Let the games begin
In 1989 a group of people who worked with pupils with severe learning disabilities and complex and profound multiple learning difficulties were concerned with the sparseness of athletic events in Bedfordshire for them once they had left school.
An athletics meeting was organised in July that year for teenagers and adults with severe disabilities which was so successful that it has been repeated every year since and continues to give great pleasure to hundreds of competitors.
Since then literally hundreds of people with these most severe difficulties have taken part and competed in these annual events which are always held on the first Tuesday in July at the Bedford International athletic Stadium. Last years’ total of 330 was exceeded this year with over 350 competitors in a total of 75 track and field events.
The Bedfordshire Freemasons' charity has assisted for many years, presenting prizes and certificates, and providing a shield to be for the most deserving team. This year the Bedfordshire Freemasons sponsored the Bedfordshire Games by donating £1,500 towards this very special event.
Eric Barford, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Bedfordshire Freemasons, said: 'We have supported this event for around five years now, as when we first became aware of it we were simply enthralled by the dedication of those who volunteer to make this happen and the joyous looks on the faces of the competitors. Events like this don’t happen very often and it offers so much to everyone who takes part so we are happy to support this.'
Freemasons of Bedfordshire recently presented 49 different charities with donations totalling £72,061
Lodge members from across Bedfordshire raised the funds over the past 12 months and gave it to charities and good causes such as Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK, Bedfordshire Games, Keech Hospice Care, Help for Heroes, Autism Bedfordshire, Alzheimer's UK, Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Bedford Hospital, Midshires Search and Rescue Organisation, Bedfordshire Scouts and Sue Ryder.
The event was held on 26th February at the Luton Masonic Centre with around 160 people in attendance. Each of the charities were presented with their cheques by the representatives from the supporting lodges or the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Bedfordshire, Michael Sawyer, who said: 'All the money that we raise comes from Freemasons themselves and it gives them great pleasure to be able to contribute to these charities and the wonderful work that they do.'
Each charity representative present at the event responded with expressions of their gratitude and how important the Bedfordshire Freemasons donations are in helping them reach their targets for support.
Festive appeals total tops £8m
The closing months of 2015 saw the conclusion of two successful Festival Appeals from Bedfordshire and East Lancashire Freemasons. Both Provinces held special events to celebrate raising more than £1.5 million for the RMTGB and over £2.5 million for the RMBI, respectively.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes attended both events along with the Presidents and Chief Executives of the charities, Mike Woodcock and Les Hutchinson for the RMTGB, and James Newman and David Innes for the RMBI.
The funds raised by Bedfordshire and East Lancashire bring the total raised for the central masonic charities through 2015 Festival Appeals to a staggering £8.2 million.
Bedfordshire casts first line
A new branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity (MFC) has been set up in Bedfordshire with the help of a generous grant of £2,500 from the Province of Bedfordshire.
The charity aims to bring an interactive fishing and countryside experience to people with special needs. The inaugural event was held at Manor Farm Fishing in Lower Caldecote, where a dedicated lake was provided for the day’s supervised hands-on fishing, for children from Keech Hospice Care, Luton.
MFC branch chairman Dick Sturman commented, ‘These events are offered free of any charge to the participants and their carers, and are funded by our sponsors and fundraising events.’
Ian Mould was born in Bedfordshire and has lived there all his life and his father, Gordon Mould, is a Freemason and member of the Old Dunstablians’ Lodge No. 5974.
From an early age Ian has been inspired by military, history and as a young boyscout he regularly went to the local war memorial in November each year. This ignited Ian’s interest in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Though a small county, Bedfordshire had its own infantry regiment in WW1 which, after the war, was joined with Hertfordshire and then in 1958 both were absorbed into the Anglia Regiment.
Ian has been visiting the Western Front for 20 years and was struck by the peace of the area in what was once the most violent place on earth.
Ian realised that though the Bedfordshire Regiment sacrificed so much so gallantly, there was no Western Front memorial to the regiment. He worked tirelessly raising monies by asking most parish and town councils, organisations, clubs and businesses in the county for contributions, built a mock up memorial and took it to various shows and fêtes.
Having raised sufficient funds, Ian started to order materials. Bedfordshire being famous for its brick making, it seemed appropriate that it should be constructed mainly from Bedfordshire bricks and Portland stone.
The Keep, which is the Bedfordshire Provincial Office, was originally the headquarters of the Bedfordshire Regiment, so to maintain the link, there is one brick from the Keep with a plaque giving its origin and connection.
His first achievement was to find a fitting place for the memorial which would be widely accepted, and it was agreed to erect the memorial at Tyne Cot, along the pathway to the visitors centre.
With the help of friends, the memorial was built in early November 2014 in time for the WW1 centenary.
The memorial was unveiled on the morning of 10th November 2014 as part of the WW1 centenary commemorations with representatives of the Anglian Regiment, the War Graves Commission, local dignitaries, friends and family, 100 years and one day from the meeting of the two battalions at Locre, as depicted in the painting in the main bar at the Keep.
A wreath was also laid at the memorial at Locre to commemorate that event.
The memorial site was donated free of charge by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 and will be looked after by them in perpetuity.
OF THE OFFICERS AND MEN
1914 – 1918
LET THOSE THAT COME AFTER
SEE THAT THEIR NAMES
ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
As the Universities Scheme recruits younger members, Caitlin Davies reports on how older Freemasons are staying involved in the Craft
Three years ago, Steward Philip Hadlow heard some interesting news. Plans were afoot for a new lodge in Bedfordshire, one that would be geared towards keeping elderly Freemasons involved in the Craft.
‘The Provincial Grand Master, Michael Sawyer, and the provincial team realised we were not doing enough for our more elderly brethren,’ he explains. ‘Many have mobility problems, which means it’s difficult getting to meetings. We were looking after them when they were ill, supporting their family, but there was a need for something more proactive.’
In recent years Freemasonry has been keen to recruit younger members, but that doesn’t mean elders should be forgotten. And so Bedfordshire’s youngest lodge, the Michael Sawyer Lodge of Reunion No 9848, was born. Philip became involved because he thought it a ‘fantastic idea’.
The lodge began in 2009 and meets twice a year on a Saturday lunchtime, as some people are not keen to eat late or to go out at night at all. Philip doesn’t know of any similar scheme, and there’s been interest in the project from other Provinces.
While some members were already being picked up and taken to meetings by younger members, the lodge wanted to do more. So people were identified, sent invitations and offered travel arrangements – in some cases for a fifty-mile round trip.
‘When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about’ Philip Hadlow
The lodge doesn’t do masonic work – meetings open with a welcome, then a lecture and the Festive Board. One of the annual meetings is held in Luton, the other in another Bedfordshire centre.
John Cathrine, Provincial Information Officer, is a founder member of the Michael Sawyer Lodge and last year’s Worshipful Master. ‘It’s such a great idea. It’s something that was missing from our Province. People get to the stage where they can’t drive to meetings and they drift away from masonry.’
Not forgotten, never sidelined
John cites a past Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Vic Lawrence, who lives at Prince Michael of Kent Court, a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution care home. ‘He came to the previous meeting and he wanted to make a speech at the Festive Board. He said it was really great to be invited and see old friends, all of whom he said looked older than him!’
Freemasonry in Bedfordshire traces its history back to at least 1841, when the Bedfordshire Lodge of St John the Baptist was consecrated in Luton. By the time the Province celebrated its centenary, there were forty-five lodges; there are now fifty-five.
At the last meeting of the Lodge of Re there were sixty people, including twenty honoured guests. ‘It takes time to get something like this off the ground,’ says Philip, who was Chief Steward for two years, ‘but it’s getting bigger every meeting.’
Lodge members pay annual dues to cover being a member and having two guests. ‘It’s funded until the honoured guests outnumber us two to one. It means we can treat them well. You see them sitting there opposite their friends, and they’re having a whale of a time. When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about.’
John is delighted by the letters of thanks that the lodge receives. ‘One brother is ninety-five and not able to get out much. We’ll invite him to the next meeting for a nice day out. The letters we get say the principles and ethos of the lodge are exactly in line with what we should be doing – taking care of those who could be sidelined and forgotten.’