Provincial Grand Master’s Address – 29th June 2015

Presented at Provincial Grand Lodge on 29th June 2015

Brethren, I have always believed that the main purpose of our meeting today is one of celebration.  And we mark the end of our masonic year by honouring those whose contributions now – and in the future – have merited appointments or promotions in Provincial Grand Lodge.  To all of you so honoured today, my warm congratulations; and as we always say on these occasions, your new rank is meant not only to recognise past achievements, but also to act as an earnest to efforts to come in leading your lodges to a successful future.  Brethren, we have much work to do to ensure the future of our Craft and I hope that your preferments today will encourage you to take leading roles in driving forward Grand Lodge’s and this Province’s plans.

I also congratulate all those who received new Grand ranks this year, both in the Craft and in the Royal Arch.  You all have an especial role to play in the leadership of this Province and I trust I can continue to look to you to provide that enthusiasm and commitment which are so crucial to success.  It matters not how inspirational a strategy is, if those charged with delivering it do not have the positive attitude and behaviour necessary to see it through.

Last year I said that I wanted to press ahead with a number of new initiatives and I am pleased to report on their progress today.

You will have noticed that, as promised, I have today appointed 5 ‘fast track’ Provincial Grand Stewards which, together with my very recent personal appointment as a Provincial Grand Steward (though hardly a fast track in my case), demonstrates the importance I attach to that role and the key part I expect Stewards – and the Provincial Grand Stewards’ lodge – to play from now on.  I am delighted to be able to tell you that, following extensive discussions and a little persuasion, the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge is about to grow from 40 to 70 members.  In future, the stewarding of all Provincial celebrations and events will be their responsibility and it will be my intention to undertake the installation ceremony at all Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge meetings from now on.

In the next few weeks, I shall be delighted to consecrate a new lodge of research.  This will be the first consecration in this Province for over 13 years and I know the founders and the Provincial team are working hard to ensure that it is a memorable occasion for all.  It will be called the Albert Edward Court Lodge of Research number 9908, further underlining this Province’s positive attitude towards the future, demonstrating our keenness to continue to make daily advancements in masonic knowledge, and cementing that strong bond we have with our RMBI home in Porthcawl, where the lodge will meet 3 times a year.  And it will be closely followed by the consecration of Music Lodge next year, for which preparations are steadily progressing.  I am sure you will agree with me brethren that, as in life, while we have to accept that some lodges will die as they reach the point of no return, it is inspiring and exciting to know that we are also experiencing new births, so galvanising the enthusiasm of brethren to take the Province forward.

Talking of newness and youth, the establishment this year of the Colonnade Club of young masons in South Wales has been a great step forward.  As the Club’s president, I have been so pleased to see it join the growing numbers of young masons’ associations across England and Wales; and even more delighted to see the excellent response it has received from right across the Province – and indeed beyond, as I know that a number of Monmouthshire brethren have joined too.  The Club has already organised a number of social and masonic events and I am looking forward to their visit to Freemasons’ Hall in September for the quarterly communication, where I hope we can meet for lunch after the meeting.  If you are interested in joining the Colonnade Club – or you have young masons in your lodge whom you think would be interested, W Bro Ben Gait and W Bro Andrew Grey (2 new Provincial Stewards today) would be happy to help.

I have already said a good deal about the wonderful start we have made towards our targets and goals for the 2021 Festival on behalf of the RMBI.  W Bro Sir Paul Williams’ excellent Festival committee has been working flat out to ensure the Province has made a flying start to our efforts.  Charity Stewards have a crucial part to play and will wish to do a great deal to encourage brethren to contribute to that cause and I am grateful to them for all their work in lodges right across the Province.  You will all know by now that the 4 main masonic charities are combining next year to form a single united masonic charity and I am pleased to tell you that the Province of South Wales is working to pilot a new approach to the process for applying for financial, healthcare and family support.  We are among the first to recruit and train masonic volunteers as Provincial Applications Officers to take on the work of helping applicants complete the necessary forms and documentation required.  This should make it easier for people to apply for help, while reducing the burden on lodge almoners.  It should also make more efficient the use of funds that we as masons have worked so hard to raise.

Brethren, how many times have we heard the phrase ‘something must be done’ when referring to declining numbers in Freemasonry.  Or worse – ‘they must do something about it’.  Well, we are the ‘they’ brethren.  Unless we do that something, it simply won’t happen.  And we are taking action as we said we would.  2014 saw an increase in the number of initiations over the previous year of nearly 5%; and that trend has continued in the first 5 months of 2015.  Total numbers of members for January to May this year are up by 55 and I have been pleased to see a number of re-joiners coming back to the Craft.  We have also established our own Provincial Membership Group which is taking on responsibility for retrieving brethren who have expressed an intention to resign.  More of that in the future, but I am hopeful we can emulate the successes achieved in Metropolitan Grand Lodge and other Provinces by contacting brethren who have said they intend to leave and seeing whether there is anything we can do to retrieve them, perhaps to a different lodge, before they finally leave the Craft for good.

Brethren, today has been a very happy occasion.  Events like this do not just happen without considerable hard work.  I am grateful to the Barry Boys for their usual preparations and post-event efforts; the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team have treated us to first class ritual and organisation; and the Provincial Grand Secretary and his team of administrators have worked tirelessly to ensure we have all been able to enjoy a splendid day, as always.  Difficult to believe brethren, but this has been W Bro Gerald’s first year and annual meeting as our Provincial Grand Secretary and what an impact he has made on the Province of South Wales!  I am most grateful to him for the way he has gone about supporting me and the executive; it is a delight to contact or visit the Provincial Office and I know very well how much lodge masters, secretaries and treasurers feel they can approach the office to secure the help and advice they need.

Finally, on a personal note, some of you may have noticed that the Western mail has been good enough to announce my retirement from the Civil Service as of September this year.  Despite how it may be portrayed politically brethren, this is good news.  Not only will my wife and I be able to enjoy more holidays together and my much neglected garden will receive better attention, I will have considerably more time – for as long as I am spared by the Great Architect and retained by the Grand Master – to give to my Freemasonry, to representing and working for you my brethren; and to getting around the Province to visit as many of my lodges as possible.  I look forward to many more years leading this wonderful Province of South Wales.

Brethren, I thank you all for your attendance here today.  Have a safe journey home and enjoy the Summer break.  God bless you all.

Festival Progress Report

Brethren, an additional item to the agenda. Our 2021 Festival for the RMBI this got off to a flying start after the launch on the 22nd January at the Hendre Lodge in Cardiff. After six months I am able to announce today that the forecast in terms of cash transferred from Lodge Relief Chests, single donations, events and new regular payment pledges has reached the magnificent sum of £1,350,000.

1178 Brethren have qualified for their Festival Steward’s Jewel having donated or pledged £500 or more to the Festival appeal.

In addition to existing regular payment pledges and single donations 775 new regular payment pledges have been taken out in favour of the Festival Relief Chest E0043.

15 lodges have already achieved the Bronze award – an average of £500 per member. They are:

  • Duke of York Lodge No 2453
  • Penrice Lodge No 4172
  • Dinam Lodge No 4521
  • Corinthian Lodge No 4917
  • Penllergaer Lodge No 5567
  • Themis Lodge No 6355
  • Breaksea Lodge No 8358
  • Nottage Loge No 8452
  • Aberhonddu Lodge No 8588
  • Discovery Loge No 8607
  • Lodge of St Andrew with Oriel No 8934
  • Wenvoe Lodge No 9038
  • Proscenium Lodge No 9059
  • Celtic Eagle Lodge No 9132
  • United Services Lodge No 9605

1 lodge has already attained a Silver award – an average of £800 per member. That is:

  • Beaufort Lodge No 3834

I am delighted today to be able to announce that in the short 5 months since the launch of the Festival, 2 Lodges have already achieved the Gold Award – an average of £1000 per member. I shall announce the names of those lodges very shortly

Meanwhile, my thanks go to the Festival Committee for the way they have planned and managed the campaign so far and the way Charity Stewards have rallied to the call. What is evident is the reason we have been able to raise this magnificent sum so early is due to the hard work and dedication of those Charity Stewards who have encouraged their brethren into regular giving and were well prepared when the Festival came around.

I must emphasis there is no room for complacency and I expect those Lodges and Charity Stewards who have not yet rallied to the call to do so as soon as possible. Well over a 100 lodges have fewer than 50% of their brethren committed to a regular payment pledge. So there is much to do if we are to reach our target of having at least two thirds of the brethren in the Province in covenant during the first third of the Festival. I urge WMs, Charity Stewards as you wind down for the summer recess please use this time to assess your position and draw up plans where there is room for improvement. You will have all the support and advice you need from your Area Chairs and Liaison Officers. Our Festival effort is a marathon not a sprint and the going gets tougher the further you progress into the long race, but I hope to see many more brethren wearing the Festival Jewel; there are 4000 of us not yet doing so, so plenty of room for further improvement yet. .

Brethren, I am sure you will join with me in admiration for the 2 lodges who have already achieved Gold status. I shall be pleased to present these beautiful alms collection pouches to the Charity Stewards of:

  • Harlequins Lodge No 5793; and
  • Lodge of Fidelity No 6112

Travelling Gavel

While I am presenting awards, I am pleased now to be able to report on the Travelling Gavel initiative for 2014-15. Introduced last year to encourage more fraternal visiting between lodges, the scheme was led ably by W Bro Rev Alistair Swinford. In the main, it has been entered into with enthusiasm and 3 lodges have excelled.

In 3rd place overall was Yr Efaill Lodge which won the area gavel on 8 occasions. In 2nd place winning the gavel on 10 occasions was Old Monktonians Lodge. And the winner of the Provincial Travelling Gavel for this year with 11 wins is Trisant Lodge; and I shall be pleased to present this magnificent gavel to Trisant Lodge’s Worshipful Master now.