Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:54

charity gets a big lift

Red Balloon Learner Centre Group in Cambridge has received a major grant of £25,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund training for staff at its centres for severely bullied children.

Rodney Wolverson, Provincial Grand Master for Cambridgeshire, presented the cheque to Dr Carrie Herbert, chief executive of Red Balloon Learner Centres. Red Balloon centres are currently found in Cambridge, Merseyside, Norwich, Preston, London and Warwick. In addition, Red Balloon of the Air – a virtual balloon – is available for those children who cannot reach a centre.

Each of these centres provides intensive education and care for severely bullied children who are unable to attend mainstream secondary school. The centres help restore a young person’s confidence as well as helping them cope academically and socially. They are supported in their return to mainstream school, entry to further education or employment. At the centres, the students learn how to protect themselves from bullying, recognise when it happens to others and know ways of dealing with this kind of behaviour.

Dr Herbert said, ‘We are absolutely delighted to receive this generous donation. As we grow, it is important that the teachers and staff at each of our centres and the virtual Red Balloon are trained to the highest level to ensure we provide the best recovery programme for these severely bullied children. This grant enables us to do this.’
Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:52

ON TARGET WITH A NEW ACQUISITION

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry welcomes a pistol for the first time into its collection

The collections in the Library and Museum at 60 Great Queen Street have been accumulated over nearly two hundred years since the 1830s. New items are always being added, including centenary jewels, founders or Past Master’s jewels and newly published books.

Although tens of thousands of objects are already held, just occasionally a new type of object finds its way into the collection. Earlier this summer, the Library and Museum acquired its first masonic gun. Made around 1800, the pocket-sized flintlock pistol with a walnut grip is engraved with masonic symbols including a plumb rule, level, globe, Volume of Sacred Law and a sunburst. It also has two names on it – Sikes and Melford – which may relate to the maker or it could refer to the retailer and a place. Research to confirm these details is continuing.

Flintlock pistols were used as self-defence weapons and as a military arm. Although a pistol may seem at odds with the masonic idea of brotherly love, Freemasons of the time decorated a wide range of personal items including watches and snuff boxes to show pride in their membership. The decorated pistol, now on display in the Library and Museum, is a further example of such customisation.



Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:51

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence on openness

Speaking openly

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence believes that it is vital to show the rest of the world why Freemasonry is enjoyable 

I would like to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of ‘pure antient masonry’. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.

We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our pure ancient masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a supreme being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives ‘a context and background to the individual’s way of life as they seek to live it’.

Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality – it does not have any sacraments or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of tolerance. Therefore, to ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, discussions of religion, like discussions of politics, are strictly prohibited.

Encouraging our ideals

Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – which was a time of religious intolerance – was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men – that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.

The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. In today’s language, we can articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles that we should be very proud of and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt that our principles will appeal to those who are not masons if they are aware of them.

The future of the Craft is dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. The other side of this coin is that we should therefore be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Freemason is told in the charge after initiation and for a very good reason – unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general as well as their own lodges in particular.

Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly and in an informed way about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long-term future.

Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014

Surprise visitor

Sir,

A word of warning for younger Freemasons: be careful what you wish for! Eighteen months ago as part of the annual visit made by the masons of the southern area of the Province of East Lancashire, one of the younger visitors, Steve Stanley, was making his first visit. He was the Junior Warden of the Lodge of Union, No. 268, from Ashton-under-Lyne. 

During luncheon, the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, spent some time chatting to every brother who was present. When Steve took his turn to have a few words with such an eminent guest, he didn’t miss the chance to ask, ‘Would you like to attend my installation on 16 January?’ There was a pause before the Deputy Grand Master responded, ‘We’ll have to see what is possible.’ And that was that.

The Deputy Grand Master must get similar requests all the time and the other members of the lodge had to work on Steve to convince him that there was little, if any, chance of his actually receiving a visit from such an august Freemason.

However, some sixteen months later it became clear to one or two members of the Lodge of Union that there was a distinct possibility that something special might just be about to happen. On the evening of 16 January, after Steve was presented, it was announced that the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies sought entry into our lodge! When he announced that Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master, demanded to be admitted you could have heard a pin drop. Steve looked up and I saw him mouth a few syllables that demonstrated that he understood what was about to happen. 

The Deputy Grand Master entered with a small retinue, and as he walked past, he gave the Master Elect a clear and definite wink. Nor did the surprise end there. Right Worshipful Brother Spence accepted the gavel, took the Chair and performed the whole ceremony in a brisk, exact and perfect way that demonstrated to seventy-eight other masons just how it could be done. Steve was well and truly installed. The rest of us saw a ceremony that will not soon be forgotten. 

Kevin Hall, Lodge of Union, No. 268, Ashton-under-Lyne, East Lancashire

Deputy_Grand_Master_Jonathan_Spence.jpg

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence surprised a young Freemason at his installation

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:50

GRAND WELCOME IN MUMBAI

The District Grand Lodge of Bombay celebrated its 150th anniversary earlier this year and to mark the event, Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, and Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge, travelled to Mumbai.

The group visited St George’s Hospital to see the work of the Think Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supported by the District Grand Lodge of Bombay. The foundation coordinates and collects more blood than any other non-governmental organisation in Mumbai. It also runs the only structured programme for prevention of thalassaemia major, a serious genetic blood disorder where survival is dependent on lifelong blood transfusions. Vinay Shetty, vice president at the foundation, gave an address at the hospital to the English visitors, who then toured the hospital with Bombay District Grand Master Percy Driver.
Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:48

Measuring satisfaction

A survey reveals that people feel they are being treated with respect and dignity in Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution care homes

High-quality care provision is a key priority for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, with the organisation conducting annual surveys at its care homes to assess the satisfaction levels of people who use its services. This year’s survey asked both residents and relatives a series of questions on different aspects of service provision and life within their care home, in order to create a full picture of the effectiveness and quality, as well as to highlight which areas require improvement.

Feeling at Home
The care home section of the survey sought to ascertain how satisfied people were with their living accommodation. Overall, residents responded positively, with 91% of residents saying that they liked their room and more than 90% stating that their room was private and that they felt safe and secure. Similar responses were also evident in the survey of relatives, with over 70% stating that their relative or friend settled in well at their chosen care home.

When residents were asked about their experience of the catering provision, the answers indicated that there was room for improvement, especially around the enjoyment, quality and choice of food.

Encouragingly, in the staff section of the survey it was found that 93% of residents felt that staff were polite to them and were helpful, and that staff listened to them – 90% and 80% respectively. These results show that the people living in RMBI homes are treated with dignity and respect, an ethos that is core to the RMBI. Moreover, 88% of relatives and friends also felt that the staff at the care homes had a positive attitude to the residents and that the management team were easily accessible. Also, we were very pleased to learn that 93% of relatives were very satisfied with the responsiveness of staff to matters that concerned them.

ACTIVELY CARING
Activities play an important role in the care homes and the scores in this area were above average. A high proportion of residents (76%) said that they knew what activities were going on in the care home and 57% felt that there were things to do throughout the day.

When asked about help and support, responses were positive, with 81% saying they felt that they could talk to someone about their concerns. Eighty per cent felt that the staff involved them in the way they are cared for, which is a huge increase to a similar question that was asked in previous years when less than 50% of residents agreed with this statement.

These improved results can be attributed to the considerable work that has taken place on the care planning process at all RMBI homes. The way in which the care plans are now completed is more person-centred, and 85% of relatives and friends of residents also stated that they were involved in the planning and delivery of the care provided.

A high 73% of relatives felt that their relative/friend had the opportunity to live life as fully as possible in the care home environment and again 73% said that they were satisfied with the way their relative or friend was being cared for. Very encouragingly, the results found that 91% of residents and relatives said that they would recommend their RMBI home to someone else.

The satisfaction surveys are an important part of the RMBI’s quality assurance programme and the results have been helpful in capturing the experiences of people who use RMBI services and that of their relatives. The RMBI will continue to evaluate the results from the satisfaction surveys and will work with its care home management teams to make sure that any areas that have been identified for improvement are thoroughly addressed, and robust plans to make sure that these developments take place are implemented.




Published in RMBI
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:46

Tracing New Zealand’s Masonic Roots

Roger Marjoribanks looks to his family tree to follow the masonic life of Stewart Marjoribanks and his role in the creation of New Zealand as we know it today

In New Zealand, many of Wellington’s citizens will be aware of a perfectly ordinary road called Majoribanks Street running out of town from Courtenay Place. They may perhaps know that it should correctly be spelled Marjoribanks and pronounced Marchbanks. However, they are less likely to know that it commemorates a man who, although having never visited the island country in the Pacific, may truly be numbered among the founding fathers of the nation.

Stewart Marjoribanks was the third of five sons of Edward Marjoribanks of Lees, just north of the Scottish border with England, all of whom distinguished themselves in their various fields. The eldest brother, John, remained in Scotland, became Lord Provost of Edinburgh (twice), an MP and Depute Grand Master of Scotland. Campbell, Stewart and Edward all came to London around the turn of the century, while James became a judge in India.

Campbell twice became chairman of the East India Company, Stewart a most successful owner of a fleet of merchantmen and Edward a senior partner in Coutts & Co. Bank. It is, incidentally, perhaps in the family friendship with Thomas Coutts that the key to their extraordinary and sudden prominence lies. They were in any case a very talented group, but a helping hand never comes amiss.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to pin down Stewart’s early career to precise dates, but a letter from 1820 mentions that in that year he was expecting to be returned unopposed as MP for Hythe. This election conferred on him the ancient title of ‘Baron of the Cinque Ports’ (founded originally to defend the coast from the French) and the right to bear the canopy at the coronation of George IV while girt with a sword (which is still in possession of Watford Lodge).

Involved and Influential
Stewart’s masonic career began in February 1811, when he was initiated into the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, a ‘Moderns’ lodge of great prestige meeting in Bond Street. Although the final achievement of the union was still a couple of years in the future, concrete steps were already being taken, in which members of this lodge took a leading part. Stewart made his masonic reputation as a member of this lodge, for he became Senior Grand Warden in 1823, the year before joining the equally prestigious Royal Alpha Lodge. This is traditionally the lodge of the Grand Master and in due course Stewart served as Deputy Master to the Duke of Sussex.

Much more is known about Stewart’s membership of Bamborough Lodge, No. 580, which he joined in 1830, and which was eventually renamed and numbered as Watford Lodge, No. 404. Here he is well remembered as an assiduous, authoritative and kindly member, and can be recalled physically through his portrait by John Lennell, which still hangs in the Temple in the west. He came to Watford when he and Campbell bought Bushey Grove House as their country seat. Stewart joined the Royal Arch in Cyrus Chapter, No. 21, in 1813 and became a founder of the Chapter of Friendship, No. 3 (now No. 6), in 1824, in which year he became Assistant Grand Sojourner (AGSoj).

As a member of Watford Lodge, Stewart was a distinctly big fish in a moderate pond. He apparently introduced a number of well-known men to the lodge, culminating in the agreement of the Duke of Sussex to become an Honorary Member. He was Worshipful Master for two consecutive years from 1835 to 1836 (the lodge numbered some seventy-one masons) and was elected again in 1841, although ill health appears to have prevented his installation. He is said to have been regular in attendance except when his Parliamentary duties kept him away, though with advancing years he was unable to play a very active part after turning seventy. He married a lodge widow, Lady Rendlesham, but the union produced no children. He appears to have been a popular and effective member of the lodge and promoter of its interests.

Expanding Apace
It is worth remembering that Stewart’s masonic career coincides with the first generation of the United Grand Lodge of England after the resolution of the schism between the Moderns and the Ancients which had so marred the half century previous to 1813. The Duke of Sussex, as Most Worshipful Grand Master, must have felt that Stewart, with his easy personality and well-reputed integrity, was an ideal friend and support.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s business expanded apace from his premises in King’s Arms Yard. At first it appears that he traded mainly with India and China, which fitted in well with the interests of his brother Campbell and Thomas Coutts; but before long he turned to the Australia run (he invested substantially in the Australian Agricultural Company) and the growing interest in New Zealand through the New Zealand Company. We have evidence from one of his captains  – Cole of the ‘Mellish’ in 1822 – that he was very much looked up to as a model for emulation, while in 1826 his captains clubbed together to present him with a gift of silver plate ‘in view of his much appreciated way of conducting himself towards them’.

As far as New Zealand was concerned, Stewart was very much the right man in the right place at the right time. He was well placed to win government contracts for the transport of troops and stores, but his major role seems to have been in implementing the official policy of encouraging emigration after the Treaty of Waitangi by transporting potential settlers of all classes, especially from Scotland. Here he was assisted by his distant cousin Alexander Marjoribanks of that ilk, chief of the family – it was not then recognised as a clan. Alexander’s prestige stood a great deal higher than his character warranted, but he did take ship to New Zealand and then on to New South Wales in 1840-41 and wrote very readable books about both colonies. To judge by the volume of Scottish settlers, the publicity gained was well worthwhile.

Round Peg in a Round Hole
As it happens, one of the ship’s officers kept a diary of the first leg of this trip and most entertaining it is – he makes clear that he is torn between respect for Alexander’s rank and contempt for his unworthy behaviour. He records with disapproval Alexander’s marriage on board to his maid and it is notable that no such marriage is officially recorded anywhere, nor did the lady proceed to New South Wales.

Bearing in mind the savagery of the Mãori wars that followed, one could be in two minds about the effects of Stewart’s work on New Zealand. However, the impression is of a diligent, conscientious and kindly businessman, ‘a round peg in a round hole’. As the 1840s progressed, ill health drove him into virtual retirement. Campbell had died in 1840 but Stewart lived on to the age of eighty-seven. Childless, he left Bushey Grove House to his nephew Edward (my great-grandfather), who promptly bankrupted himself by destroying it and building a monstrosity
in its place. And the explanation of the spelling and pronunciation of Majoribanks Street? A mystery, lost in the mists of history. Even the Marjoribankses themselves have no convincing explanation.
Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:44

Digital delivery

Grand Secretary Nigel Brown explains why the new Freemasonry Today website is all about improving communication among members

Since the mid-1990s, the internet has had an increasing impact on culture and commerce; as the majority of our members now communicate electronically with the rest of the world, their expectation is to be able to do just that with their lodges and with us. With that in mind, I am reminded of the challenges we face in aligning ourselves to that expectation.

Two constant drivers to our thinking are: first, how best to ensure our members are kept informed and feel included; second, how best to communicate with the non-masonic community so that we put the correct information about us out there. In 2009, the main UGLE website was relaunched to provide information about the Craft for the non-mason. That site has proved to be a great success, with an average of thirty thousand visitors a month over the last six months; 58% via search engines; 25% via referral sites and the rest through direct traffic.

Benefiting members
However, this site, though very useful to existing members, was not designed for them specifically. On that understanding, the Board of General Purposes decided to have a second site developed, dedicated to the membership. It is this members’ site that we have had great pleasure in officially launching in 2011. The platform is the old Freemasonry Today magazine site and we have maintained that website address: www.freemasonrytoday.com. The benefits of this site are that it is article-based, and it will include many more stories and features than we have space for in the printed magazine. In particular, it allows us to be timely with getting news to you and our response to real time events.

An attractive feature of the website is that all members can submit articles for potential inclusion and an especially useful aspect is that it will allow us to conduct surveys and polls among the membership, gauging their opinions on selected topics. Additionally, the current issue of each magazine will be available to view as a digital copy on the site.

We realise that many members, especially the younger ones, prefer to read the magazine digitally, rather than receive the printed copy. With this in mind, we have now added a digital subscription facility so that members who wish to, will receive an email alert when each new edition is available on the site. This digital subscription is also available to non-members.

We are extremely pleased with the number of lodges now launching their own websites and seeking an UGLE charter mark – a mark of Grand Lodge approval. The sheer number of lodges applying for a charter mark has meant that we have a backlog, as we carefully check each one for technical and masonic compliance. To overcome this, we have updated the UGLE guidelines for lodge websites to better reflect the ever-changing online landscape.

We live in very exciting times and I hope that you find the new members’ website both useful and interesting as it continues to evolve over the many years to come.



Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:40

Peak performers

Peter Reeves, his son James, both of Wembley Lodge, No. 2914, Middlesex, and son-in-law Mark Best of Bishopsway Lodge, No. 6061, London, scaled the 4,409ft Ben Nevis, 3,200ft Scafell Pike and 3,500ft Mount Snowdon, on consecutive days in July.

Peter Reeves commented, ‘It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but being able to donate a worthwhile sum of money to Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support made it all worthwhile.’

James Reeves, a former soldier and Iraq veteran, set the pace up the mountains. ‘After the third one, the soles of my feet felt as if they had been beaten with a baseball bat,’ laughed climbing companion Mark, after completing the three peak challenge.

To donate, please go to www.justgiving.com/Pete-Reeves or www.justgiving.com/Mark-Best1.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:39

Stepping stones

Funding schemes to help transform the lives of disadvantaged children

This year, the RMTGB has allocated £100,000 to its grant-making scheme, Stepping Stones. The scheme awards grants to non-masonic charities that are working to improve the lives and well-being of some of the most disadvantaged children and young people in England and Wales.

Already, the Stepping Stones scheme has awarded £50,000 to three charities. One of these is the British Schools Exploring Society’s outreach programme, which enables those from deprived backgrounds to participate in life-changing expeditions.

Another is the Young Lives Foundation, which provides mentoring support to guide young people through times of distress, and finally Motability, which helps to enable disabled young people like Thomas (pictured) to become more independent.

Thomas is 11 and has cerebral palsy – he cannot walk unaided and uses a wheelchair. ‘Now that we have a car that takes Thomas’s electric wheelchair, I don’t know how I ever coped without one,’ Thomas’s mother explains. ‘Our car and adaptations have had the biggest positive impact on our ability to live our lives more easily than any kind of help we have had before.’


For further information about the RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme, together with details of the full range of support available, please visit www.rmtgb.org


Published in RMTGB
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:38

Research pioneers

How the Masonic Samaritan Fund is now supporting vital areas of medical research

Working in close co-operation with the Grand Charity, the MSF Trustees consider requests for grants in support of medical research. Fight for Sight, Action on Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Research UK have all been recent successful applicants and were each awarded grants.

The MSF receives many grant applications from individuals seeking treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), one of the most common forms of visual disability. Fight for Sight has supported research at the Institute of Ophthalmology and the grant from the MSF will fund a PhD student for three years as part of ongoing research into understanding the mechanisms of the development of AMD.

Action on Hearing Loss, formerly the RNID, has been awarded a grant to fund a pioneering project led by Dr Walter Marcotti at the University of Sheffield. The research will increase understanding of progressive age-related hearing loss.

A further grant has been provided to Alzheimer’s Research UK. The grant will help support two years of pioneering research to develop a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Simon Lovestone, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College, London, is leading the study and said, ‘Our aim is to develop a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s even before any symptoms show.’
Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund
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