Scout’s honour for Prestonian Lecture

Tony Harvey’s 2012 Prestonian Lecture, ‘Scouting & Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?’ has raised more than £50,000 in three years. He has delivered the lecture 66 times, with the funds raised donated to the Masonic Samaritan Fund and The Scout Association. So far, each charity has received over £20,000. Tony (pictured above) will continue to deliver the lecture throughout 2015 and 2016, raising funds for The Scout Association and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys

Reversing the irreversible

In support of the 2.5 million people worldwide living with the consequences of a spinal cord injury (SCI) – 50,000 of whom are in the UK and Ireland – the Grand Charity and Masonic Samaritan Fund have donated £41,977 towards groundbreaking medical research by the UK’s leading spinal cord repair charity, Spinal Research.

Currently there is no reliable treatment for paralysis caused by an SCI. This paralysis is due to damage to the spinal cord, which links the brain with the rest of the body and contains bundles of nerve fibres belonging to neurons. While broken vertebrae can heal, damaged neurons and fibres cannot.

However, leading researchers at Cambridge University have identified a protein that may be responsible for blocking neuron regrowth. If they can find a way to stop this protein from working, then it may lead to a treatment that enables the nervous systems of paralysed SCI patients to self-repair.

Published in Freemasonry Cares
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2014

Quarterly Communication

10 December 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.

Over the last 40 odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.

The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval, all vital to the success of any organisation. The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, rather than talking about “recruiting” new members, why not think about “attracting” them. This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.

The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this – I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.

Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.

Another area where there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main Charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the Charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro Jonathan Spence who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The Charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in this building.

The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the Charity Presidents and their Chief Executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the Charities for many years to come. 

I am pleased to announce that the MW The Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnell Report of 41 years ago.

The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main Charities into a new overarching charity managed by a single board of Trustees under a single Chief Executive Officer with a single staff team.

Further details will be made available via the individual Charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today. 

At the Annual General Meeting of The Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of The Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.

Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.

Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!

Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.

Published in Speeches

Derbyshire’s festival finale

Freemasons and their families in Derbyshire have made a £2.4 million donation to the MSF after a six-year fundraising appeal

More than eight hundred Derbyshire Freemasons and guests gathered at the magnificent Devonshire Dome in Buxton for a gala dinner to celebrate the finale of the Derbyshire 2014 Festival, which raised the tremendous sum of £2,414,016.

During the meal, diners were entertained by the Three Waiters, singing popular operatic tunes, and a Fab Four tribute band playing Beatles hits. For the first time in an MSF Festival, and the second time in Derbyshire’s history, every masonic unit in every order made a donation. Members of Craft lodges in the Province donated an average of £741 each.

Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton congratulated the Province on its fundraising and on organising the occasion. MSF President Willie Shackell added, ‘Not only will this generous donation help the Fund to support the health and care needs of individuals but it will also enable us to continue funding much-needed medical research.’

Supporting wider needs

The MSF has expressed its thanks to all its fundraisers for their generosity in ensuring that sufficient funds are available to meet demand

Commenting on the MSF’s achievements in the last financial year (Oct 2013-Sep 2014), Chief Executive Richard Douglas notes that the Fund has allocated more grants than ever before: ‘1,578 grants have been given to support 1,462 applicants covering all areas of the Fund’s work: medical, dental, mobility, home adaptation, respite, counselling and consultation needs. This is a 12% increase in funds allocated and a 21% increase in the number of individuals supported compared with the previous year. The Fund allocated nearly £4.4 million to individuals, or £12,000 a day, across the year.’

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Would you like to have your say about which causes, charities and research the Central Masonic Charities should support using your generous donations?

Simply visit www.masoniccharities.org.uk/survey to complete a survey which will help shape the future of masonic giving

The Central Masonic Charities have a proud history of awarding grants to the non-masonic community with over £4 million awarded each year to many worthwhile causes. Over recent years, our grants have provided vital support to rescue services, disaster relief in the UK and abroad, medical research, hospices and charities that help disadvantaged young people and the elderly.

Your views about the causes we should support in the years ahead are very important to us. We therefore invite you to visit: www.masoniccharities.org.uk/survey and complete the short survey about the causes, charities and research that really matter to you.

The survey consists of only 10 questions and will take just a few minutes to complete. Thank you in advance for sharing your views with the charities.

Published in Freemasonry Cares
Thursday, 18 September 2014 03:27

Derbyshire Freemasons raise £2.4 million for MSF

Freemasons and their families in Derbyshire have made a donation of over £2.4 million to the Masonic Samaritan Fund

The Province of Derbyshire raised this magnificent figure following their six year Festival Appeal

Over 800 Freemasons and partners attended a spectacular finale event at the Dome in Buxton to celebrate the successful conclusion of the six year fundraising appeal.

In receiving the cheque Brig Willie Shackell CBE, President of the charity, said: 'We are tremendously grateful to the members of Derbyshire. Their hard work and dedication to fundraising, despite difficult financial times, will help to change the lives of thousands of individuals in need and national charities pioneering cutting edge research.'

Graham Rudd, Freemasons’ Provincial Grand Master, said: 'This six year fundraising appeal has given us a shared ambition to help our vital and life-saving charity. We move forward with the hope and ambition that Freemasonry and its charities can continue to thrive and contribute within the great Province of Derbyshire.'

The donation will be used to fund MSF grants, totalling £4.5 million each year, which are awarded in support of members’ health and care needs as well as to medical research charities. The Masonic Samaritan Fund has donated over £62 million in grants since it was established in 1990.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Lifting the worry

Each year, the Masonic Samaritan Fund and individual lodges contribute to prostate cancer research. The moving story of Freemason Ian Mcilquham and his family shows why this support is so vital, writes Andrew Gimson

In January this year, Ian Mcilquham saw some posters about prostate cancer. He had no symptoms, but his father and another member of his family had suffered from it, so he decided that it would be a good idea to go for a blood test. The result showed that he had a raised level of PSA (prostate-specific antigen), which can indicate the presence of the disease. A biopsy, carried out at the University Hospital of Wales, later confirmed that Ian had prostate cancer. 

As he was only fifty-two years old, Ian decided to undergo a radical prostatectomy – the removal of the prostate gland. However, the NHS in Wales only offers this procedure as an open (more invasive) operation, and Ian was told it could have bad side-effects – including incontinence, erectile dysfunction and being unlikely to be able to go back to work. His consultant advised him to have a robotic (less invasive) operation that is available from the NHS in some hospitals in England.

Because Ian lives in Wales, the only way to have this procedure in England would be at a private hospital, which would be very expensive. A member of Juventus Lodge, No. 8105, in South Wales Province, Ian works as a radiographer, and his wife, Penny, is a specialist nurse. They have three children: Kinsey, aged seventeen, Jourdain, aged fifteen and Kai, aged eleven – who at first was worried his father would die from the disease. 

Ian approached the Masonic Samaritan Fund for help. On the day he telephoned, the Fund emailed him back with authorisation for a private consultation in Bristol.

In Ian’s words, ‘The relief was unbelievable.’ The MSF then swiftly approved the funding application for his operation. ‘It wasn’t just the financial support from the MSF that helped, it was also the emotional support offered to me and my family. Lifting this worry was of greater importance, in some ways, than the financing of the surgery – they helped the entire family unit.’ 

Complete success

With his lodge providing support, Ian remembers that it was ‘weird’ having a major operation while feeling fine, but he knew that the longer he waited for treatment, the more likely it was that the cancer would spread. Five weeks after having the operation, laboratory analysis of his prostate tissue revealed that the surgery had been a complete success. Ian will now be monitored by an NHS hospital and his GP, meaning that he can focus on getting strong enough to return to work.

Richard Douglas, Chief Executive of the MSF, explains his charity’s approach: ‘We fund people who have a positive diagnosis, but can’t get the treatment they require on the NHS in a reasonable timescale.’ 

The MSF helps masons and their dependants, aiming to respond quickly in order to alleviate the anxiety of waiting. The charity is able to fund the cost of treatment for most eligible applications, and is also able to consider requests for research funding.

To save the lives of men with prostate cancer, early diagnosis is essential. Unfortunately, the PSA test does not always turn out to be correct. ‘Accurate diagnosis is the starting point to help men survive and have a better quality of life post-treatment,’ explains Richard. ‘With over 10,000 men dying each year from this disease, it’s time to give the experts the resources they need to beat prostate cancer for good.’

‘With over 10,000 men dying each year from this disease, it’s time to give the experts the resources they need to beat prostate cancer.’ Richard Douglas

The MSF has donated £34,625 to Prostate Cancer UK and has helped fund a research project at Cambridge University by Dr Hayley Whitaker, lead scientist of the Biomarker Initiative. She explains that the PSA test can detect lots of things that aren’t cancer, such as an enlarged prostate gland or inflammation. Moreover, only one in four cancers will become aggressive. 

Whitaker and her team of four researchers are trying to find new markers they can use to improve the PSA test. Their aim is to come up with half a dozen markers that will help provide a more accurate diagnosis. It may then be possible to avoid having a rectal examination, and, for some men, to avoid having a biopsy. 

The team at Cambridge have found a number of markers that are very promising, including two that identify patients who are more likely to relapse following surgery. ‘This means we can watch these patients more closely and attack the cancer harder,’ Whitaker explains, adding that the donation from the MSF has made a huge difference. ‘It’s given us such a great opportunity to do the work and we’re incredibly grateful.’

Gabriella Bailey, head of community fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK, is keen to raise the awareness of the disease, which has been far less intensively researched than many other forms of cancer. 

‘Every one of the masonic lodges that’s raised money for Prostate Cancer UK is part of this movement for men, and we’re incredibly grateful for the support,’ says Bailey. ‘Since 2005, local masonic lodges have raised £476,000 for Prostate Cancer UK – a fantastic contribution to the work we’re doing.’

Between one hundred and one hundred and thirty lodges a year support Prostate Cancer UK, which employs a group of specialist nurses to provide support through a free telephone, email and web chat service and who are able to answer questions about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. In the UK, around one in eight men will get this disease. If you have any concerns, the Prostate Cancer UK website is a great place to start.

For more information about the disease and giving support, please visit www.prostatecanceruk.org 

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

A break from the routine

The MSF recognises how important it is for full-time carers to make time for themselves, both for the sake of their own health and to give them the energy to carry on caring

The MSF has been funding short care breaks, also known as respite care, since 2006 and has provided more than £2 million to support carers within the masonic community. Respite care is short-term support used as a temporary alternative to a person’s usual care arrangements.

An MSF respite grant helped Neil Richardson manage full-time work while caring for his widowed mother, Joan, who has Parkinson’s disease. After two bad falls, she lost her confidence and has struggled to walk unaided. 

‘The MSF has topped up the respite care already provided by the local authority by ten hours a week and it has made such a huge difference to Mum,’ said Neil. ‘She can now stay at home and be taken care of by her family and the four carers attending each day. The alternative would be her having to go into a home, which wouldn’t be ideal as she is so attached to her house and all its memories.’

Neil said his mum was delighted. ‘I’m sure my late dad would have wanted us to seek help from his fellow masons, and Mum and I are both so grateful for the MSF’s assistance.’

How to apply

To apply for an MSF grant you first need to approach your local authority for a Carer’s Assessment. This will identify your needs as a carer and help to decide what support, if any, is available from social services. The best way to request a Carer’s Assessment is to write to or email your local social services department. 

If you face a wait of six weeks or more for this assessment, or you don’t qualify for an assessment, please get in touch with the MSF, who can provide short-term care after an interim assessment is conducted by the masonic charities’ Advice and Support Team. 

To ensure you qualify to make an application for respite care, use the Fund’s new eligibility calculator at: www.msfund.org.uk/eligibility-calculator. Or simply call our Grants Team on 020 7404 1550 who will be happy to help.

Did you know that after surgery or a period of hospitalisation, you are entitled to NHS care to assist your recovery at home? As such, the MSF can’t fund convalescent care, as it’s your statutory right to receive this from your NHS hospital. Your nurse can provide further information on getting the convalescent care you need.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Pioneering brain repair

Research at Cambridge University’s Clinical Neurosciences Department into multiple sclerosis (MS) was celebrated at a special charity evening held in Cambridge. Representatives from 25 local charities were invited to a supper at Freemasons’ Hall during which grants were awarded from both national and Cambridgeshire masonic charities.

The Grand Charity and the MSF have each made a grant of £50,000 towards a research project on the safety of the drug Bexarotene – capable of repairing brain damage during the early stages of MS. In 2011, a £100,000 grant from the Grand Charity supported the development of Alemtuzumab, a drug used to help treat leukaemia, by Dr Alasdair Coles – which is now licensed for use in Europe, Canada and Australia.

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Research funded by the Masonic Samaritan Fund has successfully developed a blood test that could predict whether someone with early memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year

The MSF awarded £181,723 to Alzheimer’s Research UK in 2011 to fully fund the first two years of Professor Lovestone’s research. This is a significant breakthrough in dementia research as it enables scientists to test potential new treatments on people with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Previously, by the time people received a diagnosis and were able to take part in clinical trials their dementia had progressed beyond the point where useful insights into the treatment’s effectiveness could be captured.

The blood test will help researchers target groups of people for future studies, driving the search for new treatments forward and bringing us closer to a cure faster.

You can read more in news stories on the BBCTelegraph, and The Guardian and on Alzheimer's Research UK Blog. Listen to Prof Lovestone, the renowned study leader, talk more about his pioneering research on this podcast.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund
Page 5 of 9

ugle logoSGC logo