Life is good

After an attack left Clive Jones blind at the age of 26, he put the pieces of his life back together with the support of the community. Now, Freemasonry is helping him to give back

Eleven years ago, Clive Jones found himself freewheeling down a steep hill in High Wycombe on a tandem bike with an ex-Navy friend, praying the brakes would work. The four-day charity ride to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War would last 252 miles, stretching from Buckingham Palace to Cardiff Castle. 

It was Clive’s most challenging fundraising event, and not just because the tandem was laborious to ride. The journey was all the more remarkable because Clive was blinded in 2000 in an unprovoked assault while serving with the Welsh Guards. After losing his sight, he has spent the last 18 years rebuilding his life.

Today, Wales-born Clive is a busy father of three, optimistic and active within his local community in Shropshire, and keen to raise money for deserving charities or individuals in need. But the memories from December 2000 are never far away. ‘I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ he says now. 

Clive was only 26 at the time of the incident, married with two young daughters. Joining the army had been his childhood dream, and he had planned to serve for many more years. The assault brought those dreams to an end.

‘After the assault, I was in a coma for a week. When I woke up, I soon realised there was something very drastically wrong with my eyes,’ he remembers. ‘I had been a highly capable soldier, and when I woke up, I was a scared child. I don’t feel embarrassed saying that now. I couldn’t even do the simplest things, like tying my own shoelaces.’

Clive’s initial fears related to his job and his family’s financial security, but he was also anxious about the future of his marriage. He need not have worried: Clive and Stephanie have now been married for 22 years. They have a 13-year-old son in addition to their two daughters, now aged 19 and 22. ‘The charity Blind Veterans UK (BVUK, formerly St Dunstan’s) taught me how to live again,’ he explains. ‘I’m now highly independent at home and within my local community, so life is good.’

 KEEPING IT LIGHT

One of the most important skills Clive gained with BVUK’s help was learning how to use a computer: ‘That gave me a lifeline to the outside world again, and it has done a hell of a lot for my confidence.’ He also took up archery in 2001, becoming a British Blind Sport indoor and outdoor national champion. ‘To be fair, a blind man in charge of bows and arrows does sound a bit scary,’ Clive says, laughing. 

In the past he has organised competitions on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and he has recently re-embraced the sport. But whatever the activity, a sense of humour is an essential part of Clive’s armoury – especially when fundraising. So far, he has raised in excess of £76,000; his efforts include sponsored walks, raffles, auctions and his legendary curry nights. One particular event took place on St David’s Day in 2016, when Clive decided that everyone attending should wear something Welsh.

‘I wore a full-length red dragon onesie and it was so blooming hot!’ he recalls. ‘Some people think I have a dry sense of humour; others reckon I have a rather sick sense of humour – maybe it’s a bit of both. But life is short, I say, so enjoy it.’

Jeremy Lund, Shropshire Deputy Provincial Grand Master, is a staunch admirer of Clive’s optimism. ‘The sacrifices Clive has made for charity are remarkable. There was even the wearing of the despised England shirt for every match during the Six Nations tournament in 2016,’ he says, with tongue firmly in cheek. ‘The effort nearly broke him.’

Keith Stokes, a long-time friend and a member of St Mary’s Lodge, No. 8373, describes Clive as ‘open and lovable’. He adds: ‘That’s why his charitable work is so well supported, because everyone wants to be there. He even organises charity darts nights and, let me tell you, trying to play darts with a blind man is a bit dangerous!’ 

‘If you can listen and guide, allowing yourself to be guided to a degree – and do all of that with a smile on your face – you’ll be a good Master’

A SENSE OF BELONGING

While Clive may laugh in the face of adversity, the one thing he’s very serious about is his commitment to Freemasonry. He was 30 when he became a Freemason, following a BVUK summer camp at HMS Sultan in Gosport.

‘Nineteen out of the 25 people attending were masons, and I’d always liked what the organisation represented,’ recalls Clive, who, after enquiring further, was proposed by another blind veteran and initiated on 25 April 2005.

‘The sense of belonging was immediate,’ he says. ‘It’s a very inclusive organisation, and being blind has never been an issue. In St Mary’s, my Mother Lodge in Market Drayton, I’m now in the Master’s chair for the third time [his previous tenures were 2011 and 2012]. I’m Worshipful Master of the Armed Forces Lodge, No. 9875, in Monmouthshire – which I was very proud to help found. I also run two masonic groups for blind veterans. One involves a phenomenal weekend every year in Brighton, and the other is a week in Llandudno. If anything, being blind has spurred me on.’

Acting as Worshipful Master three times has given Clive a very clear idea of what the role requires. ‘The ability to listen is really important. The Master is the head of the lodge, but he’s only as good as his officers and members. If you can listen and guide, allowing yourself to be guided to a degree – and do all of that with a smile on your face – you’ll be a good Master.’

Certainly, Clive has loved the opportunities to lead his lodge: ‘I actually quite like the strains and stresses of it, which is just as well. When I was assaulted, I also suffered some short-term memory loss, so it’s more difficult for me to learn the rituals and retain all the information.’

With Shropshire aiming to raise a total of £1 million during its five-year Festival Appeal, St Mary’s Lodge has already reached 150 per cent of its target – a phenomenal achievement a year ahead of schedule. Being part of an organisation with such strong values also makes Clive very proud. 

‘It’s so rewarding to make a financial difference to people’s lives, or to be able to relieve everyday hardships. The “helping” aspect of our work is just wonderful.’

The desire to help others is part of Clive’s own personal mantra, but it’s something he plays down. ‘He’s very thoughtful, but he’s definitely not comfortable with being appreciated,’ Alex Knight, the manageress of Clive’s local pub, the Kings Arms, says. ‘He came to my wedding and gave us the most unique gift. I’m a big Petula Clark fan, and Clive arranged for her to send us a message of congratulations. It was mentioned in one of the speeches at the wedding, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone turn a brighter shade of red than Clive did that day!’

‘I have never wanted to be recognised for my charity work, but the past few years do seem to have involved a lot of awards,’ Clive acknowledges. ‘Being awarded Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton is really special. We moved here after my assault to get a fresh start, and it’s wonderful to be accepted by my adopted home town.

‘The community has been so supportive of my fundraising work. If I ask, they give. It’s not a wealthy town, but what we don’t have in money, we’ve got in heart.’

Looking ahead, Clive admits that the only downside of being so busy is that he doesn’t spend enough time with family and friends. ‘I would love an eighth day in the week. However, the sense of achievement within my life is fantastic. My happiness comes through helping others to be happy.’

‘The community has been so supportive of my fundraising work. If I ask, they give’

Clive’s community

‘Clive’s blindness has not defined him – far from it. Instead, he has achieved his own victory over blindness and developed into a truly inspirational Freemason. His fundraising and caring for others is remarkable, and the Province of Shropshire is blessed and proud to be able to share and learn from his infectious enthusiasm for life. He is an ambassador for all that is good and true about Freemasonry.’ Peter Allan Taylor, Past Provincial Grand Master for Shropshire

‘Clive lost his sight in the service of his country but has not allowed this to hinder him in his masonry or in his other fundraising activities. If anything, he is energised by it. To his many masonic friends and acquaintances, he embodies the spirit of “Darkness Visible” – communicating light to those around him. He is truly an inspirational man and mason.’ Jeremy Lund, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Shropshire

‘I’ve known Clive as a friend for some 27 years. We served in the Welsh Guards together and now we’re both members of St Mary’s lodge. I admire Clive’s tenaciousness and his positivity, and the fact that he is so widely respected within the lodge and the community of Market Drayton. He is a brilliant Master because he likes everyone to be involved and to feel comfortable, and he brings such a sense of fun to every meeting he holds. He’s phenomenal, really.’ Keith Stokes, friend and fellow Freemason

Recent recognition for Clive

April 2016
Honoured by Blind Veterans UK for his charitable work

July 2016
Finalist in the Courage category in the Pride of Shropshire Awards

February 2017
Finalist in the Inspiration category in the Soldiering On Awards

September 2017
Finalist in the ITV Fundraiser of the Year, Midlands, category at the Pride of Britain Awards

March 2018
Named Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton for his contributions to charity and community life

HRH Prince Michael of Kent has agreed to become president of Square Wheels, formerly the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club

Formed in 2002 and open to non-masons, the club has been renamed to reflect the national reputation it enjoys. Prince Michael is also president of the Royal Automobile Club and an honorary member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

Pictured here, Square Wheels chairman Mark Pierpoint shows Prince Michael his Rolls-Royce Shadow 1 at Buckingham Palace in 2016, when Prince Michael inspected 90 British vehicles on behalf of the Queen.

Published in More News
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 00:00

The life of a British Maharaja

The last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire

Maharaja Duleep Singh gave up his throne in India to be raised a gentleman aristocrat in England. Philippa Faulks finds out how Duleep’s connection with the Royal Family inspired his Freemasonry

Mharajah Duleep Singh’s life was one of opulence and tragedy. On 29 March 1849, the son of the late Maharaja Ranjit Singh (known as Sher-i-Punjab, or ‘Lion of Punjab’) effectively became a king without a country.

Ending what his father had founded as Pakistan’s first independent state of Lahore, in the Punjab, the ten-year-old reluctantly signed the official document, later known as the Treaty of Lahore, and annexed the state. In doing so, he relinquished vast areas of India, and his family’s wealth, into the hands of Britain’s East India Company.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond, subsequently ‘gifted’ to Queen Victoria by the Marquess of Dalhousie, was part of this treasure trove. Given the diamond’s history of royal bloodshed and the ill fortune attached to those who possessed it, it is of no surprise that the newly disposed Maharaja’s life went from bad to worse. Born on 6 September 1838, Duleep was the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) and Maharani Jind Kaur (1817-1863). When Ranjit died, he left six sons, of which four were legitimate or ‘acknowledged’; only two of these – Khurruck and Duleep – were ‘fully acknowledged’ by the Maharaja.

BRIEF SOVEREIGNTY

At the age of five, having lost his predecessors to assassinations, Duleep was declared sovereign with his mother, who was described by the British as ‘a woman of great capacity and strong will’. Duleep acted as Regent until December 1846, after the First Anglo-Sikh War. The former Maharani was deposed by the British, imprisoned and replaced by a Council of Regency. Duleep would not see his mother again for more than 13 years.

Following the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the ten-year-old Duleep signed the Treaty of Lahore and the annexation of the state was complete. The document stated: ‘His Highness the Maharajah Duleep Singh shall resign for himself, his heirs, and his successors all right, title, and claim to the sovereignty of the Punjab, or to any sovereign power whatever […] All the property of the State […] shall be confiscated to the Honourable East India Company, in part payment of the debt due by the State of Lahore to the British Government.’

Within a week of control being relinquished, Duleep was handed over to the guardianship of Sir John Login and his wife. Login had just been installed as Governor of the Lahore Citadel and would benefit from Duleep’s guardianship, monetarily and socially. Indirectly, the finances of the Maharajah contributed significantly to Login’s missionary schools in Fatahgarh, Uttar Pradesh, where, according to the book Sir John Login and Duleep Singh (Lady Login, 1890), the young sovereign lived comfortably and, in the main, enjoyably with the Logins after his removal from Lahore.

It was to be a condition of his future exile in England that the young sovereign become a Christian, but how much of this was under duress is a controversial point. Certainly, Lady Login’s account is that he was most enthusiastic and adhered to his Bible studies with a passion; he was baptised on 8 March 1853.

‘Duleep’s passions included art, music, shooting and coursing – fitting the part of an English country gentleman, which he would soon become’

SCOTLAND'S ‘BLACK PRINCE’

Duleep’s other passions included art, music, shooting and coursing – fitting the part of an English country gentleman, which he would soon become. But his life was monitored and manoeuvred by the East India Company Board. Any hint of a desire to return to India was thwarted and a gentlemanly diversion of travel and other pursuits was instigated.

During his young life, Duleep moved from one part of Britain to another but was most taken with Scotland, where he was known for his penchant for shooting parties and donning Highland dress, gaining the nickname the ‘Black Prince of Perthshire’.

Not long after his arrival in England, Queen Victoria received the Maharaja at Buckingham Palace. He became a friend of the Royal Family, spending summers with them at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The Queen affectionately called the young Singh ‘her beautiful boy’, and he struck up a firm friendship with Albert and her sons (Duleep’s own sons were to bear the names of Albert Edward, Victor and Frederick).

Likely inspired by the Royal Family’s masonic connections, he became a member of various gentlemen’s clubs – notably, and ironically, the East India Club. However, it was in 1861, when Duleep returned to India to bring his mother out of political exile, that he was admitted into Freemasonry in Lodge Star in the East, Calcutta, No. 67.

Aside from his masonic membership, Duleep was awarded the title of Knight Grand Commander (GCSI) in the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India by Queen Victoria – the Order’s motto is ‘Heaven’s light our guide’.

After Duleep brought his beloved mother back to England, she only lived for another two years, passing away on 1 August 1863, at her son’s Kensington residence, Abingdon House. Her death prompted Duleep to request to escort her body to the Punjab for cremation. This was denied by the government of India, but he was later permitted to take her to Nashik, Maharashtra, which he did in February 1864.

Duleep returned to England via Egypt, where he met Christian Mission teacher Bamba Müller, the daughter of a German banker and an Abyssinian Coptic Christian slave. They married on 7 June 1864. A year later, the couple took up residence at Elveden Estate in Suffolk, ensuring he could live as a Victorian noble. They had six children – three sons and three daughters.

RECONNECTING WITH HOME

The marriage was short-lived. In 1886, Duleep became disillusioned with the British government after it continually reneged on a promise to supply him with a yearly income in exchange for his allegiance. He had begun to reacquaint himself with the Sikh faith during his years in exile and had re-established contact with his relatives in Lahore. Duleep longed to return to his homeland and regain his royal status, something he attempted on 30 March 1886. Along with his family, he set sail for India but was intercepted and arrested in Aden.

Duleep was no longer welcome in England, and his wife and family returned alone to London, where the Maharani died shortly after in 1887. The Maharaja remarried, having two further children, but his burning desire to return to India led him as far as exhorting the support of the Tsar. This mission also failed.

Heartbroken and in reduced circumstances, Duleep reached out to Queen Victoria, and after negotiation with the government and Crown, he received a pardon. Sadly, he was to die in Paris, aged just 55. His body was not transferred to India for cremation, as per his wishes, but was instead returned to England for a Christian burial, laid beside the Maharani Bamba in the churchyard on his former estate at Elveden.

Duleep Singh’s grave has since become a pilgrimage site for Sikhs. Requests to return both the Koh-i-noor diamond and the remains of the last Maharaja of Lahore to their homeland have never been granted, with the diamond, now resplendent in the Crown Jewels, having barely been worn.

Published in Features
Friday, 03 November 2017 11:18

Letters exchanged with Buckingham Palace

At the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary celebrations, the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence read a letter of loyal greetings sent to Her Majesty The Queen and the reply received

Deputy Grand Master: MW Grand Master and Brethren, I hereby read the text of a letter sent today to Buckingham Palace:

To The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty

May it please your Majesty -

We, the representatives of over 200,000 Freemasons under the United Grand Lodge of England, most respectfully express our continuing loyalty to Your Majesty’s Throne and Person in this, the sixty-sixth year of your long and distinguished reign.

Today we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the premier Grand Lodge and the 50th anniversary of the installation of His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent as our much loved and greatly respected Grand Master. WE humbly thank God for preserving our Order and fervently pray His blessings on your Majesty, so that our loyal devotion to your Majesty may long continue.

Given at the Royal Albert Hall this thirty first day of October AD 2017.

Signed Jonathan Spence
Deputy Grand Master

Deputy Grand Master: Her Majesty has been pleased to reply in the following terms:

Dear Mr Spence,

The Queen has asked me to thank you for your kind letter of loyal greetings on behalf of the Representatives of the Freemasons under the United Grand Lodge of England, on the occasion of the Three-Hundredth Anniversary of the foundation of the premier Grand Lodge and the Fiftieth Anniversary of the installation of The Duke of Kent as your Grand Master, which are being celebrated on 31st October at the Royal Albert Hall.

Her Majesty appreciated your thoughtfulness in writing as you did and, in return, has asked me to send her warm good wishes to you all for a most successful event.

Yours sincerely,
David Ryan
Director, Private Secretary’s Office

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00

Prince Philip honoured by Navy Lodge

Brethren of Navy Lodge, No. 2612, which meets at Freemasons’ Hall in London, have presented their most senior naval member, Admiral of the Fleet HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, with a gold Tercentenary Jewel at Buckingham Palace

The presentation was made on behalf of the lodge by its Master, Captain Simon Thomas RN, and its youngest and most junior serving member, Lieutenant Josh Skelding RN. They were accompanied by Commander Michael Higham RN and Navy Lodge Secretary Commander Jonty Powis RN.

After the presentation, His Royal Highness and the brethren talked about the lodge and Freemasonry in general, including the recent Sky 1 documentary series about the Craft.

If there were ever a doubt that the new Provincial ties are suitable for any occasion, Steve Ralph from the Leigh Group, West Lancashire, wore his on a visit to Buckingham Palace.

Steve, who is an acting Provincial Grand Steward, was attending the palace to receive his award as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (MBE). It was a special day for Steve, who received the award in the Birthday Honours list for his long service to the Scouting movement.

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