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Joe Celebrates 109 Years | Durham Freemasons

Joe Dixon, one of Britain’s oldest men is celbrating his 109th birthday in Scarborough Court RMBI care home in Cramlington Northumberland. He marked his milestone birthday on Saturday, October 1st. Care home staff had issued a touching appeal for people to send Joe a birthday card in the hope of presenting him with 109 cards on the day.

Joe was born in Walker in 1913 and went on to become a firefighter, serving Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service for 50 years. After joining the service in 1937, Joe worked at the Pilgrim Street fire station in Newcastle where he lived in the married quarters with his wife Lydia.

During the Second World War, Joe served in RAF Bomber Command and returned to work as a firefighter when it ended. He worked his way up to becoming chief fire officer before retiring in 1964.  Joe, is a great granddad and very proud of it.

Joe said: “I have always felt very important in my job.

Happy Birthday Joe from all Durham freemasons.

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Grant to SSAFA | Durham Freemasons

Durham Benevolence were pleased to award a £1000 Community Support Grant to the South West Durham Division of SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association). The grant has been used to assist those who suffer isolation, loneliness or need befriending by subsidising a trip to the National Memorial Arboretum and Bletchley Park.

On the weekend 16th – 19th September, 41 Veterans’, widows, SSAFA Volunteers and supporters boarded a bus at Bishop Auckland Football Club.  At the National Memorial Arboretum, they paid tribute to our late Queen and SSAFA Patron. Three of the veterans laid a wreath at the main Memorial, Ron Howard 85, Peter Franklin 88 and Bill Dodds 86. Bletchley Park is fascinating and definitely a place to visit.

On the way home they stopped in time for the national two minutes silence for the Queen and paraded in front of the coach while the Divisional Treasurer and Piper, Ruth Wright played the Flowers of the Forrest.

A super weekend enjoyed by all.

On behalf of the SSAFA South West Durham Division, Michael G Donne, a past Master of his Lodge, Branch President , who applied to Durham Benevolence for the grant sent thanks from all in the Veterans Group saying the grant had made a lot of veterans and their families very happy.

Many thanks to Keith Taylor, a Royal Navy veteran and part of this group for the photo’s.

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Harte Chapter Centenary Celebrations | Durham Freemasons

Monday the 26th of September was a night of special celebration for the members & visitors of Harte Chapter 4217, who meet at the Masonic Hall at Raby Road in Hartlepool.  A lot of preparation had been invested in advance by a number of companions to make sure everything was in place to celebrate Harte Chapter centenary, having been founded in 1922.

John Thompson, Grand Superintendent, welcomed the Provincial Team (led by David Hanson, Second Provincial Grand Principal) in his capacity of Zerubbabel of Harte Chapter.  The companions were treated to a rich & detailed history of Harte Chapter that was prepared & delivered by Darren Bethell, Scribe Ezra, where appreciation was shown by all companions in a manner usual among Royal Arch Masons.

Companion David Kirwan took the floor & presented John with a trophy for the centenary of Harte Chapter.  The trophy being very detailed demonstrated that a lot of time & effort had been put in by David to craft it by his own hands.  David explained that he had joined Harte Chapter as a joining member where he was warmly welcomed by the members, which he very much appreciated.  David has never found the opportunity progress in office due to busy work commitments but has enjoyed every minute of being a member & wanted to give something to the chapter as a thank you & also something that can be looked after & displayed for many years ahead.  John commented on how wonderful he thought the trophy was & thanked David for his kind gift.  David also pointed out that there is a secret door on the back of the trophy.

A facsimile of the centenary charter was read out by Tom Gittins, Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, who advised that the official charter is delayed due to a shortage of materials.  Tom also advised the companions that he is sure that the Grand Superintendent would be happy to visit in the future to officially present it when it arrives.  David Hanson presented the facsimile to John on behalf of the Province.

John presented David Hanson with two cheques from Harte Chapter; one for £100 towards Durham Benevolence & the other also for £100 towards TLC teddies.  David thanked John & the members of Harte Chapter for their kind generosity.

After the business was concluded upstairs the companions enjoyed a fantastic festive board & each others company downstairs as well as a raffle with many prizes.  The raffle raised the grand sum of £561.75!

Click Here For Lodge History

We are Stronger Together

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225 Years Of Royal Arch Masonry | Durham Freemasons

Thursday 15th September 2022 saw the Companions of the Chapter of Strict Benevolence No 97 celebrate 225 years of Royal Arch Masonry. The Chapter was delighted to receive a Deputation from the Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham – A Full Team Visit led by EComp Michael Shaw, Deputy Grand Superintendent. Michael was supported on this occasion by the Second and Third Provincial Grand Principals, The two Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals and other Acting Provincial Officers totalling 21 in all. The Deputation were honoured to be asked to join in the celebrations which underlined the importance of the heritage of our past, the values of our present and the shared challenges that lie ahead.

The arrangements for the evening were made in large part by E Comp Roy Neville and he and the Chapter ensured that every Companion present felt part of this celebratory meeting and not just a peripheral member or visitor. Roy also gave a short history of the Chapter taken from a booklet produced in 2002 by the late E Comp Con Culkin. Roy emphasised that the although the evening was not an official anniversary, it is nevertheless undeniable that the Chapter of Strict Benevolence was constituted in 1797 and that the evening was an opportunity for the Companions to celebrate that fact.

Roy pointed out that 1797 was of course only 21 years after the American Declaration of Independence, 8 years before the battle of Trafalgar and 18 years before the battle of Waterloo (and long before that was proclaimed by ABBA!). Our first Grand Superintendent in Durham was appointed in 1788, just 9 years previously and so the Chapter of Strict Benevolence is indeed an ancient and honourable Chapter.

We were treated to an insight into one of our founding members Michael Scarth and the part he played in bringing the chapter into being as well as a profile of the man himself. A father, an active Mason, businessman and pillar of the community. Michael became master of his Lodge after 12 months, Provincial Junior Grand Warden within 4 years and founder and first Z of The Chapter within six years. A truly remarkable Mason. Roy also explained why today an unofficial anniversary and the mysteries of why the Chapter was did not meet for a period after 1839, resuming where it left off in 1852 with the same officers on the floor.

Following the meeting we retired to an excellent festive board where EComp Shaw responded to the toast to the Provincial Officers, reminding us of the value of the shared experience of the Royal Arch and the enjoyment that we can all get from it. He was also pleased to receive from the Scribe Wayne Rumley, a copy of the history of the Durham Harodim and a history of Palatine Lodge No97 both written by Con Culkin.

All in all, it was a fitting way for the Companions of the Chapter to celebrate this milestone in their history and they look forward to the future with renewed vigour.

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Benevolence Collection | Durham Freemasons

The Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson, attended the Annual Meeting of the Royal and Select Masters of Durham, on Saturday 17 th September ,after a formal invite from the District Grand Master, Michael Graham.

The Meeting was adjourned for John to be admitted and he addressed the Companions present and gave his vision for the immediate future of freemasonry in Durham and its link to all the orders within the province. Michael had previously informed John that the collection at the end of the meeting would be going to Durham Benevolence, so John outlined some of the marvellous donations being made to a wide selection of charities by the fund.

The lunch which followed the meeting was very well attended and John enjoyed the company of heads of other orders who were sat on his table.

Michael responded to the toast from his Deputy, and he thanked everybody for their attendance and support. Michael made special reference to the visit by John and as previously promised presented him with a cheque to the value of £600.00 to go to the Benevolent fund. John thanked everybody for this generous donation.

We are stronger together.

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Provincial AGM 2022 | Durham Freemasons

Saturday 3rd September 2022 saw the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham return to the Rainton Arena in Houghton-le-Spring.

The Provincial Grand Stewards were on hand as usual with smiling faces to greet everyone on their arrival.

As the final rehearsals and preparations were taking place many of the early arrivals took the opportunity to chat and renew friendships in the robing and changing rooms, before taking their seats in the main meeting area.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Andrew Dixon, then called the brethren to order to receive the various processions of Distinguished Guests, Past Rulers and Heads of Orders into the meeting, the final procession being the Officers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham with the Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson last through the doors, apart from his Standard Bearers.

Provincial Grand Lodge was then opened in due form, and after confirmation of the minutes of the last meeting it was that sad time to stand to order and remember those brethren who had passed to the Grand Lodge above since the last meeting which was done in silence and respect.

Before proceeding to work through the agenda John individually welcomed all of his invited guests from various Provinces including Past Rulers of the Craft and Chapter, his own Senior Officers and Heads of other Orders. Patents of appointments were read out and presented to Michael Graham, Deputy PGM, John Watts, Assistant PGM and Andrew Foster, Assistant PGM.

Prior to Appointing and Investing the Provincial Officers for the new Masonic year, John made special mention of Stephen Walker and Gordon Brewis who had stood down in June as Deputy and Assistant Provincial Grand Master respectively, thanking them for their hard work and commitment during their terms in office.

A Provincial Appointment is given in recognition of a Brother’s dedication and commitment over a sustained number of years, during which time he has shown the prerequisite attributes to be considered for a Provincial first appointment. The Honour rewards him not only for his service to Freemasonry to date, but in an expectation of continued support to the wider Province in future.

After the Principal Officers had been re-appointed and this year’s Provincial Grand Wardens

( meet the Wardens here )

had been individually Appointed, Invested, and placed in the West and South respectively , the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies called upon the Provincial Deputy Director of Ceremonies, assisted by the Provincial Stewards to take post.

The Stewards then expertly collected each recipient, escorting them before the PGM to be Invested, receiving their certificate of appointment from the Deputy PGM, and finally taken to their seat and acknowledged with the customary court bow, bursting with pride.

John then “called off” the Lodge in order to receive our guest speaker Brigadier Paul Baker OBE. Chief Executive Reserve Forces and Cadets Association North East England, who took his seat on the dais.

John then gave a short history of Brigadier Paul and then outlined our newly formed Armed Forces Committee, to further our involvement after signing The Armed Forces Covenant, which is a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly. Paul suitably replied outlining his role in the North East of England, and this will be produced as a seperate item in the near future.  The brethren showed their appreciation.

After Paul had retired from the Lodge the meeting was “called on” again and business resumed.

A collection was then taken in aid of Durham Benevolence where a fabulous amount of £2652.43 was raised in cash with further donations being made by the QR Code and the gift aid to be added to the final total!

Click here to view loads of pic s from today

John then delivered his address:-

Distinguished guests and Brethren all. I thank you for your patience for what has been a busy morning. I welcome you all to our AGM here today at Rainton.

We’ve had a busy 10 weeks since my installation in June, quickly followed by our chapter AGM in July and the celebration event at Ramside culminating in today. With numerous visits and deputations. We have hosted the Pro Grand Master, The Deputy Grand Master, and the Assistant Grand Master. I believe when our distinguished guests returned to London they were impressed with the brethren from Durham and what we had to offer, I know I was.

At this point I would like to congratulate all of those Brethren who I have had the pleasure of appointing today. These honours are not awarded lightly, careful deliberation and time is given to make sure each and every one is thoroughly deserved. I hope you have enjoyed today and will continue to support your Lodges, your Masonic Halls and of course your Province wherever you can and  enjoy the new responsibilities that you are have been afforded.

I would also like to record our thanks to all of those acting officers who have retired from their duties …………….

To read the full address delivered by the PGM,     click here

There being no further business from the Secretary John brought attention to the outstanding service to freemasonry and moreso to the Province of Durham by the retiring Director of Ceremonies Andrew Dixon and thanked him on behalf of everyone present, wishing him well for the future. The newly appointed DC, Martin Rankin was asked to present Andrew to John where he was awarded and presented with the Certificate of Service to Freemasonry.

Provincial Grand Lodge was then closed in due form which was followed by the first 2 versus of the National Anthem, before the processions that had so ceremoniously entered the venue at the start of the meeting, processed out.

A hive of activity soon followed as the Provincial Stewards and the Catering staff went about transforming the venue into a banquet hall for 325 people. The venue looked magnificent and full to capacity for all to enjoy and the meal was duly served by the catering staff to the happy gathering to round off a fabulous day hopefully enjoyed by all.

Well done to everyone who made the day such a success, and congratulations to anyone who received a Provincial Appointment.

Another landmark achieved. Roll on next year.

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Helping the Homeless | Durham Freemasons

Earlier in the year Durham Freemasons charity Durham Benevolence made a £1,000 grant to Oasis Community Housing, a charity working with people facing homelessness and those in housing crisis in the Gateshead area.

As restrictions on visiting relax Peter Ross and John Watts representing Durham Benevolence accepted an invitation from David Foster of Oasis Community Housing to attend their Basis drop-in centre in central Gateshead where they met staff from their award-winning Basis Beds supported housing project, the Empower domestic abuse service and Aspire employability service.

John commented, “my last role as a police officer was head of public protection so I know how invaluable interventions by charities are for those in crisis and today we have seen excellent examples of projects to help some of the most vulnerable”.

David Foster from Oasis Community Housing said “homelessness is a complex problem that requires a community solution. Receiving financial support from a community partner like Durham Benevolence means a great deal to us, it means we are supported to continue to bring hope to people facing homelessness”

Peter Ross said, “I’m certain Freemasons across the region will be pleased we selected Oasis Community Housing to receive some of our charitable funds.”

While touring the various projects it was discovered Oasis do similar work in the Sunderland area and the Freemasons look forward to receiving an application to provide financial support to that area.

Main Garden photo L-R

Claire Temple

Oasis Community Housing Head of Crisis Services

Peter Ross, Durham Freemasons Community support grant committee chairman

David Foster

Oasis Community Housing – Key Projects Relationship Manager

Carolyn Wood

Oasis Community Housing – Director of Programmes

John Watts, Chairman of Durham Benevolence.

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Hudson Chapter – A New Era – Here’s to the next 100 years | Durham Freemasons

On the evening of Thursday 28th July 2022, the members of Hudson Chapter 2791 met at Wolsingham Masonic Hall. This meeting was of Very Special importance – a celebration of the  100 th Anniversary with 75+ members in attendance.

This evening started with a Deputation team visit led by Michael Shaw. There was also a good turnout of acting officers joining him, were warmly welcomed into the Lodge Room.

Allan Britton read the summons and minutes from the Consecration of the chapter meeting held on Saturday afternoon 24th June 1922 of the ceremony performed by Lord Ravensworth assisted by officers of the Provincial Grand Chapter.

Once Allan had finished, Tom Gittins stood and read the Centenary Chapter. This was followed by Michael Shaw presenting the New Charter – saying the Chapter is entering a New Era and everyone should look forward to the next 100 years.

Johnathan Whalley gave an interesting and informative talk about holy garments throughout history before asking Paul Zajac to read the dedication then Johnathan delivered a blessing of the new Surplices for officers of the Hudson Chapter.

The subscribing members of the Chapter stood and were each presented with a Centenary Jewel by Michael Shaw.

Johnathan then gave Michael Shaw a cheque for £500 from the chapter for Durham Benevolence.

Lodge Photos were taken before the evening was finished off at the festive board.

Dave Green thanked the members of Hudson Chapter for their hospitality and for the much-appreciated cheque for Durham Benevolence. Dave then spoke how he had to rewrite this speech as Allan Britton had already talked about all the things he wanted to say.

Dave then talked about how he done some background into Hudson chapter when he visited the Provincial library in Sunderland where he found the roots of the chapter and how it reminded him of a family tree. Dave ended his speech talking about the Provincial Insight emails and encouraging everyone to use the Teams App.

Norman Alderson rose to respond on behalf of the many visitors telling many funny stories, responding in everyone laughing aloud.

All enjoyed an excellent and entertaining evening.

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Chi Spennymoor Taekwondo | Durham Freemasons

Poppy Wickens, is a 12 year old pupil at Whitworth Park Academy Spennymoor. Like most young girls of her age she is looking forward to the school holidays. But there is something special about Poppy because from the age of 4 she began training and fell in love with the sport Taekwondo Olympic Style.

Taekwondo is a Korean form of martial arts characterized by punching and kicking techniques.

Poppy trains three or four times a week with Chi Spennymoor Taekwondo Academy, based at the local leisure centre and was one of the first to join its Peewee scheme for young members. Her brother Dylan is a black belt and both followed their mother Marissa into the sport who was seven-time British champion during the 1990s.

As a medal winner in the recent British Taekwondo Championships Poppy has been invited to join the Cadet Team GB Development Squad for 2022, training in Manchester every 4-6 weeks.

Local Freemason Brian Bulmer was so impressed with Poppy’s achievements and dedication to reach the top in her chosen sport, he approached members of his Lodge, Doric in Spennymoor which resulted in them making a financial donation to support Poppy.

Now that Poppy is striving to a national level with an ambition to represent Team GB in the Olympics the cost of training and attending competitions can soon mount up.  So again the local Freemasons from Doric Lodge came forward and advised Poppy and Coach Taekwondo Master Russell Shaw to apply to Durham Benevolence for a Youth Support Grant.

We are pleased to report that Freemason Christos Katsambis representing Durham Benevolence, accompanied by Doric Lodge brethren, John Hodgson, Peter Bambrough and Brian Bulmer attended the Chi Spennymoor Taekwondo Academy and presented Poppy with a certificate to go with a £1,000 Youth Grant she has been awarded.

Durham Freemasons will be keeping a keen eye on Poppy’s progress wishing here the very best for the future and hoping that one day she may be competing in the Olympics for Team GB..


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Draw Your Dream | Durham Freemasons

In 2021, Gabriel Kennedy, a member of 1 st  Blaydon Scouts was one of 130 who applied and was invited to attend a selection day to prove their individual ability with a selection of teamwork activities. Only 36 were chosen to attend the 25 th World Scout Jamboree in Saemanguem South Korea in 2023.  Gabriel having been chosen his hard work now starts to raise £4,000 to attend.

To date he has been baking cakes, making bird boxes and candles having raised nearly £1,000 and is planning a plant sale, coffee morning and scout barbeque.

Gabriel’s mother Maddy being a local Girl Guide leader assisted him in applying to local businesses and groups and wrote to the Masonic Hall in Ryton. This created much interest amongst the Masonic brethren of Ryton and resulted with Freemasons George Clark and Sid Watson meeting with the applicant in his mother. The Ryton Lodges donated £150 to the project and after consultation with the hall management and advice from George Clark an application was made to Durham Benevolence for a Youth Support Grant.

The theme of the 25th World Scout Jamboree is “ Draw Your Dream .” More than 40,000 Scouts from all over the world will gather. The UK Contingent are more than just travel buddies, they are planners, fundraisers, motivators and mentors. As a team they have got a lot to achieve in a short time but will leap at the challenge to …  Think big. Dream wild. Act Together.  

The general aim is to foster a worldwide brotherhood and to help the young Scouts in the movement learn about other people and nations by direct interaction with them

The UK Contingent won’t silently creep round global issues, they will be trailblazers for getting young voices heard… ”you’re gonna hear them roar, they know that dreams come true when we all work together, a quote familiar to Freemasons.

Freemason Martin Rankin representing Durham Benevolence and members of Ryton Lodges were delighted to meet up with a very excited Gabriel who has received a £1,000 Youth Support Grant . Gabriel has made a pledge that on his return he will meet up with Ryton Freemasons and give a talk about his Jamboree Experience

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