Published: February 2020
Grand Master, MW Bro Derek Robinson AM,
presented a cheque for $10,000 to the local Rural Fire Service
With bushfires raging across the continent since October 2019 it is appropriate to record the continuing thanks offered by local ‘firies’ to Freemasons of District 11 for their support.
On 19 May 2016 the decision was made to conduct a project to raise funds to provide a purpose built mobile coolroom to support the Rural Fire Service of the district. By 5 November 2016 sufficient funds, $5,000 from the raffle of a 75cm flat screen TV and $5,000 from MasoniCare, had been raised. On 5 November 2016, at an open day at the Twin Towns Masonic Centre, the Grand Master, MW Bro Derek Robinson AM, presented a cheque for $10,000 to the local Rural Fire Service for use by the Far North Coast Rural Fire Service.
In mid-November as fires were ravaging the Casino-Mullumbimby area I had a call from a good friend Andrew Preston, who with his mother, Millie Higgins, along with their team of volunteers have spent decades leading the Catering Support Team of the RFS, asking me to extend thanks to the ‘brothers’ of the Lodges for the tremendous support the coolroom had been in the provision of 30 to 60 meals a day. In Andrew’s words; “they could not have coped with out the unit”. As the fires escalated in severity the demand on the catering team became so great that respite arrived mid December with the Army engaged to supply food from Casino.
Mildred (Millie) Higgins is the wife of the late VW Bro Thomas Higgins, a much respected Freemason and member of the then Lodge Tweed 136, a former DGIW, member of several Masonic Orders and one of my nominees into Lodge Tweed. His son James Higgins, a resident of Sydney, still retains his membership of Lodge Tweed United, formerly Lodge Tweed 136. There has been a Masonic family link there for over 100 + years. Tom was a former Principal of Murwillumbah East Public School.
The unit is often used at the Preston/Higgins residence in Murwillumbah where they have adequate cooking facilities for the healthy meals and slices prepared for those in action. With the unit deployed at Mullumbimby, Casino and Broadwater in the recent fires, when not able to use 240 volt power, Andrew fitted his own generator. In another grand gesture the Captain of Byron Bay Rural Fire Brigade realised a more efficient unit was needed and within hours had raised funds amongst their members and friends and the coolroom is now fitted with a large, efficient generator to further enhance its use.
In late December whilst meeting up with another acquaintance, Frank Zambelli, RFS Group Captain West, based at Burringbar, Frank further endorsed the great success of the mobile coolroom in their recent near permanent callouts.
On 8 December 2019, whilst another organisation I am involved with, the Noblepark Music and Variety Group at Kingscliff, which had raised $2,000 in five days from groups within the complex, were drawing the Christmas Hamper as part of their appeal, Frank Zambelli and Mark McConnell, Group Captain East based at Cudgen, on their day off from active fire fighting, were involved in training new recruits. Great dedication!
Whilst the coolroom has only been used in this district, members of the brigades of the district have been deployed to assist across the state providing a dedicated, much needed, essential volunteering service to help fellow citizens.
Whilst they continue to thank Freemasons of this district for their contribution we are greatly indebted to their work and respectfully thank them.
Rt.Wor.Bro Ross Johnson
Lodge Pacific No. 298