The Lancaster and District Masonic Group was selected by the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity to launch a new ‘reach out’ initiative for Masonic widows under the banner of ‘The Broken Column’ to clearly demonstrate to our widows that they are not forgotten and that as Freemasons we are keeping a caring and watchful eye on their health and welfare.
The initiative was brought to the Lancaster Group by WLFC CEO Ian Douglass and its name is particularly appropriate in that the Broken Column symbol was first used as a brooch in the American Civil War.
It has predominately been adopted as an identifying emblem to be worn in public, especially when travelling, to allow Masons to recognise the wearer as a Masonic widow and to extend those courtesies which are due, along with the assistance to which she is entitled. The WLFC wants to broaden the initiative by using the Broken Column as an identifiable emblem.
In launching the programme Lancaster Group Chairman Jim Wilson invited all the Masonic widows in the group to a special luncheon at Wyrebank, Garstang, where they were met with a glass of Prosecco or fruit juice before enjoying a lovely lunch and the opportunity to meet up with old friends and no doubt reminisce many of the good times spent together.
Jim welcomed everyone to the lunch before introducing Ian Douglass who outlined the concept of the Broken Column Initiative.
After the lunch Ian gave a much more in-depth explanation of the work of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. He directed the attention of the ladies to a specially prepared information pack which contained relevant literature about the help which is available from both WLFC and MCF and the criteria used for assessing eligibility by WLFC when a petition was being considered by its Grant Executive.
Ian explained: “To make sure that we treat everyone fairly and in the same way we use a national income benchmark to help us consider claims. This is called the Joseph Rowntree Minimum Income Standard (‘MIS’).
This MIS figure is produced annually and reflects what level of income an average household, as defined, should have so that a reasonable standard of living can be enjoyed. It is transparent and everyone can see we are being fair and consistent.”
He felt that it was not generally appreciated by brethren or widows that in broad terms this level of income was £14,010 per annum for a single pensioner and £18,700 for a pensioner couple – both figures being before tax.
Of course, he said, the most important contact between Masonic widows and the charity was the lodge almoner and asked how many had received a visit from an almoner in the past six months to which, disappointingly, only 10 out of the packed room raised a hand.
At the completion of his address, Ian said that he had arranged for a special commemorative certificate inscribed with the name of each attending widow and enlisted the local care team to distribute them.