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Masons Donation for new Team radios

Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team has recently implemented a new digital radio system thanks entirely to a very significant donation made by the Grand Mark Benevolent Fund which is the national charity of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, following a funding bid made by the rescue team and supported by the Cleveland Lodge of Mark Master Masons which meets in Stokesley. 

In 2021, Cleveland MRT decided to modernise their communications by moving to a digital platform, in order to provide a reliable future-proofed radio system, compatible with other rescue teams and organisations. Having scoped out the requirements in a project led by Rob Adams, their IT-officer, the team compared different radios and took advice from their umbrella organisation, Mountain Rescue England & Wales, and from other MR teams that had already made the transition. 

The team’s ageing VHF analogue radios have now all been replaced by modern Hytera VHF digital radios. The Masons have very generously donated £24,561 thereby covering the full costs of the Hytera radios and related equipment (excluding VAT). As the VAT can be reclaimed, the Masons donation means that the new radios have effectively been procured at no cost to the team (other than for some ancillary items such as waterproof cases which have been purchased separately).   

Stephen Hawkes, the Provincial Charity Steward for the Mark Province of North and East Yorkshire said he was ‘delighted to have helped Lee Richardson, the Cleveland Lodge Charity Steward, in the preparation of the grant application and that the Grand Mark Benevolent Fund was able to support the excellent work of the Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team with such a speedy and positive response’. 

The Mark charities at both National and Provincial level exist to support the work of charitable organisations large and small, such as the mountain rescue teams, for the benefit of the community as well as assisting in International relief efforts. In the first quarter of this year alone the Grand Mark Benevolent Fund made donations to worthy causes totalling over £106,000 and the Provincial Charities annually award grants amounting to around £18,000 to charitable organisations in the Province.   


Fifty radio handsets have been purchased (to allow personal-issue to each of the team’s search & rescue members) together with four mobile radios (one in each of the team’s three operational vehicles and one kept at their Base) plus eight ‘repeater’ radio handsets which help to extend radio coverage. A range of ancillary items such as chargers and microphones has also been procured within that cost, as has programming support and advice from the suppliers Bridge Systems of Dunfermline. 

The new Hytera radios can still operate on VHF analogue channels but following weeks of testing and training the team has recently migrated to using them in VHF digital mode as intended. This brings a number of added benefits which will be gradually rolled-out in the coming months such as the ability to track team members remotely and, in time, to transmit data (such as photographs of missing people or maps of search areas). 

Peter Smith, Team Leader of Cleveland MRT, welcomed this substantial donation from the Mark Master Masons and reinforced the contribution this equipment will make in updating the team’s capability going forward.  He added: ‘all our rescues and searches rely on effective communications and this digital VHF network gives us a stand-alone system that operates whatever the weather or national infrastructure status so ensuring continuity of our operations and safety for the public we assist’. 

The cheque was presented to Mike Gallagher (Deputy Team Leader, Cleveland MRT) by (Paul Barham (Deputy Provincial Grand Master), David Kirkham, Lee Richardson (Cleveland Lodge Charity Steward) and Les Race – with a little help from young Amelia Richardson who is pictured trying out the Team’s Land Rover for size whilst testing the radios. (The above named are standing left to right in the cheque handover photo at the Team’s Base).

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