Provincial Grand Master's Address to the Brethren at the 2016 Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge

Brethren, this is my first opportunity to welcome you all to our Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge and it is pleasing to see so many of you here today.

I wish to, once again, place on record that I remain greatly indebted to the Most Worshipful Pro. Grand Master and “the London Team” for the invaluable assistance they have afforded us and for the manner in which that ready assistance has been communicated over the last 24 hours.

As a Province, we have been greatly honoured to see so many distinguished visitors from other Provinces, some of whom have travelled a very long way and we very much appreciate the effort that they have made to be with us today. This is our opportunity to repay the hospitality and friendship we receive from them.

As you know, it would be customary for the Provincial Grand Master to introduce them all by name, but on this occasion, and by tradition due to the length of this Meeting, I will only refer to the Province and will then ask you to give your usual enthusiastic greeting to them all.

I must make particular reference to the presence of the Third Grand Principal, Rt. W. Bro. Gareth Jones and among other distinguished guests are representative of: Dorset, Bristol, Somerset, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Devonshire, Worcestershire, South Wales, West Wales, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, And finally Oxfordshire together with Representatives of other Orders including the Provincial Grand Master and Deputy of Mark Master Masons: Monmouthshire Brethren of Monmouthshire: please join with me and accord a rousing greeting to all our visitors here today.

Convention dictates that Rt. W. Bro. Malcolm Lane, whose energy and drive over the last 10 years as our Provincial Grant Master has been exemplary, should not be here today, but I am sure that he would wish me to convey to you all his very best wishes. We are, however, absolutely delighted to see his predecessor, the Rt. W. Bro. M. John Hughes, here this afternoon, upon whose great support I know I can, and will, rely.

That, unhappily, leads me on to a rather sombre note, in the past 18 months we have lost 2 Past Provincial Grand Masters and it was with great sadness very recently that we learnt of the death of V.W. Bro. Anthony Williams; a great Mason and a true gentleman. Our thoughts go out to Sylvia and his family.

A very long day continues to unfold, which is a perfect excuse for me to be as brief as I can be. Having survived my Installation earlier this afternoon, this annual Meeting now belongs to those appointed and promoted in Provincial Grand Lodge today and to you, the Brethren of Monmouthshire. I now collectively congratulate all those Brethren appointed and promoted earlier, either actively or to a Past rank. Please remember that it is the Provincial Officers, whether Past or Present, who form the backbone of our organisation and those appointed today now have additional duties and responsibilities. I feel so fortunate to have appointed such a strong Active Team for the ensuing year and I look forward to your company around the Province during the course of the next 12 months. Similarly, I thank the outgoing Team, headed by the two Provincial Wardens, Bro. Neil Bignell and Bro. Peter Dilley, for your friendship and commitment to duty since this Annual Meeting last year.

And so to the Provincial Executive: first let me mention the outgoing Treasurer, W. Bro. Robert Fowler and thank him again for all he has done and achieved over a period of 8 years in office. Bro. Robert, you have greatly enhanced the financial security of the Province for which we are most grateful and you now step down for no greater reason than you thoroughly deserve a rest.

The Provincial Executive as a whole function well, both collectively and individually and I not only thank you for past services, but record that I look forward continuing to work with you.

And the same applies to the Grand Officers, the majority of which, if not all, are mandated to the various Lodges in the Province. I view you collectively as a very valuable asset: I will greatly welcome your support and all the experience you bring with you: and as I seek to build for the future I would regard you to be an integral part of the process of development. More of that on a future occasion.

There are also other officers, uncollared, who deserve my thanks, most notably Bro. Anthony Halse, our Information and Communications Officer, who dedicates a great deal of time to that role and similarly Bro. Norman Edwards, our Education and Training Officer.

I think it now both appropriate and politic to turn attention towards all those involved with the arrangements and running of today. This, as far as Monmouthshire is concerned, is a day unique in modern times. It is 78 years since we were committed to 2 installations in one day. The amount of preparation and work has been enormous and the bulk of it has rested on the Provincial Secretary, Bro. Brian Davies and Provincial Scribe E, Bro. Clive Lamb, the latter picking up the reins at extremely short notice, but so efficiently.

Complementing these 2 Officers were Provincial Directors of Ceremony. Each had their own respective Teams, running down to our Stewards today, Brethren who moved furniture and our meeters and greeters etc. My particular thanks must go to Bro. Roger Thompson for facilitating the movement and removal of Lodge furniture to, from and between our two venues also special thanks to Bro. David Llewellyn for that most important of functions: the organisation of the drinks.

To you all: those of you who have had involvement with the organising and running of today, my heartfelt gratitude. A great Team effort. It is also appropriate, at this juncture, that I should both mention and thank the Host Lodges today Nioba and Roderick Hill for valued help and assistance.

I congratulate the Deputy Provincial Grand Master again upon his appointment and it was my great pleasure to invest him. We work well together and I have every confidence that we will continue to do so. As many of you are aware, Bro. Chris leads the Provincial Committee organising the replenishment of our Trust Fund, wholly dedicated to local charities and communities. This is a process vital to our future, especially as funds had become depleted – a fact that I am extremely conscious of – particularly as these funds were expressed to be held as a permanent endowment.

More on that at a later date, Brethren, but in the meantime let me record my gratitude for all the hard work being undertaken by the Committee towards that replenishment, most notably by the Provincial Charity Steward, Bro. Malcolm Fairie and Bro.’s Julian Todd and Les Evans; Bro. Julian being responsible for the innovative introduction of an annual “Classic and vintage show” for all types of vehicle: a great success and all linked in to fund raising for charity. I believe a Provincial Classic Car Club could be the next step.

The main event for the last couple of years has been the day at “The Hogs Head”: Brethren please continue to support this event because it make an enormous contribution to the mini Festival. I know that it’s a huge team effort by the Charity Committee and I thank you one and all.

In April this year, the Grand Master, H.R.H. The Duke of Kent, both appointed and invested Bro. Brian Davies as Past Assistant Grant Director of Ceremonies and further promoted and invested Bro. Robert Jones as Past Junior Grand Deacon. Bro. Robert had, of course, undertaken a considerable term of years as Provincial Grand Secretary, and both Bro. Brian’s appointment and Bro. Robert’s promotion are very well deserved and very well received here in Monmouthshire.

Membership, particularly, quality Membership, is ‘a key question’ across the country at this moment and Monmouthshire is privileged to be a pilot Province for the new Membership Pathway scheme. Any prospect of an increase in membership must be considered seriously and enthusiastically and I thank Bro. Peter Allard, the uncollared Provincial Membership Officer, for all his efforts in getting this trial off the ground and his two very able deputies Bro. William Beese and Bro. Chris Bradshaw.

The History Group continues to collate our past and in doing so lays down a strong historical foundation in the form of an electronic library for the future. It is a huge task but is managed very ably by Bro. Peter Walton, with strong professional assistance from Bro. Bernard Sefton. Thank you for all you do and we continue to hope that a Provincial Book will be a reward for all of us in years to come.

Provincial Electronic Data also appears very high on my Agenda and will remain so. I thank the Provincial Registrar, Bro. John Court, particularly for his hard work with the database over the last 12 months, but also Bro. Roger Thompson, Bro. Norman Edwards and their respective teams in support. Leading from this, my thanks to Bro. Bernard Sefton for continuing to edit the yearbook.

Next year: 2017: the year of our Tercentenary – is a year we should all look forward to. Various events within the Province have already been published and further coverage will be given as time goes on. The point is, Brethren of Monmouthshire, these events are designed for your enjoyment, to enable you to celebrate our past great achievements, to rejoice in the present, but also to take stock and make provision for our future. Please enthusiastically embrace the opportunity we are so lucky to be here to enjoy.

Plans are now on the drawing board to move this Province forward in a position of strength following the conclusion of our celebratory year, but there is not sufficient time to unveil these proposals today. That will be left for a future occasion: in all probability at the Charles Lyne Installation Meeting in November.

Finally, let me leave you with these thoughts. I believe that the time has come for us to think of ourselves and do something for ourselves as well as for others.

Monmouthshire has long enjoyed a proud tradition of producing remarkable results in the cause of charity and may that long continue.

However, the time is right to give ourselves appropriate consideration: to consider our Members and our Membership: our strengths and our weaknesses; to consolidate and to strengthen our Membership; to improve, if and as appropriate, our relations with one another and other Orders; to improve our Buildings and their facilities; to ensure that today they are “fit for purpose”, although I am grateful that much has been done to upgrade some Buildings in the last few years.

2017 – and all that it should mean to us – offers us the perfect platform to promote our unique organisation and to use that opportunity to our great advantage here in Monmouthshire. We must take full advantage of it.

Brethren, thank you for your patience listening to me today. I feel confident that we can move into and through 2017 and thereafter into the future with good heart. I consider myself to be greatly honoured to have been installed this afternoon as your 15th Provincial Grand Master and I am very mindful of the duties and responsibilities that accompany the Office. I pledge myself to a full commitment to the promotion of Freemasonry in this wonderful Province of Monmouthshire.

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