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.

Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £15,000 to the County’s Cricket Foundation to help fund a programme to develop wheelchair cricket, enabling people with a disability to take an active part in the sport

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will enable the Essex Cricket Foundation to help develop the skills of disabled cricketers, particularly children and adapt the cricketing environment for all levels of ability.

The grant will particularly cover the cost of a specialist Wheelchair Cricket Coach who will be employed to run the sessions for the project. Currently, there are between four to 10 players attending regular sessions and the aim is to get a core of 10 to 12 taking part each week and to gets sessions going at further locations in Essex.

Rodney Bass, OBE, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘We have seen through the Invictus Games that wheelchair users are capable of anything which is why I am particularly delighted to have been able to make this donation on behalf of our members.

‘It will help those with disabilities to overcome obstacles that have previously prevented them taking part in the sport and I hope that wheelchair users who enjoy cricket will take advantage of this opportunity to learn the more practical skills via the Essex Cricket Foundation.’

Wheelchair cricket is a new format of the game played indoors. The game is designed to be played all year round by participants who require sport wheelchairs. Essex Cricket Foundation is now looking at venues across the County that already have these chairs to encourage as many as possible to take part.

Patrick Ward, Community Engagement Manager for Essex Cricket, added: ‘The basic equipment for wheelchair cricket includes plastic stumps, a compound rubber ball, fielding aids, cones and an adapted bat.

‘The bat is a shorter version of a standard cricket bat and the handles will be such that it will suit both one handed and two handed batsmen. The bat can also be lightweight and will reduce the degree of difficulty for the batsmen to score runs. Now that we have this Grant from Essex Freemasons it will help us expand the sport to wheelchair users and make a huge difference across the County.’

Wheelchair cricket sessions will be held at established sports centres which are fully accessible. The Foundation will seek to work in partnership with centres, when setting up sessions, to keep the costs of hiring the venues down.

The Foundation does not currently charge for sessions to avoid excluding children who might otherwise not be able to afford to take part and while that may change in the future (to cover hall hire costs) this grant will enable the Cricket Foundation to continue to offer free sessions for the foreseeable future to encourage people to try the sport.

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.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018 00:00

Swindon celebrates 200 years of Freemasonry

A blue heritage plaque was fitted to the side of the Goddard Arms Hotel by Swindon Heritage to mark 200 years of Freemasonry in the town

Swindon’s first Freemasons met at the High Street pub in May 1818. The Royal Sussex Lodge of Emulation No. 355, which initially consisted of just 10 members, continued to meet at the Goddard Arms until 1875.

Noel Beauchamp of Swindon Heritage said: ‘This blue plaque is important because it marks something that happened in Swindon pre-railway. People know Swindon as a railway town, whereas in fact people have been living up here on the hill for a thousand years, if not longer. It brings into context how old Swindon is.

The Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire Philip Bullock said: ‘This lodge has been associated with Swindon for 200 years and Freemasonry is as strong now as it was then.’

Philip was helped in unveiling the blue plaque by another long-standing Freemason, Past Provincial Grandmaster for Worcestershire Richard Goddard, who is also a relative of the family that owned the nearby Lawns estate for hundreds of years. ‘It was a great honour to unveil the plaque,” he said. ‘Freemasonry has always been about three great principles: brotherly love, relief and truth. That could be translated as friendship, generosity and integrity.

Newly appointed Assistant Provincial Grand Master Simon Leighfield added: ‘Just as this plaque is in the heart of Swindon's Old Town, Freemasonry is at the heart of the community.’

The heritage plaque is the seventh to be installed around Swindon. Others mark the birthplaces or homes of actress Diana Dors, whose father was a Freemason, Votes for Women campaigner Edith New and Swindon Town Football Club hero Sam Allen. The eighth plaque will commemorate local poet Richard Jefferies. 

East Kent Freemasons have donated £4,000 to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service

As an independent charity, they strive to save lives by providing the best possible medical care every minute of the day, every day of the year, which means every donation they receive is vital. Last year alone, they were called out to help over 2,000 people in life-threatening conditions.

On 30th October 2018, the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, Neil Johnstone, presented a cheque to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service at Rochester Airport for £4,000. The grant was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and has brought the total Masonic support given to the Air Ambulance Service to over £4 million since 2007, supporting over 22 Air Ambulances across England and Wales.

Presenting the cheque to the Air Ambulance crew, Neil said: ‘Words will never truly describe the life changing differences that you make to the people of our local communities who call upon your services. I am certain that many people today are grateful to you and we are glad that we can help to support the service now and in the future.’

The grant from the MCF was co-ordinated through the main charity for the Masonic Province of East Kent, the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons' Charity. Supporting Neil from the charity were the CEO Peter Rhodes, Chairman Pat Thomas, and the Head of Charities for East Kent, Mark Bassant.

A donation of £4,000 from Lincolnshire Freemasons will help more people survive life-threatening injuries and illnesses because of the work of the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance and its crew

It costs an average of £2,500 every time the Air Ambulance scrambles for another life-saving mission from its base at RAF Waddington.

Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master David Wheeler said: ‘The Air Ambulance provides a vital service in our largely rural Province, and we are pleased to say that by helping to fund it with our donation we have played a small role in ensuring that there will be people alive tomorrow who might otherwise have passed away. 

‘We see ourselves as part of a community, with a duty to help everyone in it. Support for the Air Ambulance is a positive way to do that at life-changing moments for patients and their families.’

The £4,000 grant came from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), and was part of the latest round of Air Ambulance funding, which totals over £4 million since 2007. This year, 20 services will share in £192,000 from the MCF, which administers funds raised through personal contributions from Freemasons.

The Lincs and Notts donation was handed over by Provincial Charity Steward Peter Tong, who said: ‘The Air Ambulance service in our region has been there to help more than 192,000 people since its inception in 1994.

'It already flies two or three times a day, but the organisation’s ambition is to make itself available to fly to where it’s needed on a 24/7 basis. That could lift the number of missions to five a day, which is a tremendous financial commitment. We wanted to play a small part in helping to make that happen.’

Sally Crawford, the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance head of Fundraising and Communications, said: ‘Thank you so much for supporting the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance; £4,000 is an incredible amount of money and we are most grateful. The critical care we provide gives people their very best chance of survival and recovery. We receive no direct Government funding, and are not part of the NHS, so your donation really is essential in helping us to save lives.’

During the first year, over 500 bronze oak leaves with personal inscriptions have been purchased from the Bradgate Park Trust and installed on distinctive feature wooden oak pillars within the Memorial Wood, raising over £70,000 for the charity

The Memorial Wood at Bradgate Park was funded by Leicestershire & Rutland Freemasons to celebrate the Tercentenary, along with Leicestershire County Council, and was officially opened by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 5th October 2017

Since then, the wood has settled down nicely after its opening and the Bradgate Park volunteers ensure that it continues to look its best. 

Peter Tyldesley, Director of the Bradgate Part Trust, said: ‘We are delighted by the public reaction to the Memorial Wood, which has become an attractive, peaceful and dignified place of remembrance and reflection.

‘The Memorial Wood has been successful beyond our wildest expectations and we are already planning an extension. The Trust is extremely grateful to all those who have purchased leaves and to the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for their support in enabling us to make it a reality.’

The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger said: ‘Freemasonry has always been part of the local community and we are thrilled to leave a lasting legacy for the people of Leicestershire and Rutland as part of our 300th anniversary celebrations.’

After their meeting on 10 November 2018, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice, Delphis Lodge No. 7769 in Herefordshire presented the Province with a plaque commemorating those Herefordshire members who lost their lives in the First World War

In a special ceremony, Paul Young, Worshipful Master of Delphis Lodge in 1991, presented the plaque, which was received by the Provincial Grand Master The Rev David Bowen. Paul then read the complete poem by Laurence Binyon, 'For the Fallen', with the assembled members joining in repeating the well-known middle verse - 'They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old'.

In receiving the plaque on behalf of the Province, The Rev David Bowen, thanked members of Delphis Lodge for this thoughtful gift to the Province and read the Wilfred Owen poem, 'The Parable of the Old Man and the Young'. Bugler Colin Davies gave added further dignity and poignancy to the occasion, rounding off the ceremony with The Last Post.

The plaque commemorates the six members known to have died, from Palladian, Vitruvian, Eastnor, Arrow and Loyal Hay Lodges. Their identities and history were researched by Tim Fycun, Worshipful Master of Delphis Lodge 2015-2016. The plaque, with its fine wooden frame made by Keith Farmer, will occupy a prominent and permanent position within the Hereford Masonic Hall.

On the same occasion, a statuette was unveiled of a soldier commemorating the memory of all Herefordshire members who lost their lives in the service of their country, generously provided by Wilf Charles.

Devonshire Freemasons have donated £4,000 to the Devon Air Ambulance, bringing the total masonic support given to air ambulances across the country to OVER £4 million since 2007

Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, was on hand to present the grant to Devon Air Ambulance, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, accompanied by Dr. Reuben Ayres, Provincial Grand Charity Steward. The total contribution to Devon Air Ambulance since 2007 by Freemasons is £55,000 and when adding the donations made by individual Devon lodges, the total reaches over £116,000.

The Air Ambulance operates right across Devonshire and in 2017 assisted 990 patients, more than any other year. 50% of these incidents were medical emergencies such as heart attacks, with 49% being trauma related (for example, road traffic collisions and accidental injuries). 12% of all jobs attended were to children.

Devon Air Ambulance relies entirely on charitable grants and donations from the community, businesses and friends of Devon.

Caroline Creer, Fundraising and Communications Director for Devon Air Ambulance, said: ‘We would like to thank the Devonshire Freemasons for their continued support and generosity. Support like theirs really does mean a lot and helps to keep Devon’s two Air Ambulances flying.’

Ian Kingsbury said: ‘We are proud to be able to support the Devon Air Ambulance. Thanks to their team’s tireless efforts, many lives of local people are saved every year.’

During 2018, Freemasons from around the country will be presenting 20 regional air ambulances with grants totalling £192,000.

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.

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