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Leonard Middleton Barrett 70yrs Long Service

During Lambton Lodge’s recent October meeting, held on Friday 13th, RW Brother John Paul Thompson led a team of his Provincial Officers into the Temple at Durham Masonic Hall. The room was packed to celebrate the recognition of 70 Years long standing service across 2 provinces by W Bro Leonard Middleton Barret.

Leonard had attended the prep school at Sunderland before heading to Cambridge to study medicine. Following his national service in Germany, he returned to England and took up a position as a Trainee General Practitioner. He was initiated into Lambton Lodge in October 1953 where his father was a member. Leonard also became a Vale of Nidd Lodge member at Pateley Bridge in the Province of Yorkshire West Riding, where he has recently returned to the chair for the second time after 50 years!

After 35 years in the craft, Leonard was exalted into Chapter, a practice that the PGM added he doesn’t recommend today! The PGM pointed out that during his service as a freemason, Leonard has witnessed the service of 16 Prime Ministers and 2 Monarchs. Leonard was then presented with 2 Citations to recognise his Platinum award for long service over 2 provinces. The Deputy Provincial Grandmaster of Yorkshire West Riding, W Bro Brian Littlejohn, presented Leonard with the second certificate for long service.

Following the presentation of the certificates, Leonard’s response was “We don’t do speeches in Lambton…this is a fuss over nothing” he then went on to give thanks to the Great Architect of the Universe.

The lodge presented John with a donation of over £2,000 which was raised personally by the WM for a virtual walk whereby he had totalled up the distance of walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

At the festive board, John George Lambton’s traditions were upheld, snuff was circulated and responses kept short. Leonard was also presented with a special reserve whisky by the master.

Stronger Together

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Double Congratulations to Restoration

On the evening of Thursday 28th the members of Restoration lodge met for their September meeting in Darlington. This was a double congratulation – Firstly because the lodge collected £250 for the TLC Teddies and secondly £250 for Annabelle Challenge.

Firstly, Steven Hicks asked the members if they could do a collection for the TLC Teddies at this meeting and the lodge raised a celebratory sum of £250.

Secondly £250 for Annabelle Challenge – the story behind this donation began 6 months earlier on the slopes of mount Everest. Jason Brimson who attended to collect the £250 cheque from the lodge and Dave Riches of Restoration, along with a handful of like-minded individuals completed the trek to Everest Base Camp, and one of the reasons for doing this was to raise funds for various charities, in Jason’s case ‘Annabelle’s Challenge’

The following month Dave gave a presentation of the trek to the Lodge, and explained a little about the charity ‘Annabelle’s Challenge’. Dave asked the members of Restoration if they could donate £50 the following month, and Dave was immediately reminded of the generosity of the members to be raised to £250.

Now it’s all very well sending off money to good causes, but Dave likes the personal touch, and thought that £250 is a larger than usual sum, so he invited Jason to attend at the September meeting, so that he could present Jason with a cheque, and he could have an opportunity to explain some more about where the money is going. The charity is still relatively small, so raising awareness is top priority, and Dave thinks he can safely say that has been achieved.

Annabelle’s Challenge is the leading charity for Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in the UK. At the heart of the charity is Annabelle, a brave little girl from Bury who is the inspiration behind the challenge to raise awareness and support for patients and families affected by vascular EDS. VEDS is a life threatening connective tissue disorder that affects all tissues, arteries and internal organs making them extremely fragile. Patients are at risk of sudden arterial or organ rupture.


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Happy Anniversary Parkrun Group

Everyone loves a Birthday party and on Saturday 7th October we gathered to run and commemorate the first anniversary in style of the Durham Masonic Parkrun Group at Sedgefield where it all began one year ago.The driving force of the group Duncan Maw along with our Durham Benevolence chairman John Watts.came up with the idea of bringing our members members, friends and families together at a local parkrun each week to exercise and enjoy a coffee and cake along the way.

Everyone loves a birthday party and following the morning run, by kind invitation at Duncan Maw the group ‘s home (five minutes away from the finishing line), where we will be celebrating our special day with Cake, Champagne and Bacon and sausage Sandwiches.

The memorable morning culminated with our Provincial Grand Master John Thompson and Duncan Maw cutting the birthday cake, John thanked Duncan and the team for an amazing year and the unbelievable success it had proved to be.

Please come along when anyone and everyone can participate in the park run/ walk and help us celebrate!

#Freemasons #StrongerTogether

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Good Neighbour – A Visit North

On Friday 22nd September 2023, Good Neighbour Lodge No. 8378 of the Province of West Kent, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution’s Lodge, paid a visit to Connaught Court, in York, to hold a masonic meeting. This is the RMBI Care Home that services the Provinces of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Yorkshire, West Riding, Lincolnshire as well as part of the Province of Durham.

Since 1850, the RMBI have provided care facilities to masons and their dependents. This began with the opening of Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons in Croydon. Currently, the RMBI, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, operate 17 homes with a mix of residential, nursing and dementia care. More information on the RMBI can be found at

Good Neighbour Lodge No. 8378 was founded in 1972 within the Province of West Kent, with a traveling warrant to enable it to fulfil its purpose of taking masonry back to the masonic residents of the RMBI homes. The members of this unique Lodge are also members of Lodges in Provinces all over England. This was Good Neighbour’s first visit to the northern counties since the COVID pandemic and the resumption of the Lodge being able to return to meet in the RMBI’s homes.

With the meetings being in a home, they are designed to be enjoyable for all, and often lectures are utilised to provide an enjoyable day for the members of Good Neighbour Lodge, their visitors, and our VIP ‘s, especially the home residents, who choose to attend.

At the meeting the Province of Durham was well represented, with 4 members of Good Neighbour, including the Worshipful Master, David Pearce, Treasurer, Matthew Peace, Secretary, Jonathan Russell and one of the Stewards, Stuart Major, being in attendance, along with 8 visitors from the Province of Durham.

After tea and coffee, the Lodge was opened, short items of business were dealt with and the main item was delivered – a talk on the Masonic Life and Times of Rudyard Kipling. This talk was ably delivered by Malcolm Sweet of the Province of Durham. We were pleased to have in attendance the Provincial Grand Masters of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, David Chambers, and Yorkshire, West Riding, James Newman OBE, a Past Master of the Lodge, along with the Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Durham, Andrew Moule. The meeting was followed by drinks to socialise before the festive board, where the residents’ guests, the Lodge members and visitors, were intermingled with the residents to enjoy an evening of fraternal harmony.

The members of Good Neighbour Lodge were pleased to be able to bring a fun masonic day to the residents of Connaught Court and thank them and the staff at the home for their hospitality.

Stronger TOgether

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Durham City Youth Project

Through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) awarding grants to local and national charities, Durham City Youth Project (DCYP), based in Framwellgate Moor were awarded a grant of £15,000 over 3 years, which will benefit the well-being and development of 600 children and young people.

Following the award, Warren Crake, DCYP Lead Youth Worker and Katy Wood, Parks and Countryside Coordinator from Durham County Council, invited local Freemason Stewart K Bell to one of their working sessions and see at first hand their work in action

The DCYP a.k.a. ‘Pity Me Piranhas,’ are showing a presentation created as part of their entry for the ‘John Muir Award Scheme,’ that encourages people of all backgrounds to connect with the natural environment in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. Participants are required to spend 25 hours of time discovering a local wild space with opportunities to explore conserve and share.

The group of youngsters descended on ‘Pity Me Carrs  Local Nature Reserve,’ where they made discoveries of many species of insects, protected newts, amphibians and various mammals, even bats when they did a night session. Using an Electric Bat Detector, they could identify the species by listening to their calls or recording them for sound analysis on a computer.

The delivery of the presentation was a delight to witness, young people working together as an organised group, enjoying each other’s company, and learning about the local countryside while taking part in environmental studies showing how each person can do their bit to sustain nature for future generations to enjoy.

Stewart thanked Katy, Warren and especially the children for his invitation to the presentation evening.  Congratulating them all on the wonderful work, they are doing, Stewart said he was proud that the Freemasons were giving financial support not only to local charities, but also to those seeking assistance nationally and worldwide, and that the Freemasons of Durham would welcome an invitation for a return visit to DCYP.

Stronger Together

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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 David Watts APGM 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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The Clay Pigeon Shoot, at Thimbleby Saturday 9th September 2023

Durham Freemason Allan Stokoe the shoot organiser, on behalf of the Kairos Surgical Alliance LLP, wishes to thank you all for your support, be that as a shooter, a sponsor or the buyer of a raffle ticket.

Saturday enabled us to raise, £3,793.64 for Kairos, of which £3,500 had already been committed to the purchase a stainless-steel jig urgently needed, by the surgeons, to accurately realign the hips of infants with genetic deformities of the hip.

Allan has have no doubt that the children who will benefit for their free operations, and the realigning of their hips will always remember you and their surgeon in their prayers.
Over the past three years he has committed himself to raising money for charities such as Kairos, and Saturday was no different; simply the culmination of three months hard work, and with support from people such as yourselves I have now raised and donated just under £75,000.

Finding a charity in need of support, is not easy, but then life is never easy, but this year finding a shooting ground that had spare capacity to was hard.
Even harder still was finding 24 businesses and generous people to sponsor the shoot, but the hardest part was finding 42 people such as yourselves, and if it had not been for people such as, Mrs Gillian Hayler, and Fred Smith, this year may never have happened.

Allan is particularly grateful to The Provincial Grand Master, Paul John Thompson who acted as the recruiting sergeant to rally and muster Durham Freemasons, and finally, our gunsmith and professional shooting instructor, Ian Meadley who gave up his Saturday to ensure that all the novices were safely instructed and enjoyed themselves.

As for the weather we could not have asked for it to have been any better.

Top Gun – Martin Jameson with 42 kills out of 50 Top Lady Gun – Mrs Sheila Jackson with 40 kills out of 50 Top Novice – John Butcher with 19 kills out of 50
Thank you all once again.

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.

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