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.”


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.


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:

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:


“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.


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.


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.


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”.


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’.


One Volunteer is Worth Ten Pressed Men

In every Freemason there is a desire to do good work for the Community and help others. For a number of Brethren this desire has grown stronger during the COVID-19 crisis and they have responded to the many calls for volunteers. They do their bit to help others overcome the pandemic so that everyone can get back to doing the things we all love to do.

One Volunteer, W Bro Paul Thurgood, registered via the Southend Borough Council Volunteer Hub  as a Covid Vaccination Marshall at Saxon Hall. Paul (right) is also a Director of Saxon Hall but is seen here with the Mark APGM W Bro Richard Goodwin (left) in their volunteering roles as the new car park attendants.

Since The Grand Master’s Directive on 17th March 2020 a number of Essex Freemasons have volunteered to do good work for the Community. To commemorate one year of volunteering during the pandemic in March 2021, the Provincial Communications Team plan to publish a special Feature to honour all those who have volunteered either officially or have gone that ‘extra personal mile’ to help others.

If you have volunteered anywhere in any way or helped others, since 17th March 2020 please send details of your volunteering to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and join Volunteers from across the Province in this special Commemorative Feature for the annals of Provincial history and, more importantly, as an inspiration for generations of Freemasons to come.


“We’ll Meet Again” - it’s not If but When!

Dame Vera Lynn lived to be 103 (1917 – 2020), born in East Ham she referred to herself as ‘the girl next door’. Singing ‘We’ll Meet Again’, she gave hope to many millions throughout WWII.  Currently the iconic first line of her song gives hope not only to the Brethren of Old Easthameians Lodge No 7693 but to the rest of the Brethren in the Province of Essex and throughout the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).

In January 2021 VW Bro Dr David Staples FRCP, Grand Secretary of UGLE, gave counsel with two primary principles: Firstly, to obey the law and government guidance, and secondly for individual Lodges to do what is right for them as they are allowed within the first rule.

Grand Lodge wants to support Brethren who do not feel ready to return to meetings. VW Bro David said “They are under no pressure whatsoever to feel they must come back.” Nevertheless, Grand Lodge also wants Lodges to avoid making decisions which may prolong not meeting, perhaps even until next year, when there may be younger brethren who would be happy to meet with eased restrictions. 

No Lodge will be criticised for not holding a meeting in accordance with their Lodge by-laws at this time, but when the suspension is lifted, albeit with restrictions in place, those Brethren who wish to have their ‘fortitude’ recorded in Masonic folklore should not be prevented from meeting.

 Fortitude is a great attribute but Freemasons also bear in mind their wider responsibilities especially to the vulnerable, the majority of whom may not return until the pandemic is fully under control and the time-honoured meetings can be arranged again. At present those days may seem to be in the distant future but the good news is We’ll Meet Again” - it’s not If but When!


The Rivers of Babylon

Many people in lockdown or shielding enjoy listening to the former hit song ‘Rivers of Babylon’ because of its catchy tune and appropriate wording for these times. The lyrics are from Psalm 137, written over 2,500 years ago, about another group of people also in ‘captivity’. The song is also meaningful to Essex Freemasons who are Companions in the Holy Royal Arch, as it relates the beginning of a story which is central to the teachings of core Freemasonry.

Nebuchadnezzar II expanded the Babylonian empire and ruled Egypt, Syria and Judah. After sacking Jerusalem, he took thousands into captivity as forced labour where they remained until Babylon was captured by Cyrus II of Persia.  One can easily visualise a leading Judean captive of royal descent called Zerubbabel (meaning ‘Born in Babylon’) sitting down by these rivers and thinking of the land of his forefathers called Zion, so named after the hill on which David had founded the city of Jerusalem.

Zerubbabel summoned up the courage to ask Cyrus if he could lead a party back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. Cyrus gave Zerubbabel approval to leave Babylon, appointed him the Governor, as a Prince, of Judah and decreed the Temple should be rebuilt.

55 miles south of Baghdad, situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Babylon was once one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the ancient world. In our modern world the equivalent today is also referred to as the ‘Babylon-on the-Hudson’. The Royal Arch Masons there even have ‘The Zerubbabel Society’ for Companions who pledge to donate $100 a year, or more if they can afford it, with a special jewel which can be worn at all Royal Arch functions.

There are some differences in the Royal Arch Masonry found between the banks of the Hudson and East rivers, and throughout North America, compared with English Freemasonry. A frequent visitor may also notice a difference in a majority of the population on that continent where it is deemed as basic good manners and good citizenship to view yourself as just one member of the community, regardless of whether the community is a town, an organisation or a family.

Such good-manners and good-citizenship make for an ‘Excellent Companion’, just part of the legacy which Zerubbabel unknowingly has left for all Royal Arch Masons of today, dating from those ancient times when he sat down by ‘The Rivers of Babylon’.

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