Tony Hales

The Other Side of the Good Samaritan

The perception of Freemasonry is rapidly moving towards a greater awareness of charitable giving and community service. Nowhere more so than in Essex where the 9,000 or so Freemasons of its 300 Lodges have built up a track-record in being kind and helping others. This is all well and good, but there are two sides to the parable of the Good Samaritan and it’s only when we ourselves get beaten up by life and others pass us by that we realise we need a helping hand.   

Not a Freemason himself, life for Howard Bradley has been damaged beyond all recognition. In 1832 his great, great grandfather founded the world’s longest-serving textile-care family business which served The Royal Household from King George III to the cleaning and restoring of wedding dresses in the Royal collection. Customers included Bro Sir Winston and Lady Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Howard has cared for clothing for Princess Anne, Prince Charles, George Michael, Lewis Hamilton, Rubens Barichello, Jackie Stewart, Ian Poulter and many others. He feels privileged to have painstakingly restored the clothing of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

Inspired by his father Eric, a wartime RAF pilot in North Africa and Italy, and grandfather Bernard, born 1881, a Freemason who took part in an initiative by the Lodge of Tranquillity, over a century ago, to help a number of Metropolitan Police Officers improve their reading and writing skills, Howard became a Special Constable and a motorcycle instructor.  In 1988, aged 27, through no fault of his own, a tragic road traffic accident left him in ICU for a month and hospitalised for over two months more before he returned to the family business on crutches, eventually taking over when his father passed away in 2004.

Howard lost everything in 2018 when, becoming a victim of sharp commercial practice, the business was sold by Administrators and he received nothing. Over the last four years his mental and physical health deteriorated and he now suffers from sarcoidosis lung disease, congestive heart failure, severe osteoarthritis, DVT, broken knee cartilages and shortage of breath, making it excruciatingly painful to walk with sticks. This has not stopped Howard from applying for over 400 jobs, but without any success.

Too embarrassed to ask for help, having always given and not taken, Howard felt confined in a bleak situation, until a passing good Samaritan gave a helping hand to set up a GoFundMe page to raise £3,600 for a mobility scooter, as Howard does not have any money to buy one. Being a Freemason, this good Samaritan donated, as did his Lodge, and so far, £1,100 has been raised.  Never thinking he would ever be in this situation; a very grateful Howard Bradley has written a thank-you to all Essex Freemasons, the Brethren of Earlham Lodge and Russell Seagal for their kind donations and for understanding what it is like being ‘the Other Side of the Good Samaritan’.

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‘Getting Ready to Get Ready’

Among the 9,000 or so Essex Freemasons there are over 4,200 who also enjoy being Royal Arch (RA) Masons. They are called Companions and are members of 120 Chapters in the Province which, without being informal, hold meetings called Convocations in a relaxed atmosphere at 25 centres. For many Companions the further easing of restrictions on 17th May 2021 will seem like an opportunity to return from exile, meet up again and discover once more that which was lost before Masonic meetings were suspended.

How successful this impending return from exile will be is in the hands of the Scribe E, the RA term for secretary, of each Chapter who will play a pivotal role.  Although meetings of up to six Companions will be permitted the Scribe E will be checking to see how many people their centre’s risk assessment approval is for, up to the maximum of 30.   

Whilst many Companions cannot wait to get back to meetings, others including some who have had their second jab, may still be wary of attending. Each Scribe E will be crucial in reassuring those Companions that there is no coercion to attend and, for those who do, ensuring the first Convocation is taken gently to let the members simply get used to being with each other again and making sure all statutory precautions are in place such as wearing masks and social-distancing.

Another essential role for a Scribe E is to ensure their Chapter members will both encourage and welcome Companions of other Chapters who may not wish to travel long distances in future to Convocations the other side of Essex, or to London, or neighbouring Provinces, so that they can continue to enjoy RA Masonry more locally to where they live and are not lost to the Order.

To get the Chapter Officers in place for the return, each Scribe E may have to resolve one or two conundrums as some Officers may have ‘marked-time’ for two years, others may have been appointed but not yet invested or had the opportunity to carry-out their roles. Royal Arch Regulations are there to help with matters beyond each Chapter’s by-laws explaining for example how Principals can be elected and installed at the first meeting after the suspension is over.

Life will soon become much easier for every Scribe E as the new online administration system called HERMES goes live later this year but their own input is key in making the roll-out successful by assimilating Provincial communications and attending workshops.  Also, in September 2021, a new Most Excellent Grand Superintendent for Essex, Paul Tarrant, and a new Deputy Grand Superintendent, Elliott Chevin will be appointed. So that RA Companions in the Province can safely return from exile and enjoy the new exiting era ahead, every Essex Chapter Scribe E is ‘Getting Ready to Get Ready’.

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Essex Freemasons raise funds for charities Prince Philip dedicated his life to

To honour HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Essex has joined the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) campaign and is inviting its 200,000 members to raise funds for charities the Prince dedicated his life to.

Prince Philip had been married for 73 years and was a Freemason, having been introduced to Freemasonry in 1952 at the age of 31 by his father-in-law King George VI.

Throughout his 99 years, he was associated with 992 charities, either as president, patron or as an honorary member.

The Prince supported charitable organisations in the fields of scientific and technological research and development, the encouragement of sport, the welfare of young people, conservation and the environment.

Paul Reeves, the deputy provincial grand master in-charge of Essex Freemasons, said: "Although HRH Prince Philip retired officially from royal duties in May 2020, after 22,219 solo engagements, his lifetime of duty and service is an inspiration to everyone who is a Freemason.

"He has been an example to us all for over 70 years, during which time many people of all ages throughout Essex have benefitted either directly or indirectly from The Duke of Edinburgh’s initiatives and charitable patronage."

Dr David Staples, chief executive of UGLE, said: "Prince Philip was well known for his charity work, having been involved with numerous organisations. He was devoted to philanthropy and therefore the best way to celebrate his life is by supporting the charities that the Prince himself supported.

"For us, this was an easy decision as Freemasonry’s core values are charity, integrity, respect and friendship. The Freemasons have been quietly getting on with making society and the lives of those less fortunate better for more than three centuries."

Freemasons worked 18.5 million hours this year as volunteers in a range of different areas, including driving vulnerable people to hospital, preparing meals, taking care of people at risk, organising care packages, and producing scrubs, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser.

They also donated more than £1m last year to the Covid-19 effort, with the funds being used to help communities in various critical areas, including foodbanks, support for unpaid carers, PPE, supplies for hospitals and hospices, support for women’s refuges, and funds for NHS workers, ambulances and equipment.

As a Freemason, the Duke of Edinburgh was initiated into Navy Lodge, No 2612, on December 5, 1952. On March 6, 1953, HRH Prince Philip progressed to the Second Degree of Freemasonry, before advancing to the Third Degree on May 4, 1953. The UGLE issued his Grand Lodge Certificate on May 7 that same year and he remained a member up until his death.

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

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