Father of the Lodge celebrates 60 years’ service

This is the story of one man’s dedication to Freemasonry and the joy it continues to give him.

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Peter George Townsend Ludlow

Peter George Townsend Ludlow is the current Father of Hungerford Lodge. This term is used to describe the member with the longest continuous service to the Lodge. He started his long and illustrious masonic career on 19th February 1957 when he was initiated into the Hungerford Lodge and he has been a constant member ever since.

Progressing steadily through the ranks within the Lodge he was installed as Master on 15th November 1966. His performance as Master obviously caught the eye of the Berkshire Provincial team as he subsequently rose to the rank of Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire and then on to Past Senior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Despite being 90, Peter is a very active Mason. He is a member of a number of Masonic Lodges and other Masonic orders within Berkshire, Wiltshire and Somerset and visits widely. He regularly brings a retinue of guests to our meetings.

Peter is well-loved within the Lodge and his is the calm voice we turn to when guidance is required, for example when the Lodge moved its meeting place from Hungerford to Newbury. When we recently interviewed a young prospective candidate, Peter spoke passionately about Freemasonry’s ability to keep him interested for 60 years as well as the support it has given him through troubled times such as the recent loss of his beloved wife, Daphne. Which other hobby can bring men of 23 and 90 together in this way?

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Peter (in his regalia) flanked by Kenny (L) and Adam (R) who were Passed, together with some of the members and visitors

At our meeting on 21st February, 65 members and visitors saw Peter presented with a certificate thanking him for his 60 years of service to Freemasonry in the Province of Berkshire. This was then followed by a certificate recognising his dedication from the Province of Somerset. Those attending were also treated to a double Passing ceremony for two of our Four Aces.

After the meeting, all present joined Peter at the Festive Board at the Royal British Legion Club in Newbury. No doubt a few memories were shared and new ones created.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Mark takes the helm

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The new team – Mark and Jeremy are second and third from the left kneeling

Tuesday 15th November saw Mark Wiltshire installed as the Master or leader of the Hungerford Lodge by Jeremy Dickins. Jeremy has been a real asset to the Lodge over the last year. He has worked hard at the ceremonies and has been just as diligent with the administrative side of the Lodge. Jeremy thanked his team for their support over the previous year before installing his successor in the time-honoured manner. Mark then appointed his team for the coming year, demonstrating how capable he is at memorising and reciting the ritual whilst at the same time displaying a sense of humour and a deftness of touch.

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The Festive Board

Once the ceremonial part of the evening was over, the members and guests retired to the Newbury Royal British Legion (RBL) Club for a celebratory meal. In all, 88 people sat down to dine on tomato soup, roast beef and all the trimmings, followed by a cheese board. The buzz of excitement for the evening had been building over the last few weeks and the atmosphere at the meal was electric. Masons had travelled from near and far to witness the changing of the guard as it is always a special event in a Lodge’s calendar.

Mark is part of the Provincial Outreach team and most, if not all, of the team had turned out to support their colleague. The Outreach team runs Open Days at each of the Masonic Centres throughout Berkshire with a view to making Freemasonry more accessible to the public and dispelling some of the myths propagated by the national media. The team had recently opened the Newbury Masonic Centre for one such event as part of the Remembrance Day activities in Newbury.

Supporting the Poppy Appeal
Supporting the Poppy Appeal

Once the meal was over the raffle was drawn with some splendid prizes available. The generosity of those attending meant that £500 was raised by the raffle and a further £180 was collected for alms. Mark consulted with his team and they decided to present a donation of £250 to the RBL Poppy Appeal on behalf of the Lodge. The remainder was donated the Lodge Benevolent Association for future charitable works. The RBL team were extremely grateful for the generosity.

A traditional part of the celebrations at the Installation of a new Master, is the singing of The Master’s Song. This is a combination of solo and participatory singing. Those who have been the recipient, know this is a very emotional moment for the new Master. One of Mark’s close friends, Graham Reynolds had jokingly offered to sing the Master’s Song for Mark at his installation. Mark was delighted by this offer and held his friend to this commitment. Graham’s skills as a Heating (not cooling) Engineer are more in demand than his singing skills and he was a touch out of practice. This added to the fun of the evening.

The Deputy Provincial Grand Master (deputy leader for Berkshire Masons) Anthony Howlett-Bolton was on hand to witness the event along with his retinue and they left having thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

BMC helps fund Hannah’s refit

Hannah (photo courtesy of the Bruce Trust)
Hannah (photo courtesy of the Bruce Trust)

Hannah, the most popular boat in the Bruce Trust fleet over the last 25 years, is scheduled for a complete refit and Berkshire Freemasons are delighted to be able to help fund this refit. The Bruce Trust provides canal holidays for disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people. The boats are of a special wide-beam design enabling wheelchair users to easily manoeuvre and to steer the boat using the tiller. Hannah also has a remote steering device to enable people with less upper body mobility to steer her with a joystick.

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Everyone gets a turn at the tiller (photo courtesy of the Bruce Trust)

Hannah’s electrical and heating systems are scheduled to be overhauled and she will be modified to provide easier wheelchair access and improved welfare facilities. The result will enhance the experience and safety of her passengers, making her ready to be the pride of the fleet for the next 25 years.

There has been a longstanding relationship between the Trust and Berkshire Freemasons and especially the Hungerford Lodge. Both masonic bodies have provided significant funding to the Bruce Trust.

Rebecca Bruce, who oversees the day-to-day management of the Trust, and her father, David, who founded the Trust in 1988 with his wife Louise, greeted representatives of the Berkshire Masonic community and their families and friends at Great Bedwyn on Saturday 15th October. Among the Freemasons present were Peter Ludlow and Michael Tanner. Both have previously presented cheques from the Berkshire Masonic Charity (BMC) and Hungerford Lodge to the Trust and on this occasion, it fell to Peter to present a cheque from the BMC for £2,000 to The Bruce Trust at their home ‘port’ of Bedwyn Wharf.

Peter spoke briefly and passionately about the work that the Trust does. “Providing these boats brings enormous pleasure to so many people in West Berkshire and beyond, who might otherwise not enjoy a holiday or respite at all.”

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Members of the Berkshire Masonic Community with Rebecca and David Bruce (photo by N Sinclair Baines)

In response, David confided “Last night we were awarded the Greenham Common Trust Community & Charity Award at the West Berkshire Business Awards, so all in all we are having a great weekend.”

Those attending could see the whole fleet alongside and were invited to go aboard ‘Hannah’ as she begins her transformation and ‘Rebecca’ whose upgrade had been completed in 2013. Different vessels, but similar enough to give a ‘before and after’ perspective.

Dates for your diaries

Summer time is the traditional quiet period for Masonic Lodges but not for Hungerford. We know that we have a busy year ahead of us. We have initiated five candidates since last October (2015), meaning that we have a Fellow Craft and four Entered Apprentices all looking to progress through their ceremonies. We currently only meet six times a year so the diary would get very congested or we would have to ask our new members to be very patient. To address this, we are looking to hold a number of additional (or emergency) meetings. The best part of this is that we are meeting in the months that we dropped when we were struggling – the times they are a-changin’!

To help you we have produced a handy time table or you can use the Lodge Calendar – even add it to your phone calendar by following the instructions. Look out for Facebook events too.

The role of Social Media within Freemasonry

What role does Social Media play in the recruitment, retention and re-engagement of Freemasons?

Lodge Social MediaMany people are struggling to understand the place for Social Media within a fraternity that has existed for nearly three hundred years and for the last eighty years has been largely hidden from public view. For most Freemasons alive today, being a Mason was something you only ever mentioned to those you really trusted.

For the general public, this fosters the conspiracy theories, but it can be easily explained by the fear felt by Freemason during the 1930s as a result of the political situation in central Europe. There are no definitive figures for the number of Freemasons killed as the records did not always record that a person was selected because they were a Freemason. However, estimates range from 80-250,000 killed in the Holocaust.

Slowly, Freemasonry is emerging from this self-imposed isolation, re-entering the public arena and seeking to redress the balance. This is proving difficult for those who have been raised to believe that being a Mason was something that one did not talk about and that the public viewed with derision.

Today Masonic organisations run websites and increasingly are turning to Social Media platforms to get their message out. Facebook and Twitter are popular platforms with LinkedIn being used where Lodges have an affinity with a school, university college or organisation.

The Provincial Executive for Berkshire has defined three priorities for the team currently which are:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Retention
  3. Re-engagement

This is essentially a cradle to grave plan framed as the 3 Rs. So how can Social Media play a role in these three areas?

Recruitment

Many Freemasons have an issue with the concept of recruitment as traditionally we did not recruit, we nurtured interest when it was shown but advertising and naked recruitment was and is generally frowned upon. To this end, a senior Mason suggested that the term “attraction” be adopted which this author prefers, but it does not scan as well.

2B1ASK1This approach was widely described as “To Be One Ask One” which was fine when people were open about being a member but flawed when nobody knew who to ask. The challenge was also that only the brave would be prepared to join an organisation surrounded by all of the negative publicity that Freemasonry was suffering over the last 40 years.

Social Media allows us to address both of these issues. Having a presence on the popular platforms makes it easier for the curious to find someone to ask about joining. Our presence on the platforms also encourages us to publish stories about what we are really doing and thus become more open which promotes a generally more positive opinion of the institution. This should result in a positive feedback loop where more positive opinion results in more people being curious about joining.

Retention

In common with all clubs and societies, Freemasonry suffers with people losing interest in the organisation, perhaps as their family or work life makes it more difficult to attend the meetings. Strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that we keep these Masons interested and engaged even if they cannot attend formal meetings. We want to keep in contact with them, let them know that we are ready when they feel that they can come back and that there are ways to keep in contact.

Social Media enables them to follow the activities of their Lodge and, in cases where they have moved away from their Mother Lodge (the Lodge through which they joined Freemasonry), to more easily find a new Lodge that meets their needs.

Equally, Social Media is playing a role in increasing the enjoyment of those who are active Freemasons. Members connect across the globe with other Masons to get a better understanding of what Freemasonry means in other jurisdictions. Meetings are arranged when Masons go on holiday, allowing people to experience different ways of doing things.

Social Media is also being used like any other communications tool to exchange views, to support one another and to share jokes. All of this can be done via any other medium, but it is easier through these platforms. They are geared to bring together like minded individuals. All of the Social Media platforms encourage you to increase your network by adding people that your existing contacts interact with. This is no different than being introduced to someone new in your Lodge, the pub or at work, it just happens more quickly and as the result of a computer suggestion.

Re-engagement

Inevitably, some Masons will drift away from the organisation, perhaps due to the aforementioned pressures but times change and they may be encouraged to return. Re-engaging “lapsed” masons is a great way to bring them back to the organisation.

Many people use Facebook to keep in touch with family, friends and former colleagues that they have moved away from. Families are probably more geographically dispersed today than they have been at any other point in history. As a result, one of the fastest growing demographics on Facebook is the so called Silver Surfer generation who are using the platform to keep up with their children and grandchildren. As the younger generations move to new platforms, the older generations will inevitably be encouraged to follow them.

With this in mind, it is worthwhile Provinces and Lodges engaging in Social Media to enable these lapsed Masons to re-engage more readily.

Is Social Media the magic bullet?

There is no magic bullet to address these issues, we need to adopt an omni-channel strategy encompassing in person, printed and online communications to reach our intended audience. As with all communications strategies, we need to talk to potential members (including the lapsed and disenchanted) in the medium and language that they are using.

Social media is not the be all and end all, but it is an underutilised part of our toolbox.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Masonic Marigolds

Berkshire Freemasons are at it again.

For the third time in recent weeks members of Hungerford Lodge have been out presenting a cheque to a local good cause. Following their donations to Great Bedwyn School in December 2014 and, more recently, to projects at John O’Gaunt and Shalbourne CofE Schools, it was back to Great Bedwyn. This time it was The Bruce Foundation who have benefitted from their benevolence.

The Berkshire Masonic Charity has donated £1,000 to the Foundation to help towards meeting the £120,000 capital cost of a unique, specially built and equipped motorhome. The wheelchair accessible vehicle, which is now ‘on the road’ is fully fitted with every aid and facility to enable people with disabilities or special needs to have a holiday, including a high end scissor action hospital bed with hoist and track system to a wet room at the rear of the vehicle.

Hungerford Lodge member Ken Phillips, who has been involved in the Bruce Foundation application to the Berkshire Masonic Charity, was so impressed with the sterling work of the Foundation that he  suggested Hungerford Lodge might also consider making a donation. The Hungerford Lodge Benevolent Association readily agreed, and moreover, agreed to match the £1,000 given by the the Berkshire Masonic Charity.

Rebecca - KenSo on Saturday 18th July, several Lodge members were greeted at Great Bedwyn Wharf by David Bruce and his daughter Rebecca. They were shown around the motorhome and David and Rebecca shared some tales of how the vehicle had already given pleasure to so many who might otherwise not have a holiday at all. The front passenger seat is removable and factory fitted anchor points can secure a wheelchair in its stead. One moving recollection of Rebecca’s was of a young lad in a wheelchair who was beside himself with joy at being able to sit in the front next to his driver dad, something he’d never done before.

Rebecca - MikeIn what at first sight seems a role reversal, Ken Phillips presented a cheque for £1,000 on behalf of the Berkshire Masonic Charity and esteemed Berkshire Freemason, and honorary member of Hungerford Lodge, Michael Tanner, was delighted to present the second £1,000 cheque on behalf of the Lodge. With the formalities over, Lodge members donned their Marigolds  and showed willing to help in getting the Foundation motorhome (and the Bruce Trust canal boat) cleaned and ready for the next hirers.

Ready to get stuck in! (L to R Mike Tanner, Mike Beck, Bert Harrison, Ken Phillips, Gilbert Mills and Ian Palmer)
Ready to get stuck in! (L to R Mike Tanner, Mike Beck, Bert Harrison, Ken Phillips, Gilbert Mills and Ian Palmer)

Masons help build Outdoor Classroom

Responding to a plea for help, Hungerford Freemasons have delighted the teachers, parents and most importantly pupils of the Shalbourne Church of England Primary School with a donation of £500 towards their new Outdoor Classroom. Gilbert Mills, Chairman of the Lodge Benevolent Association said “Freemasonry encourages us to learn about nature and science and we hope this donation will help future generations of children to do the same.”

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Tim Norman (Benevolent Association Treasurer) presents cheque for £500 to Liz Darking (vice-Chair of Shalbourne School PTFA)

The Lodge was originally contacted via its website by the school’s Parents, Teachers and Friends Association in the hope that we would provide a raffle prize. The members of the Lodge discussed the application and felt that they wanted to really get behind the effort and so decided to make a donation instead.

Several members of the Lodge were present to witness Tim Norman (Association Treasurer) present the cheque to Liz Darking, vice-chair of the PTFA. Liz thanked the Lodge saying “Shalbourne is a small, rural school and we find it difficult to find funds for the little extras that enhance the learning environment for the children.”

About the Hungerford Lodge

The Hungerford Lodge has been serving the community since its consecration in 1925. It conducts all of its charitable activities through the Hungerford Lodge Benevolent Association which is a registered charity. Over the last five years, the Association has distributed over £25,000 of funds raised solely from the members of the Lodge and other Berkshire Freemasons.