John Harris is the predominant name in Tracing Boards and his designs are to be seen across the country and indeed the world

He lived from 1791-1873 and is best known for the Boards he painted for Emulation Lodge of Improvement (ELoI) in 1845. They measure six feet by three feet and are still used today.

In the 1850s, Harris suffered a series of strokes which left him blind. Unable to work, he and his wife Mary were some of the earliest residents of the first masonic Old People’s Home. Built in Croydon in 1850, it went by the name of the Asylum for Aged, Worthy and Decayed Freemasons, and was the prototype RMBI home.

A Croydon Freemason, Forbes Cutler, recently searched for and discovered John Harris’s unmarked grave in a Croydon cemetery. To his dismay, the grave was about to ‘reclaimed’ by the local council. To prevent this, he bought the plot from Queen’s Road Cemetery and lodges and chapters donated money to erect a fitting headstone.

On 18th September 2018, a service of memorial was conducted by the Revered Timothy L’Estrange and the headstone was unveiled. Croydon Masonic Centre was filled for a meeting to commemorate the life of the man whose work has influenced masons for the last 200 years. 

Those present included Ian Chandler, Provincial Grand Master for Surrey, and Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary and CEO of UGLE. Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary of UGLE and a senior member of ELoI, brought with him one of ELoI’s original 1845 Harris Tracing Boards. John Harris was, belatedly, given the send-off he merited, surrounded by his lodges and chapter and in the company of Freemason he so loved.

The deeds of the plot now belong to Freemasonry, the headstone has been erected, and John Harris and his wife Mary will continue to rest in peace.

Following a successful racing event held at Lingfield Park by Surrey Freemasons, children in Surrey hospitals are continuing to receive teddy bears for comfort and support

Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) is a registered charity distributing around 500 teddies a week to children in a number of A&E units across Surrey regardless of their background, challenge or need. Every child who attends their A&E Units is given a teddy bear for comfort and support thanks to TLC and Surrey Freemasons.

The teddy bears handed out to children in Surrey hospitals are part of a much larger Teddies for Loving Care project which is being led by Masonic Provinces across England and Wales.

‘It’s really heart-tugging to see a distressed child almost immediately calmed when a bear is presented to them and children get to keep the teddy bear too and take it home,’ said Ian Chandler, Surrey’s Provincial Grand Master, following a recent visit to a Surrey hospital.

With TLC now firmly in place, Surrey Freemasons were faced with a new dilemma. Do they stop funding TLC in the hope that hospitals will continue by finding new sponsors, or do they find new and innovative ways to raise funds to continue to support this valuable service?  The members of Surrey chose the latter.

Ian Chandler, plus many members with their families and friends, attended a fundraising race meeting at Lingfield Park on Saturday 23 June 2018 to support TLC. All seven races were sponsored by Surrey masons, making this evening event unprecedented in the history of Lingfield Park.    

Racegoers enjoyed a fabulous evening of racing, bathed in the Surrey sunshine around the racecourse. Guests were entertained by former Drifters singer Jason Nembhard and tapped their feet to the music of a Michael Jackson tribute band. One lucky guest even won a holiday to the Algarve in the raffle.

Ian Chandler added: ‘This was Surrey Freemasons’ first venture into organising such a high profile public event. Our thanks go to Lingfield Racecourse and all of the racegoers for supporting us on such an enjoyable evening.’

David Toulson-Burk, Executive Director of Lingfield Park, added: ‘We’ve been delighted to welcome Surrey masons to our race meeting. It’s heart-warming to see so many local business people here supporting their local community and we were thrilled to play our part in their fundraising.’

Thanks to the fundraising, every child attending Surrey A&E units continue to receive teddies.

Sometimes it just needs a good cause, some crazy ideas and loads of enthusiasm to make something worthwhile – which is what happened when 60 Surrey Freemasons, alongside family and friends, went down the world’s fastest zip wire and raised over £35,000 for charity

They came together in Snowdonia on Sunday 15th July 2018 to take part in the fifth, and final, of their ‘Big Five Challenge’, in support of the 2019 Festival Appeal for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.

As if abseiling down the spire of Guildford Cathedral last year was not crazy enough, this year’s challenge was for 60 Surrey Freemasons to ride Velcity 2, which is also the longest zip wire in Europe.

Reaching speeds of over 100mph during the 1,555 metre descent over Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales, this was to be a white-knuckle experience like no other. Jumps, as they’re called, were in groups of four, with the first group led by Surrey’s Provincial Grand Master Ian Chandler.

Colin Pizey, one of the Surrey Freemasons taking part, said: ‘The zip wire flight down was amazing. As you descend across the quarry lake, perceptions of speed just melt away and you feel like a bird gently gliding on wind. Then the ground and end-point accelerate towards you, before being suddenly braked to a halt and gently lowered back to ground.’

As in every instance, events like this zip wire challenge do not happen without a champion behind the scenes, to organise, liaise, inform and coax all parties towards a successful conclusion. In this instance, the champion was Terry Owens, a seasoned Surrey mason who had previously organised 15 fundraising events.

Terry said: ‘This was the most challenging event I’ve ever organised, but it could never have happened without everyone else stepping forward to support, take part or sponsor us.’

Despite some challenging journeys, everyone who promised to participate was there, enabling the zip wire challenge to raise over £35,000. Provincial Grand Charity Steward David Olliver, who coordinates Masonic charity events in Surrey, said: ‘This was one of the biggest and most successful Provincial charity fundraising events ever.’

Descending new heights

Freemasons from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey set themselves the daunting challenge of abseiling down Guildford Cathedral to help raise money for charity

There was a large gathering at the iconic setting for the Surrey 2019 Festival on Saturday May 6th, with the Provincial Grand Master, Ian Chandler, leading a brave band of 47 fellow masons and their family and friends. This also included the oldest participant, 84-year-old Freemason Vic Pierson.

Those taking part climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the Cathedral in groups of four every half an hour before abseiling down individually from a height of 160 ft. to rousing applause.

In total, the abseil helped raise over £20,000 for the Surrey 2019 Festival appeal and even more is expected to be added in the coming weeks as sponsorship is collected.

Ian Chandler, PGM, commented: ‘It's great to see so many people here raising money for such a deserving cause and adding funds to the 2019 Festival.

‘Thanks go to everyone concerned, especially W Bro Terry Owens and his incredibly supportive family for organising the event and for ensuring the whole thing went off safely and according to plan, not to forget his daughter Zoe who was the first down on the wire.’

A sense of optimism

With planning for the Royal Albert Hall celebrations well in hand, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning Keith Gilbert looks forward to the expanding calendar of events in the Provinces and Districts

The team of volunteers planning the central Tercentenary events is growing. In addition to myself, we have Tim Pope, the secretary of the Planning Committee; Ian Chandler, who is responsible for organising the transport for our distinguished guests over three days, as well as our own brethren, from the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) to Battersea Evolution (BE); and Gerry Hann, who is masterminding the major celebration at the RAH.

Taking on coordination of aspects of the three-day central events are Marc Wentworth (Mansion House), Stephen Finch (BE), John Clark (streaming the RAH across the country and the world) and Bob and Darren Upton (Grand Connaught Rooms).

Places at the RAH and BE have been allocated to Metropolitan, Provinces and Districts, who are now considering best practice for distribution among their brethren. Recent successes, such as the tickets for the Grand Ball selling within a short time of release and the sale of Tercentenary Jewels already passing 14,000, gives me a total sense of optimism.

The number of enquiries about dining places at BE means that we would be able to fill the venue twice over. Feedback from 2017 Provincial and District representatives on interest in their events suggests large numbers will be attending, and leads me to feel that 2017 will be a highlight in our masonic lives.

Spreading the word

Another success was the distribution of the Tercentenary Sticker in a copy of Freemasonry Today. What a great opportunity to show people we Freemasons have a very important birthday to celebrate.

John Parry, the organiser of the Met’s contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Show, set up the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge on Twitter and started using the tagline ‘Where will you stick yours?’ Just five days after launching the challenge, it had 1,000 hits a day, and by day 15 it had more than 22,600 impressions on Twitter.

But you can help us get more. Just put your Tercentenary Sticker, which would have come with your previous copy of Freemasonry Today, in an interesting or fun place, take a photo and tweet it to @JohnMetevent. Use the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge and you could win a prize for the best idea, most unique photo or largest number of retweets.

Published in UGLE

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