Address to Provincial Grand Lodge – 5th May 2015
A Very Good Afternoon My Beloved Brethren,
I rise for the 3rd time to address you as Provincial Grand Master in this magnificent setting of the Royal Hall, Harrogate – This erstwhile playground of the crowned Heads of Europe as they took the waters and suffered, sorry “enjoyed”, the beneficial effects of treatments at this internationally renowned Spa Town. It is my hope that you are finding the beneficial effects of our Annual Meeting of our Provincial Grand Lodge equally therapeutic?
I must say that you, my Brethren, are all looking resplendent today and even younger than when we assembled this time last year. I greet you all well and to any Brother attending for the first time I extend to you a most hearty welcome. To Brethren from all parts of our Province, visitors from far and wide, other Provinces and also from Overseas, especially our distinguished visitors whom I greeted earlier, I bid you all a right royal Yorkshire, West Riding welcome.
I would like to greet especially Master Masons and would ask them to stand. Brethren would you please join me in welcoming the Master Masons. (Applause) You are all indeed most welcome today at Provincial Grand Lodge – Do come again and encourage other Master Masons. Please do resume your seats.
Conscious that I stand between this august gathering and the splendour of a celebratory Festive Board I intend to be brief.
(Well that will be brief for me Brethren).
How can this be I hear you say?
You will know that when I, or any of the Rulers, attend your Lodge that the gavel is offered to us but rarely accepted. In the same spirit of generosity I have been offered but declined the opportunity of singing to you or to recite words from Shakespeare. So due to time constraints and no unwillingness on my part, it’s no singing or Shakespeare from me today. Next year? Maybe?
Today is indeed a celebration, especially for those Brethren whom I have had the pleasure to appoint or promote today in Provincial Grand Lodge and it also my opportunity to express my thanks to so many Brethren who make this Province pulse with energy. Today Brethren I would like to cover a number of topics starting with:
The Present and our Future
There is so much that I could say in my address so I will be succinct.
Last year I said that I would like my term as Provincial Grand Master to be marked by accessibility, consultation and managed evolutionary change to ensure that Freemasonry continues to be relevant and also to thrive within the greater Society in which we live at this moment in time.
Grand Lodge is refining the strategy regarding leadership, attraction, retention and retrieval. There is a clear emphasis that we are a “Membership” Organisation and the Members have a right to be consulted. I urge you Brethren to participate in any of the surveys from Grand Lodge with your views.
I wish to thank the many Brethren who have sent me their ideas. I was particularly pleased to receive suggestions from our newer members who, although may be new to Freemasonry, bring so much to our Order with their professional and personal experience.
More consultation please! Your thoughts and ideas please Brethren!
In response to such ideas from within our Province, (my own ideas included Brethren I should add!), and the advice I have received from my Team of Rulers and Executive Officers you will see some enhancements from today:
The first item concerns Communications:
We will continue to enhance our approach to Communications. Later this year new Grand Lodge Adelphi2 record keeping system will go live. This will facilitate opportunities for more rapid and direct communications with our Members.
Brother Secretaries let me assure you that this will supplement and not replace the essential role that you perform regarding the dissemination of Provincial information.
Earlier in the meeting we resolved to issue future summonses for this Annual meeting electronically. Brethren this will represent an annual saving in printing and postage costs of over £1000 and is further evidence that we are embracing the advantages of electronic communication to the benefit of all the Brethren. Very soon, our very own White Rose magazine will also be available to Brethren electronically via a Website link
Now what am I doing about resources and identifying potential?
Starting in September, I intend to harness the currently “under-tapped” potential of our Grand Officers by establishing Area Grand Officer Groups under the Chairmanship of the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters. My specific requirement is for that forum to provide me with information and recommendations related to local ability, and potential of Brethren within the Area. I will also require such a Group to manage local initiatives to grow Freemasonry and especially to be the custodians of, and leading lights, regarding the maintenance of standards. This Group will be new and will not replace the work of other Groups or that of our much appreciated Liaison Officers
• As both encouragement and also an early reward to Brethren showing potential to progress to high Office within our Order, I will look to appoint Past Masters identified as having such potential to the rank of Provincial Grand Steward much earlier than the “normal” time period served after the Chair before being considered for First Appointment to Provincial Rank. In some cases this could mean Immediate Past Masters. This initiative will provide the opportunity, but certainly not a guarantee, of rapid progression to Brethren so selected. There will be no fixed number of Appointments each year and indeed it is possible that no appointments will be made in a year under this initiative.
So what will happen to Past Masters not selected? It will be “Business as usual” with ability, style, activities and impact being monitored and assessed using the existing procedures. As an inspiration to all, the key message that I learned from my illustrious predecessors on my arrival in this Province nearly 30 years ago is, when it comes to Honours, “You certainly don’t get ‘owt for nowt!’”
• Brethren you will note that, once again, all Acting Officers and the Brethren that I have promoted to PPJGW are Companions of the Royal Arch. I was delighted to have inherited this approach from my immediate predecessors as I also believe firmly that without having been exalted into Royal Arch Masonry, no Brother can be considered to have completed his journey in Pure and Antient Freemasonry. So there can be no misunderstanding regarding this “Yorkshire, West Riding” way of doing things, this will continue and I am unable to imagine any variation to this approach during my tenure of Office. This leads me nicely to:
Royal Arch Matters – Yes indeed the Royal Arch does matter greatly to me.
I am so very pleased that WBro. Stewart Carley, PDepGSwdB, PAsstProvGM, Most Excellent Grand Superintendent in and over the Royal Arch Province of Yorkshire, West Riding is in attendance accompanied by his Senior Officers.
Brother Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, please would you escort WBro. Carley to me?
WBro. Carley, I transfer to your safe keeping this “token” that you and I exchange each half year as tangible confirmation of the indissoluble link between the Craft and Royal Arch Freemasonry. If invited – I shall attend your Annual Provincial Convocation in November to exchange the “Token”. May I also offer you our congratulations on the forthcoming Consecration of the Universities Chapter which has sprung from this Province’s very successful participation in the Universities Scheme.
I have a few other important matters to talk about Brethren so I do hope that the pangs of hunger are not too great?
• I mentioned the Universities Scheme. The four member Lodges in this Province based in Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield are a credit to this Province and to the Grand Lodge Scheme. It is certainly a different approach to support the future of Freemasonry. The admission of under-graduates who will probably move to another part of the country at graduation means that the understanding and support of Past Masters is much appreciated. We should always remember that Graduates retuning to Yorkshire will find a welcome at our Universities Scheme Lodges
Staying in the World of Education:
• Brethren. You will have seen the first printed Report from our Provincial Mentor in the today’s Summons. I urge every Lodge to make the Mentorship Scheme work well. An effective Lodge Mentorship Scheme is a guarantee of higher rates of retention and sure way of safeguarding our future. There is no doubt in my mind that the jewel of the Lodge Mentor being two chisels in saltire was aptly chosen Just as no Operative Mason can work with two chisels at the same time, A Lodge Mentor cannot do all of the work himself. He needs the support and assistance of everyone in the Lodge
And that leads me to say a few things about the future, that’s our future Brethren and that of future Brethren:
• When I look in the mirror and ask myself two questions: Do we have too many Lodges? Do we have too many buildings? The answer I give myself is “Yes”. As Provincial Grand Master I have little control over buildings where Masonic Lodges choose to meet but would ask every member to consider the viability of their current Masonic homes and to take action sooner than later. It all comes down to simple economics. Doing nothing is not an option!
I ask myself the question as I visit Masonic Buildings – “Is this a place that a candidate would be proud to enter as being representative of the high standards associated with Freemasonry?” Alas Brethren – at times, I have had to say “No”!
Ah yes! Standards Brethren!
At the March Communication of Grand Lodge a definitive statement was presented regarding the high and exemplary standards of personal conduct expected of a Freemason both within and outside the Lodge. Although numbers are not what they were, we must be so careful only to admit candidates that will bring honour on the Craft. Many Brethren will have seen printed on Lodge Summonses the 69th aphorism of the Rev. George Oliver: (1782 -1867) in his “Book of the Lodge”:
“Be very cautious whom you recommend as a candidate for initiation; one false step on this point may be fatal. If you introduce a disputatious person, confusion will be produced, which may end in the dissolution of the Lodge. If you have a good Lodge, keep it select. Great numbers are not always beneficial”.
This also extends to personal conduct at Festive Boards and to all social activities connected with Freemasonry where appropriate decorum must always be observed.
Let us remember that we are a “fraternity” and care about one another. After this meeting I would like you to do something Brethren. Look around and identify a Brother that you do not know. Shake him by the hand and state your name and Lodge and exchange the words “Hearty Greetings Brother”. I will be watching Brethren!
In your own Lodge, would you do the same for me? Identify a Brother that you do not know well or have not seen for some time and do the same. Make contact to show that we do care – All for One and One for All! – Brother for Brother!
Brethren, we are all Ambassadors of Standards, I urge us all to walk the talk by doing as we do and not only just as we say in our ceremonial.
Now What about “Traditions” Brethren?
I am the greatest of supporters of Traditions that continue to be relevant.
Our challenge Brethren? As Mark Twain put it in the “Adventures of Tom Sawyer”: “The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it”
My advice? Ask your Members what they would like. Dare to be different (but please remain Constitutional!) – If you do not try something new then you will never know!
Looking Further Ahead!
Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth – The three grand principles on which our Order is founded. Each Principle to be observed in equal measure.
We are greater than a “Charity that wears regalia” however we have seen this afternoon the significant impact within our Communities of our charitable donations to the worthy recipients of our major grants.
We should be proud within the bounds of discretion that, once again, we as Freemasons were one of the first at the door of the Red Cross with a cheque for £50,000 to provide relief to fellow creatures in distress following the terrible earthquake in Nepal.
And what about our own 2017 Festival for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution?
In the past year I have been amazed and delighted at the innovative fund raising activities that have been arranged. Large or small or somewhere in between – I greatly appreciate the efforts and support of Brethren, their loved ones and friends. I do apologise that time does not allow me to be more effusive in my praise for the organisers and participants of such “notable firsts” as the Provincial Perimeter Peddle, the Northern Variety Show and also all the other terrific fund raising activities.
Those involved know who you are and I do hope that I have expressed my appreciation to you sufficiently at the actual events.
The 2017 Festival for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Fund
Now For Some Important News Brethren.
Brethren let me now turn to your wonderful efforts in respect of our 2017 Festival. We have already heard from our Festival Chairman just what this money achieves in keeping very vulnerable people in their homes at the most challenging time of their lives. What more worthy endeavour can we support Brethren – and what support you’ve given.
It is time to reveal where we are and with the wonders of technology the figure will be revealed on the screen behind me.
Brethren in the first three years of our efforts YOU have raised to date over £1.6M – This is quite simply a magnificent achievement.
With your continuing help and support Brethren I am sure that we can raise over £3m and I urge you all to do whatever you can over these last two years to make this a truly memorable effort. Do bear in mind the “Fun” word in Fund Raising and that no Brother should ever feel pressurised or ever be pressurised into making donations.
The variety of methodologies now available to collect money offers the choice of how to make donations only. No-one is ever, or should be, expected to make use every method. We give what we can afford without detriment to ourselves or connections.
And please tell your wives and families about this wonderful charity and the security if could offers to us as Masons and to our families, should we need care and help in our advancing years. Brethren I am acutely aware that the money we give isn’t just ours, it is your families and I am keen that we engage them and that we celebrate our success with them.
So this is a very important piece of information to take back to your Lodges and your families:
Brethren we plan to conclude our Festival in two years’ time in style with a glittering Gala Banquet to be held in the magnificent Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Brethren this will be a spectacular and memorable occasion for which every Festival Steward is entitled to have two tickets. Tickets for such a glittering occasion are not £100, not even £75 but, by judicious financial management and persuasive negotiations, tickets will only cost £55 each and as tickets will be limited, we will soon publish booking information and I urge you to secure your places quickly to avoid any disappointment.
Brethren thank you all for your efforts to date and for what I know will be your hard work over the final two years of this vital fund-raising drive. I shall be writing to all Brethren across the Province to reinforce my thanks for what you have all done to date and to give my encouragement for our final two years of this Festival.
As is traditional and correct, I would now like to offer my congratulations and thanks
In the last year I have visited Lodges in every part of the Province including the outermost parts of the Yorkshire, West Riding “Empire” both with my Team of Acting Officers and also personally when attending Installations, presenting 50 and 60 Year Service Certificates and arriving unannounced to promote Brethren in their own Lodges.
I thank all lodges for the warmth of the welcome received and for the hospitality provided. These visits have been memorable for all the right reasons.
I wish to thank W Bros. John Boyington and Andrew Wright last year’s Provincial Wardens for their most generous gift of gauntlets to be worn by the active Wardens of this Province and passed on to successors.
Among Brethren standing down from Office today is W Bro. Alan Hurdley, PAGDC who has been an outstanding, effective, efficient and all-round splendid Education Officer. Please stand up W Bro. Hurdley you deserve acknowledgement from all present. (Applause)Thank-you Brother Alan, please could we have the Company car keys returned now? That’s a joke Brethren – No-one gets a car!
My congratulations go to all those Brethren who I have had the pleasure to appoint or promote in Provincial Grand Lodge here today. You are the Team of 2015/16 – Enjoy every minute and participate fully in everything that we do together as a Team.
I wish to place on record my thanks to the following:
• My colleague Rulers for their dedication, hard work, support, guidance and encouragement
• My Liaison Officers for all that they do in Lodges
• W Bro. Keith Tolan, PAGDC, the Provincial Grand Secretary, W Bro. Mick Dyson and his Team of staff at Provincial Headquarters at Spring Bank Place, Bradford for ensuring that this Province works so well and so economically.
• The Provincial Grand Treasurer, W Bro. Brian Priestley, PAGDC for his prudent financial stewardship and guidance
• To the Organisers and Stewards of the Exhibition on Freemasonry at the Bradford Industrial museum and also the permanent Exhibition here at the Royal Hall. Visited by thousands of members of the public leaving so many positive comments about our wonderful Order.
• W Bro. Robert Bowhill, PJGD, ProvGDC and his Team for their hard work throughout the year and today at Provincial Grand Lodge
• The West Riding Active Officers’ Lodge for stewarding today
• The Harrogate Masonic Hall and Lodges for allowing us to use their furniture yet again
• West Riding Masonic Charities Limited for “Being There” and being so supportive
• To everyone who has assisted in making today a success
• Your wives, partners and families for their support. Please thank them from me
• And finally to you all my Brethren for your hard work and for your support today
If I have omitted to thank any Brother that should have been thanked.
I do so now with the sure and certain knowledge that those generous Brethren will drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of this Brother!
In conclusion Brethren:
Our Masonic Year has now turned full circle and we have all arrived at the dawning of a New Masonic Year where we must all apply our collective knowledge and experience to diffuse the light of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. I am very proud of you all of you It is an honour to lead – Thank-you for following me!
“Now to the Banquet we press!”
My beloved Brethren, your smiling faces tell me that you have enjoyed yourselves today and so have I. The therapeutic effects of Harrogate have certainly worked their magic today. What a pleasure it has been to have indeed “United in the Grand Design of being happy and of communicating happiness!”
In everything that we do Brethren, let us demonstrate to the outside World the beneficial effects of Freemasonry by talking about who we are and what we do.
Once again we have met upon the Level and, until the next time, we will part upon the Square. Thank-you Brethren – May the GAOTU bless and preserve you and your loved ones.
Posted in Charity News on May 7th, 2015 by David Clough