Below is the Address given at the Annual Meeting. Photographs etc will be available very soon!
This is now my 4th opportunity to address you as Provincial Grand Master. How time flies when you are enjoying yourself – and indeed I hope that you will all agree that the activities over the last 9½ months have been a joyful time. Our last Annual Meeting was 30th September – delayed due to Covid, and since that time this Province has packed in an incredible volume of special meetings and social events. The Consecration of 4 R.A.M. Lodges, plus the support given by London brethren to the Consecration by Grand Lodge of the Freemasons Without Borders Lodge, which has subsequently been subsumed into our Province.
We have celebrated the Centenaries and Sesquicentenary of 6 of our Units – the one I would like to single out for bitter sweet reasons being Kelvin Lodge, where the Centenary meeting on 2nd November was presided over by our late Assistant Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Stephen Davison. This was Stephen’s first official sojourn into London Mark – he gave us a wonderful ceremony and endeared himself to the hearts of the London Brethren then present. How sad that today we have mourned his sudden and unexpected passing.
There have been individual celebrations too – 5, 50-Year certificates, V.W. Bro. Jimmy Anderson’s 100th birthday and, if I may be permitted to mention a Craft 50 Year certificate, there were a number of Mark Master Masons present to see W. Bro. Derrick Silver, our Provincial Grand Registrar, receive his long service citation, beautifully delivered by our Provincial Grand Treasurer, V.W. Bro. Stephen Fenton.
Last November we were eventually able to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the formation of our Province with a special dinner. Regrettably another bitter sweet memory as we were entertained by that great friend of our Province, V.W. Bro. Roger De Courcey. The hilarity we shared in conferring Hon. Provincial Rank on Bro. Nookie Bear is sadly overshadowed by Roger’s current illness and we pray for his recovery and eventual discharge from hospital.
We also revived our Burns Weekend at Bournemouth, took a group of 75 brethren on a private tour of the Tower of London; we have instigated a dining club for those who have arrived on the first rung of the MBF Collarettes ladder as Vice Patrons; and for those at the other end of the Patron scale – a Diamond Geezers Club, for those who have been persuaded to part with a large portion of their worldly goods by my intrepid predecessor, R.W. Bro. David Ashbolt – who I am delighted to see is in residence with us today.
Brethren, these are just some of the highlights in a 9 month period when it has been back to business as usual for nearly all of our Lodges, where you the members and Officers have been busy Advancing 140 Mark candidates and Elevating 87 candidates into our R.A.M. Lodges. These are wonderful statistics and Brethren of London I salute your enthusiasm and thank you for your continued commitment to this, our friendly Order.
Amongst those present today, I am delighted to see a number of our newly Advanced Brethren in their own Procession. Your task is now to take your experience of the Mark Degree out to your Craft Lodges and R.A. Chapters and sell it to your colleagues, who have yet to discover the beauties and the Magic of the Mark Degree!
Last night, a mere 20 hours ago, at Maguncor Lodge the Executive and friends attended to support the Advancement of our 2 very newest Brethren and I hope no one will mind me singling out Bros. Christopher Balm and Anthony Corbett for a special mention. Where are you? Please stand up and take a bow on behalf of all our newest members.
Our Lodges are mostly in good heart, Brethren, and there is ample evidence of the prosperity of our Province as illustrated by the number of candidates received into your Lodges and also your continuing generosity to the MBF and other charities. Contributions under the Lodge MBF Patron Scheme have increased by £35,000 in the past year and 161 London Brethren bought the 2022 Festival Steward Breast Jewels, and 750 of you paid £10 each for your lapel badges – raising a further £23,600 for the Surrey Festival. Incidentally the 2023 lapel badges will be on sale later by W. Bro Paul Cutts – and he is naturally hopeful that his sales figures this year, as our ProvGJW, will be double that of previous year’s!!
However the greatest challenge currently is attendance. Even in those Lodges with a long list of members, there are often challenges for the Secretaries and DCs to fill the places of those Officers who cannot or choose not, yet, to travel into London. Please do all you can to encourage and support those brethren wherever possible – always acknowledging the right of any individual whose vulnerability still precludes him from returning to meetings.
At this juncture I’d like to mention a couple of initiatives. The Executive is currently formulating plans to create a Lodge for Secretaries & Scribes – a Scriveners’ Lodge. The Province’s Secretaries have been given advance notice so I would urge all Secretaries and Scribes to give this offer of membership careful consideration, as it will create many additional opportunities to interact with your fellow Secretaries and receive first hand, messages and support from the Provincial Secretariat and hopefully even Grand Secretary, in a formal Lodge setting and informally over Festive Boards.
The 50-50 Club is being revived so Lodge Treasurers and Charity Stewards should be on the look out for an appeal from our new Charity Steward, for Lodge and individuals’ contributions to that Annual Draw.
V.W. Bro. John Ellis is currently working on an entirely new initiative – a Travelling Ark. This new structure, “the simplicity of which is beauty itself”, is to encourage greater interest and attendance at Royal Ark Mariner Meetings. The intention is to ‘launch’ this new Ark at our R.A.M. Assembly in September. Detailed arrangements are well in hand and it will hopefully be all hands on deck after the summer recess to ensure its maiden voyage.
Last year the Province enhanced the Mark Lodges’ recruitment initiatives by refunding the Grand Lodge Registration fees for Advancees and Joiners. The continuance of this support is under review and once the Provincial Grand Treasurer knows the amount of next year’s Grand Lodge Fees, he will be able to make a decision.
To those who I have had the pleasure this afternoon of appointing and promoting can I repeat the words of congratulations I gave to each of you individually and encourage your continuing support through your attendance on Delegations and Official Visits. The dates of the Chains’ OVs will be issued shortly as will the dates of my own 17 FTVs for Active Officers and Past Wardens of the Province. This year the programme so far includes 2 Centenary Celebrations, a Banner Dedication and the Consecration of a new Mark unit – the RAF Lodge. Your attendance on these visits is an excellent way to show your support, for remember that the privilege of Provincial rank comes with an expectation of further service. Please don’t be afraid to volunteer your services if you have skills in a particular area which would benefit the Province.
On the social side there is our End of Year Party on 10th December and our Burns Weekend in Bournemouth 13th to 15th January which I enjoin everyone to support.
And let us not forget those who are demitting office today. Brethren, thank you for your past services. Hopefully you will be happy to be called back to further service in future years and as circumstances permit.
Tradition dictates brethren, that I end this Address with my grateful thanks to all those who contribute so much to the well running of the Province – throughout the year and on this day itself. Inevitably it could be a long list, as this is a large Province which needs a lot of TLC so I could not possibly name everyone. However I must start with my Deputy, Tim MacAndrews, who I have had the pleasure to reappoint today. Tim, I simply could not hope to have a better Deputy than yourself and I thank you sincerely for your friendship and all that you do. I was also pleased to reappoint Wes, John and Howard and to Obligate Chris as my dream team of APGMs and I look forward to working with you throughout the coming season where, I promise, I will keep you all as busy as possible!
Thank you to everyone involved in the Secretarial, Financial, Ceremonial and Communications requirements of this demanding Province. I don’t underestimate any of the work you all carry out so willingly throughout the year; you know who you are. Chris James, who cannot be with us today, is due a special word of thanks as he steps down today as our Communications Manager with my grateful thanks for all his hard work over 13 years; and to Robert Anderson and Jon Wallis in particular, a huge thank you for the meticulous planning that goes into this special event of our Annual Meeting. You both combine your London Mark duties with responsibilities in other Orders – Robert, you are now entering your 5th year as District Grand Superintendent & High Prelate for Essex in the Order of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests & Order of Holy Wisdom; and Jon, in 2 days’ time, you will be invested as Provincial Grand Summus for Middlesex Scarlet Cord. Please, both of you, accept my special thanks – I’m sure the Brethren would like to show their congratulations also.
Today we’ve had the embellishment of different types of music, so to David Roberts-Jones on Grand Temple’s wonderful Willets Organ, to Bro. Andrew Tovey on trumpet and the stirring and skirling sounds of the Celtic London Pipes and Drums, I say thank you for the colour and lustre which you have brought to our ceremony this afternoon.
And finally to you, the Brethren of London and all our visitors. Thank you for your support and your many kind expressions of goodwill and encouragement, which I continue to receive. This is a huge honour I bear as your Provincial Grand Master and I hope that my continuing efforts will ever meet with your approbation.
May the G O O T U bless and preserve us all.