A BRAND new, life-saving motorcycle has been presented to Blood Bikes Cumbria by the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland.

The gift was made to volunteers from the charity during a "fantastic celebration" of 300 years of Freemasonry at Kendal Leisure Centre, which saw £120,000 donated to a dozen charities across Cumbria by the brethren.

As communications officer Peter Clark explained, the liveried motorbike was bought by the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons to transport emergency supplies of blood, tissue and drugs to hospitals across Cumbria, 365 days a year.

The fleet's drivers and riders are all volunteers, and they also supply the Great North Air Ambulance with fresh blood every day of the week, regardless of weather conditions.

The air ambulance was also given a £1,000 cheque by 94-year-old Jim Wise, who became a Freemason back in 1947. The money was raised at Mr Wise's celebrations for his 70th year in Freemasonry.

Last Saturday night's tercentenary celebrations saw friends from across the county gather to celebrate 300 years of organised Freemasonry.

As well as presenting the new motorbike, provincial grand master Norman James Thomson and the Marquess of Northampton presented cheques for £10,000 each to six charities chosen by local Freemasons - South Lakeland Carers, West Cumbria Carers, Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland, Carlisle Mencap, West House, which helps adults and children with learning disabilities in west Cumbria, and Chrysalis, based in Wigton, which supports adults with learning disabilities.

Meanwhile, £58,000 given to the province by the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons' central charity, was also shared out after an online vote held over the summer months.

Four thousand pounds each went to West Cumbria Society for the Blind, Danica's Dream Fund for children and families affected by cancer, and Northside Community Centre in Workington; while South Lakeland Carers was given £6,000; Eden Mencap £15,000; and Chrysalis £25,000. In total, the Masonic Charitable Foundation has given out £3 million during the 300th year.

The evening also saw £1,000 given to Kendal Museum, which hosted an exhibition about Freemasonry over the summer.

Keith Beattie, compere for the event, described it as "a fabulous evening for Freemasonry in our Province of Cumberland and Westmorland". He told the audience: "To give away £120,000 makes us tremendously proud of our organisation."

The charitable giving was followed by a concert from a cappella singing ensemble Voces 8, enjoyed by brethren and VIP guests including the Marquess of Northampton, Spencer Douglas David Compton; Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria Claire Hensman and her husband, Peter, Deputy Lieutenant; Sir James and Lady Susan Cropper; High Sheriff of Cumbria Alistair Wannop; and Deputy Lieutenants Diana Matthews and Olive Clarke.