Three members of the Leyland and District Group of Freemasons recently embarked on a three-day bike ride from Wellington Park, Leyland Masonic Hall, Lancashire all the way down to Freemasons Hall in London; a distance of approximately 240 miles. The three brethren who undertook this challenge were also members of the group’s light blue club, the Leyland Lights.
The ambitious endeavour was part of the West Lancashire Province 2021 Festival which is raising funds for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), which is funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families and is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country. Most of the support provided by the Masonic Charitable Foundation takes the form of financial grants to individuals and families to assist with daily living costs. They also award grants to provide specific items or services.
A range of health and care needs, including medical and dental treatments, counselling and mobility aids or home adaptations are supported, with funding also available for respite, residential, nursing and dementia care. In addition to the support provided to Freemasons and their families, the MCF awards £1,000,000s each year to local and national charities that help vulnerable people, advance medical research and provide opportunities for young people. The Foundation also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contributes to worldwide appeals for disaster relief. So, when the idea to support the Festival and MCF was presented, it was an easy decision to make.
The idea came to the fore during a Leyland Lights committee meeting when Craig Statters aired his thoughts on wanting to do something to help celebrate the tercentenary. At the time of hearing about the upcoming tercentenary, Craig was fairly new to Freemasonry having only joined two years previous. He said that the tercentenary was a huge milestone in the history of Freemasonry and he quickly set about thinking how he could be part of that celebration. Craig had undertaken cycle rides for charity in the past and so his idea was to cycle to United Grand Lodge of England both in aid of celebrating the tercentenary and to support the West Lancashire MCF 2021 Festival with all proceeds being donated to the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Craig presented his idea to the Leyland Lights committee where he instantly achieved their full support and so he set about recruiting additional cyclists together with a mobile support team to travel down to London with them. The committee were immediately spurred into action organising the event. Craig was joined by Chris Hughes and Phil Kavanagh in the making up of the cycling team with the mobile support team of Jeff Lucas and John Anderson the group’s charity and assistant charity stewards respectively. The team would travel the distance in three days cycling approximately 80 miles each day.
Like all well planned journeys, overnight breaks with bed and board were required for five at two locations. This was ably organised by Neil Ward, the Leyland Lights founding president, after Craig had planned the route South. Neil arranged stop-offs at Stone in Staffordshire and Daventry in Northamptonshire by contacting the nearest Masonic Halls. Many thanks must be given to the Masons at these locations as they showed their benevolence by joining in with the spirit of the event and by providing shelter for the bikes and equipment as well as laying on rooms for the cyclists.
Day one started with an invitation to take part on a radio show hosted by BBC Radio Lancashire’s John Barnes. The radio station had heard about the challenge and wanted to hear about the cycle event and what it was representing. So, both Neil and Craig found themselves on the radio at 7.15 am for a 10-minute chat about the tercentenary and the cycle to London to celebrate the occasion.
With the brief, but informative radio ‘appearance’ over, the two quickly drove from Blackburn, the home of the radio station, to the start point in Leyland. There was just time for an obligatory photo call and words of support from a good number of well-wishers before the trio left the car park onto the main road. They soon left behind the well-wishers with cheers and a round of applause ringing in their ears; they were off and away on their journey. The support team set out a short while later in their mobile vehicle carrying spares, bottles of water and a little sustenance to get the cyclists through the day.
The first day of the cycle was to take them through Wilmslow in Cheshire where they were to take lunch. The support team joining them at the 40 mile mark for refreshment. Needing just another 34 miles to complete their day one destination of Stone and with the team having rested up for a short while to take on nutrition, they headed off on the road once more. The team arrived at Stone Masonic Hall at approximately 4pm where they were met by a number of local Masons including John Lockley Provincial Grand Master for Staffordshire.
John had heard of the feat being undertaken and went along to lend his support to the effort. The team quickly went to their rooms for a shower and a change of clothing, as later they were to dine with the members of Stone Masonic Hall.
The second day was planned to be an 80-mile trip and the trio were joined by Robert Curtis from St Michael’s Lodge No 2487 who cycled 15 miles to keep the trio company. The team made hard work of the second day though, with a puncture to Chris’s bicycle and Phil picking up a knee injury along the way. Still, the trio made Daventry in good time and enjoyed the comforts provided by the local Masons there whilst relaxing from a hard day’s cycle.
Day three saw the team leave Daventry and ride on to Leighton Buzzard for lunch to make ready for the final push of 44 miles to their destination. Good time was made on the final day and no doubt extra effort was not found wanting with the goal in sight and when they finally arrived at United Grand Lodge they were met by a number of brethren from both Leyland, UGLE and MCF too.
To meet the intrepid trio at UGLE were; Chris Blackwell Leyland Group Chairman, Neil Ward President of the Leyland Lights and Wayne Haslam Leyland Lights Secretary all from the Leyland Group and Willie Shackell Grand Secretary, David Innes Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation and Les Hutchinson Chief Operating Officer of the Masonic Charitable Foundation from UGLE and MCF.
The return journey was easier as each had booked their seats on a train back home to Leyland, Lancashire.
The Leyland Lights, the Leyland Group and MCF thank the trio of Craig Statters, Chris Hughes and Phil Kavanagh for the hard work of cycling over 240 miles and for raising a great sum of over £2,200 for MCF.