A new £250,000 high and low rope activity centre complete with aerial runway – the result of more than two years of fund raising, planning and construction to deliver what will be a major community project for young people across the county – was officially opened by Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, and Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, on Saturday September 15th 2018
The Ropes Course, the first facility of its kind anywhere in the country, is open to both able bodied and wheel chair users and in places, is the height of a four storey building. It's a joint project built for the Essex County Scouts at Skreens Park, Chelmsford, to celebrate 300 years of modern Freemasonry.
The High Ropes and Linear Courses, including the zip wire equipment were funded by a £145,000 donation from Essex Freemasons. Essex Scouts added to this by funding a further £120,000 to build Low Rope and Wheelchair Courses to ensure that access is provided to those of any age, including anyone with mobility issues. This has ensured that the facility will be open to all and also serves to raise awareness in the able bodied community of the issues faced by wheelchair users in everyday life.
For Essex Freemasons, who donated the money to build the runway, it will be a lasting legacy in support of young people who live in the area. It also once again confirms the organisation's ongoing commitment to the community.
'Our 10,000 members across Essex were in full support of funding a project that would be a fitting legacy in celebration of our Tercentenary year,' said Rodney Bass. “In less than 12 months they raised more than £161,000 which we decided to donate to the Scout Movement.
'Essex Scouts told us that they needed funding for a new rope activity centre that could be used by all organisations that use Skreens Park and we agreed. We immediately donated £145,000 to cover the cost of the work and decided that the balance will be used to support local Scouts across county.
'This activity centre is a wonderful facility of which my members can feel proud and one which I hope delivers many hours of challenge and enjoyment for the young people of Essex.'
Essex Scouts is one of the three largest Scout Counties in the Country, with nearly 22,000 members. Each year its adult members contribute over one million voluntary person hours in providing skills for life for young people across the county, which translated into financial terms equates to an injection into the Essex economy of nearly £8 million per annum.
Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, commented: 'Essex Scouts are delighted and grateful to have received this generous donation from Essex Freemasons, which has enabled us to design and build an integrated Ropes Course comprising High Ropes, including a zip wire, Linear, Low Ropes and Wheelchair courses, to ensure that we have a facility that is accessible to as many people as possible. This will truly be a lasting legacy for the young people of the county.
'Skreens Park is a very busy site used by Scouts and Guides from across the country and the rest of the world. In addition, the facility is used by many local schools and other youth organisations. The Ropes courses will be an excellent facility to develop team building and group working whilst also challenging individuals in a safe environment.'
Installation of the High Ropes Courses at Skreens Park is one of dozens of projects across the county involving Essex Freemasons who regularly donate more than £1 million every year to local charities and good causes. More than 300 lodges meet in Essex from 27 different Centres and continue to play an active role in the community – Skreens Park being the latest.
Instrumental in shaping the way that Freemasonry is now run, Anthony Wilson embraced modernisation with a focus on teamwork
Anthony Wilson, a long-time Freemason, died on 14 May this year after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity. Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997 and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently became President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004.
Anthony was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. ‘My background is in chartered accountancy, and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it,’ Anthony told Freemasonry Today 10 years after becoming Board President. ‘Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get.’
Promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012, Anthony played a prominent role during the Tercentenary celebrations, including unveiling the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
He retired as President of the Board of General Purposes at the end of 2017. Following his death, the United Grand Lodge of England sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow, Vicky, and family.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes paid tribute to Anthony’s work: ‘I don’t often mention individuals in this context, but Anthony Wilson was a very special mason and a very special friend to so many of us. He carried out his duties in a very understated way, but he presided over the Board during a very busy period including, of course, the 300th celebrations.
‘He was an incredibly hard-working and efficient President who managed to carry out his role without falling out with anyone – quite a feat! And all this despite his illness, which was with him for far too many years. But he never, ever complained, and many would not have known how ill he was. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.’
Looking back on why he first became a Freemason, Anthony told Freemasonry Today: ‘Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies, my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed, but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life.’
A better place
If Freemasonry is to thrive by spreading a consistent and strong message, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes that every member needs to behave and act responsibly
During the early part of this year, we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year. In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks, and in April we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry.
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life – at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be.
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet, and that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year.
LIVING UP TO RESPONSIBILITIES
We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Surely, in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms?
If I may use a cricket analogy, just as the Marylebone Cricket Club is considered to be the custodian of the laws of the game, the United Grand Lodge of England, in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour – from the individual mason to Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home’ Grand Lodges, and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency.
Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
‘Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability’
United Grand Lodge of England has been presented with a new organ in Temple 10 at Freemasons’ Hall, which has been generously donated by The Grand Stewards’ Lodge
The funds for the new organ were raised over a three-year period, through a combination of the generosity of individual members of the lodge and through donations from some of the 19 ‘Red-Apron’ Lodges which nominate Grand Stewards.
A total of £65,000 was raised to pay for the new organ, which was installed in the latter part of 2017 by Viscount Organs and inaugurated at The Grand Stewards’ Lodge installation meeting on 17th January 2018 by the then Grand Organist, Carl Jackson MVO.
The journey started when The Grand Stewards’ Lodge were looking for a suitable project they could support to commemorate the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge on 24th June 1717. It was during this time that the organ in Temple 10, roughly 50 years old, stopped working and so it was decided that its replacement would be chosen as the lodge’s project to celebrate the Tercentenary.
The Organ Committee decided that the new instruments specification and layout should mirror the fine renovated Willis III pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall. The organ console is made of oak, stained to match the existing furniture, it has three manuals (Great, Swell and Choir) and a full pedal board, 55 speaking stops and a full set of couplers, together with the same number of thumb and toe pistons as are available on the Grand Temple Organ.
UGLE has established close links with the Royal College of Organists, which was founded by Freemason Richard Limpus in 1864, and now funds the RCO Freemasons’ Prize, as well as providing Freemasons’ Bursaries to cover items such as tuition fees and travelling expenses. As a result, the new organ in Temple 10 will be available to pupils who wish to practise for their exams from September 2018.
Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland presented a brand new, fully liveried, BMW R1200 RT-P motorcycle, to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity, in memory of the late Russell Curwen on 16th July 2018
The event took place at Kendal Masonic Hall where 190 guests gathered to witness a very moving and memorable occasion. Russell was a rider for the charity who died in a crash in May 2018 whilst on duty delivering vital medical supplies to hospitals in the area.
Amongst those attending were Russell's parents, Pat Curwen and Ken Curwen, sister Susan Fiddler, brother Phil Curwen and uncle Terry Curwen. They were supported by members and friends of the North West Blood Bike Lancs and Lakes Charity, together with members from the Blood Bikes Cumbria Charity.
Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, was also in attendance, together with former Lord Lieutenant Sir James Cropper and Lady Cropper. Following a short reception, during which the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria was introduced to all present, the Provincial Grand Master of Cumberland and Westmorland Norman Thompson gave an address.
He said: 'On behalf of the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland, I am delighted to be able to present this third fully equipped motorcycle to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity. This third bike is named 'Russell', in memory of the Blood Bike Volunteer, Russell Curwen, who sadly lost his life whilst on duty with the charity.
'The Blood Bikers are unsung heroes, supporting the community at large and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. I am also delighted to announce that we will be funding the purchase of a fourth motor cycle, thus ensuring that the two Blood Bike charities covering the County of Cumbria, have both received two new bikes funded by members.'
The guests then gathered outside where the motorcycle received a blessing by Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev. Robert Friedrich Roeschlaub. The official presentation of the motorcycle was then carried out by Norman Thompson who handed over the keys to the Chairman of the North West Blood Bikes, Paul Brooks. One further presentation was made when Karen Carton, Assistant Area Manager - Central, presented Pat Curwen with a candle in memory of Russell, which had come all the way from the West Coast of Ireland, having been commissioned by the Blood Bikers fraternity.
Although Russell was not a mason himself, he was very much liked and loved by all who knew him and this presentation was a very poignant occasion, whilst at the same time recognising his commitment to the Blood Bikes charity as a volunteer rider.
This was the third motorcycle presented to the Blood Bikes charities by the Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, which cost in excess of £18,000. The first was presented in 2017 to the Blood Bikes Cumbria in the north of the county as part of their Tercentenary celebrations. The second was presented in May 2018 to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes at an annual meeting in Carlisle, just a few days after the tragic death of Russell.
In a letter of thanks to the Provincial Grand Master, Simon Hanson Fleet Manager and Volunteer Rider for the North West Blood Bikes, said: 'Your hospitality was second to none with an array of distinguished guests which meant the night was even more special and one that the family has been able to take comfort from at this difficult time.
'On behalf of the complete charity, I would again like to thank you for this superb donation and I can assure you it will make a tangible difference to the operation of our charity and enable us to provide the best support possible to the NHS and the 'local community' in South Cumbria who are the eventual recipients of our service.'
With Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) extensively prevalent in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, as a result of contaminated ground water, the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka have been raising funds to help
The inhabitants of the remoter areas have been compelled to purchase drinking water from external sources, spending as much as Rs 500.00 per day for their needs, with children in particular having been severely affected. As its Tercentenary charity project, the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka chose to involve itself in this national need of alleviating this issue and undertook to gift a minimum of three Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plants in the most affected areas.
The District elected to partner with the Sri Lanka Navy welfare unit on the primary basis that on handing over the equipment, the operation and maintenance of the Plants would be looked after by the Navy and hence, the villagers would not need to pay even a nominal amount towards the Plant upkeep.
The first of these units, which was established by funds raised by the District, was set up in the Kurunegala District some 20 kilometers from Kurunegala town and opened by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 20th July 2017.
The second unit, which was partially funded by the United Grand Lodge of England and the balance made up by the District, was set up in the Anuradhapura district in the hamlet of Wahalakada, approximately 300 kilometers from Colombo, and was declared open by Dr Suresh Britto, President of the District Board of Benevolence on 5th May 2018.
Each of the units serves approximately 400-500 families, around 1500-2000 individuals in each case, in the immediate vicinity. The Kurunegala Plant was set up on government land in the centre of the village and the Wahalakada Plant in the premises of the Buddhist Temple of the hamlet. Both plants are located in areas where there is a sufficiency of ground water and little likelihood of running dry.
Fundraising for the third RO Plant is currently in progress and the District hope to have this in operation by the end of October 2018.
Supportive sailors in Lincoln have transformed a £25,000 Tercentenary donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) into a specialist pontoon and a safety boat to transform the way it can help disabled people on to the water
The sailors are members of Hykeham Sailability, a charity launched in 2009 to provide sailing opportunities for disabled people in Lincolnshire, but at that time the group had no boats, equipment, sailing expertise, volunteers, or even potential members.
Led by non-sailing Keven Roberts, who sadly passed away in 2016, the group has secured thousands in funding, inspired and trained numerous volunteers and instructors and worked tirelessly to establish what is now a thriving, vibrant sailability club.
Hykeham Sailability is part of the national RYA Sailability programme, which supports disabled people in learning to sail and sailing regularly. The group’s aim is to give both adults and young people the freedom and confidence to get out on the water.
Lincolnshire Freemasons Walter Cook, Worshipful Master of Doric Lodge No. 362, and Terry Wallhead, from Witham Lodge No. 297, have visited the club to see the equipment bought with the MCF grant.
13 June 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I really believe that during the early part of this year we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year.
In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks and, of course, in April, we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
It was hoped that the DVD of the Royal Albert Hall event would be circulated with the next edition of Freemasonry Today, however the Board have come to the conclusion, I think quite rightly, that the chances of a significant number of the DVDs being damaged in transit was too great a risk and it is therefore the intention to distribute them to active members through individual masonic halls. I am sure that this is something that we will all be proud to watch time and time again, but, perhaps, not boring our friends and families too much along the way.
Brethren, I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry?
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life; at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be?
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet. We all know that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our Lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Of course, there can be slip ups, but these are rare and are almost always quickly rectified.
Brethren, surely in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms.
Brethren, if I may use a cricket analogy where the MCC is considered to be the Custodian of the Laws of the game, UGLE in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour, from the individual mason up to the Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home Grand Lodges’ and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. It is of great importance that we, as individuals, set an example of behaviour in our lives and in our lodges. Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
The end of mythology
John Hamill looks back to the pivotal moment in 1984 when Freemasonry had to confront its negative image with a policy of openness
Reviewing the many events that took place in our Provinces and Districts during the Tercentenary celebrations, I was struck by the number that included families, friends and members of the public. As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year, those events exemplified our membership’s renewed spirit of confidence and its pride in the Craft. It also reveals members’ wish to share that pride with their communities.
To most of the current members, being so visible in their communities last year was something new. However, like many things in Freemasonry, it was a welcome return to the past. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Freemasonry was a very visible part of the community. Meetings at national and local levels were freely reported in the national and local press: two weekly masonic newspapers and a monthly magazine were on public sale. Freemasons regularly appeared in public ‘clothed in the badges of the order’ either laying foundation stones of new structures or taking part in civic processions or those celebrating national events. As a result, Freemasons were both known and respected in their local communities.
A MUCH-NEEDED WAKE-UP CALL
During the war, Freemasonry turned in on itself and, with a shortage of newsprint, much social reporting disappeared from the media. After the war, introversion continued and Freemasonry gradually disappeared from the public consciousness. An unwillingness by Grand Lodge to engage with the media when they misreported Freemasonry allowed a mythology to grow. This was greatly helped by the less scrupulous in the world of journalism who knew they could write what they wished about Freemasonry without any fear of an official comeback from Grand Lodge.
The mythology and its effect on Freemasonry came to a head in 1984 with the publication of the late Stephen Knight’s anti-masonic rant, The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons, which, for the first time in English Freemasonry, brought together the strands of anti-masonry in one volume.
In effect, the book was a wake-up call to English Freemasonry. The lead was taken by the Grand Master, who asked the Board of General Purposes to seek ways of better informing the public as to what Freemasonry is – and its place in society – so that they had good solid information against which they could weigh the nonsense appearing in the media on an almost daily basis. That gave birth to what has become known as the Openness Policy, which the Grand Master has greatly supported since its inception.
AND A CONTINUING EVOLUTION
It has been a long process – a perfect example of the old adage that it takes years to build a good reputation, seconds to lose it and years to rebuild it. I think that future historians will see the events of 1984 and what followed as a watershed moment. Since then, Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society. Today, it is a relevant and contributing part of our communities, without having changed its basic principles and tenets.
After all the positive media coverage that we received during last year’s celebrations, it was more than sad that a reputable newspaper such as The Guardian should put on the front page a story about Freemasonry that contained three major untruths, which a call to Freemasons’ Hall could have corrected. The story, as we know, led to ‘Enough is Enough’, which is reported on in this issue. As you will see, it was not a one-off project to meet an immediate need, but will be a continuing process led from the centre, with the Provinces, Districts and Metropolitan area all having a crucial role to play.
Plans are in place to provide the tools from the centre to bolster and maintain that pride and confidence that was so evident during the celebrations. Having been involved in ‘openness’ since its inception, I am convinced that what is already in place and what is being developed for the future will change attitudes and the public’s perception of Freemasonry. There will always be a minority that will believe the myths and are not open to their minds being changed, but with time they will become an insignificant minority.
‘Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society’
From the Grand Secretary
The first words in this new Grand Secretary’s column pay tribute to my predecessor, Brigadier Willie Shackell, whose steadying hand, gentle humour and humility have steered the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) through the tumultuously successful Tercentenary year.
Our handover period has unusually been a full six months, and I have thoroughly enjoyed his company, wise words and kind introduction to a very different world to the one I had left. I wish him a happy retirement and will miss him. Freemasonry owes him a great debt for stepping into, but more importantly filling, a vacancy in such a professional manner.
My appointment signals a change in direction by the Board – a move to a more outward-looking and proactive organisation. One that is not content to be misrepresented by the popular press, or tolerate the slurs of the uninformed, but will stand up for itself, its members and the principles that guide it.
Similarly, I am charged with developing a professional, fit for purpose and efficient central headquarters, which is held in high esteem by you, our members; which engenders pride and a desire to perform to an excellent standard in its staff; and which communicates an appealing, confident, relevant and consistent message to the outside world. That’s quite a mouthful, and quite a task, but one I very much look forward to taking on.
One of the most important tasks we face is to turn around the tide of public perception and negativity about who we are and what we do. Communication has become ever more important; it is the lifeblood of any membership organisation – whether that be listening to our members, keeping them in touch with the latest developments in and around the masonic world, or addressing the concerns of our critics and detractors head on.
You will have noticed a more robust approach to the one we have traditionally taken, and we will be continuing in this vein. We are holding meetings up and down the country to let people know that we are a proud part of the communities from which we are drawn, that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and that we are confident enough to tell people who we are, what we do, why we enjoy Freemasonry and why we are proud to be part of it.
In this issue we meet Freemason Mark Ormrod, who defied medical opinion to walk again after losing both his legs and one arm while serving in Afghanistan; discover whether the world’s first Grand Lodge did in fact originate in 1717; and bid a fond farewell to John Hamill as he retires from UGLE as Director of Special Projects.
‘Communication is the lifeblood of any membership organisation’