Freemason Mark all at sea
Battling the blistering winds and churning seas of the Southern Ocean would be a test of endurance for the toughest of sailors, but Swindon Freemason Mark Neilson, a member of Gooch Lodge No.1295, faced 80ft swells and 60mph winds on a 5,000-mile race from South Africa to Western Australia with just four weeks of training under his belt.
Mark had no previous yachting experience before he signed up to sail for 27 days with a crew of amateur sailors in The Clipper Race - a record breaking 40,000 nautical mile race around the world on a 70-foot ocean racing yacht. The race is divided into eight legs and a number of inidividual races, with each yacht equipped with a fully qualified skipper.
Mark completed the third leg across the Southern Ocean and returned to dry land safe and sound two weeks ago.
He said: 'Sometimes we were going upwind into the waves in the middle of nowhere with the whole front of the boat being lifted into the air and smashing back down over and over, it was relentless.
Mark, the son of former heavyweight boxer Eddie Neilson who, during a notable career fought Joe Bugner and Frank Bruno, was born and bred in Swindon and now lives in Cirencester.
He said: 'I’d thought about learning to sail because I wanted to take my family on holiday to the Greek islands and I’ve always liked a challenge. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be, it seems surreal now that I’m back at work.
Having returned to dry land and home, one of his first Masonic duties was to occupy the Senior Wardens chair for the Christmas meeting of Gooch Lodge, doubtless he had lenty of tales to tell at the festive board.
Stephen Bridge thanks Peter Cowan
On behalf of the Brethren of Methuen Lodge W.Bro Stephen APrGM presented a cheque for £100 to Karen from Swindon Women's Aid.
Swindon Lodges have always had a wonderful relationship with Swindon Women's Aid, who help change lives by giving advice and support to male and female victims of domestic violence and abuse.
The main impetus in supporting Swindon Women's Aid has been provided by W.Bro Peter Cowen who has organised the publicity, collection and even the wrapping of the Christmas donations made by the Brethren of the Swindon Lodges. At Easter, Peter ensured that the children at the centre had a plentiful supply of of chocolates and Easter eggs.
Peter who has been ably supported by his wife Christine over the last ten years has decided to stand down, to spend more time together. Provincial Charity Steward Ian Priest said "We thank them both for their commitment and passion in raising the profile of this wonderful charity, and we wish them all the best in their future adventures."
News item and images by W Bro Ian Priest.
Thank you Rita
It was a very special occasion when Rita Burrows was invited to join the PrGM Philip Bullock in the Lodge Room adjacent to the Bar in Swindon's Masonic Centre. But she needn't have worried as Philip and the team just wanted to say a huge thank you to Rita for her outstanding contribution to the Wiltshire 2017 Festival.
Images by W Bro Gary Dolphin.
Festival Jewel is permanent
Ian Priest says 'well done'
I have often wondered what it would be like to be waiting for an envelope containing exam results to drop through the letter box. Well now I know, it’s awful. Every time the post hits the floor you rush to see if its arrived’ - in this case the ‘if’ I was waiting for was the results of the Masonic Charitable Foundation Community Awards. Voting closed on the 31st July and the results were to be announced on the 5th September.
I was pleased to see that Hope Nature Centre was the voters choice to receive £25,000 with John McNeill Opportunity Centre receiving £15,000. The Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust getting £6,000 and SMASH £4,000.
All four charities were present at Provincial Grand Lodge on Thursday 5th October and it was a wonderful experience to share our special day with their representatives. I certainly came away from Salisbury absolutely convinced that the MCF Community Award was going to make a real and positive difference in the work of each of the organisations.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation brings together the work of four national Charities which had been operating separately under various names since the early 18th Century.
The legacy of these charities and the principle of Relief underpins the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
In 2016 over 5,000 Freemasons and their family members benefited from the support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation and also many others in the wider society from our charity grants and immediate response to disasters overseas.
Images by W Bro Adrian Wooster
And the party played on
CHIPPENHAM Masonic Hall was the venue for a warm Wiltshire welcome when Freemasons from three Wiltshire Lodges hosteda fraternal visit by members and their ladies of Zur alten
Linde Lodge from Dortmund in Germany.
The weekend event visit took place in Chippenham with the starter event being a welcome and short address by Assistant provincial Grand Master Stephen Bridge who spoke of the history of Freemasonry over 300 years.
To round off the occasion a “Gala James Last Tribute Concert” featuring the Mike Smith Big Swing Band and his singers was being staged in the recently refurbished Neeld Hall. The concert raised funds for Julia’s House Children’s Hospice opening soon in Devizes.
Eggsellent news for young victims of abuse
CHILDREN at a domestic abuse shelter are predicted to have an eggsellent Easter after Swindon Masons donated hundreds of chocolate eggs.
Managers at Swindon Women’s Aid, which supports victims of domestic violence, welcomed the generous donation yesterday morning.
Olwen Kelly, director of Swindon Women’s Aid, said: “Easter can be a very expensive time, especially for our mums with three or four children.
“We’ve got 22 families in our refuge at the moment, which includes 47 children.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful gift. The mums can give out the Easter eggs as if they came from them.”
Olwen said Easter can be a difficult time for children at the refuge. “We make the refuge as nice as we can, but it’s not like home. A lot of the women who come to us who are fleeing domestic violence and abuse rely on their partners for money. “When they come to us they have nothing. Not even their toothbrush, let alone money for Easter eggs.”
Children at the refuge are often away from their friends. Some are forced to stay away from school over fears for their safety. More than three hundred were deemed to be in significant danger of being hurt or even killed.
The charity runs a helpline for victims of domestic abuse, which last year received more than a thousand calls from worried victims.
Swindon Women’s Aid has been supported by Swindon Freemasons in the past, with the organisation donating to the charity over the festive season. Olwyn said: “The Freemasons help us out every Christmas, but they don’t advertise what they do, when the children receive their eggs on Easter Sunday they won’t even know they came from the Masons.”
She added: “This gift is about making life in the refuge that little bit easier. It’s going to bring a bit of normality to a situation that is just not normal.”
Light Blue reception at Warminster
The Provincial Grand Master Philip Bullock has invited Initiates and their wives or partners from 2015, 2016 and 2017 to join him and the Assistant Provincial Grand Master at a Light Blues Reception to be held in Warminster Masonic Hall on Saturday 6 May 2017 at 7.00pm.
It had always been the practice of the Province to meet informally with Initiates and their wives or partners during the course of the year but due to reasons beyond our control we have not held a meeting for a couple of years. However, a number of newer Freemasons have expressed a wish to re-introduce the meeting and we have decided to arrange two for 2017.
The format is a 'reception' as opposed to a lunch or dinner which we hope recognises the constraints placed on a member's family time
As a relatively new Freemason there are probably many questions new members may wish to ask, and more importantly the PrGM is sure there are some the wives and partners would like to ask. While not every question can be answered the PrGM is determined that the Province's policy of openness and transparency should be applied whenever possible and within the limits of propriety, he therefore looks forward to explaining 'what goes on behind closed doors'.
The evening will include a tour of the Lodge Room with an explanation of some of the furniture and items used during a ceremony. In addition there will a short presentation of the work of the Provincial Almoner and the role of the Masonic Charitable Foundation particularly as it relates to a Freemason's family. There will be time allocated to a short question and answer session.
Refreshments in the form of a buffet will be provided and the Masonic hall bar will be open.
The Provincial Grand Master asks that the Lodge Officers, particularly the Lodge Mentor encourages the whole hearted participation of 'younger Brethren' in attending the Light Blues Reception.
If you have not received an invitation please complete the google form and we will be in touch.
Appointment of David Davies
As the 2016 calendar year draws to a close it is again time to start considering the appointments and promotions for next year, however I must first look to the senior officers for the 2017-2018 Masonic year.
Prior to his illness and subsequent death, Peter Winton had advised me that it was his intention to stand down in any event as Deputy Provincial Grand Master with effect from October 2017. I reluctantly accepted this decision and began the difficult process of deciding who would be Peter’s successor.
Peter was a most dedicated and loyal aide and I will miss him very much, not only for his support and tireless work within the Province of Wiltshire as Deputy during the past eight years and especially during my time as Provincial Grand Master; but also for his capacity to engender fun into fundraising, his zest for life and above all his wise counsel.
I also commend W Bro Stephen Bridge for his many initiatives and guidance as my Assistant Provincial Grand Master. His support is invaluable both in his role as Assistant and also in the other projects that he oversees. I will be pleased to reappoint Stephen as my Assistant Provincial Grand Master next year.
Philip Bullock launches 'News Letter'
The Provincial Grand Master has launched the latest link in the communciation chain to further enhanceawareness of what is happening in the Province.
Currently, the Province uses the Provincial website, twitter feed and the bi-annual magazine 'Across the Plain' to spread the news and today he introduces the latest method for keeping every Brother 'informed'.
Wiltshire Masonic News
Wiltshire Masonic News is the monthly news letter for Wiltshire Freemasons. Consisting of 4 pages it will contain current news items, up to date information and a diary of events.
To make sure the content is both relevant and up to date we need your help. Do you have a news item which you would like published, have you a special event, such as the Prestonian Lecture or visit for the Provincial Demonstration Team or maybe a Ladies Night; please let the Communciation team know by emailing
Your news, your views, your events - in your newsletter, on your website and your twitter site.
Thames cruise and dinner at the House of Lords
A 120 strong contingent of Wiltshire Freemasons will be travelling to London in October 2017 to join in the International Tercentenary celebration commemorating the formation of the first Grand Lodge. While some Wiltshire Brethren join Freemasons from across the world in the Royal Albert Hall others, with their wives and partners will enjoy a wonderful cruise on the river Thames followed by dinner in either the Cholmondeley Room at the House of Lords hosted by Black Rod or the Churchill Room at the House of Commons.
SPLITZ Support Services welcomes PrGM
Philip Bullock PrGM was welcomed by Fran Lewis the Chief Executive of SPLITZ Support Services when he visited their Trowbridge office. Also on hand to greet the PrGM was Francis Wakem Chairman of the Trustees. After a very interesting briefing on the work undertaken by SPLITZ Fran thanked Philip for the recent donation of £36,323 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation
Photo shows from the left: Philip Bullock: Fran Lewis: Francis Wakem.
Alan Barron takes a leap of faith for charity
Alan Barron a popular member of George Duke of Kent Lodge No. 8788 meeting at The Masonic Centre in Swinodn is no stranger to danger being a native of the North East and an avid supporter of Newcastle United, so it came as no surprise to discover he was willing to put his life on the line for a favourite cause.
On Sunday 18th September, Alan donned a parachute (well actually he was joined with super velcro to an instructor) climbed into a very small aircraft which soared into the blue above the town.
Freemasons join Rotarians at festival
Members of Lodge Elias de Derham No. 586 joined with friends from Salisbury Rotary Club at their popular charity weekend craft festival held in The Close adjacent to the magnificent Cathedral Church.
Elias de Derham members responded to a request from Salisbury Rotary to assist as marshals for this event as part of Wiltshire Freemasons 300 hours for 300 years initiative.
Stephen Bridge, Assistant Provincial Grand Master said "I am delighted that the Brethren and family members were able to join our friends in Rotary at this wonderful event providing much needed marshalling support. It really was a great team effort"
Photo shows from the left: Ron Johnstone, Shelagh Lound, Derek Gibbens, Caroline Henderson and Brian Henderson.
Prostate Cancer Screening - Chippenham
Following concerted promotion via local Lodges, in the press and on the radio, 135 men turned up at the Masonic Centre in Chippenham on Saturday 7th May to be screened for Prostate Cancer.
They were guided to the location by strategically placed signage, supplied by Bros Mark Whitmarsh and Ian Lever, and greeted by friendly volunteers who guided them seamlessly through the simple process, from registration to blood sampling to a cup of tea and a biscuit at the end. The Provincial Junior Grand Warden, Ian Dunbar organised the local help in the kitchen and Bro Kevin Logan's partner Viv provided the friendly welcome at the door.
Kevin's newly formed charity, the Loganberry Trust, promoted the event and the Graham Fulford Charitable Trust provided the phlebotomists to take the blood samples. Results will take approximately a week to 10-days to arrive by mail on the doorsteps of the 135 attendees.
Pictured above, when the session (and blood) was in full-flow, are some of the men, young and old, taking and awaiting their turn.
Provincial Wardens choose new transport
During a fraternal visit to the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge in Warwick the Province's two Grand Wardens took the opportunity to go 'car hunting' - not that Bro Gary Dolphin's BMW is in need of replacing - yet!
We all know just how difficult making choices can be, especially when it comes to changing cars, but as luck would have it the ideal vehicle was soon to be found.
Now it has to be said that 'pink' is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, nor would many set their sights on a Citroen 2CV but for Gary and Ian this was 'love at first sight'. So much so that they were seriously considering climbing in through the open sun roof just to test the driving position. Fortunately a friend of the owner just happened to be walking by thus narrowly averting a cross Province incident.
The best they could do was ask the Provincial Communciation Officer to take a photograph for posterity - and publication on the website (they didn't know this would happen)
If you meet Gary and Ian as they travel throughout the Province, the subject of cars would be a little 'ice breaker'
Provincial Membership Officer appointed
At the Installation meeting of Clarendon Lodge No. 5908 on Thursday 7th April 2016, the PrGM Philip Bullock was pleased to announce that he had appointed W.Bro. Kevin Logan PrGSwdB to be our first Provincial Membership Officer (PMO).
The PMO is reponsible for implementation of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) “Members’ Pathway”. This Pathway is a series of steps that a Lodge can follow to take a man who is interested in Freemasonry, but not yet a member, all the way through a journey to become a committed Master Mason. The Pathway has been developed by drawing on the experiences of many Lodges across our constitution.
A guidance booklet is being produced that will outline each step in the Pathway to help the Lodge to manage the steps, along with associated tools, techniques and, in some cases, training. The first part in introducing the Pathway is to pilot two critical stages in a selected number of Provinces.
The stages being piloted are:
Step 5: Preparing the prospective candidate for interview
Step 6: Interviewing the applicant
Wiltshire is proud to be one of the Provinces chosen for piloting Steps 5 and 6 of the Pathway.
To get a more in-depth view and regular Membership Focus Group (MFG) updates, visit www.ugle.org.uk/mfg
Charity reception a stunning success
Any fear that the inaugural Charity Presentation Evening would not be a success were dismissed when the Provincial Grand Master welcomed fifteen charities and over sixty Freemasons and their partners to Calne Masonic Hall on Wednesday 24th February.
The evening was designed to showcase the very special place charity occupies in Freemasonry and Philip Bullock was delighted to approve the newly designed display stand which carried the message - 'charity it's in a freemason's DNA' This theme will feature in a series of posters and pop ups which will be on display at Masonic Hall open days, special events and fetes.
The new display unit was designed by Ian Lever of Highworth Lodge No.9009 and printed and produced under the expert management of Luke Facey of Radnor Lodge No.4451
Ian Priest - Provincial Grand Charity Steward announced the fifteen recipients of cheques from the Province, afterwards he said "I was really pleased to welcome representatives of the charities to Calne and it was so good to hear from them about the work each of their organisations carries out in the community".
The evening was hosted by Barry Cooper and members of St Edmund Lodge No.4714.
Provincial Grand Master announces Wardens for 2016/17
Larry Baldry - Provincial Senior Grand Warden
While attending the regular meeting of Lodge of Good Fellowship No. 8388 Philip Bullock PrGM took the opportunity to announce the appointment of Bro. Larry Baldry as the next Provincial Senior Grand Warden.
Larry is married to Siobhan who he met while both were serving officers in the Metropolitan Police Service. Having worked for the Metropolitan Police Service for 27 years, mainly as a detective in Inner London and the West End, Larry retired to rural Wiltshire where he put his skills to use as benefit fraud investigator for the local council.
Larry and Siobhan have lived in Manningford Abbots near Pewsey for 20 years . His hobbies include fly fishing and clay shooting.
Initiated into Arnold Lodge No.1981 (Surrey) in 1994 he became a joining member of Lodge of Good Fellowship No. 8388 which meets in Marlborough in 1997. He was Installed in the Chair in 2004.
As a Royal Arch Mason - Larry was Exalted into Methuen Chapter in 1997 and served as MEZ in 2006.
Larry has served the Ancient and Accepted Rite (Rose Croix) as District Recorder since 2007.
Merv Johns - Provincial Junior Grand Warden
Highworth Lodge No. 9009 was the next port of call for Philip Bullock PrGM when he invited the Lodge Director of Ceremonies to 'summon the Tyler' - Merv Johns having been presented, the PrGM announced his appointment as the next Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
Born in Cornwall and educated at Penzance Grammar School, Merv joined the Royal Air Force and after trade training was posted to Wiltshire. He enjoyed a 22 year career of serving around the world which included a 3 year posting to Hong Kong. Upon retirement he settled in Swindon founding Chromatic Arts in 1987.
Merv has been married to Celia for 35 years and they have identical twin boys now aged 32.
Initiated into the Highworth Lodge No.9009 in 1996 he was Master in 2002 and again in 2010.
A keen Royal Arch Mason- MervJoined Vale of White Horse Chapter at Faringdon in 2003 and became MEZ in 2009.
A keen golfer, Merv is Secretary of the Wiltshire Masonic Golf Society and continually on the lookout for recruits of any standard to join them in matches against the other Provinces.
March website picture
Philip Elliott of Methuen Lodge No. 8692 took this wonderful image of the Caen Locks a flight of 29 locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal. For many residents of the Devizes area the tow path provides an excellent walk, for a Freemason it is a haven of peace where he can while away an hour or two whilst studying the words of his little black book.
We are so very fortunate to have two immensely talented photographers willing to share their work on the Provincial Website.
February website picture
The Province is fortunate to have a number of members who are professional photographers and we are grateful to them for providing the stunningly beautiful images which feature on the front page of the Provincial website.
We have received critical acclaim for the fresh and vibrant website which is attracting positive reactions from across the country. The two latest images of Stourhead and the Barge Inn have been supplied by the 'dynamic duo' of Gary and Adrian Wooster of members of Highworth Lodge No. 9009.
Adrian is also a regular contributor to Across The Plain and the official photographer for the Provincial Year Book.
Photographic contributions are always welcome and if you have a high definition landscape composition which you feel would complement the Provincial website, or a portrait composition which would form the cover of Across The Plain, why not submit it to the editor.
Philip Bullock welcomes musical ties with Youth Orchestra
Philip Bullock welcomed young musicians to the Masonic Centre in Swindon on Monday 15 February for a promotional photo shoot.
Under the professional eye of photo expert Phil Elliott the six members of the West of England Youth Orchestra and their instruments were pictured with the Provincial Grand Master (no mean musician himself).
The Province is supporting the Orchestra's education programme with funding to enable the development of talented musicians with expert tuition.
For some this might appear to be a departure from the 'normal' charitable work undertaken by Freemasons; the Provincial Grand Master believes that helping a young person to develop their full potential is a worthwhile extension of that virtue which distinguishes a Freemason's heart.
The Youth Orchestra performs at The Wiltshire Music Centre, St Laurence School, Bradford-on-Avon.
Picture shows Philip Bullock with members of the Orchestra - photo by Phil Elliott
Street Link makes a difference
A story we learn from an early age is that of the Good Samaritan who sought to ease the pain and distress of someone he did not know; and yet sometimes it is all too easy to pass by on the other side of the road ignoring the plight of someone in distressed circumstances.
Today I heard from the wife of a Freemason, a mother herself she witnessed a young man sitting on the pavement every day and knew he must have been sleeping rough in her home town. She bought him hot drinks and food and asked him if he was okay, but felt it wasn't quite enough - she rang StreetLink.
StreetLink aims to offer the public a means to act when they see someone sleeping rough. You contact them by email and answer a few questions about who you are concerned about and they take it from there.
My friend made contact with StreetLink on Monday afternoon and by Wednesday had received an email telling her he had been found temporary accommodation and was receiving help.
She said "I can't tell you how happy that made me feel, my perfect Christmas present".
Splitz gets cash boost
The December meeting of Lodge of Concord No. 632 witnessed both the Senior and Junior Past Provincial Grand Master taking their place in the North East accompanied by the Provincial Grand Master - Mark Master Masons. This Christmas theme (three wise men) was further enhanced when Mark Manning - Master of the Lodge presented £2,000 to Splitz Support Service.
Splitz Support Service has been chosen to deliver a programme which will provide an easy to access, high quality service offering a range of crisis-interventions, including support to access alternative accommodation, safety planning, healthcare services, working to reduce immediate risk and supporting individuals to stay safe. The service will support anyone aged 16 or above who is at high risk of harm from DVA irrespective of disability, ethnicity, sexuality or gender.
Wiltshire Freemasons are delighted to support the work of Splitz Support Service through individual Lodges as well as at Provincial level. Lodges wishing to know more about Splitz Support Service can contact Fran Lewis who would be pleased to arrange a presentation to the members and families of your Lodge.