Leicestershire and Rutland Freemason Paul Simpson is getting ready for the biggest challenge of his life when he cycles 300 miles for charity, as part of the celebrations of 300 years of English Freemasonry.
Paul, aged 51, is one of 20 Freemasons cycling to each of the 11 Masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland, followed by a hard slog to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall.
When clocking up the 300 miles, they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London, where the first Grand Lodge was formed in June 1717 before they head back to Leicester.
Paul said: 'Little did I realise that when I purchased a bike for my 50th birthday in October 2015, in less than two years I would be attempting a 300 mile charity ride over four days.
'On my first ride I managed just six miles. I returned home out of breath and extremely hot and red faced due no doubt to the excess weight that I was carrying but my appetite for cycling was whetted.'
By July 2016, Paul had completed his first charity cycle ride, 40 miles for Archie’s Army, a charity set up to support a young boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In April 2017, he completed the Rutland Sportive which covered 85 miles over the notorious Rutland hills.
After extensive training, and losing over two and half stone in weight, he is now ready to face the challenge of 300 miles in four consecutive days from Thursday 8th June 2017, which aims to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation supports Freemasons and their families as well as providing more than five million pounds in grants to good causes across England and Wales.
David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: 'We’re very grateful to Paul and his friends for making this magnificent effort in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. We wish them all the very best of luck on their journey and look forward to welcoming them to Freemasons Hall on 9th June.'
The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Loughborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.
Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'On behalf of everyone at Rainbows, I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for supporting Rainbows with their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry.
'Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice - fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families. We would like to wish them all the best for their challenge.'
You can donate to the team here.
Opening evening for the curious
Freemasons from lodges in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland were invited to bring their sons, friends and colleagues who might be interested in finding out more about the ancient fraternity to an open evening at Syston Masonic Hall on the 14th November 2016.
In the past three years, unlike the national trend, membership in the Province has seen a rise – particularly amongst younger masons who are keen to join and to mark the Tercentenary of United Grand Lodge of England in 2017. It is aimed to welcome 300 new members across Leicestershire and Rutland joining the 3,000 strong membership which meet in the 76 lodges across the two counties.
A total of 80 gentlemen accompanied by their hosts packed into the lodge room to listen to a number of short talks on what Freemasonry is, how it developed, why people join and charitable aspects which were given by W Bros Phillip Dodd, Brian Golland and Marc Taylor. Additionally Bro Andrew 'Jock' Keenan introduced the Light Blue Club which is the social club for newer members. It was so well attended that extra chairs had to be brought into the lodge room to accommodate everyone.
The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro. David Hagger, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Jim Buckle and the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder were also in attendance to support the event and answer any questions from the guests.
After the talks, the guests and their hosts enjoyed a sumptuous buffet and a chance to chat with their hosts about masonry on a more casual basis.
The Provincial Grand Master said: 'We are finding that more and more younger people are attracted to Freemasonry as they seek a social environment with strong values and traditions that also supports the local community in charitable giving.'
He added: 'Whilst we would be delighted if our guests this evening consider joining our fraternity, I trust that they have all left with an extremely positive attitude about the Freemasons.'
Och Aye the Blue
The Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club started their 2016 with a visit to Scotland and to two of the oldest masonic lodges in the world and to top it all off a visit to the beautiful Rosslyn Chapel.
On Tuesday 26th January 2016 the group left Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester by bus to travel to Kilwinning in Ayrshire to visit the Lodge Mother Kilwinning. The lodge is said to date back to the building of the abbey in 1140 and up until the formation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736 Kilwinning Lodge was in itself a grand lodge, issuing warrants and charters and is the reason that many Scottish lodges still hold the name Kilwinning in their name.
The Light Blue Club were warmly welcomed by the brethren and had a look around their fascinating museum, followed by an excellent Passing ceremony. Once the lodge had closed, they were treated to an informal festive board, known as a harmony, of pie and beans in the bar and finally a talk about the history of the lodge which is something that is usually incorporated into their first degree ceremony for all new Initiates.
The next day, the group left for Edinburgh to visit Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No. 2. After a short ceremony to confer Honorary Membership on Bro David Begg, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland the annual banquette to Burns and Hogg was held. In attendance was the Grand Master Mason Bro Charles IR Wolrige Gordon of Esslemont, who was very welcoming of the Light Blue Club and even joined them for a late night selfie!
The banquette itself was excellent from an initial parading and address to the haggis, complete with piper, to some wonderful singing and fiddling of traditional Scottish songs from Jess Conway as well as an entertaining and humorous talk from Bro David Venard entitled ‘The Immortal memories of Robert Burns and James Hogg’.
The final part of the Scottish tour was a visit to Rosslyn Chapel where the Light Blue Club enjoyed a talk on the history of the chapel followed by a masonic tour that pointed out all its masonic references, which was described by Bro Bob Reay as, 'a fascinating experience'.
Beacon Lodge No. 5208 held an emergency meeting on Friday 29th May 2015 for a very special ceremony where they initiated a 'Lewis' on the very day of his 18th birthday
Whilst the normal age for joining Freemasonry is usually 21 years old, there are special circumstances where those aged 18 years and above can join.
A ‘Lewis’ is the name given to the uninitiated son of a mason. In stonemasonry, a lewis is an iron cramp that is forced into a cavity of a stone to enable the lifting or lowering of that stone. Although it is not a working tool used in masonic ritual it can be seen as a symbol of strength, which a son is to his father.
Joshua Symonds, who is the eldest son of W Bro Garry Symonds and Past Master of Beacon Lodge, became what is most probably the youngest Freemason in the country thanks to a dispensation granted by the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger.
The ceremony was witnessed by over 70 brethren including visitors from far and wide, including a good contingency of younger masons from the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club. The ceremony was first class and a very proud father took the Master’s Chair to Initiate his son and give those attending a memorable and very unforgettable evening.
Beacon Lodge has one of the lowest age profiles in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland with an average age of just 51. The addition of Bro Symonds will undoubtedly continue the trend in the lodge for younger men to join the fraternity and enjoy Freemasonry at an early age.
After the meeting, a very enjoyable Festive Board was held after the ceremony where £475 was raised for Leicester Children’s Holiday Centre who provide free seaside holidays for disadvantaged children across the county.
A grand introduction in Ireland
Coming from eight different lodges, members of the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club, including Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Kinder, visited the Grand Master’s Lodge in Dublin, Ireland. Prior to the meeting, the visitors were treated to a private tour of Freemasons’ Hall by the Grand Tyler of Ireland. The Light Blue Club’s visit (pictured above) took place when the Grand Master of Ireland, Douglas Grey, was attending his own lodge.
The installation ceremony offered a fascinating insight into the differences between the English ritual and that practised in Ireland.
Over the festive period a band of determined and enthusiastic brethren from the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club undertook a unique and historic feat, visiting 12 different lodges across 12 different evenings in December
The lodges visited were:
1st December - Jason Lodge No. 7716 (Leicester)
4th December - Highcross Lodge No. 4835 (Leicester)
5th December - Edward Sherrier Lodge No. 6757 (Lutterworth)
9th December - Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 (Leicester)
11th December - Beacon Lodge No. 5208 (Loughborough)
12th December - Rothley Temple Lodge No. 7801 (Leicester)
13th December - Old Oakhamians No. 8033 (Oakham)
15th December - Lodge of the Golden Fleece No. 2081 (Leicester)
16th December - Temperantia Lodge No. 4088 (Leicester)
17th December - Reynard Lodge No. 9285 (Loughborough)
18th December - St Peter's Lodge No. 1330 (Market Harborough)
19th December - Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448 (Leicester)
The event was organised by Samuel Harris (Lodge of the Golden Fleece), and was conceived not only as an enjoyable test of endurance (and waistlines), but also to achieve three specific aims:
- To introduce brethren to the joys of visiting and meet other masons across the Province, by providing a unique opportunity to attend any of the 12 lodges during this period knowing there were a group of likeminded individuals also attending
- To raise awareness of the Light Blue Club and its aims across the Province and
- To raise a significant amount of money for LOROS Hospice as one of the designated charities
Over the course of the event, over two dozen individual brethren took part at various stages, including a few who had only been in the Craft for a matter of weeks but were keen to take part. Indeed, one brother who was initiated at one of the meeting, then came to visit another first degree ceremony the day immediately after his own!
In total, visits under the guise of the 12 lodges accounted for over 60 individual visits during the period, with the Light Blue Club attended meetings across the Province, from Leicester to Loughborough and Lutterworth, from Oakham to Market Harborough.
The brethren were overwhelmed with the warm welcome and hospitality they received at every lodge, and enjoyed seeing a wide variety of ceremonies performed, as well as the peculiarities and traditions unique to each Lodge either in the meeting or at the Festive Boards.
Every degree was witnessed at least one, as well as an Installation, although due to the time of the year, Christmas dinner was more often than not the menu of choice! The brethren enjoyed being able to explain to other junior Freemasons the aims of the Light Blue Club, the events put on, and how much they enjoy meeting and socialising with others across the Province. As a result, many more are now aware of the club and intend to get involved in the future.
Samuel Harris was supported in organisation of the event by Karl Coles (Edward Sherrier Lodge), and both deserve full credit for their commitment being the only members who managed to attend all 12 lodges. By the end of the final visit, both stated they would be happy if they never had to see turkey on the menu again!
Over £800 has been raised so far for LOROS, with contributions still coming in.
Members the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club started 2015 off as they mean to go on when on Friday 9th January, a dozen brethren from eight different lodges in the Province (including VW Bro Peter Kinder, APGM, and W Bro Richard Jelly, ProvSGW) visited The Grand Master's Lodge in Dublin, Ireland
The Grand Master’s Lodge is one of the oldest lodges in the Irish Constitution and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1999. The lodge initiates candidates and carries out all the routine business of a Lodge, but due to its unique history, it has a number of traditions, rights and privileges which stem from its origins in the 18th century.
Prior to the meeting, the visiting brethren were treated to a private tour of Freemasons’ Hall by the Grand Tyler of Ireland. The hall was completed in 1869 and has been the home of Irish Freemasonry ever since. Not only does it contain a number of lodge rooms, but also a specially built room for meetings of the Royal Arch, Knights Templar and Rose Croix, as well as an interesting library and museum.
Highlights included the Chapter room decorated in an Egyptian style with a trap door designed to lower individuals down into another room beneath the floor during the ceremony, an ornately designed chapel-like preceptory room complete with a stunning stained glass window, and the Prince Masons room (Rose Croix) which was adorned with beautifully crafted wooden chairs, coats of arms and banners.
The Light Blue Club were lucky enough to be visiting when the Grand Master of Ireland, Most Worshipful Douglas Grey, was attending his own Lodge for the first time in his current capacity having been Installed as Grand Master a few months earlier after previously holding the office of Deputy Grand Master.
In addition to the Grand Master being the Master of his own lodge, the Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ireland also hold their respective positions within the lodge. In the absence of these Brethren there are appointment permanent acting officers, and therefore the Installation ceremony witnessed was that for the Right Worshipful Acting Master, in this case the RW is applied to the office rather than the individual, and his officers.
The ritual was of impeccable standard and carried out superbly and in good humour by members of the Lodge, assisted by Light Blue Club attendees RW Bro Peter Kinder and W Bro Daniel Hayward who were honoured to be asked to undertake the roles of Senior Warden and Inner Guard respectively within the Inner Workings. The ceremony offered a fascinating insight into the differences between our own ritual and that practiced in Ireland, and was enjoyed by all the visitors present.
Following the Installation, the brethren had a chance to meet the Grand Master of Ireland before the Festive Board, where they once again learned about and enjoyed the differences in approach practiced by our Irish brethren. The Grand Master offered his fraternal greetings and welcomed the Light Blue Club to Dublin, whilst also being very impressed that brother Luke Smith was visiting just weeks after being initiated into the Craft.
RW Bro Peter Kinder responded to the toast on behalf of the visitors, with a speech laced with good humour and fellowship, thanking the Grand Master for the superb hospitality provided by the lodge. The festivities continued after dinner, as the Brethren of Grand Masters’ Lodge hosted the LBC until the small hours.
A truly memorable time was had by all, especially those brethren for which this had been their very first visit to any lodge at home or abroad. The question on everyone’s lips was 'Where is next?!'