Well Brethren another year in the history of the Province has flown by, and what a year we have had yet again. It has been a busy year for our active Provincial Officers, with full team visits to 20 of our Lodges covering many important occasions like the Consecration of the Aegean Lodge and the Banner dedication at the Italia Lodge. I would like to thank those Lodges for the warm welcome they gave to me and the team and I would also like to thank the Active Officers of the year who accompanied me on those visits. I know they enjoyed those visits as they kept coming back for more. Looking at the list of attendees, some of those Officers accompanied me on nearly all of those visits and to those Brethren appointed to Active Provincial Rank today, I give fair warning that the schedule of visits planned for next year will be just as extensive.
Once again there have been over 70 delegation visits made by the Deputy and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and of course our Wardens, who now make a minimum of 3 visits each season. This year, the Provincial Grand Secretary has also headed a couple of Delegations of his own and I thank you Alan for this further support of the Province on top of everything else you do for London Mark. Brethren these Delegation visits are well supported by our Past and Present Provincial Officers and enjoyed by everybody and if you have not signed up to attend one then you are missing out on a very special aspect of this Province’s activities. A special thank you to W.Bro. Robert Anderson who has the unenviable task of coordinating these visits. Details of all of these visits can be found on the web site.
In terms of recruitment, our Province is still going from strength to strength, and I am delighted to announce this year that we have continued to maintain an upward trend. For the first time in the history of the Province we have over 5000 memberships across the 2 orders and as of last night we have advanced a total of 175 new Mark Master Masons and elevated 85 into the Royal Ark Mariner Degree this year, and we have another 30 waiting to be elevated so I guess we must be doing something right!
Brethren there is never room for complacency and with that in mind we have continued with our initiative to try to ensure that we nurture the interest and enthusiasm of our new Advancees by offering them opportunities for further involvement in our Mark Lodges. Look out for ongoing announcements on our website and through our London social media pages over the coming months for reminders about this initiative.
Plans are well advanced for the Consecration of two new London Mark Lodges, a Scouting Lodge to be called the Ralph Reader Lodge of Mark Master Masons. W.Bro. Tony Harvey is leading this project of which the prime purpose is to create closer ties between Mark Masonry and Scouting in London. Tony is with us today and I know he wants to give you a brief update on where we are at the moment.
We do not have a confirmed date for the Consecration as yet but as soon as we do it will be on the website. We do however have a date for the Consecration of the Gallipoli Lodge of Mark Master Masons, it is the 17th November. From the name I am sure you have all worked out that this is a Lodge primarily for our Turkish Brethren and I am delighted that we have with us today the Primus Master Bro. Mahir Kilic, Mahir please take a bow so that any Brethren interested in attending the Consecration will know who to contact. Brethren, Mahir has told me that the Founders intend to form a RAM Lodge during the next Masonic season, this shows their dedication to our 2 very special orders.
I would now like to congratulate all of those Brethren who have received Provincial Honours today. These honours are recognition for the service you have given to your own Lodges and the Province in general and I am confident that you will continue that loyal service for many years to come. I am pleased to say that amongst those who received a first appointment or promotion today, 87 have decided to join the Provincial Grand Officers’ Mess. The Mess meets twice a year – once at lunch time and once in the evening. These are informal occasions and give Mess Members the
opportunity to listen to some interesting and often humorous talks, and to meet and mix in a relaxed, social atmosphere with members of the Executive and other Provincial Officers.
I was delighted to see so many of this year’s Advancees here today taking part in their Procession, and whilst I know that I was present at several of your advancements and welcomed you into your Lodges at the time, I would now like to welcome you to your Provincial Grand Lodge. Brethren, you have joined a beautiful and important Degree in Freemasonry and I wish every one of you a long and happy association with us. This year we have continued the tradition started many years ago of presenting you with a commemorative lapel pin that has been produced solely for those Advancees who are able to attend the Provincial Meeting in the year of their advancement. Brethren, look after those pins and wear them with pride they are unique to London Mark.
It was also pleasing to see so many of our Masters and Commanders process into Provincial Grand Lodge. Brethren, do enjoy your year in office and remember it’s fun. Do not be afraid to ask for help with matters such as the ritual and recruitment of new members; and whilst a good standard of ritual is something to be aimed at, support of your fellow Members, your Lodge, and its many activities by regular attendance and general contribution at Meetings, is just as important.
What a delight it was to see our Nonagenarians process in, we all owe them a great deal of thanks, as they have been a huge part of the development of this Province. This procession is now a regular highlight of today’s proceedings and Brethren on your behalf I wish them all many more years of attending and enjoying this Meeting.
Brethren I would now like to give some recognition for service to the Province. Each year outstanding contribution to the work of our Province is recognised by the Provincial Grand Master’s Award for Service Token. This is given to only one of our members and is always a tricky one to call as we have so many who contribute so much to the success of the Province.I am sure it will be no surprise to many of you when I say I have decided to present the token this year to W.Bro. Charles Newman. He is I am sure known to you all as the Axe Man. Charlie has now produced 60 of the large Axes and stands for our Mark Lodges and 6 of the Mini Axes for our RAM Lodges. As well as producing the Axes and stands at no cost to our Appeal he also attends all of the presentations to our Mark Lodges and in addition he also attends the RAM Lodges as my special Representative to present the RAM Axes. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies will you please escort W. Bro. Charles to me so that I can present him with his token and I am delighted that our Deputy Grand Master has agreed to present Charlie with one of the special lapel badges.
It is a tradition in our Province that the extraordinary charitable efforts of the late Very Worshipful Brother Desmond Bowditch are remembered. Each year the Executive, after taking into account the size of membership of a particular Unit decides which Lodge has made the greatest contribution to charity. This year the Desmond Bowditch Purse is awarded to the Cornucopia Lodge (without number). Bro. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies will you please escort the Master of the Lodge to me so that I can present him with the Purse.
Brethren I am delighted to say that we have a winner of our prestigious Silver Pin Award for an ‘Excellent’ Advancement Ceremony. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies will you please bring W.Bro. Lui Hui to the
dais so that I can congratulate him and I would ask the Adjudicator, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, to present him with his special Lapel Pin. Brethren this shows the rewards for attending the Grand Master’s Lodges of Instruction. That Lodge meets in Mark Masons Hall and the diary of meetings is on the web site.
I would now like to update you about our Provincial Charities. Both the Provincial Benevolent Fund and the Provincial Grand Master’s Discretionary Fund have been well supported by you all, and both have been quietly working away bringing relief and support where needed. Do not forget Brethren that the money in these funds is only there because of your generosity so please contact one of the Provincial Almoners if you know of any Brother that needs support. Brethren when our members are in distress and need support, the Mark Benevolent Fund also moves swiftly to aid them. This Fund relies on its income from our festivals and the generosity of our members. I am proud that 21 members and 18 Lodges of this Province have this year attained MBF Honorifics and I am delighted that we have the President of the MBF R.W.Bro. John Wright with us today and he has kindly agreed to make the presentations.
Provincial Grand Sec. would you please read the names of the recipients.
I am sure you all know about the current major MBF project which is to supply 10 mobile Chemotherapy Units before 2018. No mean feat at a cost of over £250,000-00 each and there is now a new project which is to supply a total of 54 replacement vehicles for the St. John’s Ambulance Charity. Following the successful completion of this Province’s Mini Bus Appeal, where we managed to purchase no less than 6 buses in just over 2 years for the RMBI Homes as listed on the web site, we have, because of requests from many of our Lodges decided to let the Appeal continue under the title
The London Mark MBF Appeal supporting Hope for Tomorrow.
This is so that Lodges can continue to achieve the various levels of Patronage like the Bronze, Silver and Gold Certificates as well as the Platinum (the Axe) as it would not be fair to say to Lodges, you almost made the level but sorry you have now “missed the Bus”! Any monies now donated to the Appeal are ring fenced in our Benevolent Fund and then periodically forwarded to the MBF where they count towards the donating Lodge’s MBF Honorifics. Since the rebranding of the Appeal no fewer that 20 Lodges have managed to top-up their donations to the Platinum level and have, or soon will be, presented with their Axes. Once again many thanks to our Axe Man. There is one on display on the Junior Warden’s pedestal this afternoon and it will also be on display at the dinner tonight so that those Lodges who do not have one yet can see what they are missing. In addition our Axe Man
has one of the mini axes which are presented to RAM Lodges that achieve the Gold Level – Charlie will you please brandish your mini axe.
I am sure that you are all aware of the MBF Walk which was undertaken on the 6th May. This really was a resounding success with nearly £440,000 raised in sponsorship. The London total was a remarkable £63,500. We all owe V.W.Bro Bill Divall a huge vote of thanks as he was the person who with the assistance of Bro. Julian Trought did the vast majority of the work involved in the event. It was an amazing feat especially when you consider that he does have a busy day job.
The last 2 items under Charities is for me to tell you how delighted I am with the response to my request that Brethren consider wearing their individual or Lodge MBF collarets and jewels at Festive Boards. I always visit the website to view the pictures taken by our Photographic Team of the Visits made by the Executive so I know how many of you are supporting this initiative. Remember it is not compulsory it’s your decision.
As most of you know when a Province is in Festival, a Festival lapel badge is produced to help with promoting the Festival. Many of the Provinces have volunteered to take a stock of the 2018 Lincolnshire Badges to sell in their own Provinces to give additional support to the MBF in Lincolnshire’s Festival year. This past year in London we have sold over 1,300 of the 2017 Berkshire Festival Badges which resulted in another £13,000 towards the Berkshire MBF Festival’s final total (which by the way was over £660,000 – a truly magnificent sum). Many congratulation to the
Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire, R.W.Bro. Richard Oliver.
I look upon this initiative as an investment, as I am sure that the next time we in London are in Festival we can rely on the same kind of support. Everybody supports everybody. If just 50% of the entire Mark membership bought one of these Badges at just £10 each, the Fund would raise enough money each year to purchase one of the Chemotherapy Units outright.As these Badges are current for a year the true cost is less than 20p a week and of course the sooner you buy one the more value for money you get. The Badges this year really are a collector’s item as they are the 150th Celebratory Badge, if you want one please be quick as I am sure the stock of them will quickly run out. Honest Paul Cutts, John Stonely and their persuaders have a supply of the Badges and will be outside the Temple as we leave for those not dining and will be moving around the tables at the Dinner. Please support this initiative if you can. In addition you might want to consider becoming a Festival Steward of the year All of the monies given count towards your personal MBF Honorific, and in the first year you will qualify as a Life Subscriber which entitles you to wear one of the special lapel badges, this is a wonderful way to get on the Honorific ladder. Paperwork will be on the tables tonight, please do not leave them there, rather put them in your pocket and when you sober up tomorrow you can give it some serious thought.
I am sure we are all proud of our MBF so let’s continue to demonstrate our support for all of the good work it does by wearing our collarets and Festival Jewels at our Festive Boards, including this afternoon’s Banquet.
Brethren when it comes to Charity this Province has an enviable reputation.In the last 3 ½ years you and your Lodges have donated something approaching ½ million pounds to charity. Made up of –
• £300,000. to our Bus Appeal (and as an aside we have just entered into a 3 way deal with Sussex Craft and Sussex Mark to provide a Mini Bus for the RMBI Home, Barford Court down in Hove).
• £32,000 for the purchase of 3 Blood Bikes named Mark, Keystone and Mallet & Chisel, which hopefully you saw outside this afternoon,
• £63,500 to the MBF walk
• £10,000 for the London Air Ambulance,
• £60,000 plus from our Lodges and Individuals to the MBF and of course
• £26,000 for Festival Badges over the last 2 years.
Brethren you are amazing and I applaud all of you.
Today it has given me enormous pleasure to reappoint Tom Quinn as my Deputy, and I am sure that you will all agree with me that his high level of commitment and enthusiasm to the role this year has been exemplary .
I also had the pleasure of reappointing V.W.Bro. Jerry Gangadeen and W.Bros. Henry Hobson, Cliff Sturt and Tim MacAndrews as Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and I am sure that you will also agree with me that they have all given dedication and support for the Province this year.
Tonight at the dinner you will be served with a complimentary slice of Jerry Gangadeen’s rum cake with your coffee. Those of you that have sampled it before will know how good it is and those that haven’t are in for a treat. Jerry has also donated one of his 12 inch (6 kilo) cakes as a “heads and
Tails” prize. This will only take a few minutes and will be carried out after the dessert has been served. I am sure that you all know how heads and tails is played. It’s £2-00 to have a go and if you do not have change and want to put in a fiver you can have a “Mulligan” (that means another go for the non golfers here.)
Jerry has this year supplied cakes to many of the other Provincial Meetings and has raised well over £6000-00 for their various Provincial Charities.
Brethren a Province of our size needs a lot of helping hands and I am grateful for all of the hard work put in by so many of you throughout the year, especially W.Bro. Alan White and the Secretariat, W.Bro. Wes Hollands and his Ceremonial team and our Treasurer V.W.Bro. Stephen Fenton. All of them have worked tirelessly on our behalf. To all of the members of our committees I am indebted, our Care Committee has a very important role to play and they have served our Province well. The Communications Committee has continued to excel. The online Newsletters are fun to read, and the Year Book continues to be a most popular and valuable publication not only with our Members but also the other Orders in London who contribute to the cost of it. I am indebted to W.Bros. Henry Hobson, Cliff Sturt, Chris James, Andy Bull, Ian Shepherd, Richard Criddle and the rest of the team for the hard work they have put in to their respective offices.
I am grateful to our Photography Team who generate, so promptly, the visual records of our Official Visits, If you attend one of these Official Visits you will normally be able to view the photographs taken within 24 hours on the website. Brethren we are never complacent regarding the image of our Province and we always strive to keep up to date with developments in technology and with this in mind the Communications Team has put in a lot of time and effort into the redesign and refurbishment of our web site. Watch out for the launch of this on the 21st of this month.
Brethren have you all got a copy of the order of proceedings, let me see them. Wonderful! Now take out your pens and write on the front the 1st of December. That is the date of our biennial End of Year Party, which will be at the Imperial Hotel and I can promise you it will be as enjoyable as the previous parties. Details will be available soon.
Brethren we still have a very healthy relationship with the other Orders in London and I would ask you all to support them as much as your time and wallets will allow. Metropolitan Grand Lodge is very important to us as it is the pond that we fish in for our Advancees so please promote it as much as possible. There is to be another Royal & Select Masters Council to be consecrated this year and it is to be called the Metropolitan Council. Somehow I have been persuaded to be the primus Thrice Illustrious Master, so if you want to be a co-founder with me or want to join the Council as a new member please talk to Jules Greenwall the founding Secretary.
Brethren a lot of hard work goes into the organisation of this meeting and I am grateful to all of those Brethren who attended early this morning to set up the Temple and the dining room. Without their efforts, today would not have been as successful as it has been.
A special thank you and welcome to the members of the Ancient Order of Mowing who are here today in large numbers, their support for the Province is quite unique, once again this year they have given a substantial donation to our MBF appeal. I wish them happy mowing for years to come. As promised there will be fresh pineapples on the Mowers’ table tonight,
I must give our musicians a bumper thank you for their input into our Meeting. They have now become an essential part of the proceedings and their music is I am told enjoyed by you all. I am sure we are all looking
forward to the London Medley which they have agreed to play during the collection. And of course a special mention for our organist W.Bro. David Cresswell.
Finally Brethren my greatest thanks goes to you the Members of this wonderful Province, who have turned out in huge numbers yet again to support this Provincial Meeting. We have nearly 570 members dining tonight which is another record. I must apologise in advance for those who will be seated on the balcony tonight, unfortunately we cannot get the numbers in without using it. The Provincial Grand Secretary has a note of the Lodges located there this year and he will make sure that next year you are seated in the main hall.
Your support not only at this Meeting but at all of the other events that take place during our Masonic year is magnificent, and it really makes my role as PGM so satisfying and enjoyable.
God bless you all, Mark Well and thank you.