Brethren, what strange and uncertain times we live in. Today would have been our annual celebration and the culmination of another successful masonic year. It would also have been our first day of celebrations to include both Craft and Royal Arch annual meetings. But sadly they were not to be. Let us take a moment at the start of this, my address to all South Wales brethren, to pause and think about those that have lost their lives, family members who are – or have been – ill, and those who are worried about what their future holds, particularly those with concerns about their health or livelihoods.
Today we are particularly missing our friends and visitors who always support us. We hope that you are all well brethren and we look forward to seeing you in the not too distant future.
I want to thank my Executive team and all officers of Provincial Grand Lodge who have been of such great support throughout the year. To those who are stepping down from their roles, I say an especial thanks; this Province could not have run as smoothly as it has without you. In particular, I want to pay tribute to my Wardens and to W Bros Roger Richmond and John Child. W Bro Roger has been a stalwart of this Province for over 20 years and his contribution has been immense. W Bro John has been our trusty Treasurer for 9 years and, as you will have heard at our Provincial Grand Committee meeting last week, he hands over our finances in excellent shape.
And to brethren being appointed and promoted today, my hearty congratulations. From today your new offices and ranks take effect and I take this opportunity to remind you that your preferment is partly a recognition of all that you have done in the past; and partly a further encouragement for all that you will do in the future. Your lodge brethren will now look to you even more for leadership, advice and wise counsel.
We also missed out on our annual trip to London for the Grand Investiture in April. I am sure you will all join me in congratulating R W Bro Sir Paul Williams on his prestigious appointment as Junior Grand Warden, together with promotions for W Bros Kelvin Jones, Ryland James, Ryan Williams and Peter Jones; and first appointments for W Bros Ben Gait, Simon Francis, Gordon Shumack and Granville Thomas. To all of these brethren, we wish you well in your new senior ranks and we look forward to seeing you in that new regalia before too long.
Looking back over the last 12 months, we have had some major successes. The year finally saw our successful move of the Provincial office from 128 Newport Road back to Cardiff Masonic Hall which, I believe, has been a return to its proper and natural home. Far better, I think, for any rental expenditure to be ploughed back into facilities for masonic use, rather than being lost to private concerns. My thanks go to the Provincial Grand Secretary and all those who so willingly gave of their time and expertise to make that the success it has been.
We have also seen the culmination of around 40 years determined effort to allow our ceremonies to be conducted in Welsh. This was no mean feat brethren; we now have the only lodge in the World which is authorized to conduct its ceremonies in the Welsh language and I had the great privilege of attending the initiation of Brother Dr Wayne Robinson in October, a ceremony conducted entirely in Welsh by the Worshipful Master, W Bro Stephen Bassett, and his officers. What a joyous occasion that was brethren; we must all thank the members of Cyfrinfa Dewi Sant – and particularly W Bro Elfan Jones PPrSGW – for all their hard work to get us to this very happy situation. May the lodge now go from strength to strength; in order for it to do so, I encourage all Welsh speakers and learners to join, or at least support it by attending as a visitor. You won’t be disappointed.
The 2021 Festival continues to be one of our main points of focus. In the past year, we have seen much progress towards our £5 million target and today I would have had the enormous pleasure of presenting gold awards to the following 14 lodges: Indefatigable; Fforest; Loyal Commercial; Henry Pendrill Charles; Amethyst; North Glamorgan; Penllegaer; Beehive; St Cenydd; Industria Y Bont Faen; Mor Hafren; Glanogwr; Princes; and Lodge of Round Table. I hope to find a suitable occasion to complete that happy task as soon as possible. Many congratulations to these lodges and my continued thanks to their Charity Stewards and all Charity Stewards around the Province for their hard work on behalf of the RMBI. R W Bro Sir Paul Williams and his committee are doing a wonderful job in leading our efforts and I urge all lodges to support them: encourage new members to sign up to the Festival as soon as they join; and urge those with covenants which are running out to renew them now. We still have 18 months to go before the end of the Festival. We’re not there yet brethren but, with your help, we can reach our target and do all we can to help the RMBI in the first rate work they do. In these trying times, they need more help than ever.
Please put in your diaries now the 13th of November 2021. That will be the night when we celebrate the end of our Festival and it promises to be a great occasion at our iconic Wales Millenium Centre. Don’t miss out brethren. Tickets are on sale already and I know that W Bro Dr Akram Baig and his event committee will welcome early bookings.
I said last year that we would continue our progress towards the objective of fully integrating the Craft and Royal Arch in South Wales. This year we have met as a joint Executive Committee on every occasion with senior members of both orders fully involved in our decision taking. Today sees the appointment of W Bro Brian Scott as Treasurer of both Craft and Royal Arch which completes the aim of creating joint posts for the majority of senior roles. And of course, we would have been in Barry today to celebrate both Craft and Royal Arch annual meetings for the first time ever. These changes can only be good for both orders brethren and I, for one, look forward to this time next year when, God willing, we will proceed with our plan to have a joint celebratory day. The Grand Superintendent and I remain firmly committed to that idea.
Brethren, the last few months have been unprecedented times. Not in living memory has Freemasonry been suspended; even in the second world war, many lodges were able to continue in shortened form. I have been hugely impressed and proud to see so many acts of kindness and hard work on behalf of those in need during these difficult times. Freemasonry at its best brethren. And hasn’t it been good to be able to keep in touch with our friends and brethren via electronic means. My grateful thanks go to all those involved in our efforts, too many to mention individually but I assure you brethren I know who you are and you have my – and the Province’s – eternal gratitude.
On the point about electronic contact, many of you joined me recently to welcome this year’s Prestonian lecturer, W Bro Professor George Boys-Stones, who delivered the Prestonian lecture via Zoom; the first ever remote delivery of this prestigious lecture. It really was a splendid occasion; I shall never forget the sight of so many brethren dressed for the first time in many months in jacket and
Provincial tie, they went so well with the Bermuda shorts and flip-flops which were so expertly hidden from sight !
I know that all of you will be wondering about the future. When can we meet again? What about restrictions? Will we be able to undertake ceremonies? What about festive boards? And many more questions I’m sure. Well, I don’t have the answers brethren. We are all reliant upon government advice in response to the levels of contagion and infection in our communities. What I will say is this: I refuse to be gloomy about our future; I am not prepared to countenance or talk about that dreadful phrase “the new normal” or to make dire predictions about long periods away from the Craft that we all hold so dear. No brethren, we do not want a ‘new normal’; we want our old normal back again. Yes, we may have to put up with some temporary restrictions and changes to our practices in the short term; yes, some of our members may feel that they do not wish to attend for a little longer until they feel safe and comfortable to do so. And yes, we may find that we have to work even harder to retain the interest and enthusiasm of some members. But brethren, we are up for those challenges, so that our return to the way things were can be as smooth and speedy as we all hope can be achieved.
Brethren of South Wales: I’m missing you all very much and I send you and your loved ones my very best wishes. I trust you will all stay healthy until we can meet again. You can be assured that Province is doing all it can to keep our freemasonry alive and well and fit and ready for our return when we are able. If we can help in any way, please feel able to contact the Provincial office; the staff and volunteers are available in normal working hours and will be only too pleased to discuss with you any support we can give. I will bring any news I have as soon as it is available and I look forward with eager anticipation to seeing you all again in our meetings, our social occasions and in the Craft we all love so much.
Brethren, God bless you all.