Celebrating 300 years

Prostate Cancer UK has announced that a new study has found that the presence of a specific protein can distinguish between prostate cancers that are aggressive and need further treatment from those that may never seriously harm the patient

The Fund donated £34,625 towards the study earlier this year at the University of Cambridge. Dr Hayley Whitaker, Research Developer and Lead Researcher for Prostate Cancer UK accepted the donation from the MSF CEO Richard Douglas.

Dr Whitaker explained that the presence of these specific proteins now called NAALADL2, can be measured with a blood test, saving many men undergoing unnecessary tests and worry, whilst allowing faster, targeted treatment for men with aggressive prostate cancers. The hope is that this test will be available on the NHS in the next five to ten years.

Richard Douglas said: "Accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer is the starting point to help men survive and have a better quality of life post treatment. With over 10,000 men dying annually from this disease, that is one per hour, we're delighted to have made a significant contribution towards the funding Dr Whitaker needed to identify prostate cancers through a low cost blood test."

News of the successful study has reached national media including the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and BBC Health. The Masonic Samaritan Fund is delighted to have made a donation which will have a real impact on advanced medical diagnostics. 

Letters to the editor - No. 23 Autumn 20013

Charity appeal

Sir,

In 2006 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and each time I attended treatment, would take along the latest issue of Freemasonry Today and leave this in the waiting room. In 2008 my consultant asked if I was a Freemason, and if so, would the Freemasons support a prostate cancer appeal. 

I confirmed I was and pointed out that if the Freemasons supported the appeal, all donations would be from their own pockets; you would never see a Freemason outside a superstore shaking a bucket begging money from the public.

At this point in time a new hospital was being built alongside the old Salford Royal Hospital and the new Prostate Cancer Unit would be the most up to date in the area. 

With the assistance of brother Mike Burkes we created an appeal letter, which I placed in the letter rack of lodges in every masonic hall in and around Manchester, and my target was £10,000 from the brethren. At this moment in time the total has reached £76,000, which is fantastic, and the money continues to trickle in all the time. The name of the appeal is Men Matter Prostate Cancer Appeal.

Jeff Clubbe, Excelsior Lodge, No. 4641, Salford, East Lancashire

 

 

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Duke opens rebuilt croydon care home

HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand President of the RMBI, has opened the charity’s state-of-the-art new care home at James Terry Court, Croydon

Following more than three years of rebuilding and overcoming a variety of unique challenges, the major redevelopment of the site has resulted in a stunning home fit for the twenty-first century and beyond. It combines the attractive traditional features of the original house with first-class contemporary design and all the facilities, equipment and carefully planned spaces of a modern, purpose-built property.

The new home now boasts seventy-six spacious bed-sitting rooms with fully equipped en suite wet rooms, light and airy communal spaces – including a library, dedicated activities room, communal dining rooms and lounges – and a unique rooftop garden, accessible for all residents.

Pat Burchell, a seventy-three-year-old resident of James Terry Court, said: ‘We couldn’t imagine the new home at the beginning and it was noisy and disruptive at times, but we knew it was necessary and it has definitely been worth it – my new room with views of the street, houses and people below is perfect for me.’

Published in RMBI
Thursday, 05 September 2013 00:00

John Vazquez is the Mr Fix-It of Freemasons' Hall

Behind the scenes

As the masonic adviser in the private office, John Vazquez is the Mr Fix-it of Freemasons’ Hall, providing all the expertise, support and sometimes regalia to make sure that lodge meetings go without a hitch

Q: How did you come to work at Freemasons’ Hall?

A: Before I was called up to national service in Spain in the 1970s, I was working for a retailer in Oxford Street. My mother used to work at Freemasons’ Hall cleaning the Grand Temple and when I returned to the UK, she said there was as a job going as a porter. I took the role in 1980 and thought I’d eventually get back into retail management, but here I am thirty-three years later. I got to know the people and enjoyed it. Back then it was very family oriented and sometimes you felt that you’d rather stay in the Hall than go home.

When I first walked into the building, I thought how wonderful it was – I was amazed by it and still am. It’s not what you expect; there are lots of cubby holes and even now I’m discovering new things. My favourite place is room seventeen; everyone likes the Grand Temple and room ten, but I like room seventeen’s old-fashioned wood panels and the antique furniture.

‘I am still amazed by the Hall. It’s not what you expect; there are lots of cubby holes and even now I’m discovering new things.’

Q: What was your first lodge?

A: I became a member of the staff lodge, Letchworth, after the bylaws had changed to allow ‘downstairs’ staff to become full members. I then joined the half English, half Spanish St Barnabas Lodge. It was a dying lodge, maybe fourteen or so members, but it’s up to around fifty-two now. I get to meet such a wide variety of people – that’s the great thing about Freemasonry.

Q: When did you start helping to run events?

A: After becoming foreman porter, my job changed to deputy lodge liaison officer. When Nigel Brown came in as Grand Secretary, it developed into the role I have now: using my knowledge to look after the masonic events in the building. From Grand Lodge through to Provincial lodge meetings, I’m always in the background making sure everything is working.

My job is to ensure each day is perfect. I help set up rooms, making sure all the props are there, as well as providing advice. I want to make all the masons watching feel comfortable and for them to walk out with a smile on their face, saying what a wonderful day they’ve had. I’m a calm person and I say to people when they come for a meeting, ‘Don’t worry. If I look anxious, then start worrying, but until then assume everything’s OK.’ I try not to get too stressed.

‘I don’t have an average day, it’s not like working in an office. One side of my job is practical – it’s a good thing I was in the Scouts.’

It doesn’t matter who you are, I will treat you in the same way. It goes back to the principles of Freemasonry and it’s a wonderful thing about the Craft. You do get individuals who think they’re special and need reminding of where they are, that this is not their building: it’s mine and they should behave! I’m lucky that I’ve been here a long time and people know me, so if I say something is going to happen, then it will.

Q: How would you describe your job?

A: I’m a Mr Fix-it. I don’t have an average day and it’s not really like working in an office. One side of my job is practical, like replacing broken chairs, and I’m responsible for all the regalia, making sure it’s clean and repaired – it’s a good thing I was in the Scouts. But my job is also about understanding Freemasonry, knowing what you can and can’t do in a ceremony. If I know I can’t do it, then I know someone else probably can’t either. A lot of people do take my recommendations, but it’s only advice.

When we started hosting non-masonic events at the Hall, the Grand Tyler Norman Nuttall and I used to organise them. As demand increased, the external events were given to Karen Haigh to oversee and I now work closely with her to make sure our masonic and non-masonic events don’t clash. When we first held things like Fashion Week here, there were a few raised eyebrows from masons coming to the Hall, but I think they’re used to it now.

Q: Have things changed since you joined in 1980?

A: Freemasonry has opened up quite a lot, as much as people think it hasn’t. When I first came here you weren’t allowed to go to the Library and Museum unless you were a mason or accompanied by one. While basic masonry hasn’t changed, the people around it have. Younger masons are looking at things in a different way, which is good.

Freemasonry was here before I came and it’ll be here after I’m gone – just like this building. To me it’s a privilege and honour to come and work here. It was fantastic to be part of the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations in 1992 at Earls Court. There was a lot to organise; we had to set the arena up as the Temple and two lodges, but we got it done. It’s the same with the three hundredth celebrations. I won’t panic and I’m actually looking forward to it. We will make masons proud.

Three masons in a boat

What happens when you’re half way across the Atlantic and the engine dies? With two fellow Freemasons as travel companions, Bob Clitherow recounts the ups and downs of life on the ocean waves

Once caught, racing yachts offshore is a condition that is hard to cure. No matter how unpleasant the previous experience, the next challenge is always hard to resist. Famous must-do races include the Fastnet, Sydney Hobart, Newport Bermuda and Caribbean 600 (C600).

Adrian Lower’s yacht, Selene, is a classic Swan 44, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built in 1973. She has competed in many events and in January 2012, a telephone call between Adrian and I went something like this: ‘I’ve entered Selene for the C600.’ ‘Fantastic, I’m on for that. But, how are you getting her there?’ ‘You’re doing the ARC!’

Plotting a course

The ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) is a popular way for yachts to cross the Atlantic in company. In November 2012, more than two hundred and ten gathered in Gran Canaria with the aim of sailing across some two thousand seven hundred miles to Saint Lucia. Of these, Selene was one of twenty-three competing in the racing division. This was certainly going to be a challenge.

The usual route is to head southwest towards Cape Verde and pick up the trade winds across to the Caribbean. But a storm system in the North Atlantic meant that we would have to stay north. The first few days would see headwinds of thirty knots, causing a two-day delay for the cruiser fleet and an uneasy dockside atmosphere.

The original plan was to sail with a crew of eight. However, two dropped out a month or so before the start and on the night before the race, the sixth crew member took fright. So, it was a ‘grown-up conversation’ between the five remaining crew on the morning of the start. Our decision was to ‘sail with purpose’, rather than race hard, and keep within a reasonable comfort zone.

The three helmsmen would be Adrian, Rob Thomas – a student from Plymouth University – and me, and we would do a watch system of two hours on and four off. Rob would also oversee the bow and me the navigation. Kevin Artley and Lily, Adrian’s daughter, were to do three hours on and three off. This was a challenging watch system, but there wasn’t much choice.

Three of us are Freemasons. Adrian was initiated into Royal Sussex Lodge, No. 402, in Nottinghamshire. He is a member of the Lodge of Peace & Harmony, No. 60, Recorder of Grand Metropolitan Chapter, No. 1 (Rose Croix), and Scribe E of Australia Chapter, No. 6505. Kevin was initiated into Farringdon Without Lodge, No. 1745, and is now an active joining member of Carnarvon Lodge, No. 1739, in Derbyshire. He has also joined Australia Chapter, No. 6505. I was initiated into Old Malvernian Lodge, No. 4363, London, am a member of both Grand Masters’ Chapter, No. 1, and Grand Masters’ Lodge, No. 1, a member of Grand Metropolitan Chapter, No. 1 (Rose Croix), and a founder of Amici Concilii Chapter, No. 1204 (Rose Croix).

To say that the first few days of the race were pleasant would be a lie. Heavy seas caused damage above and below deck but by day four, the winds had gone around to the east and Selene was making good progress.

The ocean is a very large place and on leaving the Canaries, we only saw two other competitors and three ships during the entire trip. However, weather information and position reports were available via a satellite phone, and knowing where the opposition was proved to be a good means of encouraging us to keep pushing on.

As life on board settled, it became apparent that a storm system was developing ahead. Selene’s immediate rivals, Scarlet Oyster and Persephone of London, dived south. Determined to sail less distance, we carried on. When it arrived, the first front brought constant rain and winds up to thirty-eight knots in the squalls. At its height, Selene coped admirably in gusts of forty-eight knots and, not for the first time, the crew were thankful of her sound design.

Testing times

But the storm wasn’t the problem. The ‘Apollo 13’ moment came the next day when the engine refused to start. So, no more water maker or charging batteries. With one thousand two hundred miles still to go to Saint Lucia and seven hundred and fifty back to Cape Verde, the crew were more than a little concerned. Fortunately, there was just enough water on board, if used carefully, and the use of power was cut to an absolute minimum. The navigation system became a handheld GPS gaffer taped to the binnacle!

The winds hardly dropped below twenty knots for the whole trip. So, any plans we might have had for catching the odd tuna and making sashimi had to be forgotten.

After sixteen days at sea, five tired sailors arrived in Saint Lucia to be greeted with rum punch and the news that we had actually finished fourth overall. We had also finished second in class, sixteen hours behind Scarlet on corrected time, and eighteen minutes ahead of Persephone – a gratifying result.

 

Make a future

This year marks the culmination of a £1 million grant to Ovarian Cancer Action, made by the Grand Charity over the past five years. Freemason Geoff Fisher explains to Tabby Kinder why he is proud to be involved with an organisation that supports the people fighting this disease

When Gill Fisher died of ovarian cancer in 2010, after six years of fighting the illness, it would have been easy for her husband Geoff, Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon and Treasurer at Anderton Lodge, to become detached and withdrawn. Instead, Geoff has spent the past three years tirelessly raising awareness about the disease: ‘If I can get just one woman to notice the symptoms and raise the issue with her doctor, then all of this will seem worthwhile.’

During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (March), Geoff leaflets banks, supermarkets, school staff rooms and local businesses with information. But his mission isn’t confined to one month: ‘I even stuff Christmas cards with leaflets, asking people to distribute them.’ Geoff also makes the Walk of Hope every year with his two grown-up children or friends of his wife. It’s a ten-kilometre trip through Tatton Park, which brings people together to raise money for the Christie NHS Foundation Trust: the Manchester cancer treatment hospital where Gill spent much of her time in her final years.

For Geoff, and anyone with a similar experience, getting the word out about this deadly disease is key. In fact, as the biggest gynaecological killer of UK women, it is hard to believe that ovarian cancer has had so little publicity compared with other cancers affecting women, such as breast and cervical. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women in the UK, with around seven thousand new cases each year. Although women are statistically more likely to get breast cancer than ovarian cancer, the latter is significantly more deadly, with a five-year survival rate of below ten per cent once the disease is in an advanced stage.

‘When the cancer is in the first stages, maybe ninety-four per cent of people are cured just by operation, but if the disease spreads into the abdominal cavity, the number of people who are ultimately cured is very low,’ says Professor Hani Gabra, director of the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Hammersmith Hospital – the only facility of its kind in the UK and the ‘national jewel for research’ in Europe. Ovarian cancer is almost totally undetectable before it has spread, so the earliest stage of detection is often too late.

Awareness is key

Geoff’s wife was misdiagnosed twice, first by an emergency doctor and then by her own GP, before being correctly diagnosed by a gynaecologist ten weeks after displaying the classic symptoms of a malignant cyst (see ‘Know the Symptoms’ overleaf to learn the warning signs). This same story emerges again and again in personal accounts of women being diagnosed with a gastric complaint and prescribed paracetamol for a few days. ‘People need to know the symptoms and be prepared to challenge their doctor,’ says Geoff.

When it comes to combating ovarian cancer, increased awareness is only one part of the jigsaw. Lengthy and expensive research and trials are needed to understand the cancer and develop treatments. Ovarian Cancer Action (OCA) is committed to making this a survivable disease by funding research and raising awareness. Geoff has been involved with the national charity since Gill’s first diagnosis in 2004, when he and his wife would collect donations and sell badges in support of OCA. Geoff is keen to acknowledge the support he has received from his lodge in all his activities, especially fundraising, both throughout Gill’s illness and since.

‘If I can get just one woman to notice the symptoms and raise the issue with her doctor, then all of this will seem worthwhile.’ Geoff Fisher

Discovering hope

OCA invests £1 million a year to fund the life-saving work being done by Professor Gabra and his team, who report real hope thanks to a second stage of clinical trials that began this year. ‘We’ve worked with pharmaceutical companies on a series of trials that started in 2011, establishing that the drugs that target what we think may be crucial are safe to use. Now we are combining those drugs with standard chemotherapy drugs and there are some signals of activity – things are looking surprisingly promising at this point,’ Professor Gabra says.

The awareness work done by Geoff on the street and the research in the lab have run in parallel with a £1 million grant approved by the Grand Charity in 2008 – payable to OCA over five years, culminating this year. It’s the conclusion of a huge donation by Freemasons to an illness that needs to find more recognition within research and funding circles. The sustained nature of the funding meant OCA could make ‘quick-term gains, while still supporting the long-term science and research needed,’ says Allyson Kaye, the charity’s founder and chair.

‘Freemason support has allowed us to do a mailing list to GPs and practice nurses every year since 2008, in which we outline the symptoms of ovarian cancer,’ she adds. ‘And it funded the first formal survey of GPs, which gave us a baseline to understand what UK healthcare professionals really knew about the disease, allowing us to better evaluate our work.’

The Grand Charity’s donation also supports the work of Professor Gabra, as well as funding a national database of tumour samples from women who have been treated for ovarian cancer, enabling more cohesive research. ‘In 2008 our charity was at a very early stage and ovarian cancer was very much a silent killer,’ says Kaye. ‘The Freemasons’ support has helped us grow and given women a voice.’

Practical progress

Through this grant, Freemasons are supporting a charity that is making a huge difference to cancer research. ‘We’re bringing the research out of the lab and pushing it into the clinic,’ says Professor Gabra. ‘Between four hundred and six hundred patients with gynaecological cancers have their surgery and chemotherapy here in the NHS clinic every year, but we also run the clinical trials alongside the practice, so fresh ideas find themselves first in our treatments. The scope and scalability of the discoveries that we’re making at this research facility have huge potential.’

Supporting Ovarian Cancer Action

Having previously donated £1 million towards research into prostate cancer, the Council of the Grand Charity recommended in 2008 that a similar donation should be given for research into a cancer that affects women. It was agreed that the counsel of women should be sought, as their opinions would be extremely beneficial in deciding which charity should receive the funding.

Among the women asked to contribute their thoughts was Zita Elliott, the wife of the Grand Charity’s then president Grahame Elliott CBE. Zita remembers the bright, summery day when the ten women met together at Freemasons’ Hall in London: ‘We all sat down and over a cup of tea were asked to make a recommendation. Believe me, we didn’t take it lightly,’ she says.

‘The thing I remember most is how quickly we all reached a unanimous agreement.

Our suggestion was to fund research into ovarian cancer. At that time it was very much the silent killer; few people knew the symptoms and the survival rate was extremely low. We are all delighted with what Ovarian Cancer Action has achieved over the past five years.’

Know the symptoms

In a recent survey of UK women, Ovarian Cancer Action found that more than sixty-six per cent of respondents were not aware of the main symptoms of ovarian cancer: persistent stomach pain, persistent bloating or increased stomach size, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and needing to urinate more frequently. Other signs may include: changes in bowel habits, fatigue and back pain. The symptoms are mainly gastric and are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – but they are distinctive because they’re frequent and persistent, whereas those of IBS come and go. Only ten to fifteen per cent of people with advanced ovarian cancer are alive ten years later, compared to seventy per cent of breast cancer sufferers. ‘Awareness is key,’ says Professor Gabra. ‘Bring it up with your GP if you are experiencing the symptoms.’

For more information, visit www.ovarian.org.uk

Published in The Grand Charity

Telling the world

While the role of Freemasons in raising funds for worthy causes is crucial, the Grand Charity believes it is also important to publicise its work to a wider audience

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity works hard to raise awareness of the generosity of masons. In recent years it has seen an increase in the number of publicity mentions it has received and was included more than six hundred times in the regional press (newspapers, online media and radio) and charity websites/publications last year.

This level of coverage is made possible by the Grand Charity working closely with Provincial and Metropolitan Information and Communication Officers, who are responsible for gaining a great deal of recognition for the charity’s work in regional press.

For example, news of the Grand Charity’s support for air ambulances was publicised more than one hundred and forty times, featuring on ITV news online and several radio stations. The hospices programme also received frequent recognition, with more than one hundred mentions in regional press.

The Grand Charity also works closely with the charities it funds, many of which show their thanks through public recognition. The £50,000 donation to Help for Heroes in 2012, to fund therapeutic gardens at a recovery centre for wounded service personnel, was highlighted on BBC radio. In addition, a plaque acknowledging the support of Freemasons was placed in the gardens upon completion.

Many other charities include messages of thanks to Freemasons for their support in their own charity publications, websites, press releases and social media. News of the Grand Charity’s grant to Cancer Research UK last year received more than one thousand ‘likes’ on its Facebook page.

In the news

During 2013, the Grand Charity has spent time promoting its Masonic Relief Grants programme to a wider audience. The charity has been working with Mark Smith, Provincial Grand Almoner of Gloucestershire, to raise awareness of the valuable community service Almoners carry out by providing help, guidance and pastoral support in often very difficult and challenging circumstances.

Mark was interviewed live on BBC Radio Gloucestershire about the work of the Almoner and the support given by the central masonic charities. Mark spoke eloquently about his role and how Freemasonry provides a wide range of support for people in need and that ultimately this is of great benefit to society as a whole.

The Grand Charity would like to thank Mark for his help in publicising the work of the central masonic charities and, most importantly, for highlighting the work carried out by Almoners across England and Wales. The role of lodge Almoner is voluntary and one that requires a great deal of dedication – without their commitment it would be impossible for the Grand Charity to assist the thousands of people it helps each year.

Other highlights for the Grand Charity have included recognition of its work by The Guardian online in an interview with Jackie Bailey, head of outreach at the Spinal Injuries Association, and also during an interview on BBC Radio Manchester with Ben Fewtrell, a family support worker at the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity. Both Jackie and Ben’s roles are largely funded by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, which was acknowledged.

If you would like more information, or to see any clips of the publicity mentioned, please contact Siobhan McCarthy, head of marketing at The Freemasons’ Grand Charity: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in The Grand Charity

Within these four walls

Every day, the RMTGB’s welfare team travel the UK to help young people achieve their potential. Tabby Kinder goes on the road with Julia Young to visit the Stiles family and discovers how the charity is changing lives

Working for a charity that supports more than two thousand children and young people in their education and extra-curricular life can be a rewarding experience, but for the small group of people who make up the Welfare Adviser team at the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), it’s a job that comes with responsibility.

Julia, Sam, Claire, David and Kate spend each day travelling the length and breadth of the country, visiting applicants to, and beneficiaries of, the RMTGB. They assess the support needed by new applicants and maintain ongoing contact with the many families already receiving the charity’s assistance.

This close-knit team of five non-masons plays an integral role in how and when financial grants are awarded by the RMTGB, directing families to state benefits and services, offering guidance about education or careers, and sometimes simply providing a friendly face to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. The team draws upon its collective expertise, which includes counselling, cognitive therapy, bereavement assistance, teaching, social work and disability legislation.

A supportive role

Julia Young has headed up the team as welfare manager for the past twelve years and spends roughly half her time visiting new applicants and the other half providing ongoing support for beneficiary families – some of whom have been receiving help from the trust for up to a decade. ‘The ability to listen with an empathetic ear is key to doing this job,’ she says.

New applications are received almost every day from families who have experienced bereavement, poverty, debt, desertion, divorce or disability, and visits can be emotionally challenging. ‘When the initial application form comes to us it can be difficult to get the whole picture; often families are embarrassed to outline the difficulties they are having, particularly when it involves financial worries or mental health issues. By visiting the family in person we can get a whole picture of what they need, not just a piece of paper outlining facts and figures.’

For Julia, it’s all about finding the balance between sympathy and professionalism, although through the course of her work she has become very close to some cases. ‘I have met families who are at their wits’ end due to the death of one or both parents. It’s the most wonderful thing to see a child develop from being very introverted to continuing their education with our help and eventually leaving sixth form with good A levels, on their way to university. I take great pride in all the children we help. Knowing they go on to achieve and be successful is very rewarding.’

‘When the application form comes to us it can be difficult to get the whole picture; by visiting the family we can see what they need, not just a piece of paper outlining facts and figures.’ Julia Young

The road to success

Les Hutchinson, chief executive of the RMTGB, says that the work of Julia and her team is vital. ‘The speed at which the team can visit families, giving them time and support when they’re at their lowest ebb, is very valuable to our primary purpose, which is to provide support for the children and grandchildren of deceased or distressed Freemasons,’ Les says. ‘Our job is to do what we can to minimise the impact of poverty on the child and make sure that neither their education nor their opportunities are compromised.’

The Stiles family is just one of the many supported by the RMTGB and today Julia has made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Christchurch from her home in Haywards Heath to check in on Pauline Stiles and her three children: Harriet, eighteen, Charles, twenty-one, and Georgia, twenty-three.

‘The RMTGB has changed my children’s lives, their futures and given them opportunities to grow. It has lifted a huge burden, both emotionally and financially.’ Pauline Stiles

When Pauline first approached the RMTGB in 2009 she was facing separation, the collapse of the family business, a son on his way to university, one daughter wishing to further her talent by attending a specialist basketball school, and another with severe disabilities that meant she needed round-the-clock care. Pauline’s mental health was deteriorating and she moved out of the family home with her children, relocating to the south coast.

‘We had a very intense life running a busy family business and looking after Georgia, who has special needs, and then things started to go wrong,’ she says. ‘When we moved out of our old home, Charles had just finished his A levels, and none of us knew what was going to happen. It was a very difficult situation. We had lost absolutely everything.’

The Stiles family has a historical relationship with the Freemasons; Pauline’s husband, brother-in-law and grandfather are all masons, and the Craft has always surrounded family life. ‘Before all our troubles started my husband would raise money for the school for autistic pupils that Georgia was attending in Southampton through his masonic lodge in Basingstoke,’ she says. ‘We were very involved in the fundraising side of it, encouraging the kids to collect twenty-pence pieces in Smarties tubes, and I’d attend the Ladies Day events. I never imagined that one day we would be on the receiving end. We never thought we’d be where we are.’

Financial support from the RMTGB has helped each of the children through a tumultuous and pivotal few years. Georgia returns from her full-time school for sixteen weeks of the year, and a holiday grant has meant that she, her sister and mum have been able to visit a respite camp for young people with disabilities on the Isle of Wight for a few nights each summer.

‘Despite her autism, Georgia loves going out and seeing new people and sights, so even just travelling on the boat was a huge experience for her,’ says Pauline. ‘Being able to take Harriet too meant that she could help me with Georgia, but she was also out there in the garden playing badminton with the other young people, teaching them how to play different games.’ Georgia is now finishing full-time education and has moved into her own accommodation, where she receives twenty-four-hour care assistance through government funding.

New futures

Harriet had a hard time in school, repeatedly held back due to severe dyslexia that went undiagnosed throughout most of her school life, putting her passion for playing basketball professionally on hold for a number of years and leaving her with low self-esteem. The RMTGB’s grant has allowed Harriet to complete her college education, and she has played basketball with the England team in games all over Europe. Harriet now plans to return to college in September to qualify as a personal trainer in order to work as a sports coach for people with learning disabilities. ‘I don’t know where I would be without their support. I definitely wouldn’t be at college now,’ says Harriet.

The scholarship grant has helped Charles attend Cardiff Metropolitan University, where he studies sports management. ‘I was working in Australia for a year when all the trouble started,’ he says. ‘I came back to the UK and everything had changed, my mum had moved away from where I had grown up and it was a difficult time for all of us. I wanted to go to university but it wasn’t feasible due to our money problems, and a student loan can only cover so much,’ he says. ‘The grant has made things a lot more simple and comfortable, and now I can enjoy the side of university that everyone else gets involved in instead of constantly worrying about whether I can afford to eat or pay my rent.’

The charitable support has helped lift the burden on Pauline, who worried that her personal problems were negatively affecting the lives of her children: ‘I’ve found the last few years very hard,’ she says, ‘but I would have found it immensely more difficult if I knew I was letting down my children as well, or denying them the opportunity to do what they want to do.’

Now the pressure has been eased, Pauline has been able to develop the confidence to get back into the workplace, volunteering at a charity called Crumbs three days a week – and she has recently been offered a full-time position. ‘The RMTGB has made things possible for the children that would have been totally impossible without their help. It has changed their lives, their futures and given them opportunities to grow. It has lifted a huge burden, both emotionally and financially, and thanks to that my children have grown into wonderful young people.’

Wider support

The four masonic charities are undergoing a period of realignment to make the services they provide more effective. The changes will enable the charities to offer easily accessible and comprehensive support to Freemasons and their families countrywide.

One aspect of this process is the increasing co-ordination between the work of the Welfare Adviser team of the RMTGB with its counterpart Care Advice team at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.

Through this closer co-operation, the central masonic charities will be able to provide complete cradle-to-grave support, offering the same level of professional advice and help whether the applicant is a child, an elderly person, or a sick person. Les Hutchinson, RMTGB chief executive, says that ‘by minimising the differences between the charities, we are making our support as simple and easy as possible to access for those that need our help’.

Published in RMTGB
Thursday, 05 September 2013 00:00

James Bond's Aston Martin visits Freemasons' Hall

Driving the British way

Founded in London in 1913, Aston Martin celebrated one hundred years of manufacturing the world’s most luxurious and recognisable sports cars at Freemasons’ Hall. With James Bond’s DB5 pulling up outside, we take a look inside a very exclusive birthday party

On a hot summer Saturday night in mid-July, a glittering black-tie party for one thousand Aston Martin owners and invited guests descended on Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street to celebrate one hundred years of the classic car marque. With Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and Allen Leech in attendance, the event featured entertainment from Radio 1 DJ Benji B, composer Grant Windsor and the Deviation Strings ensemble.

The celebration in the capital was the culmination of a week-long programme of centenary activity that included driving tours across Europe as well as a host of events at the brand’s Gaydon headquarters in Warwickshire. Over the same weekend, tens of thousands of enthusiasts had made the trip to London’s Kensington Gardens to witness the largest gathering ever of the iconic British cars. On display in the Royal Park or at nearby Perks Field were as many as five hundred and fifty Aston Martin models – worth around an estimated £1 billion in total.

Classics old and new

Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez said: ‘Exclusivity is a key part of the Aston Martin mystique – we have made only around sixty-five thousand cars in our entire one hundred-year history to date – so to see so many of these rare beauties gathered together in London was a truly historic occasion.’

Themed car displays told Aston Martin’s remarkable story. The event’s centrepiece, the Centenary Timeline Display, on the Broadwalk, took visitors on a one hundred-year journey from the origins of the brand in Henniker Mews, Chelsea, to its current global headquarters in the Midlands.

Every significant Aston Martin road car was represented, from ‘A3’, the oldest surviving car, which dates from 1921, to the Centenary Edition Vanquish, and the thrilling new V12 Vantage S and Vanquish Volante. The exceptional CC100 Speedster concept model, meanwhile, provided a tantalising glimpse of the potential shape of the brand’s cars in years to come.

Elsewhere in the park a Centenary Selection display showcased the diverse and highly bespoke nature of the brand. This varied line-up revealed cars rarely seen outside of private collections, including a brace of new Zagato models, a trio of Bertone Jets, and a number of other unique cars commissioned over the years by passionate customers worldwide.

To top it all, Aston Martin’s association with James Bond was marked with a display of seven of the movies’ cars. Back at Freemasons’ Hall, actor Ewan McGregor posed happily alongside a DB5 from the latest Bond blockbuster, Skyfall, adding a flourish of Hollywood glamour to an evening that celebrated a car marque with true star quality.

Published in Features

In June, one hundred and eighty masons and their families attended the Annual General Meeting and Court of the RMTGB 

The event took place in the RMTGB’s two hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary year at the County Assembly Rooms, Lincoln, under the chairmanship of Graham Ives, Provincial Grand Master for Lincolnshire and member of the Council of the RMTGB.

The president and chief executive, along with other members of the Council and staff, delivered presentations to explain the past, present and future work of the charity.

Lincolnshire Freemasons are in the final year of their 2014 Festival Appeal in support of the RMTGB, which is currently assisting more than two thousand children and grandchildren of masonic families.

Published in RMTGB

A forgotten hero

Crucial in the creation of Freemasonry as we know it today, Francis Rawdon had bold ambitions that saw him twice almost becoming Prime Minister, as John Hamill discovers

Francis Rawdon, Baron Rawdon, 2nd Earl of Moira and 1st Marquess of Hastings, is one of the forgotten heroes of English masonic history. An intimate of George, Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and King George IV), he was Acting (or, as we would say, Pro) Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge of England from 1790 to 1813, during the Grand Mastership of the Prince of Wales. In that role he was one of the principal movers of the project to unite the two Grand Lodges then existing in the country to form the United Grand Lodge of England.

Nor has history been kind to Francis Rawdon. He was not the subject of a full biography until 2005 – surprising for one who distinguished himself as a soldier, statesman and colonial governor.

Born in 1754 in County Down, Ireland, Rawdon was the eldest son of John Rawdon, the 1st Earl of Moira. After schooling at Harrow he joined the army, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, in July 1774 as a lieutenant in the 5th Regiment of Foot. The following year he fought with distinction at the Battle of Bunker Hill, one of the early engagements of the American War of Independence. Promotion to captain followed, and Rawdon was given a company in the 63rd Regiment of Foot, which brought him to the notice of General Sir Henry Clinton, who appointed him one of his aides-de-camp in 1776. When Clinton became Commander-in-Chief in America in 1778, he appointed Rawdon Adjutant General with the full rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

But Rawdon fell out with Clinton and resigned as Adjutant General, sailing south in 1780 with a force of more than two and a half thousand to join General Lord Cornwallis at Charleston. That same year his actions carried the day at the Battle of Camden, though victory was short lived and retreat inevitable.

From war to politics

By July 1781, fatigue and recurring bouts of malaria had almost destroyed Rawdon’s health, so he resigned his command and set sail for England. His ship, though, was attacked by privateers and he became a prisoner under the protection of a French admiral, the Count de Grasse Tilly. After negotiations, Rawdon was exchanged for Thomas Burke, the rebel Governor of North Carolina, and finally arrived home in 1782, to be rewarded by promotion to full colonel and created Baron Rawdon in his own right.

Back in England, Rawdon took to politics as a member of the House of Lords but continued his military service. He last led in the field in 1794 when he took a force to the Low Countries to rescue the Duke of York, whose army was surrounded by the French at Malines.

In the Lords, Rawdon began as a Tory but, once part of the Prince of Wales’s inner circle, moved to the Whigs. For more than two decades he regularly spoke in the House on economic, foreign policy and military matters, and was a supporter of Irish issues and Catholic Emancipation. During George III’s first period of ‘madness’, in 1788, he tried to persuade the Lords to make the Prince of Wales sole Regent and was to do so again in 1810. There were two attempts to form an administration with Rawdon as Prime Minister but he held government office only once, as Master-General of the Ordnance in 1806.

‘He persuaded the Gurkhas to form a regiment as part of the army in India.’

Serving the empire

In 1813, Rawdon took up the position of Governor General of Bengal and soon declared war on Nepal and its Gurkha army, which had been making incursions across the border. His skills as a tactician forced the Gurkhas to sue for peace, but so taken was he with their bravery that he persuaded them to form a regiment as part of the army in India – the birth of the long connection between these tough Nepalese people and the British Army.

Moira was rewarded in December 1816 by being created Marquess of Hastings. Earlier in that year he had waged war on the Pindaris and his success in that enterprise, in 1817, established British supremacy in the whole sub-continent. He then turned his mind to civil matters, encouraging education and a free press and rooting out government corruption. This brought him into conflict with the East India Company, and those quarrels and failing health forced his return to England in 1823.

The cost of the Indian sojourn and his personal generosity had almost bankrupted Rawdon, and in 1824 he was forced to accept the lesser appointment of Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta. Again he was popular, attempting to improve life for the Maltese and tackling government corruption. His stay was short, though. In 1826 he was badly injured in a riding accident and died recuperating on a ship on its way to Naples. He was buried in Malta.

As a measure of Rawdon’s popularity, when the premier Grand Lodge heard he was leaving for India, they raised the handsome sum of £670 to purchase a gold collar from which hung his jewel as Acting Grand Master. The jewel survives and is on display at Grand Lodge for all to admire.

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