Lives in their hands
Freemasonry has a long and distinguished association with lifeboats, as Bernard Williamson reveals
Freemasonry's connection with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) goes back to 1871 when the first Masonic lifeboat was purchased at the suggestion of members of Lodge of Faith No. 147.
The Lodge had raised £260 (£12,203 today) and petitioned Grand Lodge via J R Stebbing, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Hampshire, to sanction the extra funding for a lifeboat.
The existing boat at North Berwick was due to be replaced because of decay, and this presented Grand Lodge with an opportunity to provide the lifeboat The Freemason - a 30-foot long, 10 double-banked oars, state-of-the-art vessel. Added to this was the provision of a lifeboat carriage.
She was launched in 1871, and continued in service until 1887, having been launched five times and saving ten lives.
Continuing the tradition, this year saw the presentation by Lodge of Harmony No. 255 (Province of Middlesex) of Valerie Wilson to the lifeboat station at Newquay in Cornwall, the twelfth lifeboat paid for by English Freemasons. Lodge of Harmony and Royal Arch Chapter Iris No. 2545 raised the complete funding for the purchase of a new prototype 'D' class inshore rescue boat, complete with onboard kit as well as pagers for the station crews.
The craft was founded in memory of the late wife of Leslie Wilson, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, who had spent a happy part of her early youth in Cornwall.
Substantial individual cash donations from Lodges are still continuing to be made to the RNLI to assist them in continuing their voluntary work, which receives no government funding.
In 1876, the Prince of Wales returned safely from his Indian travels, and Grand Lodge, at its Quarterly Communication in June that year, moved the following resolution:
That this Grand Lodge desires to return its humble and hearty thanks to the Almighty Architect of the Universe for the safe return to his native land of their beloved Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales..."
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