Celebrating 300 years
Friday, 23 March 2018 15:16

Five generations of Freemasons in Dorset

Geoffrey James Blake has become the fifth generation of his family to become a member of Portland Lodge No. 1037 in Dorset

His heritage stretches back to 1908. His family have been members of the lodge unbroken since 1908 and have supported the lodge for a total of 152 years – with more to come.

Geoffrey's Great–Great Grandfather Joseph Stone was initiated into Portland Lodge in 1908. He served the lodge as Worshipful Master in 1919 and died a member in 1954. During his year as Master, he initiated his son, Lesley W G Stone (Geoffrey's Great–Grandfather), who remained a member until 1980.

Lesley's daughter Esme married George F J Blake (Geoffrey's Grandfather), who was initiated in 1972 and remained a member until his death in 1998. George's son Graham D Blake was initiated in 1979, served as Master in 1990 and proudly initiated his son Geoffrey into Portland Lodge, completing five generations.

The Past Provincial Grand Master of Dorset Harry Barnes was present and even sang the Initiates Song in the dining room after the Festive Board.

Kevin Abbiss from Portland's mother lodge, All Souls Lodge No. 170 in Weymouth, presented Geoffrey with a number of booklets and pamphlets from All Souls library that mentioned the family over the past century. A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

Modern masons: Wayne Ingram


Despite having raised money to give one boy life-changing facial surgery and more to build an orphanage in Africa, Wayne Ingram doesn’t spend much time considering his role in improving the quality of people’s lives. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says. ‘I’m just glad it happened'

Wayne’s fundraising fervour began while stationed in Bosnia. He heard about Stefan Savic, a boy of four born with a facial cleft. Wayne organised a football match between the British Army and local nationals to raise more than €6,000 (£5,288).

Stefan’s first surgery in 2003 was a success but he has needed a series of lengthy operations since, all of which were funded with money raised by Wayne, which opened the door to other fundraising efforts.

When working in Nouadhibou, Africa, in 2012, Wayne was asked to conduct a health and safety audit on an orphanage. ‘There were 40 children sleeping on the floor, in a room with no lights, open sewage and rats running around. They had nothing at all.’

True to form, Wayne set about raising money for the children, intending to cycle 900km across the African countryside. When this was thwarted because of the potential of a kidnap threat, he altered the challenge to have expats and locals cycle in a gym for 24 hours under the banner ‘Ride a Mile and Make a Smile’, raising £67,000.

Wayne’s commitment and compassion sit well with his membership of the Craft. His father a mason, Wayne joined All Souls Lodge, No. 170, based in Dorset, in 2007. ‘At first, I enjoyed going to the events and didn’t want to seek progression. But it’s an amazing lodge: most of them are ex-servicemen and there’s a great family atmosphere.’

What does the Tercentenary mean to you?

‘It’s an amazing achievement for UGLE. I was extremely lucky to be part of the Tercentenary Interprovincial Banner relay, where the Provincial banner was relayed to every masonic hall in Dorset by masonic motorcyclists.’

Published in Features
Thursday, 22 February 2018 16:37

Dorset Freemasons in life saving donation

Dorset Freemasons have donated a lifesaving defibrillator to Branksome Chine Surf Lifesaving Club

The defibrillator is available for use by the public and is situated right on the promenade within a few yards of Branksome Chine car park. Dorset's Provincial Grand Master Richard Merritt commented: 'As Freemasons we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures. It’s an honour to be able to supply this machine to the club.'

A defibrillator gives a high energy electric shock to the heart through the chest wall to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It's an essential lifesaving step in the chain of survival.

This defibrillator is the latest in a succession of similar donations by Dorset Freemasons who have placed public access defibrillators on all 17 Masonic buildings across Dorset. In the summer of 2016, a man’s life was saved in Swanage when a Masonic defibrillator was successfully used.

Branksome Chine Surf Lifesaving Club is a voluntary organisation involved in both actively lifeguarding and promoting sea/surf safety in and around Bournemouth and Poole. The club was formed in 1990 and provide voluntary first aid and rescue cover, as well as beach and water safety advice, re-uniting lost children/people with their families/groups and information for tourists.

The Lodge of Honour and Friendship No. 1266 in Blandford, Dorset, has donated £500 to Blandford Fashion Museum, to help with the restoration and preservation of their exhibits

The members of the lodge and their partners were given a fascinating talk by two members of the team from the museum. This then led to the lodge loaning items from their collection of Masonic regalia and memorabilia to the museum.

The fashion museum has created a exhibition recording the history of Freemasonry in the town of Blandford, which will be on display for two years from February 2018, and includes Masonic aprons, regalia, jewels and photographs that give a fascinating insight into the history of Freemasonry in Blandford.

Jean Longley, Bookings Secretary at Blandford Fashion Museum, said: 'This donation will help so much. Preserving our collection can be very expensive, with a storage box for one dress costing up to £25.' 

The museum receives no external support funding and raises everything needed through donations and admissions.

The Blandford Fashion Museum is open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10am-4pm, and features 10 rooms of fashion history from 1740 to 1970.

The Lodge of Honour and Friendship also has an Open Day on Monday 28th May, when Blandford Masonic Hall will be open to the public.The Open Day will give visitors a chance to look around the hall and ask questions of the lodge members.

Friday, 26 January 2018 00:00

Remembering Bruce Graham Clarke DSC

Dorset Freemason Bruce Graham Clarke DSC, one of the last surviving crew members of the Second World War XE midget submarines, has passed to the Grand Lodge above aged 95 years

A public servant and talented artist, Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the mission to cut the undersea telephone cables connecting Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The success of this operation forced the Japanese to use radio which left their messages open to interception.

Born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1922 into a military family, his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Educated at the Tower House School and University College School in London, Bruce volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1941. He initially served aboard destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and the Mediterranean and witnessed the sinking of the French fleet. He later took part in Operation Torch – the invasion of Northwest Africa.

In 1943, Bruce volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarines and after training in Scotland was commissioned. In July and August of 1945 Bruce was one of the crew of midget submarine XE5 which took part in Operation Foil to cut the Hong Kong to Singapore telegraph cable west of Lamma Island, running under Hong Kong harbour. In the book “Above us the waves” by Charles Warren and James Benson the mission is recalled ‘... Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days ... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…’

In his report of the operation, the commanding officer Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott wrote: ‘Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clarke had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.’ A month later the war ended and Bruce was posted to Minden in East Germany and put in command as Physical and Recreational Training Officer of Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil on 17 November 1945 and subsequently demobilised in 1946.

After brief spells working in India and Africa, Bruce joined the Overseas Civil Service and through a series of promotions and secondments formed a successful career in Kenya. In 1955, Bruce married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Bruce included a period as Labour Commissioner.

In 1962, Bruce retired from Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service and after a three year contract as Personnel Manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Bruce returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. For a brief period, he and his wife Joan bought and let property but latterly restored antique china, porcelain and furniture, until Joan’s death in 1982 at the age of 60. In retirement, he returned to his hobby of oil painting; he was a very talented painter and produced some fine copies of the old masters.

He was initiated into United Studholme Alliance Lodge No. 1591 in 1979 and in 1986 joined Lodge of Meridian No. 6582 in Dorset, where he was Chaplain of for many years. Bruce was a holder of London Grand Rank and a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in Dorset. He was exalted into St Aldhelm's Chapter No. 2559 in Dorset in 1996.

Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, said: 'Brother Clarke was typical of so many unsung heroes within the Masonic Order. His military career, extreme bravery in the face of the enemy, personal charm and life-long modesty exemplify the principles observed and practised by Freemasons throughout their lives.' 

Members of the oldest Masonic Lodge in Dorset have given £2,000 to help fund local charity Diverse Abilities

The donation was the result of money raised by members of the Lodge of Amity No. 137 in Poole at social events during Martin Barker’s year as Master of the Lodge in 2017. Martin was delighted to nominate Diverse Abilities as his chosen charity for the year.

Diverse Abilities work to enable children and adults with disabilities to achieve their full potential by providing a lifetime of sustainable support and educational services since 1955. Diverse Abilities supports 700 children and adults in the local community, at a cost of £18,000 per day to run the charity.

Mark Powell, Chief Executive of Diverse Abilities, commented: 'We had a lovely surprise when Martin came into the office with a £2,000 donation from the Lodge of Amity.'

Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, said: 'As Masons, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures regularly; it’s wonderful that the Lodge of Amity have been able to help this local charity.'

Dorset Freemasons have given over £4,300 to save a historic photo collection at the Dorset History Centre

The Dorset Archive Trust have been trying to save the “Herbert Collection” – thousands of images which show 20th century life in Dorset. When Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, heard about the project to save the pictures, he stepped in to help.

The collection is suffering from “Vinegar Syndrome”, an irreversible breakdown of the acetate, which has been destroying the negatives. To save this fascinating insight into the county’s history, the Dorset Archive Trust needed to act quickly.

Dorset Freemasons visited the archives on 20th December 2017 and presented a cheque for £4,370 to allow the charitable foundation to complete the digitisation of all the images. Richard Merritt said: 'We are privileged to provide some extra funding for this project. As Freemasons, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures regularly.

'Allowing the photographs to become digitalised will allow them to live on forever for future generations – the benefit is so valuable.'

Sam Johnson, the County Archivist, commented: 'I wanted to thank the Freemasons for the very generous support offered to the Herbert photographic project. The donation has made all the difference and means that we can now finish the job.'

The Herbert Collection is the work of Graham Herbert, a professional Weymouth photographer. He captured many aspects of local life from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The Lodge of St Cuthberga No. 622 in Dorset have supported Dorset Cancer Care Foundation (DCCF) this Christmas with a £3,432 donation

St Cuthberga's Family Christmas Lunch was made extra special as Chris Hawkes from the Lodge presented Leslie May Harrison, the founder of DCCF, with the cheque for £3,432.

DCCF provides financial support to families affected by cancer in Dorset, to aid with the recovery and treatment when traditional care may be insufficient. The foundation also supports and works with other Dorset-based groups to assist with cancer research and education, as well as helping fund medical equipment required for the treatment of cancer patients.

The charity will use the donation to provide services such as transport and parking costs for travelling to treatment, counselling, wigs and prosthetics, as well as respite breaks for patients. 

Lesley May Harrison said: 'Thank you from all at DCCF and those we will be able to help.'

Leslie then joined the Lodge for a Christmas lunch at Wimborne Masonic Hall, with special guests including eight widows of past lodge members.

All present were able to join in the singing of carols accompanied by the Wimborne Musical Theatre Society (WMTS). The Lodge also gave a donation to WMTS at the dinner and raised a further £425 for Teenage Cancer Trust.

Vote of confidence

In celebration of the Freemasons’ Tercentenary year, the public was invited by the MCF to vote for their favourite charities. John McCrohan, Head of Strategic Development & Special Projects at the MCF, explains the rationale behind this initiative

Tell us about your role…

I support the CEO and Board to bring together the activities of the four legacy charities that were amalgamated into the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to ensure they continue to meet the needs of both the masonic community and the wider community through our non-masonic grant-making. In January 2011, I started working for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, one of those four legacy charities, as Grants Director and Deputy CEO. I held the post until the consolidation of the MCF in April 2016, when I took on my current role. As well as respecting the legacy of the four charities, it’s also my job to focus on the future and think about how we can do things differently – and better.

What are the Community Awards?

The full name is the MCF Community Awards –Tercentenary Fund. These are 300 grants totalling £3 million that acknowledge the 300-year anniversary of UGLE. The Awards were created in part to raise MCF’s profile within the masonic community, but also externally. This initiative was our first large-scale, public-facing activity, and was designed to let the wider public know about the good work that happens as a result of the generosity of the Freemasons. We typically spend up to £5 million a year supporting UK charities and responding to disasters and emergencies, both here and abroad. But to celebrate the Tercentenary, we wanted to do something in addition to that, which is where the idea for the £3 million Community Awards came from. We also wanted to celebrate the formation of the MCF.

How do the grants work?

They were for either £4,000, £6,000, £15,000 or £25,000, depending on how many votes a charity got. The grants were spread across all of our Provinces, and we allocated either four, six or eight grants to each depending on size. London got 26 because of its size. It was important that the charities we supported were operating, and helping people, locally. We wanted the grants to reassure masons that the MCF is pushing money back to their communities, to see that the money they give doesn’t get swallowed up in a black hole here in London. And, of course, we wanted to show that we apply good grant-making practice and observe good due diligence.

How did you decide who would qualify for a grant?

Firstly, I went to Provinces and said, ‘We’ve got money for you, we’ll be giving grants in your region, but we’d like you to tell us which charities are close to your heart.’ We then asked each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to compile a list of their chosen charities, filtered down to their allocated number. The shortlists came to us and we carried out initial due diligence to make sure charities were eligible, that they weren’t already an active recipient of a grant, and so on. We then confirmed shortlists with the Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge and began contacting charities, inviting them to formally apply for a grant. They still needed to complete an application, though by this stage they were guaranteed at least £4,000 – but could potentially get as much as £25,000 if they got the most votes.

What types of charities were nominated?

We had charities in every sector – from financial hardship, social exclusion and disadvantage through to health and disability, education and employability. We had community centres, initiatives reducing isolation and loneliness for older people and complementary emergency services – things like blood bikes, for example, which take blood supplies around a county.

And how did the general public phase of the vote work?

People voted primarily online – we promoted the vote on our website, and through our social media and masonic contacts. Having spoken to some charities that had already worked with the public on that kind of scale, however, it became clear that to really make the voting work, we needed the charities themselves to lead the promotion – on their own social-media sites and during public events. To do this, we provided them with materials showing masonic iconography and branding that they could use. And, of course, the competitive element of ‘more votes equals a bigger grant’ really spurred them on.

What were the responses like?

We ended up with 177,801 votes, which really blew away our expectations. Almost 160,000 of those votes were made online, with another 18,000 cast at local events. After people voted, there was an optional short survey of just two questions. One asked if the initiative had improved the voter’s opinion of Freemasonry. Some 57% of those who completed the survey – 36,000 people – said that it had improved their perception of Freemasonry. We believe that’s pretty strong evidence that the initiative really worked.

What did you learn from the project?

We’d never done anything like this before so we were all on a massive technological learning curve. We were very exposed, so the pressure was on – we only had six months to develop the project before it went live. We were still testing the voting pages, making sure the images were right and the copy was okay the day before launch. That was a bit stressful. It was all worth it when the charities, and public, told us they didn’t realise we operated on this scale or supported so many people in this way. Given that raising this awareness was one of our key drivers, I think we’ve been really successful. Going forward, we’ll be able to do something like this much more easily because all our building blocks are now in place.

What happens next?

We are going to monitor the projects throughout the 12 months that the grants last, and do a full evaluation at the end. We want to make sure that what we have done with this grant fund has made a real impact. In a year’s time we’ll go back and see what has worked, what hasn’t worked so well and what lessons have been learned. We’ll see how we can improve, if we do something like it again in future.

Find out more - click here.

Around the world

Four charities that have benefited from the Community Awards

Social Exclusion and Disability: Veterans in Action
Veterans in Action (VIA) helps armed service veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition back to civilian life difficult. For the past six years, VIA has been organising walking expeditions that have needed support vehicles – Land Rovers and minibuses – which are now ageing and require maintenance. The funds from the MCF grant will be used to fund a new project called the Veterans Restorations Project, which aims to restore and upgrade the existing vehicles.

Financial Hardship: Centrepoint North East
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity working with homeless people aged sixteen to twenty-five. It supports more than 9,000 people a year, 800 of whom are from the North East. The grant will be used for its Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (RDGS), which aims to increase the supply of affordable rented accommodation to disadvantaged sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds and those at risk of homelessness. As part of their acceptance on to RDGS, the person agrees to save with Centrepoint so they can afford their own cash bond as and when they move tenancy. This will enable them to have a secure base from which to build their future.

East Kent
Education and Employability: Romney Resource Centre
Romney Resource Centre (RRC) was founded in 1999 and has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence, being the only provider of careers and skills advice, training, education and employment support in Romney Marsh for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds and adults. Due to significant cutbacks in adult skills at the Skills Funding Agency, there is little further-education funding available for Romney Marsh communities – a critical situation if they are not able to upskill or attain updated qualifications. As a consequence, RRC is now seeking grant-funding support in order to continue its mission.

West Wales
Health and Disability: HUTS
Now established for more than two decades, the Help Us To Survive (HUTS) Workshop supports individuals suffering with mental-health issues and learning disabilities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The therapeutic arts-based centre currently has more than 100 active members attending its workshop. The MCF award will go towards maintaining a full-time qualified ceramics and silkscreen-printing support worker. They provide support for members to explore creativity, gain confidence and to reduce isolation and deprivation within the rural community.

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 00:00

Somerset deliver Tercentenary banner to Devon

Despite inclement weather, the Province of Somerset safely delivered the special south west Tercentenary banner to the Province of Devonshire in the magnificent Exeter Cathedral

The banner recognises the special fraternal bond that exists between the South West Provinces and has toured to the Provincial Grand Lodges of Jersey, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Devonshire will pass it on to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall later in the year.

The Provincial Teams from Somerset and Devon paraded in regalia and met in the nave of Exeter Cathedral where the banner was formally passed over.

Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devon, greeted one another and expressed their delight to be able to publicly show and acknowledge the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.

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