Seen to enjoy ourselves

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on how far Freemasonry has come since he was initiated 44 years ago

As many of you know, 2017 will see a large number of special events to celebrate the Tercentenary. There are 106 events planned so far, of which four have actually taken place. Not the least of these events relate to the 62 paving stones that will be laid outside the front of this building to commemorate the 62 Victoria Crosses awarded to masons in World War I, and also the formal reopening of the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Arboretum.

During May I was lucky enough to attend two splendid Festivals. The first was for the Samaritan Fund, held by the Province of Cheshire at Old Trafford, and the second was for the Grand Charity, held by the Province of Norfolk in Norwich. Cheshire raised just over £3 million and Norfolk just over £2 million – remarkable results very much on a par with each other, bearing in mind the relative sizes of the Provinces. Congratulations to both.

It never ceases to amaze me how good our members are at fundraising. Every year, the four Charity Festivals raise close to £10 million. Over and above that, there are the Provincial charities and the individual lodge charities. These, of course, don’t include the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research, which provides funding for the marvellous work of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Indeed, there are several other exceptional masonic charities, but space doesn’t permit me to mention them all. Suffice to say that the central masonic charities gave more than £4.8 million to 393 non-masonic charities last year and I have little doubt that the Provinces and lodges added considerably to this figure.

Finding the fun

Not only are our members good at fundraising but, just as importantly, they have a huge amount of fun in the process. I mention the enjoyment created by these events, as surely that must be the aim at all of our meetings. We have come a long way since I was initiated 44 years ago: I enjoyed my early meetings, but possibly despite some of the more elderly members rather than because of them. In those days it was nearly a capital offence to smile in lodge, but now more often than not some amusing incident occurs and it is allowed to be seen as such. There is no harm in being seen to enjoy ourselves.

‘I mention the enjoyment created by these events, as surely that must be the aim at all of our meetings.’

We can probably all cite instances when a more senior member is less than sympathetic to a newer member who has had a few lapses during the ritual. In my view, encouragement is what is required. This will almost certainly give him the confidence to improve, thereby increasing his enjoyment of our proceedings. If we encourage and congratulate – rather than routinely castigate – our new members, we will go a long way to retaining them.

Brethren, I should probably warn you that I have developed a liking for visiting lodges and chapters unannounced. Whether the lodge or chapter has enjoyed it I don’t know, but they have been kind enough to say that they have. A chapter that I went to in West Wales recently performed an excellent installation ceremony and I heard at least three pieces of ritual I had not come across before and all were delivered without hesitation. Above all, brethren, it seemed to me that they – you’ve guessed it – thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Published in UGLE

Bringing eye care into focus

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has provided £44,608 to SeeAbility’s Children in Focus Campaign to transform eye care at schools for children with learning disabilities over the next two years.

SeeAbility, which supports people with sight loss and multiple disabilities, will use the grant to part-fund a National Manager for Children and Families. This vital role oversees the running of a sight-testing research programme in specialist schools.

SeeAbility external affairs director Paula Spinks-Chamberlain, said, ‘We are delighted to receive this grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which will help us deliver more specialist sight tests in more special schools.’

Honouring 60 years

At Bard of Avon Lodge, No. 778, in the Province of Middlesex, former Essex Provincial Grand Master Colonel Sir Neil Thorne received a certificate honouring his 60 years’ service to Freemasonry. It was signed by Provincial Grand Master, HRH Prince Michael of Kent, and was presented by Past Assistant Grand Master David Williamson.

Shropshire goes walk about

A band of walkers completed a 45-mile hike from the masonic hall at Constitution Hill, Wellington, to the masonic hall at Brand Lane, Ludlow, in Shropshire, in two 10-hour journeys.  

Deputy Provincial Grand Master Roger Pemberton, who had been on the walk, later travelled back to Ludlow for a meeting of the Lodge of the Marches, No. 611, where he received a cheque for £5,000 for the 2019 Festival Appeal in aid of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

Tackling food waste in the West Midlands

One of the first major grants awarded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has gone to FareShare West Midlands. John Hayward, Provincial Charity Steward for Warwickshire, visited the charity and presented a grant for £60,000 over three years, a contribution to the salary of the warehouse manager, together with assistance with transportation of food.

FareShare is a national operation with more than 20 centres. It is estimated that there are more than 3.4 million tonnes of food wasted every year by the UK food industry.

A day of festivities at the Raby Gala

Durham Freemasons celebrated a successful gala at Raby Castle on behalf of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).

The Gala was officially opened with the X Company Fifth Fusiliers band marching into the main arena followed by a horse and carriage transporting Provincial Grand Master Norman Heaviside, Festival Director John Thompson and MCF Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchinson.

Great North Air Ambulance director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe received a cheque for £4,000 from the MCF. Norman presented Les with a cheque for £250,000, bringing the total donated, just six months in
to the Festival, to £1 million.

 The  grand tour

Each year, Library and Museum staff show more than 30,000 people around Freemasons’ Hall on daily tours. Have you been?

A tour of Freemasons’ Hall reveals a building rich in history and architectural detail. Visitors – whether they are members of the public or Freemasons – can explore the Hall’s impressive ceremonial areas, from the Grand Officers’ Robing Room to the Shrine and the Grand Temple on the first floor. The tour also offers an opportunity to see some of the Grand Lodge’s collection of portraits of royalty associated with Freemasonry, including George VI.

A visit to the Roll of Honour at the Shrine is always a highlight. Many visitors also do not realise beforehand that the interior of Freemasons’ Hall is richly decorated; the stained-glass windows and extensive use of marble often draw gasps of admiration. When the tour arrives at the Grand Temple, there is time to sit down and ask the guides questions about Freemasonry, then listen to the music of the Grand Temple organ, following its recent refurbishment.

If you haven’t been to look around, why not organise a trip in 2017? Tours are available Monday to Saturday. Or visit on an Open Day – the next London Open House event will be on Sunday, 18 September 2016 from 10am to 5pm.

The Library and Museum is now open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm

Published in More News

Triple stand-in at Isaac Newton

At a meeting of Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, circumstances meant that the three senior officers of the lodge could not be present.  

Not content with their responsibility for planning this year’s Grand Festival, three Past Masters of the lodge, Simon Duckworth (1990), Chris Freeman (2003) and John Hammond (2006), who have served together on this year’s Board of Grand Stewards, took the three vacant chairs and led a triple raising witnessed by the President, Past President and Chairman of UGLE’s Universities Scheme.

Spreading the word

The Masonic Charitable Foundation’s Chief Executive David Innes reflects on how the charity is progressing in its goal to make support simpler to understand and easier to access

In the months since the Masonic Charitable Foundation launched, a great deal has already been achieved towards our ambition of a unified central masonic charity. Our staff have now come together as a single, stronger team, all the while continuing to deliver the same level of service that the masonic community expects and deserves.

In the first three months of operation we received almost 1,000 applications for support from Freemasons and their family members with a very high percentage (85 per cent) being approved. But we want to do even better – we want every masonic family to know we are here to help. 

The purpose of bringing together the four charities was to make our support simpler to understand and easier to access, with straightforward eligibility criteria and clear processes.

Our representatives have been delivering talks across the country for the past few months, our new website is now live and we have distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets. We are working hard to ensure that our message is heard, and we are relying on Freemasons to spread the word and make sure that no potential cases fall through the cracks.

‘In the first three months of operation we received almost 1,000 applications for support from Freemasons and their family members.’

Staff appointments

The staff structure for the Masonic Charitable Foundation has begun to take shape, as follows:

Relief Chest Director – Suhail Alam
Head of Community Support and Research – Katrina Baker
Head of Masonic Support – Gareth Everett
Head of Strategic Development and Special Projects – John McCrohan
Head of Communications and Marketing – Harry Smith
Provincial Support Programme Lead – Natasha Ward
Grants Manager – Gill Bennett
Financial Controller – Philip Brennan
Donations Manager – Sue George
Advice and Support Manager – Maggie Holloway
Marketing Manager – Rachel Jones
Digital Communications Manager – Heather Crowe
Fundraising Manager – Alison Lott
Legacy Manager – Duncan Washbrook
Administration and Support Manager – Sarah Bartel

Following the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas, Chief Executives of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund respectively, left the team during the summer. Everyone at the MCF would like to thank both Laura and Richard for their years of dedication and wish them all the best for the future.

Annual General Meeting

The first Annual General Meeting of the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be held on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London, from 3:15pm to 4.45pm

Blue  sky thinking

London’s Air Ambulance is able to reach any location in the city within 10 minutes. Aileen Scoular discovers how Metropolitan Freemasons came together to help put a second helicopter in the air

London is a city like no other. Covering some 600 square miles, and with a burgeoning population of 8.6 million – nearly 10 million if you include those entering the city within peak times – the average traffic speed is just nine miles per hour. Not a problem if you are driving to the supermarket; more worrying if you have just been involved in a traffic accident.

The city generates about 4,500 health-related calls to 999 every day and, typically, London’s emergency vehicles will reach an average speed of 20 miles per hour – better than the average, but potentially not fast enough if you have life-threatening injuries. And that’s where London’s Air Ambulance comes in: a remarkable charity established in 1989 when the Royal College of Surgeons criticised the care that seriously injured patients received in the UK.

Game changer

Due to the importance of ‘the golden hour’ – the hour immediately following a serious injury – London’s Air Ambulance initially struggled to convince the medical profession that pre-hospital diagnosis and treatment could be implemented on the street or in the air. Since then, the charity has proved to the capital’s medical community – and the rest of the world – that life-saving surgery, anaesthesia and pain relief can all be delivered effectively out in the field.

Yet there have been challenges, not least the physical barriers: these helicopters can only be landed safely in daylight hours, which means that, after sunset or during adverse weather, London’s Air Ambulance service is delivered by high-performance cars. The other big challenge is, of course, funding.

It costs about £6 million a year to deliver what Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has described as a ‘world-class’ service. And while the charity receives some funding from the NHS, it relies heavily on donations from the public – which is why corporate partnerships and individual donations are invaluable.

When London’s Air Ambulance launched its ‘Your London, Your Helicopter’ funding appeal in 2014, its mission was simple: the charity needed to raise in excess of £4 million to acquire, adapt and fly a second helicopter for five years. The second helicopter has been the dream of the outgoing chief executive, Graham Hodgkin, from the first day he joined London’s Air Ambulance in 2012. What he and his team did not necessarily expect was that the London Freemasons would step forward and pledge £2 million – an unbelievably generous donation that would make the dream a reality far sooner than he had hoped.

‘I remember the call coming in,’ he says. ‘I was at a conference where one of our patients was talking about having survived open chest surgery at the side of the road, and I got a message to call the office urgently. I assumed something was wrong, but when I called I could hear the whooping in the background! I knew even then that it would be the biggest step change in our organisation’s history. The generosity was an absolute game changer.’

‘I knew even then that it would be the biggest step change in our organisation’s history.’ Graham Hodgkin

Unifying cause

For London Freemasons, it was a chance to donate to a charity that could, and would, genuinely make a difference to the lives of Londoners of every age and in every borough. Tony Shields, the Metropolitan Grand Charity Steward, recalls the moment the decision was made.

‘Quite simply, it was an absolute no-brainer,’ he says.

‘We were looking for a fundraising campaign to take us up to our Tercentenary in 2017, and they wanted to get a second air ambulance into the air as soon as they could. Everything about their vision appealed to us.’

The new helicopter, with its eye-catching ‘London Freemasons’ branding, has been up and running since January this year and, according to Hodgkin, ‘has completely changed the scale and resilience of our service’.

The partnership between London’s Air Ambulance and the London Freemasons is equally exciting. ‘It’s a magnificent organisation and the team has been brilliant at promoting our involvement,’ explains Tony. ‘This donation will probably end up being our largest to date. It has also been the cause that has met with most enthusiasm from our members, and we are delighted to have been able to establish such a positive fundraising partnership.’

Hodgkin is also very happy. ‘It’s about two organisations with the same values coming together, based on a unifying cause,’ he says. ‘We have worked very hard to show the lodges how their donation has been used and we’re thrilled that so many more people now know about what we do. It creates a groundswell of support and momentum, and helps to drive us towards a more sustainable future. We cannot thank the London Freemasons enough.’

The pilot’s story

Chief pilot at London’s Air Ambulance, Captain Neil Jeffers knows London’s skyline better than most

‘London has some of the busiest air space in the world because we have two airports, City and Heathrow, in relatively close proximity. We always have two pilots on board our twin-engined helicopters, and we are afforded a great luxury, which is “alpha priority” – you could describe it as blue-light driving in the sky!

‘Working for London’s Air Ambulance is a wonderful job for a helicopter pilot and having the luxury of two pilots means that one of us can help the medical team, if need be. From the helipad at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, we can reach almost any location in London within 10 minutes by air and we decide where we’re going to land once we get there.

‘We never plan the landing site in advance because things can change in weeks, days or even minutes. We need an area of about 80 feet squared – about the size of a tennis court – but trees and new buildings are making safe landing spaces increasingly challenging.

‘With experience, we’ve learned how to identify the potential risks – loose tree branches, baby buggies and clothing can all be dislodged by the helicopter’s downdraft. Many people don’t realise that our helicopter throws down about 2.85 tonnes of air a second when it hovers, and that makes it incredibly windy.

‘Every day is totally different, although we always start with an aircraft check, an equipment check, a team briefing and a practice drill. Then, when the bell rings, you’re immediately up in the air, liaising with Heathrow and the fire crew, the medics, and the police on the ground. There’s this whole amazing teamwork process going on, which is brilliant. And, of course, we get to see how beautiful London looks from above.

‘There have been cases over the years where we can genuinely say, if London’s Air Ambulance hadn’t arrived at that time, the patient would not have survived. We get to save lives and that’s a huge privilege.’

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