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.
Freemasonry today is a fast moving organization and I first want to highlight some of last year’s successes before setting out what I believe to be our challenges for the year ahead.
The Colonnade Club continues to go from strength to strength, providing an ideal network for new and young masons to meet each other; socialize outside formal masonic meetings; learn and enjoy more about Masonry together; and participate in the growing network of clubs right across the Constitution. On that last point, I was delighted that South Wales was recently able to host a highly successful annual New and Young Masons’ conference in Cardiff, attracting Club members from across England and Wales and as far afield as Hong Kong. I wish the Club well for the future and hope that all South Wales masons will give their support by encouraging new and young members to join the Colonnade’s ranks.
This year we finally received approval from the Board of General Purposes to authorize one lodge in each of the 4 Welsh Provinces to work its ceremonies in the Welsh language. You won’t be surprised to hear me say that Cyfrinfa Dewi Sant will be so authorised in South Wales; and I expect the Lodge to perform its first initiation entirely in Welsh in October this year. This is a tremendous step forward for the Lodge, the Province and for Wales and we are all indebted to W Bro Elfan Jones and the brethren of Dewi Sant for their dogged determination and hard work to bring about this wonderful development. I hope that Welsh speakers and learners right across the Province will support by joining, or at least visiting, to see the work done in our mother tongue.
Brethren, this year we have put in place fresh administration headed by our new Provincial Grand Secretary, W Bro Ben Gait, surely the youngest and already one of the most competent secretaries – and Scribes E – in the Constitution. At the same time we said an enormous thank you to W Bro Phil Aubrey who led the integration of the Craft and Royal Arch administrations; and to Vanessa Holt who had worked in the Provincial office for nearly 30 years. W Bro Ben is already stamping his own mark on the office and I know he would still welcome more volunteers to help run what is clearly a busy office environment.
I said last year that we would move ahead with joint Craft/Royal Arch Executive meetings and these have proved a huge success. All of our meetings are now joint affairs and the Grand Superintendent and I have made a significant number of joint appointments, so cementing our commitment to the full integration of the Craft and Royal Arch in South Wales. While we both continue to support strongly other Orders which are so important to providing variety and further masonic learning to our members, we both believe that Craft members should complete their knowledge of Pure Ancient Masonry by joining the Royal Arch before they consider joining others, a point clearly and unambiguously made by the Most Worshipful Grand Master and First Grand Principal at this year’s Supreme Grand Chapter convocation.
This Province’s charitable efforts continue undiminished. What a wonderful sight to see outside the Hall today how our contribution, and that of our Masonic Benevolent Fund, has been able to purchase a new, fully equipped vehicle for the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team who do so much excellent work to keep us safe in our beautiful countryside. And the work of V W Bro Sir Paul Williams’ 2021 Festival committee and all our Charity Stewards continues with great enthusiasm towards our £5 million target in aid of the RMBI. We are not there yet brethren, but with further annual covenants, especially from new initiates who should learn early on of their necessary commitment to charitable purposes, and, crucially, a growing realization amongst lodges that there is great merit in releasing all of their Charity Chests to the Festival, I am hopeful that we will achieve an amount approaching that challenging target.
I have also been most grateful to special efforts such as the tremendous bike ride by W Bro Simon Francis and his team, 175 miles from the Llandudno to Porthcawl RMBI Home in one day, raising in excess of £12,000. In addition, celebratory occasions such as next week’s Gala dinner at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea will be both enjoyable and a great contribution to our Festival efforts; please give it your support brethren.
Our challenges fall into 2 basic categories: membership and accommodation. W Bro Neil Evans and his Membership team have made some great innovations which have attracted new members to our ranks; and W Bro Merrick Jones and his team of orators and presenters continue to enrich our ceremonies with interesting and informative material. Brethren, all lodges have the tools in Pathway and Solomon to attract and, crucially, retain good quality men, but they need to be used and exploited to best effect. I encourage you all to discuss in your meetings how you can do that; and if you need advice please contact W Bros Neil or Merrick who will be only too pleased to help.
I continue to be concerned about our Masonic Halls. Without them, we would be a much poorer organization and we owe it to our forebears to make them meeting places where we and our families and friends are happy to enjoy masonic and social occasions. Brethren, your hall needs your and your lodge’s support; without it, it cannot survive in these times when costs are going up and the number of members we have to help meet those costs is reducing or standing still. I have been delighted to see the financial help that the Masonic Benevolent Fund has recently been able to give to 2 of our masonic halls, with maybe more available to others in certain circumstances.
Cardiff Masonic Hall is experiencing a new phenomenon as the ‘Friends of CMH’ is being established to find ways of giving practical support in these challenging financial times; and as further practical help to our biggest Masonic Hall, the Grand Superintendent and I have decided that as our Provincial Office lease expires, we will look to relocate back to Guildford Crescent where, of course, the office was for many years. I hope that the necessary work can be done and an agreement reached with the Board to enable us to move the Provincial Office later this year. I have long thought that Provincial administrations should be linked to our Masonic Halls so that rentals can be ploughed back into facilities which benefit our members wherever possible.
Brethren, I must thank all those responsible for today’s meeting. The Provincial Grand Secretary and his team for their tireless efforts in making the arrangements we have enjoyed; the 2 Provincial Directors of Ceremonies for our first class ceremonial; W Bro Kevin Hearn and the Barry boys for setting everything up for our comfort and enjoyment; W Bro Gordon Shumack for building and donating the new plinth on which I appointed and promoted brethren today; W Bro Graham Gonthier for looking after and guiding our excellent Stewards for the day; and all of you for your kind attendance.
Today we say goodbye to 2 stalwart Provincial officers: W Bro Peter Jones who has completed over 5 years as Provincial DC and W Bro Malcolm Kidd who has done 10 years as our ever-present Tyler. Brethren, you both have my – and our – grateful thanks for all you have done. We wish your successors well.
Brethren all, thank you for listening so attentively. Enjoy your Summer break and return in September refreshed and eager to take our wonderful fraternity from strength to strength.
I wish you a safe journey home; God bless you all.