The Charity theme for the Anniversary and Centenary year is ‘Caring and Sharing – celebrating 2011 by helping others’.   At the Festival of St Andrew in 2010, the Grand Master announced that to mark the milestones which are being reached in 2011, Grand Lodge would make available the sum of £275,000  from the General Relief Fund to participating Provincial and District Grand Lodges to supplement their donations to their chosen external Charities.  In addition, The Children’s Hospice Association Scotland participated in the day’s events which took place at Murrayfield Stadium in April when donations of more than £500,000 from Scottish Freemasonry since the Charity began were recognised and celebrated.   Present at Murrayfield was a family who uses the facilities at Rachel House on a regular basis which everyone agreed made the support to CHAS over the years so much more meaningful.    As part of the celebrations in 2011, it was decided to highlight the Charitable work of Grand Lodge by organising a series of walks;  and to incorporate the annual Barbecue at the Marcus Humphrey House and the  Garden Fete which is held each year at Sir James Mckay House.  It was also decided  that it would be great if we could organise a third walk in the Aberdeenshire area.   So that was the masterplan and three walks were duly arranged in the West, East and North in which I participated along with the Managers and some staff members from the Masonic Homes.   We were delighted to be joined by local Freemasons and their families on all of the walks and we were made welcome at a number of Lodges en route to each of our destinations.   The monies raised, a magnificent £3,300, will be donated to  small community Charities which are local to each of the Homes and it is hoped to build an ongoing relationship between the Homes and the Organisations which are selected.  A donation will also be made to a  Charity to be chosen by the Provincial Grand Master of Aberdeenshire East in recognition of the walk which took place there.

So the story begins and on a sunny morning in May, we ( Wilma, Jim, Gillian and I) met at Marcus Humphrey House as we had decided that it would be a good idea to  have a practice attempt at the walk which was  to take place before the Barbecue which was being held at the Home the following Saturday.   The route which had been planned was (we thought) around 15 miles long, however, after walking for 23 miles and 51/2 hours  we had still not reached our destination in Kilmacolm.  We  decided that we must have received some seriously bad directions from our guide - who coincidentally was the only man on the training walk that day!  You can imagine the ear bashing he suffered without me having to describe it - we were going to send him to Coventry but that would probably have been less of a trek than he had taken us on that day!   Actually we were all to blame as we should have realised that something was wrong when we passed the same purple painted block of flats in Linwood for the fifth time and a few other landmarks in various places two or three times!!   Our four strong reconnaissance party, despite stiff limbs, extremely sore feet and a shared feeling that we had joined the Foreign Legion for a day, was tired but happy when we finally arrived back at the Marcus Humphrey House......however we did decide that a rapid rethink of the route would be needed prior to doing the walk for real!  Interestingly,  according to my pedometer, the number of miles we walked that day was 23, the number of steps which we had each taken was 36,597 and the number of calories which we had burned was 1,385!  Phew!

Our first walk ‘ proper’ began with tea and lovely ham rolls at Lodge County Kilwinning No 370  in Paisley at 8am on 5th June which just happened to be my birthday!  Thank you to everyone from 370 who got up so early to give us such a great send off! Our group of walkers, including Neil Fraser and Iain McPhee from the Friends of the Home Volunteer Group who had devised the route and Bill Fleming from Lodge 1042, made their way to the Marcus Humphrey House via Johnstone, Linwood and Kilmacolm and were warmly welcomed en route at Lodges Houston St Johnstone No 242 ( where we had a masterclass in how to dust chairs the easy way) Craigends No 1042 (where we had  some great cool drinks) and  Sir Michael No 989 ( where we enjoyed a very welcome cup of coffee and biscuits in the company of some of the members and their families ).   Just as we reached  Kilmacolm, David Reid, Provincial Grand Master of Renfrewshire East, ‘phoned to check on our progress and we were able to assure him that our ETA at the Home was imminent (almost!) In all of the Lodges  we were encouraged, sympathised with, fed, watered and generally  pampered – all of which we really appreciated.  We walked the final couple of miles to the Home through rolling countryside – we were singing our hearts out led by Gordon Fraser, who had joined us with his wife Sandra, who told us all about her schooldays with Sir Alex Ferguson – Sandra had worked as a Care Assistant at the Home before her retirement and it was lovely to see her!   David Bloomfield, the Provincial Grand Master of Kilwinning, also walked with us and when I saw him recently at a Grand Lodge communication he said that he enjoyed the day so much that he is now walking everywhere to keep fit!   We arrived at the Marcus Humphrey House to be greeted by a piper and the visitors who were attending the Barbecue which was already in full swing.   We had walked just over 21 miles but at least we had completed the full route this time without getting lost once and there had been fantastic camaraderie and lots of laughs along the way!  The weather held for our walk but unfortunately the heavens opened at the Barbecue although it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits – Elvis (aka  Gordon) made an appearance and still my beating heart.......... I got to sing with him – it’s not every day you can say you’ve done a duet with Elvis!!   Elton John (aka Tommy) also gave us a song or two and the barbecue was ably manned as usual by Norman and George who were producing the wonderful cordon bleu burgers and sausages that they have become famous for.   J.M. Marcus Humphrey of Dinnet ( Chairman of the Benevolence and Care Committee and Past Grand Master) was present and had opened the day’s events – he congratulated all of the walkers on their achievement.  In a wonderful show of support Provincial Grand Masters were present from Renfrewshire West, Dunbartonshire, Ayrshire and Glasgow and the PGM designate of Lanarkshire Middle Wardhad also come along.   David Reid, PGM of Renfrewshire East and Co-ordinator of the Friends Group had overseen all of the arrangements for the barbecue and of course the PGM of Kilwinning had walked the route with us.   Tom Smith (Grand Almoner), Jim Bell (Grand Treasurer), Bud Gauld (Grand Marshal) and Alexander Galbraith ( Senior Grand Warden) were also there along with lots of other well known faces who had joined our Residents, staff and families for the fun.  We were also delighted when Andy Rankin  and   some   of   the  members   of   the   Widows   Sons   Masonic  Motorbike  Riders Association came along and  offered their support as well as making a very generous donation.   Another fantastic day organised and run by David Reid and the Volunteer Group – thank you so much to them!   I was overwhelmed by the amount of sponsor money which we received – a HUGE thank you to everyone for their generosity!

Our training walk for the Edinburgh event went to plan and on a very warm day Gillian, Laura and I  walked from Fife to Edinburgh ( including two very steep hills) in approximately 41/2 hours having covered 18 miles, taken 29,500 steps and burned almost 1000 calories!   We didn’t get lost once and that was either because Jim wasn’t with us this time or because it was a very straightforward route – we will let Jim off the hook and say it was the latter! It was quite hard for me to walk past my house on the way back to Sir James McKay House and we were all tempted to cut the training short and go and sit in my garden with a cool drink but we kept going!   Another good training session in preparation for the walk in the East the following week when we would be joined by Wilma, Jim, Charlie and Carol from the Marcus Humphrey House and no doubt numerous other walkers along the way!

A week later, on 12th June, we started our second walk from Fife  to Sir James McKay House. We congregated at Lodge St John in Inverkeithing on a glorious sunny morning and were thoroughly spoiled by the Master, George Hunter and his charming wife,  Helen, who cooked us to die for bacon rolls – very much appreciated!  Just as during our walk in the West  we were meeting lovely people along the way!  We set off over the Forth Bridge accompanied by the Provincial Grand Master of Fife and Kinross, Tom Bradley, who, despite living in the Kingdom all of his life had never walked across the Bridge before!   Tom regaled us with tales of his working life and before we knew it we had reached the other side of the Bridge where we were met by Tom Chmylowskyj   who walked with us to Lodge St Margaret in South Queensferry where  his lovely wife, June, welcomed us warmly with a pot of tea and biscuits.  We were being spoiled again!  ( Tom Bradley, meanwhile, had a getaway  car driven by Ian Hunter waiting in South Queensferry to take him to Sir James McKay House as Fife and Kinross was organising the Garden Fete and he had a million and one last minute things to do)  Then we headed to Edinburgh and two hours or so later arrived at Lodge St John in Corstorphine where there was a big welcoming party  and some of the members of the Lodge and their families greeted us warmly.   They also had some greatly appreciated refreshments ready for our arrival.  George Preston joined us for the remainder of the walk and we enjoyed his company and some good crack along the way.   Then we were on the home stretch  and before we knew it we were drinking a much needed Irn Bru in Lodge Caledonian in Roseburn where the Master and some of the Members welcomed us-  although by this time we were looking like a bit of a motley crew – but they didn’t seem to mind!   After walking for approximately 20 miles, it was now only a short distance to Sir James McKay House and when we arrived the Garden Fete was already going strong!   We rounded the corner into Ravelston Dykes to the sound of live music and the smell of the beautiful aroma coming from the barbecue where the usual cooks, John Brash, Dougie Sneddon and Tom Stott were producing their delicacies – a joyful moment indeed as we eagerly anticipated the culinary treats which lay in store for us!    This was the first year that the Province of Fife and Kinross has organised the Fete and it was a wonderful afternoon.   There was a fantastic turnout and lots of entertainment– Tom Bradley discovered that he was a bingo caller extraordinaire ( a skill he never knew he had), Gordon Michie was in charge of the chocolate fountain ( no easy task as there was quite a breeze that afternoon!), Kenny Miller and his brother were providing live music ( and have said that they will come back and entertain the Residents which is great)......and what can I say about Andrew Paterson who was running the cake and candy stall in his own inimitable style!    What a fantastic Fete.......very much enjoyed by our Residents and their families.......a million thanks to Fife and Kinross and the Volunteer Group.   Thanks also to everyone who attended from East Lothian and Berwickshire, Edinburgh, Fife and Kinross, Linlithgowshire and Midlothian to  support the Fete – it was nice to be able to show off the sensory garden and conservatory which had been funded by those Provinces in 2010.    Once again, a big thank you to all of our sponsors – we were bowled over by their generosity!!

Our third walk took place in Aberdeenshire on Sunday, 7th August and Douglas Nicol supported by his colleagues in Aberdeenshire East organised a superb event.  The weather wasn’t good but the turn out was brilliant and no-one let the weather bother them.   Again the Managers and staff joined me and one  of the members of the Marcus Humphrey Friends Group from Renfrewshire East , Iain, joined by his wife Yolande, walked with us again in Aberdeenshire which we thought was fantastic!    We were also thrilled to be accompanied by the Grand Master Mason who happily wore his Caring and Sharing T-shirt and got soaked along with the rest of us – he was even still smiling at the end of the route!   Douglas and his wife, Alison and the Provincial Grand Master of Aberdeenshire East were among the 40 or so local Masons who walked and I enjoyed the company of Bill Grant, the PGM, for almost the whole route – Bill was a very interesting walking companion  and pointed out all of the local landmarks.   We were quite near the front and despite some heavy rain along the way I could  hear  the  constant  sound  of  chat  and  laughter behind me!   We were delighted that representatives of CHAS also walked with us which made the day even more special.   We had set off from Lodge Leask in Maud and the route took us to Lodge Ugie in Mintlaw which was approximately 6 miles away.     There was a  presentation to CHAS as part of the day’s events which saw donations of £10k from Grand Lodge and £5k from the Supreme Council being presented by the Grand Master Mason and Dr David Huggan, respectively.   Again the Widows Sons Masonic Motorbikers came along and joined the local Masons and their families who were present – they are a great group of guys and once again we really appreciated their support.  Douglas had arranged for a very welcome cup of tea and a lovely buffet to be served at a local Hotel.   We heard a short address from representatives of the 3 Charities which are being supported by Aberdeenshire East in 2011 and I was also very pleased to give a presentation that afternoon.   Wilma, Gillian, Jim, Carol, Charlie and I left Mintlaw with happy hearts – it had been lovely to meet so many local Masons and their families and although weary when we reached home late that night, having set off around 5 in the morning,  we all agreed it had been a fantastic and worthwhile day which we were so glad to have been part of!   Despite the weather the day had been a real success and everyone had been warm, welcoming and full  of enthusiasm.    Thank you to everyone in the Province of Aberdeenshire East for your kind hospitality!

The sponsorship raised is just over £3,300 and will be donated to small, community Charities in the areas where the Masonic Homes are located.   We also plan to give a donation to a community Charity to be chosen by the PGM of Aberdeenshire East to commemorate the event which took place there.    Thank you so, so  much again to all who supported us – it is very much appreciated.
The sponsor money was of course undoubtedly fantastic  but unity and involvement of as many people in as many areas as possible was also one of the aims of our Charity focus.  It has been excellent therefore to visit 10 Lodges from 8 different Provinces and meet local Masons from many more of the Provinces and Lodges during the course of these 3 events.   We have photos at every Lodge we visited and a selection of these is attached with an index.

A big thank you to all for helping us to make our walks and the celebration year in general such a success!

Dawn Oliff,  Homes and Charities Manager, 12th October 2011