Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The PrGM's Address at Provincial Grand Lodge


Distinguished Guests and Brethren

In Shropshire we are most fortunate to have this University as the venue for our Annual meeting and particularly this Hall for our formal ceremony.  Your presence here in such great numbers today does justice to these splendid facilities and I welcome you all to this celebration of Shropshire Masonry.

The main focus of this Annual meeting centres upon those Brethren who have been appointed to or promoted in Provincial Grand rank.  I congratulate you all upon your achievement but would impress upon you, that with rank there comes responsibility, as the Province will be looking to you for your support in our joint endeavours, with you setting the high example that others may aspire to achieve.  Those of you whom I have appointed or re-appointed to active Provincial rank will be the vanguard of our Masonic development and will be integral to the successful conversion of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

You will all have read in the latest edition of Freemasonry Today, the article on The Iron Bridge Lodge No. 9897 which of course reflects well on Shropshire but it will also resonate well with modern thinking Freemasons. The article is termed “a Sea Change in Shropshire” – well I think that is rather overstating the case and is probably a bit of editorial licence. However, The Iron Bridge Lodge has adopted, with my blessing, the “modern manifesto” which is particularly relevant for Lodges within the Universities Scheme as it promotes the more efficient use of time spent in Lodge meetings, with opening times that are more achievable for the young business man with family responsibilities and the streamlining of the procedures without affecting the ceremonial content. Brethren, being prepared to adapt and change some of our ancient practices and traditions in order to render our Freemasonry more fit for purpose in the modern era, does not mean that we need to change any of our ritual or abrogate our tenets and beliefs in any way, it merely means that with a strategic modern approach we have a better chance to secure our future for the next 300 years and to become openly recognised within our communities as the premier fraternal organisation. 

In Shropshire I am keen to encourage our younger Masons to become more involved and to  let their voice be heard so that we can all join, in sending out the message, that becoming a Freemason should be a commitment for life not just a passing hobby that can be picked up and put down at will.  Two examples of this advance are that, firstly, I am advocating that we should have a “light blue club” involving younger Masons before the Chair whose experiences and ideas can be communicated to Province through a structured forum; moves are now in hand to bring this about and I will lend to it my positive approval.  Secondly, UGLE have commissioned Emporium Productions to produce a “fly on the wall” documentary following the circumstances of individual Freemasons around the country in order to demonstrate the impact and benefit that Freemasonry has upon their family, their work and their Masonic lives.  In Shropshire our Brother David Stubbs who is currently the Senior Warden in both the Salopian Lodge of Charity No.117 and Old Ben Lodge No. 9461 has been selected as one of the film stars (!) and, having coped admirably with the embarrassment of having to wear makeup for the first time in his life (so I believe!) he has, during the last 14 days been filmed with his family, at his place of work, in the congenial surroundings of a local pub whilst with his fellow Lodge officers and then the following day at the regular meeting of Old Ben Lodge.  Brother David will be going into the Chair of Old Ben Lodge in May and the film crew will be returning then to film him on his special day although I would add that there will never be any filming allowed inside any Lodge whilst it is open.  The TV rights of the film have been purchased by Sky and it is presently mooted that the four one hour episodes will be shown on ITV2 either in late autumn of this year or early next year.  We have seen the work previously done by Emporium Productions in similar documentaries for the Scouting movement and other organisations and these have all been excellent with the accent placed firmly on the positive.  To be on the safe side the Grand Secretary has retained full editorial control of whatever goes out, so I think we can rest assured that when the public tune in to see the film on ITV they will be receiving a clear picture of all that which is good in Freemasonry, concentrating upon our integrity and our respect and our concern for others. 

Next year we shall be joining in the Tercentenary celebrations of Grand Lodge, and for the Brethren and their families in Shropshire our main celebration will be the MFest 300 two- day event to be held at Weston Park Shropshire on the 24th and 25th June.  This is a joint event combining the Provinces of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, and the “Early Bird” E tickets are now available from “mfest300.com” priced at £10 each.   My new Provincial Senior Grand Warden W Bro John Norman is the Provincial 2017 representative and coordinator.  John has already sent out to each of you the details of this Anniversary event and so you will perhaps realise that this is going to be a landmark celebration where we anticipate between five and ten thousand people will be in attendance.  Provinces around the country will be holding celebratory events throughout the whole year of 2017 and the Grand Lodge Rulers will be in attendance at many of them.  The Grand Lodge itself will be celebrating the event on the 31st October 2017 when there will be a ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall followed by a premier dining event at Battersea Evolution.  The Royal Albert Hall will accommodate up to 5,000 and I will shortly be receiving details of the ticket availability and allocation; I am lead to believe that Shropshire may be allocated up to 17 tickets and I shall be writing to you through the medium of our Provincial Office in due course with further details.  I am, however, advised that Grand Lodge will be approving a Tercentenary jewel which will be exhibited in the next June edition of Freemasonry Today with the jewel availability from the 24thJune 2016.  I understand that the jewel will be available in versions of solid gold, silver gilt and gilt metal.  In addition, and from the same date, a new Craft tie will be available displaying the new UGLE logo.

To add to our celebrations today Brethren, I am pleased to confirm that at the Grand Lodge Investiture on the 27th April next, W Bro Alan William Sykes will be appointed to the rank of PAGDC. Alan was our Provincial Senior Grand Warden in 2010 and he is a key member of this Province.  He has been Editor of the Shropshire Year Book for 14 years (longer than some life sentences!) and, as many of you will know, he was Deputy Provincial Grand Master in the Mark Province of Staffordshire and Shropshire from 2007 to 2011. This appointment to Grand Rank is an honour he richly deserves.  I further confirm that W Bro Dennis John Hill who is our Provincial Grand Treasurer in the Royal Arch, will also receive Grand Honours and is also to be appointed to the rank of PAGDC.  This honour has been conferred upon Dennis through the Grand Charity for his work as a Council member and to anticipate his further involvement with the new Masonic Charitable Foundation.  We 
congratulate both Alan and Dennis and wish them happiness and fulfilment as Grand Officers.

As we close one Masonic Provincial year may I give my thanks to my outgoing Wardens, W Bro Chris Jones, the PSGW and W Bro Allan McCartney, the PJGW who have discharged the duties of their respective offices with dignity, dedication and infectious enthusiasm.  I know only too well that the other Provincial Officers from the active team who are now standing down, do so with some sadness that their year has come to an end.  I have to say that the last year has been absolutely superb and most enjoyable for me with the great friendship that has been shared between the whole Provincial team of active Officers.  I extend to them my gratitude for their support and their willingness at all times to go that extra mile when properly called on. 

I conclude this address with my thanks to W Bro David Kettle the Provincial Grand Secretary  and his team in the Secretariat who have worked tirelessly all year to maintain the smooth running of the Province and I thank W Bro David Hedley the PGDC and his team for all that they have done and particularly for helping make the event today such a success.  

Brethren, I wish all of you good health and happiness for the Masonic year ahead, and a safe return to your home and to those whom you love.

Thank you, Brethren.

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