Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 00:00

Why the membership comes first

Here to help

Having had a career in the army and charities that has focused on safeguarding the welfare of others, Willie Shackell, new UGLE Grand Secretary, wants to ensure that Freemasons have all the support they need

Did you always want to be in the army?

Well, the first thing one has to decide is what career best suits you. In my early days, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to be a vicar or be in the army, but I ended up joining the latter. 

I went off to Sandhurst in 1960, was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1962, then went to the University of Cambridge from 1963 to 1966, which was paid for by the army. What a lucky chap. I came out as a young officer, having been a student for three years. It took me some time to settle back into army life, but fortunately I had a very persuasive Commanding Officer.

I then went off to the Naval Staff College and did a couple of tours in Germany as a Major before getting promoted and going off to Nigeria to the staff college in Jaji. I was 39 and the placement was an indication for me that I wasn’t in the top flight of Lieutenant Colonels. Throughout one’s career, one’s got to accept that there are people better than you and it’s a great lesson in life.

I got promoted in 1988 to Colonel and was made responsible for the army’s Welfare, Conditions of Service and Casualties Procedures. The Gulf War took place during that period and it was the first time in my army career that I’d had a large degree of autonomy. I brought in computer networks and extra staff and we ran a very successful operation. I was appointed CBE for this work, promoted to Brigadier and went to command a brigade up in York, before becoming the first Director of Reserve Forces and Cadets. Realising I wasn’t going to be a General, I retired at the age of 52 having had a great career and absolutely no regrets – I would recommend it to anyone. 

What did you do after leaving the army?

My attention was directed towards charities when I came to leave the armed forces. I felt I had an empathy with that side of life, having dealt with service welfare and enjoyed that aspect of work. 

I moved on to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and my first job was to set up a contract for SSAFA to run the community health services in Germany. We had a very successful partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and the Army Medical Service. I ran the department for three years, then supported the volunteer network and managed the housing assets for five years. My last five years on the staff were spent as Company Secretary, and I finished as the Vice Chairman of Trustees. During this time, I also held a number of posts in the voluntary sector.

When I retired from SSAFA, I applied to become the UGLE Grand Secretary. I was interviewed, but got a letter saying I hadn’t got that particular job. 

I was, however, rung up a little bit later and asked if I would be the President of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI). It was a total surprise, I can tell you, but I said yes and what a marvellous experience it was.

What was your agenda coming into the RMBI?

I suppose it’s rather like my agenda on joining any organisation. I go in, look at it for three months, and then decide what my goals are. There were a lot of plans for rebuilding care homes to bring us into the 21st century – I took the opportunity to go to all the care homes because I believed I couldn’t discuss change unless I’d visited them all.

I then looked at the trustee board. My feeling was that we needed to have more people with the right skills and I wasn’t bothered whether they were Freemasons or what gender they were. It was a culture change for the RMBI, but my reasoning was accepted and we brought our first lady on to the board. We put more emphasis on accommodating those with dementia, improved fire safety and updated the homes. It was a major undertaking costing about £35 million, but we had tremendous staff support and it all needed to be done.

After six years, I felt that I had achieved what I set out to do and when asked to do another four years I said no. I was then made President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund, taking over from Hugh Stubbs, who had been a quite outstanding president. I just had to keep the ship ticking along, which gave me time with my fellow charity presidents to start work on planning the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. My task was to coordinate the governance and then bring together the grant-making activities of the four charities.

Having retired as President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund on the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation at the end of April, I then got a phone call asking if I would take on the position of Grand Secretary on an interim basis. I spent a weekend chewing it over with my wife before accepting it on a three-day-a-week basis and on the understanding that I was fully accountable to the board. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

What is your approach as Grand Secretary?

Communication is the key to most things. Certainly at the United Grand Lodge of England, one of the first things I’m trying to do is to improve the internal communications. We’ve got a good team; we’ve just got to talk among ourselves a bit more.

My first goal is to get the trust and respect of the people here. Until you’ve got that, you’re not going to achieve a great deal. And probably the second most important thing I’ve tried to do is to make sure everyone understands that we’re all here as servants of Freemasonry. We’re here to support the many volunteers working in Provincial and District offices as well as any other Freemason with a problem – we’re the paid staff and our job is to help members promote the values of masonry out in the field, to understand it, to enjoy it and to have fun. 

‘I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career... but because I love Freemasonry.’ Willie Shackell

A lot of the administration of the building is done by the Chief Operating Officer, whereas I’m involved in the administration between the Provinces, the lodges and Great Queen Street. Freemasons should see me as the person they contact and I’m very content in that role. I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career or because I need to be employed but because I love Freemasonry and believe I can contribute to our future.

Why did you become a Freemason?

I joined Freemasonry back in 1963. My dear old dad had been a mason for many years; he became one before the war. Dad was in the Infantry, which hadn’t been very pleasant, and there were no counselling services for people like him. You just had to get on with life and re-establish yourself. After the war, life wasn’t easy. Dad was a teacher, which wasn’t particularly well paid, and as a child I could feel the tension. But whenever he went off to one of his masonic meetings with his little brown bag, he’d come back relaxed. It was noticeable.

I joined my father’s lodge at 22 in 1963. I found that wherever I was in the world, there was masonry. I joined the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany and went through the Chair; in Nigeria I joined the Northern Nigeria Lodge in Kaduna; when I went to Northern Ireland with my Territorial Army regiment, I attended the Belfast Volunteers Lodge; and in the Netherlands I joined a French Constitution Lodge. 

What do you want to have achieved by the time you leave?

I’d like to have improved the systems and internal communications and to have run a happy ship. We know people will grumble at us because we’re the headquarters, but we’re here to support them.

An American at the Naval Staff College once said to me, ‘You appear a really laid-back guy, but I can tell you’re paddling like mad underneath that water!’ Maybe he was right. I think I always want to do the best I can. I’ve never had a problem with accepting responsibility – I think I’m better at that than the fine detail. I’ve always had a vision as to what I want to achieve, and I’m a believer that as you aim for a goal the detail will get sorted as you get nearer to it.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 00:00

Rebuilding education in Nepal

Strength and resilience

When Nepal was hit by a violent earthquake last year, Freemasons rallied to provide funding to replace a school that had been demolished in the village of Jyamire. Glyn Brown catches up with the relief efforts

Nepal is a beautiful, still relatively undeveloped, landlocked country of 28.5 million people. Bordered by China to the north and India to the south, it sits amid the breathtaking Himalaya mountain range, which includes the mightiest peak on earth, Everest. It is also a fragile country struggling with high levels of poverty and the difficult political transition from a monarchy to a republic. Its income is dependent on carpet making, tea and coffee production, IT services – and tourism.

On 25 April 2015, Nepal was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8, an intensity classed as ‘violent’, and which was followed by multiple aftershocks. With the epicentre 81 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu, it was the biggest quake to hit Nepal in 80 years. Centuries-old buildings at UNESCO World Heritage sites, vital for tourism, toppled; roads cracked and electrical wiring was ripped loose; and almost 9,000 people died, with about 22,000 injured. At least 500,000 homes were destroyed, although some aid agencies put the figure significantly higher. 

Relief aid came within hours of the news being broadcast; The Freemasons’ Grand Charity donated an immediate £50,000, although Freemasons would later donate on a bigger scale via the international children’s charity Plan International UK. 

Aftershocks

Wonu Owoade, trust funding officer in Plan International UK’s Philanthropic Partnerships team, explains the immediate needs in the aftermath of the tremors: ‘Plan has staff based in Nepal, so we were able to react virtually instantly. And we had to act fast, because the monsoon was on its way and families were living in the cold and wet under makeshift tarpaulins. Knock-on effects included health problems, both physical and mental, and disease that comes with sanitation issues.’ 

The level of donations meant Plan International UK could distribute sturdy tents and ropes, food packs, blankets and mosquito netting, and get hygiene problems under control. The most pressing focus then was mothers with newborns, and childcare. The future for any country is in its young, and many children of Nepal were not only deeply traumatised but also bereaved or homeless – schools had been reduced to rubble, leaving a million of them without education.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, masons were determined to help. David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, explains: ‘We have very close contact with aid agencies across the world, so we can respond quickly to calls for international disaster relief. Freemasons knew we had made a donation, but we began to receive huge numbers of emails, letters and calls from our members, saying, “We want to do more.” So in May 2015, a Relief Chest was allocated for this purpose.’

‘Within days of the chest being opened, we had £76,650. We were talking serious money.’ David Innes

Bringing relief

The Relief Chest idea is an inspired one. ‘It’s a simple, secure and efficient way to bring together donations from Freemasons across England and Wales,’ says David. ‘And because it’s a recognised charitable scheme, we’re able to claim tax relief on donations, so for every pound donated, HMRC gives an extra 25p, which means a donation of £100 is worth £125.’

Masons were as good as their word. ‘Within days of the chest being opened, we had £76,650. We were talking serious money,’ recalls David. The funds were donated to Plan International UK’s Build Back Better project, to rebuild the devastated Bhumistan Lower Secondary School in one of Nepal’s hardest-hit areas. 

The original infrastructure was pretty poor, so the idea was to replace the school with first-class facilities and what’s called ‘future disaster resilience’ – because of course lightning can strike more than once in the same place.

One trustee of the Grand Charity, retired GP Richard Dunstan, already had fond feelings for Nepal, having driven to India in 1970 with some pals. ‘We split up for a week and I went to Nepal on my own, and it was just the most magical country, a true Shangri-La. The people were gentle, peaceable, it was very agricultural, with no roads, no traffic…’ Fast-forward and, having been chairman of the committee that allocated the Relief Chest funds, Richard travelled with wife Tessa to Nepal again in April 2016, on the anniversary of the earthquake, to see where the new school would be built. 

While Nepal was still a stunningly beautiful country, Richard noted that much of the country was in disarray. ‘The government has money to spend on rebuilding, but there’s so much to do. The emphasis is to rebuild with new, safer planning, and each of these plans must be approved. So families are still living in tents and shacks.’

The school is in the village of Jyamire and, says Richard, ‘the original building was right on the hillside’. He explains: ‘We went to see what was left and could hardly climb up to it, the path was so steep. When it collapsed, it must have been terrifying. The villagers are just relieved the earthquake happened on a Saturday and the children weren’t there.’

‘They’ve been through something appalling, but they were smiling, positive, happy.’ Wonu Owoade

Determination

A temporary school is in place for now, although ‘it has a corrugated iron roof, which is incredibly hot in the sun’. But the site for the new school has already been cut in a much safer location. Richard was there to hand over the Freemasons’ cheque and met children, parents and teachers at the ceremony. ‘The commitment of the village to the education of their children was palpable; you could see clearly they were keen to get on with it,’ he says. 

Owoade of Plan International UK was at the ceremony too, and also saw the determination Richard noticed. ‘Because of the economy in Nepal, it’s very common for children, especially girls, to stay at home and concentrate on domestic duties, or go out to work,’ she says. ‘But when we visited Sindhupalchowk there was a real desire to educate the children – in a safe, secure building – so they could rebuild their lives and go on to better things.’

Owoade says that the new school is something everyone is pinning their hopes on. ‘They see it as part of a greater reconstruction of the whole country, the start of further rebuilding in the area: hospitals, homes... the impact will be incredible.’

Best of all, Plan International Nepal is about to sign a mutual agreement with the government to begin construction, so building can start once the monsoons are over in early autumn, and could be completed in six to eight months. 

And how did the children strike Owoade, on the visit? ‘There’s a real sense of strength and resilience there,’ she says. ‘They’ve been through something appalling, but they were smiling, positive, happy. They were glad to be able to continue learning in the temporary building, but they’re more than ready for their new school – they’ve asked for a science lab, and computers – and so excited. Once something stable is in place, it will also give them back a sense of normality and routine.’

Which couldn’t be better news for David. ‘While in the army I worked with many Gurkhas from Nepal and have huge respect for them and their country, as I’m sure many Freemasons do. To be able to help those less fortunate, whether part of the masonic community or not, is incredibly gratifying.’

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Announcement to the Craft about Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas

Sent on behalf of the President, the Deputy President, all Trustees and Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation

'Following the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas have decided to leave the charity.

Both Laura and Richard have served their respective charities, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, as Chief Executives with distinction for the last 15 years.

We are delighted that Laura has agreed to stay on with MCF until the end of July to help with merger transition issues and to advise on the creation of a new strategic development function. Likewise, Richard Douglas, has agreed to stay on with MCF until the end of September to continue his important work in establishing the new communications team and function.

During the last 15 years, both Laura and Richard have made a huge contribution to the charitable activities of the Masonic community and achieved a great deal, including being heavily involved in the creation and launch of MCF at the beginning of April this year. We are sure that you will all want to join everyone at MCF in wishing them both well for the future.'

Published in Freemasonry Cares

A beacon for us all

James Newman, Deputy President and Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, explores the evolution of the charity

Our new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities operated, how they could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.

In those intervening 43 years, some attempts were made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established, with Freemasonry and society both changing beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.

So why has this review succeeded in getting over the finishing line? As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it’s all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.

We worked together for a good number of years on the review, had some robust discussions along the way, but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, most long-term and most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities?

Whilst the presidents have set the policies, persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their trustees to support the review’s recommendations, we owe a big debt to our four chief executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it.

Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures, they have ensured that the standard of service you all have come to expect has been maintained at a consistently high level. 

The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way. To do this, we will over time create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from both masonic and non-masonic communities. Of course, the existing funds of each charity will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised.

A trustee board has already been formed and has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, which are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the trustees.

So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and able to get your views across to the trustees and executive team? Membership of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will consist of the trustees as well as two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members’ meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.

We are about to create a very large and, we hope, nationally recognised charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries to make it a success.

‘How do we create the best, long-term and most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities?’

Help where  it’s needed

This year, Freemasons around the country will be presenting their regional air ambulance services with donations from the Masonic Charitable Foundation that total £192,000

The Foundation and its four predecessor charities have been regular supporters of air ambulances since 2007, with more than £1.9 million awarded to 22 different rescue services, and every Air Ambulance charity in England and Wales has received masonic funding.

Air ambulances rely on voluntary donations to operate. The Foundation’s support saves lives by enabling doctors and paramedics to reach patients in emergency situations as quickly as possible. 

Making a visible difference

As the four main masonic charities combine to form the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we have published four new infographics to celebrate their work.

They give a quick historical overview of each charity, as well as explaining some of the real differences they have made through their charitable support.

These can be seen on the Charitable Works page of the UGLE site.

Published in Freemasonry Cares

A St David’s Day tradition

Every year Coningsby Lodge holds a St David’s Day celebration at its March meeting. This includes the ordeal of eating raw leeks, and current Worshipful Masters are ‘invited’ to take part in the ceremony. This year the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro the Rev David Bowen, agreed to join them for a sponsored leek-eat in aid of the 2020 Festival.

In introducing the event W Bro Roger Tomlinson explained that it was a tradition for all new members of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, of which he had been Bandmaster, to eat a leek on St David’s Day. He said that the tradition dates back to the 6th century when St David advised the commander of the Welsh army that his soldiers should wear a leek on their head-dress to distinguish them from the Saxons, with whom they were about to do battle. Having won the battle, the Welsh celebrated, and honoured St David, by eating the leeks. The tradition has continued among Welsh soldiers, and for a number of years has been re-enacted by Coningsby Lodge.

As well as the PGM, the Worshipful Master of Coningsby Lodge, W Bro Kevin Jones, took part, together with W Bro Keith Farmer, WM of Dean Waterfield, and W Bro David Joyce took part. A salver of raw leeks was carried in by W Bro Gordon Bumfrey, to a drum accompaniment by W Bro Ian Warren. The four participants were then invited to select their leeks, and eat them whole. Having done so, they were rewarded with a drink of Welsh beer.

In recognition of the RW PGM’s participation, and in his role as President of the Festival, the Lodge then presented him with a cheque for £100 in aid of the Festival. The PGM thanked the Lodge, and said how much he had enjoyed taking part.

Quarterly Communication

9 March 2016 
An address by VW Bro James Newman, Deputy President-designate, and David Innes, Chief Executive

James Newman

RW Bro Deputy Grand Master and brethren, firstly thank you very much for unanimously approving the changes to the Book of Constitutions a few minutes ago. These changes, in essence, facilitate the creation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation and its strong links to Grand Lodge by the appointment of a President and Deputy President.

Indeed brethren, to paraphrase that part of our initiation ceremony, which specifically relates to charity, if you had not approved the changes, 'the subject of this presentation would have to have been postponed'.

Happily, it is now only three weeks until the official launch of our new charity. MCF, which I am sure it will be known as, will open for business on 1 April. Despite the date being April Fools' Day, for those of us involved, it will be no joking matter. 

Your new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities currently operate, could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.

In those intervening 43 years, some attempts have been made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, both the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established and society and Freemasonry have both changed beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.

So why has this review succeeded in getting to such an advanced stage. As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it's all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.

In traditional masonic style, I will start at the top. Deputy Grand Master, we would like to offer our sincere thanks to you, for all your active support and encouragement throughout this whole process as well as your guidance through the black, or perhaps I should say, dark blue hole, that is masonic politics. Although not planned, it is entirely appropriate that you, as the Ruler responsible for charity affairs, should be in the chair at this particular meeting.

With so many Provincial Grand Masters present today, it is also an ideal opportunity to thank you all, and your predecessors, for both your foresight and your patience. Some years ago, you collectively identified the need for change. Your concept of the future has helped us shape what has now been developed and many of you have made, and continue to make, valued contributions to the process.

As you will realise, I am making this presentation on behalf of my fellow Presidents, both present and past. We have worked together now for a good number of years on this review, had some robust discussions along the way but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, long term and the most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities.

Whilst the Presidents have set the policies and persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their Trustees to support the review’s recommendations, I hope you will all agree that we owe a big debt to our four Chief Executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it. 

Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures , they have ensured that the standard of service that you all have come to expect, has been maintained at a consistently high level.  

By now I hope you are all aware of the main reasons why the review came to the conclusion that consolidating the charities, by creating an overarching parent charity, was the best and most sustainable solution for the future. The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way.

To do this, we will create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from the masonic and non-masonic community. Of course, the existing funds of each of the charities will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised, as David will explain shortly.

Therefore, I am delighted to hand over to David, our new Chief Executive, who has the unenviable task of knitting all this together, so that he can tell you about our vision for the future and how we plan to realise it.

David Innes

RW Deputy Grand Master and brethren all, as I am sure you appreciate only too well, the creation of the new Masonic Charitable Foundation is a very significant milestone in the evolution of charitable support, both within and by the masonic community. Although James has said I have an unenviable task, I feel deeply honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead this new charity during its all-important formative years – particularly as I am not a Freemason.

The logo of our new charity depicts a charitable heart at the centre of the widely recognised square and compasses symbol. It is our firm intention that MCF will become extremely well known and appreciated as a force for good by all Freemasons and their families, as well as by the wider charity sector and the public at large. At the same time, the MCF logo must become instantly recognisable as the symbol of masonic charity within the widest possible audience. We will all be working hard to ensure this happens.

I have also used our new logo to explain to staff the structure that we shall be implementing when the charities consolidate next month. The heart symbolises the core function of the charity, namely the provision of beneficial support to the masonic community. It also represents the continuation of the practical support provided to the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodges, in particular to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards who will remain as important as ever to the success of the new charity.

Similarly, the advice and support team will continue to be an integral element of this support network, operating as it does right in the heart of the masonic community. In time, we hope to expand our direct support by introducing new services – such as the Visiting Volunteer initiative – which we are currently piloting in a number of Provinces.

The heart also symbolises the extensive support available to the wider community through a variety of grants to other charitable causes and, when required, in response to natural disasters. The size and scale of the new charity will enable us to enter into major partnerships with other national charities, and to develop long term programmes of support of national significance, that will have a real and high profile impact. We shall also continue providing support to Lifelites and all the fantastic work it does in children’s hospices.

Another element of the operational support we provide to the masonic community and beyond, is our care homes. These will continue to be a very important part of what we do but, after 1 April, will be run by a separate charitable company within MCF known as RMBI Care Company. This company will have its own board of directors but will be fully accountable to the MCF Board.

Having decided to group all our current operations together for what I hope are obvious reasons, I am delighted that Les Hutchinson has been selected to be the Chief Operating Officer of our new charity and he is already hard at work.

The square underpins all these activities and represents the finance, secretariat and Relief Chest functions. The creation of a unified finance team will ensure that the very significant assets of the new charity are properly managed within all the appropriate regulations, and we are indebted to Chris Head for his help in getting this critical element up and running. Whilst we will be delighted to receive donations via any route, we would much prefer that the generous contributions of the Craft are made through the Relief Chest. It will also continue to deliver the valuable service that is already well-established on behalf of lodges, Provinces and festival appeals, and will be at the centre of our technological revolution.

Festival appeals will continue to be the main source of funding for MCF. During the first few years, those festivals that have already launched on behalf of one of the current four charities will continue to raise funds that will only be available for use according to the charitable objects of that particular charity.

However, this year will see the first MCF festivals launching in the Provinces of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The funds raised will be available for use according to need across the full spectrum of charitable support.

The third element of the MCF logo is the compasses.

I have described these as setting the key parameters for MCF and ensuring that our communication messages encompass everything we do. Specifically those working in this area will help set the strategic direction for the charity, devise ways to evaluate its performance and facilitate communication with all our stakeholders.

As a new charity, it is vitally important to create a vision, determine KPIs and monitor the effectiveness of all that it does, particularly the use of our resources. It is also important that we look to identify new opportunities in which the MCF, on behalf of Freemasonry, can increase its support to the masonic community and beyond. I’m delighted that Laura Chapman is bringing her considerable experience of masonic charitable support to bear in this important area.

One of the reasons for moving away from the current model of four separate charities was to simplify the message about what the central masonic charities actually do and for whom. We are determined to use the move to a single charity, with a single brand, as an opportunity to deliver a single and effective message to the widest possible audience. The MCF Communications Committee, very ably supported by Richard Douglas, is already hard at work refining a strategy that will cover all activities of the charity and will utilise the complete range of communication channels. The good old fashioned paper materials, like the leaflet that you were given as you arrived for this meeting, will still have an important role to play. Increasingly we will also embrace and exploit digital technology and social media. Beyond that there is also a need to support the Grand Lodge strategy for Freemasonry in the 21st century, and to increase awareness of Freemasonry amongst the charity sector and the wider community.

With the deadline of 1 April rapidly approaching, you will be delighted to hear that the first phase of what I see as a three phase consolidation process is nearly complete.

Having been formally appointed to my new position in December last year, I have focused on ensuring that the required foundations are in place. This has been mainly about developing a new, integrated organisation structure and systems suitable for the future. Another key task has been the formal TUPE consultation process in respect of the transfer of staff to the new charity. This is a time-consuming but vital step, and one that needs to be done properly and carefully. This phase is nearly complete and will see all staff from the three grant-making charities, as well as a few staff from the RMBI, transfer to MCF on 1 April. At the same time, the remainder of the RMBI staff will be transferring to the new RMBI Care Company.

Phase 2, between April and July this year, will see the actual reorganisation itself. Again, in full consultation with staff, it will involve changes to team structures and the physical relocation of staff within the office accommodation. It is quite likely that many employees will have a new line manager and will need to get used to different ways of working.

The transition from four charities to one has, as one of its main purposes, the improvement of the support and services provided to our many and varied stakeholders. This period of transition will be very challenging for everyone involved and I would wish to add my own tribute to the way in which all the staff have worked to bring about this major evolution in the way masonic charity is delivered. I have stressed from the outset that retaining their experience and expertise is vital to achieving change. I know that the staff and Trustees share my determination to prevent any disruption to, or degradation of, the services we provide. In particular, the needs of our beneficiaries will remain paramount throughout and I am absolutely determined that we do not drop the ball in the process – although I’m very happy for Wales to drop it a few times on Saturday!!

Following the reorganisation, there will need to be a period of bedding in. I anticipate this third phase beginning as the masonic year resumes and staff return from their summer holidays. It is my aim that, by December, all new working practices, policies and procedures are totally bedded in, the new grant-making software is fully operational and MCF is firmly established.

Looking beyond this year, I see 2017 as being a busy year for all concerned. In addition to delivering ‘business as usual’, MCF will be supporting the many and varied tercentenary celebrations in conjunction with Grand Lodge.

However, some things won’t change, such the wide range of support provided by the Masonic community for financial, health and family related needs. The simple difference will be that help will be available from a single source, via a single application process that uses standardised eligibility criteria. There will no longer be the need to remember what the four different charities do and risk applying to the wrong one in the wrong way. Further details are provided in the leaflet, which also contains all the relevant contact details for MCF and these are valid now.

Another thing that won’t change is our support to the wider, non-masonic community. Through MCF, Freemasons will continue to support registered charities that help those facing issues with education and employability, financial hardship, age related challenges, health, disability, social exclusion and disadvantage. Support will also continue to be available for the advancement of medical and social research, hospices throughout England and Wales, the air ambulance and other rescue services, as well as disaster relief appeals.

All in all, we anticipate no real change to the support available but a simpler, easier to understand, easier to access, more efficient and more responsive organisation delivering that support – which is considerable.

Each year, support is provided to over 5,000 Freemasons and their families which last year amounted to £15.5 million. In addition to the support given to the masonic community, MCF will also look to allocate between three and a half and five million pounds per year to non-masonic causes. There will also be extra money available next year to commemorate the Tercentenary and further details will be made available in due course.  We would welcome your support in ensuring that these messages are communicated to all those who need to hear them.

I hope you will deduce from what I have said that this is an exciting and busy time for Masonic charity.  The formation of MCF is good news for beneficiaries, good news for donors and good news for the wider community beyond Freemasonry.

Thank you for listening.  I will now hand back to James who will tell you how MCF will be governed and remain accessible to its membership.

James Newman

Thank you David. Before we finish this short presentation, it's important you all know how MCF is to be governed and how you and the Craft generally are all to be represented.

A Trustee Board has been formed, has already met three times and meets again tomorrow. It has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, who are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the Trustee Board.

So far, I am glad to say that all is going well, everyone is still talking to each other and there is, of course, lots of brotherly love!

So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and be able to get your views across to the new Trustee Board and executive team? The membership of MCF will consist of the Trustees themselves plus two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members' meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.

Brethren, I mentioned earlier the charity address in the NE corner during our initiation ceremony. That address to the candidate, clearly sets out that charity is one of the key principles of being a mason, one of which we should all be proud of. 

That is why today is such a red letter day for Freemasonry in general and masonic charity in particular. We are about to create a very large and we hope nationally recognised, charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds we shall have at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries, to make it a success.

Deputy Grand Master and brethren, on behalf of everyone associated with MCF, we hope that you have found this presentation useful and that you will now spread the word about MCF across your Provinces and down here in London. Thank you for listening and we look forward to updating you later in the year.

Published in Speeches

On medical grounds

Freemasonry is helping to fund pioneering work into lung cancer and leukaemia treatments. Aileen Scoular found out more at the UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust

When 18-year-old Gareth King was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in November 2013, time was of the essence. ALL’s rate of progression can be so swift that any delay could be fatal. And so Gareth found himself in the local hospital on the same evening as his diagnosis, being given an urgent blood transfusion. As soon as he was stable, Gareth was transferred to The Christie, a specialist NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, and a frightening two years for the King family began.

Like thousands of cancer patients diagnosed every year, for Gareth and his mother Sandra the biggest fear was that of the unknown. Cancer attacks with stealth and, despite some pioneering treatments, some types of cancer simply refuse to respond.

Leukaemia is one of them and ALL is the single most common form of childhood cancer. Each year in the UK, 400 adults and 300 children are diagnosed with ALL and of these, 100 adults and 30 children will have an aggressive sub-type called T-cell ALL. Its sufferers are at particular risk of chemo-resistance and relapse.

Lung cancer is another disease that continues to confound cancer experts. It is now the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, and the most common cause of cancer death. Often diagnosed at a very late stage, more than 42,000 cases of lung cancer are confirmed every year and some 35,000 lives are claimed because of its ability to develop rapid resistance to treatment. 

Research is desperately needed into treatment for both diseases, which is why two recent donations from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) have been welcomed with open arms by the UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust (CIRT). 

UCL CIRT is a small charity whose role is to source seed funding for research projects that have the potential to become self-sustainable. 

UCL is currently one of the UK’s leading research universities and, together with the University of Manchester, it formed Cancer Research UK’s first Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence in 2014. 

The UCL Cancer Institute’s ambitious intentions are well matched by the masonic charities’ commitment to cancer-related medical research. 

As a result, in November last year the Grand Charity donated £60,000 to help fund pioneering research into immunotherapy as a potential treatment for lung cancer, while a sum of £100,000 from the MSF will enable a research team to explore new treatments for ALL and, in particular, T-cell ALL.

Exploring immunotherapy

Research into the use of immunotherapy in treating lung cancer struck a particular chord with Dr Richard Dunstan, Chairman of the Non-Masonic Grants Committee, and his committee colleague, retired surgeon Charles Akle.

‘We chose this research project for several reasons,’ explains Richard. ‘Lung cancer is still extremely common but the outlook is dreadful – it really hasn’t improved despite all the new treatments. We probably won’t see the full impact of social changes in smoking for at least another 20 years, and younger people are still not listening. Surgery isn’t always logical because the lung has a very rich blood supply, so any tumours will spread like wildfire, and radiotherapy and chemotherapy can cause many unpleasant side effects. As a GP, I witnessed those side effects in my patients.’

Richard and Charles describe immunotherapy as ‘extraordinarily exciting’ because it involves arming the body’s own defence mechanisms against the cancerous cells. This, in turn, creates the potential for personalised immunotherapy treatments.

In this project, tumour and blood samples from 10 patients with operable grade 1-3 lung cancer will be studied in micro-detail to understand how, and why, the lung cancer cells are not being detected and destroyed by each patient’s own immune system. The same patients will be enrolled in a parallel clinical trial called TRACERx, so that cell analysis can be compared with clinical outcomes.

The project will involve a team of researchers, including Professor Charles Swanton, chair in personalised medicine at the UCL Cancer Institute and co-director of the UCL/Manchester Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, and Dr Sergio Quezada, who is the TRACERx immunological lead. 

‘I visited UCL and we assessed the application carefully,’ adds Richard. ‘It’s potentially very exciting for lung cancer, and it has a huge application for other cancers, too. Immunotherapy could be the breakthrough we need in cancer treatment, and we’re proud to make such a significant contribution to its development.’

Investigating gene editing

Elsewhere in the Institute, haematologist Dr Marc Mansour is working on another research project related to targeted cancer therapies. His team’s study was nominated by Metropolitan Grand Lodge for a Silver Jubilee Research Fund grant. 

‘We are always keen to support medical conditions that affect people of all ages,’ says John McCrohan, Grants Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the MSF. ‘Family lies at the heart of Freemasonry. To know that the donations the masonic community entrust us with can potentially help young people with illnesses such as leukaemia will reassure our donors that we are fulfilling their wishes.’

Mansour and his team have discovered that T-cell ALL patients who develop chemotherapy resistance are often missing a gene called EZH2 in their leukaemia cells. The loss of this gene could be the key to identifying safer, more effective treatments and, by targeting specific genes with pre-tested drugs, the leukaemia cells could be destroyed without harming the rest of the body. 

Thanks to the MSF’s donation, Mansour’s team will be able to create genetically identical leukaemia cells, with and without the EZH2 gene, using pioneering genome engineering techniques. They can then test how and why some genes in T-cell ALL prevent the chemotherapy agents from working. Simultaneously, a library of up to 2,000 FDA-approved drugs will be tested to see which ones successfully destroy the EZH2-deficient precursor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.

‘ALL is a “blameless” cancer,’ observes Mansour. ‘Most of the time, it’s a genetic abnormality. We know that a lot of children are born with abnormal cells in their blood – sometimes they develop into leukaemia, and sometimes they simply burn out.’

Mansour hopes that his findings in T-cell ALL will also be relevant to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a condition common in the over-65s that has similarly poor survival rates. ‘It’s very satisfying to know that our findings could have wider benefits.’

Thanks to the support of the Freemasons, both projects have the potential to save lives. ‘We’re very glad to be able to support them,’ says Richard. ‘Every year, Freemasons donate money towards research into cancer but it is our great hope that the day will come when our help in this area is no longer needed.’

Find out more at www.ucl.ac.uk/cancertrust

Coping with the diagnosis

Gareth King was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in November 2013, aged 18, and received a bone marrow transplant in June 2014. His mother Sandra, whose late partner was a Freemason, recalls the experience and the support she received from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB)

‘Gareth’s diagnosis was completely unexpected and made more challenging because he has Asperger syndrome. His treatment took place at The Christie in Manchester, a specialist NHS cancer hospital, about two hours from our home. This was difficult because I have two younger sons, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

‘Gareth’s diagnosis came after a few weeks of symptoms, including tiredness, a very sore throat and unexplained bruising, and was followed by a blood transfusion and intensive chemotherapy. It was a very frightening time. I was trying to keep my younger sons in school, but I also needed to be with Gareth in hospital. Without help, I simply couldn’t have coped. 

‘The RMTGB offered support and helped fund my travel and childcare costs. They’ve been an important part of our lives, and the local almoner keeps in touch regularly. 

‘Gareth’s second round of chemotherapy worked and he had a bone marrow transplant in June 2014. He’s now back at college studying for a BTEC in Sport, and although the treatment saved his life, there are permanent side effects: his spleen stopped working, he tires easily, and it has affected his IQ and ability to concentrate.’ 

‘It was a very frightening time. Without help I simply couldn’t have coped.’ Sandra King

Welsh vote for Tenovus

The Masonic Samaritan Fund has donated £89,000 to Wales’ leading cancer charity, Tenovus Cancer Care, which will use the donation to help fund a groundbreaking new research project.

Clare Gallie, director of income generation for Tenovus Cancer Care, said: ‘With this magnificent support from the masonic community, we’ll be able to fund this work in one of the most promising new areas of cancer research – immunotherapy.’ The project will be overseen by Professor Bernhard Moser from the Cardiff University School of Medicine.

Hundreds of Freemasons from the area voted for Tenovus to receive the grant. South Wales Provincial Grand Master Gareth Jones said: ‘We were delighted to be able to demonstrate support for our local research charity.’

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund
Page 1 of 9

ugle logo          SGC logo