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.
Forget-Me-Not charity set up by Freemason brothers to help the homeless
The adjective term of a ‘down and out’ person relates to a person being without money, a job, or a place to live, in fact quite destitute. This form of destitution is clearly apparent and seen on many of the UK city centre streets, under many highways and by-ways. The term ‘objective’ relates to ‘a thing aimed at or sought a goal’, conjoin these two terms and in this case is where the needy become quite literally, served by some good.
Ezra McGowan of Hand and Heart Lodge No. 4109 and his brother Nathan, a former Freemason in a London lodge but soon to be a joining member of a West Lancashire lodge, through their travels have seen many situations in our city streets and in particular Manchester, Peterborough and London where people were and clearly still are, just living in tents and makeshift cardboard box homes or just sleeping rough and in fact quite destitute and many through no fault of their own.
Two years ago, Ezra along with his brother took an objective decision to try to support these unfortunate individuals and to give some support by way of warm food, warm clothing and in the really destitute circumstances what Ezra refers to as crisis packs which contain, a hat, gloves, sandwich, drink and male or female specific toiletries. Ezra initially purchased what he refers to as a burger van which he had inspected and passed by the authorities for distribution of hot soup and other food.
Between the brothers, they then set up trailers for use in the Manchester, Peterborough and London areas which is where they distribute today. They proudly display the square and compass on their trailers and on their hats, of which they are frequently asked about their significance to which Ezra responds it’s about helping others and helping people to realise themselves.
When Ezra was asked for his reasons and his experiences for their work, he said: 'I have been blessed in life with family and business; I have also been privileged to have the total enjoyment of support from within Freemasonry.' Ezra refers to his lodge as a wonderful friendly experience and he said it’s time he and his brother gave something back into society and he saw the homeless and those very much less fortunate people as a way to do exactly that.
Ezra’s experiences transmit quite a stark vivid realisation of what it is actually like to be in such a social disposition that affects all are all faiths. He estimates in his own experience that there are less than five women to every 50 males. There can be threatening situations and sees people having to move from location to location. He said that in one recent scenario a man and wife had lost their home, business and everything associated with family and were living in a derelict shop doorway – this is why he helps.
The brothers also assist in supplying provisions to local shelter homes and an outreach men’s home in Salford, Manchester and more recently supported both the local Women’s Institute and PROBUS meetings at Urmston Masonic Hall in providing coffee, tea, biscuits and chocolates.
Currently self-funded, Ezra along with his brother have recently set up a registered charity, numbered 1164359 which is called The Forget-Me-Not Trust and hope that any further donations they can obtain will assist those who are in dire need. They have a website too which is: http://theforgetmenottrust.org.uk
At a recent Hand and Heart Lodge Christmas ladies to dine evening, a presentation of £50 was donated towards the charity and a forget-me-not raffle raised a further £110 with a further donation of £20 from a very moved lady, Ezra responded by thanking the lodge members and their ladies for such fine support saying he was most humbled and quite taken by the support and said that the donation will go such a long way in feeding a lot of people on these forthcoming, cold winter nights.
Hospitality with a capital ‘H’ started for the 46 visiting brethren from six Provinces (some of whom had their wives and partners with them), when they were picked up at the airport or ferry office and driven to their respective hotels where a welcome pack was waiting for them
The pack contained a welcome letter from Keith Dalrymple the Provincial Grand Master for the Isle of Man, which gave details of the plan for the ladies to go to Milntown House for a tour of the beautiful walled garden, followed by a buffet supper, while the brethren attended the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting.
Details were also given about the church service at St George’s Church on Sunday afternoon, followed by afternoon tea at Freemasons' Hall in Douglas. All of which had timings for the minibuses to pick up and drop off everyone at the venues and return to their hotels!
After settling in to their hotel Fred Wright, Mark Holloway, Tony (APrGM) and Linda Bent were picked up by two long-time friends of Fred’s: Alan Fielding and Hughie McCallon to go for lunch. After lunch they returned to their hotel to get ready for PrGL and the trip to Milntown House.
Provincial Grand Lodge was tyled and the parade consisting of a number of Provincial Grand Masters and their deputies and APrGMs from surrounding Provinces on the adjacent isle. (Not the mainland as any Manx man will tell you). On opening Provincial Grand Lodge, Keith thanked all the visiting brethren and asked each of the Provincial Grand Masters to stand with their officers and brethren. After everyone had been introduced, the brethren from the Isle of Man showed their appreciation of those attending the meeting with acclamation.
Keith then invited Fred Wright to stand as he said he and the brethren in the Isle of Man very much appreciated all the care and attention Fred has given to the brethren and their wives or partners on the island over many years when they need to come across for cancer treatment at Clatterbridge Hospital and heart treatment at Broadgreen Hospital. The Provincial Grand Almoner of the Isle of Man Laurie Henley readily contacts Fred when one of the brethren or wife or partner is due over for treatment and Fred is the welcoming smile that is always there to greet them and attend to the needs of the patient and his or her spouse in making sure that they are transported to and from hospital and if necessary to find accommodation. The brethren clearly agreed as they responded with prolonged acclamation.
After the investiture of his officers, Keith went on to appoint and promote the brethren and it was a delight to see them receive their honours.
The next day the visitors were invited by Alan Fielding to join him for a tour of the island and a private tour of the Manx Parliament by Alex Downey, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the IOM and past member of the House of Keys.
The Tynwald is the oldest parliament in the world. The Manx Parliament, which meets regularly throughout the year, but most notably outdoors at St John's on 5 July, is a direct legacy from our Viking ancestors. Norsemen first came to Mann around the year 800 AD and ruled the island for four-and-a-half centuries before finally ceding it to the King of Scotland in 1266. By then they had firmly imposed their own administrative system, which continued even while the island's ownership passed between Scotland and England, to the Stanley family of Lancashire (Lords of Mann from 1405-1736) and to their kin the Dukes of Atholl, who held it until it was revested in the British Crown in 1765. King George VI was the first British Sovereign ever to preside at St John’s in July 1945 and Her Majesty The Queen is acknowledged as Lord of Mann, she presided in 1979 when the Millennium of Tynwald was celebrated.
After the tour, Alan took brethren from West Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland to Peel, a harbour town in the south of the IOM where they enjoyed eating ice creams on the pier and having a jolly good laugh, then it was back to the hotels for a quick change before being picked up by one of the minibuses driven by Alan Fielding and Martin Blackburn (PrGSecretary) to go the Keith’s house where his wife Hillary had prepared a wonderful buffet for the visitors, Hospitality with a capital ‘H’.
The following morning offered time for the visitors to enjoy a walk along the sea front before attending the church service, followed by afternoon tea at Freemasons Hall in Douglas.
For some, this was the time to say farewell and thank you to Keith and Hillary and the brethren on the Isle of Man for their Hospitality with a capital ‘H’.
Looking forward at Manchester Eye Hospital
Manchester Royal Eye Hospital Charity has received a major donation from the Province of East Lancashire, supplemented by a grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. Totalling £125,000, the funds are for the Hospital’s Eye Bicentenary Charity Appeal to improve treatment, research and care at the Children’s Outpatient Clinic.
The donation will contribute to the purchase of a state-of-the-art DNA sequencer, which will help improve diagnosis for inherited eye diseases and provide a vital tool for researchers seeking to better understand the genetic basis of eye disease. The donation will also enable a Children’s Eye Clinic liaison officer to be appointed, to provide support to patients and their families.
Specialist care for Parkinson’s
People living with Parkinson’s in East Lancashire now have access to a specialist nurse thanks to a £90,000 donation from the Grand Charity. Parkinson’s can make simple, everyday activities difficult for the 127,000 people in the UK living with the condition.
The main symptoms are tremors, rigidity and slowness of movement, but tiredness, pain and depression are also common. There is currently no cure; the main treatment is medication, but surgical options are available for some. Parkinson’s UK chief executive Steve Ford said, ‘Parkinson’s is a complex condition which affects each person differently, so it’s vital people have access to a specialist. This new post will make a huge difference.’
For information and support, contact Parkinson’s UK: 0808 800 0303, www.parkinsons.org.uk
Technology boost for the blind
Henshaws Society for Blind People has received a £50,000 grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to support its assistive technology programme across its college and centres in Manchester, Merseyside, Harrogate, Knaresborough and Newcastle.
The society gives expert support and training to anyone affected by sight loss and other disabilities, and the grant will help to provide a wireless network at its college, as well as broadband in the community houses. The funds will also subsidise the salary of the assistive technology coordinator over three years. Henshaws’ chief executive, Nick Marr, said, ‘The support committed by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity will make a huge difference to the lives of our college students.’
Sir David Trippier, East Lancashire Provincial Grand Master, said, ‘I am delighted that we are supporting Henshaws. It is a wonderful college.’
Helping Freemasons and their dependants to access the financial, healthcare and family support available to them from the masonic charities, Freemasonry Cares was the subject of a joint forum meeting. It was presented by the Province of East Lancashire to almoners, charity stewards and invited guests, including the Grand Charity’s chief executive Laura Chapman, RMBI chairman James Newman and Ecclesholme RMBI home manager and warden Bev Niland.
Laura spoke of the financial and other help available to Freemasons and their dependants, while James presented the structure of the RMBI, including Festival funding, and offered assistance regarding accommodation in the homes should it be required. The event was supported by Provincial Grand Master Sir David Trippier.
A friend in need
The RMBI needs continuous financial support to carry out its invaluable work
The RMBI helps around 400 older Freemasons and their dependants each year, supporting people who are unable to pay full care fees. Whether they have run out of personal savings or receive local authority support that covers only part of the total cost of their care, the RMBI can make up the shortfall, providing charitable support to the value of around £5 million a year.
Most of this amount is received from the funds raised by RMBI festivals, as well as through generous donations from individuals and voluntary groups. This invaluable financial support ensures that they are able to continue helping those in need.
Recent outstanding contributions include the very successful Walk the Province initiative that was set up as part of the East Lancashire 2015 RMBI Festival, which many local masons have participated in. The festival has raised over £1 million for the RMBI and hopes to exceed this over the coming years.
The Friends of the RMBI is a small group of Freemasons who, for over 30 years, have been raising money specifically for the Good Neighbour Fund, and through their efforts, and the generosity of the fraternity, have raised £565,392 to date. The Fund is used primarily to provide holidays for recipients of a relief grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. It can also be used on a discretionary basis to assist those in immediate need.
During his year as President of the Friends of the RMBI, Buckinghamshire Provincial Grand Master Gordon Robertson has seen donations to the charity reach a record £50,000.
He explained: ‘Our role has been to encourage members to organise events and inspire everyone to be as generous as possible. This fantastic amount will enable the fund to continue to help those whose lives have been changed in many ways.’
East Lancashire Province is doing a great job of raising money for the 2015 RMBI Festival thanks to Freemasons Steve Grummett and Ryan Yates. Steve will be completing the Three Peaks Challenge over the weekend of 22-24 June 2012. This involves tackling the three highest peaks in the home nations: Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales.
Meanwhile, Ryan will be completing a 12-mile assault course set by UK ex-Special Forces members. Participants need to run, swim, climb, crawl, and have to suffer being electrocuted and burned along the way. As a serving soldier with two tours of Afghanistan behind him we are sure that he is up to the challenge.
Freemasons pay tribute to retiring Grand Charity president Grahame Elliott’s ‘dedication and vision’, while welcoming his successor, Richard M Hone
Grahame Elliott, CBE, retired as president of the Grand Charity on 25 April 2012, and has been succeeded by Richard Hone, QC. The new president first joined the Council of the Grand Charity in 1997, initially serving for nine years during which time he was chairman of the Finance Committee and was instrumental in bringing about a major revision of the charity’s constitution. After a gap of five years, Richard’s re-appointment in June 2011 was much welcomed by the other council members. Initiated in Apollo University Lodge in 1968, he is a senior circuit judge at the Central Criminal Court in London.
Grahame Elliott has served on the council for the past nine years, the first three as a member appointed by the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire, whose Province held the charity’s festival in 2004.
As president, Grahame has led the charity with much dedication and vision. He has joined with the other presidents of the central masonic charities to develop a closer working relationship, made easier by the charities’ move into Freemasons’ Hall. The Council of the Grand Charity wishes both Richard Hone and Grahame Elliott much success for the future.