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Outstanding Service

The Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson, had the pleasure of heading up his Mini Team to a special celebration at Benfeldsyde Lodge.  Peter Hough received a well-deserved promotion to Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden for 60 years of service to the craft and recognition for all his meticulous work in running the building at Blackhill Consett.

After a second-degree demonstration ceremony Peter was asked to join John for the informal seated chat on the carpet, in front of the master’s pedestal on Saturday 7th October 2023. Peter moved to Consett at the age of 5 from Manchester and was educated at a local school with Eric Heaviside. He then went on to serve his time at Consett Iron Company and was initiated into the lodge in 1963.

After the chat, Eric assisted John to invest his old school mate Peter, with his new apron and collar.

At the festive board Peter was presented with an engraved glass, garden ornament and etched slate to mark 60 years of outstanding service to the Lodge. Peters’ wife Christine was also presented with flowers from the lodge for supporting her husband over the years.

Stronger together

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Hackworth ParkRun Takeover

On Saturday, Freemasons and their families from the Province of Durham took over the volunteer positions at Shildon’s Hackworth ParkRun allowing the regular volunteers to have a well earned day off. 

The Run Director, Marshals, TimeKeepers and Barcode Scanning roles were all taken on by the Freemasons ParkRun team which has been “up and running” for around 12 months. 

The head of Durham Freemasons, the Provincial Grand Master John Thompson and his wife Andrea filled the tailwalking roles with John completing his 50th ParkRun.  He even got to wear a foxes tail to mark the occasion!!  

The venture is believed to be the first time local Freemasons have successfully taken all of the volunteer positions at a ParkRun, something that the Durham ParkRun team are hoping to replicate at other locations across the North East.  Sixty Nine people took part in the 439th running of the Shildon event in Hackworth Park, a great day was had by all, which concluded with the traditional Coffee and copious amounts of cake in the Hub in the Park. 

Stronger Together

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Ron’s Double Celebration

On the evening of Thursday 1st July 2023, the brethren of St Helen’s Lodge met at the Masonic Hall Regent Street, Hartlepool. This was a regular meeting and an upbeat night with special importance with so many things to celebrate, to celebrate 65 years (Blue Sapphire Anniversary) in Craft and 60 Years (Diamond Anniversary) in Royal Arch for Ron Walker and with 65+ brethren in attendance including John Thompson, Provincial Grand Master accompanied by Deputation of Provincial officers

Once the lodge was opened and the deputation was welcomed into the room, John then asked Ron to join him in the east to talk about his life and masonic experiences.

Ron was initiated into St Helens on 1st May 1958 at the age of 27 and worked his way through all the various offices before Ron became Master of St Helens in 1969.

When John asked Ron about his masonic career, He talked about the time he received a call from the Provincial Secretary when at work, stating he had been put forward by Lord Barnard to become Treasurer for the United Grand Lodge of England (1-year role) and was given till the end of the call to decide to accept the role.

Ron was exulted into the Royal Arch in 1963 and Z in 1978 – later appointed to PProvGSN.in 1995

Ron has also been a member of the Mark for 60 years too. John then discussed Ron was an Accountant setting up his own company.

John then asked for Tom Gittins to read out the 65years Certificate before presenting it to Ron, thanking Ron for his continuous commitment to Freemasonry and then Ron replied with a small speech thanking everyone who attended.

John also said that Ron was a great example of a Freemason, always willing to help others, with previous roles in the lodge included Director of Ceremonies in Craft, Chapter, and the Mark Degrees, with 65 years of continuous service with St Helen’s lodge and 60 years with the Royal Arch. A true gentleman and an Elder statesman, -respected person in Hartlepool, Province of Durham, and England.

Tom Gittins then read out the 65years Certificate for the craft and then the 60-year Certificate from the Royal Arch before presenting it to Ron, thanking Ron for his continuous commitment to Freemasonry, and then Ron replied with a small speech thanking everyone who attended and how much he had enjoyed his time in Freemasonry.

The evening was finished off at the festive board with Broccoli and Stilton Soup, Quiche Salad with coleslaw and Strawberries and Cream followed by Cheese and Crackers.

John responded to his toast and told the brethren how great it was to attend at St Helen’s how it was a pleasure to be here tonight and how he had enjoyed the whole evening. John talked about the Great work Durham Benevolence and the MCF were doing. Visitors response was given by Nigel Fallow of Rowland Burdon Lodge.

Ron stood and thanked everyone and was overcome by tonight. He said he had had a wonderful life inside and outside freemasonry and support from a wonderful woman his wife and had worn every collar with honour.

Ron was given a standing Ovation from everyone for this.

Other toasts were given by Paul Swansbury and Tony Raine.

A great evening enjoyed by all – St Helen’s Lodge is well worth another visit.

Stronger Together

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Silver Jubilee Celebration At Castle Eden

On the evening of Thursday 29th June 2023, the brethren of Castle Eden Lodge of Installed Masters (9666) met at the Masonic Hall in Castle Eden. This was a special meeting to celebrate the lodge’s 25th Anniversary (Silver Jubilee) Meeting with 70+ brethren in attendance including John Thompson – Provincial Grand Master accompanied by a Deputation of Provincial officers

Once the lodge was opened and the deputation was welcomed into the room, Eric Smith stood and talked on the first 25 years of the Castle Eden Lodge of Installed Masters. Eric started saying that the lodge was consecrated on 23rd May 1998 at Gateshead, but the formation of the lodge started much earlier. The first meeting of interest in creating this lodge started back in October 1996 when the lodge name was agreed upon and where the lodge was to be located after being agreed upon by the Castle Eden Hall management.

A 2nd meeting took place in December 1996 where everyone agreed to Hall rent, Annual subscriptions and how many meeting to hold each year (4 meetings were agreed upon – 1 for wives and partners, 1 on a Saturday, 1 to have an outside speaker and lodge installation)

Many more meetings took place and one with Derek Richmond and Alan Hall in attendance to help answer questions. Other meetings included the agreeing of Lodge byelaws and who would be the lodge’s first master. A petition was completed and sent to London in 1997

On 23rd May 1998, a meeting was held at Gateshead, as it was believed that Gateshead was a bigger venue to hold for the number of attendees of this first meeting of the Castle Eden Lodge on Installed Masters. Also, the meal that day is the same meal that will be had tonight.

Eric then talked about the significant event that had happened since the congregation till today. Once Eric had finished his talk, Graham Boddy thanked Eric for all his hard work in producing this talk and the work he had done for the lodge.

Eric Heaviside stood and said he remembered being at Gateshead for the Initial meeting in 1998.

Graham then presented John with a cheque from the lodge.

Michael Davis then read out the Charter in recognition of holding regular meetings for 25 years. Then John presented the Charter to Graham Boddy and the lodge.

The evening was finished off at the festive board of Farmhouse Pate, Roast Beef and Seasonal Vegetables and Peach Melba followed by Cheese and Crackers.

John responded to his toast and thanked the lodge for the invite to allow everyone to join in the Silver Jubilee celebrations. He said the lodge had played an important role in Durham being both inward and outward looking. John then spoke about the New Province of Durham Website and asked everyone to use it to attract New members and Promote their own lodges. He then spoke about the wonderful work the TLC teddies have been doing and about a Plague for the TLC teddies is now at North Tees Hospital and so far Durham a given 113,000 teddies and raising £250,000 and how these bears are making a difference when they are given out. Finishing his response, John thanks everyone for their support on this special day and thanked his New team on their first visit.

Graham Boddy stood and said nice it was for the Provincial team to visit tonight (joking calling it a ‘reciprocal visit’ so soon after his visit to the AGM at the weekend’). Graham thanked everyone for all their hard work in setting up tonight and to the Catering staff and the ladies serving the food and including the bar staff.

Charles Marshall then stood and spoke about how the 25 years have ticked over and how he was deeply honoured to be invited tonight and he also remembered being there at Gateshead at the lodge consecration meeting.

Other toasts were given by Wayne Rumley and Richard Davison

John and Graham then stood and presented the lodge founders with a gift from the lodge.

Thank you to everyone involved for this evening at Castle Eden.

Stronger Together

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A Wonderful Evening Spent Celebrating Denny’s 50 years | Durham Freemasons

The Provincial Grand Master, John Paul Thompson along with the Deputy Provincial Master, Michael Graham, two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Andrew Moule and John Watts, along with a Provincial Deputation attended Palatine Lodge at Wearside Masonic Hall in Sunderland.

The reason for this visit was to ‘Mark’ a very special occasion for 50 years of Freemasonry for Denovan “Denny” Keith Wilson.

To help celebrate his achievement, many distinguished brethren, heads of Orders, friends and in addition for the Mark, the Deputy Grand Master, Francis Spencer attented. With 130 in the Lodge room, additional seats were required to accommodate the huge numbers for the evening.

After the Lodge being opened, Denny gave an illustrated talk on Palatines’ Lodge Warrant, which is the first ever issued by Premier Grand Lodge, and by extension the United Grand Lodge of England, being dated 14th January 1757.

It was then the turn for the most important part of the evening, two chairs were sited just in front of the pedestal in a ‘Parkinson’ style layout. John Thompson then discussed Denny’s 50 years of membership with him, after which the Deputy Provincial Secretary, Mike Davies was then called to read out the long service award.

After the Lodge was closed and the Deputation had paraded out, over 100 brethren then retired for to dine. They were greeted by a string quartet playing throughout, an excellent five course meal and a huge raffle to benefit the charity of Denny Wilson’s choice. This was certainly going to be a night to remember.

John Thompson responded to his toast, again by thanking Denny for his 50 years service to this Province and highlighting the importance of the connection between Craft and Mark freemasonry.

A thoughtful and insightful response from Denny in his reply to his toast so typical of him, given in a most eloquent way. ‘’Thank you to all at Palatine Lodge and Province for making the arrangements for what turned out to be a great night for all and one that will linger in our memories’’.

In addition to a unique presentation of the Lodge number in pounds for Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham charity. The Chairman of Durham Benevolence and Durham 2029 MBF Festival, John Watts, was very grateful when each benefited 50% of the over £500 raised by the raffle that evening.

Such a wonderful occasion to celebrate 50 years of service to Craft Freemasonry, for a true and respected gentleman that is “Denny” Keith Wilson.

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Outstanding Voluntary Services to the Community | Durham Freemasons

Michael Graham Donne, a member of Flambard Lodge 6874 and his wife Ruth, have been awarded Durham County Councils’ Chairman’s Medal. This award is the highest civic honour the County Council can bestow and was awarded for, “Outstanding Voluntary Services to the Community”. The presentation took place at County Hall in Durham, by the Chair of Durham County Council, Councillor Joan Nicholson.

Councillor Nicholson’s’ citation read, “We are here today to honour the hard work and devotion of Ruth and Mike. They have both dedicated their lives to supporting the Armed Forces community. Ruth and Mike you have become a vital lifeline of hope and support for so many, especially those going through challenging circumstances. From pandemics and lockdowns to the cost of living crisis, you have offered unwavering support. You ensure that the voices of our most vulnerable are heard and their needs are met. Through your work with SSAFA you have helped countless people get back on their feet and regain their self-esteem. You have created a support network that has been described as lifesaving – especially during lockdown. I was moved to hear how you both, along with other volunteers, made sure that those facing isolation and social exclusion felt seen and supported. Your extraordinary efforts serve as an inspiration to us all…

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NEPACS | Durham Freemasons

Masonic Charitable Foundation

Disadvantaged children coping with a parent in prison will get help and support thanks to Durham Freemasons

More than 200 local children and young people with a parent in prison will be given the support they need to overcome social stigma, loneliness and mental health problems, thanks to a grant of £60,000 from Durham Freemasons to the North East Prison After Care Society (NEPACS).

The project, named Bee Yourself, will deliver a package of practical and emotional support for young people in the northeast of England, aged 4-17. These are disadvantaged young people, mostly from households in receipt of free-school meals, located in deprived wards and experiencing significant financial and emotional hardship.

Many of these young people do not receive specific help and often ‘go under the radar’ when their parent goes into custody. They are far more likely than their peers to experience social isolation, loneliness and mental health issues. An estimated 30 per cent of children impacted by parental imprisonment experience significant mental health problems, compared to 10 per cent of the wider youth population.

Similarly, children of prisoners are more likely to take unauthorised school absences than their peers. This has an inevitable effect on their overall educational attainment and passes on disadvantages to the next generation.

Children of prisoners are also at far greater risk of engaging in criminal behaviour. Statistics show that 54 per cent of people entering prison have at least one child under 18 and 312,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment each year. 71 per cent of boys who experience a parent in prison end up in trouble with the police themselves and 66 per cent will go on to offend.

NEPACS’ existing, more informal Young People’s services deliver impressive results: 80 per cent have reported a reduction in isolation; 89 per cent of young people stating they had formed new lasting friendships; 90 per cent stating they had no intention of involving themselves in criminal behaviour in the future; 90 per cent have indicated an improvement in their ‘state of happiness’ and 75 per cent have since reported a significant improvement in self-esteem and confidence.

The grant from Durham Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Emma Price from NEPACS, said:

“We’re very grateful to Durham Freemasons for their generous grant which will allow us to help hundreds of children and young people who are experiencing mental health issues, loneliness and social isolation following the imprisonment of a parent. Helping them to overcome these issues will be a huge benefit to them, their families and to the community in general.”

John Paul Thompson Head of the Durham Freemasons, said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to support NEPACS with their excellent programme to support children who are struggling after a parent has been sent to prison. One especially alarming statistic is that two thirds of the sons of prisoners end up in trouble with the police themselves. Helping them to avoid involvement in crime and take advantage of their education can transform their lives.”

The photos show Emma Price and Abdul Amin of NEPACS with John Thompson and Durham Freemasons representatives.

About NEPACS

NEPACS is a north east charity which celebrated its 140th birthday in 2022. The charity supports the wellbeing of individuals and families who’ve been impacted by contact with the criminal justice system.

They provide practical and emotional support to all members of the family who suffer the ‘hidden sentence’ of a loved one’s imprisonment. We also directly support offenders to reduce reoffending.

NEPACS work at all stages of the criminal justice system, predominantly in deprived communities with people who suffer stigma, social disadvantage and economic hardship. Key to this is support for the children of offenders, who experience isolation, disrupted education, mental health issues and who are statistically more likely than peers to engage in crime.

For further information about the Masonic Charitable Foundation, please contact Guy Roberts, Press Officer ( groberts@mcf.org.uk  |0203 146 3311)

About the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country. Funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families, the MCF awards millions of pounds each year to local and national charities that help vulnerable people, advance medical research and provide opportunities for young people. The MCF also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contributes to worldwide appeals for disaster relief.  In total, MCF support helps to improve the lives of thousands of people every year in England, Wales and internationally. As well as providing grants to charities, the MCF supports Freemasons and their families with a financial, health or family need. Visit www.mcf.org.uk

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Cadet NASA Visit | Durham Freemasons

2505 (Bishop Auckland) Squadron consisting of 41 cadets and 7 volunteers staff was formed 59 years ago to provide a community-based squadron (then called the Air Training Corps) for young people across Southwest Durham.

The squadron is part of a UK-wide force of more than 30,000 young people aged between 12 and 20 years. Their aim is to promote and encourage a practical interest in aviation, providing training which is useful in service and civilian life while encouraging a spirit of adventure, leadership, and good citizenship.

Flt Lt Ian Pepper the Officer Commanding and Flt Sergeant Caroline Hodgson have come up with an inspirational educational idea for the squadron to learn about the application of (STEM) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s in space exploration. The training includes certified courses, guest speakers and external trips. This culminates when six cadets and three staff are to travel in October 2023 to the USA to continue exploring flight and space including a visit to NASA to partake in training as astronauts. On their return, they will share their experiences on the expedition with a presentation to the squadron and parents

Funds to pay for this fantastic opportunity have been raised by many means and the cadets with their parents backing have worked hard to reach their target, a huge achievement on its own

Durham Freemason and Chair of the squadron Royston Smart advised the squadron Officer Commanding, Ian to apply to the Freemasons of Durham for a Community Support Grant and this has resulted with a visit from freemason Stan Hunter joining Royston in presenting a well-earned certificate from the Benevolent Committee of the Durham Freemasons.  This accompanies a grant of £1,000 awarded and this resulted in a huge cheer from the squadron.

Stan and Royston were given a tour of the squadron’s operating Centre where Stan had a crash course on the in-house flight simulator (do not travel on his aircraft) after which refreshments were served, concluding on a remarkably interesting evening. A special patch has been designed by Cadet Cpl E Totty to mark the occasion, a sample of which was given to Stan as a memento.

Flt Lt Ian Pepper and the cadets are happy to visit the Benevolent Committee and give a presentation of their once in a lifetime experience.

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Benevolence at Work | Durham Freemasons

Durham Army Cadet Force has over 700 cadets (aged 12-18) and 200 adults in over 30 locations in every corner of County Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead.

The ACF is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organisations. It is also one of the oldest tracing its history back to 1859.

Based at HQ in the Drill Hall Chester-Le-Street, Cadet Administrative Assistant, (CAA)

Captain E Lennon (Ted) applied to Durham Benevolence for a Community Support Grant.

The grant is to be used to help with costs of training programs for young people with life skills. On early Good Friday morning Durham freemason, Lieutenant Colonel John Henry was delighted to turn out in full combat fatigues on a special mission for Durham Benevolence.

Feeling at home amongst the troop of 36 cadets and 4 adults before they departed to Nijmegen in the Netherlands on exercise. Captain Gary Richardson was presented with a certificate from John Henry on behalf of the Durham freemasons to go along with the £1,000 grant already thankfully received. Gary especially mentioned the long-time relationship between the Durham ACF and Durham freemasons where they have sponsored them in the past. John Henry wished them all a safe journey and captivated their attention when informing them that he started his army career in Durham ACF, 39 years ago.

This Community Support Grant is one of many awarded by Durham Benevolence to various organisations throughout the province on a regular basis. The latest batch includes Sunderland Culture (£1000),    Bolton Colts under 7s Football Club(£500),    Hospitality and Hope (£1000),    Humbleton & Plains Farm Youth Football Club (£1000),    ICOS, International Community Organisation of Sunderland (£1000),     Sunderland Womens Centre (£3500)

Durham freemasons proud to help

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Fly-Fishing | Durham Freemasons

This Masonic Fly-Fishing Competition is hoping to attract Teams from the five Northern Provinces of Durham. Northumberland. Cumberland & Westmoreland Yorkshire, West Riding, Yorkshire, North & East Ridings.  

Each Province can enter two teams of 4 anglers, who are Lodge Members in that Province.  A team Co-Ordinator will be required to organise and manage that team on the day of the Competition.  

The Competition will be organised on a ‘Catch and Release’ basis with team and individual trophies being awarded on the day.

Should you require any further information please contact the Event Organiser

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