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Alissia’ s Courage | Durham Freemasons

Alissia Lowther was born 17th October 2014 in County Durham, where doctors diagnosed that the bones in her feet were all crossed and twisted, and her family were told to prepare themselves that she may never be able to walk properly, with the chances of her ever being able to run out of the question!

During her early years she was constantly in and out of hospital for various procedures and was required to wear special footwear and unable to wear the type of footwear other children of her age were wearing, this however did not deter Alissia and she kept amazing both her family and the medical profession with her determination to walk.

At approximately four and a half years old, Doctors decided that Alissia would require a procedure to break and reset the major bones in her feet, and her parents were told she would need several months rest and recouperation. Alissia obviously did not receive the memo, and even before her plaster casts were removed, she was walking and even starting to run around her home!

Shortly after Alissia’s fifth birthday and while the family were holidaying in the Lake District it was decided to try to walk the Catbells Fell, Alissia almost skipped up the fell and this started her love of fell walking, and since that memorable day, together with various members of her family Alissia has completed a number walks including Old Man of Coniston, Blencathra, Haystacks, Great Gable, Grisedale Pike and Pillar, Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and others too numerous to mention. Last year all of these were surpassed by climbing both Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis. During these walks and climbs Alissia has worn out more than five pairs of walking boots and several sets of waterproof clothing.

However the one thing that has been constant throughout was Alissia’s decision to collect and save money from family and friends at each walk and climb. At the beginning of 2023 she said to her grandfather (Colin Lowther) that she understood that he could help her donate her money to more needy people through his Freemason lodge (Beacon Lodge), after consultation with the past masters it was decided to ask Alissia and her parents to join the brethren at the festive board where the money was presented to the Master, Peter Hornsby.  The donation was presented by Alissia at the regular lodge meeting in February where she also helped with the raffle draw and donation of prizes. When asked to comment on his granddaughter’s achievements Colin Lowther just said, “she makes all the walks easy for everyone as she is always a bundle of laughs and keeps everyone happy”.

The brethren of Beacon lodge decided that in honour of Alissia’s achievements they would match her donation and a cheque for four hundred and twenty pounds was presented to Masonic Benevolence in her name, a wonderful example of her courage with a never give up attitude.

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Help for Hebburn | Durham Freemasons

This is how the local press, the Shields Gazette, reported on yet another donation from Durham Benevolence helping in the local community.

Nicola O’Doherty, 37, has been campaigning to have a defibrillator installed at the school, on St Oswalds Road in Hebburn , after she learnt the survival rate statistics after a cardiac arrest if there isn’t a defibrillator available during her first aid training.

Following the first aid course, she discovered that there wasn’t a potentially life-saving device within five minutes of the school, so she set about looking to fundraise some money to have it installed. Nicola has told the Gazette how it feels to have the defibrillator installed after more than a year’s worth of work to get to this stage. She said: “Off the back of first aid training, I was shocked to learn the statistics for survival rates after a cardiac arrest if there wasn’t a defibrillator available.

“ People need to be able to get to it within five minutes, which we didn’t have at the school, so I set about trying to look for some fundraising to be able to get one for both the school and local community.  “I’m over the moon that it is installed, it has taken over a year but I’m really happy that it is there to be able to benefit us and the community area near the school as well.”

Nicola’s father-in-law, Paul O’Doherty, 64, is the communications officer for Durham Freemasons and a member of Hebburn Lodge so he helped to provide the funding to the school for the defibrillator.  He added: “When Nicola explained the situation and mentioned that the school had a shortfall in funding to provide the defibrillator, it set us away to see how we could help. “We made an application for funding, and it came through in full for the defibrillator; however, because of delays due to Covid and price rises to everything, it meant there was a shortfall of £200 so Hebburn Lodge provided the rest.

“With help from Cllr John McCabe, we were able to push it along and finally get it installed last Saturday (March 18).”

Nicola who is a teaching assistant and head teacher Helen thanked the Durham freemasons for their help in the short video clip below and a press video presentation.

Click here for video clip

Gazette video recap

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Nice One Cyril | Durham Freemasons

On Wednesday 22nd March the Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson, accompanied by his Director of Ceremonies Martin Rankin attended Surtees Lodge in Shildon to acknowledge Cyril Kell who at 92 years young celebrated 65 years continuous membership in the craft. John was welcomed into the lodge by the Master, Robert Taylor Watson.

John then addressed the lodge and gave an insight into the life of Cyril:-

Cyril was born in Eldon Lane; his father and grandfather were both prominent freemasons in Shildon and founder members of Byerley Lodge.  It transpired that Cyril at one point in his life lived in the Masonic Hall in Middleton Road as his mother and father occupied part of the building as the lodge caterer and caretaker, respectively.  It necessarily followed that Cyril would join the craft and he was proposed into Surtees Lodge in 1958 by his father.

Cyril began his working life at 14 years old and started his apprenticeship in the Blacksmith’s and Joiner’s shop before commencing his lifelong career as a Teacher of Mathematics and Engineering in Toft Hill, Witton Park and Barnard Castle.   Cyril served his country as part of his National Service in 1952/53 in Korea and Egypt, seeking active duty in both conflict zones.

Cyril found it difficult to attend his lodge regularly due to the selfless care he devoted to his late wife and daughter.  John reminded the brethren that by Cyril’s example we should always be mindful that “family comes first”.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies then read the citation on the certificate, and this was then presented to Cyril to the delight of himself and the brethren assembled.

At the festive board Cyril responded to his toast by thanking the brethren for a wonderful night and finished by saying that he has always been proud to be a Freemason and he told John that he would save a space on his wall for a further certificate in five years’ time.

To add further to the night’s festivities in the lodge room, the lodge Senior Warden James Fredrick Forster rose to his feet to announce to the lodge that a Charity Event that had been supported by Surtees Lodge had come to a successful conclusion.  This was the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, where Jim’s grandson Olly Collins along with 3 of his friends had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera in Tenerife to Antigua.    Jim gave a wonderful presentation to the brethren regarding the challenge and read a diary entry which explained the monumental moment “the lads” completed their row into Antigua harbour.     The Provincial Grand Master along with Dennis Robinson presented a cheque to Jim for £2000 from Durham Benevolence. Jim had raised £1,000 from Surtees Lodge which had been match funded by Durham Benevolence to support the Atlantic Endeavour team take part in their epic crossing. In doing so they raised tens of thousands of pounds in memory of their friend Oli Hilsdon.  Oli was a friend to all of the team and a dearly loved member of the community they grew up in. He lost his fight to Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive type of brain tumour, just days before his 27th birthday. Oli cared deeply for others, was wickedly funny and was brilliantly smart – he was an inspiration to all who knew him and set a true example of how to live life fully.

A rightly proud grandfather Jim, then thanked the brethren for their fundraising efforts and the Provincial Grand Master and Dennis for the cheque.  He has promised that his Grandson would be coming to the lodge at a future meeting to give a more detailed account of his voyage.   The “lads” set away on their “crazy idea” to row the Atlantic in 40 days…. they exceeded their own expectations and finished alongside professional teams IN 33 DAYS 23 HOURS AND 24 MINUTES.  What an amazing achievement.

To find out more about the challenge and their charitable exploits please visit the website below

Click Here for more information

All in all, a fabulous night at Surtees Lodge.

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Chris Needs Our Support | Durham Freemasons

Lincolnshire Freemason Chris Jones on New year’s Day set off from Skegness on an on an 18-month challenge to walk the entire coastline of Great Britain, in Aid of the #Lincs2025 Festival for the (Masonic Charitable Foundation).

Why’s he doing that? He is in no doubt that mental health counsellors at the MCF prevented him from taking his own life, and he wants to repay the favour by raising as much money as he can – with a nominal target of £100,000 – and to raise awareness within the Masonic community of the counsellors’ availability. As he says, ‘other people might need the same help I did’.

Read more of his story on our web site here:

How you can help:  There are several ways.

Through sponsorship: (there’s a link to his fundraising page below)

Walk with Chris: as he passes along our coastline in Durham

Overnight Accommodation: You or your business could provide overnight accommodation or a night’s B&B so he can dry clothes and write up his adventures

We are expecting Chris to reach Durham in around 3 weeks and have already begun a dialogue, it would be fantastic if we could give him a huge Durham welcome.

Our Coastal Masonic Halls could possibly provide respite and sustenance to aid him on his journey, why not invite him as a guest to your Lodge Meeting.

As his walk progresses, will be getting in touch providing his ETA in reaching our Province, scheduling individual stop off and stay overs etc.

On completion of the walk, he hopes to produce a book about his journeys – the walk and his return to mental health stability.

Fundraising page:  (done through the MCF)


Live on air:

From Saturday 7 th January you’ll be able to listen to live interviews on Coastal Sound Radio , where DJ Tricky Ricky will be talking to Chris during his Tuesday and Saturday afternoon shows. To listen live click on the link above or ask Alexa ‘Play Coastal Sound Radio’.

If you can support Chris, contact The Provincial Communications Officer:


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Well Done Jim | Durham Freemasons

Jim Cowan of Agricola Lodge decided that instead of having a small family party to celebrate his 70 th birthday, he would hold a larger event in aid of charity. Covid restrictions had delayed the planning and when it eventually took place Jim felt that the recipient should be the NHS., specifically the Great North Children’s Hospital Foundation, RVI Newcastle.

The Great North Children’s Hospital (GNCH) is one of the four largest Children’s hospitals in the UK. They provide a full range of tailored children’s health services to children from across the north of England and beyond. It has special wards, operating theatres, outpatients, day case suites and an A & E department all tailored to children, their families, and carers.

Jim held the event at his farm near Long Newton in Stockton, where he invited the great and the good that he has met over his 70 eventful years including members from the horse racing community, Neighbours and his other passion, freemasonry.

The event was an enormous success, with over 160 people in attendance where a 3-course luncheon was served and enjoyed by all present. Jim concluded the event with a charitable auction which raised £5,800.00 including gift aid.

Jim approached Durham Benevolence with the proceeds of his special celebration where on behalf of all Durham freemasons they agreed to add a further donation of £4,200.00 from the community support fund, giving a magnificent total of £10,000.

Jim, armed with the donation visited the hospital accompanied by John Watts the Benevolent Chairman and Andrew Thompson the Provincial Charity representative to meet up with Emma McQuitty, the Fundraising Coordinator of the Newcastle Hospitals Charity. Emma was most thankful to receive the donation and gave a brief outline of the way in which it would benefit the children involved. Restrictions on the day prevented a full tour of the facilities available but Emma assured all that they would be welcome to return on a future occasion should they so desire.

Any Lodge holding a fundraising event should consider processing the total raised through Durham Benevolence, where the sum may be increased with help from the community support fund so that the lodge and Durham Benevolence are clearly recognised for the excellent contributions they make to the local community.

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Dunelm & CHUF | Durham Freemasons

John Williams, the master of Dunelm Lodge who meet in Darlington, selected the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) as his charity to support during his term in office when he was installed in 2019. With the impact of Covid 19 on many organisations as well as Freemasonry it meant join would remain at the helm of Dunelm lodge for 3 years.

The charity is close to John’s heart as his grandson spent the majority of the first year of his life in the Freeman hospital, where the support from the charity to his parents was exceptional and helped them through what was a very tough period in their lives. His grandson is now a healthy 8-year-old.

The members of the lodge took it upon themselves to raise as much as they could over the course of John’s mastership and achieved a magnificent total of £3,320. This was beyond any expectations and thanks applies to each and every member who donated towards the total. Dunelm lodge then applied to Durham Benevolence for additional funding to increase the amount.  Durham Benevolence also gave generously and added a further £1,680 to take the total donation to £5,000.

On the 8 th of November John and lodge Charity Steward, Mick Redpath, went along to the CHUF offices in Gateshead to find out more about the great work they do and to present Alicia Clovis-Mothalib (CHUF fundraising manager) with a certificate confirming the donation of £5,000. The donation will be used in part for the purchase of Christmas teddy bears and selection boxes for the 300 child patients treated this year who will attend the CHUF Christmas party and also towards the charity’s emergency nurse’s fund.  The emergency nurse’s fund is to support parents on their initial, sometimes traumatised, arrival with sick children from locations far from home with practical measures associated with accommodation, cost of travel and parking. CHUF were extremely grateful for the support that was given by Dunelm Lodge, and the freemasons of the Province of Durham.

Photo 1 (L-R): John Williams, Alicia Clovis-Mothalib & Mick Redpath.

Photo 2 (L-R): John Williams & Mick Redpath.

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“Twin Scouts” | Durham Freemasons

Fourteen-year-old twin brothers Andrew and James Batty are both members of 1 st St Helens Scout Group, Bishop Auckland. They have been involved since 2012 where their mother Sue Batty has been a major influence in their scouting careers, both lads having gained the Gold Chief Scout award the highest award a scout can earn.

This is a remarkable achievement for any scout but especially for the Batty lads both of whom have Dyspraxia and Autistic traits, a condition which affects physical co-ordination.

Andrew and James both applied to go to the 25 th World Scout Jamboree in Saemanguem South Korea in 2023.

They were invited to attend a selection day to prove their individual ability in teamwork activities and 36 were chosen to attend the Jamboree the Batty lads being two of them.

With the need to raise £4,000 each to attend, Sue rallied them along and they began many fundraising activities, such as sponsored abseiling, bag packing, raffles, coffee mornings and event challenges.

Sue wrote many letters asking for sponsorship from companies and local businesses with little success.

Local teacher and Freemason, David Frew who is a work colleague of Sue heard how hard they were trying to raise funds and suggested they apply to the Durham Freemasons for a Youth Support Grant.

David contacted Owen Craggs the Benevolent Representative at the Lodge of Progress where David is a member. Guidance was given to Sue and the lads resulting in them submitting the appropriate forms with supporting letters.

After a long wait during the Covid period, the family had given up hope that anything would come of it. They had a particularly difficult summer with many personal situations arising causing a great deal of grief and distress to the family.

David returned to work at the school after the summer holidays and within the first week of being back, Sue Batty came into the classroom before the school opened with a card and cake, wearing a huge smile on her face. She broke into tears when she told him that both boys had received letters from the Durham Freemasons Benevolent Committee and had been awarded £1,000 each. The anxiety, worry, stress and depression had lifted to joy, and she said it has made her realise that there are still good people out there in the world who are willing to help others to lead happier and better lives.

Thursday 22 nd November was a very joyous occasion for Freemason and former Scout Leader Christos Katsambis, donning his scouting attire woggle and all, chaperoned by David Frew and members of the Lodge of Progress. They met up with Sue, Andrew and James accompanied by their Scout Master John Horsman.

Christos was delighted to present the lads with a certificate to go along with the £1,000 Youth Support Grant they had each received pointing out the many similarities between the Freemasons and the Scouts, people working together for a common aim of enjoying life, helping others within a band of brothers. At this point Nigel Seymour, Master of the Lodge of Progress presented Andrew and James each with a £100 cheque from their members.

The gathering concluded with Christos reminiscing with humorous anecdotes of his time as a scout many years ago in Cyprus.

Andrew and James made a pledge that on their return they would visit the Lodge of Progress and report back on this fantastic opportunity they have been given

Group photo – L-R  Christos Katsambis, Donald Mackenzie, Andrew Batty, Nigel Seymour, Owen Craggs, Steve McLaughlin, James Batty, David Frew

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Trinity Lodge support the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA) | Durham Freemasons

Having dodged the heatwave from the day before, the Worshipful Master of Trinity Lodge 4751, David Gutteridge, accompanied by the Charity Steward, Simon Atkinson, called in at the Eaglescliffe base of the GNAA charity to make a substantial donation of £1,000 from Trinity Lodge 4751.

Handing over the cheque to Sophie Bendelow of the fundraising team, it was gratefully received given the annual costs of running the helicopter charity which in 2020-2021 was the princely sum of £5.2 million. A recent innovation is the ability of the newest helicopter, a Eurocopter AS-365N-3+ Dauphin, to fly over water having been equipped with emergency floats.

This means it can now extend its range of operations to the Isle of Man as part of trauma support.

Although the helicopters are not yet cleared to fly at night the GNAA operate Critical Care Cars manned by health professionals able to extend the range of emergency care of the GNAA during silent hours.

Find out more about this remarkable charity at:

#Durhamfreemasons #Gnaa #StrongerTogether

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The Provincial Priory of Durham AGM | Durham Freemasons

The Provincial Priory of Durham held its Annual Malta Meeting on Thursday 14th July to a full room at Gateshead Masonic Hall. In attendance was special guest E. Knight Jamie Ingham-Clark, Trustee of The St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group.

After a full Malta ceremony installing a new candidate, the Provincial Prior for Durham, Rt E Knight Richard Scott addressed those present and gave an update on the 2025 fundraising appeal started in 2021, for the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, which had so far raised £19,000. This also coincides with the 50 th anniversary of the separation of the Northumberland and Durham provinces.

At the end of the address, the Provincial Prior presented a cheque for £20,000 to the special guest for the evening E. Knight Jamie Ingham-Clark. This together with the figure already raised in 2021, marks a total so far raised of £39,000 towards the target of £50,000.

It is hoped that the target will be exceeded by some margin.

Kt Jamie Ingham-Clark thanked the Provincial Prior for the magnificent cheque and proceeded to give a very informative talk detailing the work of the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital. Knights Templar has been funding the hospital for over 100 years and in that time, it has never been rescinded. Finally, he reported that the £20,000 would be enough to pay for 20 Retinal Repairs at a cost of £1,000 each or 28 Cataract operations for £700. In contrast to this in 2021, the hospital performed 6500 of these types of operations.

The festive board followed the meeting, and the food was enjoyed by all those present.

At the end of the evening, the Provincial Prior presented E. Knight Jamie Ingham-Clark with a fundraising appeal pin.

Together we are stronger

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