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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

“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham

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The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

Regeneration funding sought for community centre

Stephen Corrigan

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A computer-generated image of the proposed communit centre in Newcastle

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – With a decision imminent on planning permission to build a new community centre in Newcastle, city councillors will be asked next Monday to support an application for major government funding to proceed with the project.

A motion by Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) will seek the approval of the City Council to make an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) – an overall fund of €2bn available for major infrastructural projects in cities.

Chairman of the Newcastle Combined Community Association (NCCA) Seamus Davey said that they expected a decision on their planning application by the end of January, and were hopeful of getting the support of councillors for this funding application.

“While planning permission hasn’t been granted yet – it has dragged on a bit because of a request for further information – we expect to have it approved soon.

“This project will be shovel ready and as soon as we get planning permission, we’ll have the engineering documents drawn up. As soon as we have funding, we’ll be putting it out to tender,” said Mr Davey.

The Council is set to reach a decision on the application on February 6.

The proposal for funding under the URDF has to come from the Council so it is crucial the project got the full backing of Council members, Mr Davey added.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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