To Follow or Not to Follow

Turning the key
Turning the key

For a while now, there has been a debate raging on Twitter within the Masonic community as to whether people should always follow back or not. The truth is, it is a matter of choice and perspective. I should point out that my point of view has shifted through my management of the @HungerfordLodge account.

When you start out with a Twitter account, you start by following other accounts that you know of and value and gradually build a following for yourself. In this phase, you will follow almost everybody that follows you to see what they have to say.

However, after a while you will discover that you do not like what some accounts have to say or that they post too much for your liking. I have even encountered people that I followed, retweeting a lot of pornographic images which, for a man with a wife and young family who frequently see my Tweetdeck screen, is wholly inappropriate. I started by muting these accounts but then realised muting has to be done for each way you read your Twitter feed, so I decided to unfollow them completely.

This unfollowing became liberating because I realised that I no longer had to follow everybody that followed me. I then pruned a number of accounts that I had followed that had not tweeted in 12 months as to me that suggested that they were dormant and that there was little value following them.

Furthermore, I read a number of books by leading lights in social media (see Suggested Reading below) as well as looking at a number of successful accounts. I soon realised that the Twitter accounts that are valued by the Twittersphere are those with significantly more followers than following.

Twitter feeds (accounts) are considered influential when they have significantly more followers than following as what they say is shared with a huge number of fans. For example, people like Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) have over nine million followers and follows 50K. Rick Wakeman (@GrumpyOldRick) (Master of Chelsea Lodge 3098 and King Rat) has 30K followers and follows just 18. Ask yourself, if you follow a thousand accounts can you actually read every tweet they produce?

The reverse of this is that those accounts that follow many but are only followed by a few are usually identified as bot accounts. Bot, short for robotic, accounts are often spam spewing and in the worst cases used for trolling.  Trolling is deliberately picking a fight with another user for the sport – much like the playground bully used to do. As in the real world, best avoided and not worth engaging with as you will rarely enjoy the experience.

To attempt to prevent bots following large numbers of accounts, Twitter sets limits on the number of accounts that you follow initially based on your follow back ratio. If you follow 2,000 accounts, you will need to have at least 1,981 followers to go beyond the 2K following mark. This is why bot accounts encourage you to follow back.


So should you follow every account that follows you? Well, it remains your choice but the weight of evidence suggest that you do not need to and that your Twitter account will be considered more influential if you do not. After all, not all Twitter accounts tweet. Many are set up and their owner will lurk in the shadows reading what others are saying until, like in real life, they get the confidence to speak out on a topic.

My advice is to follow those accounts that influence you or that have something to say that appeals to you and not worry too much about people not following you back. If they do not follow you back, they have simply not understood the value that you can bring to their lives yet. In that case, the loss is theirs, not yours.

Suggested Reading

Links are to Amazon in the UK – other booksellers are available. These links are only provided to assist you. The Lodge derives no financial benefit from them.

  1. The Art of Social Media – Power Tips for Power Users – Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick – recommend the Kindle edition as it includes links to useful sites and tools that you cannot click on paper!
  2. Brilliant Social Media: How to start refine and improve your social media business strategy

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

James Donegan – Freemason Entertainer

James English Donegan was a vaudevillian, a sportsman, a gymnast, a trick cyclist, and a skilled skater, and, inasmuch as he was born in Ireland, grew up in Australia, lived in England, finally settled in America, and performed throughout Europe, South Africa, North America & Canada, he was also a Globetrotter. He founded, trained and managed the Dunedin Troupe of acrobatic trick cyclists, skaters and slack wire performers, and he inspired many others. Most members of his troupe were from his own extended family and they were primarily a versatile and acrobatic cycling troupe who could also skate. As time passed skating became more prevalent and at least three future generations of his family would perpetuate the memory of his name in the skating world, both on ice and roller skates.

Early Life

He was one of eleven children born to Michael Donegan and Margaret née English, which gave rise to the somewhat unusual middle given name that he shared with four of his brothers. He was born in Limerick, Southern Ireland, in 1852 but soon after his birth the family moved to Australia where most of his siblings were born. There he made a name for himself as a sportsman and ran a gymnastic school in Fitzroy, Melbourne.

In 1877 he married Hester Ellen Hickson and their first son was born later that year, but sadly died soon afterwards. In April 1878 their daughter Nellie was born, next came Ada in 1881, James Jnr. was born at Christmas 1884 and finally came Maudie in 1886. Nellie’s first skating lesson was at the Lyceum Hall, Melbourne and in 1886 she performed at the Melbourne Exhibition in aid of the Melbourne Women’s Hospital and later that year at a fete for the Australian Natives’ Association.

In the late 1880s James’s other children began to appear at various skating venues as the ‘Donegan Family’. In August 1888 the ‘Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser’ reported on the appearance of Miss Nellie Donegan and Master J. Donegan at the Adelphi Skating Rink as ‘champion juvenile skaters and bicyclists of the world’ and said they had previously been at the Old Crystal Palace Skating Rink performing at a benefit for the manager Alfred Wyburd.

In May 1892 the pair performed as a duo at the Melbourne Athletic Club. Later in 1892, and by then being promoted as the Dunedin Troupe of four ‘society cyclists and skaters’ they first arrived in England. The troupe then comprised Nellie, Jimmy and Maud Donegan & Mdlle Franzini, they were billed as exciting exponents of trick burlesque cycling, skating, serio & comic singing, and pedestal skate dancing.

By the turn of the century they were appearing in London at such notable venues as the Canterbury Palace of Varieties and the London Pavilion in Whitechapel, and using England as a base they toured, and caused a furore, all over Europe.

Masonic Career

While still residing in England, in June 1905, James was introduced to the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry when he was one of four just, upright and free men that were initiated at the first regular meeting of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 following the consecration meeting in May that year.

The Noble 600

Around the same time he also took a keen interest in the foundation of what was to become the Variety Artistes’ Federation and he was registered as member No.43 at their foundation meeting held at the Vaudeville Club in London on February 18th 1906.

James had already contributed two Guineas to the original Music Hall Home Fund in 1908 when, in 1911, he happily contributed a further £2 10 shillings to the Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund & Institution appeal to support Brinsworth House, securing its future and earning himself a place among ‘The Noble 600’.

James’ wife Hester died in Lambeth, South London, in February 1913 and, in respect of her wishes, he arranged for her body to be interred in New York, so in spirit at least, she would have been well able to attend the marriage of their son, James Donegan Jnr., but by then known as Jimmie Dunedin, to Mrytle Rockzella McCloud just a month later in New Jersey. Jimmie and Myrtle both performed as professional skaters but by the 1920s Jimmie was engaged as booking agent for the Keith and Orpheum Theatre circuits.

James English Donegan died himself in New York in 1916 but the family carried on skating. In 1899, James’ daughter Nellie had married aerialist, high diver and gymnast William Andree. They had three children before going to America to appear in circus where, among other adventures, Nellie featured as a ballet girl in the Ringling’s Circus spectacle ‘Jerusalem and the Crusades’. Their son died young but their twin girls, Ellen Matilda “Helen” Andree and Amelia Maud “Maude” Andree, would go on to become professional skaters. Unfortunately William Andree died in 1906 and would not see the success of his daughters.


In 1908 Nellie re-married Adam Earle Reynolds, another skater, and who would become another member of Chelsea Lodge in June 1909. In 1908 they skated with the Florenz Zeigfield musical comedy ‘A Parisian Model’ and then, having based themselves in Jasper County, Indiana, they toured a skate dancing act throughout Britain, America and Canada as ‘Reynolds & Donegan’. They appeared with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses and travelled around the country doing exhibition work on fairgrounds and in vaudeville declaring ‘decorative dancing’ to be their forte.

In 1915, while they were performing in the show ‘The World of Pleasure’ at Schubert’s Winter Gardens in New York, their image was used on the cover of the sheet music for ‘The Skating Waltzes’. Back in Jasper County they had a garage converted into a gymnasium where they and their daughters trained and where they trained other girls who went on to skate professionally in vaudeville and circus. They also managed an act called ‘Six Pyramid Girls’.
Nellie died 28th October 1945 and Earle died in 1954. Nellie’s daughter Helen married Walter King and founded and managed a troupe called ‘Helen Reynolds’ Skating Girls’. Nellie’s other daughter, Maude, married Francois LeMaire and they both appeared as skaters on the vaudeville stage.

Their children, Patricia and Eddie, appeared with them in ice skating shows when they were young. Patricia went on to teach skating and Eddie became an accomplished roller skater, ice figure skater and speed skater winning many titles. He was a Navy pilot and flight instructor during World War Two and later became a National skating judge. He was on his way to watch the World Figure Skating Championships in February 1961, as part of his ‘schooling’ to become a World skating judge himself, when the plane crashed in Belgium killing all on board. James English Donegan had really started something when he put on his first pair of skates!

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Captain William Permane – Freemason Entertainer

William Vincente Permane started out as an equestrian circus performer. He was born into a Spanish circus family, his parents being gymnasts and circus performers professionally known as Signor Vincente Permane and Gallipois Sanjuan. The Permane family travelled widely with different circuses and as a consequence their children were born all over Europe. William himself was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham in 1864.

As a youngster William was apprenticed as an equestrian rider to the circus proprietor Charles Adams who he stayed with for fourteen years before moving on Gaetano Ciniselli‘s Russian circus in St. Petersburg. Among his siblings were Spanish born Isabella, also known as Bellamina. She married Tom Transfield whose family at the time were part of the Nethergate Circus but he later went on to be proprietor of his own Transfield’s Circus. William also had two brothers; Henri who was born on Christmas Eve 1865 and who by 1871 had been apprenticed to the Kimberley Families Equestrian School in Glasgow, and Charles, who was born in 1872 and who in 1879 started to appear together with his older sibling as the Brothers Permane. Henri and his wife Ludmilla had a son called Constantine (1889-1940) popularly known as Constant, or even Tina. As this shortened name might suggest Constantine was very proficient concertina player and he appeared with Lily Cragg on the piano as a novelty musical act calling themselves ‘The Two Arkansas’. It was during William’s time as an equestrian performer in Russia that he made friends with Johnny Watson who had a circus act with a bear.

When Johnny was ill, William deputised for him and his fascination with bears began. He assumed the stage title of Captain, acquired some bears, the most promising of which he called Wodka and Sacuski, learned to train them and developed a performing bear act which he presented for the first time in August 1888 at Djurgarden in Stockholm, Sweden. They were next introduced at the Circo Price in the Jardin de las Delicias in Madrid and the Grand Eden Cirque before coming back to England in 1889/90 and appearing at the Covent Garden Circus, the Canterbury Theatre of Varieties and the Royal Aquarium Westminster.

As William related in an interview published in the Brooklyn Daily Echo of January 7th 1900……..“While in Russia twelve years ago I was struck by the way in which the bear cubs are brought up in the houses, just like dogs. Every 10 houses has a cub and the idea occurred to me that I would try and train one for show purposes. The attempt was successful and I have been a bear trainer since. My whole body is covered with bites and scratches and (baring his arm) these marks you see are the effects of Beauty’s teeth which went clean through the limb”.

William always trained Siberian bears, and always females which he found were more acceptable to his methods. He taught them to ride horses, ball-roll across a see-saw and dance and sing (after a style). One of their tricks was to drink from a beer bottle and feign drunkenness. The liquid in the bottle was usually no more alcoholic than sugar water although on one occasion, when they were appearing at Burton-on-Trent, circumstances were such that William had to let them sample Bass beer. He thought no more of it until the next time he tried to use sugar water and two bears, Beauty and Bubu, were having none of it, they had tasted the real thing and refused to perform until the real thing was served again.

William often worked in America and in the early 1900s he would have been among the first to become aware of the novel name of ‘Teddy Bear’, which was coined in connection to President Theodore Roosevelt’s bear hunting adventure, or misadventure, in Mississippi in 1902. Before long William was presenting his act, which might include three, four or even five bears, as ‘Permane’s Teddy Bears’. He continued working these acts until at least 1925 when he was presenting the three bears that had been shown at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley the previous year.

William was a Freemason. He was introduced to the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry when he was initiated at Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 in September 1905. He became the first of three members of the Permane family to be initiated into Chelsea Lodge and perhaps unusually, if not uniquely, all three would go on to become Worshipful Master of the Lodge. William was installed as Worshipful Master in 1934. His nephew Charles Henry Permane, listed as a music hall artiste, was initiated in November 1937 and installed as Worshipful Master in 1949. William’s own son, Vincent Adolf Permane, who had moved away from the music hall and into cinema and film production, was initiated in March 1958 and became Worshipful Master in 1970. Vincent was also exalted in Chelsea Chapter No. 3098 in March 1961 and was awarded London Grand Rank in 1980. He remained a member of both Craft and Royal Arch until his death in September 1991 aged 91. William died on 5th June 1939 aged 75.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Martin Henderson – Freemason Entertainer

1Blind performer Martin William Henderson was born in Cullercoats, Northumberland in 1881. His parents had their own challenges with hearing and speech but by overcoming all the difficulties that arose, Martin was able to pursue a successful music hall career billed as the ‘Blind Musical Marvel’ or ‘The Concertina King’. As well as the concertina he played the oboe, piano and organ.

Martin Henderson’s Concertina

He could also play chess, all skills that he learnt as part of his education at the Royal Normal College for the Blind at Upper Norwood, on the outskirts of South London. He started to appear locally around North Shields and Whitley Bay and among his last appearances before his career drew him further afield were smoking concerts at the Grand Hotel Tynemouth in aid of the Tynemouth Rowing Club and he appeared at the North Shields Central Palace of Varieties on the night of January 3rd 1900, the night it was destroyed by fire.

Soon afterwards he was taken up by the Moss Stoll circuit and toured with them for over six years from the turn of the 20th century and in 1907/08 he had a very successful seven month tour of Australia for Harry Rickard.

The Sydney Echo reported thus “…..he played a brief solo upon the piano, after which he gave a duet of exceeding beauty upon the piano and the concertina………he swept the keys of the former with his left hand and manipulated the concertina with his right………in response to augmented applause he illustrated medley methods in the use of the concertina, choosing ‘The Blue Bells of Scotland’ for his theme………his melodious rendering was so heartily appreciated that he was compelled to submit to an encore, for which he gave an imitation of a church organ, his illustration of the ringing of church bells was decidedly realistic and his imitation of a school bell was droll in the extreme. The audience could ‘Hear the Pipers Calling’ when he produced Scottish bagpipe music upon the concertina, for which he obtained another recall“.

He had travelled to Sydney via Freemantle on board RMS Omrah from Tilbury and on December 9th 1907 he opened at the Tivoli Theatre for Harry Rickards who was reported as saying “Apart from his talents as a musician he is particularly bright and pleasing looking, ‘his eyes are open’ ” remarked Mr Rickards “and when he named his salary, I assure you he opened my eyes as well, but he was so good I had to close the bargain“. On the trip out he entertained at two concerts and the passengers were so delighted that they subscribed to strike a special medal as a commemoration of the voyage, as one commentator remarked “Every one of his pianoforte selections is performed as a result of repeated readings from the score by Mrs Henderson and memorised until he can play thus perfectly from the score he has never had a chance of seeing”.

He further endeared himself, to Sydney audiences at least, when he disrupted the schedule to arrange a special concert for the folk of the Blind Institute in that City. Martin’s education at the Royal Normal College had also included training in physical and sensory skills such that when he returned home from Australia he was able to take part in a boxing match with the gymnast and clown Jim Obo as part of the entertainment on an outing of the Terriers Association…….and won!

Afterwards Jim said he had not taken the fight seriously, he intended to play the fool for a few rounds before finishing Martin off and they could all go home. Martin however did take it seriously; there were 50 guineas at stake which he wanted for charity. After the fight he said that after he had landed one decent punch square on Jim’s nose he knew he was rattled and getting more and more frustrated. Martin could sense every footfall as Jim pranced around him, he could feel and hear, and even smell Jim’s arms flailing around through the air. He could in fact ‘see’ every punch coming. His wife would probably have been equally aware of his physical and sensory skills as she bore him eight children.

Martin always took a great interest in the Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund & Institution at Brinsworth House and had contributed £2/10/00 in 1911 to help pay off the mortgage and thus become one of the ‘Noble Six Hundred’. He remained an active participant and contributor to that and many other charitable causes.

Martin was initiated into Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 on 17th June 1910. He was initiated by Alfred William Henry Beales who had started his working life as a draper’s assistant but had become a music hall performer, agent and theatre manager professionally known as Harry Bawn. With his touring days over Martin moved back to the North-East and resigned from Chelsea Lodge on 27th February 1922.

Exactly one month later he was accepted as a joining member of Lord Armstrong Lodge No. 3074 at Whitley Bay at which time he was listed as a confectioner. He became the Lodge organist and in 1932 he was a founder of Brier Dene Lodge No. 5344, also at Whitley Bay. He was awarded Northumberland provincial honours as Past Provincial Grand Organist.

On Saturday July 26th 1924 Martin started what was to become an annual busking tour of the town to raise money for local charities. Hoping for £50 to go to the Newcastle Infirmary, he walked the streets playing his concertina non-stop for 12 hours. One report noted that “his handicap in life sits so lightly upon him that it is hard to realise that Martin is sightless“. August 1925 was his second 2nd tour going for £55 to Newcastle Infirmary. It was also in 1925 that he also started along run of radio appearances.

In October 1929 there was a benefit for Martin at the Coliseum, Whitley Bay, to recognise and show appreciation for his services to charity. It was noted that during the previous six years he had raised over £800; the Royal Victoria Infirmary Newcastle alone receiving £400 and other charities receiving a similar amount between them. Martin wasn’t finished yet, he completed ten annual busking tours raising in excess of £1200 with the Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund & Institution at Brinsworth House always being well remembered when allocations were made from his endeavours.

Martin died in 1941. His education and training at the Royal Normal College had served him well. The college which had been founded in 1872 still flourishes today. It is now known as Royal National College for the Blind and is based in Hereford.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

J P Ling – Freemason Entertainer

Comedian, mimic and vocal humourist, James Pilling was born in 1879 in the Spotland area of Rochdale. The textile industry had been enjoying a boom period at the time and before embarking on his stage career young James followed his father into work in the local silk manufacturing works and cotton mills. Shortly before the turn of the century he made his first stage appearances.

In 1899 and as James P. Ling he was noted demonstrating his skill at mimicking musical instruments at a concert held at Preston Public Hall in aid of The Preston Corps of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. He also appeared at the local working men’s clubs and various charity events billed as James P. Ling. In October 1900 he entered a humorous singing contest held at Holmfirth Drill Hall. There were twenty seven entrants, although only ten turned up on the night, and James P. Ling came fourth with his humorous offering entitled ‘A Charity Concert’ and he won ten shillings (50p).

Two months later James entered an Albert Rees’ humorous singing contest at Middlesbrough Town Hall and he came fourth again, this time winning £2. He continued to gain experience by entertaining at venues like Barrow Town Hall where he performed at a concert in aid of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants’ Orphan Fund in 1902. By 1902 he was also performing regularly with Charles Parker’s Æolian Opera Choir & Singers’ Company at Southport Pier, and at Ilfracombe and Scarborough.

With his stage name finally settled at J. P. Ling he started to appear at more notable provincial halls and in 1906 he was first noted in London, at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. James was generally billed as a ‘Versatile Society Entertainer’ or a ‘Versatile Comedian in Vocal Caricatures’ in a career that would span almost forty years. He continued to appear on stage through the Great War and was always happy to make himself available to entertain troops as he did in May 1916 when he was appearing at the Brighton Hippodrome and he entertained alongside Little Tich at the nearby Kitchener Military Hospital.

In the 1920s and 1930s he was also a popular entertainer at masonic festive boards and ladies’ evenings. In 1902 he had married Emma née Woodhouse, the daughter of a boarding house keeper. They had two sons, John and Frank.

James was initiated into Freemasonry at Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 on 15th July 1910. He was also passed at Chelsea in March 1911, but as occasionally happens when one Lodge can assist another, he was raised at Proscenium Lodge No. 3435 in July 1911.

Within four months of being raised, he also became a joining member of Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple No. 3464 in Chester. The raison d’être of that Lodge and the subsequent events that touched Jerusalem in 1924 and came full circle back to England in 1948 make interesting reading. In 1928 he was installed as Worshipful Master of Chelsea Lodge. James was also a member of Chelsea Chapter and was exalted in March 1930. James had settled with his family in Finchley, North London, where died on 26th March 1938.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Ed E Ford – Freemason Entertainer

Ed E Ford – Freemason Entertainer
Born Edward McMullen Ford in 1870 in Prahran, Australia. He became a member of Chelsea Lodge no 3098 in 1908.

The man with the elastic face, comedian Edward McMullen Ford was born in 1870 in Prahran near Melbourne, Australia, one of twelve children born to John and Mary Ford. His parents had British roots in Birmingham and Launceston and there were the almost inevitable convict ancestors on both sides.

Edward was the only one of their children to follow a stage career but was at first apprenticed to be a bricklayer and tuck pointer where he learnt to amuse his workmates by pulling faces at the foreman.

In his early entertainment days he was a member of the Lynch Family of Bell Ringers and made his first public appearance in 1886 at the Nugget Theatre, Melbourne. Ten years later he was appearing at the Grand Opera House, Sydney.

He was first noted in Britain at the Metropolitan Music Hall, Edgware Road, London in December 1905. He was fondly known as Teddy Ford whenever in his homeland but would become more widely known in Europe and America as the Ed. E. Ford ‘The Australian Sundowner’.

In November 1908 he was initiated into Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 and he appeared in the Royal Command Performance Garden Party finale at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London in 1912.

Two years later, and by now also known as ‘The Paradoxical Physiognomist’, he was back in Australia on a tour that included the Tivoli Theatre, Sydney and Perth. He was in Perth when the Great War started and he boarded the first ship back to England, but an old arm injury prevented him from enlisting.

It was suggested he might use his talents instead to entertain wounded troops which he did with great enthusiasm. He also raised money for war charities by appearing in concerts and performing and selling monologues and war poems, many of them written by George Arthur. By January 1915 he had already raised enough to send 11,000 cigarettes and 24 pipes to wounded soldiers earning a letter of thanks from Lady Ripon, the instigator and champion of many war charities.

Later in 1915 he toured in South Africa where he continued his fund raising but he was back at the Clapham Grand to appear in the 1915/16 pantomime, Aladdin. By February 1919 he had raised over £19,000 in total for war charities and prisoners of war.

In October 1919, with his ‘war duties’ completed, he embarked for America aboard the liner ‘Celtic’ to work for Bert Levy. He was so successful during this original ten week tour in vaudeville that he stayed on and spent most of the next ten years there, “a man of many wanderings” as his friend and ventriloquist A. C. Astor referred to him. He registered a musical called ‘The Dinkum Bonzer Boys from Woolloomooloo’ about the Dock area of Sydney that was home to criminal elements in the early 20th century.

In July 1921 he married Adie Everard, professionally known as Ida May, in Winnipeg, Canada. He returned to Britain in 1929 and continued his career here for a couple of years before he retired back to Australia in 1931 and he died there in a private hospital in East Malvern on October 2nd 1941.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748