Behind the scenes at not-so-secret Sheffield order

Worshipful brothers Terry Kirkwood, left, and Chris Watson at Tapton Hall, Sheffield.
Worshipful brothers Terry Kirkwood, left, and Chris Watson at Tapton Hall, Sheffield.
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The Freemasons – what are they? A secret society full of shady pacts and illegal loyalty? Certainly not.

After the National Lottery, Freemasons are the greatest givers to charity.

The diary for events is also busy, ranging from ladies nights, quiz and race nights – with something available that everyone can get involved in.

Intrigued and want to discover more? The Freemasons are opening the doors of Tapton Masonic Hall in Fulwood, for prospective members to find out more about the ancient organisation.

It’s also an opportunity for people to look around the facilities at hall – an ideal location for a wedding or a special event.

“We firstly wanted to raise awareness of what goes on at Tapton Hall from a masonic point of view and then also the hall,” said Freemason, Ian Barnett, aged 26.

“There are fantastic facilities at the hall. It’s great for weddings, but not many people know about it.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in Freemasonry to come along and ask us as many questions as they like.”

“It’s difficult to find reliable information on the internet about the Freemasons. Very little of it is true or from anybody that actually knows.

“We want to open up the doors to try to dispel the myths and tell people what we’re actually about.”

Sheffield Freemasonry dates back to 1761, under the jurisdiction of the Province of Yorkshire, which today is the Province of Yorkshire West Riding, and lodge meetings are held at Tapton.

Freemasonry in the city is thriving. Tapton Masonic Hall boasts more than 400 lodge and order meetings over the course of the year, not including rehearsal and committee meetings.

New members are always welcome, says Ian, from any walks of life.

Membership is open to men of any race or religion. The one thing they all have in common is a belief in God.

Ian, who is originally from the West Midlands and now lives in Shirecliffe, Sheffield, said: “Anybody can become a Freemason as long as they believe in God. No-one will ever ask you which God.

“We are just a collection who have some sort of faith, that come together to celebrate their faith.”

Ian stresses there is no worship, but there is a charity work – and a lot of it.

Just days after the Haiti earthquake, the Freemasons Grand Charity run by Grand Lodge in London donated £30,000 to aid efforts.

Money is also raised locally. The British Red Cross (Yorkshire) was given £40,000 towards two non-emergency ambulances to help ferry patients to and from appointments.

Sick and injured children attending the Sheffield Children’s Hospital A&E department are given a teddy to help take their minds off their ailments. These have been donated by local Freemasons as part of their TLC – Teddies for Loving Care – campaign.

Many other local good causes have received thousands of pounds in donations from all the lodges in the area. Members not only donate money, but also their time to various groups in the Sheffield area.

Ian said: “My lodge in particular has been involved with the Chernobyl Children’s Project. We had some representatives come and give us a talk.

“They fly sick children from the Ukraine over to the UK. They fly them over here for a couple of months. A couple of months of clean air can prolong their immune system by five or six years.

“We donated quite a bit of money over the last year or so. The Government has recently pulled the funding for their Visas. They are after as much help as they can get now.”

Ian joined the Freemasons just over two years ago and has never looked back.

His friends and family were more intrigued and interested than anything when he joined. Since then, his brother Steve has also joined.

“There is a great deal which you get out of it,” said Ian.

“The most is the satisfaction you get by being involved with people and helping those less fortunate that you.

“Then there is the social aspect. You make a lot of new friends. I’ve joined a new rugby club in Rotherham which a lot of Freemasons play for.

“It’s also helped in the sense of my job. The more you get involved in the Freemasons and the various committees, the more it helps to build your confidence, which is something I’ve used at work. I’ve got more involved with things and speak up more in meetings.”

There is no recruitment or selection process with the Freemasons. Those who want to join simply need to ask.

Ian hopes the opening evening will give people – both men and woman – the chance to find out more.

“Normally you will join a lodge of someone you know or someone you have asked to join,” explains Ian.

“We don’t recruit or go around saying will you be a Freemason. You have to ask to be one.

“The idea of the open evening isn’t to recruit new members. You have to come to freemasonry because you want to.

“The organisation is out in the open but people don’t know too much about it. People are very unsure what it’s about and we can answer questions that anyone has.

“Women are more than welcome too. There is a lodge for women at the Freemasons that meets at Tapton. Members from there will be at the open event too.”

n The open evening will take place at Tapton Masonic Hall on Thursday, May 15 at 7.30pm.