ISSUE 13, April 2005

The Campbells are coming: At speed!
Travel: Warming to Iceland
Royal Masonic Family: The Six Masonic Sons of George III, Part II
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and: Report of the Board of General Purposes
The flying eye hospital
Beamish Museum: The million pound project
  Wigan Grand Lodge: The Liverpool rebels
Chelsea Lodge: That's entertainment
Re-enactment: The way we were and: The Russian connection
Community Service: Weathering the storm
Faith and Freemasonry: God and the Craft
Education: Researching Freemasonry on the Internet and: Masonic events
Freemasons Hall: Masons at War
Grand Charity: Report and grant list and: Support for Asian tsunami
Masonic Charities: Reports from the Masonic charities
Obituaries, Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Alan Butler - to receive an RNLI award for his services

Weathering the storms

Among the thousands of members of the Craft who devote their spare time to charitable works, Alan Butler has put his Masonic philosophy into practice with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Southend-on-Sea Station.
    A member of Earl of Zetland Lodge No. 1364 and Southend Daylight Lodge No. 9723, he joined RNLI Southend in 1968 and became publicity and press officer. Lifeboatmen are the original reluctant heroes, and were loth to relate their experiences and actions for publication.
    Over the next 33 years, while also involved in international banking in the City of London, Alan won and retained the trust of the crews, and was able to publicise the many rescues performed by Southend’s lifeboats in the Thames Estuary.
    A Mason for 53 years, Alan says: “The RNLI is a very easy charity to work for because the end result is so positive. There are 12 people walking around Southend this year who would not be there but for the local lifeboat crews”.
    For example, on one occasion, Southend’s Atlantic-21 class lifeboat Percy Garon II was launched in appalling weather conditions of force 7-8 winds gusting 50 knots – and confused seas – to go to the assistance of a 25-foot racing yacht First Knight, drifting helplessly with a smashed rudder off the Maplin sands, 15 miles east of Southend pier.
    After an hour at sea, the lifeboat found the stricken craft with the two crew suffering exhaustion and exposure. They secured a towline and recovered the male and female crew.
    The lifeboat then set course for Burnham-on-Crouch to safely land the casualties and secure the yacht. The crew then returned to Southend in very rough seas, eventually arriving some six hours after the initial call.
    A lighter incident occurred when the lifeboat was launched in thick fog to assist 11 horses and riders from a riding school that had become lost in fog on the Maplin sands.
    With the incoming tide threatening to cut them off from the shore, they were very thankful when the lifeboat found them and a crewman lead them to the safety of the shore. As a result, the crew were nicknamed the “Rodeo kids”
    From these typical reports it will be readily appreciated that RNLI lifeboat volunteers are a special breed and put into practice “Brotherly love, relief and charity”, and in some instances have paid the ultimate price.
    Alan was also part of the behind-the-scenes group organising fund-raising events. In 1979 the Southend station celebrated its centenary, and he arranged displays at football grounds, exhibitions, film shows and shop window displays to publicise the event.
    For 16 years one of the most popular seafront attractions was the annual Southend Charity Raft Race, which attracted thousands of visitors each year, in which Alan was the race commentator throughout its existence. The raft race raised sufficient monies to fund three D class inshore lifeboats.
    There were also several Royal visits to the Station. The Duke of Kent, in his capacity as the RNLI President, paid an inspection visit to Southend and the fishermen among the crew presented him with a box of locally caught Dover soles.
    By now the value of a press officer at local level was acknowledged by the RNLI, and Alan was asked to join a working party to draw up a media skills handbook for use throughout the Institution. As a result, the office of Honorary Station Press Officer (HSPO) came into existence in 1998 with responsibilities for both operations and fund-raising.
    In 2000 Alan took over as chairman of the Station executive committee following the sudden death of the previous chairman, and in 2002 he retired to become a vice-president, but is still shaking a collecting box on Flag days.
    During its 37 years of active service to RNLI Southend, the lifeboats have saved over 1,200 lives and raised more than £2 million in charitable funds.
    In recognition of his long and dedicated service, the RNLI awarded Alan Butler with their Gold Medal, which will be presented to him at the Barbican in the City of London in May.

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