Many Freemasons, by the very nature of the type of man they attract, are active in their communities. Baldwin Lodge No 1398 which meets at Dalton-in-Furness Masonic Hall is proud to have among its number three members who are volunteers with the Furness Coast Guard. Steve McKellar, Jason Benn and Rob McClymont give up a large number of hours of their valuable free time each week attending call-outs or honing their skills for when they are needed.
Lodge director of ceremonies Steve explained: “We are called out for many different types of scenario from assisting the lifeboat with crafts in distress, people in trouble in the water or perhaps stranded in the mud of Morecambe Bay. We work closely with the other teams in the area and HM Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter service.”
When concerns are raised about people in possible difficulty in the sea, the local docks or the lakes of the area, the police rely on the expertise of the volunteer coastguard to support them. Jason added: “We have to train for all sorts of eventualities and make ourselves competent on the equipment we have access to. This can range from knowing how to best utilise the four wheel drive vehicle in different conditions so that we do not become stranded, to the correct method of rescuing a person from quicksand.”
Rob was recently at Arnside undergoing jet-ski training when a call came in that a woman was stranded on the mud flats The training was quickly put into practice with Rob, assisted by other colleagues, managing to drag the woman from her very perilous situation just as the notorious tidal bore was about to overwhelm her.
It was in fact a strange case of life copying fiction as some weeks previously Steve, Jason and Rob had spent three days with the crew of ‘Coronation Street’ filming a scenario which involved the character Nick Tilsley getting stuck in the mud flats at Arnside. As well as providing an exciting storyline the episode also highlighted the dangers of wandering off onto the mud flats and the work of the Coastguard.
Rescue boats, four-wheel drive vehicles and jet-skis make the role seem quite attractive, but the reality of the waters of Morecambe Bay in the middle of winter, the challenges of being covered in mud from head to foot whilst trying to deal with someone who is in distress and the obvious perils of putting yourself in potentially life-threatening situations make it seem rather less appealing.
As Freemasons we should be proud of people like Steve, Rob and Jason who reflect well on our organisation when taking on such demanding voluntary work. As a community as a whole we should be very grateful that there are people willing to endanger themselves in roles such as the coastguard, RNLI and mountain rescue.
Perhaps when, as many of us do, we complain about society today we should also remember that there are still many public spirited individuals who provide shining examples of unselfish voluntary public service.