East Kent Freemasons have donated £4,000 to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service

As an independent charity, they strive to save lives by providing the best possible medical care every minute of the day, every day of the year, which means every donation they receive is vital. Last year alone, they were called out to help over 2,000 people in life-threatening conditions.

On 30th October 2018, the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, Neil Johnstone, presented a cheque to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service at Rochester Airport for £4,000. The grant was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and has brought the total Masonic support given to the Air Ambulance Service to over £4 million since 2007, supporting over 22 Air Ambulances across England and Wales.

Presenting the cheque to the Air Ambulance crew, Neil said: ‘Words will never truly describe the life changing differences that you make to the people of our local communities who call upon your services. I am certain that many people today are grateful to you and we are glad that we can help to support the service now and in the future.’

The grant from the MCF was co-ordinated through the main charity for the Masonic Province of East Kent, the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons' Charity. Supporting Neil from the charity were the CEO Peter Rhodes, Chairman Pat Thomas, and the Head of Charities for East Kent, Mark Bassant.

The doors of Paddock Wood Masonic Hall in the Province of East Kent have been opened to visitors on several occasions, but this year, to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, Peter Hayler made the ‘Heritage Opening’ even more meaningful by staging a comprehensive and moving display

On 8th September 2018, he told the story of the local men, some less than 20 years of age, who lost their lives in that dreadful conflict. 

There were photographs of the men themselves, their graves and memorials, and newspaper cuttings giving information about their lives before going off to war and, in each case, the families who mourned their loss when they did not return home. It was a wonderful tribute by the present-day Freemasons of Paddock Wood to those from the town who made the ultimate sacrifice during the years 1914-1918, many of whom will have been known to the Freemasons who founded Paddock Wood Lodge No. 4291 in 1921.

The exhibition was enhanced by personal letters, photographs and memento’s from the First World War belonging to the relatives of Stanley Wykeham Lodge members Don Foreman and Martyn Evans.

Besides members of the three lodges meeting at the Hall, namely Paddock Wood, Stanley Wykeham and Bradley Lodge No. 7929, several accompanied by their wives, and two candidates for initiation, around 25 visitors attended to view the exhibition and tour the Temple.

Among them was a party from the South-East Chapter of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association who enjoyed a chat and refreshment before setting off on the next leg of their journey. The whole day was a most enjoyable social occasion as well as an opportunity to show what a gem of a building is hidden away in Paddock Wood.

Borough and County Councillor Sarah Hamilton, who is also the Chairman of ‘Heritage Paddock Wood’, paid a visit and praised the Freemasons’ commemoration of the town’s war dead, describing the Open Day at the Masonic Hall as a splendid community event.

It's the start

With an emphasis on professionalism and transparency, President of the Board of General Purposes Geoffrey Dearing wants to take Freemasonry to a new level of alignment

How would you describe your masonic progression?

It was a very slow burn. I helped to manage a law practice in East Kent and became a Freemason in 1974 when two of my partners, whom I respected, proposed and seconded me. I only used to go to four meetings a year as I couldn’t do more than that; I was very busy working around the courts. But I found that those four evenings were very relaxing, because you’re with different people who have a similar view of life. 

I joined the Royal Arch in 1981. That was purely accidental: somebody’s son was a member of our lodge, and I got talking to his father, who turned out to be the Grand Superintendent for the Province of East Kent. But, again, I was very busy with the business, so nothing else happened until the end of the 1980s, when I was made a Steward in the Province in the Craft and the following year Senior Warden. 

Along the way I spent a year as president of the Kent Law Society and became a Past Assistant Grand Registrar in 1994, which is a common office for a lawyer to take in Grand Lodge. But I wasn’t involved at all in the Province, as I had been made managing partner of one of Kent’s largest law firms. I just had no time for anything other than getting on with the business.

When did your focus change?

In 2004, I stepped down as managing partner. My firm very kindly kept me on as a consultant, and I found the change quite reinvigorating. When you’re responsible for two or three hundred people, you’re not able to do your own thing, because you are looking for consensus. I was able to go off and do things that interested me. I did a lot of lecturing on various legal-related bits and pieces and worked with some small companies.

By 2011, I had ceased to be a consultant and coincidentally received a telephone call asking if I would become Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for East Kent. I’ve never had any grand career plan; if I have been asked to do a job and think I can do it, I’ve done it, simple as that. So that’s really why I’m sitting here now – it was never my ambition.

How did you approach the PGM role?

I went in there entirely cold. I hadn’t been on the executive and knew nothing about how the office ran. But I had run a business. So, I went in there and started asking questions – it was not commercial, and there was a lot that I could bring to it that would make it work better. 

I believe strongly that communication is fundamental. Most of the really big errors and some of the biggest claims as a lawyer that I’ve been involved in were avoidable. Things get to where they get to because of poor communication or, indeed, a total lack of it. So, when I started in East Kent in 2011, I supported a communications team. 

We don’t tend to know enough about what Freemasons do for a living, but I found that we had web designers, we had people who really understood software and we had people connected with the media and the written word. It meant that when we had the Holy Royal Arch 200-year celebrations in 2013, we were able to interest the media, and ITV came down.

‘When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right’

How have you found becoming President?

You’re in touch with every single aspect of how the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) runs, which is fascinating. I’m trustee of the Library and Museum, I’m on the Grand Master’s Council and I’m involved with the External Relations Committee. All aspects of what’s happening in Grand Lodge are ultimately the responsibility of the Board. It gives you an insight into the entire picture, and very few have that privilege.

When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right. I think in order to get everything joined up, to get alignment, the communication with the Provinces is very important. What goes on outside UGLE is every bit as important as what goes on inside it, so coming from the background I’ve had, I know about what goes on around the country in the Provinces. I’ve dealt with the same problems that other Provinces have experienced; I’ve got some understanding and some sympathy. 

What do you mean by alignment?

The biggest thing in terms of what I hope can be achieved is improving alignment. If you ask what Freemasonry is about, it might be expressed entirely differently if it’s in Cornwall, Durham, Carlisle or London, but it should be broadly the same message. This hasn’t necessarily been the case, because everyone’s in their own areas, not always talking to others.

After the Second World War, there was a period when you just didn’t talk about Freemasonry, and people thought that was the norm. That did us no favours at all. You’re always going to have a lot of conspiracy theorists, and if you’re not providing correct information, that’s their oxygen. If they put false accusations in enough newspapers and say it often enough, people will believe it. We have to communicate.

What role does communication play in alignment?

What you do with communications and how you address those people who are talking nonsense is important. If someone publishes a newspaper article that says Freemasons have a lodge in Westminster with many MPs in it, that’s untrue. So challenge it. You do it quietly, but you do it fairly. And you make sure there’s an audit trail. I know the truth is far less exciting, but why don’t we have transparency? Why don’t we have complete openness? Why aren’t we relaxed? Why don’t we encourage the Library and Museum to talk openly about Freemasonry to people who visit us? I think that’s exactly how it should be and how it should develop.

How are you different to your predecessors?

I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve. That’s how it has managed to survive for 300 years. My responsibility as President of the Board of General Purposes is to try to ensure that we stay relevant. It is our job to look at the big picture and the messages we put forward. We’ve got to get our thinking straight at the centre and then consider how to get the messages out there, making sure that all our organs of communication are going down the same lines.

The more we communicate, the better. David Staples is going to be a very good CEO for the organisation, and I think his approach to management has not been seen before at UGLE. But that is how it needs to be in the modern world. If we get the set-up, professionalism and the operation here as good as it can be, it’s the start. 

Why should someone become a Freemason?

One of the attractions of Freemasonry is that it actually takes away a lot of insecurity, because it creates stability and has very good support mechanisms. If you think about the world today, a bit of consistency doesn’t go amiss. 

If we can get alignment, I think Freemasonry will become more normal, more accepted and more understood. And that’s a good thing. It’s not for everybody; a lot of people don’t like the ceremonial that goes with it, but others do. 

I don’t think it’s any accident that those who have been involved in the armed services or organisations that have a certain disciplinary culture find Freemasonry very attractive. I absolutely get that, but we all have different reasons. For me it’s actually about the people. I have met some terrific people along the way, and it’s been my privilege to know them and to spend time with them. 

‘I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve’

Where do you want masonry to be in five years?

It’s a big question. I don’t have a burning ambition for massive change, but I do have a goal to improve and evolve. The basics would be that we have good alignment within UGLE, including the Library and Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. They’re separate and independent operations, but they’re both masonic and are golden opportunities for communication with the wider world. 

I mentioned relevance before, because if Freemasonry is going to regenerate and be here in another 50 or 100 years, staying relevant will be part and parcel of that journey. Then there’s the way in which we communicate what we’re about – we have to do this in a much better way in order to strengthen our membership. It’s a big ambition, and I’m not sure that it can be achieved in five years, but we can certainly start the process. 

We have a fantastic opportunity here. Today is not going to repeat itself tomorrow, or any other time, so we need to make the most of it. I always have the ambition that, every day, something constructive gets done.

Published in UGLE

East Kent Freemason Warren Hyder, a Past Master of Wakefield of Hythe Lodge No. 6059, has taken on the Jurassic Coast Challenge to raise over £18,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support

The Jurassic Coast Challenge involves either walking or running 100km, starting out at Poole Harbour in Dorset and then along the Jurassic Coast. Warren and his family wished to take on this challenge in recognition of the valuable support that Macmillan has given to several members of his family over the last few years.

Back in 2004, Warren’s brother-in-law Paul Ripley, a member of Wakefield of Hythe Lodge, fought and lost a tough battle with bowel cancer. During his illness, he and the wider family were supported by Macmillan Cancer Support, whose help was invaluable, especially as the family was advised that it needed to embark on genetic testing.

Within a month of losing Paul, aged 43, tests showed that Warren’s wife, Lynn, needed major surgery at a London hospital to save her life. The surgery was carried out within weeks, but that was not the end of the battle they were facing as, during the week leading up to Lynn’s surgery, her sister Tina received the same diagnosis. This resulted in identical surgery nine weeks later.

Fortunately, both Lynn and Tina made good recoveries but there was more bad news to follow. Sadly, in March 2017, they received the devastating news that Paul’s brother, Warren’s brother-in-law, Steve Ripley aged 52, was diagnosed with stage 5 prostate cancer. Steve is also a Past Master of the Wakefield of Hythe Lodge and a Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer. Having had surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment, he has recently been advised that this has not been successful and he is to undergo an intensive regime of chemotherapy.

Macmillan supported the whole family throughout all these difficulties and to give them focus at this difficult time, they wanted to do something positive. Ten members of the family, including Warren, Lynn and their youngest son Joe, Steve’s wife June and their son Brad, all signed up to take part in the Jurassic Coast Challenge in July 2018. Three of the group took on completing 100km over 24 hours, whilst the rest of the group took on 44km, which is the equivalent of a marathon.

The family members were hoping that this crazy adventure would allow them to raise £10,000 collectively to support the amazing work of Macmillan Cancer Support, but instead they managed to raise the magnificent sum of over £18,000.

A place for missing men

With bereaved men often finding it difficult to seek emotional support, hands-on initiatives like DIY workshops are providing sanctuaries where they can open up. Steven Short finds out how the MCF is helping in the hospice care sector

When a partner or family member dies, those looking after them not only have to say goodbye to the person they’ve lost, but also to their own identity as a caregiver. Many people have made great sacrifices to look after a loved one, often over months or years, and as this responsibility ends it can bring a sense of ‘Who am I now?’ as well as questions about the future. 

At the same time, the bereaved can often feel cut adrift from those around them – and the support they experienced leading up to the death – at a time when they perhaps need it most, facing the practicalities of sorting out funeral and financial arrangements.

Hospices across the UK have, for many years, been accompanying people on this difficult journey. And the masonic community has long supported the incredible work they do – more than £12 million has been donated towards the operating costs of hospices throughout the country. Over time, it has become apparent that women are much more likely than men to seek out care and support, and that there is a need for programmes tailored to men who are bereaved, caregivers or coming to terms with their own illness. In response, a number of unique initiatives – such as ‘man sheds’ ­– have been developed to help these ‘missing men’.

A NEW WAY OF FUNDING

Historically, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)’s support for hospices has been via small grants across all Provinces. However, the MCF has determined that funds should be directed to where they’re needed most, helping to plug gaps in service provision and make the biggest impact. Working with Hospice UK, some of this year’s MCF grants will focus on bereavement support services.

‘We are constantly looking to improve our grant-making,’ says Katrina Kerr, head of charity grants at the MCF. ‘Our hospice grants in recent years undoubtedly made a tremendous difference in the palliative care sector, but over time it became apparent that we could direct the funds so generously donated to us by the masonic community in a more effective, strategic way.’

Due to the spike in births after the end of the Second World War, a generation of baby boomers is entering its seventies, meaning that now is a good time for Hospice UK and the MCF to be thinking about palliative care and bereavement support.

Karl Benn, head of grants at Hospice UK, agrees. ‘In the past year, hospices have supported around 46,000 people – adults and children – in coping with the death of a loved one,’ Benn says. ‘So there is clearly a need for bereavement care. We also talked to our members, who agreed that this was an area we should be focussing on.’ 

Benn and his team have worked with the MCF to develop and oversee the application process as well as the awarding of the first £150,000 allocated for grants through the new programme. ‘It was heavily oversubscribed,’ he notes. ‘We received applications for £1.5 million, so making our final allocations was really difficult.’

Grants were ultimately awarded to innovative bereavement support projects at hospices in seven Provinces, namely Staffordshire, East Kent, Sussex, Warwickshire, Essex, South Wales and West Lancashire, and in London. These focussed grants were in addition to £450,000 awarded in small grants last year to support 245 hospices under the former programme. Later this year, a further £300,000 will be available to fund the bereavement and support programme, with an additional £300,000 awarded in the form of small general grants as the new programme is introduced gradually over the coming years.

‘Terminally ill and bereaved men are very often reluctant to access traditional support’ Kathy Birch, Princess Alice Hospice

REACHING OUT TO MEN

Among the initiatives are several focussed on supporting men through the bereavement process. These will be hands-on, practical initiatives, where men can, in Benn’s words, ‘do some DIY, or work on renovating furniture – something they can get involved in rather than sitting around a table talking about feelings, which isn’t right for everybody.’ 

Martlets Hospice in Hove, for example, will run a men’s allotment project, while St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston will introduce a ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative. At the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher, Surrey, a Man Shed project is underway. The Man Shed, which will also be trialled at other hospices, offers the opportunity to engage in practical activities and learn skills while receiving ‘shoulder to shoulder’ support. 

‘We had noticed at the hospice that the number of bereaved women who were coming forward to us for care and support outnumbered men by three to one, and so we sought to identify a new way to address this unmet need that was right on our doorstep,’ says Kathy Birch, day service programme lead at Princess Alice. ‘We wanted to reach out to the missing men within our communities, including bereaved husbands who have lost their sense of purpose, men who are caring for their partner and need someone to talk to, and men coming to terms with their own terminal illness.

‘Terminally ill and bereaved men are very often reluctant to access the traditional family-support offering, such as formal counselling or listening. Our data on those who seek care and support within a “traditional setting” certainly backed that up,’ Birch continues. 

Kerr from the MCF agrees. ‘Men can find it more difficult to build social connections than women. It’s an unfortunate reality that men are less likely to share concerns about health and personal worries.’

The knowledge that men can find it hard to open up, especially in a formal face-to-face setting, inspired the team at Princess Alice to create the Man Shed programme. Birch says, ‘Our missing men can come together and put their skills and energy to use with a high degree of autonomy while talking to others who may be in the same situation and getting the support they need to face the future.’

A SPOT FOR SHEDDERS

The Man Shed idea originated in Australia, and Princess Alice is one of only a few hospice-based Man Sheds in the UK. As the name indicates, the shed at Princess Alice is a building consisting of a DIY workshop and a communal lounge. It was officially opened in June 2016, and within a month the hospice had 13 ‘shedders’ (patients, carers and bereaved relatives) involved in the project. By January of this year, that figure had risen to 112. Of those, 85.7 per cent are men, reflecting the need for spaces where they are able to cope in their own way. 

At the Man Shed, shedders produce everything from bird boxes and chopping boards to bespoke memory boxes, which are then sold to raise yet more invaluable funds for the hospice. Shedders and project leaders also have come up with innovative ideas to help patients of the hospice, including a special raised cupholder that allows people who use a wheelchair to take a drink without having to bend over. They have also made a mobile trolley for the hospice library and benches for the garden. 

‘I have cancer and I am a regular at the Day Hospice’s weekly social group,’ says one shedder. ‘I’ve recently started to visit the Man Shed and have made some smashing friends. When you walk in it feels like the sun has come out and the heaviness is lifted from your shoulders. Talking to people who know what you are going through really helps.’ 

Two teenage boys recently attended the Man Shed when their father was terminally ill, as he wanted them to learn vital skills while he could still be there. ‘Freemasons are fortunate to have a network of brethren around them for support during difficult times,’ Kerr says, ‘but not everyone is so lucky. Our grants will help to improve provisions for members of wider society.’

The Past Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland RW Bro Derek Buswell celebrated 60 glorious years as a Freemason on 12th April 2018

At the meeting of the Lodge of the Flaming Torch No. 4874, the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger, supported by his Provincial Officers, presented Derek with a certificate celebrating his 60 years continuous service to Freemasonry.

Derek was Initiated into Freemasonry in the Lodge of the Flaming Torch on 10th April 1958 and was its Master in 1971.

He subsequently became Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896 in 1984 and the Lodge of Research No. 2429 in 1987. Derek was a Founder of the Gayton Taylor Lodge No. 9176 which meets in Leicester in 1986.

He is also an Honorary member of Chetene Lodge No. 9516 in the Province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire and a joining member of of Good Neighbour Lodge No. 8378 in the Province of East Kent.

Derek was appointed Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies at the Craft Annual Investiture in 1986, and was installed as Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland in 1989, continuing for 13 years until 2002.

During this time, Derek oversaw the 2001 Festival for the Grand Charity which raised £1.875 million, Freemasonry in the Community Week, the launch of Leicestershire and Rutland's Provincial website, the launch of the Leicester Square newsletter predecessor Masonic News and the first open day at Freemasons' Hall in Leicester followed by many future modernisations including the installation of stair lifts, a new heating system and the bar in the front lounge.

David Hagger said: 'It was a great pleasure for me as Provincial Grand Master on behalf of the Province to present Derek with a 60 year certificate of service. Derek has had a very distinguished career in Freemasonry, not only in this Province but also Freemasonry in general.

'His dedication to Freemasonry has been second to none. I wish him good health to enjoy many more happy years in Freemasonry.'

Canterbury Cathedral hosted a Tercentenary thanksgiving service in recognition of its close and long-standing relationship with Freemasonry

More than 1,500 masons and their families came from across the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex to attend the service, which was held in the presence of the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury. 

The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, thanked the Duke of Kent for his support of the church. He recalled how the royal family helped when the building was damaged by bombing during World War II. He also paid tribute to the generous support of the masonic community, whose relationship with the cathedral dates back more than 100 years.

‘The idea of men coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time’ Geoffrey Dearing

At the time of the service, the cathedral was undergoing the largest restoration project in its history, the interior and exterior covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be returned to its former glory. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex funded repairs to the North West Transept, including new tower pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.

East Kent Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing said: ‘The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.’

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

Kent's afternoon of family run

On a cloudless Saturday, schools and children from across the Province of East Kent and organisations from the local community came together in Harrietsham for an afternoon of fun

The Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) appeal (East Kent) President John Grumbridge and former Deputy Provincial Grand Master Roger Odd kicked off proceedings by officially opening the picnic. 

Among the many classic fundraising attractions to enjoy on the site were a coconut shy, tombola, a cake stall and apple bobbing, which were enjoyed by children and adults alike. The East Kent TLC Committee provided for free an inflatable bouncy slide, dragon assault course, ball pool and castle. Many of these attractions were manned by Freemasons and their families, as well as the Province’s own TLC team.

Roy Brooks, Secretary of the TLC appeal (East Kent) and member of the organising committee said, ‘It’s great to see so many different parts of our local community come together under the banner of Freemasonry to enjoy such a happy day.’

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support training for a young stonemasonry apprentice

East Kent PGM Geoffrey Dearing presented a cheque to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis. Canterbury has seven apprentices – four stonemasons, a painter/decorator, scaffolder and chef.

Kent-based disability charity Compaid has been awarded a three year grant by East Kent Freemasons to train disabled adults in computer skills

The training will be delivered by a team of volunteers and staff at Compaid’s dedicated centre in Paddock Wood in Kent, as well as by a further team of Outreach trainers supporting people in their own homes and in day centres across the county.

The grant, totalling £45,000 over three years, will pay for two staff posts within the training service, supporting over 250 disabled learners to gain skills in a variety of topics, such as use of social media, internet shopping, online safety and digital design. 

Digital exclusion remains a key barrier for disabled people. Almost 50 per cent of disabled people do not use the internet regularly and 27 per cent never use it at all. This equates to more than 32,000 disabled people in Kent.

The grant from East Kent Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends from across England and Wales.

Stephen Elsden, Chief Executive at Compaid, said: 'We’re very grateful to East Kent Freemasons for their generous grant which will help hundreds more disabled people to realise their dreams and aspirations by gaining skills and confidence with computers.'

East Kent Freemasons Mark Bassant said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Compaid who do outstanding work helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community get online, with all the opportunities the internet offers.'

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