Brethren all, I greet you well on this strangest of days for one of our Provincial meetings, not just the 30 lucky ones who are here in person but all our members who will be able to hear this address remotely via our website and various social media channels.
First of all, let me congratulate all those who have been appointed and promoted in Provincial Grand Lodge today. While I have not had the pleasure of investing you all personally, I look forward enormously to seeing you all in your new regalia in the very near future. And for the second year running we missed out on our annual trip to London for the Grand Lodge investiture, but I also look forward to seeing all our new Craft and Royal Arch Grand Officers in their finery as soon as these awful restrictions are finally lifted and we can once again return to the meetings we hold so dear. And wasn’t it a delight to see W Bros Kelvin and the Rev Canon Huw appointed as my Assistants today. This marks the end of W Bro Alan Gardener’s tenure as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, a role he has undertaken with great skill and commitment. I am delighted that he has agreed to remain on the Provincial Executive to look after the Universities Scheme and our estate, about which I shall say more a little later. I was also very pleased to finally have the opportunity to invest W Bro Roger Richmond with his collarette today. Roger, you have been a peerless contributor to this Province over many many years and we all trust we will continue to see you in our meetings and gatherings for many years to come.
We are not able to invite our usual guests today, but I must make special mention of our Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, W Bro Gerald Rowbottom for his unfailing loyalty and support; and who is here today supported by many of his Executive team; and our Past Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Bro Sir Norman Lloyd-Edwards. Thanks to you both for supporting me today; what a pity that Right Worshipful Bro Hywel Davies is not able to be with us. We wish him well and trust that he will continue to enjoy the wonderful care he receives at the Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court for many years to come.
I have been impressed to see so many of our lodges doing their best to return to their meetings over the last month. The conditions under which we are meeting are nowhere near ideal, but it has been important to take those first tentative steps back to normality. As I have said before, I see no reason why any lodge now needs to self suspend and I trust that all lodges will return to their natural rhythm of meetings, both masonic and social, once the new season begins in September. That is, of course, unless some new decisions are taken which provide still further obstacles to our Craft. This will be doubly important brethren as we now know that we have getting on for 300 candidates waiting to join our lodges, as well as quite a backlog of those awaiting their second and third degrees. We can not keep these gentlemen and brethren waiting any longer than is absolutely necessary. Today’s young men are used to everything they do being practically immediate and those of you with children and grandchildren will know only too well that they do not any longer expect to wait for months on end for something to happen. They have already been patient enough and I certainly do not want them to lose any of the enthusiasm which they have displayed in applying to join and during the contact we have had with them via our Provincial Membership Officer, W Bro Neil Evans and his excellent team.
In addition, in September, we will be participating in UGLE’s digital marketing campaign. If, like me, you have little idea what that means, I can tell you that it is a well proven method of targeting marketing and advertising to those individuals who are most likely to respond positively to it. Big internet companies know an awful lot about each and every one of you who use the internet and UGLE knows from its research the ages, background, employment and interests of individuals who are most likely to be interested in joining Freemasonry. So, from September onwards, men who fall into the category of ‘likely to be most interested in joining Freemasonry’ will receive regular pop-ups on their social media accounts telling them about Freemasonry and giving them local contact details where they can learn more. W Bros Steve Harries and Neil Evans are already making the necessary preparation to cope with the expected additional demand; and there will be work that lodges can do to make themselves known to prospective candidates. You will hear more in the coming weeks and months about this exciting development. What is clear to me is that this initiative can only be a positive step and still further encouragement to lodges to return to their normal meetings as soon as they can.
The temple in which we are meeting today is testament to the work put in by this, and many other, masonic hall management teams and teams of volunteers over the last year. It has been such a joy to see our facilities being improved and upgraded, and also to witness a good deal of work being funded by the South Wales Masonic Benevolent Fund for the good of our brethren and the continued enjoyment of their Freemasonry. Thanks must go to V W Bro Andrew Gretton and his committee for their work on behalf of us all. While I am talking about masonic halls, I am pleased to announce today that the temple in which we are meeting is to be renamed. It has been the Duke of Connaught temple since its inception as he was our Grand Master from 1901 until 1939. Our current Grand Master has, of course, been in that role since 1967 and so it is fitting that arrangements are now made to rename this temple ‘ The Duke of Kent’ temple in honour of his wonderful service to the Craft. I shall be informing His Royal Highness of our intentions and I hope we will have the opportunity of welcoming him to the Province before too long.
The 2021 Festival is drawing to a close brethren and I am sure that we all look forward to hearing how we have fared against our ambitious target of £5 million in favour of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. Today’s announcement by the Grand Superintendent of a total £100,000 contribution from South Wales Royal Arch Masons was a fantastic achievement and I thank him and all his Chapters and Companions for their generosity and support. R W Bro Sir Paul Williams and his committee continue to work tirelessly towards the overall aim and, while I can assure you that I do not know whether or not we will reach that target, what I do know is that every possible effort is being made to achieve it. Let us all hope that we can celebrate in style in November and that our efforts will rightly rank up there among the best of Provinces, despite the difficulties we have faced in the last year.
Finally brethren, thanks must go to my hard working Secretary and his team and to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his supporters for making today happen so efficiently and effectively. We have had a good trial run for joint Craft and Royal Arch annual meetings and let us all hope and pray that this time next year we can continue this practice under unrestricted terms.
May the Great Architect continue to keep you and your loved ones safe and well. God bless you all.