Freemasons from the Furness and South Lakeland Group, in company with some of their wives, gave up their Sunday morning lie-in to do their bit for the community.
It was 14 years ago that the Brathay Trust sought co-operation from Freemasons to provide marshalls for their fund-raising marathon around Windermere. The Trust is based at Brathay Hall situated within 360 acres at the head of Lake Windermere. It has as its mission: “To improve the life choices of children, young people and families by inspiring them to engage positively in the community.” A lot of the work of the Trust is undertaken in outdoor and creative activities.
The southern end and most of the west side of the lake lays within the Furness and South Lakeland Group and the then Provincial Grand Master Peter Hosker was keen to support the marathon by providing marshals. David Grainger, who was then APrGM, along with Phil Preston the group charity steward at the time took on the task of implementing this.
Phil explained: “David and I liaised with the Trust, devised an operational plan and sought volunteers from the group to implement it. There was a readily willingness from Masons and their wives to assist with Peter Hosker leading by example and being a marshal at the first event. Some have offered their services throughout the 14 years.”
The Province of West Lancashire are not alone in supplying marshals as our neighbours in Cumberland and Westmorland also provide coverage for a large chunk of the course. The River Leven flows from the southern end of Windermere past the Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge on its journey to Morecambe Bay. The bridge across it at the Swan is a single track road and needs to be carefully managed when the marathon is in progress. Temporary traffic lights are now used when the race is passing through but this area like many of the others on the west side of Windermere it requires careful stewarding. This accounts for the high number of Masonic marshals in the area, although to be frank, the availability of pots of coffee and bacon buns at the Swan Hotel whilst awaiting the approach of the athletes is also an attraction!
Group chairman Peter Schofield said: “If you are going to give up part of your week-end to support others what better place than this wonderful part of the country. Each year the group receives a letter of gratitude from the Brathay Trust in which they re-iterate that the event simply could not happen without our volunteer marshals. That is reflected in the thanks we get from some of the runners who, although they have enough on their plate, still find the breath to say thank you in passing the marshalled points as they realise that we are helping them achieve their goal.”
The wearing of hi-vis jackets emblazoned with the legend ‘Freemasonry Cares’ not only satisfies health and safety requirements but also ensures that everyone is aware that members of our Order are doing their bit for the community in a very public setting.
Responsibility for the recruitment of marshals and the organisation of them on the day has now passed to group charity steward Richard Wilcock who oversees the 9:00 am briefing. He commented: “The marshals do not just ensure the safety of the runners and spectators but also do their best to encourage the athletes as they pass by. Often being the first to see the approaching racers they act almost as cheer leaders as they warn the spectators of their arrival. It is a serious role but that does not stop us enjoying the day.
The Brathay Trust has the marathon as one of its major fund-raising events and could not manage without its income. In the 14 years since Freemasonry became involved a total of some £1,400,000 has been raised.”
The last word goes to Keith Kemp, the APGM for the Furness and South Lakeland Group, who observed: “It is my first experience of the Brathay Marathon. I was delighted to see so many Masons and their families give up their Sunday mornings to support the event. Their work was noticed by the runners and spectators alike and provides a great example of members of the Craft working in the community. Their efforts are to be applauded.”