Freemasons' Hall in Manchester held its official open evening on 15th January 2018 to celebrate its multi million-pound refurbishment

The grand evening included a drinks reception, tour of the centre, speeches from key personnel and the unveiling of the new Masonic plaque to commemorate the opening evening.

Guests in attendance included the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire Sir David Trippier, accompanied by his wife Lady Trippier, and the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, who officially opened the new Masonic Centre.

The majority of the building now hosts spectacular weddings, events and business meetings. However, the Freemasons have retained dedicated accommodation located on the 3rd floor.

A memorial dedicated to the Freemasons that made the supreme sacrifice and lost their lives in World War II has also been re-homed within the centre. The memorial was moved from the ground floor hall of the building and features an eternal light above as a standing tribute and focal area within the establishment.

The United Grand Lodge of England celebrated its Tercentenary in October 2017 and the official opening is a reflection on how Freemasons have adapted throughout the years, taking on a much more contemporary direction.

Ruislip St Martin’s Lodge No. 9125 in Middlesex is supporting a number of students at Brunel University in their research endeavours

The Lodge actively engages with research students, specialising not only in Medicine but also in Engineering to bring much needed improvements to peoples’ lives in the wider world. Brunel University are participants in the Middlesex Province Universities Scheme.

Over recent years, the lodge has been supporting students on a number of worthy projects, which has also gained support from the Middlesex Provincial Relief Fund. These have included:

  • The Medical Research faculty has undertaken research into finding a cure for Progeria; an extremely rare genetic disorder in which symptoms resembling aspects of ageing are manifested at a very early age in young children. The lodge has made several donations to this very important research.
  • Ugandan student Janna Deeble was keen to develop a wheelchair that would cover rough terrain in remote and poor communities in Africa and elsewhere. An initial donation from the lodge resulted in a further source of funding via Kickstarter which purports to be the world’s largest funding platform for design projects. So far in excess of £90,000 has been raised for SafariSeat.
  • Another project involving engineering design was the creation of a low-cost cart which would enable produce to be taken to market across rough terrain. Simplistic in concept but no doubt highly practical in situ.

A further two projects receiving support from Ruislip St Martin’s Lodge relate to water purification systems, which is essential in disease prevention and good health. These projects were undertaken in both Mexico and in the Cameroon:

  • In 2017, the lodge supported two students, Reece Kelly and Harry Stiles, who were looking to provide a cheap and effective water filtration system in Mexico City. This was by way of a donation of £1,300 from the Middlesex Provincial Relief Fund which assisted with the costs of air fares to Mexico. With Mexico City’s problem with water purity and the heavy dependence on water deliveries at exorbitant prices, these Brunel students developed a purification system which could be used to collect run off water which would be purified. This development of a filter system has already led to the idea being used as a prototype, which is being further tested by Isla Urbana, a local community organisation in Mexico City.
  • The lodge also sponsored student Matt McClampha, who has designed a solar disinfecting solution for pure quality water in the village of Bambui in the Republic of Cameroon.

Middlesex Freemasons are continuing to work with Brunel University and its students on a number of international community projects.

Published in Universities Scheme

Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have donated £22,595 to 19 local charities at a special awards ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, on 13th January 2018

The charities receiving the awards included those helping and assisting others in the local communities with disabilities, children who are deprived or have limited life expectancy and the elderly suffering from dementia.

Rainbows Children’s Hospice, based in Loughborough, received a total of £2,145 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Lodge of the Argonauts No. 8210 which meets in Leicester. Gary Farnfield, Leicestershire Community Fundraiser for Rainbows, said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for the wonderful donation. This money will help us to create special memories for families whilst they are with us.'

A £1,000 donation from the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association was also given to Shepshed-based Steps, a conductive education centre, which provides an innovative learning process for children with motor disabilities to develop in the same way as their able-bodied peers.

Camp Charnwood, based at Beaumanor Hall in Woodhouse Eaves, which provides five day holidays for Leicestershire youngsters aged between 7 and 16 with T1 Diabetes, also received a donation of £1,000.

The NHS charity Raising Health for the Advanced Dementia Care Wards at the Evington Centre received a donation of £1,500. 

Lindsay Woodward, the Charitable Funds Manager for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: 'Thank you so much to the Freemasons. We have two lovely courtyard areas which we wish to turn into dementia-friendly gardens including activity sheds which will engage a person and make them feel more calm and cope with their dementia.'

Step Out Youth Club, which operates in South Wigston, offers children different activities in a safe area, received a donation of £500 to provide new classes for cooking and growing vegetables to emphasise healthy eating. Carl Walters from Step Out said: 'Step Out has 60-80 kids at present from 8 to 16 years old and they are now learning how to cook healthily.'

Harborough Community Bus is a small charity local to Market Harborough which runs minibuses for community groups and certain individuals who would otherwise have some difficulty getting out. The charity received a donation of £1,000.

John Feavyour, Chairman and Trustee of the Harborough Community Bus, said: 'It costs about £12,000 per year to run the Community Bus including fuel and safety checks and all the rest of it. This donation will pay for a whole month.' 

Voluntary Action South Leicestershire, which is dedicated to improving  lives in the Harborough District and the wider community of Leicestershire, also received a £1,000 donation. Hannah Currington, Carers Delivery Officer, said: 'The group meets in Market Harborough, but because we are open to all of the Harborough District one of our main costs is transport. Lots of the kids live up to 12 miles out and if the voluntary drivers didn’t physically go and get them, they just wouldn’t be unable to come. This £1,000 will go largely to supporting the reimbursement of the voluntary drivers.'

Stathern-based Dove Cottage Day Hospice received an award of £500. Dove Cottage offers quality palliative day care to people living in north east Leicestershire, Rutland and south east Nottinghamshire to fund improved services. 

Chris Rowley, Charity Director of Dove Cottage Day Hospice, said: 'During the last 12 months, we have been running dementia workshops for both dementia sufferers and their carers. This donation is very gratefully received from the Freemasons which will go towards working with people with dementia.'

The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger said: 'Freemasons have always been deeply involved in charity; from its earliest days the organisation has been connected with caring for orphans, the sick and the elderly. We are thrilled to continue to support our local communities by making donations to these worthy charities.'

A remarkable Festival of Lodges took place at the Masonic Centre in Nairobi on 17th March 2018

The District Grand Master of East Africa Dr Virendra K. Talwar was present for the festival of 20 craft lodges and an event which took its place in the history of Freemasonry in the District Grand Lodge of East Africa. This was the largest ever festival of lodges of this magnitude to be held in East Africa.

Around 300 Freemasons were in attendance as they filled the Grand Temple, which included 24 different brethren from the participating lodges taking part in an Initiation Ceremony performed to the highest standard. 

All the participating acting officers were presented with Certificates of Participation by the District Grand Master and a present from the Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Nairobi No. 7187, Jinal Savla.

The District Grand Master then congratulated the Lodge of Nairobi for hosting the Festival as well as the participating lodges, and expressed hope that it would become a regular event in the District.

In the evening, nearly 400 Freemasons and guests were present to enjoy a spectacular Banquet and Ball, hosted by the Lodge of Nairobi.

Friday, 23 March 2018 15:16

Five generations of Freemasons in Dorset

Geoffrey James Blake has become the fifth generation of his family to become a member of Portland Lodge No. 1037 in Dorset

His heritage stretches back to 1908. His family have been members of the lodge unbroken since 1908 and have supported the lodge for a total of 152 years – with more to come.

Geoffrey's Great–Great Grandfather Joseph Stone was initiated into Portland Lodge in 1908. He served the lodge as Worshipful Master in 1919 and died a member in 1954. During his year as Master, he initiated his son, Lesley W G Stone (Geoffrey's Great–Grandfather), who remained a member until 1980.

Lesley's daughter Esme married George F J Blake (Geoffrey's Grandfather), who was initiated in 1972 and remained a member until his death in 1998. George's son Graham D Blake was initiated in 1979, served as Master in 1990 and proudly initiated his son Geoffrey into Portland Lodge, completing five generations.

The Past Provincial Grand Master of Dorset Harry Barnes was present and even sang the Initiates Song in the dining room after the Festive Board.

Kevin Abbiss from Portland's mother lodge, All Souls Lodge No. 170 in Weymouth, presented Geoffrey with a number of booklets and pamphlets from All Souls library that mentioned the family over the past century. A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all.

It was back to school for a party of Winslow Freemasons in Buckinghamshire when they attended the presentation of a specially adapted minibus at Furze Down School

Freemasons from the Eliot Hall Masonic Centre in Winslow, representatives of the Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund and the Lady Taverners gathered together to hand over the minibus to the school, situated on the edge of the town.

The minubus was funded by the Lady Taverners alongside a donation of £3,500 by Winslow Freemasons, who asked all their lodges and chapters to help contribute – which was then matched by the Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund to help raise £7,000.

Furze Down School, which has over 100 students with complex special educational needs between the ages of 2 and 19, admits students from a wide area of Buckinghamshire. The new minibus has special adaptations to enable wheelchair users to have access to it including a lift to the rear entrance doors and seats which can be reconfigured to allow several wheelchair users to travel securely. Previously, such students would have to travel separately from their more able- bodied classmates when out on trips and visits.

Despite the inclement weather, the students enthusiastically gathered for photographs during the handover to their Headteacher Alison Rooney. This was followed with a lively assembly in which the students thanked those present and all those who had worked to make it possible.

The children had also made cards to express their appreciation which were presented to representatives of Eliot Hall and the Centenary Fund.

Freemasons from both Cornwall and Devonshire Provinces have joined together to present a life changing state of the art mobility scooter to a young Freemason

Sean Mitchell-England, aged 33, who lives in Plymouth, is a young member of St. Stephen’s Lodge No. 9147 meeting across the Tamar Bridge in Saltash, Cornwall. Sean has been struggling with severe health issues over the last few years which rapidly progressed into exacerbated hyper mobility and fibromyalgia. In this extremely short space of time, Sean has gone from being a fit and healthy young man to literally being bed ridden due to the severe pain he has to endure each day.

Following the relentless dedication of John Pritchard, a local visiting volunteer on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the process for acquiring the funds from the MCF for the chair has been relatively straightforward. What has been difficult and quite a complicated process was to have the chair custom built to suit Sean’s specific needs. The chair, having cost almost £4,000, will without any shadow of doubt be an absolute life changer for Sean. Having already taken delivery of it and with a few days of practice, it’s already making a massive impact with his mobility.

Sean said: 'I cannot thank John Pritchard enough for his persistence in assisting me with my claim; he has worked tirelessly to aid me and my family. Now I have this marvellous chair it will enable my wife Dominique and my two young daughters Ophelia and Talulah the added benefit of quality family time with me. I now have the means of unhindered mobility.

'Without the help and assistance of the Masonic Charitable Foundation I honestly have no idea what we would have done. Having struggled to work due to my fatigue and illness my daily living costs spiralled out of all control and as the sole earner in the family with a new born baby, I soon became unable to repay my mounting debts. At first depression set in followed by additional health issues together with further incurred costs and additional debt, which resulted in my embarrassment of having to declare myself bankrupt. I was at the lowest point of my life and I honestly knew of no other options. Things also became so bad we had to sell our personal items of any real value just to live. At that time, we thought we had no one to help us, not even family members could assist, and we ended up being given care parcels by the local authorities.'

Hearing Sean and his family’s plight, David Sands, the Worshipful Master of St. Stephens Lodge, stepped in to offer some advice. Following a few meetings together with John Pritchard, along with a few essential emails and phone conversations, it wasn’t long before the Masonic Charitable Foundation offered assistance. The Masonic Charitable Foundation have also helped Sean with his application for his Personal Independence Payment, which he was unable to complete himself due to chronic fatigue and pain he suffered.

John Pritchard commented: 'On meeting Sean it was obvious to see he and his young family were in desperate need of help. Not only was Sean unwell but he was completely embarrassed by his situation and I knew we would do everything to assist. Having made the initial enquiry with the MCF it wasn’t long before a plan of action was in place. Following the initial assessment it was clear that funds were needed urgently, which included food and even school uniforms for the girls. The Masonic Charitable Foundation assistance was exceptional and a termly allowance was agreed which included some ballet lessons for Ophelia. In my opinion the support I’ve received in dealing with the case on behalf of Sean and his family has been outstanding.'

Graham Bennett, the Provincial Grand Almoner for Cornwall stated: 'The working relationship between the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire  have been outstanding. The bond we’ve struck up together for this application, greatly assisted by the United Grand Lodge of England was essential to ensure the smooth application process would be signed off without any delay. My sincere thanks go to the brethren from Devonshire who have helped create a perfect result for a serious problem. To meet Sean and see him with his mobility chair is very humbling and shows what an incredible charity the MCF is.'

Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Sean has seen numerous doctors and a rheumatologist who initially explained what long-term complications he might expect. He has also received many treatments and therapies, but none have really helped and only made the condition worse or more painful for him.

Dominique, Sean’s wife added: 'Our youngest daughter Talulah turns two years old in a couple of days and Sean has not really been out of the house with her, for virtually 95% of her life. We cannot begin to express what a difference this mobility chair is already making, it’s absolutely amazing. We are now able as a family to enjoy the simple task of going to the shops. To see Sean enjoy his mobility and independence after so long of not being able to do anything, is very emotional. To all those who have helped us, particularly the brethren and the MCF, we will be forever grateful. We have been given an amazing opportunity to grow as a family once again.'

To conclude, Sean insisted on the final word: 'I have given my story as my way of thanking the MCF and the people who have worked with me during the last few years, as they are our unsung heroes in my eyes and have made such a big impact on my hopeless situation. I am starting to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Freemasonry.'

Young adult carers in Buckinghamshire are being helped to overcome social isolation and improve their wellbeing, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to Carers Bucks

The £20,000 grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and will support the ‘Same Chances’ programme, designed to work with young people as they transition into adulthood and independence whilst continuing to provide unpaid care for an ill or disabled family member.

In the UK there are an estimated 700,000 young carers, 2,500 of them in Buckinghamshire. The Young Adult Carers service started in September 2015 with the target to support 50 young adult carers living in Buckinghamshire within the first 18 months. In just over two years, the Young Adult Carers team have connected with and supported double that figure within the county. 

Young Carers Bucks believe a young person who is the primary carer for a family member should not have fewer chances for further or higher education and employment compared with their peers.

The Young Adult Carers team help young people overcome the barriers they may be facing, while knowing the person they care for is safe and looked after. The team offer regular Life skills sessions, support worker drop in sessions, social meet ups, targeted group work and one to one support. There is also a Young Adult Carers steering group, which gives young people a voice to share their experiences with other young people and professionals.

Sally Mansi, Young Carers Service Manager at Carers Bucks, commented: 'We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant. It will support 80 young carers as they move into adulthood, giving them some of the same life choices and opportunities as their peers.'

Mike Clanfield, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Buckinghamshire, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to support the Carers Trust in Bucks who do hugely important work with young people who are the primary carers for ill and disabled family members. These young people deserve the same chances as everyone else.'

On the 22nd January, following much planning and armed with the necessary official clearances, 17 members of Holmesdale Lodge No. 874 in Royal Tunbridge Wells joined their Junior Warden Jean Baptiste Puyraud on a visit to a meeting of his French Lodge, Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 52 – held at the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) in Paris

The visitors were treated to exceptional hospitality throughout their visit. French brethren organised a lunch, ahead of an initiation ceremony worked in the Scottish Rite.

An exchange of gifts took place with Neil Scott, Worshipful Master of Holmesdale Lodge, presenting an engraved firing glass commemorating the occasion to Fabrice Huet, Worshipful Master of Benjamin Franklin Lodge. The English brethren each received a bottle of champagne bearing Benjamin Franklin Lodge’s own label.

The evening concluded with a reception and dinner in a Parisian restaurant where representatives of both lodges spoke. Many distinguished brethren were present including the Provincial Grand Master of the Ile de France Province Denis Martial and, representing the GLNF, Gérard Icart.

Holmesdale Lodge in the Province of West Kent is the oldest Lodge in Royal Tunbridge Wells and celebrated its sesquicentenary in 2012.

Benjamin Franklin Lodge was consecrated in 2005, reviving the name of a lodge formed in 1956 by Americans based in central France.

Published in International

As part of their annual support of Hospices throughout the country, Devonshire Freemasons have donated over £1,000 to Children’s Hospice South West’s Little Bridge House in Barnstaple, North Devon

The Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Ian Kingsbury presented a certificate denoting £1,083, given on behalf of the Devonshire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, to Ann Juby from the hospice.

Little Bridge House is one of three Children’s Hospice South West hospices offering home from home care and support for families across the South West region. Each hospice offers respite, emergency and end of life care for local children who are not expected to live until adulthood, as well as support for the whole family including a dedicated sibling service.

Devonshire Freemasons have been long-term supporters of Children’s Hospice South West and along with individual donations made by many of their 133 lodges that meet throughout the county and the MCF, together have donated over £100,000 to the hospice since it opened in 1995.

On receiving the certificate, Ann Juby, Trusts and Grants Fundraiser for the Hospice, said: ‘The Freemasons fundraising over the years for Children’s Hospice South West has been incredible and we are extremely grateful for the support.

'It costs £3.4 million each year to run our Little Bridge House hospice and these costs are met almost entirely by voluntary donations. Support such as this is vital to ensure that we can continue to make the most of short and precious lives well into the future. Our thanks to the Freemasons and the many Lodges who support us.’

Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury said: 'It is always very sad when a child is taken from us without ever having the chance to reach their potential. If in some way we as Freemasons can contribute to their care at this moment in their short lives, then we can continue to hope that one day cures can be found.

'It was wonderful to meet some of the people who give so much of their time and energy in caring for the children.’

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