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Coast and Castles Cycle Ride

This epic long distance cycle route from Edinburgh to Chester le Street takes in the outstanding scenery of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle along the way, helping to mask the fact that it incorporates 180 miles of hard cycling spread over 3 days.

24 keen cyclists from Durham took on the challenge setting off from Edinburgh on Friday 15th September to raise funds for the “Durham 2029 MBF Festival” and “Durham Benevolence”. The weather on day one was wet and cold but a lunchtime stop at Dunbar Masonic Hall helped refresh everyone for the final push to Berwick. Day two took in Alnwick and Seahouses Masonic Hall on another wet and chilly day. The good news was filtering through that the total raised had passed £15,000.00 and this gave everyone an extra lift.

On the first dry day of the whole event the team set off from Alnwick full of purpose, ibuprofen and paracetamol. After some climbs that were a bit of a struggle for aching legs the riders reached the coastal path and one of the most enjoyable sections of the Coast & Castles tour, riding through Warkworth and Amble before some had a well earned ice cream in Creswell. The Province of Northumberland surpassed themselves once again, providing a lovely lunch for our incredibly grateful group. It was then time for the final push. Down the Coast to Tynemouth and then along to the pedestrian tunnel back into the Province of Durham. From Jarrow the team rode through Washington before regrouping on the outskirts of Chester le Street. They were then able to ride into the finish at the Masonic Hall where they were met with rapturous applause from waiting friends and family before presenting a magnificent cheque for £25,000 for the sponsorship raised to David Hanson the PGM of the Mark to be shared between the Mark 2029 Festival and Durham Benevolence

Quote from John Thompson PGM of the Craft :-

“I’ve supported many previous bike rides from the sidelines but to participate has brought a very different perspective. The camaraderie, emotions undulating with the terrain and weather, the sense of achievement and being part of a supportive team are only felt by participation.  I’m truly grateful for the experience, the enhanced friendships and all who have donated to such worthy causes as Durham Benevolence and the MBF.”

Quote from David Hanson PGM of the Mark :-

“It is wonderful to see two brilliant charities benefiting from the Coast & Castle Bike Ride. Congratulations to all the support staff, cyclists and all who donated. Remember it’s not just about making a donation it’s about making a difference and you have certainly done that. Inspirational!

Quote from Gavin Rowell :-

“The weather conditions and general lack of fitness made this probably one of the hardest events we’ve organised but the camaraderie was amazing and more importantly we’ve raised a great sum to help local and national charities supporting those in need”

More photos will be added as received and a link to Flickr for a full album

Click here for more photos

Stronger Together

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Strathearn & Newcastle Hospitals Cleft Charity

On Saturday 26th August 2023, Graeme Haran, a member of Strathearn lodge, met with Chris Couhig from the Newcastle Hospitals Cleft Charity Fund to present a cheque for £2,040 on behalf of the lodge members.

This cause holds a special place in Graeme’s heart because they have personally helped his family when his granddaughter Eden was born in 2017 with a cleft lip and palate. This diagnosis was a life-altering moment and the family were overwhelmed with uncertainty, questions and the emotional weight of the journey ahead.

Newcastle Hospitals Cleft Charity Fund is based at the Great North Children’s Hospital (RVI) and provides specialist care and treatment for babies and children with cleft lip and palate. The Cleft Lip and Palate Association(CLAPA) work alongside specialists and both are dedicated to providing assistance, resources and support to individuals and families and play a vital role in helping those who face the challenges associated with this condition, offering a lifeline of hope, understanding, and practical assistance.

CLAPA and specialist staff at the RVI entered their lives and became a pillar of strength. They continue to provide invaluable emotional and physical support to her parents, guiding them through surgery and ongoing treatment in addition to CLAPA who supplied cleft-specific feeding bottles and continued assistance after her birth.

Graeme and Stephen Lancaster along with the help of their wives Sam and Tracey raised the substantive figure of £2,040 with the support of 70 guests including members of Strathearn Lodge, other Lodges and friends attending their 2nd Summer Ball, which was held at Marine Hotel Seaton Carew, Hartlepool on June 24th 2023. This included a 3-course meal with live music from local band “The Jades” as well as a raffle with lots of prizes donated by local businesses and a “closest to the bottle” (coin shove).

Just prior to this event happening, Stephen Lancaster’s wife Tracey and her friend Jackie Bonner had gone out of their way by visiting some local businesses trying to build up support for this event.

  • Cash donations were given by
  • Reactive Design, (Andy Kennedy) Strathearn Lodge
  • Cranwell Motors (Nick Cavilla) Strathearn Lodge
  • JLA Dance (Jemma Louise Flounders) Graeme’s daughter.
  • Businesses who donated were
  • Sambuca’s Restaurant
  • Matteo’s (local family run restaurant in Seaton),
  • The Marine Hotel
  • Towers Hairdressers and Barbers
  • Spennymoor FC
  • Mrs C’s Cakes
  • Lyla Bells café

Graeme gave personal heartfelt thanks to the aforementioned businesses and to everyone who donated cash, prizes and attended the evening, which made it such a fantastic success.

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The Province of Durham, located in the North East of England has a rich historical connection to the armed forces. Throughout history, the region has played a significant role in various military activities and conflicts. This dates back to the 11th century when Durham Castle was originally built as a stronghold to defend against the Scottish raids and served as a strategic position during periods of regional conflicts. Additionally, the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) has deep roots in the province. The DLI was an infantry regiment with a history spanning some 200 years and its origins can be traced back to the 18th century. The DLI fought with distinction in numerous conflicts including both World War I and World War II and the connection with the County continues today through the Light Infantry. The Armed Forces continues to recruit heavily for all three services from across the County and the Province of Durham has a large number of freemasons who continue to serve or are veterans of the armed forces, within its ranks.

Recognising this the Provincial Grand Master set up an Armed Forces Committee (AFC) to look at ways of fostering this relationship. The AFC developed a strategic framework with specific aims and an initial plan to enable this.

Armed Forces Committee Strategic Aims and Objectives.

During the first year the Province of Durham renewed its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant and set about engaging with local business forums to encourage other organisations to sign up to the Covenant. In addition, it supported many local events such as Remembrance Parades and fund raisers for various Armed Forces Charities. The AFC has built ties with several Breakfast Clubs and has worked with Poppy Appeal Coordinators across the Province.

Phase two sees the setting up of an Armed Forces Network (AFN) from across the Province of Durham initially focussed on serving and veteran freemasons but likely to expand to include freemasons with a special interest in supporting the Armed Forces. The AFN will aim to build a strong network and be mutually supporting of each other as individuals, of each other’s Lodges and Companion Orders, of the Province as a whole and perhaps most importantly, of the armed forces community.

To launch the Durham AFN, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham hosted the inaugural Armed Forces Network Dinner at Durham Masonic Hall on Thursday 20 Jul 23. The event was well attended by Freemasons from all three services from across the province and Northumberland and was ran along Mess Dinner lines with a Presiding Member, President of the Mess Committee and Mr Vice.  The event was attended by the ProvGM for the Province of Durham, Rt WBro John Paul Thompson, and the Deputy ProvGM VWBro Michael Graham and the honoured guest was WBro Gilbert Thompson, a World War II veteran and a Mason with over 50 years exemplary masonic service.

WBro Thompson, who is 97 years old, served with the 2nd Bn of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry who were part of the 6th Airlanding Brigade of 6th Airborne Division. Members of 2nd Battalion were the first British troops to land on D-Day. They were dropped by Horsa glider in the early hours of the morning to secure road bridges across the River Orne and the Caen Canal. Elements of the Battalion formed a Coup de Main force, tasked with an attack on the bridges over the River Orne and adjacent Canal in Normandy (subsequently known as the attack on Pegasus Bridge).  The Battalion’s involvement in the successful Coup de Main action at Pegasus Bridge, proved one of the most remarkable British Airborne actions during the Second World War. The 2nd Battalion itself would continue to see Airborne action however, serving as part of the 6th Airborne deployment to the Ardennes and the Rhine Crossing in early spring 1945.

At the conclusion of the war Gilbert deployed with the 2nd Battalion to Palestine where he was wounded by gunfire on two separate occasions, remarkably on both occasions he was shot in the same place in the neck. WBro Thompson was honoured as the guest of honour and received a standing ovation from the audience stretching over eight minutes in gratitude and admiration for his service and the sacrifice of so many of his generation. In honour of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, a moving tribute in the form of an empty table was set for four and placed before the memorial which sits in Durham Masonic Hall.

The air buzzed with friendly chatter and the inevitable military banter, a band played military marches from all three services and a piper filled the air with the stirring sound of the bagpipes.

The Provincial Grand Master, RWBro John Paul Thompson, paid tribute to WBro Gilbert Thompson and all past and present members of the armed forces for their selfless dedication to the service of the country. He also praised the work of the Armed Forces Committee and expanded on the aims of the Armed Forces Network, emphasising that the network was a testament to the strong bond that exists between Freemasonry and the military, and he hoped to see it would grow and flourish in the future.

The inaugural Armed Forces Network Dinner was a resounding success and a memorable occasion for all who attended. It showcased the diversity and camaraderie of Freemasonry in Durham, as well as its commitment to honouring its heroes and serving its community.

The Armed Forces Committee are now looking at future events to foster that esprit to corps within the AFN which was so in evidence at the dinner, and which is so synonymous with both the armed forces and freemasonry. Future events under consideration include a trip to the National Arboretum, a sponsored walk to raise for funds for Durham benevolence to support Armed Forces charities, a Battlefield tour to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and a Christmas Ball to enjoy with partners and guests. Concurrently the AFC continues to look for opportunities to support the armed forces community within the Province of Durham.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Armed Forces Network, please get in touch with the Secretary of the Armed Forces Committee, WBro Mark Arram BEM

Stronger Together

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A Warm Willington Welcome

On a very warm September evening, the companions of Willington Royal Arch Chapter assembled at Willington Masonic Hall to welcome the Grand Superintendent John Thompson accompanied by his provincial officers, on their first full team visit of 2023.

This was an extra special evening for the Chapter, not only being honoured with a full team visit, but also witnessing the exaltation of Ben Shirley of Willington Lodge.

The three principals opened the Chapter, with Peter Smith acting as Z for the evening. The first business was to welcome back a rejoining member, Clifford Slater. The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies then announced that John and his team were at the door, and then followed the procession into the Chapter room.

Peter welcomed John, and his team then took their places to witness the exaltation of Ben Shirley, performed excellently by the Officers of the Chapter.

During the 2nd rising the Chapter presented John with 3 envelopes containing cheques or “promises of bank transfers”, each with £100 going to Durham Benevolence, the Durham Masonic Fishing Charity and Durham TLC. In the 3rd and 4th risings the Scribe E. read out a thank you card from Angela Hall, the wife of Alan Hall, for the gifts she had received from the Chapter for hand crafting coloured surrounds for each of the principals’ pedestals.

The Chapter was then closed, and all retired to the festive board where a meal was served befitting the special occasion, which was ably served by the members’ wives.

In response to his toast John thanked the Chapter for a wonderful evening and hoped that everyone felt rested and refreshed after the summer break. He went on to thank the Chapter for their donations and said that rather than use his usual cue cards to write his response he had been able to use the donation envelopes as there was nothing inside them, that was until he opened the one for the fishing charity which did contain a cheque.

John hoped that Ben enjoyed his exaltation ceremony and appreciated the setting of the chapter resembling the temple in Jerusalem, and the great lengths they had gone to in making the “temperature” in the room the same as it would have been in Jerusalem.

The Provincial Team were thanked by John for turning out in full and supporting him.

Stronger Together

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Provincial Golf Challenge

This year the Joseph Miller Challenge Cup was held at Heworth Golf Club, where the Province of Durham were hoping to regain the Cup which was won by the Province of Northumberland last year. This is an annual event hosted alternatively each year between the two Provinces and provides a healthy rivalry for all taking part.

Organiser and Captain Martin Rankin had requested that all arrive early for tea and coffee with bacon butties the order of the day. After refreshments and a good old chin wag it was time to get down to business and head for the first Tee Box.

The golf was enjoyed by all and unlike previous years where the heavens had opened and soaked everyone playing, a dull but dry weather day ensued and a variety of scores was forthcoming from both teams.

After completion of playing all golfers sat down to a hearty sausage and mash meal and swapped stories of how their games had been.

The scores were calculated, and Durham were declared winners and so regained the Cup which was proudly accepted by Martin from Northumberland Captain Gary Burton. A special mention to Gary who carded the highest score of 39 points, winning him a 4 ball voucher to play at Whickham Golf Club.

The raffle and other donations raised a total of £220.00 which is to be presented to the Great North Air Ambulance. Many thanks for raffle donations and a special mention to Heworth Golf Club for donating a 4 ball voucher.

A great day enjoyed by all. Please keep your eye out for next year’s fixture. Stronger Together

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Durham Freemasons support wounded Veterans

The Armed Forces Network (AFN) coupled with our membership team and the Teddies (TLC) team spent the day at the Croft racing circuit in Darlington in August to support Mission Sport, providing valuable volunteering time and using the opportunity to highlight our organisation.

Mission Sport was launched at Thruxton Motor Circuit on 1st March 2012 in order to help those affected by military operations by engagement through sport, the charity recognised from the outset the astonishing inspirational and healing potential of sport.  Motorsport is unique in that the disabled compete against the able bodied on a level playing field – there is no separate category for disability.  Engineering allows us to adapt the vehicle, not the sport, and that leveller is a strong draw that the charity harnesses to help those who may be hard to reach – connecting them with excellent opportunities for second careers, beyond the military.

ProvGM John Thompson and our Armed Forces Committee chairman Richard Tucker met up with their CEO James Cameron to discuss how Freemasons here in Durham can support future events.

James having served 17 years in the Royal Tank Regiment, he returned from his last tour of Afghanistan in 2011 determined to help those whose lives he had seen impacted by military service. A Grade A race instructor, his enthusiasm and vision – to harness the power of sport for the wider good – drives the organisation to this day. His determination to put duty of care for those in need first, sets the tone for everything that the charity does. He embodies Post Traumatic Growth and works hard to promote the same in others.

The weather was kind on the day and many veterans and their family members took to the track and were driven at high speed by expert racing drivers in a range of high performance cars
John thanked everyone for giving their time to support such a wonderful organisation and to those veterans who have given so much for their country.

Stronger Together

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MCF Survey

The Masonic Charitable Foundation is conducting a brief survey. 

The survey has already received a good number of responses and to ensure as many Freemasons as possible have the opportunity to complete the survey, the MCF has asked if the survey link could also be shared via our Provincial digital communications channels such as Provincial websites, or e-newsletters and mailing lists.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF, the Freemasons’ Charity) is conducting a brief survey to better understand how well the charity is communicating its vision, purpose and activities within Freemasonry.

 All Freemasons are invited to complete the survey, which takes around five minutes to complete. Responses are provided anonymously.

Please click this link to complete the survey: MCF Survey

The survey is intended to be completed only by Freemasons

Please note that the survey will be closed on Sunday, 6 August.

If you have any questions, please contact Harry Smith (cc’d), Head of Communications at the MCF ( or

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Hong Kong Tales

On Friday 7th July the Assistant ProvGM W Bro Clinton Leeks entertained 50 Ferryhill Installed Masters at their annual dinner with stories of his experience in Hong Kong and his time working for Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, KG, CH, PC is a British politician who was the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997, and the British Government.

The evening took place to raise funds for local Charities, the chosen charity this year is “Evergreen Primary School” which is a special needs school based in Bishop Auckland, who cater for pupils aged between 2 – 11 yrs. old with severe, profound, moderate, complex learning difficulties and ASC. They are trying to raise funds to redevelop the Soft-play room.

Leanne Daniels teacher at Evergreen Primary School and also works at Ferryhill Masonic Hall assisting the caterer at Lodge nights had asked all the Ferryhill Lodges to support the fundraising and all the Lodges – Craft, Royal Arch & Mark donated between £50 – £100 each, the Ferryhill Installed Masters Dinner also gave £650 with raffles and donations, so a total of £1,050 was given to the school for their appeal.

Representatives of the committee, along with Clinton went along to Evergreen Primary School on Tuesday 11th of July school to formally hand over the donations.

Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, KG, CH, PC is a British politician who was the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 and Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992. He was made a life peer in 2005 and has been Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003.

Durham Freemasons Stronger Together

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Durham Miners Gala 2023

Durham Miners Gala

Thousands Attend Historic Durham Miners’ Gala

More than 200,000 people attended the Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday to watch the proud display of miners’ banners, processions, and stomping brass band music.The 137th Durham Miners’ Gala, people started to descend on Durham City to march through the streets from early morning to watch and take part in the fantastic padgentry of the day.

Agricola Lodge with the help of other Lodges from the City of Durham, sold over 1500 cans of beer and cider to the public enjoying the Gala on a sun drenched streets of the Cathedral City in Old Elvet, sales of food served in buns on the day included 250 burgers, 10 stones of sausage and bacon and a side order of 100 kg of chips with the Chef’s special Curry sauce.

The cash flowed in from 9am, keeping the Past Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside busy in the corner of the hall in his role as chief cas, counting and preparing the money ready for the lodge’s charity steward to bank on Monday morning. The bar was opened in the building with all profits from the event being donated to the Air Ambulance and Local charities.

Following the event the the members wasted no time in making the building ready for the dispatch of masonic business on Monday.

Congratulations to all who made the event another resounding sucess and we look forward to 2024.

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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