State of independence

Life-limited and disabled children are exploring the world in new ways thanks to cutting-edge technology provided by Lifelites. Imogen Beecroft talks to Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy about its work and masonic origins

When Daniel was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he told his carers that he ‘couldn’t do anything’. His condition had deteriorated so much that when he entered Richard House Children’s Hospice in London he was able to move just one arm. But one carer thought differently, recognising that if Daniel could move one arm, he could probably hold a video camera. 

So the hospice developed a film club – a place where children could use technology specifically adapted for their needs to make films and animations. 

Richard House now hosts its own Oscars-inspired ceremony every year. Parents come and watch as each child receives an award for their cinematographic efforts. But the technology doesn’t come cheap, and it’s only thanks to the work of the staff at the children’s charity Lifelites, led by Simone Enefer-Doy, that this was possible. 

Working with children’s hospices across the UK and Ireland, Lifelites provides specialised technology to terminally ill children, many of whom have no other form of entertainment or communication. ‘When you have a disability you have to find different ways of doing things, but you don’t have to be excluded from activities. With technology we can explore those ways,’ says Enefer-Doy.

Lifelites began in 1998 as part of a Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) millennium initiative. Les Hutchinson, Chief Executive of the RMTGB, visited seventeen children’s hospices to learn what their needs were. ‘We wanted to support them by harnessing technology that could be used by kids with very significant disabilities, who could get some stimulation and enjoyment from what we could provide.’

With more children’s hospices opening, it was clear by 2006 that the initial £7.5 million provided by the RMTGB might not be sufficient for the technology initiative to survive. ‘We predicted the movement would grow, but we didn’t think there would be forty-nine hospices within fifteen years,’ says Les. ‘Each of these brought a great deal of expense, because we needed to provide all the wiring, software, training and ongoing support for our technology. But then we thought, why don’t we set up a separate charity able to raise funds in its own right?’ And so Lifelites was born. 

‘The RMTGB is very generous with its support and helps us to network within Freemasonry,’ explains Enefer-Doy. The RMTGB provides Lifelites with its offices and deals with its accounts, leaving the team of five to focus on fundraising and delivering the hospice projects. Beyond this, Lifelites is free to fundraise outside the masonic system, making it the only masonic charity to do so. 

‘Lifelites is a really good example of how Freemasonry has created something that is providing a valuable service to the wider society,’ says Les. ‘It’s a masonic charity but it has a completely non-masonic outlook. Its only purpose is to support the children’s hospice movement.’

With a fundraising background including time spent at Scope and Marie Curie, Enefer-Doy was appointed chief executive in 2006 and the past few years have seen Lifelites flourish, with the charity winning a Tech4Good Award in 2011. Each hospice costs Lifelites about £50,000 over four years so the charity aims to replace the equipment at a quarter of the hospices every year. ‘We work on a four-year cycle, and consult with the hospices and children about what new technology they’d like before going to our donors,’ says Enefer-Doy.

Under her care, Lifelites has fostered many partnerships outside Freemasonry, both corporate and individual. The Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, for example, has been generous in its support. ‘They chose us because we said we’d provide these children with a great holiday, as they can’t go on normal holidays with their families.’

The funds raised by Thomas Cook Children’s Charity helped Lifelites to provide a flight simulator for Julia’s House in Dorset. ‘The staff got the children to pack a suitcase and make their own passports with the Lifelites technology. What they’re trying to do is give them the experience of going on a plane, even though they’re unable to.’

Lifelites is also working with students studying video game design at London South Bank University, as there are no high-level games developed specifically for people with disabilities, particularly for those aged thirteen to eighteen. ‘We pitched this to the students, and they designed games that can be played by young people with disabilities, who might be very cognitively able, if not physically so. The next step is for the developers to get these games produced,’ says Enefer-Doy. 

With charity fundraising becoming increasingly competitive, Lifelites recently employed a new fundraising development manager with the goal of diversifying its funding base. The Ladies that Lunch for Lifelites initiative, for example, encourages women to get together with friends over a leisurely lunch to raise money for a good cause. ‘Gender-specific events work really well in fundraising so we tried to think what we could do for women only that could build our support,’ says Enefer-Doy.

Raising funds isn’t the only challenge Lifelites faces. ‘The children’s hospice movement itself is developing. One of the biggest issues is transition units for people at children’s hospices who reach eighteen, so we’re looking at what we can do. We want to keep our focus on technologies for disabilities and think about what we could provide for these older age groups.’

It’s a big task, but a rewarding one for Enefer-Doy and her team. ‘We’re small, we’re unknown, we don’t get a lot of automatic donations. But then, when people go with us to the hospices and see the technology and how excited the parents and kids are, it’s very moving and they understand why what we do is so important.’

For more information about Lifelites, please visit www.lifelites.org or call 020 7440 4200

Keeping in touch

The donations made by Lifelites have had a huge impact on disabled children like Josh Dolling, aged eleven, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at twenty-six months. Josh is now paralysed down his left side, has impaired vision and suffers seizures. 

His mother Helen says: ‘Josh has specialised needs and requires 24-hour care. But when playing games on the Lifelites touch-screen computer at his hospice (EACH Milton), he is engrossed and calm. I think it’s because he has some form of control. There’s no way we could afford to buy the computer, so for him to have it at the hospice is wonderful.’

Innovative control

EYEGAZE: Operated by just a flicker of the eye, Eyegaze technology lets even the most severely disabled children control a computer screen. Cost: £4,368

Simone Enefer-Doy: ‘I saw Eyegaze in 2007, but at £15,000 it was beyond our reach. Last year it dropped below £5,000 and I thought: “We can do this.”’

MOBILE MAGIC CARPET: Projecting an interactive image onto the floor, children can kick up leaves or play in the waves, even from their own beds. Cost: £7,000

Simone Enefer-Doy: ‘It used to be static and too expensive but now that it’s mobile it’s exactly what we want.’

Published in RMTGB
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Brotherly love during the First World War

The welfare of others

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes that we should recall the brotherly love shown between Freemasons during the First World War 

At the Quarterly Communication held on 2 September 1914, one hundred years ago, the First World War had been under way for just under a month. Your predecessors would have known that, even in such a short time, the German Army had already defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg and the French and British armies were in fierce contact with the German advance in the south of Belgium. That Quarterly Communication was presided over by Sir Frederick Halsey as Deputy Grand Master, as the then Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, were away serving their country. 

Sir Frederick proposed the motion that ‘Grand Lodge expresses the deep appreciation of the loyal and devoted service now being rendered to our country by HRH the Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master, and very many other brethren of all ranks in the Craft, and its earnest prayer for their continued well-being’. He went on to say – among other things – that it was a time of great anxiety and that every Grand Officer would carry out his work without panic and alarm and show that calmness and confidence which animates the breast of every Englishman and mason.

Sir Frederick added: ‘Our hearts go out to our friends and relations, to our dear ones, both in the Craft and outside it, who are now serving their country at the call of duty; our prayers follow them, and we trust that before long, in the mercy of the Great Architect of the Universe, they may emerge from this present struggle safe and sound.’

Sadly, more than 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services – Army, Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Flying Corps – never made it home. Freemasons’ Hall was created as a peace memorial dedicated to them and its magnificent commemorative window has recently been restored thanks to the generosity of London lodges and chapters, as well as individuals coordinated by Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter. Below the window is the bronze shrine containing the Roll of Honour parchment scroll honouring those who gave their lives in service of their country. We should not forget that numerous sons and grandsons of members were killed – many of whom would have been potential members.

Brotherly love remains as important today as it was in those dark days of the Great War. To exercise kindness, tolerance and charitable support – and to be interested in the welfare of others – is a source of the greatest happiness and satisfaction in every situation in life. 

It is, I believe, of the utmost importance today to ensure our long-term survival, but I am concerned that we are not always seen internally as a caring organisation, with junior members too often marginalised and unsupported. This must change and it is the responsibility of every member to help to retain those of integrity within their lodges by making them feel cared for. By so doing we will ensure that they will gain the same fulfilment and satisfaction from their masonry that we have all been lucky enough to enjoy.

‘Sadly, more than 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services, never made it home. Freemasons’ Hall was dedicated to them.’

Published in Features

Careful consideration

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses when it is the right time to approach a member of the Craft to join the Royal Arch

The Second Grand Principal has completed a series of meetings with Grand Superintendents, discussing the relationship between the Royal Arch and the Craft – specifically, the selection of Royal Arch representatives in Craft lodges and the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards.

The appointment and monitoring of the Royal Arch representative in a Craft lodge needs careful consideration. There has been debate as to who is responsible for this important appointment. In Provinces where the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are the same, there should be no issue. However, where the heads of the two orders are different, I believe it is essential that the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent liaise. The appointment should never be a box-ticking exercise.

As a member of the Royal Arch, the representative will need to know sufficient about the merits of joining the Order and be able to work closely with the lodge mentor. In many instances it could be best judged that a member should be approached at the same time that he receives his Grand Lodge Certificate. I know from experience that there is a balance between judging whether someone will enjoy the Royal Arch and if it is the right time for that person to join. 

This timing is also pressurised by the concern that an individual will be approached to join one of the side Orders first if there is any delay in recruitment. I continue to believe that there is a good stage to brief Master Masons on the merits of the Royal Arch, but that the actual timing of joining should be linked to each individual’s appetite for masonic advancement and personal circumstances.

‘The actual timing of joining should be linked to each individual’s appetite for masonic advancement and personal circumstances.’

For those of you who are very involved with the side Orders, please do not think that I am in any way against Craft members joining them, far from it. However, I do firmly believe that Royal Arch should be the first priority. 

As for wine-taking with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards, I believe that this custom should be treated sensitively, if it is used. The decision should lie in the hands of each Provincial Grand Master. I can see a case for this where a chapter is linked to a Craft lodge, but even so it is recommended that this wine-taking is conducted with everyone sitting down so that those who are not members of the Order are not embarrassed or, worse still, pounced on with a joining form.

Companions, you will have read in the last issue of Freemasonry Today about the Membership Focus Group and its mission to stop the bleed in membership. 

It is clearly of the greatest importance to Royal Arch recruitment that this depletion is halted, while recruiting and retaining men of quality and integrity. Members were asked to participate in a series of short surveys so that the Membership Focus Group could seek grassroots ideas about the future of Freemasonry. I would ask as many of you as possible to take this opportunity to register and so be able to give your views.

Published in UGLE
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Living in the house that helps

Great expectations

A unique masonic building in central London is enabling young people to take advantage of learning, training and work opportunities in the capital. Tabby Kinder steps inside Ruspini House

Hidden between the brick façades of central London’s swankiest offices and camouflaged within a narrow tree-lined street, Ruspini House is passed by thousands of people every day without a second glance. But inside the little-known masonic building on Parker Street, just a stone’s throw from Great Queen Street, twenty-seven young men and women are treasuring the first taste of independence that the house is giving them.

Owned and run by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), Ruspini House provides residential accommodation for young people who need a place to live while studying or undertaking work experience in London. Rents are kept very low, with residents also able to apply for financial funding for their tuition and accommodation fees. 

Would-be actors live alongside accountants, trainee teachers cook dinner with their barrister friends and law students watch television in cosy companionship with interns at city banks. It’s a happy space, divided into flats with kitchens, lounges, bedrooms and bathrooms, and one that is seen as a godsend by many.

Jess Hayton, twenty-four, has been living in the house since 2010, and it has already provided a roof over her head for the final year of her bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and now the first years of a PhD in education, specialising in visual impairment in children. ‘I was twenty when I moved in and it was exciting to say the least,’ she says. ‘I had been living in a house-share in East Acton and it wasn’t ideal. When my dad showed me an article from Freemasonry Today that mentioned Ruspini House, it seemed too good to be true.’

The family connection

Jess’s father is a mason, but until her second year of university she had never come across the work done by the RMTGB for the children and grandchildren of Freemasons. Just weeks after sending off her application form, Jess was granted a place at the house and set about moving in. ‘It felt like a huge burden had been lifted,’ she says, ‘I was starting to wonder how I could possibly continue paying for both my tuition and my rent. It was pretty much either/or.’

Moving right to the middle of London is something Jess could never have done without Ruspini House. 

‘I knew I could really focus on getting my degree now that I didn’t have the stress of worrying about money. Luckily another girl moved into the flat at the g same time as me, so we were newbies together, but everyone was really accommodating and friendly.’

Jess’s determination impressed the RMTGB, which has gone on to provide a bursary to pay for her master’s degree and PhD tuition, and kept a space for her to see out her education at the house for as long as she needs it. ‘I’m in an incredibly privileged position, and there’s no way I could have followed my aspirations like this without the help of the RMTGB and Ruspini House,’ says Jess. ‘My dad is so happy about all the support and is proud to be part of an organisation that is helping his daughter get a running jump in her career.’

‘It teaches them to be good all-round people, with friends from different walks of life; it’s the best learning curve they could get at this age.’ Jo-Anne Griffin

Jess’s flatmate Harriette Murphy credits Ruspini House for allowing her to properly focus on her studies. ‘I had a law degree and was working in the City to try to get enough money together to train as a barrister, but paying so much in rent meant I wasn’t saving enough to carry on with my education,’ she says. ‘Thankfully, my father helped me to apply to the RMTGB through his lodge in Hampshire and I was fortunate to receive substantial funding as well as a place to live.’

Now Harriette is working at an award-winning barristers’ chambers in London. ‘Being called to the Bar in 2012 was an exceptional moment for me and my family, but I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of the RMTGB,’ says Harriette. 

‘I have a vast practice area and am hoping to achieve pupillage in the near future. I hope that one day I can help others through mentoring, or assisting in any way that I can to this wonderful organisation.’

Mistress of the house

Both Jess and Harriette knew that moving into Ruspini House, despite its finely tuned support network, would not be an easy ride. Jo-Anne Griffin is the Properties Administrator at the house and has overseen its day-to-day running for eleven years. She is determined to make sure the house produces driven and independent adults who are ready to take the first steps in their careers.

‘What we aim to do here is provide a stepping stone between their family home and their adult lives,’ says Jo-Anne. ‘They learn how to live independently, to take pride in the space they live in, have a bit of responsibility, and how to deal with financial issues.’ 

She sits down with whoever needs help and can work though plans for paying rent or handling debts already amassed before coming to the house.

Jo-Anne admits that she can be ‘a bit of a mother’ to the young residents. ‘They tend to come to me if there’s an issue. My previous career in social work means I have a calling for helping young people. I try to guide them towards handling things independently, particularly their cleaning and washing, but I am always on the end of the phone if they need me. Officially I clock off at 5.30pm, but the odd call at 11pm from someone needing a few words of advice isn’t unusual.’

Jo-Anne’s faith in the support given by the RMTGB at Ruspini House is unshakable. ‘It teaches them to be good all-round people, with friends from different walks of life and professions; it’s the best learning curve they could get at this age. They’re lucky, but I get the sense they really appreciate that – I don’t need to tell them,’ she says. ‘I have a lot of respect for the support that Freemasonry offers to members and their extended families, that’s what stands out most for me.’

Whether it’s giving financial, residential or emotional support, Jo-Anne admits that there’s no better feeling than helping the residents at Ruspini House take that first step into the big wide world. ‘It makes it all worthwhile when you get a card back saying someone has passed their exams with flying colours, got their dream job or moved to a house they love.’

Building bricks

Les Hutchinson, Chief Executive of the RMTGB, explains the thinking behind Ruspini House

‘The principle of Ruspini House is to help people working towards their careers, whether that’s studying or interning, or undertaking training and research. It has provided accommodation for around six hundred and fifty youngsters since opening in 1988. It’s safe, it’s secure, and, though not luxurious, it’s a base for young people to grow. Ruspini House is about helping youngsters make that step from education to career, so we want to support them during the transition from dependent child to independent adult. We always ask our beneficiaries when they leave to keep in touch. Some go on to become Freemasons and they come back and offer advice to the next set of young residents.’

Published in RMTGB
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Heritage in the building

The new experience

Freemasonry has a refreshingly open-minded attitude when it comes to age. The routes to the Craft for engaged young people are now more accessible than ever. The emergence of the Connaught Club, a social club for Freemasons under thirty-five, and the hugely successful Universities Scheme prove as much

But while there’s plenty for this younger generation to take from Freemasonry, what can these new brethren bring to the Craft? From a choreographer with all the right moves and a stonemason preserving the nation’s heritage, to an archaeology student unearthing our past, Sarah Holmes meets three young Freemasons with fresh perspectives, experiences and knowledge just waiting to be shared.

Mat Tindall, stonemason, King Egbert Lodge, No. 4288, Province of Derbyshire

Mat Tindall rarely has a typical day at the office. He is currently rebuilding the roof of Castle Drogo on Dartmoor – the last ‘castle’ to be built in Britain in 1911. It’s a painstaking process that involves re-fixing 3,000 granite blocks back into their original positions. ‘It’s like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle,’ Mat reveals, adding that the puzzle is made all the more difficult by the fact that some of the pieces weigh as much as one-and-a-half tonnes. 

The whipping autumnal winds blowing in from the exposed Dartmoor landscape certainly don’t make it any easier. Fortunately, Mat isn’t deterred. ‘If I didn’t enjoy my job, I wouldn’t be here,’ he admits. ‘I’m lucky I get to experience some of the country’s most incredible heritage first hand.’

Just last year, Mat ventured below the floors of Sheffield Cathedral into the sixteenth-century crypt of George Talbot, the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury. 

‘It was amazing being able to explore this archaic space by lamplight, to stand beside these huge coffins and read the eulogies chiselled into their lids in lead. It’s not something everybody gets to do.’ 

It was Mat’s love of the historical aspects of his job that first inspired his interest in Freemasonry. Working in great halls, cathedrals and castles, Mat became fascinated with the masonic symbols that he regularly encountered. ‘But it wasn’t until I was working on a farmhouse conversion next to King Egbert Lodge in Derbyshire that I finally got in touch with the Worshipful Master,’ he says. 

In September 2014 Sheffield-born Mat was initiated into the Craft. ‘I loved the camaraderie of it all,’ he recalls. ‘The history, the tradition – it’s exactly what 

I’m interested in, but my partner felt unsure. I think she worried that the lodge would take time away from our three-year-old daughter, Willow. But she knows now it won’t come to that. There’s never been a pressure to prioritise the lodge over family.’

Despite having only just started his journey into Freemasonry, Mat is already feeling confident in this new undertaking. ‘It’s definitely broadened my horizons,’ he says. ‘As the youngest person in my lodge I feel I bring a fresh perspective, too. Young people do have a different way of thinking about things, and when everybody brings their own stories and insights to their lodges it can benefit Freemasonry as a whole.’

‘Freemasonry has definitely broadened my horizons. As the youngest person in my lodge I feel I bring a fresh perspective, too.’

John Henry Phillips, archaeology student, Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, Province of Leicestershire and Rutland

Unlike many students, partying was the last thing on John Henry Phillips’ mind when he headed to the University of Leicester in 2013. Having spent the past four years of his life touring Europe as part of a burgeoning rock band, John was eager to immerse himself in his archaeological passions. 

It was the discovery of a World War I grenade during his first visit to the fields at Flanders in Belgium that inspired John to apply to study archaeology. He was just ten minutes into his visit when he and his dad happened upon the small explosive shell.

‘One hundred and sixty tonnes of ammunition are ploughed up from under the fields each year, so people often find artefacts,’ says John. ‘Even so, it’s astonishing to find yourself face to face with a soldier’s boot after over a century. I’m now in talks with various projects in France about excavating the trenches in the future.’

It was after being accepted to study in Leicester (with the same university department that discovered Richard III’s remains in a local car park in 2013) that John became interested in the Universities Scheme, which forges links between lodges and young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry. 

‘Student living can be quite intense,’ recalls John, ‘so Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all, to do something positive and unselfish rather than just going on a pub crawl.’ In December 2013, John was officially initiated into Wyggeston Lodge. 

The overlap between the history of Freemasonry and the world wars had a strong appeal for him. 

‘As a historical fraternity, it ties in with my interests. I particularly like masonic traditions that originate from those eras – such as raising a glass to absent brethren at lodge dinners, which stems from World War I,’ he says.

It is this sense of tradition, combined with the support of the fraternity, that John believes young people could benefit from most. ‘It’s an uncertain time for young people. We’ve more debt than ever – the old guarantees of a steady job and a mortgage are gradually disappearing. I think Freemasonry could be a welcome constant for many,’ he says.

‘But ultimately it’s a two-way street. Young people today have more diverse experiences and perspectives than they did fifty years ago. We’re better travelled than before and education is more accessible, so I think we have just as much to offer in the way of new ideas.’

‘Student living can be quite intense, so Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all and do something positive.’

Anthony King, Choreographer, Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love, No. 56, Province of Sussex

After balancing his entire frame on tiptoes, Anthony King bursts across the Pineapple dance studio in a fit of energy and excitement. A Michael Jackson song booms from the speakers above as he moonwalks his way across the white floors. 

By day, Anthony is a born performer, specialising in the trademark routines of the King of Pop. His Michael Jackson-style dance classes are a firm favourite on the London fitness scene, and this October he performed two sell-out tribute shows at the Shaw Theatre. But outside the dance studio, he is a dedicated Freemason of Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love, where he was initiated in May 2014. 

‘As a performer, I live in quite a superficial daily environment, so Freemasonry gives me insight into another world,’ explains Anthony. ‘It appeals to my philosophical and historical side.’

In particular, it was the idea of being part of a centuries-old brotherhood that drew Anthony to the Craft. ‘I loved the idea of being part of something bigger, of the continuity of the past through the ritual and tradition,’ he explains. 

On entering the lodge, Anthony was inspired by the honesty and warmth of his fellow brethren towards him. ‘They made me feel valued and respected from the moment I arrived,’ he says. ‘That really impressed me.’

Anthony became interested in Freemasonry through his friend Simon, whose father, Richard, is a Freemason. ‘But I never thought I’d be able to join until we were discussing it over dinner one night. Richard saw how passionate I was about it, so the next day he gave me the forms and we got the process underway.’

While the prospect of balancing the commitments of Freemasonry with rehearsing for sell-out shows and preparing for dance classes might seem a challenge, for Anthony it’s not an issue. ‘I’ll always be able to make time for it,’ he says. ‘When Simon and I joined, we both agreed this was a turning point in our lives. We were committing ourselves to improvement through Freemasonry.’

Despite being the youngest person in his lodge, Anthony doesn’t pay much heed to the age difference between himself and his brethren. ‘The Craft attracts a certain type of person, regardless of age. Perhaps young people bring a little more vibrancy, but over three hundred years what difference does a generation make? The important thing is that we all value one another.’ 

‘I loved the idea of being part of something bigger, of the continuity of the past through the ritual and tradition.’

Published in Features

A sense of loyalty

Secretary of the Grand Charity Richard Camm-Jones has spent forty-seven years working in Freemasons’ Hall, walking its corridors and discovering its grand rooms. He reflects on the people and places that have shaped his career

How did you come to work at Freemasons’ Hall?

I came here when I was seventeen and started work in the Grand Secretary’s office on 10 July 1967. That was four weeks after HRH The Duke of Kent had been installed as Grand Master. James Stubbs was the Grand Secretary then and I was employed as a member of his temporary staff, paid £7 a week. In those early years, I did amateur theatre at Eltham. It was my main interest in life as I had never really enjoyed school, so working at Freemasons’ Hall was just a means to an end – I couldn’t wait to go home and get ready for the next rehearsal or performance.

What did you think of the Hall?

My first impression of working here was that it was like walking into a Dickensian novel. Everyone wore three-piece pinstripe suits and it was all very old-fashioned. There were a lot of other temporary staff members who were in their eighties sitting at slanting desks that had bronze cradles over the top of them to hold boxes of files. It didn’t worry me because there were enough younger people and everyone was interesting. Ted Manning and Albert Bastable, for example, were lovely chaps, both well into their eighties, who filled out the Grand Lodge certificates all day long in beautiful copperplate lettering. 

I didn’t know anything about 1930s architecture when I joined, but I wandered the building in awe during my lunchtimes, exploring wherever I could. In the basement strong rooms were dusty old records belonging to the Charity Committee going back to the time of the Battle of Waterloo, all beautifully handwritten. Up on the roof there are wells on either side of the tower and I remember how some of the staff used them as plunge pools during the summer. Some even played cricket on the roof. 

How did your career progress?

I had the opportunity of going into the Cash department in 1968, where I stayed for three years. In 1971, I was appointed to the Grand Secretary’s permanent staff and moved to the Board of Benevolence department, which administered Grand Lodge’s benevolent fund, known appropriately enough as the Fund of Benevolence. They wanted an assistant and could see I wasn’t enjoying it in finance. Sir John Stebbings was President of Grand Lodge’s Board of Benevolence at the time. A lodge would submit an application, I’d help to prepare the papers, the Board would make a decision, Sir John would sign the cheque I’d written out and that would be sent off to the lodge, which would pass it on to the recipient. That was almost how it had been done since the time of the Battle of Waterloo and it is g still how it happens now within the Grand Charity’s administration, but in a more modern, electronic way. 

‘At the Grand Lodge meetings there’s a magnificent procession and people come from miles away to experience it – there’s a real sense of occasion.’

How did you become a Freemason?

After four years at Freemasons’ Hall, when I was twenty-one, I was expected to join, so I filled in a proposal form and was initiated in February 1972 into the Grand Secretary’s staff lodge, Letchworth, No. 3505. I was initiated by the Deputy Grand Secretary, Dennis Barnard, passed by a junior clerk in the finance department and raised by the then Grand Lodge Librarian and Museum Curator, Terry Haunch. Doing amateur theatre helped when it came to learning the ritual, but I couldn’t say I always understood it. I liked to perform, I liked to show off and dress up, and there is a certain theatricality to the masonic ceremonies. At the Grand Lodge meetings there’s a magnificent procession and people come from miles away to experience it – there is a real sense of occasion. I’m sure many of us try to emulate that in our lodges, too.

How did you become involved in the Grand Charity?

In 1980, Grand Lodge established the Grand Charity and in 1981 moved all of its Fund of Benevolence into the new body. The same staff carried on as before, but working under a new title. Like the Board of Benevolence before it, the Grand Charity helps masons and their dependants, but the charity’s creation enabled greater giving to non-masonic charities as well. The message is always that the money is given on behalf of the Craft as a whole, so in effect it is still Grand Lodge’s benevolent fund. 

I took over as Head of the Grand Charity department in 1991, became Registrar in 1999 and have been Secretary of the Grand Charity since 2004. There were just three members of staff in the office when the charity started. Since then we’ve created our own dedicated finance section, which also operates the Relief Chest Scheme. We have people who deal with publicity, staff to deal with applications from national charities and the Masonic Relief Grants team now operates with five people. We also have more applicants to consider. It used to be just thirty a month; now it’s more like two hundred – maybe that’s because we’ve been more open so more people know about us.

What have you enjoyed most about working at the Hall?

I think it must be the many people I have met, especially the staff. My boss for the first thirteen of the forty-seven years I worked at Freemasons’ Hall was James Stubbs. 

He always referred to the clerks in his office as ‘his loyal staff’. He was a strict and slightly austere boss – he’d been a schoolmaster – but he would have nothing said against his staff and he would back them in every difficult situation if he could.

In 1974, when Ted Heath’s government limited the use of electricity to just three days each week, Sir James (as he became in 1980) asked for temporary lighting to be installed in order to carry on working on the other two days in the already dark offices of Freemasons’ Hall. Unfortunately, it could only be gas lighting, which meant that there were yards of rubber tubing running all over the floors to connect to the large gas cylinders that had been wheeled into the offices. The potential hazards of tripping, gas escaping and explosions would certainly not be allowed these days, but back then the loyal staff sailed on and worked the full week in spite of everything.

I remember Irene Hainworth, who was Sir James’s private secretary. She could be very formal and would always call me Mr Camm-Jones. She would get me to do her photocopying or change her typewriter ribbon while she was at lunch. One day I remember mentioning to Miss Hainworth that I was going to Malta on holiday. She suggested that we should meet up as she was going to be there at the same time. I was rather taken aback by the idea, but we met up together with our respective holiday friends, had lunch, went swimming and even ended up playing with a slightly deflated ball on the beach. I was Richard for a while, but once we were back at Freemasons’ Hall, it was: ‘Mr Camm-Jones, can you change my typewriter ribbon please?’ 

What does Freemasonry mean to you?

I do believe that dignity is important. I remember worrying once when I was Master that I’d got something wrong at a lodge meeting and someone told me that it didn’t matter because I had been dignified. If nothing else, I have tried to be that in all that I do now. There are times when the mistakes are what make a meeting interesting. You’re a human being first and there are many who have family and a day job to think about. 

Then there is the ritual to learn, but as long as you make the candidate feel special, then your work is done. 

After the formal ceremonies there are the dinners at which everyone can relax – the atmosphere and friendliness of people with whom you might not otherwise associate is as much a part of the evening as the ritual. You may not recall much detail two weeks later but you do remember that you want to go back. All these things are part of a learning curve, but then Freemasonry is full of that.

Published in The Grand Charity
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2014

From the Grand  Secretary

Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important. We are determined to continue to work closely with Metropolitan London, the Provinces and the Districts throughout the English Constitution. This is demonstrated by an inclusive approach when deciding new initiatives.

Let me give you some examples from this year. The Pro Grand Master has met with all Provincial Grand Masters, the Second Grand Principal has met with the Grand Superintendents, and we have paid attention to our District Grand Masters, attending the regional Conference of Caribbean District Grand Masters in Bermuda. We were also present at the Freemasons’ Conference, organised by the District of East Africa and held in Dar es Salaam. More recently, we attended the second Asia Pacific Conference in Hong Kong with District Grand Masters from the Eastern Archipelago, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand South Island. 

It is not just the senior members of the organisation, however, who we invite views from. The Membership Focus Group is still seeking assistance from members by way of short surveys. This is a great opportunity to have your say and I encourage you to register to take part at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg 

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at how the future of our organisation is in the hands of a new generation. We profile three young men who have joined the Craft: Mat Tindall is a stonemason working on Castle Drogo; Anthony Hall is a choreographer in London; and John Henry Phillips is a student archaeologist in Leicester. Carving out careers in three very different trades, these masons all feel that they have much to learn, but also something important to contribute.

Our feature on Ruspini House explores a unique masonic building that is enabling young people to learn and work in London. Masonic support is also crucial to Lifelites, a charity that helps disabled children to explore the world in new ways thanks to cutting-edge technology; we talk to Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy about its work. Further afield, we report on how Freemasons helped to rebuild the Philippines’ shattered infrastructure after the cyclone that tore across the islands in 2013.

As a new generation joins the Craft and we continue to support those around us, this issue of Freemasonry Today shows an organisation with a strong future. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important.’

 

Published in UGLE

East Kent goes the extra mile

After five years of dedicated fundraising, the Provincial Grand Lodge of East Kent celebrated the close of its 2014 Festival for The Freemasons’ Grand Charity

East Kent announced that more than £3.65 million had been raised, a total well above the Province’s target. ‘All the money for this appeal has been raised by the members of the Province and I was delighted to announce the culmination of their efforts at our celebratory dinner in Folkestone,’ said Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing. ‘I know that our donation will help to change the lives of thousands of people in need. I am so proud of all our members and their families for their generous support and the huge efforts they have made.’

More than five hundred Freemasons, their wives, partners and friends joined the celebration at Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone in June 2014, including Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence; President of the Grand Charity Richard Hone, QC; and the Grand Charity’s Chief Executive Laura Chapman. Speaking about the Festival, Richard said he was tremendously grateful to the Province and their families for their contributions. With grants totalling millions of pounds each year, the Grand Charity assists thousands of people in both the masonic and wider community. Without the support of Freemasons and their families, this would not be possible.

Published in The Grand Charity

Learning to explore

Powered wheelchairs are enabling young children with mobility-restrictive conditions to explore and learn

Children under the age of five with conditions that restrict mobility, such as cerebral palsy or spinal muscular atrophy, can find themselves missing stimulation and interaction with other people. 

To help to overcome this, engineers at UK charity Designability have created Wizzybugs. These powered wheelchairs for under-fives give young disabled children the independence they need to develop alongside more able-bodied children.

The Grand Charity recently donated £25,000 to Designability to fund the manufacture of six Wizzybugs. The chairs will be available to families across the UK through a free loan scheme, with each serving at least three children in its lifetime.

Published in The Grand Charity

Changing gear

HG Wells said that whenever he saw an adult on a bicycle, he had hope for the human race. A three-hundred-mile ride brought out the best in forty-five masons when they pedalled the perimeter of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding. Simon Lewis met some of the participants

The August bank holiday started beautifully in Sheffield, remembers retired civil servant John Boyington, a Freemason since 1994. John was there at dawn to watch forty-five Lycra-clad masons set off on a bicycle tour of the entire perimeter of the Masonic Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, visiting all twenty-three masonic halls along the way.

‘The Grand Départ was from Tapton Hall,’ John says. ‘Funny how we speak French now – up until last year we’d have called it the “Start”. When I arrived at 8am, the car park was full of bits of bikes and all I could hear was the clip-clopping of cycling cleats. As the lads came into view, I could see the excitement on their faces from twenty yards off. The trepidation, too.’

No wonder they were daunted. West Riding is one of the biggest Provinces in the country, spanning both sides of the Pennines, ranging from industrial Sheffield to the hill farms north of Lancaster, taking in the Three Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales and some of the toughest cycling roads in the country. The participants would be covering nearly three hundred miles over three days. 

‘The first real climb took us over the Pennines to Uppermill,’ says Phil Atkinson, a menswear retailer from Addington and a member of Olicana Lodge, No. 1522, in Ilkley. ‘We were going down the high street towards the Lodge of Candour when this guy steps out, stops the traffic and ushers us into the lodge like royalty. Then a brass band starts up. It brought a lump to my throat. A lot of people had gone to an awful lot of trouble.’

At Hebden Bridge, a bit further on, the cyclists were greeted by a piper in full Highland dress playing Danny Boy. That night they were invited to Waddington’s Royal Forest Lodge to have dinner with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, resplendent in their chains of office, while the cyclists limped around bow-legged in Lycra. 

All twenty-three masonic halls along the route opened their doors. ‘My aim was to raise awareness of Freemasonry,’ says Martyn Bolt of Woodsmoke Lodge, No. 9317, in Mirfield, who is a cycling development officer and designed this year’s Tour de France route through Yorkshire. A mason since 1993, he spotted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something new for the Craft. ‘Two years ago there was huge Olympic cycling success and we were about to host the Tour de France. I figured that by the summer of 2014 there’d be a huge boom in cycling.’

He was right – cycling participation in the UK has doubled in the past few years. When his Province began its Festival to raise money for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), Martyn’s suggestion of a three-hundred-mile bike ride was the right idea at the right time. ‘It chimed with the goals of our five-year Festival,’ says John Boyington, who heads the Province’s fundraising committee. ‘When it started in 2012, the economic climate wasn’t good and our Provincial Grand Master didn’t want to set arduous targets. Another goal was to raise the profile of Freemasonry. I think there’s a misconception that we just look after ourselves, when we also look after lots of other people. We give to almost every type of charity you can imagine.’

‘I’ve seen one of the RMBI homes in York,’ says Martyn, ‘and I know how people depend on our charities.’ And so he began planning, beginning with sticking pins in the map to show all the masonic halls in the Province, working out the best routes between them, and recruiting fellow mason Craig Johnson, a senior lecturer at Bradford University School of Management and member of Lodge of Connaught & Truth, No. 521, in Huddersfield. 

‘Cycling is not normally something you associate with masonry,’ says Craig. ‘In fact, it’s almost the beginning of a joke: “What do you call a Freemason on a bike?” A lot of the events we do are based around dinners and galas, so for me this was something new and exciting.’ 

The planning took eighteen months. Craig took two weeks off to design a website to keep everybody informed and to make it easy to donate. The site alone raised £1,000 and Craig gave talks about the ‘Provincial Perimeter Pedal’ at all the lodges in the Province and elsewhere. 

The real hard work, however, came on that August bank holiday – particularly on the second day, when the forty-five cyclists faced some of the steepest roads in the UK. ‘There was one hill just outside Settle that was so steep some of the sheep were falling off it,’ says Craig. ‘I’d heard about it but had never been up it, and now I know why.’

With a gradient of one-in-four over two miles, cobbles at the bottom and an unseasonal hailstorm at the top, it was all a bit much for Chris Oldfield, who only started cycling a few years ago. ‘I’ve never seen a hill like it,’ says Chris, of Mirfield Lodge, No. 1102. ‘I had to get off and push, which I’m annoyed about. One of our group was over seventy and he managed to stay in the saddle – if only because his hips were so bad he said he couldn’t walk. 

We looked after each other. If anyone had a mechanical problem, we’d stop. If anyone needed a breather, we’d stop.’

There were compensations for the near-vertical ascents. The views, for one thing: the valleys around Keighley and Hebden Bridge, where Last of the Summer Wine was filmed, and the beautiful James Herriot country around Ripon. More importantly, however, was the friendship. 

Pedal power

‘I got to meet likeminded masons who I wouldn’t have met otherwise,’ says Phil. ‘We’ve been out riding since and just today I got an email from one of them who’s having a get-together at his lodge. There’s also the buzz of raising money. And with the training, I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.’

‘The fact that all the masonic halls opened their doors to us on a bank holiday and gave the public a chance to come in will have had a beneficial effect for Freemasonry,’ says Martyn. ‘Hopefully we’ll have broken down some of the myths about us – including the notion that masons are all grey-haired blokes who sit around and eat.’

Martyn is already planning an even bigger event for 2016: a walk around the Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales, with various levels of difficulty so people can bring their families, and he hopes hundreds will get involved. 

Are we seeing the start of a new era? John, who was there to see the cyclists off that Saturday morning, was also there at the end when the exhausted riders returned to Tapton in a freezing downpour. ‘There was an enormous cheer,’ he remembers. ‘Some of the guys were done in. It does my heart good to know that people are willing to put themselves through that sort of trial for the benefit of people they’ll never know. In these days, when the media is full of how a minority of people in the world can be so unkind and cruel, it’s great to be reminded that the majority of us want to live good lives and do good for others.’

Donate to the Provincial Perimeter Pedal at www.everydayhero.co.uk/event/E2057A 

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