A Blue Plaque has been unveiled in Treorchy in Wales to commemorate the involvement of Freemasonry in the community
 
Locla Freemason Phil Hanney was invited to join South Wales Provincial Grand Master Gareth Jones OBE in the task of unveiling the Blue Plaque.
 
The plaque is now secured proudly on the RAFA Pub in Bute Street for all to see, as a long standing reminder to the community of the fine Masonic heritage and contribution established in the valley.
 
Cwm Rhondda Lodge No. 9692, which meets at the the RAFA Pub, was established in February 1999 and meets on the third Monday in September and March, and the first Monday in December and June.
 
Phil Hanney, who is a member of Cwm Rhondda Lodge, said: 'Our Blue Plaque will be a constant reminder to us of our heritage and our future. We are very proud to be a part of our local community and providing charitable assistance where we can.

'We welcome any enquiries from the public and from anyone interested in becoming a Freemason.'
 
South Wales Freemasons have been celebrating the Tercentenary to mark 300 years since four London Lodges met to establish the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons, and are affixing Blue Plaques to many of its Masonic Halls across South Wales. Early records exist of Freemasonry within the current South Wales region being established in Cardiff & Cowbridge in 1754.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex held their first ‘Discover Freemasonry’ open evening at their headquarters in Twickenham on 19th September 2018, giving members of the public a unique insight into Freemasonry

Middlesex decided to attract the attention of potential members using social media, which led to a total of 164 members of the public registering for the event. Simultaneously, it was promoted within the Province, particularly to Secretaries of lodges in Twickenham, which led to another 21 people registering to attend.

The evening was designed to be engaging and inspiring, to present Middlesex’s message in a relevant and appealing way. Attendees were greeted and registered by a group of Provincial Stewards – in their collars. The evening took place in the lodge room and was introduced by Nigel Codron – the Chairman of the Provincial Communications Committee. He welcomed the attendees, shared his journey into Freemasonry, explained how the order is structured in England and Wales and introduced the Leaders.

Omaid Hiwaizi, Provincial Communications Officer, then took on the baton and led an interactive session asking the audience ‘What is Freemasonry?’ – gaining a few interesting responses. The attendees were well-informed, the wild descriptions only being those shared by Omaid as comments which had been made on social media. He then went on to ask if a series of famous historical and current characters were Freemasons – or not. Finally, he shared insights into what happens when a member joins and described the journey – alluding to the metaphor of the rough and smooth ashlars, which he pointed out in the lodge room, much to the interest of the audience.

Then followed seven Master Masons who each briefly described why and how they joined and their initial experiences. Amongst these was Vishakha Jain who is a member of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF), who was particularly inspiring. The broad selection of different voices, backgrounds and stories was particularly engaging and inspiring and attracted loud applause.

Prestonian Lecturer 2019 Michael Karn then delivered a spirited canter through the history of Freemasonry, alluding to the ancient Egyptians, the medieval cathedral builders and concluding on the wonderful Tercentenary event at the Royal Albert Hall last year. It complimented the very real and personal stories which had proceeded. Provincial Membership Officer Nigel Harris-Cooksley also described what those interested needed to do now and what would happen next.

Lastly, the HFAF Grand Master Christine Chapman took to the stage and presented a passionate and inspiring description of Women’s Freemasonry, which again was greeted with wild applause.

The feedback given verbally and through the anonymous forms was universally positive. However, the best feedback was that 18 men filled out enquiry forms on the evening, implying that the content shared very much served its purpose in describing Freemasonry in terms the audience would relate to.

Watch a video from the event here.

As a result, Middlesex are already planning to hold their next event at Harrow’s masonic centre on 19th November 2018.

A new £250,000 high and low rope activity centre complete with aerial runway – the result of more than two years of fund raising, planning and construction to deliver what will be a major community project for young people across the county – was officially opened by Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons,  and Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, on Saturday September 15th 2018

The Ropes Course, the first facility of its kind anywhere in the country, is open to both able bodied and wheel chair users and in places, is the height of a four storey building. It's a joint project built for the Essex County Scouts at Skreens Park, Chelmsford, to celebrate 300 years of modern Freemasonry.

The High Ropes and Linear Courses, including the zip wire equipment were funded by a £145,000 donation from Essex Freemasons. Essex Scouts added to this by funding a further £120,000 to build Low Rope and Wheelchair Courses to ensure that access is provided to those of any age, including anyone with mobility issues. This has ensured that the facility will be open to all and also serves to raise awareness in the able bodied community of the issues faced by wheelchair users in everyday life.

For Essex Freemasons, who donated the money to build the runway, it will be a lasting legacy in support of young people who live in the area. It also once again confirms the organisation's ongoing commitment to the community.

'Our 10,000 members across Essex were in full support of funding a project that would be a fitting legacy in celebration of our Tercentenary year,' said Rodney Bass. “In less than 12 months they raised more than £161,000 which we decided to donate to the Scout Movement.

'Essex Scouts told us that they needed funding for a new rope activity centre that could be used by all organisations that use Skreens Park and we agreed. We immediately donated £145,000 to cover the cost of the work and decided that the balance will be used to support local Scouts across county.

'This activity centre is a wonderful facility of which my members can feel proud and one which I hope delivers many hours of challenge and enjoyment for the young people of Essex.'

Essex Scouts is one of the three largest Scout Counties in the Country, with nearly 22,000 members. Each year its adult members contribute over one million voluntary person hours in providing skills for life for young people across the county, which translated into financial terms equates to an injection into the Essex economy of nearly £8 million per annum.

Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, commented: 'Essex Scouts are delighted and grateful to have received this generous donation from Essex Freemasons, which has enabled us to design and build an integrated Ropes Course comprising High Ropes, including a zip wire, Linear, Low Ropes and Wheelchair courses, to ensure that we have a facility that is accessible to as many people as possible. This will truly be a lasting legacy for the young people of the county.

'Skreens Park is a very busy site used by Scouts and Guides from across the country and the rest of the world. In addition, the facility is used by many local schools and other youth organisations. The Ropes courses will be an excellent facility to develop team building and group working whilst also challenging individuals in a safe environment.'

Installation of the High Ropes Courses at Skreens Park is one of dozens of projects across the county involving Essex Freemasons who regularly donate more than £1 million every year to local charities and good causes. More than 300 lodges meet in Essex from 27 different Centres and continue to play an active role in the community – Skreens Park being the latest.

Great dignity

Instrumental in shaping the way that Freemasonry is now run, Anthony Wilson embraced modernisation with a focus on teamwork

Anthony Wilson, a long-time Freemason, died on 14 May this year after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity. Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.

Initiated into Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997 and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently became President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004. 

Anthony was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. ‘My background is in chartered accountancy, and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it,’ Anthony told Freemasonry Today 10 years after becoming Board President. ‘Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get.’ 

Promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012, Anthony played a prominent role during the Tercentenary celebrations, including unveiling the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent. 

He retired as President of the Board of General Purposes at the end of 2017. Following his death, the United Grand Lodge of England sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow, Vicky, and family.

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes paid tribute to Anthony’s work: ‘I don’t often mention individuals in this context, but Anthony Wilson was a very special mason and a very special friend to so many of us. He carried out his duties in a very understated way, but he presided over the Board during a very busy period including, of course, the 300th celebrations.

‘He was an incredibly hard-working and efficient President who managed to carry out his role without falling out with anyone – quite a feat! And all this despite his illness, which was with him for far too many years. But he never, ever complained, and many would not have known how ill he was. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.’ 

Looking back on why he first became a Freemason, Anthony told Freemasonry Today: ‘Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies, my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed, but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life.’

Published in UGLE

A better place

If Freemasonry is to thrive by spreading a consistent and strong message, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes that every member needs to behave and act responsibly

During the early part of this year, we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year. In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks, and in April we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry.

I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life – at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be.

Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet, and that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. 

 LIVING UP TO RESPONSIBILITIES

We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Surely, in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms?

If I may use a cricket analogy, just as the Marylebone Cricket Club is considered to be the custodian of the laws of the game, the United Grand Lodge of England, in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour – from the individual mason to Grand Lodge.

There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home’ Grand Lodges, and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. 

Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.

Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.

‘Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability’

Published in UGLE

United Grand Lodge of England has been presented with a new organ in Temple 10 at Freemasons’ Hall, which has been generously donated by The Grand Stewards’ Lodge

The funds for the new organ were raised over a three-year period, through a combination of the generosity of individual members of the lodge and through donations from some of the 19 ‘Red-Apron’ Lodges which nominate Grand Stewards.

A total of £65,000 was raised to pay for the new organ, which was installed in the latter part of 2017 by Viscount Organs and inaugurated at The Grand Stewards’ Lodge installation meeting on 17th January 2018 by the then Grand Organist, Carl Jackson MVO.

The journey started when The Grand Stewards’ Lodge were looking for a suitable project they could support to commemorate the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge on 24th June 1717. It was during this time that the organ in Temple 10, roughly 50 years old, stopped working and so it was decided that its replacement would be chosen as the lodge’s project to celebrate the Tercentenary.

The Organ Committee decided that the new instruments specification and layout should mirror the fine renovated Willis III pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall. The organ console is made of oak, stained to match the existing furniture, it has three manuals (Great, Swell and Choir) and a full pedal board, 55 speaking stops and a full set of couplers, together with the same number of thumb and toe pistons as are available on the Grand Temple Organ.

UGLE has established close links with the Royal College of Organists, which was founded by Freemason Richard Limpus in 1864, and now funds the RCO Freemasons’ Prize, as well as providing Freemasons’ Bursaries to cover items such as tuition fees and travelling expenses. As a result, the new organ in Temple 10 will be available to pupils who wish to practise for their exams from September 2018.

Read more about the history of The Grand Stewards’ Lodge

Published in UGLE

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.'

With Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) extensively prevalent in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, as a result of contaminated ground water, the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka have been raising funds to help

The inhabitants of the remoter areas have been compelled to purchase drinking water from external sources, spending as much as Rs 500.00 per day for their needs, with children in particular having been severely affected. As its Tercentenary charity project, the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka chose to involve itself in this national need of alleviating this issue and undertook to gift a minimum of three Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plants in the most affected areas.

The District elected to partner with the Sri Lanka Navy welfare unit on the primary basis that on handing over the equipment, the operation and maintenance of the Plants would be looked after by the Navy and hence, the villagers would not need to pay even a nominal amount towards the Plant upkeep.

The first of these units, which was established by funds raised by the District, was set up in the Kurunegala District some 20 kilometers from Kurunegala town and opened by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 20th July 2017.

The second unit, which was partially funded by the United Grand Lodge of England and the balance made up by the District, was set up in the Anuradhapura district in the hamlet of Wahalakada, approximately 300 kilometers from Colombo, and was declared open by Dr Suresh Britto, President of the District Board of Benevolence on 5th May 2018.

Each of the units serves approximately 400-500 families, around 1500-2000 individuals in each case, in the immediate vicinity. The Kurunegala Plant was set up on government land in the centre of the village and the Wahalakada Plant in the premises of the Buddhist Temple of the hamlet. Both plants are located in areas where there is a sufficiency of ground water and little likelihood of running dry.

Fundraising for the third RO Plant is currently in progress and the District hope to have this in operation by the end of October 2018.

Supportive sailors in Lincoln have transformed a £25,000 Tercentenary donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) into a specialist pontoon and a safety boat to transform the way it can help disabled people on to the water

The sailors are members of Hykeham Sailability, a charity launched in 2009 to provide sailing opportunities for disabled people in Lincolnshire, but at that time the group had no boats, equipment, sailing expertise, volunteers, or even potential members.

Led by non-sailing Keven Roberts, who sadly passed away in 2016, the group has secured thousands in funding, inspired and trained numerous volunteers and instructors and worked tirelessly to establish what is now a thriving, vibrant sailability club.

Hykeham Sailability is part of the national RYA Sailability programme, which supports disabled people in learning to sail and sailing regularly. The group’s aim is to give both adults and young people the freedom and confidence to get out on the water.

Lincolnshire Freemasons Walter Cook, Worshipful Master of Doric Lodge No. 362, and Terry Wallhead, from Witham Lodge No. 297, have visited the club to see the equipment bought with the MCF grant.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 09:23

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2018

Quarterly Communication

13 June 2018 
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I really believe that during the early part of this year we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year.

In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks and, of course, in April, we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.

It was hoped that the DVD of the Royal Albert Hall event would be circulated with the next edition of Freemasonry Today, however the Board have come to the conclusion, I think quite rightly, that the chances of a significant number of the DVDs being damaged in transit was too great a risk and it is therefore the intention to distribute them to active members through individual masonic halls. I am sure that this is something that we will all be proud to watch time and time again, but, perhaps, not boring our friends and families too much along the way.

Brethren, I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry?

I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life; at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be?

Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet. We all know that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our Lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Of course, there can be slip ups, but these are rare and are almost always quickly rectified.

Brethren, surely in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms. 

Brethren, if I may use a cricket analogy where the MCC is considered to be the Custodian of the Laws of the game, UGLE in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour, from the individual mason up to the Grand Lodge.

There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home Grand Lodges’ and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. It is of great importance that we, as individuals, set an example of behaviour in our lives and in our lodges. Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.

Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.

Published in Speeches
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