PGM Address
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PGM Address
at Annual Meeting
of Provincial Grand Lodge of Northumberland
Newcastle Racecourse, High Gosforth Park
Tuesday 10th November 2009



Welcome to this our Annual Provincial Meeting and the second to be held here at Newcastle Race Course.   I trust that the hurdles which were encountered last year have been successfully negotiated and that the alleged need for ear trumpets and binoculars has been resolved to your satisfaction.

The focus of today’s meeting is quite properly upon those brethren who have been appointed to and promoted in Provincial Grand Rank.  I congratulate you all and hope that you have derived as much pleasure from the receipt of your preferment as I have from investing you with the regalia of your new Provincial Rank.  You all have new ranks – these, however, are not intended to be a sinecure but carry new or additional responsibility.  I charge you to wear your regalia with pride and return to your lodges with renewed enthusiasm and commitment; use your experience to guide and assist your brethren but remember to do so with courtesy and affability but above all with humility.

The past year can I believe best be described as one of an ascending crescendo of emotions – anxiety encouragement celebration and ultimately exhilaration, if not euphoria. At our Annual Meeting last year I expressed my anxiety and concern that we were not going to achieve the Festival target of £2.5M in aid of RMTGB.  Over the subsequent months I derived encouragement from the reports which I received of the efforts of the brethren, both individually and collectively, and from the information provided to me in response to my frequent, if not perceived by him to be persistent, enquiries of our Charity Steward Gerry Crichton, whose patience and tolerance I can only admire and applaud.    It became clear by April, the formal closing date for contributions to the Festival, that the target could in fact just be attained so that there would indeed be cause for celebration at the Festival Dinner.  When the result of our efforts - just under £3M - became known at that dinner the prevailing atmosphere changed quite understandably from one of celebration to one of exhilaration.  It was a magnificent conclusion to the Festival.  I have already written to all lodges to record my gratitude and appreciation but I make no apology for repeating those sentiments today.  As we metaphorically arrive at the end of the conveyor belt of our efforts what words could better encapsulate my feelings than those of that well-known octogenarian entertainer and presenter - “Didn’t you do well !”.

If there was a downside to the Festival Dinner, it was the news of the sudden deterioration in the health of our DProvGM, V W Bro Ian Craigs which prevented him attending and receiving the accolade to which as Chairman of the Festival Committee he and its members so richly deserved.  I am delighted to have the opportunity to set the record straight and publicly extend my thanks to him.   It has been so pleasing to witness the steady progress of his recovery and to find him in such good form today.

I am brethren further encouraged that without so much as a whisper from the PGM so many of you are already planning – indeed some have already contributed -  for our next Festival in 2021 in aid of RMBI of which our own Scarbrough Court residential home at Cramlington provides such a worthwhile example and focal point.  Whilst it is not currently intended to formally launch the next Festival until 2011 you will perhaps not be surprised to learn that I have no wish to stifle any such initiatives or dampen enthusiasm whether they be individual or collective.  

I congratulate those lodges which have during the past year celebrated Centenaries and Golden Jubilees - signal achievements of which their founders would I am sure have taken great pride and satisfaction.  The Provincial Executive was honoured and delighted to accept invitations to attend and join in these celebrations.  As I believe you are all now aware if your lodge wishes to celebrate an anniversary or indeed any occasion and would like province to attend please contact Provincial Office which will be pleased to arrange appropriate representatives.

I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from learning of those lodges which have been without a candidate for several years now enjoying better times whether as a result of their own endeavours or with the assistance of the Provincial Support Team.  I congratulate them on their achievements.  I recognize that there remain a number of lodges which continue to struggle.   Some will be able to survive and ultimately thrive through the commitment and industry of their brethren and the goodwill of their regular visitors:  Others, where these qualities are absent, will not.  If therefore a lodge is to continue to enjoy the benefit of the Support Team its own members must be actively involved in the lodge’s operation and administration.  Any evidence of an abdication of these responsibilities will result in the Support Team being withdrawn and its services directed towards those lodges whose members are genuinely interested in working towards their lodge’s survival.

I have to admit to disappointment at the apparent difficulty which some lodges and/or members appear to have in complying with the regulations of the order which, as we are all well aware, are contained in the Book of Constitutions.  Lodge problems of whatever nature and magnitude can and should be resolved internally.  Only when an impasse has been established should there be a reference to the Provincial Office and then it must be made in accordance with the regulations and in an appropriate manner.  The Provincial Secretary is a busy person and whilst he can and often does provide guidance and direction this is not his primary function but please note that when he does give direction it is expected that this will be followed not debated.

Prior to my appointment the province was notionally and effectively divided into four areas with an APGM each responsible for one area.  This had resulted, no doubt unintentionally, in these areas becoming quasi-autonomous and consequently in my view too parochial and introverted.
I was anxious to establish as quickly as practicable the general concept and understanding that the province exists as an entity and not as the aggregate of four areas.  My initial energies and those of the other members of the Executive were necessarily directed towards the Festival and, as an interim measure pending the conclusion of the Festival, I requested the APGMs to appoint a chairman and secretary for each area.  This has remained the position to date but with immediate effect the four areas are abolished and the Province returns to a single operational entity.   I take this opportunity to record my thanks to the respective chairmen and secretaries of the North, East, West and Central groups for their temporary custodianship.  

The previous arrangement whereby each lodge had a Visiting Grand Officer attached to it has also been reviewed: Visiting Grand Officers are to be replaced with Reporting Grand Officers.  Details of the revised arrangements and will communicated to lodge secretaries.  It is my hope that this restoration of its constitution will result in a united province with lodges and brethren expanding their sphere of operation and undertaking more widespread visiting. Those who are today completing their year as appointees to Provincial Grand Rank can give an important lead in this.  The DPGM and the APGMs are keen to establish their availability and presence throughout the province which I know you will appreciate and believe you will welcome.  

Every brother irrespective of rank has in my view a right to know what is happening throughout the province and when.  The arrival and introduction of our new website at the beginning of this year provides access to first class information regarding the Province and UGLE literally at the touch of a button.  I appreciate that not all brethren are as yet comfortable with this method of communication and therefore our Newsletter continues to breach this gap.  There can however be no doubt that the web will eventually supersede traditional methods of communication – the Year Book, information, details of other orders even lodge summons will all be dealt with in this way.  Two lodges already have their own website linked to the Provincial site and I hope that many more as well as the other orders will follow their initiatve.  I am sure that help with initial set up costs can be given by Province.

Whilst Freemasonry within the Province will continue to develop and be subject to change certain aspects outwith it seem, perhaps properly, reluctant to change.  The annual investiture was held as usual at great Queen Street, London, at which our new M W Pro Grand Master presided for the first time.  The absence of the M W Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent in no way detracted from the magnificent spectacle which was once again evident and which was of course enhanced by those of our own brethren who received an appointment or a promotion.  The following brethren were invested with the regalia of their new rank:  David Auld, Chris Boak, Gordon Craigs and Ted Nesbit – PAGDC and Alan Hume – PJGD. I know that you brethren are of too generous a disposition to envy their preferment and that you will have but one view – to congratulate them and now would seem an appropriate time for you to do so.

Membership of the Provincial Team necessarily impinges upon the brethren’s time especially that of the Provincial Wardens, but I doubt if any previous Warden will have expended more hours than our PProvJGW – I refer of course to the additional travel to and from his home rather than to the length of his toasts.
I congratulate both Wardens on the very different but very satisfactory manner in which they have discharged their duties.  They have been well supported by the Provincial Officers of the year and I thank them all for their contribution.

Today marks the retirement of three long-serving Provincial Officers -  Wilf Burns as Provincial Grand Sword Bearer, Jim & David Welch as Provincial Grand Standard Bearers and Ron Haikney as Provincial Grand Tyler.  Each one of them has for over ten years given loyal dedicated and unselfish service to the Province which has been greatly appreciated by me and I am sure my predecessor under whom they also served. I would ask the Provincial Grand Secretary to formally record my gratitude and I am sure brethren you would also wish to take this opportunity to show your appreciation.

It is important that we retain interests outwith our organization and our sport and social committees continue to look after our mental and corporeal faculties in their fullest energy. The events which they organize for your enjoyment are well advertised, are great fun and I commend them to you.  I very much hope that you will support them in their endeavours.

I was recently asked if there is a noun of assemblage for a collection of PGMs in the way that e.g.  A group of owls is described as “a parliament of owls”.  Looking around me I suggest that the noun of assemblage for the northern PGMs might be “an absence”.  I do however hope that the absence of their respective PGMs (all for very good reasons I hasten to add) has enabled our Distinguished Guests from other Provinces to relax and enjoy the arrangements we have made for their comfort and that our efforts to reciprocate the warm and genuine friendship together with the generous hospitality which we receive when we visit their Provinces have met with their approval.  Brethren let us now show our Guests how much we value their presence in true Northumbrian fashion.

We were all informed on the night of our initiation that there are several degrees in Freemasonry and were encouraged to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.  I am delighted to acknowledge the Heads of these other Masonic Degrees and Orders and I thank them for their support.
On your behalf brethren I wish to record a number of formal thanks:
To the management of the Gosforth Park Race Course Company, and to Emily in particular, for their assistance with the arrangements for our meeting;
To the members of the host lodges for acting as stewards and for their willing co-operation with the logistics involved with today’s meeting and in assisting our guests and members upon their arrival;
To the Director of Ceremonies his Deputies and Assistants for their expert conduct of the ceremonial involved with the proceedings today and also at all our formal Provincial visits and events during the year;
To the Provincial Secretary not only for the firm diplomacy and diplomatic firmness evident in his efficient administration of the province but also for the preparation for this meeting and, together with his trusty helpers,  for all the hard work throughout the year; and
To yourselves, brethren, for your presence today and for the great support which I have enjoyed and which I trust will long endure.

May the Great Architect of the Universe guide you in all your endeavours and keep you safe.

Link to UGLE website