Executive Reports

Provincial Grand Master’s address to Provincial Grand Lodge – 24th June 2019

Brethren, thank you for your attendance here this afternoon and may I reiterate my grateful thanks to all our distinguished guests for their continued support and friendship and for coming in such large numbers to help us celebrate our annual meeting. Some have travelled long distances and we very much appreciate their presence here today.

May I also take this opportunity of thanking my Deputies – V W Bros Roy and William – Assistants, and all my Provincial Officers of last year for their sterling work in representing me and supporting the Executive team at installations and in running our administration.

Today’s meeting is one of celebration, especially for those receiving appointments and promotions. You should all now take on an extra responsibility to contribute more to the success and sustainability of your lodges, the Province and the Craft more widely.

Provincial Grand Masters address to Provincial Grand Committee, May 2019

Good evening brethren and welcome to our annual PGL Committee meeting. I must start by thanking you and your brethren for the warmth of the welcome and hospitality shown to my executive team and me during our visits this year. And in turn by thanking my Executive, present and past, for their wonderful support to this great Province of ours. We have made significant changes to the administration of the Province this year, not least in the appointment of W Bro Ben Gait as Provincial Grand Secretary and Scribe E. He has made great strides already and I would remind you all brethren that he is always on the lookout for volunteers to help with in the Provincial Office. So if you have the necessary time and skills – or you know of anyone interested – please do contact Ben and contribute to this busy and interesting work.

Today is our opportunity to discuss matters of administration, process, protocol and ceremonial – all of which would be difficult to do justice to at our annual PGL meeting in Barry in June. As I have said in previous years, and reiterate now, I want this meeting to be informative and interesting, a source of information to take back to your lodges, and a chance to give you a forum in which you can ask questions, make comments and air your views. I want all lodges to have the opportunity to engage properly in the way this Province is run.

I want to begin by referring to our visits to lodge installations, where, as I say, we have been warmly welcomed as your guests. You may know that I receive fulsome reports on all installations and there are 2 matters that I should like to bring to your attention.

Firstly, the unfortunate practice of reading ritual, sometimes rather badly, has become more and more prevalent in some areas of the Province. This is simply not acceptable brethren. I have said on many occasions that the most important person in our temple on all occasions is the candidate. His ceremony – whether it be a 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree or an installation as Worshipful Master – will have a lasting impression on him and one that he should be able to cherish throughout his Masonic journey. All the more important then that those undertaking the ceremony should be able to make constant eye contact with him; and deliver ritual which is learned, understood and meaningful. If officers find it impossible to give priority to learning their ritual, I encourage all lodges to share it amongst those who can give it the commitment it deserves.

My second point is about the appointment – or re-appointment – of Royal Arch representatives at installation ceremonies. This important appointment should be done after the appointment of officers, but I have noticed that few lodges do so without being prompted. And then sometimes after of flurry of discussion about who the representative is. I have therefore decided that all lodges should, from September onwards, have a specific item on the agenda which states: “To appoint Bro AB as the lodge’s Royal Arch representative”. I shall be asking the Provincial Office to check that this agenda item is present – with the correct named individual – and send back to lodges any summonses which fail to include it.

Brethren, I cannot stress too strongly how important I believe it is that our brethren are introduced to the Holy Royal Arch at as early a stage as possible; and that they should take that final step in pure and ancient masonry. I can do no better than to quote the Most Excellent First Grand Principal at the recent convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter when he said: “No Mason should be joining other orders without first completing their journey in Pure Ancient Masonry by becoming a member of the Holy Royal Arch”. Let us do all we can to make that objective a reality.

Our Masonic halls are jewels in our Masonic crown right across the Province. I encourage all lodges to support them and consider them as something to be treasured and looked after. We all have a responsibility to contribute positively to our Masonic homes, in good times and challenging times. It is no secret that some of our centres are finding it difficult to meet their financial responsibilities. Let us help those who have been good enough to volunteer to run them brethren. Membership of a lodge is not like a gas bill or car insurance where we can switch our custom when things get a bit more expensive. I exhort all lodges to consider their responsibilities to the Province and their Masonic centres. To be crystal clear brethren, I do not want lodges to move from one centre to another unless they have particular reasons which are more than about the cost of existing premises. Rule 141 of the Book of Constitutions offers excellent guidance on this very issue.

While I am talking about Masonic halls, I want to reiterate a point I made some years ago. It is not acceptable for brethren to attend our meeting places dressed as if they are on their way to the beach or just out of a day’s working in the garden. This is particularly important if brethren are there to interview a candidate. I’m afraid I have seen examples of a candidate arriving for his interview, nervous, but well dressed in a jacket and tie, only to be met by an interview panel in worse than casual clothes. I wonder what sort of impression this gives to the poor candidate who has no doubt been told to dress smartly for this important meeting.

Turning to Charity, at a Provincial level I have been delighted with the excellent work that we have all done again this year to help those in need. Our excellent Charity Steward, W Bro Rob Payne, Almoner, W Bro Phil Bevan, the Friends of the Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court and trustees of the Masonic Benevolent Fund under the Chairmanship of V W Bro Andrew Gretton all deserve special mention. And of course, the work has continued apace towards our ambitious target of £5 million towards the 2021 Festival in aid of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. I want to place on record my thanks to V W Bro Sir Paul Williams, his committee and all lodge Charity Stewards for the sterling work they continue to do to help us meet that target. Just one note of caution brethren; I still occasionally hear that a small number of lodges are holding on to significant sums of money in their own relief chests. I simply cannot understand that thinking brethren. You all have separate charity accounts from which you can dispense to local charities or causes. Your relief chest is for strategic giving only; what better way to use that money than to transfer it to the Festival, earn considerably more interest than you currently do, and – crucially – provide much needed funds for our RMBI homes which do so much for aged masons and their dependents.

Communications are such an important part of our everyday lives; and masonry is no different in that regard. W Bro Paul Haley has been a first class Provincial Communications Officer for some years now and he has asked me if I would agree that the time is right for him now to stand down. I’m sure I speak for you all when I say how grateful we are to W Bro Paul for all his efforts in this challenging and fast moving environment. I am delighted to announce today that W Bro Gavin Davies has agreed to assume the role of Provincial Communications Officer, together with a new appointment of W Bro Karl Frowen who will take on special responsibility for social media. We wish them both well in this challenging environment.

With more and more lodges developing their own websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of and regulate content. Can I please therefore entreat you all to take especial care of things that are said in the name of your lodges. I abhor the use of bad language in messaging; and – possibly worse still – political comment from an obviously Masonic source. These sorts of things will not be tolerated brethren and could lead to Masonic disciplinary action if serious enough to warrant it.

Next Saturday, 11 May is our annual church service at St Martin’s Church in Caerphilly. As I write this address (yesterday brethren), of our 160 lodges, only 27 had responded to the letter sent to all lodge secretaries to indicate attendance or apologies. I do hope we will have a good attendance at this once-a-year event and that responses are late rather than absent altogether brethren. I have asked all Worshipful Masters to attend or to indicate who might come from their lodge. We welcome wives, partners, friends and families and I hope to see you all in Caerphilly on this special day.

Finally, a real milestone for Wales and this Province. 37 years ago, Cyfrinfa Dewi Sant was consecrated with the express intention of being allowed to work ceremonies in Welsh. Since then, the lodge has had what we might call an interesting history, but it has never given up hope. I am delighted to say that last month I received confirmation that the Board of General Purposes and the Rulers had agreed that each Province in Wales would be able to authorise one lodge to work exclusively in the Welsh language. In South Wales, that will of course be Cyfrinfa Dewi Sant; and I hope that as many brethren as possible will visit in October to see and hear the very first rendition of a Welsh language first degree performed by the Dewi Sant brethren. We all owe a debt of gratitude to W Bro Elfan Jones and the Dewi Sant brethren.

Brethren, I thank you for your attention and attendance this evening. I look forward to seeing you all soon, especially at our church service on 11 May, Provincial Grand Chapter and Provincial Grand Lodge meetings in June and on many occasions across the Province. After that, enjoy the summer break and return refreshed for another exciting Masonic year ahead. I am off to learn the address to the Master in Welsh ready for Dewi Sant’s Installation next year! God bless you all.

Provincial Grand Master’s address to Provincial Grand Lodge – 25th June 2018

It is now my great pleasure to address you for the fifth time as your Provincial Grand Master; incredible how time flies brethren !

First and foremost, my congratulations go to all I have been fortunate enough to appoint or promote in Provincial Grand Lodge today. Your new ranks are not given lightly; rather they are a reward for previous services and, perhaps more importantly, an earnest to future exertions. The Craft continues to face challenges to its reputation and to its future; and I hope you will all feel that your new status will encourage you to play a significant role in meeting those challenges for the good of all our brethren.

We have had a momentous year brethren. The tercentenary celebrations came to an end with a remarkable celebration at the Royal Albert Hall; and, of course, we as a Province also played our part in countless local celebrations to mark that important milestone. The Province has worked hard to do its bit to make the 300th year a special one, while responding to some of the broader issues we face. I am hugely indebted to our Provincial Membership Officer and Provincial Grand Mentor, W Bro Neil Evans, who – together with his hard working team – managed to increase our numbers of initiates to well over 400 in the year. For the first time as far as I know, we organized 2 dinners for new initiates and their wives and partners to welcome them into the Province and the Craft. The first of those occasions was a huge success with the ladies in particular seeming to enjoy learning a bit more about what their partners were getting themselves into; and meeting a broad range of senior and new brethren in convivial and enjoyable surroundings. The second dinner will be held next month and I, for one, am looking forward to it hugely. We will assess how these occasions have gone, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the initiative continued for future years.

Provincial Grand Masters Address to Provincial Grand Committee, May 2018

Brethren, thank you for your attendance here this afternoon. As usual, this meeting is an excellent opportunity for us to consider and discuss administrative and procedural issues which would not be appropriate and for which we would not have time at our Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in June.

May I start by thanking my Deputy and Assistants, the Provincial team and all South Wales lodges for another successful and enjoyable year. We have celebrated our tercentenary in fine style; made excellent progress on our membership drive; launched our Provincial learning and development tool, PROGRESS; and of course successfully managed significant changes to both the Royal Arch and Craft Provinces.

The 2021 Committee continues to work hard on what I know will be a successful Festival and I am grateful to them, lodge Charity Stewards and all brethren for the first class progress we are making towards our testing target of £5 million. More on that at Provincial Grand Lodge in a few weeks time.

Can I remind all lodges that we have 2 events coming up in the near future. The annual church service will be held at Margam Abbey on Saturday, 19 May and I would like to see as many Grand and Provincial officers as possible there, together with a representative from every lodge in the Province. This is a lovely opportunity for us to worship together as a Province with our wives, partners, families and friends and I have to say that I am disappointed that, so far, over 100 lodges have not even had the courtesy to respond to the very clear letter they have received asking who their representative will be. We have 2 weeks left brethren, so I hope that we will hear from them before then and that W Bro Rev Edward’s church will be full on this once in a year occasion.

Secondly, our Provincial Grand Lodge meeting will be in Barry Memorial Hall on Monday, 25 June. Let’s make a real effort this year to fill the hall and celebrate together all those being honoured with appointments or promotions. I have been concerned for some years that there are some lodges which seem reluctant to support it.

On to a few procedural issues brethren, which I should be grateful if you would take back to your lodges for consideration and implementation as appropriate.
For several years now I have been asking lodges to start their installation meetings later so that working men can attend and so that I can continue to appoint younger Provincial officers without their feeling they have to take time off work or, worse, refuse appointments because of the unreasonable time commitment involved. I see no reason why installation meetings need to start before 5.30 pm, provided lodges adhere to the guidance they have received on efficient ceremonies, undertake good quality ritual and cut down on unnecessary intervals between the ceremony and festive board. Unfortunately my exhortations seem to have fallen on some stony ground so, in order to ensure that Provincial teams attending installations do not feel unduly pressured into early starts, I am instructing them to plan to arrive at Installation meetings no earlier than 5.30. If lodges insist on starting earlier than that, they should be aware that those invited to represent me at the meeting will not be arriving until then.

This is not an excuse to allow proceedings drag on at the end of the evening. Provided things are pushed along at a reasonable pace without unnecessary periods of inactivity, a 9.30 or 10 pm conclusion should be easily achievable.

I have long thought it rather odd that we ask new brethren, Fellow Crafts and Entered Apprentices, to re-enter the lodge after an installed board at the front of the relevant procession. These inexperienced brethren are then expected to perambulate in the proper way, giving the appropriate sign, with no-one to follow or emulate. I should be grateful if lodges would, in future, place Entered Apprentices or Fellow Crafts in second or third place in incoming processions. That should make for a more comfortable experience for them and add to the dignity of the processions.

Thirdly brethren, I have been encouraged by the increases in membership we have seen in the Holy Royal Arch. It is very noticeable that Provinces across England and Wales are more successful where a good quality Royal Arch representative system is in place. We introduced a more robust Royal Arch reps system in South Wales last year, with lapel pins presented to the representatives at installations. I have to say that there are still too many lodges where that does not happen; neither is the Royal Arch rep being given the opportunity to speak for a few minutes at a couple of lodge meetings every year. Brethren, if the Royal Arch rep is not well known to the brethren, is not given the chance to speak and doesn’t have his details outlined on every summons, our brethren will not be properly encouraged to take the fourth important step in Pure and Ancient Freemasonry. This system is an absolutely crucial follow-up to our introducing a candidate to the Royal Arch before he joins the Craft and, most certainly, as he progresses through his interview before joining.

As I have made clear before, I see the Royal Arch as a necessary step for all brethren. I will continue to take committed membership of the Royal Arch into account when considering Provincial appointments and promotions in the Craft.

You will all know I hope of the great strides we are making towards the digitisation of our Yearbook. Like us, many Provinces are making progress towards producing online (and therefore more accurate and up to date) versions of Yearbooks and we are fully committed to doing so here in South Wales. An online version of the yearbook, currently trialled on our website to a limited number of Brethren, is perhaps resulting in fewer brethren wishing to receive the traditional booklet; most certainly we are seeing too many piles of unwanted Yearbooks in some of our Masonic centres. Indeed, many Brethren question why we still produce the hard copy in this digital age.

As a result, and to help in a small way to saving the environment, W Bro Roger Richmond will be contacting all Lodge secretaries this year to ascertain how many physical books are required for 2018-19. We still have to produce both online and physical versions so the cost will remain at the equivalent of £2.50 per member for the time being. Full access to the online book will be made available to all before publication of the hard copy this year. Please take the time to view or download it. I hope that nearly six thousand proof readers will result in as near perfect a hard copy as is possible!

In light of experience this year, I hope we will be able to make still further reductions in numbers of physical books next year. If we find that take up is relatively small, I also hope to be able to announce cost reductions from next year on. And if it makes sense for us to do so, we will also consider integrating the Yearbook cost into annual Provincial dues from 2019 onwards.

I hope you can see brethren that this will result in many benefits: fewer wasted paper booklets; a better and more accessible online version which is bang up to date; and eventually overall reduced cost for all members.

Finally brethren, 2 very important issues coming your way where failure to keep up with legal requirements could result in substantial, occasionally unlimited, fines, as well as significant reputational damage for the lodge, Province and the Craft. These relate to Transgender and Data Protection issues. You will be receiving guidance soon, but my clear message to you is that, if you face either of these issues in your lodge, take immediate advice from the Provincial office and our Provincial Grand Registrar. There is great scope here for us to get things badly wrong brethren so support will be provided to any lodge which finds itself grappling with these difficult subjects.

Brethren, that’s all from me today. I look forward to seeing you all at our Provincial events and lodge meetings over the next few months. Continue to enjoy your Masonry and together let us continue to take our wonderful fraternity forward for many years to come.

Provincial Grand Master’s Address to Provincial Grand Lodge – 26th June 2017

Brethren, thank you for your attendance here this afternoon and may I reiterate my grateful thanks to all our distinguished guests for their continued support and friendship and for coming in such large numbers to help us celebrate our annual meeting. Some have travelled long distances and we very much appreciate their presence here today.

May I also take this opportunity of thanking my Deputy, Assistants and all my Provincial Officers of last year for their sterling work in representing me and supporting the Executive members with sound administration, solid finances and attendances at installations and many domestic and special occasions. The lodges’ warm welcome and unstinting hospitality has been constant throughout the year and I have been greatly heartened by what I have seen and the reports I have received.

Provincial Grand Masters Address to Grand Committee, May 2017

Brethren, first of all may I thank all of you for attending here this evening. This is an important meeting in our Provincial calendar as it gives us the opportunity to present the progress we are making as a Province, outline some of the challenges we face, and discuss – and I use that word advisedly brethren – a few issues of concern which we might address in the coming year. Every lodge should be represented here today and I trust you will take back to your brethren all of the matters we talk about today, though I have to say that has not always been the case in the past. I have often raised an issue with a Worshipful Master during the year – getting away from early starts for Installations is a good case in point – only to find that he has had no knowledge of what I have said at a Provincial committee meeting and that it has not been brought to the attention of the lodge or its committee, even though the address appears online and is printed in full in the Provincial yearbook. Please make sure your lodge members have an opportunity to discuss and debate issues that are covered today.

Brethren, a huge thank you must go to my Executive and the Provincial team for all their support and contributions this year. And I want to express my and my Executive’s grateful thanks for the warm welcome and hospitality we have enjoyed on all of our visits to your lodges. As well as Installations, we have attended domestic meetings and a number of special celebratory occasions since we last met and the Provincial teams have always come away from those meetings with happy hearts and a warm feeling about the fraternal bond which makes our Craft so important to us all.