A charity that delivers life-saving blood, breast milk and pathology samples to hospitals at night has added a new motorbike to its fleet, thanks to Sheffield Freemasons
Due to a sizeable financial legacy left to Ivanhoe Lodge No. 1779, which is based in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, its members agreed to use a portion of the bequest to not only purchase a motorbike for Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes, but also to pay for its running costs for three years.
The bike – named ‘Ivanhoe’ – was officially handed over to the charity at a ceremony held at Tapton Hall in the city, where Ivanhoe Lodge meets.
Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes was co-started 10 years ago by biker Vic Siswick after noticing a lack of sample delivery provision at night while he was undergoing cancer treatment. It now has 60 volunteer riders, all advanced motorcyclists, who deliver urgent samples between 7pm and 7am, which are outside normal NHS hours.
One of those to benefit from the charity’s services is Ivanhoe Lodge member John Bulliman, whose life was saved three years ago by the delivery of an emergency unit of blood from his original bone marrow donor in the Midlands, to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where he was being treated for leukaemia and sepsis.
John Clague, from Ivanhoe Lodge, said: ‘Before deciding on making this donation we invited Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes chairman Andrew Foster to tell us about the work of the charity.
‘John was present and it was the first time Andrew had ever met a beneficiary of the service they provide. Subsequently, John has now done an interview for the charity to thank them for helping save his life. Following Andrew’s presentation the lodge voted unanimously to purchase ‘Ivanhoe’ and pay for its running costs for three years.
‘Charity is one of the three grand principles Freemasonry was founded on, and, thanks to this legacy, we are able to support the Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes and the selfless service they provide to the benefit of people across Yorkshire.'
Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes chairman Andrew Foster said: ‘We are truly grateful to the members of Ivanhoe Lodge for this wonderful donation. It’s a fantastic way to start the New Year.
‘I am also a Freemason, and was personally humbled by the level of support I received from the lodge when I was asked to give a presentation about our work.
‘This new bike takes our fleet of blood bikes to eight and means that we can respond to even more requests to transport samples, and that means hopefully saving more lives of people in Yorkshire. We have a terrific team of volunteer riders and Ivanhoe Lodge’s generosity is a massive boost for us.'
Members of the Lincolnshire Masonic Motorcycle Club (LMMC) rode their bikes to Scunthorpe for a meeting to discuss their programme for the year ahead
Led by Chris Jones, who is currently Worshipful Master of the Round Table Lodge of Lincolnshire No. 8240, as well as LMMC secretary, the club brings together Freemasons in the Province who have a passion for motorcycling.
The Club was establised in 2017 with a view to creating touring opportunities. So far, they have recruited more than 40 members, from which groups of up to a dozen riders have visited lodges in Scotland, Switzerland and Germany.
Chris said: 'Next year we would like to extend that by including Norway and Luxembourg. The touring has been fantastic, but the visiting has been even more so, creating many contacts and friendships.'
Chris and his fellow club members have ambitions for the fledgling organisation and are actively considering the possibilities not only of forming a Blood Bikes organisation in the Province to support the emergency services, but also a motorcycling lodge.
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’
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.’
Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland presented a brand new, fully liveried, BMW R1200 RT-P motorcycle, to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity, in memory of the late Russell Curwen on 16th July 2018
The event took place at Kendal Masonic Hall where 190 guests gathered to witness a very moving and memorable occasion. Russell was a rider for the charity who died in a crash in May 2018 whilst on duty delivering vital medical supplies to hospitals in the area.
Amongst those attending were Russell's parents, Pat Curwen and Ken Curwen, sister Susan Fiddler, brother Phil Curwen and uncle Terry Curwen. They were supported by members and friends of the North West Blood Bike Lancs and Lakes Charity, together with members from the Blood Bikes Cumbria Charity.
Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, was also in attendance, together with former Lord Lieutenant Sir James Cropper and Lady Cropper. Following a short reception, during which the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria was introduced to all present, the Provincial Grand Master of Cumberland and Westmorland Norman Thompson gave an address.
He said: 'On behalf of the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland, I am delighted to be able to present this third fully equipped motorcycle to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity. This third bike is named 'Russell', in memory of the Blood Bike Volunteer, Russell Curwen, who sadly lost his life whilst on duty with the charity.
'The Blood Bikers are unsung heroes, supporting the community at large and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. I am also delighted to announce that we will be funding the purchase of a fourth motor cycle, thus ensuring that the two Blood Bike charities covering the County of Cumbria, have both received two new bikes funded by members.'
The guests then gathered outside where the motorcycle received a blessing by Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev. Robert Friedrich Roeschlaub. The official presentation of the motorcycle was then carried out by Norman Thompson who handed over the keys to the Chairman of the North West Blood Bikes, Paul Brooks. One further presentation was made when Karen Carton, Assistant Area Manager - Central, presented Pat Curwen with a candle in memory of Russell, which had come all the way from the West Coast of Ireland, having been commissioned by the Blood Bikers fraternity.
Although Russell was not a mason himself, he was very much liked and loved by all who knew him and this presentation was a very poignant occasion, whilst at the same time recognising his commitment to the Blood Bikes charity as a volunteer rider.
This was the third motorcycle presented to the Blood Bikes charities by the Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, which cost in excess of £18,000. The first was presented in 2017 to the Blood Bikes Cumbria in the north of the county as part of their Tercentenary celebrations. The second was presented in May 2018 to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes at an annual meeting in Carlisle, just a few days after the tragic death of Russell.
In a letter of thanks to the Provincial Grand Master, Simon Hanson Fleet Manager and Volunteer Rider for the North West Blood Bikes, said: 'Your hospitality was second to none with an array of distinguished guests which meant the night was even more special and one that the family has been able to take comfort from at this difficult time.
'On behalf of the complete charity, I would again like to thank you for this superb donation and I can assure you it will make a tangible difference to the operation of our charity and enable us to provide the best support possible to the NHS and the 'local community' in South Cumbria who are the eventual recipients of our service.'
A group of intrepid Freemasons in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, supported by their family as well as their dogs, completed the Annual 'Cross Bay Walk', to raise money for the charity Northwest Blood Bikes
45 people signed up for the event, which was organised by Freemason Peter Caunce and his wife Debi. On an exceptionally hot and humid day on 8th July 2018, everyone completed the world famous trek across Morecambe Bay, led by The Queen's Guide to the Sands – the royally appointed guide to crossing the sands of Morecambe Bay – Cedric Robinson MBE.
Leading from the front and one of the first to finish was the Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson, who afterwards said: 'That was one of the toughest walks across the Bay I've done, but it's been very worthwhile, especially in the knowledge that the Blood Bikes charity will benefit.'
This is the sixth year that Peter and Debi have organised the walk for the Province, helping them to raise in excess of £12,000 during that period for various local charities.
This year over £1,500 has been pledged so far for Northwest Blood Bikes, which may be used towards purchasing a motorcycle.
It followed an appeal the Province launched last year to raise enough money within 12 months to buy one new bike for SERV.
Only nine months later, and masons presented SERV with not one, but three new motorcycles. The volunteers will now use these Blood Bikes to transport blood, plasma, platelets, samples, vaccines, donor breast milk and other urgently required medical items to hospitals and the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Norfolk Freemasons raised the money for the bikes, which cost £15,000 each, at lodge meetings, social events and auctions, and from personal donations. The Dean of Norwich, the Very Reverend Jane Hedges, performed a blessing during the presentation.
The three new bikes are called Faith, Hope and Charity.
The donation was in response to an appeal by North West Blood Bikes for help in replacing their ageing fleet of motorbikes, which led to two new bikes being purchased and equipped by the Freemasons at a cost of £40,000.
The Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison, along with two of his Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Kevin Poynton and David Winder, and Steve Kayne, the CEO of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, formally handed over two new liveried BMW R1200RT-P motorbikes to the North West Blood Bikes team.
North West Blood Bikes Fleet Manager Simon Hanson said: 'Since my appointment I have been working with Honda, BMW and multiple charities and local businesses to replace the fleet of 12 liveried motorbikes, as they had mostly done over 80,000 miles and in some cases were over eight years old.
'This very generous donation by the Freemasons in West Lancashire completes my renewal plan and they, along with the other new motorbikes, will greatly reduce the number of breakdowns we have been having with our old fleet. It will also increase our ability to support the NHS out of normal hours (7pm to 2am) in the week and 24/7 at weekends.'
The motorbikes have been built to a specification that is, effectively, the same as that for police vehicles. The only difference is the blood bikes are fitted with a special carrying rack to transport medical items and the police blue paintwork is replaced with orange.
In officially handing over the two vehicles, Tony Harrison said: 'I am delighted to be able to present these motorbikes on behalf of the Freemasons in West Lancashire to North West Blood Bikes, as they will help them in the vital role they play in supporting the NHS in their work.'
On average, North West Blood Bikes respond to over 1,000 calls a month, which their 350 volunteers action using their own motorbikes and cars, and the liveried motorbikes. The 12 liveried motorbikes are used for calls that involve motorway journeys and long distances, as well as during rush hour and moving urgent blood samples and other lifesaving items.
The Freemasons of Cornwall have donated £25,000 via the Masonic Charitable Foundation Grant to the Cornwall Blood Bikes charity, after it received the most votes in a countywide public poll
Thanks to this remarkable donation, the charity is buying a brand new 1200cc BMW response bike and two further second-hand bikes upgrading its ageing fleet that runs throughout the year in all weathers.
Cornwall Blood Bikes was one of six self-funded organisations in the county to be nominated for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) Awards, which saw £3 million handed out to 300 charities and other organisations across the UK as part of its Tercentenary Year of celebrations.
All 80 Lodges, their Brethren, together with family members and friends took part in the vote. The promotion and support for the MCF Grant Awards within the local communities resulted in an unprecedented local response.
The Blood Bikers received the highest out of a £58,000 pot of cash for Cornwall, with iSight Cornwall receiving £15,000, Bosom Buddies UK £4,000, Penhaligon’s Friends £4,000, Young People Cornwall £4,000 and Ellie’s Haven Cornwall £6,000.
The volunteer bikers, who transfer life-saving medical supplies out of hours across the county and further afield saving the NHS in Cornwall around £250,000 each year in taxi fares, arrived at Truro Cathedral to meet the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cornwall, Stephen Pearn for the official cheque presentation.
Ian Butler, Fundraising Manager for the Blood Bikes, thanked the public and Masonic Lodges of Cornwall for their amazing support: 'To have this amount of money donated to us is fantastic. It is an iconic day in the Blood Bikes history. We have been overwhelmed by the public response and want to thank the Freemasons across all of Cornwall for their support. It would take nearly two years and a lot of hard work to raise that amount of cash.
'We have already ordered a brand new BMW that is due to arrive in April next year. We are also buying two second-hand bikes to replace two in the fleet that have clocked up 140,000 miles each. The new bikes will cut down on maintenance and off-road time as well as making us more efficient. This is a brilliant start to our campaign to update our fleet of machines.'
Speaking at the official presentation, Provincial Grand Master Stephen Pearn said he was delighted for the Blood Bikes: 'The donation from The Masonic Charitable Foundation will literally save lives and it’s also a great way to advertise what the charity does. Cornwall’s Masonic Benevolent Fund has been supporting a lot of communities across Cornwall for many years. It’s a great organisation that is fun to be a part of as well as helping others. Our members come from all walks of life.”
The Charity Steward for Caradon Lodge No. 8543, who meet in Saltash, Ross Fisher, has been giving blood since he was 18 was especially pleased with the Blood Bike's donation: 'Since 1995 I have been donating platelets (these are formed in the blood and help it clot and to stop bleeding). Last week was my 250th donation. I have four times more platelets in my blood than the average man. I keep fit and well and feel very proud that I’m able to help others in times of need. The Blood Bikes are a dedicated team giving their time to keep such a vital service running.'
Also attending Saturday’s presentation were several volunteer bike riders local to the St. Austell area. The oldest member of the Blood Bikes team, Conrad Dowding 80, from Launceston, who is still enjoying life on two wheels, said: 'I joined the charity after I lost my wife, Pam to breast cancer. I couldn’t do anything to help her which is why I joined the Blood Bikes team. It was my way of giving something back. I feel part of a great team that is working together to do something worthwhile. We get no NHS funding, we use our own bikes and we work out of hours and can be called on at anytime.'
Five other local Cornish charities also won substantial grants totalling £33,000 and can be viewed here.
As part of their Tercentenary celebrations, Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons have donated a brand new fully equipped and liveried motorcycle to Blood Bikes Cumbria to support them in their vital work across Cumbrian communities
The bike carries the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland’s provincial emblem and the square and compasses symbol.
Since May 2014, Blood Bikes Cumbria have provided an out of hours, 365 days a year transport service for urgently needed blood, drugs, human tissue and other medical requirements between hospitals, medical centres and blood banks across Cumbria. The Great North Air Ambulance Service also receives supplies daily to keep their helicopters stocked.
Blood Bikes Cumbria is run entirely by volunteers, the drivers all undergo specialist advanced training to operate the bikes under ‘blue light’ conditions. There is also a specialist team of volunteer dispatchers who take calls and co-ordinate the deliveries.
At a special presentation evening in Kendal, the motorcycle was handed over to a team of drivers from Blood Bikes Cumbria by Past Pro Grand Master The Marquess of Northampton and Provincial Grand Master, Rt W Bro Norman James Thompson DL.
W Bro Thompson said: ‘The Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland are delighted to be able to support this relatively new charity who do vital work for our Cumbrian communities, often behind the scenes.
‘Our brethren and families will be pleased to see this motorcycle put to good work for the benefit of all who need emergency medical supplies in the county.’