Paul Palmer

Saxon Hall Vaccination Centre

Police swoop on ‘lockdown rave’ at Saxon Hall ... to find 80+year olds queueing for their Covid jabs!

Southend’s freemasonry centre, Saxon Hall, in Aviation Way, opened its doors last week to NHS front line staff, offering the building for use as a vaccination centre in the battle against Covid19.

On the chilly opening day, the first 80-year-old-plus invitees for a jab turned up for their 8am appointments almost an hour early, and kept coming.

Helping the queues grow even longer was the late arrival of the actual vaccines – and then there wasn’t enough supply to meet demand, which led to further delays, and lengthening queues, while fresh supplies were sourced.

And then police arrived. Chairman of Saxon Hall Dennis Baum, pressed into willing duty as a car park attendant, said: “They had been notified that there was a rave taking place at Saxon Hall – only to find 80and 90-year-olds with wheelchairs, zimmer frames and walking sticks patiently queueing for their vaccinations.”

Dennis added that although the earlier queues had resulted in a few grumpy old men and women, “as a balancing act, many more very appreciative people couldn’t have been more grateful to receive the vaccine, and thanked Saxon Hall and Essex freemasons for providing the venue”.

In the days following, local voluntary organisations, including the Leigh Lions, Community Police and OneLove Soup Kitchen Southend, made queueing a lot more comfortable for those awaiting the vaccine by providing gazebo shelters, hot drinks, blankets and wheelchairs, as well as helping with steward duties and providing refreshments for the hardworking NHS staff.

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A Snack in Time Helps Covid Ward Front Line

Essex Freemason, David Wiles, was at the till paying for petrol, when the cashier asked if he would like to buy a snack bar for the nursing staff who were not even getting to eat on the Covid wards at Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford, just a few miles away. A paramedic in the queue behind David confirmed this was indeed the case. So, David bought 10 snack bars there and then.

Being the Charity Steward for Rosslyn Lodge No 1543, which meets in Braintree, David immediately posted what had happened on his Lodge’s WhatsApp page. The story was picked up by all the Lodge members and within a week they had chipped-in £25 each, raised £500 and bought 240 snack bars and 120 cans of energy drinks which David delivered to Broomfield Hospital on Friday 8th January 2021.

Received by Nurse Lauren Dicker and her colleagues on Heybridge Covid Ward, David and his fellow Essex Freemasons from Rosslyn Lodge were thanked by Lauren for all their efforts and support.

Just 22 years old, Nurse Lauren, who has had Covid herself and returned to the front line, completes 12 to 14 hour shifts and had worked every day for the last seven consecutive days.  After her shifts she distributes food and helps raise charitable donations online for PPE and other equipment and so does not get a lot of sleep before going back onto the Ward.

“An absolute superstar” were the words used by Stewart Nardi of Rosslyn Lodge when he told BBC Essex about Lauren and continued “We will be doing this again very soon”. Lodge Secretary, Mike Hall, is proud of the support of the Lodge members saying that they were all ‘chuffed to bits’ especially when Lauren said “We thought we had been forgotten!”

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Never Too Late to Become A Freemason

In his 84th year, Bro Voltaire proved it is never too late to become a Freemason by being Initiated and made an Entered Apprentice of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris. Among the distinguished visitors was Benjamin Franklin who later became Master. Born in 1694 and famous for his travels, wit and irrepressible grin seen on hundreds of paintings, sketches, caricatures, statues and busts, Voltaire once wrote “Let us always march forward along the highway of Truth, my brothers, grinning decisively”.

Philosopher, historian, and writer who also led many campaigns against injustice, inequality and tyranny and who introduced the term “Human Rights”, Bro Voltaire is described on his tombstone monument in Paris as the ‘Immortal symbol of the Age of Enlightenment’.

Learning to be a successful investor whilst living in London in the late 1720s Voltaire never had to rely on book sales or aristocratic patronage for the rest of his life. He loved England, especially the coffee houses and the London Exchange, writing that “There the Jew, the Mahometan and the Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same religion”.

Having lived a long, full and eventful life, it appears that one of the World’s greatest ever Philosophers found in Freemasonry the same ‘Brotherly Love’ and tolerance for all religions and denominations to work together, similar to that which had impressed him so much in the London Exchange where “the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts the Quaker’s bond”

Voltaire’s grin and wit stayed with him all his life, even during his dying hours when a Jesuit priest, who had been sent for, urged him to renounce the devil to which Voltaire softly replied “Now is not the time to be making enemies”. Fortunately for the Age of Enlightenment, which greatly influenced the development of Freemasonry, Bro Voltaire also refused to renounce any of his works before his ‘passing’ to the Grand Lodge Above on 30th May 1778.

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