The perception of Freemasonry is rapidly moving towards a greater awareness of charitable giving and community service
Nowhere more so than in Essex where the 9,000 or so Freemasons of its 300 Lodges have built up a track-record in being kind and helping others. This is all well and good, but there are two sides to the parable of the Good Samaritan and it’s only when we ourselves get beaten up by life and others pass us by that we realise we need a helping hand.
Not a Freemason himself, life for Howard Bradley has been damaged beyond all recognition. In 1832 his great, great grandfather founded the world’s longest-serving textile-care family business which served The Royal Household from King George III to the cleaning and restoring of wedding dresses in the Royal collection. Customers included Bro Sir Winston and Lady Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Howard has cared for clothing for Princess Anne, Prince Charles, George Michael, Lewis Hamilton, Rubens Barichello, Jackie Stewart, Ian Poulter and many others. He feels privileged to have painstakingly restored the clothing of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
Inspired by his father Eric, a wartime RAF pilot in North Africa and Italy, and grandfather Bernard, born 1881, a Freemason who took part in an initiative by the Lodge of Tranquillity, over a century ago, to help a number of Metropolitan Police Officers improve their reading and writing skills, Howard became a Special Constable and a motorcycle instructor. In 1988, aged 27, through no fault of his own, a tragic road traffic accident left him in ICU for a month and hospitalised for over two months more before he returned to the family business on crutches, eventually taking over when his father passed away in 2004.
Howard lost everything in 2018 when, becoming a victim of sharp commercial practice, the business was sold by Administrators and he received nothing. Over the last four years his mental and physical health deteriorated and he now suffers from sarcoidosis lung disease, congestive heart failure, severe osteoarthritis, DVT, broken knee cartilages and shortage of breath, making it excruciatingly painful to walk with sticks. This has not stopped Howard from applying for over 400 jobs, but without any success.
Too embarrassed to ask for help, having always given and not taken, Howard felt confined in a bleak situation, until a passing good Samaritan gave a helping hand to set up a GoFundMe page to raise £3,600 for a mobility scooter, as Howard does not have any money to buy one. Being a Freemason, this good Samaritan donated, as did his Lodge, and so far, £1,100 has been raised. Never thinking he would ever be in this situation; a very grateful Howard Bradley has written a thank-you to all Essex Freemasons, the Brethren of Earlham Lodge and Russell Seagal for their kind donations and for understanding what it is like being ‘the Other Side of the Good Samaritan’.