Devonshire Court was opened on the 2nd of November 1966 by the Late Queen Mother
It was the first of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) purpose built homes to be opened after a period of about 116 years since the formation of 'the Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons' was opened in Croydon.
The event was attended by many invited guests and residents of the Home. W Bro David Watson a trustee of the Masonic Charitable Foundation addressed the assembled guests, and residents on the work of the Charity, and that of the RMBI. Devonshire Court was then toasted in the usual manner with a glass of bubbly.
W Bro George Stamp a Past Master and Chaplain of the Holmes Lodge No. 4656, a past first Principal of the St Peter’s Chapter, and a member of the St. Peter’s Mark Lodge delivered a eulogy on behalf of the late Fred Lifford who had on his death bequeathed substantial sums to both Devonshire Court, and the Market Harborough Masonic improvement fund.
W Bro George then unveiled a plaque naming the newly refurbished lounge Lifford Lounge.
The residents and guests then continued to enjoy the afternoon and the entertainment.
Here to help
Having had a career in the army and charities that has focused on safeguarding the welfare of others, Willie Shackell, new UGLE Grand Secretary, wants to ensure that Freemasons have all the support they need
Did you always want to be in the army?
Well, the first thing one has to decide is what career best suits you. In my early days, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to be a vicar or be in the army, but I ended up joining the latter.
I went off to Sandhurst in 1960, was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1962, then went to the University of Cambridge from 1963 to 1966, which was paid for by the army. What a lucky chap. I came out as a young officer, having been a student for three years. It took me some time to settle back into army life, but fortunately I had a very persuasive Commanding Officer.
I then went off to the Naval Staff College and did a couple of tours in Germany as a Major before getting promoted and going off to Nigeria to the staff college in Jaji. I was 39 and the placement was an indication for me that I wasn’t in the top flight of Lieutenant Colonels. Throughout one’s career, one’s got to accept that there are people better than you and it’s a great lesson in life.
I got promoted in 1988 to Colonel and was made responsible for the army’s Welfare, Conditions of Service and Casualties Procedures. The Gulf War took place during that period and it was the first time in my army career that I’d had a large degree of autonomy. I brought in computer networks and extra staff and we ran a very successful operation. I was appointed CBE for this work, promoted to Brigadier and went to command a brigade up in York, before becoming the first Director of Reserve Forces and Cadets. Realising I wasn’t going to be a General, I retired at the age of 52 having had a great career and absolutely no regrets – I would recommend it to anyone.
What did you do after leaving the army?
My attention was directed towards charities when I came to leave the armed forces. I felt I had an empathy with that side of life, having dealt with service welfare and enjoyed that aspect of work.
I moved on to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and my first job was to set up a contract for SSAFA to run the community health services in Germany. We had a very successful partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and the Army Medical Service. I ran the department for three years, then supported the volunteer network and managed the housing assets for five years. My last five years on the staff were spent as Company Secretary, and I finished as the Vice Chairman of Trustees. During this time, I also held a number of posts in the voluntary sector.
When I retired from SSAFA, I applied to become the UGLE Grand Secretary. I was interviewed, but got a letter saying I hadn’t got that particular job.
I was, however, rung up a little bit later and asked if I would be the President of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI). It was a total surprise, I can tell you, but I said yes and what a marvellous experience it was.
What was your agenda coming into the RMBI?
I suppose it’s rather like my agenda on joining any organisation. I go in, look at it for three months, and then decide what my goals are. There were a lot of plans for rebuilding care homes to bring us into the 21st century – I took the opportunity to go to all the care homes because I believed I couldn’t discuss change unless I’d visited them all.
I then looked at the trustee board. My feeling was that we needed to have more people with the right skills and I wasn’t bothered whether they were Freemasons or what gender they were. It was a culture change for the RMBI, but my reasoning was accepted and we brought our first lady on to the board. We put more emphasis on accommodating those with dementia, improved fire safety and updated the homes. It was a major undertaking costing about £35 million, but we had tremendous staff support and it all needed to be done.
After six years, I felt that I had achieved what I set out to do and when asked to do another four years I said no. I was then made President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund, taking over from Hugh Stubbs, who had been a quite outstanding president. I just had to keep the ship ticking along, which gave me time with my fellow charity presidents to start work on planning the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. My task was to coordinate the governance and then bring together the grant-making activities of the four charities.
Having retired as President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund on the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation at the end of April, I then got a phone call asking if I would take on the position of Grand Secretary on an interim basis. I spent a weekend chewing it over with my wife before accepting it on a three-day-a-week basis and on the understanding that I was fully accountable to the board. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
What is your approach as Grand Secretary?
Communication is the key to most things. Certainly at the United Grand Lodge of England, one of the first things I’m trying to do is to improve the internal communications. We’ve got a good team; we’ve just got to talk among ourselves a bit more.
My first goal is to get the trust and respect of the people here. Until you’ve got that, you’re not going to achieve a great deal. And probably the second most important thing I’ve tried to do is to make sure everyone understands that we’re all here as servants of Freemasonry. We’re here to support the many volunteers working in Provincial and District offices as well as any other Freemason with a problem – we’re the paid staff and our job is to help members promote the values of masonry out in the field, to understand it, to enjoy it and to have fun.
‘I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career... but because I love Freemasonry.’ Willie Shackell
A lot of the administration of the building is done by the Chief Operating Officer, whereas I’m involved in the administration between the Provinces, the lodges and Great Queen Street. Freemasons should see me as the person they contact and I’m very content in that role. I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career or because I need to be employed but because I love Freemasonry and believe I can contribute to our future.
Why did you become a Freemason?
I joined Freemasonry back in 1963. My dear old dad had been a mason for many years; he became one before the war. Dad was in the Infantry, which hadn’t been very pleasant, and there were no counselling services for people like him. You just had to get on with life and re-establish yourself. After the war, life wasn’t easy. Dad was a teacher, which wasn’t particularly well paid, and as a child I could feel the tension. But whenever he went off to one of his masonic meetings with his little brown bag, he’d come back relaxed. It was noticeable.
I joined my father’s lodge at 22 in 1963. I found that wherever I was in the world, there was masonry. I joined the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany and went through the Chair; in Nigeria I joined the Northern Nigeria Lodge in Kaduna; when I went to Northern Ireland with my Territorial Army regiment, I attended the Belfast Volunteers Lodge; and in the Netherlands I joined a French Constitution Lodge.
What do you want to have achieved by the time you leave?
I’d like to have improved the systems and internal communications and to have run a happy ship. We know people will grumble at us because we’re the headquarters, but we’re here to support them.
An American at the Naval Staff College once said to me, ‘You appear a really laid-back guy, but I can tell you’re paddling like mad underneath that water!’ Maybe he was right. I think I always want to do the best I can. I’ve never had a problem with accepting responsibility – I think I’m better at that than the fine detail. I’ve always had a vision as to what I want to achieve, and I’m a believer that as you aim for a goal the detail will get sorted as you get nearer to it.
The resident DJ
Whether it’s writing a book, having a go at volleyball or playing music at a local radio station, RMBI care home residents are discovering new skills in later life. Amy Lewin explores the activities on offer
There’s a new DJ at Tudno FM and he’s spinning some old tracks from Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Ken George played trombone and saxophone in a band. Nowadays, he plays music at Llandudno’s community radio station, just across the road from his home, Queen Elizabeth Court.
‘Ken’s unbelievable,’ says Gary Carr, Activities Coordinator at the RMBI care home. ‘He’s 87, and so knowledgeable and enthusiastic.’ Gary does some drive-time DJ’ing himself, and one day suggested that the music enthusiast came along to see what they do at the station. And so DJ Ken was born. ‘Older people tend to get stereotyped. Here, we don’t assume that our residents can’t do something – we find out what they can do.’
The media may be awash with gloomy headlines about the problems facing the UK’s ageing population, but an increasing number of over-65s are still in employment, and many learn new skills every day.
‘Everything we do is geared to maximising people’s strengths, in all different areas, while giving residents the opportunity to try new things,’ says Debra Keeling, RMBI Deputy Director of Care Operations. ‘We need to remember that someone living in a care home has a huge amount to offer, and can still keep learning. So as far as possible we just continue with normal life, while developing self-esteem, supporting each other and creating a sense of community.’
Ken’s swing session isn’t his only appointment for the day. After lunch, he will be building with Lego and cardboard boxes, keeping his hands dexterous. More importantly, he will also be swapping stories with a group of fellow residents.
‘It’s all about reminiscence,’ says Gary. ‘I tend to tap into memories of things people did as a child, or when they were younger.’ It could be a creative activity that sparks conversation, or hearing an old song or taking a day trip. ‘That’s what we do here – we unlock memories.’
One of the most recent donations to Gary’s club, inspired by Age UK’s hugely successful Men in Sheds initiative, was an old Singer sewing machine. And it just so happens that he is a trained sewing machine mechanic, so he stripped it down and fixed it up like new. ‘You should have seen the looks on their faces when I opened the box and showed it to the group,’ he chuckles. ‘They were so excited, because they’d all had one once.’
At Cornwallis Court in Suffolk, the residents also have plenty of tales to share. When 26 uniformed RAF officers visited earlier this year, they found themselves staying well beyond teatime. ‘A lot of the residents fetched their medals from their rooms,’ says the home’s Activities Coordinator Alexander Winter. ‘They swapped stories with the officers for the whole evening.’
It’s not just the people actively taking part who benefit from these sessions. Some residents might have lost the ability to speak, yet sometimes simply being surrounded by other people communicating, laughing and using positive body language can have a huge, positive impact on their sense of wellbeing.
Leading by example
Later in the week, back in Llandudno, Ken has another activity in the diary. But this time, he will be leading it. ‘Ken loves to help out when I’m not around,’ says Gary. ‘On Saturdays, he runs “Music with Ken George” in the home’s Silver Jubilee Lounge. He’s made a lot of friends here.’
Like everything else going on at Queen Elizabeth Court, the music session is advertised in the home’s monthly Court Tales magazine, so residents can pop along if they like the sound of whatever’s going to be playing on the day.
Ken is not the only one sharing his skills and interests. In another home, a lady who had been a florist hosted a flower-arranging club to share her skills with other residents. ‘It boosted her self-esteem immeasurably,’ says Debra. ‘It was really important for her to show other people who she was. And everyone walking around the home commented on how lovely the displays looked.’
Carers and activities leaders work hard to arrange events and to encourage hobbies – whether carried out in a group or as an individual – that are relevant to each person living in their home, based primarily on their personal care plan.
‘We focus heavily on life history and get to know people really well – right from where residents were born to what subjects they did at school, what jobs they had and what their interests were,’ says Debra. ‘We mould all that information together and develop a plan that’s meaningful to them.’
‘Older people tend to get stereotyped. Here, we don’t assume that our residents can’t do something – we find out what they can do.’ Gary Carr, Activities Coordinator
The RMBI’s tailored approach to care helps its residents to maintain their independence, and to tot up plenty of personal achievements along the way. Among the 1,000-plus people living in RMBI homes in England and Wales, there is a 100-year-old playing the occasional game of volleyball, someone over 80 who has learned to play the piano and an autobiographer who has written a book of personal wartime experiences.
Not that it is always possible for all residents to achieve everything that they’d like to. One resident wanted to fly on Concorde which, short of time travel, was beyond the means of the care home.
So it was decided to look for the next best thing – going on a flight simulator.
‘We also used to have somebody who really loved horses, but was no longer able to ride,’ remembers Debra. ‘Yet she could still enjoy going to see the horses and stroking them, so we set up trips to a stable. You name it and we’ll try to arrange it, as much as we possibly can.’
Creating a community
At Cornwallis Court, basket weaving is a favourite activity. ‘It doesn’t always end up involving basket weaving, though,’ says Alexander, explaining that the session sometimes morphs into embroidery and crafting, depending on what the residents fancy. ‘Lots of the residents keep things like toiletries in the baskets they’ve made. Sometimes they make them for those residents who can’t, or they bake a cake for the less mobile, take it round and have a chat.’
Alexander thinks this community spirit is not only part and parcel of the activities programme but also a key feature in all RMBI care homes. ‘It’s a window of opportunity to socialise and make friends in their own time. It reawakens a social environment, which continues when there’s nothing going on. Even when there are no activities coordinators around, they will visit each other’s rooms, or bring some board games to the lounge to play together. That’s what I call a butterfly-effect moment.’
For many residents, living in an RMBI home is a sociable kind of independence. ‘After all,’ says Alexander, ‘everybody here has a degree in life.’
A very large tea party
On 16 March, residents and staff at 12 RMBI care homes joined in an attempt to break the record for the world’s largest multi-site tea party
RMBI Marketing and Communications Officer Maricel Foronda said: ‘We were very excited to be involved in this record-breaking attempt. RMBI homes are located throughout England and Wales, and this has brought people together and made them feel part of something bigger.’
The event was organised by catering company WhiteOaks. The current record is held by the Yorkshire Building Society, involving 667 people across six UK locations in June 2015.
Making a visible difference
As the four main masonic charities combine to form the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we have published four new infographics to celebrate their work.
They give a quick historical overview of each charity, as well as explaining some of the real differences they have made through their charitable support.
These can be seen on the Charitable Works page of the UGLE site.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
9 March 2016
The minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 9 December 2015 were approved.
HRH The Duke of Kent was unanimously re-elected Grand Master.
Report of the Board of General Purposes
Grand Lodge Register 2006-2015
Charges for Warrants
The Board recommended that for the year commencing 1 April 2016 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be: Warrant for a new lodge £375; Warrant of Confirmation £980; Warrant for a Centenary Jewel £575; Warrant of Confirmation for a Centenary Jewel £835; Warrant for a Bi-Centenary Bar £885; Warrant of Confirmation for a Bi-Centenary Bar £885; Certificate of Amalgamation £100; Enfacement (Alterations) Fee £135.
The Board had received a report that Woodend Lodge No. 5302 had surrendered its warrant and wished to amalgamate with Liverpool Epworth Lodge No. 5381 (West Lancashire). A resolution from the Board that the lodge be removed from the register in order to amalgamate was approved.
Erasure of Lodges
The Board had received a report that the following 12 lodges had closed and surrendered their warrants: Baildon Lodge No. 1545 (Yorkshire, West Riding), Regent Lodge No. 2856 (Yorkshire, West Riding), Summum Bonum Lodge No. 3665 (Middlesex), Fortitude Lodge No. 4017 (Northumberland), Kinder Scout Lodge No. 4532 (Derbyshire), Opthalmos Lodge No. 4633 (London), Court Mead Lodge No. 4669 (London), Loyalty United Lodge No. 4931 (London), Amicitia Lodge No. 5114 (Middlesex), Aberconwy Lodge No. 5996 (North Wales), Kenyngton Manor Lodge No. 7488 (Middlesex) and United Fairway Lodge No. 9094 (Essex).
Expulsions from the Craft
Eleven brethren were expelled from the Craft on 30 August 2015.
The following is a list for which new warrants have been granted and the dates from which their warrants became effective:
11 November 2015
Music Lodge No. 9919 (South Wales)
Hoose Lodge No. 9920 (Cheshire)
Football Lodge No. 9921 (Hampshire & Isle of Wight)
Spirit of Rugby Lodge No. 9922 (East Kent)
Keystone Centenary Lodge No. 9923 (Nigeria)
Udokanma Lodge No. 9924 (Nigeria).
The Masonic Charitable Foundation
Meetings of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
Meetings will be held on 27 April 2016 (Annual Investiture), 8 June 2016, 14 September 2016, 14 December 2016, 8 March 2017 and 14 June 2017.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Meetings will be held on 28 April 2016, 9 November 2016 and 27 April 2017.
Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation David Innes explains how he intends to use the leadership and operational expertise he gained in the military to take the new charity forward
What did you do before entering the charity sector?
I joined the army after finishing my A levels in 1971, which was the start of a 34-year career that saw me rise through the ranks and end up a Brigadier and Engineer-in-Chief. During that time my career had two main elements – the first was regimental duty, using leadership, man management and operational planning skills. The other half was in office jobs ranging from strategy, intelligence and budgets through to training, human resources and change management jobs. Consequently, I ended up with a broad spectrum of abilities in a number of areas.
What drew you to the charity sector?
Growing up, I’d been in the Cubs, the Scouts and the Pony Club, so I was aware of charitable activities from an early age, but had little chance to volunteer myself. I left the army in 2005 when I was 51, but didn’t feel it was time to retire and wanted to have a second career. The military sector is all about people and the motto from Sandhurst is ‘Serve to Lead’. You are under intense pressure to deliver on the tasks you’re given but you need to look after the people, otherwise you can’t deliver those outputs.
I thought it was a chance for me to use the experience I’d gained and put that back into the charity world.
What was your first charity position?
I headed up the fundraising at Canterbury Cathedral, which was very interesting. It’s been around for many hundreds of years but has only occasionally had to fundraise. We set up a new campaign, which required working with the Charity Commission and charity lawyers. It was a great start for me in the charity world but it wasn’t utilising all my leadership skills. I was approached to put my hat in the ring for Chief Executive at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and was successful.
How did the RMBI compare with Canterbury Cathedral?
I started with the RMBI in 2008 and it was very different from Canterbury. It was about delivering an operational output and I realised there were huge parallels between delivering military operations and care operations.
We look after 1,100 people in our care homes and we need to make sure each one of them is given the best possible care. There are 1,500 people employed in the RMBI, which is the size of a very large regiment in the military, so it’s about harnessing those skills, getting the right people in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, training and motivation, and operating as a team.
How has the RMBI changed over the past eight years?
The RMBI has had to adapt to social and economic pressures. When I arrived, the vast majority of our residents were active and mobile, and many had been with us for five, 10 or even 20 years. Today, the residential sector has shifted to high-dependency and end-of-life dementia care. Residents stay for a much shorter time and their requirements are more demanding. Therefore, the number of staff we need is higher and the unit cost of care has gone up, but local authority or NHS funding has not matched it, so the economic challenges have been very significant. We’ve had to find a lot of efficiencies, which has proved intellectually stimulating as well as rewarding.
Is the Masonic Charitable Foundation going to operate differently?
In the RMBI, I insist that everyone speaks about the residents first, the staff second, the relatives third and everyone else fourth. That way the primary focus is on the residents. Similarly, with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) I will encourage people to talk about our beneficiaries first because looking after them is the single most important thing we will do.
By bringing the four charities together we are improving the service by providing a single point of contact and a single process. Whether it’s advice or financial grants, we’re trying to make support easier to access. We are also providing increasing support to the masonic community – to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards. I’d like to see that strengthened as a result of being a single organisation.
Will the MCF have more of a voice?
When we bring all the charities together, we will be a sizeable organisation in the UK charity sector and, as such, we should be recognised. We should be a voice contributing to the third sector in giving our point of view. The masonic community has not been well represented because it has comprised many small elements. One of the things that I hope the MCF will do is bring them together and be a strong voice in an important sector.
‘We have more than 400 years of history and that will be the foundation for the MCF.’
What challenges do you face as a charity with a membership organisation behind it?
There are very few charities that operate across quite such a broad spectrum. Many tend to focus on one area, whereas we provide whole-life support to the masonic community, at whatever age the help is needed. That’s one of our strengths, but we also have to be mindful that, as our funds come from the masonic community, we spend those funds on causes that the community supports.
How is the MCF affected by the need to recruit and retain more masons?
By the end of this decade, 50 per cent of Freemasons will be over 70. Clearly those masons will be relying on their pensions and savings, so we need to be mindful that income to the charities may well go down. We must look for efficiencies wherever we can, to get as much as we can out of every penny.
I do believe, however, that by working with UGLE in supporting its future strategy for Freemasonry, we will be able to stem the decline in membership.
What is planned for the MCF?
Between the four charities, we have more than 400 years of history and that will be the foundation for the MCF. There is a lot of work to do and the integration will have an impact on staff. That will take a bit of time so I’ve allocated 2016 to getting us fully operational in our new organisation.
As 2017 is the Tercentenary year, our focus will be on supporting a huge number of exciting initiatives. In 2018-19 I’m looking to start growing the MCF, to provide services where we currently don’t and to reach out to more beneficiaries. We need to build our brand, and our single name will make it easier to get that out into the community. The MCF has an exciting future and I feel hugely privileged to have been selected to lead it during these early years.
Highest French honour
Two Freemasons, Ray Worrall, a resident at RMBI care home Connaught Court in York, and Bill Doherty from Northumberland, have both been awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur – the highest decoration in France – by the French Consul.
Ray’s book Escape from France tells the story of how his Lancaster bomber was shot down over occupied France in 1944. Ray was hidden in the Fréteval forest by the French Resistance, who helped him return to England. Bill received the award for helping to liberate the first French village, Ranville, during the Normandy D-Day landings.
East Lancashire festival triumph
East Lancashire masons held an end-of-Festival banquet at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium to celebrate raising more than £2.6 million for the RMBI. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and Bolton’s mayor, Cllr Carole Swarbrick, attended.
PGM Sir David Trippier said that despite one of the worst economic depressions since the war, which had hit the region hard, the amount raised per capita was much higher than during the previous Festival. Entertainment on the night was provided by the Opera Boys, guitarist Neil Smith and the band of the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Completely at home
Last year, 96 per cent of residents said they were happy living in an RMBI care home – a statistic echoed by 93 per cent of relatives.
At the RMBI, care is provided for older Freemasons and their families as well as some people in the community. Caring has been RMBI’s way of life since 1842 and it provides a home for over 1,000 people across England and Wales – while supporting many more. Whether people need residential or nursing care, specialist dementia support or day services, the RMBI cares for them professionally and kindly.
Those members of the masonic community who choose an RMBI care home have the security of knowing that they have a home for life as long as it is possible to support their needs. This applies even if their financial circumstances change.