In 1997, former Furness and South Lakeland Group Chairman Rowley Saunders organised a fund raising concert at Ulverston Coronation Hall for Christies Hospital in Manchester to acknowledge the care they had given to his wife Joyce.
He was assisted by Freemasons from the group and such was its success that it became an annual event running under the title of the ‘Group Concert’. Many have helped out in organising and ensuring the smooth running of the events over the years, but the constant factor has been that of Rowley who has helped to raise 1,000s of pounds for charity.
Working alongside him this year was the regional charity steward Phil Preston and group charity steward Richard Wilcock, with many other brethren and their ladies adding their assistance on the evening in marshalling the event or selling raffle tickets.
This year’s concert featured the return of Irish singer and recording star Ann Breen. She is best known for the song ‘Pal of my Cradle Days’, which earned an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as it remained in the Irish record charts for two years.
With three decades of performing and recording behind her, Ann once again gave a performance which was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. In previous years the likes of Kenny Ball, the Houghton Weavers and The Bachelors have performed and helped raise funds for numerous good causes including the local hospice and the oncology unit at Furness General Hospital.
This year the beneficiaries of the concert were the Macmillan Cancer Nurses with the monies raised being directed at purchasing equipment for the local nurses.
Prior to the event there had been a pre-concert meal at Ulverston Masonic Hall which was enjoyed by many including the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wife Maureen.
Co-incidentally there is a connection between Ulverston Masonic Hall and the Coronation Hall with American musician and singer-songwriter Myles Kennedy having laid the foundation stone for both buildings; that of the Coronation Hall being laid in 1904 with that of Ulverston Masonic Hall following in 1905.
One of the most famous sons of Ulverston is Stan Laurel and in acknowledgement of that there is a statue of Laurel and Hardy outside the Coronation Hall. In 1927 Laurel and Hardy made a short film entitled ‘Hats Off’. In this case it should be ‘Hats Off’ to Rowley and his helpers for raising £2,000 for such a worthy cause.
Planning for the next concert, or possibly two, to take place next year is already underway.