Monmouthshire Masons - PGM's Address

Provincial Grand Master's Address

TO THE BRETHREN AT THE
2019 MEETING OF THE PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE

We now reach that part of the afternoon where I have the opportunity to address you: particularly the Brethren of Monmouthshire present today. As is the custom, it is very pleasing to see so many in attendance with representatives from all Lodges. I am particularly pleased to see all three of my predecessors here. Having welcomed our Distinguished Guests earlier, I now welcome you all.

Once again, the last 12 months have gone perhaps all too quickly, but again it has been a productive and constructive year for the Province.

The central core of this Annual Meeting is the appointment and promotion of Officers and it gives me great pleasure to collectively congratulate all those Brethren appointed and promoted today, whether to active rank or to Past rank. It is the Provincial Officers, whether Past or Present, who form the backbone of the Province and in recognition of that I pay them tribute. Those newly appointed today now carry additional responsibilities and duties. I feel fortunate to have appointed a strong active Team for the ensuing year and I relish the prospect of your company around the Province over the next 12 months. At the same time, I thank the outgoing Team headed by the two retiring Wardens, Bro. Norman Edwards and Bro. Philip Williams, for your friendship, your dedication and commitment to Office since this Annual Meeting last year.

I have been delighted to reappoint V.W. Bro. Chris Evans as Deputy Provincial Grand Master. V.W. Bro. Chris invests an enormous amount of time into his role in several areas – much of it unseen and unrecognised – and provides me with absolute support. Fortunately we work very well together, as indeed we always did. Long may that continue.

Let me take this early opportunity to thank all Grand Officers for their continuing support. Collectively and individually you are very valuable to the Province and I continue to rely on your dedication and experience as we continue to build for the future, particularly now through Membership, image and ties with our local communities.

The Provincial Executive has once again provided enormous support over the last 12 months. We continue to hold regular meetings and the individual offices function very effectively.

February this year saw a bit of a shake up when the offices of both Provincial Grand Registrar and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies changed hands. Bro. John Court stood down after several years’ service as Registrar. Bro. John was an extremely effective and dedicated Registrar and once again, I take this opportunity to thank him for all the hard work he invested in this position. Bro. John continues much work in the background, particularly with our annual publication. He has been succeeded as Registrar by Bro. Roger Thompson and already Bro. Roger has impressed with his zeal and efficiency.

At the same time, Bro. John Judd stood down after 5 halcyon years as Provincial Director of Ceremonies. During that time he served as an Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and was very much respected. He is succeeded by Bro. Chris Gabica, who has all the makings of a first class Monmouthshire Director of Ceremonies.

In the middle of all this we mourned the very sad loss of Bro. Bernie Sefton, at one time Provincial Grand Registrar Designate and for many years the Editor of the Monmouthshire Blue Book. Bernie’s contribution to Provincial affairs for many years had been considerable and we do indeed mourn the passing of a very lovely yet able man. In similar vein, the early part of the year also saw the passing away of our very much respected Bro. George Reynolds. A survivor of Changi, the Burmese Railroad and the copper mines, Bro. George, a Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden, is both fondly remembered and much missed by all.

The Charles Lyne Meeting in February also saw Bro. Malcolm Fairie stand down as Provincial Grand Charity Steward. Bro. Malcolm had, of course, overseen our magnificently successful mini Festival in favour of the Monmouthshire Masonic Trust Fund – our designated Fund for local charities and communities. My grateful thanks to him again for all he did in his 4 year stint. He is succeeded by Bro. Julian Todd: right on cue for the launch of our Charity Festival in favour of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, for 2024. In conjunction with the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, and the charity Team, Bro. Julian invests an enormous amount of time for Provincial Charity and in particular to our Hogs Head annual extravaganza. This year’s event was no exception, with more vintage and veteran vehicles – and Masons – than ever. The show field was literally crammed - an excellent day attendance – followed by a vibrant and well attended night do. This major event, together with our annual raffle and dinner at Newport, forms a considerable part of the backbone for success for our Festival and I am most grateful for the efforts that go in to make them so successful and, to you Brethren, for your constant solid support.

To all those of you who have had an involvement with the organisation and running of today, my very grateful thanks. That includes the Management of this School who accommodate us so efficiently and the Management at the Hotel. The Team has been very ably led by Bro. Jonathan Roberts, the Provincial Secretary, who I know has invested an extra ordinary amount of time into this Meeting. Bro. Jonathan has just completed a first extremely successful year as Provincial Secretary. In the middle of all his preparation for this meeting he decided to have one of his hips replaced, but remarkably he was back on duty, albeit at home – 10 days after the event. Bro. Jon, thank you for all your hard work and dedication towards this meeting particularly in the face of adversity - and for what you do on a regular daily basis. But there are also others worthy of note: the Provincial Director of Ceremonies and his Team, our Stewards, the meeters and greeters, St John Ambulance etc. A special thanks must go to Bro. Roger Thompson for facilitating the movement of furniture and last but by no means least Bro. David Llewellyn for that most important of functions: the organisation of the drinks at the Hotel, in conjunction with his Henllys Lodge Stewards. Once again: to you all: thank you.

Over the last few years regular attendees to this Provincial Grand Lodge will have noticed the upgrade in furniture: most notably the carpet, the Wardens Pedestals and Chairs. This year has seen the addition to the Secretary’s table but perhaps more significantly we have invested in a Provincial Trailer – on show outside – and also a Provincial Display, on show in the foyer. The trailer and the Display are all part of the strategic plan both to further our promotion to the general public and also to provide a means for direct enquiry about Monmouthshire Freemasons at the various summer shows etc. Once again, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Bro. Julian Todd and Bro. John Judd, have played a big part in the acquisition of this new equipment at very reasonable cost. We have also very recently seen amendment to the Honours Board in Dock Street to accommodate Past Assistant Provincial Grand Masters. We have Bro. Anthony A. Davies to thank for that.

There are also those Masons who devote many hours to the publication of our Annual Directory. For many years the late Bernard Sefton had been its editor, and his death created a potential crisis with ongoing publication, coupled with the questions posed by the new Data Protection Regulations. The decision was taken by the Provincial Executive to publish, but it has taken a mighty effort to do so and my very grateful thanks must go to, among other, Bro. John Hicks, Bro. Alan Mohide in particular, Bro. John Court, Bro. Robert Fountain, Bro. Phil Sefton, and Bro. Brian Davies. At the same time and for the last 12 to 18 months Bro. Alan Mohide has spent endless and relentless effort and time in the construction of both our new Charity database and the new Provincial database. He tells me the work is nearing completion although his work was sufficiently complete to deal with the production this year of the Annual Directory. Bro. Alan please accept the extremely grateful thanks of myself, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Provincial Executive and indeed the entire Province for your work and achievement in relation to these databases, upon which the executive function of the Province depends so greatly; thank you Alan.

Bro. David Llewellyn has a dual capacity at Provincial level. He is not only the Provincial Mentor but also the Education and Training officer. These roles interlink and overlap very nicely. Bro. David has worked prodigiously over the last 12 months on numerous aspects of his brief. I both congratulate and thank you Bro. David for all your recent hard work: for the very considerable updating and republishing you have undertaken with officers handbooks, for your monthly contact information summary and for all the training you have undertaken: may your boundless supply of energy continue. I believe that you have a Royal Arch Mentoring guide under construction as I speak.

And talking of energy, I now turn to the office of Provincial Orator, held in the very capable hands of Bro. Graham Murphy. Over the last 12 months Bro. Graham has injected a great deal of time into his role and his efforts conveniently divide into 3 areas. He has continued to assist in the collection and collation of historical information for electronic storage. He has continued to perform his normal duties as Orator with great enthusiasm and zeal, but additionally continues to undertake a great deal of work for the Solomon project at Grand Lodge level. Thank you Bro. Graham for all that you do: please keep up the good work.

And there is another Mason in the Province, who is rarely in full focus but who works prodigiously beneath the surface. I refer to the Provincial Almoner. Bro. Vince White, a member of the Executive and one who contributes greatly to it, works tirelessly beneath ‘the parapet’ to ensure that those of us in need, whether medically or financially, has immediate access to solutions for their needs. His work often goes unnoticed by the majority. He performs an extremely important role which he executes to the highest standard, generating the greatest respect and on behalf of all, I thank you Bro. Vince.

Moving forward, there are those un-collared officers, whose work may be often unseen, yet work tirelessly and productively. I refer in particular to Bro. Paul Burley, the Communications officer and Bro. Frank Heathman, the Buildings Officer. Bro. Anthony Halse stood down from communications earlier this year after a 12 year stint. Thank you Bro. Anthony for great service in that position. The Membership Officer, with his Team, continues to preach the virtues of the Pathway Scheme and Brethren, I have to say that a very significant pattern appears to be emerging, with those Lodges properly adopting the scheme being by far the most successful with Candidates, especially when coupled to appropriate mentoring. For those Lodges yet to be convinced, please take notice.

The History Group have just completed phase I of the mammoth task they set themselves. Almost as much historical data that exists about Freemasonry is now electronically stored. This has been an enormous task, ably led by Bro. Peter Walton, but represents a huge investment for the future. Once again, Bro. Bernie Sefton played a key role in this, as has the Provincial Orator, in conjunction with many others. Bro. Peter and his Team will now commence the next phase, which is the writing and editing of the Book: we all wish them well for this exciting project.

The Light Blues, our young Masons Club, continue their activities. We enjoyed a great day out to the Quarterly communication in December last year. More recently the Chair changed, with Bro. Paul Francis stepping down from an extended stint as the first Chairman, now succeeded by Bro. Gabi Hilo. We wish Bro. Gabi well and thank Bro. Paul for the immense amount of time that he has applied in setting up the Club and nurturing it through its early years.

Between myself and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, we attend all Installations throughout the Province, many of them together. We are always very well received, with the Provincial Team. I thank all Lodges for their kind and generous courtesy towards the Province. We find that, on the whole, standards of ritual are very good and excellence can also be on display. This is a great tribute to Lodge Preceptors and Past Provincial Officers. Please keep up your good work to continue this important aspect of our Craft.

Earlier this year, I launched our Charity Festival in favour of the Masonic Charitable Foundation to conclude in 2024. As with any other Province, this is a major commitment for Monmouthshire, but if we all pull together – and that is the key – if we all pull together, I have no doubt that we shall once again enjoy great success.

  • We carry forward two major events:
  • The Hogs Head Classic Vintage Vehicle Show with evening entertainment in July
  • and the annual Charity Dinner, in tandem with a major raffle, in November.

These two events alone raise substantial monies and I ask the Brethren of Monmouthshire to continue the solid support they have given in the past and that individual Lodges should now get behind the Festival with fund raising events and ideas. It is early days at present, but the more we can accomplish “up front”, the less effort will be required later. The Deputy Provincial Grand Master remains Chairman of the Provincial Charity Committee and in our new Provincial Charity Steward, Bro. Julian Todd, we have someone of great experience, drive and enthusiasm.

But Brethren, we should be in no doubt that when we conclude in 2024 we will, by and large, no more than pay our way. The Masonic Charitable Foundation are exceedingly generous to Monmouthshire, both through the regular generous support of our Masonic Community, but also through major grants to organisations operating within our local communities – in particular to Jamie’s Farm at Monmouth; the isolation through loneliness scheme with Age Cymru and the more recent grant to the School for Hard Knocks.

On top of that we intend to use the matched funding scheme offered by London to boost what we give to local organisations within the Province.

Brethren of Monmouthshire, the Charity outlook is rosy, but I stress again that we must all play our part as individual Masons, particularly using the gift aid scheme.

And whilst on the subject of Charity – and very much in tandem with this Festival launch. I am very pleased to announce that for 2020, individual Lodges will be able to apply for £1,000 per Lodge for local community charities – either as £1,000 or as £500 x2 and that there will follow a major charity presentation evening at Newport in November next year.

I would like to thank the South Wales Argus for the very extensive positive coverage that they have afforded us over the past 12 months. We have developed a very effective partnership with the Argus over the last 3 years by joining in their promotion of standards of excellence, particularly with the Health and Care Awards. Very recently we were given the golden opportunity of having a 700 word slot in which to promote freemasonry here in the Province and after years of finding the local paper to be a completely closed door, this represents a quantum leap forward in our ability to promote our image properly throughout our local communities and neighbourhoods. Long may this partnership continue.

I mentioned the Hogs Head Classic Vehicle event earlier: its growing success has given a clear indication of just how much interest and enthusiasm there is among our members in relation to classic vehicles of all descriptions, and I was delighted to see this year, the formation of the ‘Monmouthshire Masonic Classic Vehicle Club’. The Club is open to any members of the Province who appreciate classic vehicles and members have attended shows in other Provinces and have exciting plans for some runs out to enjoy the countryside in the Spring of next year.

Another exciting development has seen the establishment of the Monmouthshire Masonic Clay Pigeon Association which is open to members of all abilities. Our Deputy Provincial Grand Master is the Chairman of the Club and I am pleased to report that under his leadership and the captaincy of Bro. Kevin Phillips from St Johns Lodge they have had a great first season, achieving a very commendable Bronze place in the inaugural Masonic International Shoot. Notably, Bro. Scott Morgan from Islywn Lodge won an individual bronze award. The Team are currently in second place following the Inter provincial shoot held in Wiltshire with two more shoots to compete in before the end of the season. It’s Monmouthshire’s turn to host the next Inter Provincial shoot on November 2nd which takes place at Cefn Tilla in Usk. This is an ideal opportunity for anyone to go along and see if it’s something they would like to get involved in. New members are always welcome and can speak to Bro. Paul Burley from Roderick Hill Lodge who is the Club Secretary for more information. And whilst on the subject of shooting, let me offer congratulations on your behalf to Bro John Dallimore - a Welsh Olympic Shooting Coach - whom I have just appointed a Provincial Junior Grand Warden - upon his investiture by the Queen at Windsor on Thursday last with a well earned M.B.E. Acclimation please Brethren.

In conclusion, I hope that you, the Brethren of Monmouthshire, will agree that I have amply demonstrated this evening that this Province is moving forward on all fronts towards its objective: that is to secure a substantial platform for Freemasonry in this Province well into the long term future. The Provincial Executive has a 7 point strategy for that sole objective and I am pleased to say that every box has been ticked with progress over the last year. That said, the word “complacency” has no use in our vocabulary! We must strive to maintain that progress over the course of the next 12 months. Membership remains our biggest challenge, but progress is, without doubt, being made, particularly with those Lodges who adopt and embrace the Pathway Scheme.

Thank you Brethren.