The meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge this year was, as ever, a magnificent and memorable event. The new venue of the Opera House at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool lent itself perfectly to this colourful spectacle, with the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison literally taking centre stage together with his principal officers.
The procession into the theatre of grand and Provincial grand officers from West Lancashire and other Provinces was a visual feast and masterpiece of choreography much admired by all who attended. Once the very large contingent of visiting dignitaries were seated, Tony opened Provincial Grand Lodge and asked the brethren to stand in silence as a mark of respect for ‘those brethren who had departed this mortal life and been called to higher service’ since the last meeting.
He then proceeded to introduce and welcome a very large contingent of guests from other Provinces, together with the leaders of other Masonic Orders who were attending. At the conclusion of which, they were applauded in a truly traditional West Lancashire manner. Following the approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, Tony addressed and reappointed Philip Gunning as his deputy. He then continued by announcing that John Hutton was retiring as APrGM and thanked him profusely for his many years of service in high office.
As a consequence of John’s retirement, Tony then proceeded to invest David John Walmsley as Assistant Provincial Grand Master, with responsibility for the Eccles and District and South Eastern Groups. David was attended on by his ‘chain bearer’, Stuart Boyd. The other APrGM’s, who were all remaining in office were then thanked by Tony for their continuing work and support.
Congratulations were then given to those brethren who had recently received appointment to or promotion in grand rank. The brethren so honoured were: Malcolm Bell, Mark Matthews, Joseph Hall, Colin Jenkins, John Turpin and Keith Beardmore, all of whom had received the rank of PAGDC. Stewart Seddon had been promoted to PSGD and Anthony John Edden, Geoffrey Bent and Keith Kemp had been elevated to PJGD.
This was followed by details of changes in office of group chairman and vice chairmen resulting from retirements. These were; retiring as group chairmen. From the Garston Group, Howard Griffiths. From the Eccles and District Group, David Walmsley. From the South Eastern Group, Michael Adams. From the Liverpool Group, Robert Povall. Retiring vice chairman. From the Garston Group, John Murphy. From the Eccles and District Group, Stuart Boyd. From the South Eastern Group, David Durling. From the Ormskirk and Bootle Group, John Marsden and Stephen Brereton.
The group appointments were then announced and were;
To be Group Chairman:
of the Garston Group, John Murphy
of the Eccles and District Group, Stuart Boyd
of the South Eastern Group, David Durling
of the Liverpool Group, Mark Matthews
To be Group Vice-Chairman:
of the Garston Group, David Atkinson
of the Eccles and District Group, Patrick Walsh
of the South Eastern Group, Gareth Jones
of the Ormskirk and Bootle Group, Graham Chambers
Tony once again expressed his gratitude for the service given by each retiree and wished the new appointees well in the discharge of their new offices. He continued by confirming that he was pleased to reappoint Mark Matthews and Derek Parkinson to represent the Province as members of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
The Provincial Grand Treasurer Neil Lathom presented the accounts and David Winder proposed and Derek Parkinson seconded their acceptance. A vote of thanks to the treasurer was proposed by Harry Cox and applause promptly followed. It was confirmed that no other nominations for the office of treasurer had been received and Neil was therefore reappointed to the office. The wisdom and subsequent approval of his reappointment was humorously validated, when he announced that he did not propose increasing the Provincial dues for the ensuing year.
The PrGM then moved on to announce the launch of the West Lancashire 2021 Festival in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Tony began his introduction by saying: “Brethren, today is a great day for the Province of West Lancashire and I am so proud to be here as your Provincial Grand Master and to launch this Festival for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Before doing so however, I once again welcome to our meeting James Newman, the Deputy President of the MCF and Les Hutchinson, the Chief Operating Officer will now give us all a brief insight into the new Masonic Charitable Foundation.”
James and Les then gave extensive details regarding both the conceptualisation and creation of the MCF and illustrated its mission and operation by giving details of case studies, highlighting how the work of the charity had such a positive impact on not just Freemasons and their dependents but also the whole community. At the conclusion of their address, Tony continued, by saying: “I am delighted that this Province was the first to be asked to undertake a Festival for the MCF. We have a fine heritage of giving and supporting charitable causes both Masonic and within the community and for those who find themselves in need. After all, we never know when we may need that assistance and support for ourselves or our families and our dependants.
Brethren, are you aware that the Province of West Lancashire receives over £1,000,000 in support of our brethren, their families and dependants every year from MCF? Therefore, there are over one million very good reasons why you should pledge your assistance to the Festival. You never know when you may need support.
I would ask that during the short four years of this Festival that you give your fullest support to the West Lancashire 2021 MCF Festival by affording it your priority when giving any donations personally, through your groups, your lodges and your chapters. Fully utilise the relief chest, white envelopes, within lodge and chapter and include gift aid where appropriate. I would encourage groups, lodges and chapters to raise funds for the Festival through organising functions and events and to aim to become, where possible, patrons of it.
I am delighted to report that during this Tercentenary year, there have been a great number of lodges and chapters that have responded to my request for a donation, and my APrGM, Tony Bent and his committee have worked tirelessly in promoting this initiative and I’m sure Tony is anxious to share the results of the generosity of the contributing lodges and chapters.”
Tony Bent then gave details that 233 lodges have donated £300 each and 52 chapters have donated £150, accruing to a grand total of £77,700, all in support of the Festival. This was he said, in addition to many lodges and chapters becoming ‘Patrons’ and ‘Grand Patrons’ of the Festival.
The PrGM then thanked Tony Bent for the wonderful total and continued, by saying: “I am most grateful to the entire charity team for their organisation, planning and enthusiasm, which has been so evident, since the MCF requested the Festival in West Lancashire. There are 8,700 Freemasons in West Lancashire. Brethren, I thank most sincerely, the 2,000 of you who have pledged their support and have achieved a magnificent total of £1,000,000 to launch our Festival. Brethren, take out a pledge in support of the Festival and wear the bespoke Festival Jewel, which is adorned with the Province of West Lancashire Coat of Arms, with pride.”
Tony concluded his launch appeal by saying: “We have made an excellent start to this Festival and by working together we can all ‘make that difference’. Finally, can I say, please enjoy fund raising for the Festival in the knowledge that you will, in the process be helping those in need. And I urge you to ‘Wear your Stewards Jewel with Pride’. I now formally launch the West Lancashire 2021 MCF Festival.”
A collection was then taken in support of the Festival which raised the wonderful total of £5,372.
The meeting continued with the appointment and investiture of the acting Provincial grand officers for the coming year and before commencing, Tony had words of appreciation to express for the dedication and support of the outgoing officers, especially the retiring Provincial Senior and Junior Grand Wardens, John Lee and Jonathan Heaton.
As in the previous year, the appointments and promotions were split into two separate stages with 150 first and acting rank appointments made, followed by 200 promotions. In the interval, Tony gave his annual address to Provincial Grand Lodge.
In his opening remarks, he said: “Brethren, may I start by thanking you all for your attendance here this afternoon, it really does make such a difference when we see so many of you sharing the enjoyment of the day. I hope the venue and all the arrangements are to your liking and convenience. Who would have thought it? Me, live on stage in Blackpool. My deputy suggested that I should not process into Provincial Grand Lodge but should rise up through the floor and appear in a puff of smoke! and to think I have just re-appointed him!
It never ceases to amaze me, the reception I receive when I visit your lodges and chapters. Your welcome is, I assure you, gratefully received and serves as the tonic that inspires me to go further and meet as many brethren as I possibly can. I too share the delight in meeting you all and visiting your Lodges and I know that my deputy and assistants do likewise.
This past year has seen the start of the Tercentenary celebrations and I have been astonished by the many different ways you have thought up, to celebrate this landmark in English Freemasonry.
The two services of thanksgiving held in the Lancaster Priory and in St Elphins Church, Warrington were very well supported by you and your families and represented all that is good in Freemasonry.
As I mentioned earlier, much work has been undertaken for the many celebratory events throughout the Province by Tony Bent and the members of the Tercentenary committee, consisting of Chris Ayres, Duncan Smith, Joe Hall, Jonathan Heaton, Andy Whittle, Andy Wiltshire, Chris Butterfield and Mark Holloway and I thank them all.
It is so good that many of you will be attending the Royal Albert Hall in October and the dinner that follows in Battersea Evolution. Details have been circulated regarding our own celebration which is to take place in November of this year at the Hilton Hotel, Blackpool, when we shall have the company of the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton. We have, I believe, taken over the entire Hotel, so I expect it to be packed to the rafters or possibly higher.
The Festival, which I have launched today has already received outstanding support from almost every lodge in the Province and I look forward to your continuing efforts throughout the Festival period.
My Provincial cabinet are continuing to plan for the future and to make sure that the Province runs efficiently and effectively. We are committed to making sure that we keep costs down as much as possible and support the administration of your lodges in the best way we can. To that end, I thank our PrG Secretary and his staff Andrew, Diana, Violet and also, Arend, together with the other volunteers, for all the hard work they do in keeping this Province running so smoothly.
The launch last year of the Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Charity has been a resounding success under the Chairmanship of my PrGDC Keith Kemp and his team. This registered charity gives disadvantaged and under-privileged children the opportunity of a day’s fishing under the watchful eye of their carers’ and members of West Lancashire. At the beginning of just this week, another two days of fishing took place which proved to be a wonderful occasion for the children, and to see the joy and laughter on their young faces made it all worthwhile.
My sincere thanks to Keith and all those who contributed to its success. Long may it continue.
It is pleasing to see so many of you today wearing the Royal Arch jewel, although I suspect some of you have forgotten to put it on. However, we do have some 8,700 brethren in the Province and 4,000 are not currently in the Holy Royal Arch. So, to those brethren I would ask that you seriously consider taking that further step along your Masonic journey.
To those brethren that I have appointed to their first Provincial rank and to those who I am about to promote, I wish you well in the future and good health to go with it. To those brethren who have today retired from office, I thank you for your outstanding contribution over the years and trust that you will enjoy your retirement.
On behalf of us all, I must thank Keith Kemp, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and all his team for the excellent ceremonial work undertaken here today, together with Provincial Organist Stephen Derringer, for his musical arrangements during this meeting and what a difference it’s made having use of the Wurlitzer Organ.
My thanks are also given Neil Pedder, Chairman of the Widnes Group and all his team of stewards who have worked so hard to ensure our safety and comfort throughout the day.
Finally, brethren I wish you and your families all the very best, I hope you enjoy your summer break and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you in the future, thank you for your support today and please continue to enjoy your Freemasonry. May God, bless you all.”
Prior to the closure of the meeting, it was reported that 1,425 had attended the meeting and that the next meeting would be held at Blackpool on 9 May 2018 and be hosted by the Leyland Group.
The rendition of the National Anthem, to the accompaniment of the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ had the chandeliers vibrating in harmony and was a wonderful climax to a splendid and memorable occasion.
The celebrants banquet which followed was held in the adjoining Empress Ballroom and the proximity of the venue was much appreciated by the attendees, with over 700 dining. The proposal of the toast to the PrGM was made by Tony Bent in an impressively oratorical style and very well received by all present. The toast to those appointed and promoted was given by Robert Wright in a very appropriate manner and responded to by the newly appointed Provincial Senior Grand Warden David Asbridge, who paid tribute to the many Masons who had assisted both him and his fellow appointees on their journey through the Craft.