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CITY TRIBUNE

Freemasons’ TLC project brings comfort to kids in hospital

Stephen Corrigan

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There didn’t seem to be much mystery shrouding proceedings at the Freemason’s lodge in Ballinfoile, with its door wide open and events playing out for all to see.

Perceived as an exclusive and secretive group, Galway Freemason’s Lodge on Bóthar an Choiste seemed the furthest thing from elitist as the group gathered to celebrate the success of their ‘Teddies for Loving Care’ initiative.

TLC has been running now for a number of years and involves Freemasons providing teddies for paediatric units in hospitals up and down the country.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest organisations for men and, having had a presence in Galway since 1722, the group certainly has staying power.

Almoner of Galway City Freemasons (Lodge 14), Basil Fenton, says that perceptions of the organisation are sometimes distorted.

He believes that ultimately, the group aims to have a positive impact on society and to the benefit of more than just their members.

“There are altruistic reasons for wanting to try and do a bit of good and that’s where the main focus is in terms of the charities,” says Basil.

TLC is a national initiative but one that has had a significant local impact – with anything up to 70 teddies being delivered into University Hospital Galway every week.

“This is where 36 hospitals within the country have A&E departments with specific facilities for paediatrics and we supply teddies free of charge to those hospitals.

“We provide the teddies and then it is at the discretion of nurses on duty – if a small child comes in distressed, they get a little teddy,” explains Basil.

“They are bought in from abroad and stored in Dublin – then by some means of distribution, they are brought down to Galway or Limerick or up to Belfast or Ballymena or wherever.

“A local member will keep in touch with nurses in paediatrics and they bring them in as they require them – the teddies are sterile and approved for hospital use,” he continued.

It is believed that the Freemasons emerged in the fifteenth century – as Basil says, “when they were really stonemasons”.

It was from here, according to him, that the symbolism and rituals originated.

“In one sense, it would have originally been almost like a trade union and you hear people talking about the secret signs and symbols – at that time you didn’t have certificates or diplomas to say what level of qualification you were.

“It was using these signs and symbols that you could prove you were really an advanced carpenter or mason and therefore eligible to earn more money,” says Basil.

To maintain tradition, the Freemasons continue to wear regalia that includes sashes and aprons – representative of the apron that stone masons would have worn to protect their trousers.

The rituals as members progress from apprentice to fellowcraft before becoming a Master Mason still continue – something that Basil concedes that his wife refers to as “play-acting”.

He feels that misconceptions of the organisation both attracts and deters – and leads to people seeking to join for differing reasons.

As a result, it is quite a laborious task to join, involving a period of scrutiny to ensure that potential members want to give back rather than just take from the organisation.

“Some people come in with expectations of rituals or sudden introduction into somewhere and that is why there is the scrutiny or screening process – to try and let the person know that your perception of what to expect is not what it really is.

“There are three basic qualifications – first of all, he has to be a man, he has got to believe in some supreme being of some sort and he must live in good repute amongst his friends and neighbours,” explains Basil.

And it isn’t some covert or secretive applications process – it is simply a matter of making an online application to be contacted.

“It isn’t for everybody but a lot of people get great enjoyment out of it – there are about 25,000 members around the country.

“People join a rugby club because they enjoy rugby – people join us because they find it enjoyable and they have similar aims in terms of trying to improve things for charities or whatever along the line,” says Basil.

As for why he joined, it was a combination of curiosity and security – with the Freemasons offering support to any families left behind if a member passes away.

“There are the Masonic charities for people who have fallen on hard times within the order – I saw security in terms of children getting support through education – children of members, if the member dies, will get support.

“The function of the Almoner is to look after the brethren so if somebody is sick, you visit them or you organise for them to be visited and you keep an eye on any widows you may have – if somebody has a problem or anything, you might help them with it,” he says.

As the Freemason’s lodge in Ballinfoile flooded with people and the table was filled with foil platters of party food and teddies, the so-called secret society seemed anything but.

“The fact is that there is a booklet that anyone can go in and collect in the Grand Lodge in Dublin that has all the names and addresses of every lodge in the country and the contact details for them.

“There’s nothing clandestine or hidden – it’s in the public sphere, identifiable and available,” says Basil.

CITY TRIBUNE

Pub and GAA club visits on the agenda for Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Stephen Corrigan

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Two senior members of the British Royal Family are to visit Galway next month – with preparations already underway to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the city in March.

Gardaí issued notice yesterday (Thursday) morning that a number of streets in the city are to be closed on March 5. Coinciding with the already announced visit of ‘Kate and Wills’ to Ireland, this caused widespread speculation that the royal pair would cross the Shannon as part of their visit.

While Gardaí and Galway City Council refused to confirm or deny the speculation yesterday, the Galway City Tribune understands that Kate and William will spend the day in Galway, and will visit Tigh Chóilí on Mainguard Street – as well as calling in on Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA club.

The Garda notice issued yesterday alerts locals that Williamsgate Street, William Street, Shop Street, High Street, Mainguard Street and possibly Abbeygate Street will all be closed between 6am and 2pm on March 5 – making way for the large security operation required for a royal visit.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Election 2020

Labour fails to make up ground

Stephen Corrigan

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Galway West Labour Party candidate Niall McNelis and his wife Aideen at the Galway West count centre on Monday morning.

On the canvass three weeks ahead of the election, Cllr Níall McNelis told the Galway City Tribune he believed Labour’s time “on the bold step” had come to an end.

But as soon as ballot boxes were opened on Sunday morning, it became apparent that wasn’t the case. In fact, the first preference vote share for Labour in Michael D Higgins’ former constituency had decreased to just 3% – a further decline from the 5% Derek Nolan managed in 2016.

Labour’s hammering wasn’t contained to Galway and it’s clear they haven’t been forgiven for their time in Government with Fine Gael. Nonetheless, Cllr McNelis said he was “devastated” by the result when he visited the count centre on Monday morning.

He’d been eliminated on the fourth count the day before, having received 1,548 first preferences.

“I was at home yesterday – I was devastated, gutted, but I know it’s not personal. The party is in trouble and we’re going to have to look at that. The unions have left us and they’re voting for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael. That was our core vote; we were a workers’ party once upon a time.

“We were the party that fought for marriage equality long before anybody else – the SocDems have taken that mantel off us; the repeal of the 8th Amendment, we were the ones who fought for that,” said Cllr McNelis.

“The Left vote is very, very crowded here in Galway so [Labour is] going to have to regroup and reorganise. I have to explain what Níall does a bit more. The result that we got, people have been ringing me and saying, ‘Níall, we’re sorry, it was Labour and not Níall’.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Moloney and Parsons grab vital tries for Ireland in Six Nations victory

Keith Kelly

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Kilconly native and Irish prop Cliodhna Moloney leading this charge against Wales during Sunday's Six Nations clash at Energia Park. Moloney and her fellow Galwegian Beibhinn Parson both scored tries in the home team's 31-12 victory.

IRELAND’S women’s side has opened its Six Nations campaign with back-to-back wins, with two Galwegians to the fore in their 31-12 victory over Wales in horrific weather conditions in Dublin last Sunday.

Having began the campaign with an 18-14 success against Scotland, Adam Grigg’s side made it two wins from two when seeing off the Welsh challenge thanks in no small part to tries in the second successive game from both Ballinasloe’s Beibhinn Parsons, and Cliodhna Moloney from Kilconly, near Tuam.

Parsons received huge plaudits for a sensational try against Scotland on the opening weekend of the championship, her length-of-field solo effort helping Ireland to a narrow win. She crossed the whitewash for a second successive game last weekend, and while it wasn’t quite the lung-bursting length-of-pitch effort from the Scotland game, it was another excellent execution by the Leaving Cert student.

Welsh scrum-half Keira Bevans launched a box-kick from just outside her 22 that held up in the wind. The ball bounced once before Parsons gathered possession on the left wing, broke through one tackle, and side-stepped two more before touching down to give Ireland a 5-0 lead in the 17th minute.

“She’s phenomenal,” said Griggs after the game. “You try and help her with her game understanding and her skill level, but the x-factor that she brings is all her.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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