SPEECH TO PGL 19th OCTOBER 2017
May I start by once again welcoming all our Guests here today, particularly our distinguished visitors many of whom have travelled long distances to be with us. It is exactly one year ago that I was installed as Provincial Grand Master and what a year it has been. A steep learning curve for me – yes – but a year when I have had tremendous support and encouragement from you brethren for the many and varied activities which have taken place.
Our four Provincial visits to Dartmouth, Wrekin, St James RAM and Eccleshall were well supported, and who can forget the Centenary Celebrations at St James’s with the Pro Grand Master present and his closing surprise by appointing Bill Whittall to PGJW which now entitles him to the style of RW Brother. I have never seen Bill Whittall lost for words before.
I launched my Appeal for the Blood Bikes in January and I want to thank everyone for their efforts in achieving the magnificent total over £15000 to date. More about this later at the Festive Board when we shall be joined by representatives of the Blood Bikes Charity. Do please support our Race Night at Shrewsbury on 18th November and the Provincial Ball planned for 30th June 2018 at Lilleshall Hall.
In June the Province was honoured when 10 of our Brethren were either Appointed or Promoted in Grand Lodge. Congratulations must go to Andrew Beckingsale, Paul Ashcroft, Kevin Spencer, John Lockley, Roger Pemberton, David Griffiths, Bill Slater, Roy Clarke, Derek Shuttleworth and last but by no means least Colin Edwards as Acting Steward. A magnificent contingent went to support them at Grand Lodge and a good day was had by all.
The Province is to be further honoured in December with the appointment of Mike Ashcroft, Howard Jenkins and Richard Webster to Royal Ark Mariner Grand Rank.
Both the Mark Weekend in Harrogate and the Lunch for new brethren to the Mark or RAM Orders were both very successful, and thanks must go to Barry and Ann Clark for arranging them. This years week-end at Llandudno is already a sell-out, but we could do with some more support for the New Brethren’s lunch on 12th November at the Park Hall Hotel at Shifnal
Our very first Royal Ark Mariner Assembly at Shrewsbury proved popular with over a quarter of our Royal Ark Mariners in the Province supporting it. I have had many favourable comments about this change and we will continue with it whilst making a few refinements in the light of the first experience.
Our Children’s Christmas Party was again well supported with even more children there and my thanks go to the three outgoing overseers who arranged it– W Bros Bob Lansley, David Prince and Tony Marshall. There are flyers for this year’s event which is being held on 9th December being distributed today.
I would now like to address a few remarks to those who have been appointed and promoted in Provincial Grand Lodge today. Whilst your appointments are a recognition of your service to your Lodge and to the Province, do also consider them to be an encouragement to continue and support your Lodge and Province in the future. Get out more-visit Lodges all over our Province- and encourage others to join this happiest of degrees.
The Provincial Executive has been considering ways to improve recruitment and retention, particularly in the weaker lodges, and so it is pleasing to report we have had a number of White Table evenings throughout the Province, and at those that I have attended the outcomes look positive, and thanks are due to WBros Mike Parry and Dave Wall for their excellent talks on Why You Should Join the Mark Degree. We hope to roll this out more widely.
During the year we have had a major review of the Rules and Operation of our own Charity – The Staffordshire & Shropshire Mark Benevolent Association culminating in adoption of new rules and procedures. Thanks must go to my Deputy, Ian Smith, and W Bros Casswell, Hill and Rainsford who have spent a lot of time bringing matters up to date.
Nationally it has been announced that the Mark Benevolent Fund will be making donations of Ambulances to the St John’s Ambulance Brigade in the New Year and each Province will get an allocation – so watch this space. Similarly there are to be donations of Blood Bikes (remember we were first brethren!) and I have had assurances our local fundraising will not affect a grant from the MBF.
Now just a few thank-yous. Throughout the year, but particularly at this time, there is a tremendous workload on our Provincial Secretary and Provincial DC. Thank you both Brethren for all you do. Can I also thank all those who help set up and organise today’s event.
On our visits round the Province , my Deputy ,Assistant and I, are always accorded a friendly and courteous welcome. “We are here to help” is genuinely received and understood. The quality of the work is generally of a high standard, so let us continue to enjoy our Mark Masonry. Make our meetings happy and interesting to our members. It is a great privilege to lead this Province and once again thank you for your support and may the Great Overseer of the Universe Bless and Keep You All.