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.'
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.’
Over 50 Freemasons from the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire assembled in the Cornish seaside resort of Bude for the annual installation meeting of Granville Chapter
The members and guests were delighted to be able to welcome the leaders of both provinces, David Pascoe from Cornwall and Simon Rowe from Devon. The Masonic Hall was packed to near capacity to witness the installation of E Comp Charles Yelland as MEZ of the Chapter.
Also elected and installed to serve alongside him for the next 12 months were Derek Prouse as H and Mike Johns as J. This is the second year running that three companions living in Devon have held the top offices in a Cornish chapter.
After their installation, the Principals appointed and invested their team of officers to work with them. The appointments always include a Secretary, Treasurer, Charity Steward and an Almoner, and these posts were filled by Keith Taylor, John Weller, Mike Johns and Barrie Rose respectively.
After the main meeting, a celebration dinner was held in the refectory and a toast was proposed to the three newly installed Principals. The MEZ replied on behalf of the Principals, and thanked everyone for attending and supporting a very special and happy occasion in the life of Granville Chapter.
A raffle and bottle draw was also held during the meal and raised £310 for Masonic charities.
Eight Devonshire charities benefited from a series of special MCF Community Awards from Devonshire Freemasons after an unprecedented public vote, with 178,801 people in England and Wales participating
The MCF Community Awards are a major part of UGLE’s 300th anniversary celebrations. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is distributing £3 million to 300 charities across the country, with the public vote deciding on the level of awards, which range from £4,000 to £25,000.
Presentations to the charities were made in September at a special ceremony in Plymouth by Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Find out more about the thinking behind the MCF Community Awards here.
The final journey of the Provincial Tercentenary travelling banner made its way through Cornwall on Saturday 14th October, terminating with a Civic Parade through the streets of St. Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly
The Provincial travelling banner has been specially designed by all eight Provinces that make up the South West region. Each of these Provinces have enjoyed being the custodian of the banner throughout its entire journey arriving at many special locations.
The final leg was supported by the Provincial Grand Masters for Cornwall, RW Bro Stephen C Pearn, and Devonshire, RW Bro Ian Kingsbury, together with a special guest, the United Grand Lodge of England's Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton.
Despite the arrival of the impending Storm Ophelia, the weather, whilst overcast, remained dry and warm. Proceedings started with a bumper lunch at The Mermaid Inn on St. Mary’s Quay, followed by an enthusiastic Civic Parade in full Masonic regalia through the streets, which was supported by local islanders.
The parade continued its way through the streets until it reached Godolphin Lodge No. 7790, where those who had paraded assembled in the Lodge room together with several lady guests to hear an historic oration by the Provincial Orator for Cornwall, W Bro Mike Murton.
The special events then concluded with a Festive Board held in the stunning conservatory at the Star Castle Hotel.
For the first time since it was founded in 1934, members and guests of Blundell’s Lodge, No. 5467, held their meeting in Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon
The event took place by permission of school head Nicola Huggett, who was guest of honour alongside Richard Swarbrick, chairman of the Old Blundellian Club.
Lodge Master John Shepherd and Devonshire Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury each presented Huggett with a cheque for £1,500.
The £3,000 will help fund a project in Laos that is organised by Community Learning International, and supported by Blundell’s School, which helps provide opportunities for children to develop their skills and knowledge.
On one of the hottest days of the year, more than 500 Freemasons and their families came from as far away as Plymouth, Barnstaple and Tiverton to celebrate the Tercentenary at Ugbrooke House in Chudleigh
The day had something for all the family, with a brass band, an inflatable assault course, a dog show, and a display of classic cars and motorbikes. Cream teas and cakes were on offer, as were guided tours of Ugbrooke House.
A teddy bears’ picnic was also held in recognition of the Teddies for Loving Care initiative. Over the past eight years, Freemasons in Devonshire have provided hospital A&E units with more than 43,000 teddy bears, which have been used to comfort children in severe distress.
Despite inclement weather, the Province of Somerset safely delivered the special south west Tercentenary banner to the Province of Devonshire in the magnificent Exeter Cathedral
The banner recognises the special fraternal bond that exists between the South West Provinces and has toured to the Provincial Grand Lodges of Jersey, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Devonshire will pass it on to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall later in the year.
The Provincial Teams from Somerset and Devon paraded in regalia and met in the nave of Exeter Cathedral where the banner was formally passed over.
Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devon, greeted one another and expressed their delight to be able to publicly show and acknowledge the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.
In the bright sunshine, Exeter Cathedral was the picturesque setting as 800 Devonshire Freemasons, dressed in regalia, made their way to the Tercentenary Service of Thanksgiving with their families to celebrate 300 years since the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge
The Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire RW Bro Ian Kingsbury and his Executive were accompanied by the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and the Grand Chancellor Derek Dinsmore, as well as the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, the Lord Mayor of Exeter and Vice Chairman of the County Council.
The Tercentenary Service of Thanksgiving was held on the anniversary date of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England on June 24th 1717.
Masonic bell ringers led by James Kirkcaldy heralded the service, as 32 lodges displayed their beautiful banners while the full choir of Exeter Cathedral took them through a truly masonic service of Thanksgiving.
There were many highlights including the readings by the PGM and Executive and the Tercentenary Oration given by W Bro Reuben Ayres which detailed the exciting journey Freemasonry has made in the last 300 years.
Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view all the photos from the service
Devonshire PGM Ian Kingsbury met Disabled Sailing Association (DSA) chairman David Musgrove to present a £2,000 grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation
The DSA was formed in 2005 and sails out of Torquay. In 2007, the charity won National Lottery funding through The People’s Millions, with the money enabling it to buy Freedom, an ocean-sailing Hanse 350, and adapt her for wheelchair users and other disabilities.
In 2014, a second People’s Millions win led to the purchase of Free Spirit, a Hanse 345 with improved stern access.