Category Archives: Freemasonry

Sweet Lydie Masonic Are Unreliable and Ignore Complaints

I am saddened to be writing this post and to be honest I am very surprised to find myself in this situation, but after a number of requests and e-mails to Sweet Lydia Masonic I find my message and complaints being totally ignored by the owner John Bate.

I was installed as a Knight Templar last Friday evening 5th December.  As my installation date was confirmed I obviously needed to buy a full set of Knight templar Regalia.  As any Knight will know this is no small outlay.

I had seen Sweet Lydie advertising on Social media and found their prices competitive.  I noted a warning on the website that advised contacting them if items where required in a hurry.  I contacted Sweet Lydie on 6th of November and was assured that I would receive my regalia in plenty of time.

By November 30th I had neither received any Regalia nor had any contact whatsoever from Sweet lydie.  As you can imagine I was by this time quite stressed and apprehensive so I e-mailed asking for some reassurance.  I was told that everything was on its way.  This was clearly untrue.  In the end I had to scramble around borrow Regalia for my installation and to date I still do not have all of my regalia.

Over the Course of the past week I have e-mailed Sweet Lydie on four occasions and not one of my messages has been acknowledged much less answered.  There is no phone number for the company, just an e-mail address.

Now I understand that things can sometimes go wrong, it happens.  It is often said that the test of a retailer is how they deal with customers when things do go wrong.  Very often an apology and explanation is all that is required.  What is totally unacceptable is to ignore customers complaints and to simply not communicate.

As all attempts to resolve the issue have been ignored by Sweet lydie, sadly I now feel the only option left to me is to go public with my complaint to try to get a response and to warn others that they should think extremely carefully before doing business with this company.

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Dorset Freemasons remember the fallen – Lights out

To commemorate Britain’s entry into the Great War on 4th August 1914 The Royal British Legion  asked people to use a single candle or light for an hour from 22:00 BST on 4 August 2014.  The campaign was inspired by the words of wartime foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, who said on the eve of war: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

Formal events of commemoration took place all over the Country including a candle-lit vigil at Westminster Abbey on the same evening.  Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, London was built and dedicated to the memory of the 3453 British Freemasons who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War.  A roll of honour stands in the building and for one hour on 4th of August 2014  all the lights in this enormous (and extremely impressive) building were extinguished.  All save a solitary light illuminating the roll of honour.PGM-Dorset-2011

Here in Dorset our provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Richard Merritt, asked all Dorset Lodges to support the event by holding a ‘lights out’ ceremony at their first meeting after the 4th August.  At least 24 Dorset Brethren died during the first world war, this may not sound many but at the time it represented some 5% of the Freemasons in the Province.  10 Brethren from the United Services Lodge died.

My Lodge, Amphibious Lodge 9050, is a lodge with very strong military connections and we already commemorate the fallen at our November meeting, which usually falls just before Remembrance Sunday, every year.  We were of course very keen to support the Provincial Grand Masters initiative.  Our first meeting after 4th August fell this week on Wednesday 10th September 2014.  It was also our ceremony of Installation, when the new Worshipful Master takes charge of the Lodge for the ensuing year.  As any Freemason knows this is always a very special evening and this year it would be even more special as the Provincial Grand Master and a strong Provincial team would be in attendance.

After the Lodge opened and the 70 or so brethren present were in their seats the Director of Ceremonies called the brethren to order and read a short extract explaining the concept behind the ‘lights out’ campaign, this included lord Grey’s observations about the lights going out all over Europe.  Worshipful Brother Sharkey Ward, a former Royal Marine,  then perambulated around the lodge extinguishing the candles at each of the pedestals whilst the names of the fallen Brethren were read aloud by brethren who had themselves served in the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and the British Army.  As the candles were extinguished the lodge lights were dimmed until, as the last name was read, the Lodge was in total darkness save for a solitary candle at the Worshipful Master’s pedestal.  The brethren then stood in darkness for 2 minutes of silent reflection and in gratitude for the sacrifices made by our fallen brethren, by their families and by all of those touched by war and conflict in the 100 years since the war that was supposed to end all wars.

This was a solemn and incredibly moving experience for everyone present, a small but beautiful act that I trust will never be forgotten by anyone present.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Why I am a freemason

Life has a way of occassionaly throwing up experiences that lead you to a deep contemplation of things in your life.  I had a number of such experiences this past weekend.  Three things happened over the course of the weekend and they all had one thing in common.  Freemasonry!

On Friday evening I was privileged to attend an informal gathering of freemasons in Poole.  A group of men from across the South of England were brought together by the power of social media.  We gathered to discuss how social media can be used to introduce more men, especially young men, to our fraternity.  We had a couple of presentations and then around 80 men sat down together to share food and wine.  It was a truly wonderful occasion.  I knew some of the men in the room, but was soon happily chatting to a group of men I had never met before about a wide range of subjects including charity, social media and photography.  I had only met one of the people at my table previously, but I shared a bond of brotherhood with all of the others.

On Saturday morning I was doing some research and reading blogs on wordpress when I came across a blog that was absolutely hideous.  It claimed that freemasonry was anti christian and that freemasons worshipped goats at their meetings.  The blog claimed that by welcoming men of any faith freemasons defied the word of god.  The writer then went on to threaten freemasons in his town with violence and exposure should they fail to resign from their lodges.  The blog contained a litany of a range of anti-masonic conspiracy theories and can only be described as the ravings of a seriously disturbed individual.  I found it almost beyond belief that the writer claimed to be a ‘very strict christian’.  It was very clear that the writer knew absolutely nothing about freemasonry and his brand of christianity preached nothing but hate and intolerance.  Whilst I have no evidence at all to support this view I would not be at all surprised to find the writer to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan or some other white supremacist organisation.

On Saturday evening I had some friends over for dinner.  I have known these friends for over 15 years and they have attended ladies festivals etc as a guest of mine in the past.  After dinner we were talking about a range of subjects and asked my friend if he had any interest in becoming a freemason.  He immediately said he would love to and explained that he felt that he had been blessed in his life and would love the opportunity to give something back.  There was never a hint of ‘whats in it for me’ or any other self-serving motive.  He was only interested in what he could give.

So, in one weekend I had three experiences, two positive and one negative, that caused me to think deeply and critically about my freemasonry.  I was initiated into freemasonry in 1991 at the age of 30 but left for a number of years when the pressures of working away from home and bringing up a young family just became too much.   I worked in public service and there was also something of a witch hunt in the late 1990’s against freemasons in public service.  It would have been easy to dismiss  the  man above as an ill informed lunatic but I did wonder what on earth would lead someone to have such extreme views.

Lets put some things straight.  Freemasonry is in no way anti-christian.  It is true that men must have a belief in a ‘supreme being’ to be a freemason and that ‘supreme being’ can be whichever version that your particular religion subscribes to.  We do take an obligation on a sacred book but that sacred book can be a bible, the Koran, the Torah or whatever holy book a prospective member holds sacred.  This means that freemasonry is inclusive.  Men of any faith are welcome.  Far from being anti-christian I would suggest that this spirit of peace and goodwill to all men is inclusive and entirely in keeping with christian teaching.  Some ‘masonic’ orders are specifically christian in their membership.  To join Rose Croix, Red Cross of Constantine or Knights Templar prospective members must be christian.

In some quarters there seems to be a belief that freemasonry is only open to the well heeled, that it costs a small fortune to be a member and that freemasons only ever look after their own.  All bunkum!  Anyone from any social class can be a freemason.  The cost is a fraction of what it costs to  be a member of a golf club or gymnasium.  For every lord there are probably 50 working class men.  My own lodge has a close association with the Royal Marines, many of our members (including myself) served in the ranks of the UK armed services and we have everything from accountants to builders as members.  Freemasonry encourages its members to be benevolent but only so far as their situation in life warrants.  It is true that freemasons donate money to masonic charities and these provide relief to freemasons, often elderly and infirm who have fallen on hard times and need residential care.  It should be borne in mind that the provision of this care prevents a financial burden from falling on the state in many cases.  At the same time a huge proportion of the money raised for charities by freemasons goes to charities that have absolutely no connection to freemasonry.  Freemasons are the 2nd biggest contributors to air ambulances in the UK.  My own lodge in the past 12 months has made gifts to a local children’s hospice, a group that teaches blind people to shoot and a charity that provides transport to people who are infirm and would be housebound without help.  The grand charities have contributed to medical research through the Royal College of Surgeons, to flood and disaster relief at home and abroad and a range of charities that are simply mind boggling.

So why am I a freemason?  Hopefully the answer to that question is already self evident.  Freemasonry is a force for good in society.  It brings together like minded men who are community spirited, who want to widen their circle of friends, who want to support others and who want to give something back to their communities.  I am sure that, as in any other walk of life, there are a few people who joined seeking some sort of advantage or for some other self serving reason.  I am pleased to say that in 23 years as a freemason I have yet to meet one.  The vast majority of freemasons are ordinary men who often do extraordinary things, not for themselves but for the good of others, and like my friend join because they want to give something back.

That dear reader is why I am extremely proud to call myself a mason.

Freemasonry and Social Media

On Friday 4th July 2014 I had the privilege of attending a meeting at the Masonic Hall in Poole, Dorset to discuss the use of social media in freemasonry.  This is believed to be the largest gathering of freemasons brought together by social media.  The purpose of the gathering was to discuss the use of social media as a tool to recruit, retain and inform members of our fraternity.

It is perhaps true to say that freemasonry as a whole has been slow and in some quarters somewhat reluctant to embrace new technology but there is little doubt that the benefits of electronic communication are now being realised.  Such was the interest in last nights meeting that RWBro Richard Merritt, The Provincial Grand Master, welcomed representatives of nine different Masonic provinces who gathered to hear two very interesting presentations.  The first was delivered by  W.Bro Nigel Harris-Cooksley who explained how his Lodge (North Harrow Lodge No6557) had seen a decline in numbers and had turned to the internet and social media to attract new members.  Over a period of 3 years this approach attracted a total of 50 New members to Lodges in Middlesex.  18 of these were initiated into North Harrow Lodge and 32 were passed to other lodges.  OOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAf the 50 initiates it is believed that 49 are still active and many of these new made brothers are already taking offices in a variety of Lodges.

It seems to me that the key to North Harrow’s success in this new venture is underpinned by a recognition that attracting enquiries is very much a starting point.  Nigel and other brethren from his lodge worked incredibly hard to meet, interview and socialise with perspective candidates before they were initiated.  Once initiated the new brothers were allocated personal mentors who were supported in turn by a lodge mentor.  The length of time between enquiry and initiation has varied.   In the early days some were initiated in as little as 3 months, at present 9 months is seen as ‘normal’.  During the waiting period candidates are contacted regularly, kept up to date and invited to social functions where possible.

The time and care put into supporting, vetting and socialising with candidates is hugely important.  It should engender a sense of belonging in the candidate and reassure members of lodges that candidates are not simply being ‘dragged off the streets’.  I realise that some brethren, who joined freemasonry by the traditional recruitment process, may have reservations about this method of recruitment but I believe North Harrow Lodges experience shows that there are men in our communities who want to join freemasonry but don’t know how to go about it.  Some may feel that the risks of initiating someone who is not personally known to a current member are too great.   It is a fact that there is a risk that any initiate may prove unsuitable in the longer term, but again, North Harrows experience shows that the benefits have far outweighed the risks.

As I mentioned above making access to freemasonry easier through the use of websites and social media should be seen as a starting point.  If we are to retain our members after they have joined it is important that new members, especially our younger men, are supported and made to feel welcome.  Our second speaker Colin(Lex) Luther Davies explained one of the mechanisms whereby the Metropolitan Grand Lodge are supporting its younger members.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Connaught Club is an organisation formed to support freemasons under 35 who are members of a Lodge in London or who live or work in London and are members go a lodge attached to the United Grand Lodge of England.  The club currently has some 200 members and has been founded to give young Freemasons in London a means to meet and socialise, with like-minded people of similar ages, within Freemasonry; whilst bridging the large geographic area and diversity of London’s many Lodges.

Primarily the Club’s role is to provide events and other occasions, of either a social or (Masonically) educational nature, for young Freemasons to meet each other and encourage their involvement within the fraternity.  Events range from informal pub socials to formal dinners and to visiting each others Lodges.  This is a fantastic example of what can be done to support our members and there is undoubtably much that other provinces can learn form this.

The evening concluded in fine Masonic style with all present dining together.  It must be said that the caterers laid on a fantastic meal and the ambience of the evening was helped enormously by the effort that W.Bro Brian Chidgey and his assistants put into the organisation of the event.  No event runs well unless effort has been put into the planning and preparation.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Provincial Grand Master, RWBro Richard Merritt, gave a short speech during which he explained his personal enthusiasm for making use of new and emerging technology and thanked the speakers and organisers for their efforts in putting together a most enjoyable and informative evening

 

 

 

The Province of Dorset was very well represented by brethren from across the County.  The PGM was supported by VWBro Clive Deakin, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, and VWBro Nigel Leonard, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master as well as several members of the Provincial team.  Brethren from the Provinces of Dorset, Hampshire & IOW, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Middlesex, Metropolitan and even the Serbian Grand Lodge were welcomed.  I am sure everyone went away with some food for thought and fresh ideas.