From Alzheimer’s and diabetes to prosthetic limbs, local medical research projects have been chosen by Freemasons across the UK to receive grants of up to £100,000. Peter Watts finds out how the voting worked
In 2015, the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) decided to mark its 25th anniversary with an unprecedented exercise. It created the Silver Jubilee Research Fund, worth £1 million, to distribute to medical research charities and then invited masons across the UK to vote for the organisations they felt should receive a share of the funds. Charities were divided regionally so Freemasons could choose from those based locally to them.
‘It’s the first time any of the masonic charities have been proactive in this way,’ says John McCrohan, Grants Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the MSF. ‘We are conscious of the support we get from the masonic brethren and wanted to get them more actively involved in choosing who we would offer support to.’
Such was the success of the project that in September 2015 the MSF announced that following votes from more than 5,000 Freemasons in 10 regional areas, 13 charities from across the UK would receive a combined £1.13 million. With masons from all over England and Wales allowed to vote, charities receiving grants included Alzheimer’s Research UK in Oxford, Tenovus Cancer Care in Cardiff and Yorkshire Cancer Research in Sheffield. ‘It really helped people to get engaged because it was happening on their doorstep, so was something they could have a view on,’ says McCrohan of the voting process.
Causes close to home
George Royle, Provincial Grand Almoner in South Wales, where Tenovus Cancer Care has been awarded £89,000, echoes McCrohan’s sentiments. ‘We liked the fact members could vote, and were behind the process from the start. Tenovus is a household name in Wales and has been going since 1943 when 10 businessmen set it up in order to fund projects across the local area,’ he says of the charity, which will use its grant to research immunotherapy treatment.
‘It is based in Cardiff but has mobile units that save a lot of travelling for people who live in the Valleys.’
Every charity that applied for funding had to go into detail about the research it was planning, which was then analysed by the MSF board of experts.
‘We began by approaching every charity that was a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), which is around 130 charities,’ says McCrohan. ‘We wrote to each one, inviting them to apply and letting them know we were looking to support high-quality medical research. That meant they already met a very high standard in terms of peer review and evaluation.’
Just over 60 charities applied, and the MSF panel shortlisted 30 for the ballot, to be voted on by Freemasons. As well as drawing applications from a range of areas – from combating cancer and heart disease to designing prosthetic limbs – the MSF wanted to involve charities from across the country. ‘That was the unknown,’ says McCrohan. ‘We could have received all our applications from Oxford and London, two of the established centres of excellence, but we got applications from far and wide – Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff. We had enough numbers to break it up regionally, which meant masons could vote for charities that were either based locally or had research taking place in their region.’
The power of engagement
McCrohan was pleased at the way masons responded to the initiative, particularly as the entire process took place electronically, via email, newsletters and links to websites where masons could read about how the charities intended to use the grants. ‘We wanted to challenge the perception that because Freemasons are an older generation, they might not engage with online information,’ he says.
The Jubilee fund has also raised awareness of the work that the MSF undertakes to help masons and non-masons alike. ‘Our non-masonic medical research complements the support that we give to individual masons with their health and care needs,’ says McCrohan. ‘The hope is that our support of medical research will benefit the whole of society and not just the masonic community.’
Allan Peates is Provincial Grand Almoner for Oxfordshire, where a grant of £100,000 has been awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK. He points out how the Jubilee fund is a chance for the MSF to talk publicly about its work. ‘The MSF does a brilliant job with individual masons and their families, but a lot is unseen because people don’t always like to admit they received a grant,’ he says. ‘If you need a procedure the MSF will fund it, but the recipient won’t necessarily want people to know where the money came from.’
Allan is delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK came top of the Jubilee poll in his region. ‘We had 62 per cent of people in our area vote for the Alzheimer’s research project,’ he says. ‘Alzheimer’s has to be at the top of our priorities, along with prostate cancer, and the charity is going to use the money to try and develop a blood test for early detection.’
As a result of the Jubilee fund, the MSF has raised its profile among the medical research community, and McCrohan hopes this will bring rewards further down the line. ‘We’ve become more aware of the research that is going on and more connected to that community. We want to be well known within the funding sector so people can come to us.’
Above all though, McCrohan hopes that masons will get involved in similar enterprises. ‘We are privileged to be entrusted with their funds and it’s only right we consult them on how they are distributed. It’s a model we’d like to repeat in the future. There are a lot of Freemasons who will never come to Great Queen Street in London, so their experience of Freemasonry is a very local one. This allows them to contribute to the way the charities based in London operate. Hopefully that’s been a positive experience.’
Striking the right chord
Freemasonry Today caught up with renowned musician Thomas Trotter as he practised on the Grand Temple’s newly refurbished pipe organ for its inaugural concert
The pipes of the Grand Temple organ positively gleam as Thomas Trotter runs through the programme for a special concert to be held in the Temple the next day. The organ’s restoration has used enough gold leaf to cover the surface of a tennis court and introduced a new organ chamber in the centre of the Temple’s east wall. As he practises, Trotter’s hands dance over the three manuals while his feet expertly work the pedals beneath to create an epic sound from Bach’s Toccata in F.
The concert will not only be the culmination of the organ’s refurbishment but also the first of many celebratory events linked to the 2017 Tercentenary. One of Britain’s most widely admired musicians, Trotter is looking forward to playing to a full house: ‘The Grand Temple is a unique space, it’s incredibly plush and sumptuous. The carpets dampen the sound quite a lot so I’m going to have to work hard.’
A grand history
The organ was built by Freemason Henry Willis III for the inauguration of the Grand Temple in 1933.
It included numerous state-of-the-art developments that Willis had adopted following visits to the US, many of which were designed to help the instrument cope with its setting: a modern, efficiently heated building. Some 80 years of accumulated wear, however, threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes.
Thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, organ builders Harrison & Harrison of Durham have been able to restore the instrument to its former glory, retaining its console, mechanism and pipework. The projection and presence of the sound has been markedly improved by giving a greater degree of opening to the expressive swell enclosures, within which much of the pipework is situated, and also by removing heavy fabric hangings from the east wall.
‘The curtaining would have soaked up the sound like a sponge. Now with the marble walls exposed, the sound is reflected off into the hall. It’s like having your windows cleaned – before it would have been a bit musty and unfocused,’ says Trotter. ‘I’m thrilled that people are still spending money on their instruments and buying new ones. There are far fewer organ builders than there were 50 years ago, but the standard is as high as it’s ever been.’
‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’ Charles Grace
Past in tune with present
The refurbishment has seen the addition of a new case on the east wall, clad to match the original design. It contains a chorus of five stops, balanced to augment rather than dominate the Willis sound, and a solo stop for special occasions – the Grand Tuba. ‘In the recital I’m going to use some of the old pipes and compare it with the new stops, which have made a big difference and are quite striking.’
The Grand Temple is in good company, with the organs at Westminster Cathedral and Liverpool Cathedral also built by Henry Willis III. ‘Every organ is different, but there are certain characteristics that follow through all the Henry Willis III organs and I can hear them here,’ says Trotter. ‘There’s a certain brightness about some of the stops that are representative of what Willis was doing in the 1930s.’
As the audience take their seats in the Grand Temple the next day, there is an almost palpable sense of expectation about how the organ will sound. With Trotter hidden behind the organ, a camera positioned behind his shoulder will stream his performance onto the wall of the Temple for the audience to see. He does not disappoint.
‘I was very pleased with the way the concert was received,’ says Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple organ restoration. ‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’
In addition to performing pieces by Bach and masonic composers Mozart and Liszt, Trotter plays Reginald Goss-Custard’s Chelsea Fayre. It’s a fitting nod to the instrument’s proud history, with Goss-Custard’s brother Harry the recitalist at the opening of the Temple organ in 1933.
Thomas Trotter has performed as a soloist with conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink and the late Sir Charles Mackerras, among many others. He regularly gives recitals in venues such as the Berlin Philharmonie; Leipzig’s Gewandhaus; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna; and London’s Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls. In 2012 he was named International Performer of the Year by the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016
Among your readers there may be many who enjoyed the inaugural organ concert given by Thomas Trotter last September.
This year, again as part of the UGLE Tercentenary celebrations, there will be two further hour-long concerts.
The first will take place at 5pm on Wednesday, 8 June, featuring Ian Tracey, organist at Liverpool Cathedral, in a wide-ranging programme.
As before, you will be able to see what the organist is doing, with a filmed display on the walls of the Grand Temple. Tickets (for which there is no charge) can be booked at https://goo.gl/zHW67w, and I do hope that many will take advantage of what should be another great occasion.
Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple Organ, Freemasons’ Hall, London
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains why Armistice Day should be a moment when we remember all the masons who have given their lives in times of conflict
Armistice Day commemorates those who gave their lives in two World Wars. To mark the occasion, a poppy wreath was laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to the Grand Temple. It sits in front of the casket that holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.
I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine that is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.
As a memorial, it was intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes. Time and economics, as well as the fact that the building is now Grade II* listed, have gradually led to it being opened for non-masonic events and filming.
I would assure you, however, that our excellent in-house events team takes great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud and that is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.
On Armistice Day we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many thousands of our members who gave their lives during World War Two and other conflicts that have taken place since then. I believe that on Armistice Day, we stand to remember those who sacrificed their lives to preserve those ideals that have allowed Freemasonry to flourish.
‘On Armistice Day we remember not only those in whose name Freemasons’ Hall was raised but also the many thousands of our members who gave their lives during World War Two.’
Moment of opportunity
In his new role as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder explains how his appetite for change has steered a distinguished career in accountancy and the City
How did you become the managing partner at Kingston Smith?
I took articles at Kingston Smith when it was a small accountancy firm, as most were in 1968. I was asked to look after our Hayes office in 1973 for a couple of weeks, as the manager they’d put in wasn’t working out. Two weeks became a month and by late 1973 I was running the office, becoming one of five partners in 1974. In 1979 the then senior partner became ill and I took over running the firm. We were seven partners at the time, then merged with another firm and became 11. It’s been pretty successful: we’re client focused, have a good niche in the market and are in the top 20 firms in the UK.
Are you proud of your career?
I never use the word ‘pride’. I always think that’s a bit pompous, a bit self-satisfied, and tends to come before a fall. I’m happy with the way we’ve grown the firm. Of course, I could have done some things better but we’ve avoided major pitfalls. I think we’re respected and we’ve always focused on our clients.
How did you come to Freemasonry?
I was a member of The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers, which has an associated lodge, so I joined because a good number of my friends were members. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand but I thought, why not? When you join Freemasonry, you go through the degrees and it all slowly unfolds. However, it didn’t really mean an enormous amount to me until I went into the chair some years later – then it all started to come together and I began to really understand. I like the symmetry of it, I like the ritual, and however busy I am in business and public life, I always attend some meetings.
Are you ambitious?
I’ve been dedicated but I haven’t been on a mission. When most of we baby boomers were born after the war it didn’t matter what strata of society you were from, there wasn’t a lot to go around. We grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.
Has the City changed?
It used to be like a big club, but since the Big Bang [in 1986] there are more international players, more regulations. But it’s always been a level playing field.
I believe that perhaps the reason the City has been so successful over the centuries is because anyone in the world can come here to trade and expect the same treatment. I think that’s important.
Could you work anywhere else?
I love the City of London – I think it’s a wonderful place. I like its cosmopolitan nature, the diversity and the fact that it’s the centre of the international business world. I started doing things for the City 30 years ago because I wanted to give something back, and I was asked to stand for election to the City of London’s Court of Common Council.
‘As a baby boomer, I grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.’
Are you a reformist?
Before I led the City of London Corporation it ran like a sort of federation of states, with each department reporting only to its committee, not to the CEO, so we changed that and brought it together as one organisation. When I became policy and resources chairman, I didn’t have an office, didn’t have a meeting room, no staff – it was impossible to run, so I put the necessary support in place.
I felt that we couldn’t just be insular in London, so we opened an office in Brussels to engage with the EU, as well as opening offices in Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing to connect with two of the powerhouses of the future. We also engaged with the surrounding and deprived areas of London and were at the forefront of the Academy schools initiative.
There was considerable change but I wasn’t trying to kill tradition; I was introducing direction and modernity to how things worked. We decided the City needed buildings fit to house the world’s leading financial businesses, rather than the City becoming a museum, so we changed the planning policy and some of London’s best buildings are now here.
Do you seize opportunities?
Yes, I have always tried to make the best of opportunities that come my way. I like to get things running properly and I’m driven by fairness. If I see something unjust I can’t stand it and I have to try to resolve the situation. It’s been an exciting journey. My wife’s bugbear is about me learning to say no.
I’m trying, and I think I’m a good delegator.
What keeps you in the Craft?
I do like the Craft, not only its good spirit but also the charity side. It’s incredible what masons do in terms of giving. Take the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys’ support of Lifelites, which contributes to all of the children’s hospices in the country, or the London Freemasons who are raising £2 million for an Air Ambulance. The London members of the Craft and Royal Arch add up to something like 45,000, which is a significant proportion of Freemasonry in England, but it’s not an enormous number of people when you look at the amounts of money they raise.
How do you feel about becoming Metropolitan Grand Master?
When I was approached I was flattered and somewhat apprehensive. I admire [the outgoing Metropolitan Grand Master] Russell Race, he’s done a fantastic job and has steered London rather astutely from an embryonic concept into a strong, viable organisation. Russell’s had an excellent team, but you’ve also got to recognise the contribution made by the hundreds of Freemasons in London who have been involved in Metropolitan’s activities.
What are your aims for the role?
I like to get things working smoothly and I see my appointment as an opportunity. We have nearly 1,870 lodges and chapters in the Metropolitan area, so considerable organisation is needed to lead and support them. I want every volunteer in every role to be able to undertake their masonic duties while still being fully involved in their family and professional lives. Some masons who are retired may wish to start meetings early and finish early, whereas those who are working in their careers will need meetings to start later; we need to accommodate both.
Freemasonry is an interesting hobby that needn’t take over from family life or earning a living. It can help develop the skills and confidence that serve us well in our careers, as well as provide fellowship and a network of friends.
As Commonwealth nations mark the armistice signed to end the First World War, Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, traces the origins of Freemasons’ Hall
While the peace treaties after the First World War were still being negotiated in Versailles, following the armistice on 11 November 1918, the United Grand Lodge of England began preparations for its own masonic peace celebration in London. In June 1919, guests from lodges in Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, New Zealand and England enjoyed a week of activities, including visits to the masonic schools and the Houses of Parliament. A peace medal was issued to those who attended the special Grand Lodge meeting on 27 June at the Royal Albert Hall.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, was unable to attend, but he asked Lord Ampthill, the Pro Grand Master, to read a series of messages. One of these spoke of ‘a perpetual memorial’ to ‘honour the many brethren who fell during the war’. For the Grand Master, ‘The great and continued growth of Freemasonry amongst us demands a central home; and I wish it to be considered whether the question of erecting that home in this metropolis of the empire… would not be the most fitting peace memorial.’
With individual lodges considering what form their own memorials should take, the issue was raised at the Grand Lodge meeting in September 1919. Charles Goff from Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge, No. 12, asked if consideration had been given to other forms of memorial – particularly a fund to support Freemasons wounded during the war or their dependants. Charles also asked whether a major building project should proceed at a time of housing shortage. Although several lodges and Provinces decided to support local hospitals, Grand Lodge elected to proceed with its new temple.
In January 1920 details of the campaign to raise funds for the new building were distributed to lodges and individual members. The target was £1 million, giving the campaign its name – the Masonic Million Memorial Fund. Contributions were to be marked by the award of medals. Members who contributed at least 10 guineas (£10.50) were to receive a silver medal and those who gave 100 guineas (£105) or more, a gold medal. Lodges that contributed an average of 10 guineas per member were to be recorded in the new building as Hall Stone Lodges and the Master of each entitled to wear a special medal as a collarette. By the end of the appeal, 53,224 individual medals had been issued and 1,321 lodges had qualified as Hall Stone Lodges.
A design by architects HV Ashley and F Winton Newman was chosen and building work started in 1927. Construction began at the western corner of the new building, where houses on Great Queen Street had been demolished, and progressed eastwards.
The new Masonic Peace Memorial, as it was called, was dedicated on 19 July 1933. The theme of the memorial window outside the Grand Temple was the attainment of peace through sacrifice. Its main feature was the figure of peace holding a model of the tower façade of the building. In the lower panels were shown fighting men, civilians and pilgrims ascending a winding staircase towards the angel of peace.
In June 1938, the Building Committee announced that a memorial shrine, to be designed by Walter Gilbert, would be placed under the memorial window. Its symbols portrayed peace and the attainment of eternal life. It took the form of a bronze casket resting on an ark among reeds, the boat indicative of a journey that had come to an end. In the centre of the front panel a relief showed the hand of God in which rested the soul of man. At the four corners stood pairs of winged seraphim with golden trumpets and across its front were gilded figures of Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George.
In December 1914 Grand Lodge had begun to compile a Roll of Honour of all members who had died in the war. In June 1921, the roll was declared complete, listing 3,078 names, and was printed in book form. After completion of the memorial shrine, the Roll of Honour, with the addition of over 350 names, was displayed within it on a parchment roll.
The Roll of Honour was guarded by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Flying Corps). By the time all these memorials were complete, the country was already in the midst of another war. Freemasons’ Hall continued to operate during that Second World War and survived largely undamaged so that it can be visited today.
As Freemasonry searches for new ways to build membership, Sarah Holmes learns what insights were revealed at an innovative light blue clubs’ conference
On a crisp Saturday in late October, young Freemasons from across the country congregated at London’s Freemasons’ Hall. The event was the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference, organised to share knowledge and best practice about how to keep the next generation of masons engaged with the Craft.
Testament to the growth of ‘light blue’ clubs within Freemasonry, the conference was hosted by the Connaught Club, whose Chairman Mitchell Merrick-Thirlway is a strong advocate of the need to support Freemasons after they have joined a lodge. As rites of passage go, initiation is a definitive milestone for a mason. ‘I couldn’t sleep for a whole week before mine,’ admits Mitchell, who joined Lodge of Candour, No. 7663, in 2010. ‘The ceremony was beautiful. I couldn’t have been more excited to start learning about this ancient Order.’
When Mitchell discovered that his lodge wouldn’t be meeting for another three months, however, he was understandably disappointed. ‘I imagined we’d be meeting every week, learning about different aspects of Freemasonry, its history and getting to know one another,’ says Mitchell. ‘Fortunately, my lodge secretary told me about the Connaught Club.
‘I went along to the Friday social and discovered a whole new side to Freemasonry.’
Launched at a reception held by Metropolitan Grand Lodge in 2007, the Connaught Club was formed as a social club for masons under 35 years old who were eager to engage in a more active brand of Freemasonry. ‘There are lots of masonic events and trips to get involved with. Just this October, 15 of us went to Dublin to visit the Grand Master’s Lodge to witness a First Degree,’ says Mitchell.
‘I’ve experienced so much more of Freemasonry because of the Connaught Club,’ he continues. ‘The guys are constantly bouncing ideas off each other on Facebook, and inviting one another to their lodge meetings. It’s given me an outlet for the energy and excitement that I wanted to put into the Craft.’
Although a London-based social club, the concept has spread as far afield as Kuala Lumpur and South Africa, where ‘Connaught Clubs’ have also been formed. Today, the London club enjoys a membership of 284 Freemasons under 35 years old, with numbers on the rise. It even has its own lodge, Burgoyne Lodge, No. 902. In April 2015, just five years into his masonic career, Mitchell became Connaught Club Chairman.
‘The energy is one thing,’ says Mitchell. ‘But it’s also about meeting like-minded people. Brethren of a similar age can relate to each other’s lives more easily. The club is about complementing one’s Freemasonry, not replacing it.’
The need for this early support has become clear, as masonic social clubs are cropping up throughout the Provinces. The New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference heralded the first formal meeting for this national network. ‘It’s a chance for Provinces to exchange ideas, and share the lessons learned from the establishment of their clubs,’ explains Mitchell.
But it’s not just young masons who are benefiting. Light blue clubs give new masons of any age the support they need to get the most out of Freemasonry from day one. As founder of the Southampton Light Blue Club, Andy Venn appreciates the challenges of integrating new masons into the Craft. ‘I remember how daunting it was to come into a lodge full of established, older Freemasons,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t young myself – I was 43 coming in – but most of the brethren were between 60 and 80 years old.’ Thanks to the Southampton Light Blue Club, new members are now greeted at the door by brethren and officially introduced to the lodge.
A social structure
Regular social events have played an important role in easing new members and their families into masonic life. From an impromptu drink down the pub through to organised lodge visits and trips to places of masonic interest, the structure is informal and unpressured. Masons can get involved as often as they like, and events are scheduled to fit around family and work commitments.
‘So far this year, we’ve had three really successful breakfast meetings. We invited British Superbike rider Kyle Wilks to talk, and after that the actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played the bounty hunter Boba Fett in the Star Wars films,’ says Andy, adding that it was a talk by Lance Bombardier Gary Prout, who won the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his service in Afghanistan, that really struck a chord with the Southampton masons. ‘When one of his comrades was hit by an explosive device, Gary ran out under Taliban fire to administer first aid and attempt to rescue him,’ recalls Andy. ‘It was an amazing story. He had 40 or so Freemasons with tears in their eyes.’
Having shared the story of his light blue club at the conference, Andy hopes other Provinces will be inspired to establish their own. ‘New Freemasons are our future. They bring a lot of value to the Craft. If we don’t stop this steady drip of younger masons leaving, we’ll stagnate.’
Retention is one benefit, but many clubs also offer a taste of masonic life for prospective members of the Craft. ‘We’ve seen a number of membership applications come off the back of our informal drinks receptions,’ says Ben Gait from Cardiff, who helped found the Colonnade Club in 2015. ‘They work well because there’s no pressure attached.’
For Ben, the conference has been fundamental in demonstrating the importance of the clubs to the rest of Freemasonry, particularly Grand Lodge.
‘If you look historically, things have tended to filter down from Grand Lodge to the Provinces. But the fact that members have organised themselves and grown this network organically says something about the changing face of Freemasonry.’
Indeed, the light blue clubs are more than an excuse for having a pint; they are actively building an organisation that’s fit for the 21st century.
Holding a social event
Andy: ‘Every time I try to get an evening social event together it falls flat. But our breakfast meetings work a treat, because they don’t intrude on family plans for the weekend.’
Ben: ‘It’s important to try different types of events. We organised a dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet; it wasn’t the best-attended event, but the feedback we received gave us great ideas for the next one.’
Mitchell: ‘Charity events are a great way to unite people. This year, a group of us are rowing the length of the Thames on rowing machines to raise money for the mental health charity, Rethink.’
From the Grand Secretary
On behalf of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent to the Grand Master on the occasion of his 80th birthday. How fortunate we all are to have such a dedicated royal leader since his installation as Grand Master by the 11th Earl of Scarbrough on 27 June 1967.
Thank you to those readers of Freemasonry Today who have participated in the recent Membership Focus Group surveys. One of the results from your feedback has been the creation of a clear strategy to make sure there is a sound future for Freemasonry. This strategy has been agreed at the highest levels throughout the organisation and we now wish to share it with all our readers. You will find a copy of this strategy attached to this issue of the magazine.
I trust you will find it fascinating, and that it gives you added confidence for the future and your continued enjoyment of Freemasonry.
In this issue of the magazine, we find out how Freemasonry is helping to build confidence among our members. Our article on the first New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference at Freemasons’ Hall reveals a support network of light blue clubs that are helping initiates get the most out of Freemasonry from day one. We look at how these clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.
The values of Freemasonry proved vital for Arthur Vaughan Williams, who, following a car accident, went from peak physical fitness to being unable to control two-thirds of his body. In our interview with Arthur, he explains how Freemasonry helped him to re-engage with society and create a new life for himself. With a reinvigorated sense of self-belief, Arthur has learned how to fly and is carving out a successful career as a television presenter.
Also in this issue, London’s new Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder discusses what motivated him to modernise the City, not only the way it runs but also the business buildings that populate London’s skyline. Meanwhile, our feature on deaf communications organisation Signature shows how masonic support is aiming to put British Sign Language on the curriculum and open up the education system for deaf youngsters.
I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.
‘We look at how light blue clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.’
Recognised and valued
Whether you’re among those providing vital help or receiving it, caring will touch nearly everyone’s lives. Aileen Scoular finds that Freemasonry has been united in its support of carers for 25 years
Every day some 6,000 people become carers. Today there are around 6.5 million in the UK, and national membership charity Carers UK estimates that by 2037 more than nine million people will be in a caring role.
This means providing unstinting, unpaid support for a loved one, friend or neighbour who is older, disabled or seriously ill.
While some carers will have made a decision to provide care, for many the role will have presented itself gradually or unexpectedly, and they may struggle to balance caring with their own needs.
Of particular concern is the fact that the number of older carers is growing rapidly. ‘The Carers UK joint report with Age UK, Caring into Later Life, showed that there are now almost 1.3 million carers aged 65 and over in England and Wales – an increase of 35 per cent in 10 years,’ says Emily Holzhausen, director of policy, advice and information at Carers UK. ‘It was even more alarming to discover that the fastest-growing group of carers are those aged 85 and over.’ Around 87,000 octogenarians now care for a loved one, despite their own fragile health.
Young lives are affected, too. Carers Trust estimates that there are around 300,000 carers aged 16 to 24 in the UK, and some 13,000 of those are providing more than 50 hours of care a week, which makes it very difficult to work or go to college.
Thankfully for today’s carers, there is a network of dedicated caring charities. But the problem is that not everyone who provides care realises they are a carer, so it can be hard for such charities to reach those who most need their support. ‘People often have a picture of who a carer is and they find it hard to identify with that label,’ says Holzhausen. ‘Many carers simply don’t want to ask for help, often because they feel like it is their duty to care for their loved one.’
Help for those who help
Carers UK celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015 and is working with a network of volunteers and local community-based organisations – including masonic lodges – to help them understand how to reach, connect with and support carers in their community in the best way. However, they need funding to reach more carers with vital advice, information and support, which is why The Freemasons’ Grand Charity’s support of the caring sector is so important.
Over the past 25 years, the Grand Charity has donated more than £1 million to charities that specifically support carers, including a £250,000 donation to Carers UK back in 1990. Baroness Jill Pitkeathley OBE headed up Carers UK at the time and she described it as ‘one of the most significant events which took place on my watch as chief executive… allowing us to expand our branch network, increase our membership and expand our profile with the media. Carers everywhere owe the Grand Charity a debt of gratitude.’
‘Many Freemasons recognise the need for care, and for some it’s a topic that is becoming more relevant to their own lives,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Non-Masonic Grants at the Grand Charity. ‘It is reported that many carers are already living on the breadline so any welfare cuts take their financial situation to a critical level. The masonic community and our Grants Committee are passionate about supporting the caring sector.’
The Grand Charity has made sizeable donations to caring organisations in recent years. Crossroads Care, a UK-wide network of carers’ centres, received £125,000 over three years, allowing it to develop more branches. Contact a Family also benefited from £125,000 over three years, enabling it to establish a new regional structure in the north of England. Home Farm Trust (Hft), a charity for people with learning disabilities, used a £60,000 donation to fund a Carer Support Service. A conference for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (now merged with Crossroads Care to form the Carers Trust) was made possible with a £33,000 grant, allowing best practice to be shared across 118 independent care centres.
‘Unfortunately we receive far more applications for grants than we can support, and the number we receive is rising.’ Katrina Baker
The more you know…
Recently, the Grand Charity once again supported Carers UK with a £100,000 donation to help fund its national advice and information services, giving carers access to free guidance on the practicalities of caring, and information on their entitlements and rights. ‘It is a substantial donation for us, larger than most grants we give,’ explains Baker. ‘Unfortunately we receive far more applications for grants than we can support, and the number we receive is rising.’
Baker and her colleagues research the applications thoroughly, and present the Grand Charity Grants Committee with a shortlist from a broad spectrum of charitable sectors. ‘We always aim to be fair when selecting projects to support,’ she says. ‘It is also important to support causes that are of interest and relevance to the masonic community. We want them to be able to connect with the sectors and organisations we’re supporting.’
Not surprisingly, the charities that benefit from the Grand Charity’s donations are very grateful. ‘We hugely appreciate the support that has come from the Grand Charity over the past 25 years, and its current grant to help us develop our network of services,’ says Holzhausen. ‘We’re always keen to work with the masonic community, and we want them to know that our services are always there for them, too.’
Making life better
Margaret Dangoor, 75, regularly visited her mother in a Bath nursing home until her death aged 102, while also looking after her husband Eddie, who has Alzheimer’s, at home in Surrey. She explains how tough caring for loved ones can be
‘Sometimes people are so focused on the person they care for, they forget about their own well-being. Caring is a big role and it can be extremely daunting; many carers also feel very guilty. It’s not all negative, though – there can be a sense of community if you engage with the care environment. I’m a Volunteer Ambassador for Carers UK because I want to spread the word and reach those who might be caring alone.
‘For me, it’s poignant to see the Grand Charity supporting carers’ charities. My father was a member of Raymond Thrupp Lodge in Middlesex, and Lodge of Honour in Bath when he lived there. When my father was very ill during the last months of his life, the lodge in Bath was very helpful to my mother. She had early Alzheimer’s disease, and a member of the lodge took her to visit my father every day for several weeks.
‘She had no concept of what a commitment he was making and our family, who were all living at a distance, were extremely grateful.’
The personal impact
Being a carer affects people’s lives in many ways – not all of them predictable – as research from Carers UK reveals
According to a report by Carers UK, two million people have given up work to care. More than a third of carers have also used up their holiday leave to provide care.
Caring can profoundly change the terms of a relationship. Having nursed each other through cancer on separate occasions, BBC Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker and his wife Tiggy are now patrons of the Carers UK 50th Anniversary appeal. ‘Caring pushed our relationship to the brink,’ he says. ‘It has left us with a deep understanding of how difficult and challenging caring for someone can be.’
Sometimes, family bonds can break down too. ‘At first, family can be very supportive but as time passes, that support can drop off,’ says Emily Holzhausen of Carers UK. Around 60 per cent of carers worry about the impact their caring role will have on their other relationships.
Caring has had a negative effect on the health of some 82 per cent of carers, according to Carers UK, and 41 per cent have experienced an injury or their physical health has suffered as a result of caring. Looking ahead, more than three quarters of all carers are concerned about the impact of caring on their own health in the next 12 months.
Feeling isolated is common among carers. Many don’t want to ask for help, and others are too exhausted – or cannot afford – to do anything except provide round-the-clock care. Eight in 10 carers say they have experienced loneliness and isolation as a result of their caring role, and over half have lost touch with friends or family.
Caring is costly and more than a third of all carers do not realise what benefits they are entitled to. Around 48 per cent cannot make ends meet, and 26 per cent have had to borrow money from friends or family to survive.
‘The personal impact’ statistics from Carers UK reports: State of Caring (2015); Alone and Caring (2015); Caring and Isolation in the Workplace (Carers UK and Employers for Carers, 2015)
Dorset career guidance
For the past two years, Dorset masons have been mentoring students at the Oak Academy LeAF Campus in Bournemouth. Over 12 sessions, they have provided assistance, guidance and support to sixth-form students, helping them to establish a pathway to achieve their goals.
One student stated, ‘For me it’s been a huge support mechanism. I had decided to follow a career path without looking at the bigger picture but the mentors explore every possibility with you.’
Gill Blanshard, executive principal, added, ‘I would like to thank the Dorset Freemasons for the invaluable support that has been given. Having the time to discuss and plan the next step is extremely important, and the mentors have brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to help guide and assist our students in the next phase of their lives.’
The Province of Dorset continues to support the school in many ways, demonstrating the vital role that Freemasons can play in their community.
Sign of the times
With support from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, a new GCSE in British Sign Language could open up the education system for deaf young people, writes Glyn Brown
Communication is a major part of what makes life worth living. But it isn’t always easy. Some of us can find it hard to talk to others, to understand them and transmit what we want to tell them. But if you can’t hear, the difficulty can become far more pronounced.
There is currently a groundswell movement to break through the barrier between the hearing and the deaf. But whereas places such as Scotland and Scandinavia are opening up education by teaching and promoting the use – and understanding – of sign language in schools, England and Wales are lagging way behind, which means they are missing out on the potential talent and ability of a huge number of young people.
But someone is taking a stand. Founded in 1982, Durham-based charity Signature is now the leading awarding body for qualifications in deaf and deafblind communication techniques. In a radical move, it has drawn up and is piloting a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). Preparation has taken years, and the pilot is Signature’s next step in persuading the government that the qualification should be recognised.
The language of change
It was only in 1890 that the British Deaf Association was formed, and began advocating the use of (what was at the time revolutionary) sign language, alongside lip-reading. Suddenly, the deaf were becoming teachers and civil servants, editors and chemists. ‘Once there was a recognised form of communication, people started to realise not only that BSL was a language in its own right, with grammar and syntax, but that these people had just as much to say as hearing people,’ says Signature’s senior policy adviser Dan Sumners. ‘The turning point was when hearing people started to learn BSL and become interpreters.’
With Sweden, Finland and Norway offering sign language as part of the national curriculum, it seems out of step that BSL is currently only taught in deaf schools, community colleges or private organisations in England and Wales. Signature has tried for years to get BSL recognised as a language in its own right. Its first attempt to draft GCSE criteria in 2010 was never used, but the charity was undeterred, assembling a crack team of qualification experts, examiners and BSL teachers to draw up new GCSE content in 2014. ‘They were incredibly passionate, and relentless in making this a rigorous qualification,’ recalls Gillian Marshall-Dyson, Signature’s funding and projects coordinator.
With everything in place by July 2015, the GCSE was then offered to six schools to pilot. ‘The course provides all students with a good working knowledge of BSL,’ says Marshall-Dyson. ‘Not just that – young people love learning it. It’s physical, expressive, a totally new learning curve. They absolutely throw themselves into it.’
Making progress possible
But none of this could have been achieved without financial assistance. Researching funding, Marshall-Dyson noticed that the Freemasons have a great interest in helping children and young people, so an application for funding was submitted in late 2014. ‘On a day very early in 2015 I got into work, switched on my computer and saw an email that said, “We are pleased to be able to award you a grant of £18,000…” I was delighted to receive the news and share it with the rest of the office… In fact, the whole office came to a standstill. And I thought, how wonderful, now we really can forge ahead and bring in a brilliant team to put this groundbreaking qualification together.’
Michael Daws, a trustee of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, has high expectations: ‘The hope is that this GCSE can take pupils beyond survival skills and into having full conversations with each other in BSL. It could be a transformative experience. But what also struck a chord with me was hearing how learning BSL can sometimes be difficult for shy children because it’s so demonstrative – try putting yourself in a position where you’re using your facial expressions and your body to talk. But learning to overcome that reticence, in a GCSE class, could help with confidence in so many ways.’
Of course, it is early days. As Sumners explains, the GCSE will be tweaked and streamlined during regular meetings of the Signature team and the pilot schools, ‘so we can make the specification as robust as possible’. Above all, the GCSE needs to be recognised by the regulating body Ofqual; only then can it be offered officially, and in all schools.
‘The first aspect of this issue is acknowledging an individual’s human rights. But the second is asking why, if we want the UK to remain strong, we wouldn’t want to use the skills of everyone in this country?’ says Sumners. ‘Someone who’s grown up profoundly deaf has an entirely different view of the world to you or me, and it’s a view that’s not being made use of. It sounds grandiose – but developing this awareness could have ramifications that, at the moment, we can’t even imagine.’
‘Someone who’s grown up profoundly deaf has an entirely different view of the world, and it’s a view that’s not being made use of.’ Dan Sumners
With 11 million people in the UK having some degree of hearing loss, education for the deaf is a key issue
‘Achievement grades in education are much lower for deaf children,’ says Dan Sumners, Signature’s senior policy adviser. ‘In the past, kids either went the deaf school route – learning sign language, which was great for developing the deaf community but constituted a barrier with mainstream society – or down the lip-reading route, where they had to try to speak, even though they couldn’t hear.’
Those who were encouraged to lip-read tend to have a low reading age and can lip-read little better than the rest of us. Gillian Marshall-Dyson, Signature’s funding and projects coordinator, adds, ‘Many schools for the deaf are now being closed, and those children are sent to mainstream schools. They struggle and can’t get the education they need, so they slip behind.’
The best way forward, says Sumners, is a mixture of communication, which is what deaf teens increasingly use. ‘They may have hearing aids or cochlear implants, they may use some sign language and do some lip-reading. For years, the assumption was that the deaf were cognitively challenged, but being deaf just means you can’t hear; it says nothing about the rest of your abilities.’