radio which left their messages open to interception.
Born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1922 into a military family, his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Educated at the Tower House School and University College School in London, Bruce volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1941. He initially served aboard destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and the Mediterranean and witnessed the sinking of the French fleet. He later took part in Operation Torch – the invasion of Northwest Africa.
In 1943, Bruce volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarines and after training in Scotland was commissioned. In July and August of 1945 Bruce was one of the crew of midget submarine XE5 which took part in Operation Foil to cut the Hong Kong to Singapore telegraph cable west of Lamma Island, running under Hong Kong harbour. In the book “Above us the waves” by Charles Warren and James Benson the mission is recalled ‘... Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days ... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…’
In his report of the operation, the commanding officer Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott wrote: ‘Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clarke had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.’ A month later the war ended and Bruce was posted to Minden in East Germany and put in command as Physical and Recreational Training Officer of Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil on 17 November 1945 and subsequently demobilised in 1946.
After brief spells working in India and Africa, Bruce joined the Overseas Civil Service and through a series of promotions and secondments formed a successful career in Kenya. In 1955, Bruce married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Bruce included a period as Labour Commissioner.
In 1962, Bruce retired from Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service and after a three year contract as Personnel Manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Bruce returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. For a brief period, he and his wife Joan bought and let property but latterly restored antique china, porcelain and furniture, until Joan’s death in 1982 at the age of 60. In retirement, he returned to his hobby of oil painting; he was a very talented painter and produced some fine copies of the old masters.
He was initiated into United Studholme Alliance Lodge No. 1591 in 1979 and in 1986 joined Lodge of Meridian No. 6582 in Dorset, where he was Chaplain of for many years. Bruce was a holder of London Grand Rank and a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in Dorset. He was exalted into St Aldhelm's Chapter No. 2559 in Dorset in 1996.
Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, said: 'Brother Clarke was typical of so many unsung heroes within the Masonic Order. His military career, extreme bravery in the face of the enemy, personal charm and life-long modesty exemplify the principles observed and practised by Freemasons throughout their lives.'
Members of the oldest Masonic Lodge in Dorset have given £2,000 to help fund local charity Diverse Abilities
The donation was the result of money raised by members of the Lodge of Amity No. 137 in Poole at social events during Martin Barker’s year as Master of the Lodge in 2017. Martin was delighted to nominate Diverse Abilities as his chosen charity for the year.
Diverse Abilities work to enable children and adults with disabilities to achieve their full potential by providing a lifetime of sustainable support and educational services since 1955. Diverse Abilities supports 700 children and adults in the local community, at a cost of £18,000 per day to run the charity.
Mark Powell, Chief Executive of Diverse Abilities, commented: 'We had a lovely surprise when Martin came into the office with a £2,000 donation from the Lodge of Amity.'
Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, said: 'As Masons, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures regularly; it’s wonderful that the Lodge of Amity have been able to help this local charity.'
Dorset Freemasons have given over £4,300 to save a historic photo collection at the Dorset History Centre
The Dorset Archive Trust have been trying to save the “Herbert Collection” – thousands of images which show 20th century life in Dorset. When Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, heard about the project to save the pictures, he stepped in to help.
The collection is suffering from “Vinegar Syndrome”, an irreversible breakdown of the acetate, which has been destroying the negatives. To save this fascinating insight into the county’s history, the Dorset Archive Trust needed to act quickly.
Dorset Freemasons visited the archives on 20th December 2017 and presented a cheque for £4,370 to allow the charitable foundation to complete the digitisation of all the images. Richard Merritt said: 'We are privileged to provide some extra funding for this project. As Freemasons, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures regularly.
'Allowing the photographs to become digitalised will allow them to live on forever for future generations – the benefit is so valuable.'
Sam Johnson, the County Archivist, commented: 'I wanted to thank the Freemasons for the very generous support offered to the Herbert photographic project. The donation has made all the difference and means that we can now finish the job.'
The Herbert Collection is the work of Graham Herbert, a professional Weymouth photographer. He captured many aspects of local life from the 1950s to the 1970s.
The efforts of Dorset Freemasons, with the support of Freemasons across the country, have given over 200 children a free adventure holiday for a week
This project, conceived in Dorset, was a unique way for Freemasonry to work for the benefit of the wider community, as well as providing an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate 300 years since the formation of the first Grand Lodge. The Masonic Province of Dorset was delighted to host 209 deserving children for a Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure holiday.
122 children from Dorset schools were joined by a further 87 from 14 other Provinces as far afield as Durham and Cumberland and Westmorland at a cost of £500 for each participant, which was funded by Freemasons.
At the beginning of their stay, each child was given £20 pocket money, two specially designed t-shirts and a matching baseball cap as souvenirs. One of the organising team commented: ‘All the young people and many of the leaders on arrival were overjoyed and amazed at what Freemasonry had provided for them. Several children were moved to tears at not only being presented with t-shirts and a cap but pocket money as well. You could see on many faces that they were experiencing something beyond their imagination and dreams.’
One of the highlights of the week was the visit by the Assistant Grand Master and former Lord Mayor of London Sir David Wootton who, in the company of Dorset’s Provincial Grand Master Richard Merritt and the organising team, spent the morning watching the delight of the children dragon boat racing and raft building at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
After joining the children for lunch at Osmington, he witnessed a host of activities including abseiling, fencing, aeroball, the giant swing, archery, a sensory trail and a beach walk. Following the children’s dinner, and before the evening camp fire, he had pleasure in presenting children with a group photograph and certificate in memory of and testament to their exciting stay.
The free holiday was organised by Dorset Masons and was entirely funded by many Masonic Lodges and their members across England and Wales.
On a hot summers night, the meeting of the Lodge of Amity No. 137 held on 19th July was anything but regular when Wiltshire Freemasons travelled to the Masonic Hall in Poole – the occasion being the Tercentenary banner handover between Dorset and near neighbours Wiltshire
Two Provincial Grand Masters, two Past Deputy Provincial Grand Masters and two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters added lustre to the occasion, which saw over 100 brethren witness the moment when Wiltshire's RW Bro Philip Bullock invited Dorset PrGM RW Bro Richard Merritt to receive the banner and pass it on to the Provincial Grand Master for Somerset.
In a ceremony planned and executed to perfection, the banner took its place in the Lodge room following an insightful explanation of its origins and journey around the South West Provinces thus far.
RW Bro Richard Merritt explained how the banner has travelled from Jersey, through Guernsey and Alderney to Hampshire and Isle of Wight before being entrusted to Wiltshire.
Having now been passed to Dorset, the next destination will be Somerset when RW Bro Richard Merritt will transfer the banner to his Somerset counterpart RW Bro Stuart Hadler during a special presentation ceremony to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance at Henstridge on 9th August.
RW Bro Philip Bullock thanked the Province of Somerset and in particular, the Master and brethren of Lodge of Amity No. 137 for the generous and warm fraternal hospitality extended to the Wiltshire team.
Freemasons in the beautiful Georgian town of Blandford Forum in Dorset have been celebrating the Tercentenary in a unique way
Local Freemasons have been closely collaborating with the local museum, publicly celebrating the role of Freemasons in their community over the past 250 years.
The Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, Richard Merritt, encouraged Dorset Freemasons to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry in England by engaging with their local communities. Blandford Freemasons leapt to the task with enthusiasm.
At an initial meeting with the Blandford Town Museum it became clear to all present that local Freemasons had a wealth of information about centuries of Blandford residents. The Museum soon realised that while there was a long list of well-known men of Blandford whose deeds were known, their membership of Freemasonry was not.
In a terrific exercise in collaboration between Blandford Freemasons and the museum, they identified 917 Freemasons with a Blandford connection from 1771 to date. These included farmers, shopkeepers, doctors, school teachers, Mayors and servicemen, the respected tradesmen of their town and ancestors of today’s Blandford residents.
This meticulous research was put on display at an open day at Blandford Masonic Hall to coincide with the town’s Georgian Fayre. During the Fayre, the town was closed to traffic, but the streets were full of visitors, hundreds of whom visited the Masonic Hall. The hall was decked with displays with a modern twist; looped audio visual displays sharing the space with posters, information boards, historic artefacts and other displays sharing a wealth of information
All the visitors gained an understanding of how closely the history of the town and the history of Blandford Freemasonry have been linked for 250 years. Visitors saw their ancestors stretching back beyond living memory and their connection with the town across the centuries.
Health equipment in the community
The Province of Dorset has completed its programme of installing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on the outside of masonic buildings across the county, as part of a series of presentations to the local community to commemorate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Units have been fitted to 17 masonic halls and are available to any member of the public in an emergency. The funding came from Dorset Masonic Care (DMC) and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, providing £32,500 and £5,000 respectively.
The units are located in locked, vandal-proof metal cabinets, which can be opened by calling 999 to obtain the access code. The control centre is then able to record when and where a unit has been used.
A few months ago the Freemasons of Dorset determined to install automated external defibrillator (AED) machines outside or near to all of the places where they meet as part of their Freemasonry in the Community initiative, and as a tribute to the Her Majesty the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year. There are 17 such masonic meeting places throughout Dorset.
It was intended that this life-saving equipment would be readily available for members of the public to use in cases of emergency, as well as for their own members. The equipment is conveniently located at points accessible to the public in a highly visible green cabinet, with notices high up on a nearby wall, and with a bright green light displayed during the hours of darkness. Emergency access is obtained by calling the ambulance service using the emergency 999 number and receiving the access code to the equipment. The AED is then easily portable and can be used by untrained people under instruction from ambulance control over the telephone or, if necessary, by automated instruction from the machine itself.
One such device is located outside the Heritage Suite in Bell Street, Shaftesbury, and one morning recently a lady collapsed with a suspected cardiac arrest in the nearby county library. As the emergency call was made, ambulance control advised where the equipment was located and provided the caller with its release code. A member of staff was dispatched to collect the device, which was then speedily released from its storage box, transported to the scene of the emergency and unpacked ready for use.
The rapid arrival of the emergency services and their successful resuscitation of the patient meant that the AED was not required to administer a shock on this occasion, and the equipment was returned unused to await the next emergency. A man who viewed the whole incident was glowing in his praise for the availability of the equipment, saying: 'This is going to save a life one of these days, what a good job someone thinks about these things.'
On hearing about the incident the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, Richard Merritt, said 'This is an example of how our Province-wide initiative was intended to work and it is gratifying to learn that the Shaftesbury machine, installed less than 6 weeks ago, has already been seen to be available as a most valuable and timely service to the community at large.'