Celebrating 300 years

On one of the hottest days of the year, more than 500 Freemasons and their families came from as far away as Plymouth, Barnstaple and Tiverton to celebrate the Tercentenary at Ugbrooke House in Chudleigh

The day had something for all the family, with a brass band, an inflatable assault course, a dog show, and a display of classic cars and motorbikes. Cream teas and cakes were on offer, as were guided tours of Ugbrooke House.

A teddy bears’ picnic was also held in recognition of the Teddies for Loving Care initiative. Over the past eight years, Freemasons in Devonshire have provided hospital A&E units with more than 43,000 teddy bears, which have been used to comfort children in severe distress.

Masonic teddy bears visited the National Arboretum for a picnic in the woods to help raise money for Manx Breast Cancer Support

Over 100 families attended the event with many of the children bringing along teddies that they had been given through the Freemasons Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) initiative when they were in hospital.

The picnic was organised by Rachel Corlett, who was Manx Breast Cancer Support Group’s entrant for the Miss Isle of Man contest, and supported by the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Isle of Man.

‘About half of the children who attended brought their TLC bears with them – it was so sweet to see,’ commented Rachel.

The Masonic Teddies for Loving Care initiative has been running in the Isle of Man since 2011 and has so far given more than 4,000 teddy bears to children attending hospital appointments.

The Provincial Grand Master for the Isle of Man, Keith Dalrymple said: ‘To maximise effectiveness we are building practical links with local charities. Our Brethren are encouraged to work with other organisations in a spirit of 'constructive collaboration' rather than simply making cash donations.

‘In this instance we found that the Breast Cancer Support Group, high profile and extremely energetic people, had arranged a picnic the same weekend as ours was planned. Rather than competing, it was agreed that we would join them and support their event.

‘The day formed part of the newly re-vamped 'Miss Isle of Man' competition which requires the individual contestants to raise funds for their nominated charity. Rachel selected the Breast Cancer Support Group which, with a little help from Manx Masons, has benefitted to the tune of more than £30,000.’

Wiltshire Freemasons found themselves in the wonderful surroundings of The Grange at Winterbourne Daunstey where they held a Teddy Bears Picnic

Entry to the event was free on the condition you brought a teddy bear and there was lots of entertainment on display for all the family including three bouncy castles games with a teddy bear hunt, a duck race and a thrilling birds of prey flying display.

There was also the opportunity to enjoy music on the lawn before adjounring to the magnificent recently converted Tithe Barn for afternoon tea.

The superb grounds of The Grange were bathed in glorious sunshine and the sound of happy children filled the air as they explored the woodland searching for hidden teddy bears and watched as rubber yellow ducks washed down the stream, cheered on by anxious owners desperate to win a bag of sweets.

The Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire Philip Bullock was thrilled with the day, commenting: 'I know that members of the Salisbury Lodges put a great deal of effort into making this day a success - they can be very proud of their achievement.'

The real winners though were Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) and the assisted living bungalow at nearby Alderbury, who between them shared almost £2,000 from the fundraising.

Rosie Greer, a senior sister at Salisbury Hospital enjoyed her day helping man the Teddies for Loving Care stand and display. She said: 'I have been especially pleased to be able to tell lots of people how a little TLC bear makes such a big difference to a child's time in our Accident and Emergency department.'

Bucks initiative raises prostate cancer awareness

To raise awareness of prostate cancer, Buckinghamshire Freemasons held PSA testing sessions at three masonic centres. PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland and the test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood.

The Buckinghamshire sessions invited any mason in the Province to bring a friend along and for both to be tested at no charge. Around 10 per cent of those tested had elevated levels and were referred on to their GPs. Tony Dyckes of Hall Barn Lodge, No. 8480, had a raised PSA, prompting further tests in December that confirmed he had prostate cancer. APGM Peter Moody and Teddies for Loving Care programme organiser Mel Shah brought the two initiatives together and presented Tony with a friend to keep him company in hospital. 

Teddies to the rescue

All three of Berwick-upon-Tweed’s lodges were represented at the Berwick Infirmary to promote the TLC (Teddies for Loving Care) Appeal, which provides soft toys for children in A&E units all over the UK. ‘The staff at Berwick Infirmary do a fantastic job and we feel this helps both them and the children,’ said Colin Fuller, chaplain of St David’s Lodge, No. 393, who organised the scheme. 

Nurse Kirsten Burn said, ‘We are really grateful to the Freemasons. If a child is in a great deal of stress we can give them a teddy to make them feel better.’

Funding from Somerset masons meant that Clevedon Minor Injury Unit received its 2,500th bear. Ian Strickland, TLC area coordinator, said: ‘We’re pleased to offer such valued assistance to our local community. The money for these bears has come from Clevedon, Nailsea and Yatton Freemasons, whose contributions enable this scheme to continue.’

Classic car club’s record signings

Described by many as the most beautiful racing car ever built, a 1958 Maserati 250F featured on the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club’s stand at the Classic Motor Show at the Birmingham NEC. 

The car, owned by Berkshire mason Gerry Hann, had a big teddy as the driver as part of a special display for the Teddies for Loving Care charity. 

This prestigious Formula One car, the first model of which made its debut in 1954 with world champion driver Juan Manuel Fangio behind the wheel, attracted a large number of visitors to the club stand. During the three open days, a record number of 40 new members were signed up. 

Essex charity champions

In just one weekend Essex Freemasons raised £130,000 for eight local charities, bringing the total raised for 700 Essex charities to more than £1 million in a year. Dozens of events took place over the three-day 8Aid event, from sponsored bike rides and abseiling to a whole host of social functions. The eight charities – which included Essex Air Ambulance, Helen Rollason Cancer Charity, Lifelites and the Teddies for Loving Care Appeal – each received £16,250. The cheques were presented by Provincial Grand Master John Webb at a special ceremony in Saxon Hall, Southend.

Jersey bears are a hit

Jersey General Hospital has handed over its 500th TLC bear to a deserving child. To mark the milestone, Provincial Grand Master Kenneth Rondel visited the children’s ward to witness the event.

Staff nurse Anna Bailey said: ‘The bears have gone down a treat and the initiative has been extended to other parts of the Jersey Health Service. The A&E department, our ambulances and the Child Development Centre are all well stocked with bears. 

‘But the surprise area that’s been receiving amazing benefits is the hospital’s Dementia Department, where the bears are finding homes and bringing great comfort to those patients.’  

Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:00

Master of tides

Life’s adventure

Whether it’s kayaking across the harshest seas or attending a masonic meeting, for Pete Bray life is all about helping other people. Caitlin Davies joins him for a paddle off the Liverpool coast

Record-breaking British adventurer Pete Bray has completed seven major expeditions, survived a sinking boat and two hurricanes, and has a medal for bravery. Now the climber, marathon runner, cross-country skier and microlight pilot is embarking on a new journey: Freemasonry.

Born in Plymouth in 1956, Pete counted polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton among his childhood heroes: ‘He taught me that if you plan, you succeed, and you live to fight another day.’ Pete learnt this the hard way when, at the age of eleven, he got his first kayak. Not content with splashing around in the sea, he set off from Torpoint in Cornwall wearing a World War I life jacket with virtually no knowledge about currents and tides. 

After reaching Cawsand, Pete decided on the way back to have a look at HMS Ark Royal in the Plymouth docks, at which point the Ministry of Defence (MOD) intervened. ‘They explained the tides and they picked me up and took me home. I got grounded by my dad for a week, but it was all very exciting.’

Perhaps it was this early brush with the MOD that led to Pete joining the army; he worked for twenty-four years as a soldier, including fifteen years in the SAS. 

‘I loved to race while I was in the regiment,’ he explains, ‘and in 1984 I entered a seven-day race between Sweden and Finland. It was the first time I’d been in a racing kayak. Imagine ice skating for the first time; that’s what it was like: you get in, you tip straight out. When I arrived for the race they asked where my support team was and I replied, “You’re looking at him’.”

‘After saving the lives of his crew when they were struck by Hurricane Alex, Pete was awarded a medal by the Royal Humane Society.’

Rising to challenges

In 1996, Pete kayaked around Great Britain with Steve McDonald, a partially sighted friend, then in 2000 he set off to cross the Atlantic alone. But ‘the valve had been put in wrongly and so the boat sank’. He survived for thirty-seven hours in freezing waters before being picked up. It took him months to learn to walk again after suffering from cold-water injuries, but the next year Pete became the first person to kayak solo across the North Atlantic from west to east. 

This seventy-six-day expedition was documented in Pete’s book Kayak Across the Atlantic, and for ten years he held the world record for the longest open-water crossing undertaken by a kayaker. ‘I hate to fail,’ says the fifty-eight-year-old. ‘If something is in the way, it’s just a hurdle to overcome.’

Pete is clearly a determined man and has had to face many other hurdles along the way. In 2004 he was part of a four-man team attempting the fastest row crossing from Newfoundland to the Isles of Scilly. After thirty-nine days at sea, the boat was struck by Hurricane Alex and split in two. Having saved the lives of his crew, Pete was awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Humane Society in 2005. The same year, Pete and three others spent thirteen days kayaking around South Georgia, setting the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the island.

Then in 2009, drama hit again during a solo row from Newfoundland to the Isles of Scilly. After forty-two days he needed rescuing; faced with winds of one hundred and twenty-five miles per hour and twenty-foot waves, he was in the path of Hurricane Bill. 

For his next challenge, Pete has two ideas: a ‘paddle around Wales’ and ‘motorbiking to the twenty-eight capitals of the European Union with disabled soldiers’. 

And if all that isn’t enough to keep him busy, last year he branched out into previously uncharted waters, joining Phoenix Lodge, No. 3236, in Cheshire.

Pete, who is the director of a security consultancy, Primarius, explains his decision: ‘My business partner Harry Glover asked if I wanted to join his lodge, and one of the attractions was the fundraising aspect of Freemasonry. Being a mason is all about looking after people, which I like, so it seemed logical to join.’

Paddling for pounds

Pete is also planning a sponsored kayak crossing of the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska, just south of the Arctic Circle. He will be raising money for the Teddies for Loving Care Appeal, which gives teddy bears to children in hospitals, and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), which relieves childhood poverty and supports education. 

Ray Collings has been fundraising manager at the RMTGB for seven years and has worked with masons who have climbed Kilimanjaro, run marathons or completed the National Three Peaks Challenge. But when Pete rang and told him his plan to kayak across the Bering Strait, ‘I thought he was joking,’ laughs Ray. ‘Then when I realised what he has done in the past, I saw it was almost normal for him. He’s always supported children’s charities and was keen to do something for a masonic charity. A lot of people do sponsored events, but there has never been anything as adventurous as this in my memory.’

The RMTGB gives its fundraisers advice, provides the paperwork and processes the donations, and Ray meets many of them at the end of their trip. 

This summer, for example, masons from Middlesex and Hertfordshire are cycling from Gibraltar to Southampton. ‘I’ll meet them at the finish,’ he says, ‘but I’m not sure if the Trust would allow me to meet Pete when he finishes! It’s a bit extreme for me to fly to Alaska.’

Pete, meanwhile, says he wouldn’t describe becoming a mason as an adventure: ‘It’s more of a learning curve. It’s about improvement and bettering yourself. An adventure is about getting from A to B and succeeding; becoming a Freemason is more of a lifelong journey.’ 

 Pete Bray’s  top five kayaking tips

1. Pick a boat for where you want to kayak (in rivers or the sea). There’s a wide range available and you need the right one.

2. Make sure you have the correct paddle; they come in all different shapes, sizes and lengths.

3. Choose a boat you like the colour of; you’re going to have to really want to be with it. My favourite colours are blues and reds.

4. Learn from a professional, like myself.

5. Enjoy it and do it for the right reasons. People say I should be sitting in an armchair but even now I’m still paddling! If you get off your backside, you can do something.

‘I hate to fail. If something is in the way, it’s just a hurdle to overcome.’ Pete Bray

Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:00

Did you see what it's all about?

Grand premiere 

Forget the box office. There’s a movie exclusive on the front cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today. Sarah Holmes goes behind the scenes of a new film about the Craft, and meets the cast and crew bringing it all to life

Note: you can view the new film in full by clicking here

A film crew is recording Sam Colling as he tears a Subaru Impreza around a muddy racetrack in Oxfordshire. Attempting a hairpin bend, Sam is in his element. While others might consider this a nightmarish experience, for thrill-seeking Sam – one of three Freemasons chosen to appear in the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE’s) latest film – it’s a great way of unwinding. The short film, to be found on the front cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today, aims to convey to people outside of the Craft exactly what Freemasonry is all about by showcasing the diverse mix of people who enjoy it as a hobby. 

With his love of extreme sports, and a Navy career that sees him regularly navigating the stormy North Atlantic Sea, Sam isn’t what people may typically expect of a Freemason. Fortunately, London-based director Lee Cheney had no intention of playing to preconceptions when it came to casting the film. 

Part of visual communications specialist VisMedia, Cheney was commissioned by UGLE in May 2013 to create a modern portrayal of the masonic world, as told by the members themselves.

‘This film is very different from anything I’ve seen on Freemasonry before, and that is the real merit of it.’ Nigel Brown

A change of scene

It’s a step in a new direction for UGLE, which was eager to investigate the potential of rich media for expanding awareness of Freemasonry. As a non-mason, Cheney brought a fresh perspective that fitted perfectly with UGLE’s aim to nurture a more relevant, outward-facing perception of the Craft. 

‘This film is very different from anything I’ve seen on Freemasonry before, and that is the real merit of it,’ says Grand Secretary Nigel Brown. ‘Lee immediately understood it should be angled from the perspective of the non-mason, and particularly that of the families.’

Nigel was keen that the film – funded by UGLE at a cost of just 20p per member – supported the families of masons. ‘It needed to give them an understanding of what Freemasonry is and show them that their nearest and dearest are part of a fine community.’

Cheney’s brief was to demonstrate Freemasonry’s compatibility with a modern, balanced lifestyle – one that prioritises family and work over lodge meetings and dinners. So it’s no coincidence that Sam, Alastair Chambers and Anthony Henderson were chosen to provide a glimpse into the life of a Freemason.

‘We were concerned about presenting Freemasonry in an honest way, so it was paramount that we cast real, everyday people,’ explains Cheney. ‘Sam, Alastair and Anthony were ideal examples. They are just three interesting, friendly guys from completely different backgrounds who share a great set of values.’

The national response to the casting note was overwhelming, and a UGLE panel was tasked with the job of whittling down the one hundred and fifty applicants to a shortlist of thirty. After interviewing candidates on camera, the panel finally decided on these three. So began a busy winter of filming, which saw the crew trailing the length of the country to capture the starring masons and their families at home, at work, and even in the local pub. 

The sets ranged from a living room in Bedfordshire to a windy rugby field in Gloucester. And although the project was storyboarded, Cheney reveals that ‘it was completely unscripted; our masons provided all of the content, which was then brought to life by the fantastic crew’. The improvised dynamic was something that Anthony, a Freemason of thirty-one years, found particularly challenging: ‘I was apprehensive,’ g he recalls, ‘but Freemasonry has given me so much over the years, I’m just glad I could finally give something back.’

‘We were concerned about presenting Freemasonry in an honest way, so it was paramount that we cast real, everyday people.’ Lee Cheney

Giving back is a key feature of masonic life. With The Freemasons’ Grand Charity donating more than £100 million to a wide range of causes since 1981, the film shines a light on the Craft’s enduring history of charitable initiatives. We meet Ian Simpson, the founder of one such venture, Teddies for Loving Care – a charity that gives teddy bears to children visiting A&E. And we hear from nurses and families who explain the therapeutic effect a teddy bear can have.

While it’s unsurprising that charity is important to a society where kindness, honesty, tolerance and fairness are core values, myths continue to abound about Freemasonry. ‘The truth is, it’s open to everyone,’ says Sam. ‘It’s not a closed door society – anyone can visit the lodges.’ As the film shows, even Freemasons’ Hall in London plays host to a wealth of external events, including the catwalks of London Fashion Week.

In its quest to challenge preconceptions, the film shows masonic life to be more multifaceted than many could have imagined. It presents a community that is all at once passionate and accommodating, modern yet historical – and always welcoming.

Meet the stars

Sam Colling

Twenty-three, joined Portus Felix Lodge, No. 6712, in Yorkshire three years ago. When he’s not away at sea working as a Merchant Naval Officer he counts snowboarding and scuba diving among his many hobbies. 

‘Freemasonry is relevant to anyone who wants to become a better person and be able to help others. It’s that simple.’ 

Alastair Chambers

Thirty-two, joined Via Lucis Lodge, No. 9443, in Gloucester two years ago. He is a father of five, runs a construction company, is partner of a recruitment firm and manages a prison rehabilitation scheme. 

‘Although we might all come from different walks of life and have different interests, we all share the understanding that everyone in the lodge is equal. No matter who you are, you will fit in.’

Anthony Henderson

Fifty-seven, joined Russell Lodge, No. 4413, in Bedfordshire thirty-one years ago. As official babysitter for his grandson Finley, Anthony is a master Scalextric racer, although he intersperses track time with a career as a European business manager in the healthcare sector. 

‘In the eighties, Freemasonry was surrounded by taboo. Now, thanks to films like this, I hope people will realise it’s nothing more than a social club that’s open to everyone, regardless of age or background.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 27 Autumn 2014

Masons on film

Sir,

I have just finished viewing your UGLE video. Very nice! It was good to see and hear a young person give his opinions on Freemasonry, instead of ‘old folks’. It was something that we all can relate to – not too long, not too short – just a good, fresh look at an old institution. Well done.

Charles Cameron, Orange Grove Lodge, No. 293, Orange, Grand Lodge of California, USA

 


 

Sir,

I am the Provincial Mentoring Coordinator for West Lancashire, and I’m being contacted by groups wanting to produce extra copies of the excellent DVD included in your last issue. They (and I) see it as a great recruiting tool, and would like to include it in their strategy to further advance membership.

Giles Berkley, Peace and Unity Lodge, No. 3966, Thornton-Cleveleys, West Lancashire

Published in Features
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