Almoners’ Breakfast,  An Observers Report

Masonic Centre, Tovill, Maidstone. 11th March 2023



Picture of Richard Dixy, a visiting volunteer standing next to the MCF banner

"Opening by the Provincial Grand Almoner."

– Nigel Fitz

"Someone Stole My House, a Fraud presentation by"

– Peter Rodd

"Visiting Volunteers, by two of the volunteers from East Kent."

– WBro Kevin Kemp and WBro Eddie Halpin


It takes a special kind of person to be an Almoner. You need patience, empathy, understanding and a generous dollop of love for your fellow creatures. You also need time to get out there and offer practical advice and help to your fellow Masons and Companions. In many ways, the Almoner’s is one of the most important roles in Freemasonry.

Which is why it was an especial privilege for me to be one of the ninety-five people attending the Annual Almoners’ Meeting for East Kent Province at the Maidstone Masonic Centre on the 11th March 2023.

Picture of Richard Dixy, a visiting volunteer standing next to the MCF banner

MCF & V V?

I was intrigued to see some brethren such as Richard Dixey (pictured) wearing identity badges with “MCF” and “Visiting Volunteer” on them. “What could it mean?” I wondered. No doubt all would be explained.

After a scrumptious full-English breakfast, the morning began with a brief introduction from Nigel Fitz, Provincial Grand Almoner.  Nigel welcomed the day’s Guests including Danielle Day from the MCF’s Advice and Support Team.

First up, as you would expect, was our Provincial Grand Master Neil Hamilton Johnstone. The PGM stressed that Almoners were an integral part of the Membership Pathway, especially in the area of Retention. “You may think your role is important,” he said, “but I think you are critical for our future.”

Having congratulated Nigel Fitz and John Ray on their forthcoming appointment to Grand Rank, Neil handed over to Nigel to chair the session.

The Provincial Grand Master, Neil Hamilton Johnstone addressing the meeting
Picture of Nigel, microphone in hand addressing the Almoners meeting at Tovill

Nigel reminded us of the Group Structure we had in place in the Province: eight Groups with a Chairman and, most importantly, Group Coordinating Almoners for Craft and Chapter. He stressed how important these chaps were and that they should be the Almoner’s first port of call for any guidance and support he might need. He urged us to know who our Coordinators were and how to contact them as they had the experience and knowledge to help us. They were also our hard-working Visiting Volunteers (aha – that term again!) who liaised closely with the MCF and made visits across the Province to provide assistance to those seeking help – but we would hear more on their work later that morning.  An alternative approach if Almoners needed assistance was to contact the MCF directly through their Enquiry Number 0800 035 60 90 – or in emergency they could contact Nigel himself.


Nigel reminded Almoners that they were entitled to receive the magazine “Better Lives”, published by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). In 2022 the MCF had granted more than £486,000 to help support people in East Kent. If Lodges or Chapters had funds earmarked for the MCF sitting in their bank accounts, would they please send them to the MCF now, so that the benefits could be realised more quickly.

Nigel also drew attention to the PSA testing session (to check for Prostate Cancer) being sponsored by the Provincial Almoners’ Fund and the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity (CEKFC) on the 13th May at the Maidstone Masonic Centre. Bookings could be made online at https://www.mypsatests.org.uk  He hoped as many people as possible would attend, as lives had been saved following testing in previous years.

Peter Rodd {pictured), a retired Solicitor, former Assistant Provincial Grand Master and now Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the CEKFC, then hopped up to the microphone, not showing the slightest sign of jetlag following his recent return to the UK – and addressed us all on the challenging subject of “Somebody stole my house”. It turned out that the victim, who lived in Wales, had had his identity stolen and a house he owned in England had been “sold” to an unsuspecting buyer, the fraudster pocketing the money. Apparently, this was not a unique situation, but it should prompt everyone to be cautious (good Masonic word!) and always to be on the lookout for scams. Anyone who felt that a property could be at risk from fraud, whether it was their own property or not, could register it with the Land Registry’s free Property Alert Service.

Picture of Peter Rodd holding a microphone, giving his presentation of Fraud at the Almoners Breakfast

Picture of Peter Rodd holding a microphone, giving his presentation of Fraud at the Almoners Breakfast

Peter explained the dangers of “spoofing” – a technique through which cybercriminals disguised themselves as a known or trusted source and made use of emails, phone calls and other means to deceive their victims into parting with their money. Humans had a natural inbuilt desire to trust one another and were particularly vulnerable in times of risk and uncertainty. The charity Age Concern had lots of useful information on its website www.ageuk.org.uk/barnet/our-services/latest-scams/

and there was a handy quiz at https://quiz.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk

Moving on to passwords, Peter reminded us that strong ones could make the fraudsters’ tasks much harder. Words strung together were a formidable defence: for example, the password Freemasonryisfree (laughter) would take a computer 471 billion years to crack!  Finally, Peter urged us all to make a Will and, equally importantly, to make a Lasting Power of Attorney, to enable someone we trusted to take over our affairs quickly should the need arise.

The next act – yes, the morning was turning out to be as entertaining as it was informative – was the Kemp and Halpin Show. Kevin Kemp (pictured left, and who insisted that he was prettier than Eddie, pictured right) explained that he was Group 7 Almoners Coordinator and Visiting Volunteer, and that his less attractive colleague Eddie Halpin was ditto for Group 3. They were going to tell us what a Visiting Volunteer really did.

The MCF’s Advice and Support Teams made visits to those in need of help throughout the country: the Province’s Visiting Volunteers helped them.

Kevin told us that as many as one in thirty-five masons in East Kent was currently being supported in some way by the MCF.

Eddie told us that, while visiting Lodges as the PGM’s representative, he had found that not many people knew what Visiting Volunteers did. Once someone had approached the MCF, a VV would visit the applicant and determine the nature of the problem and what needed doing to solve it. This entailed asking the applicant for all kinds of financial and other personal details, all in the strictest confidence, of course – and sometimes extended into areas that the applicants themselves hadn’t mentioned or realised. An average case could take up to five hours of the VV’s time: the visit itself, completing the application form, and travelling, sometimes outside the VV’s own area. He would then re-visit the applicant about a year after the grant had been awarded, to see whether everything was okay and to give any additional help if required.

Our dynamic duo then finished by showing us a lovely letter they had received from a grateful beneficiary:

A picture of Kevin Kemp and Eddie Halpin, delivering their part of the meeting, Visiting Volunteers.

Dear All


I am writing this letter to convey my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for your grant, and for the mobility scooter and riser/recliner chair. I will be forever in your debt. I really appreciate the kindness that has been shown to me.


I am now able to continue my life (shopping, doctor’s, chemist’s and hospital appointments) in a cost-effective manner. Being able to leave the building for nothing more than just fresh air and a different scenery is priceless


Thank you again for your support!


The MCF paid some £2.5 million every year back to the Province, but we only had to raise £3.5 million for the five-year period of our current 2025 Festival. Typically, there would be a gap of six years between Festivals. By anyone’s reckoning, we were getting good value for our money!

Nigel Fitz (pictured, left) then chaired a short Question and Answer session, and Provincial Communications Officer Paul Gear (pictured, right) spent a couple of minutes telling us how important it was for Lodge and Chapter Almoners to tell the Communications Team of their activities and successes so that their good work could become better known, both within the fraternity and in the world at large.

The sun was shining brightly as Nigel wrapped up the morning. I could tell by the buzz of conversation that everyone had enjoyed themselves. My breakfast neighbour Brian Giles, Almoner of the Gillingham Lodge of Benevolence No.184, summed the mood up perfectly: “Everyone needs someone”. And the Lodge and Chapter Almoner is often the “excellent Mason” called upon to fulfil that need. I am in awe of these guys. I really am.


Article by WBro John Ray, editor The Provincial Lite and The Provincial Magazine. Photos by Peter Floyd and John Ray.

Picture of WBro Paul Gear talking to the meeting about the importance of communication and getting good news stories on the Provincial website.

We need your stories, so please let the comms team know of the the good work your Lodges and Chapters are doing throughout East Kent. Just drop us a line on news@ekprovince.co.uk