HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh 10/06/1921 - 09/04/2021

In a communication to all Essex Freemasons the Deputy Provincial Grand Master In-Charge, Paul Reeves, said “The world will be a poorer place for his passing and we will be writing to Her Majesty on behalf of the Province to express our sadness at his passing and our support for her and her family”.

Leading the tribute on behalf of all Essex Freemasons, Paul Reeves pointed out that it was only a few weeks ago that the Brethren of the Province of Essex had sent their Fraternal Congratulations to His Royal Highness on being a fully paid-up subscribing Freemason for 68 years.  (HRH Prince Philip 68 Years a Mason (essexfreemasons.org.uk)

On 5th December 1952, the Duke of Edinburgh was initiated into Navy Lodge No 2612, whose past members include the late HM King George VI, Shackleton and Scott of the Antarctic. The Earl of Scarborough, the Grand Master, and Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, were in attendance.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended a formal dinner at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in 1939. Their Majesties were accommodated in the Captain’s Quarters and Cadet Philip (18) was asked to escort the Princesses Elizabeth (13) and Margaret for the evening. It was there Princess Elizabeth fell in love and both began exchanging letters. They married in 1947. Philip graduated from Dartmouth in 1940 as the best cadet on his course and served with distinction in WW11 receiving a Mention in Dispatches for gallantry at the Battle of Cape Matapan.

There is a protocol set by the United Grand Lodge of England to be used upon the death of a Masonic Member of the Royal Family making it appropriate for all brethren to wear a black tie while the period of national mourning is in effect and any masonic centre that flies the Union Flag should fly it at half-mast until after the funeral.  An ‘In Memoriam’ to HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh will be added to the first summons issued by every Lodge and Chapter in the Province of Essex from the date of his passing.

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Prince Philip: A True English Gentleman

The Freemasons are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Prince Philip this morning and we extend our sincere condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh started his life in Freemasonry in 1952, at the age of 31. He was initiated into Navy Lodge, No 2612, on 5 December.

On 6 March 1953, HRH Prince Philip progressed to the Second Degree of Freemasonry, before advancing to the Third Degree on 4 May 1953. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) issued his Grand Lodge Certificate on 7 May that same year and he has remained a member to this day.

The Duke of Edinburgh was born in Corfu on 10 June 1921, the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. He therefore also held the title Prince of Greece and Denmark.

Prince Philip joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1939, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Prince Louis, who was Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord. He had a long and successful career in the Navy and rose to the rank of Commander.

Prince Philip was also a qualified pilot and was the first member of the Royal Family ever to fly out of Buckingham Palace in a helicopter.

The Duke of Edinburgh was known to drop into meetings at his Freemasons Lodge almost unannounced. Navy Lodge has a storied past and an amazing roster of luminaries appear upon its membership roll. The Lodge prides itself on being the premier Naval Lodge in the world, with an unparalleled history that includes four monarchs as past members – King Edward VII, King Edward VIII, King George VI and King George II of the Hellenes.

The Duke of Edinburgh was patron or president of some 800 organisations, with special interests in scientific and technological research and development, the encouragement of sport, the welfare of young people, and conservation and the environment.

Freemasons can also count other members of the Royal Family among their number, including HRH the Duke of Kent, who is the longest-serving Grand Master of the UGLE.

As well as members of the Royal Family, Navy Lodge can proudly name three winners of the Victoria Cross among its past and present members; numerous Admirals, Generals, Vice-Admirals and Senior Officers; as well as other notables such as Sir Ernest Shackleton, Robert Scott – known as ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ – and many more.

Elsewhere, there is also a Duke of Edinburgh Lodge, No 1182, Liverpool, which was issued a warrant on 2 July 1867 and was consecrated on 1 August 1867. The Lodge was named after Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, who was then Duke of Edinburgh. He was born on 6 August 1844, the second son of Queen Victoria.

In addition, there is a Duke of Edinburgh Lodge in London, No 1259, which was consecrated on 4 May 1869. The Lodge was also named after Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, who became Duke of Edinburgh in 1866.

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Brotherly Love

The grand principals on which Freemasonry is founded are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. To both women and men Freemasons, a brother refers not only to the members of their respective Orders but to the ‘Whole of Society’.  As W Bro Elaine Malone, the Deputy Grand Secretary of the Order of Women’s Freemasons (OWF), explains “It is right that Freemasonry is there to help those less fortunate in society who have suffered more than we have, especially during the pandemic”.

Elaine saw on Twitter the Essex Provincial tweet about the Shoebox 500 Challenge and contacted Chris Hicks of Thomas Ralling Lodge No 2508 who is responsible for events, PR and communications at Loughton Masonic Centre, where her own OWF Lodge Diligence No 179 meets, to see if they could join in to help the homeless. 

Elaine received a reply from the Deputy Provincial Grand Master In-Charge, Paul Reeves, who thanked Elaine for her interest and said that he was more than happy for her Lodge to get involved. To co-ordinate, Peter Low, the Provincial Communications Officer asked Ian Graham to be the linkman and he arranged for Lodge Diligence to support his Chafford Lodge No 5510 Shoebox 500 Team.

The lady Brethren of Lodge Diligence raised £150 which Elaine used to buy drinks, shampoos, body lotion, deodorants, tissues, wet wipes and female hygiene products. Another member, Eileen Colls, is also in Lodge Diligence.  Margaret Gibson, a Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and the lady Brethren of her two Lodges also joined in, Colchester Priory No 155 collected a number of items and Obedience No 346, which meets at Witham Masonic Hall, raised £90 to add to the items they had collected. The picture shows Elaine, Eileen and Margaret delivering their Shoebox items to Ian Graham for the Chafford Lodge Team entry.

Lady Freemasons are an intrinsic part of modern-day Freemasonry. The OWF was formed in 1908. The ladies wear regalia the same as the men and buy from the same shops.  Their ritual is identical and, like the men, there are a number of different workings. Lodge Diligence No 179 supports events at Loughton Masonic Centre and the OWF supports County shows, Freshers’ Fairs and had a stand at the Open House event at UGLE,  “It’s all about getting involved” said Elaine who also works hard to encourage new and young members to join the OWF stating “They are the future of Freemasonry”.

The Most Worshipful Brother Zuzanka Daniella Penn is the Grand Master of the OWF which explains that Freemasons are taught to be tolerant towards all people and behave with kindness and understanding towards all.  This should resonate with all Essex Freemasons, as her namesake and former pupil of Chigwell School, although not a mason himself, founded a city named from the Greek words for love and brother, phileo and adelphos.  William Penn chose the name to embrace the ’whole of society’. It is, of course, Philadelphia, meaning the city of “Brotherly Love”.

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A Platinum Lodge

On the evening of 29th March 2021, ten brethren held a Zoom meeting and talked about Freemasonry Past, Present and Future. Like most Freemasons they belong to a Lodge of congenial people, alike in their enthusiasms and enjoyment of the Craft and proud of their Lodge, particularly on this occasion which was for a notable Anniversary.

On the same day 70 years earlier when ‘The Third Man’ with Orson Welles as Harry Lime won an Oscar in the US, at Freemasons Hall in Chelmsford, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Dr Archibald Glen Durgan MD, consecrated East Saxon Lodge No 7053.  It had been a two-year journey for the Founders who had seen the need for an additional lodge based in the town. Chelmsford and Tindal were also considered as names but in October 1949 the Lodge of Good Fellowship No 276 passed a resolution to support the petition for a daughter lodge named ‘East Saxon’.

The Founders were proud of the heritage of the ‘Kingdom of the East Saxons’ which, from the late fifth and early sixth centuries, covered modern Essex, Middlesex and part of Hertfordshire. There were 15 Kings of Essex who reigned from London. In AD 653, St Cedd converted the then King, built the Anglo-Celtic Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell in AD 654 and was Bishop of the East Saxons.

The Worshipful Master of East Saxon Lodge No 7053, Gavin MacInnes was joined by Burt Adams, Liam Devine, Tony Hales, Bob Kempson, Alan Love, Steve Philips, brothers Connor and Thaine Mayes and their father Glen, the Lodge Secretary and Almoner. Glen Mayes is also the Almoner Liaison Officer for Zone 3 covering Chelmsford, Hutton, Maldon, Orsett, Thurrock and Grays areas, his service to the community is exemplary and can be viewed at Deputy Lieutenants of Essex - Essex Lieutenancy (essex-lieutenancy.org.uk) as Wing Commander Glenn Mayes DL.  Orson Welles became a Freemason and passed to Grand Lodge above in 1985 when he was 70.

The nine o’clock toast to Absent Brethren was coupled with the names of Past Masters from 1970, Malcolm Robinson, and 1977, Keith Tuttlebury.  Malcolm is regular attender at meetings and is a nonagenarian who will, this August, become a continually subscribing Essex Freemason for 70 years. With platinum being symbolic for a 70th Anniversary because of its long-lasting strength and durability, all Essex Freemasons send their fraternal congratulations to the Brethren of East Saxon Lodge No 7053 which can now deservedly be called ‘a Platinum Lodge’.

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How we have helped to support our heroes in the NHS

In February, the WM of Stedfast Unity Lodge identified an opportunity for the members to be of service to those heroes working tirelessly to help everyone.

Jim proposed we help the nurses and support staff in the hospitals suffering from dry skin, due to the volume of hand washing and astringent effects of the alcohol gels, by providing them with moisturisers and balms.

Thanks to donations we exceeded the initial target of £250, achieving £600. Last week Jim & Tony used this to deliver a total of 236 lip balms and 299 moisturisers to Addenbrookes and Papworth hospitals.

Jess Hughes, Community Fundraiser at Papworth wrote to thanks the lodge on behalf of Royal Papworth Hospital Charity.

He said: “Your generosity allows us to support our staff at Royal Papworth Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic. As a specialist lung hospital and one of only five national ECMO centres, our Critical Care Unit has been the busiest in the East of England.

“We are acutely aware of the strain that working on the frontline places on our staff and we are doing all we can to support their emotional and physical wellbeing at this time. Your donation to Royal Papworth Hospital Charity has provided additional support for staff as they work tirelessly caring for patients with coronavirus.

“By providing pick-up stations across the hospital with essentials, treats and overnight packs, we have been able to give something back to our staff, keep them going during these challenging times and show them how much they mean to us all.

“On behalf of our patients, their families and the staff at Royal Papworth Hospital thank you once again for your generosity.”

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Teddies for Loving Care celebrates 20 years

On 12th March 2001 an extraordinary, and unique, scheme was launched by Essex Freemasons: it was a simple idea – to raise funds to provide Essex A&E departments with Teddies for the medical staff to give to children brought into their care to help relieve their distress.

Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after an allergic reaction caused her windpipe to swell and block. After finding themselves so anxious and frightened, Ian proposed to his Lodge that a donation be sent to say thank you to the A&E staff. The thought of helping the A&E inspired another Lodge member, Neil Beverley, who was already involved in donating Trauma Teddies to Essex Fire and Rescue Services, to come up with the idea of supplying teddies to A&E units across Essex and the Teddies For Loving Care appeal was born.

And, ten years after what started so successfully as a purely local scheme and which been extended to all the A&E units in Essex, Ian, then the TLC Chairman, marked the gift of the
one-millionth teddy bear.

However, where that happened, nobody is entirely sure, because TLC had been so successful that it had been taken up not only by masonic provinces all over England, but had gone global.

Now, two decades after its launch, TLC is still going strong. Three million teddies have been cuddled by children in hospitals in every country under the Grand Lodge of England’s banners.

 Medical practitioners everywhere agree on the benefits the teddies bring.

“It means so much to the nurses,’ one says. ‘It makes our lives easier and the children feel safer, and it’s not so traumatic for them. The teddy system works so well because it’s such a simple idea. It’s something the children love and makes them feel special. The parents see that you really value their child, they’re not just another number and they’re being seen as an individual.”

And the teddy bears aren’t just employed to comfort the child either; nurses will quite often use them as a diversion technique as they work, like using the teddy to mimic the injuries the child has, perhaps putting a sticky plaster on the teddy’s arm if the child has hurt theirs.

And now the scheme has taken another step forward. Current Chairman Robert Whittingham explained: “Last year, the fund presented a grant of £10,000 to the Child Death Review Team.

 “The team is based in Harlow, Essex and is made up of former nurses and other medical practitioners.  They respond to all child deaths reported in Essex, ranging from cot death to teenage suicide, support the families at the time of death and after, and make introductions to other support agencies. They also attend Coroners’ inquests to give evidence and further support the families, and liaiase with other agencies such as the Police in any formal investigations.”

Robert added: “The donation is being made to enable them to purchase books and other specialist materials given to bereaved parents and siblings at an awful time. The literature enables parents to explain to surviving siblings what has happened and help them to understand.”

Today there are 47 regional TLC programmes across England and Wales that provide teddies for their local A&E departments. Once a hospital joins the scheme they can replenish teddies on request through their local TLC representative. Some TLC programmes also donate a portion of their TLC funds towards teddies for minor injuries units, children’s wards and hospices; there are even teddies flying on air ambulances!  

Recent months have seen the introduction of a new model of teddy and Essex, as the founder of the scheme, is proud to have been the first Province to receive supplies for its hospitals, medical units and air ambulances.

Pictured above is Laura Ryan, the play team lead at Basildon Hospital, holding some of the new teddies. Laura is responsible for ensuring the teddies are given out to the children.

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Enjoy The First Organ Concert Of The Year From Home

Freemasons’ Hall has announced its first Organ Concert of 2021, which will take place on 30 March, at 7pm.

Free tickets are available to book via: https://event.bookitbee.com/32027/freemasons-hall-organ-concert-30th-march-2021-carl

The event, being held virtually, will showcase the magnificent Willis pipe organ, which resides in the Grand Temple of Freemasons' Hall in London, an art deco masterpiece completed in 1933.

The concert is to be given by Carl Jackson, MVO, director of music at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and he has held organ scholarships at Downing College, Cambridge as well as his current base of Chapel Royal.

Before his current role at Hampton Court Palace, Mr Jackson taught at Goldsmiths’ College and he has held positions at Croydon Minster and St Peter’s, Eaton Square. He has also appeared regularly on television with the Chapel Royal choir and features with them on CDs. He was appointed MVO in the 2012 New Year Honours list.

Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, commented: “It is an honour to welcome Carl Jackson to perform for our first Organ Concert of 2021. The various lockdowns the country has faced during the pandemic have left many people feeling isolated and lonely. The virtual concert will bring world-class music and joy into people's homes whilst also giving the audience an opportunity to take in some of the stunning architecture of our headquarters here in London.”

The concert will be held at Freemasons’ Hall, which was designed as a pentagon to suit the irregular area in which it is located. Built in the central courtyard of the splendid art deco building, the Grand Temple is rich with multi-coloured details of blue, gold and white. 

While enjoying the concert online, attendees will be able to experience the splendor of the Grand Temple, including the majestic 1.25-tonne organ with its ornate pipes as well as the stunning mosaics that surround the ceiling.

The original organ was installed in 1933 by Henry Willis, the third generation of an extended family line of organ builders. It originally had three manuals and 43 stops, giving a total complement of some 2,220 pipes, and was the last big organ built by the Willis firm. After 80 years it was in need of a complete renovation, which was carried out in Durham by Harrison & Harrison in 2014 and included the cleaning, repairing and re-voicing the existing mechanisms, as well as mounting a new case of some 400 pipes on the east wall. 

Free tickets are available to book via: https://event.bookitbee.com/32027/freemasons-hall-organ-concert-30th-march-2021-carl

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“Copy That! – Over and Out”

After Lodge Meetings and Chapter Convocations, the first Toast of the evening at Festive Boards is the Loyal Toast to HM The Queen.  For Military Masons there is a deeper implication. Having served in Her Majesty’s Armed Services they have been prepared to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.

An Essex Freemason who did put his life on the line many times before reporting for duty in Grand Lodge above was W Bro Barry Nichols of Albert Lucking Lodge No 2717.  Born and bred in Benfleet, Barry enlisted into the Royal Signals as a combat radioman, which in those days involved all the duties of being a trained soldier plus carrying a wireless transmitter and a large battery pack on his back.

In the days when Germany fielded two world-class football teams, Barry was posted to BAOR, British Army on the Rhine, with 7th Armoured Brigade, the proud descendant unit of the Desert Rats.  Northern Ireland was next as a signaller with Bomb Disposal and then with 233 Signal Squadron headquartered in Lisburn.  Army radio signallers with bomb-disposal teams, infantry foot-patrols and security checkpoints were prime targets for terrorist snipers, especially in darkness.

Barry did this dangerous work to serve and protect the Community as a peace-keeper.  Discover more about Barry and his wife Rose, his subsequent military postings, civilian career and their life back in Essex in his Obituary on the Departed Brethren page in Essentials on the Cube by clicking on the Members Area above.

Like most Military Masons, Barry enjoyed both the comradeship and ceremony Freemasonry offers.  Initiated in 2011, Installed as Worshipful Master in 2016, he became Assistant Director of Ceremonies in 2018 and joined Essex Masters Lodge in 2019.  When called for duty to Grand Lodge above Barry was also Ist Principal of Albert Lucking Chapter in Royal Arch.

Roy Squibb, the Albert Lucking Lodge Almoner, said “His excellent knowledge of the Craft also meant that he was an inspiring and helpful Assistant Director of Ceremonies mentoring many of us in the Lodge whenever we needed it”.  With Roy’s quotation in mind, combined with Barry’s duty as a soldier to serve the Community, there is no better way to end this short appraisal of his life than with these words, which may well have been sent in his last radio message in the Army: Copy that! - Over and Out.

W Bro Barry John Nichols who, from October 1955 to January 2021, lived respected and died regretted.

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The Late W Bro Brian Wood

On 5th March 2021, the late W Bro Brian Sidney Wood should have been celebrating his 79th birthday with Anne, his wife, and receiving birthday greetings from his son, four daughters and their families.  Sadly, Brian has passed to Grand Lodge above. As an active Freemason it was appropriate that he was a member of Counos Lodge No 8133 as Counos is an ancient name for Canvey Island where Brian lived.

His fellow Lodge Brethren have shared in the grief of his loss alongside Brian’s family.  Had the Brethren been able to hold their regular February meeting they would have stood in silence for one minute in memory of Brian’s life as an act of Remembrance which will now be postponed until time or circumstances shall restore our meetings.

Initiated into Loyalty and Friendship Lodge No 7566 in London in 1988, Brian was Installed as Worshipful Master in 1997.  He joined Counos Lodge in 2000 where he was Master from April 2003 to 2005 and subsequently until April 1918 held seven different Lodge Offices. Brian was appointed Junior Deacon in Essex Masters in 2008.  In Royal Arch Masonry he was 1st Principal of Chingford Chapter in 2004.

There was much sadness in Castle Point where Brian was a well-respected Borough Councillor, having been first elected in 2004 and was Mayor in 2017. The Leader of the Council, Norman Smith and fellow Ward Councillors have all publicly praised Brian’s contribution to the Community and his interest in the concerns of residents which, they say, he always took seriously together with his service as a County Councillor.  Brian set himself high professional standards and was never afraid to stand up for what he believed to be right.

Although our thoughts are with Brian’s family, they may draw additional comfort in knowing that all Essex Freemasons would consider it an honour to follow Brian in being remembered by the Community as Brian is, especially by a fellow Councillor Steven Cole who said “He was also a Freemason as well and he raised thousands upon thousands of pounds. He loved his Freemasonry. He was someone that I looked up to”.  Such a public tribute says it all about the late W Bro Brian Sidney Wood who, from March 1942 to January 2021, lived respected and died regretted.

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Congratulations to Villerica Lodge No 4053

The February meeting is always a special occasion for the Brethren of Villerica Lodge No 4053.  It is the Installation Meeting.  As is the custom in Masonic Lodges, at the Installation Festive Board, all the Brethren look forward to singing the ‘Master’s Song’ and raising their glass to toast the Worshipful Master for the ensuing year.  This year’s February meeting would have been even more special as Villerica was Consecrated in the Grecian Temple at the Abercorn Rooms of the Great Eastern Hotel by the RW Provincial Grand Master of Essex Lord Lambourne on 19th February 1921.

Together with those Essex Freemasons whose Lodges and Chapters should have commemorated their Centennials during the last 12 months, Villerica Brethren must wait until time and circumstances permit such celebrations to be restored. During this time, they will no doubt reflect that 102 years ago some of the Founders were talking on Billericay Station with one saying that he remembered a Vicar who once said Billericay was derived from the Latin ‘Villerica’ meaning ‘Clean Town’ and so the name was adopted. The Lodge now meets at Hutton Masonic Hall.

Whether it is a potential new candidate or an experienced Brother, fortunate enough to attend the postponed Centennial celebrations, both will find Villerica to be a typical Masonic Lodge with about 40 members where the rich, the poor and those in-between, meet together, use the same idioms, abide by the same etiquette, eat, drink and joke together, all united in a sincere love of Freemasonry and its three grand Principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

This is exemplified through one Villerica Lodge member who was awarded a CBE on the same day in 1958 as a certain Matthew Busby (of Manchester United and England fame). George Frederick Chaplin was born in 1900 and Initiated in 1929. After being the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, Almoner and Treasurer, he was installed as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in 1957. Serving the Community as a JP, a Deputy Lieutenant and an Alderman, W Bro Chaplin also proposed Malcolm, his son, into the Lodge and devoted his life to the people of Essex. He became a Chairman of Essex County Council and was Knighted in 1962.

The late W Bro Chaplin may now be looking down from Grand Lodge above and wishing the day may soon come for all the Brethren of Villerica Lodge to celebrate their Centennial whilst joining all of the present Provincial Leadership Team and every Essex Freemason in congratulating Villerica Lodge No 4053 on reaching their Centenary.

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A Small Lodge with a Big Heart

The Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust has thanked Essex Freemasons for their “incredible support and wonderful generosity” in donating £3,000 for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the hospital.  Serving the Eastern region, Dr Kelsall and the dedicated NICU team do their utmost to save premature and new-born babies with complications so that they can survive to live full lives.

Twenty years ago, a grateful Walden Lodge No 1280 donated £1,000 to NICU, after sharing in the pain and anguish of W Bro Graham Newman and his wife when their daughter was born prematurely and had to spend several months in intensive care. Thanks to NICU, baby Imogen has grown up and completed a degree at Reading University so Walden Lodge decided to mark this milestone with another donation.

The Provincial Grand Master of Essex Freemasons, the late Rodney Lister Bass OBE, visited Walden Lodge in November 2019 for the 150th year celebrations which included a quiz night raising £1,200. A further £1,300 was raised by the Brethren, including Graham Newman, and with £500 from the Essex Freemasons Community Fund in matched-funding, the total of £3,000 was achieved.

Dr Kelsall at NICU said that once he is allowed, he is happy to visit and say thank you again in person to all the Brethren whilst sharing more about the department. The money will go towards maintaining and upgrading:

  • a video system so that during lockdown, parents can still talk to and see their babies while apart
  • Incubator covers that allow the right level of sound and light in creating a cocoon-like, safe environment for sick babies.
  • Books for siblings of babies on the unit, allowing parents to prepare their children for the often-overwhelming experience of visiting the NICU and their baby brother or sister for the first time.
  • The refurbishment and design of a calm, tranquil room for parents to take a break from the unit and make themselves a hot drink.

Based in Saffron Walden and bearing the Borough motto of Deo Adjuvante Floremus (By God’s help we flourish), Walden Lodge has a fine tradition of charitable giving which began 150 years ago, in 1871, with two guineas each for the Relief of French Peasants in the Franco-Prussian War and the Saffron Walden General Hospital. In April 1912 five guineas was donated to the Lord Mayors Fund for the Titanic disaster. As today’s Lodge Treasurer and Charity Steward, Richard Peet, said speaking on behalf of the 23 members of Walden Lodge “We are a Small Lodge with a Big Heart”.

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No Secret Anymore

W Bro Ken Cownden puts in a lot of work for our enjoyment.  His ‘Further Thought for the Day’ papers are full of interesting articles. A recent issue contains an intriguing item for potential and new members as well as being informative to most Essex Freemasons.  It is about ‘Secrecy’.  Ken explains, “We all understand that ‘Secrecy’ in Freemasonry comprises of a small number of signs, grips and words to distinguish each other as a member and which Degree.”

Ken then takes his readers into the period between World War I and II “when Freemasonry grew considerably, membership registers were available, public parades often included Masons in regalia, notices for meetings were published in the local press and there was freedom of information about both Freemasons and Freemasonry”.

This changed dramatically, Ken explains, with the rise of Nazism in the mid-1930s and on the outbreak of World War II. Such openness and gatherings ceased in fear of a Nazi invasion bringing horrendous persecutions as in the countries which had been overrun by the Nazis.  In England, existing Freemasons became extremely concerned for the safety and security of their families as well as their own.

Freemasons’ lodges were decreed hostile by the Nazis and their property seized.  Brethren were required to declare their membership, similar to the forced registration of the Jewish people and were similarly later rounded-up and sent to concentration camps for extermination. An aura of ‘Secrecy’ developed which continued after hostilities ended, giving rise to much foolish and incorrect speculation (false news) about Freemasonry and its members.

With his interest in French masonry since 1984, Ken describes similar devastation in both Occupied and Vichy France. “From a Masonic point of view” Ken concludes “we were indeed fortunate that the Nazis did not get to the British Isles and wreak similar destruction and havoc to even more lives and society as they did.”

This aura of ‘Secrecy’ which Ken described, plus a growing discrimination against Freemasons, was allowed to linger on the way it did until three years ago in February 2018 when the new Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, Dr David Staples, launched the “Enough is Enough” campaign, writing to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and placing full-page press advertisements pointing out that 200,000 Freemasons had raised £33 million the year before for good causes.

With all the volunteering work and charitable donations made by Freemasons during the Covid-19 crisis, perhaps now more than ever we should metaphorically, as Doris Day once sang, shout it from the highest hills that our ‘Secret’ is ‘No secret anymore’.

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