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PGM Address November 2008

Brethren,

 

I am pleased to welcome you all to our annual provincial meeting held for the first time at a venue other than the City Hall in Newcastle and to witness such encouraging and apparently enthusiastic numbers.  Whilst the surroundings may not appear ideal for everyone in attendance they are, I believe, more in keeping with our requirements representing the form of a lodge room - with the pillars adding an imposing if not architecturally accurate element - and after the conclusion of our meeting providing facilities that will enable us all to enjoy a festive board without having to run the gauntlet of the weather and cloakroom queues. Much thought and preparation have gone into the arrangements for your convenience and comfort today and I hope that after due consideration you will be able to feel that they have been appropriate.

I congratulate those whom I have appointed to or promoted in provincial grand rank.  I hope that you will wear your new regalia with pride and reflect that it is intended to acknowledge not only the individual contribution which each of you has made to your own lodge and chapter together with any further advancement in masonic knowledge you have individually decided to make, but also the extent to which you have, or in some cases have not, discharged your obligation to masonic charity.  As you will have noticed, fuller use of the different available masonic ranks has been made this year and it is intended that this will continue to be implemented in future years.  It will remove a presumption which I believe has been allowed to develop over past years - that only certain ranks will be given on first appointment and that in the fullness of time high provincial rank will automatically follow on promotion. Indiscriminate and inappropriate appointment to and promotion in provincial rank can and does devalue the importance of the various offices.  It necessarily follows that those brethren with high aspirations may need initially to lower their sights while those who have great expectations on presumed promotion are almost certain to be guaranteed disappointment.

I am not aware of any brother on his appointment to or promotion in grand rank communicating his dissatisfaction as to rank to the M W the Grand Master and I can think of no cogent reason why appointment to or promotion in provincial rank should be any different.

Experienced brethren of provincial rank who have made significant contributions to the craft are recognized annually by the M W the Grand Master.  Whilst recommendations may be submitted, appointment to and promotion in grand rank is not a right: It is in the sole gift of our Grand Master.  It follows that anyone who lets it be known directly or indirectly that he believes that he is entitled thereto is likely to be disappointed.  It was therefore particularly pleasing to attend the annual investiture last April and witnessed the M W the Grand Master invest the following brethren upon their appointment to grand rank:

Gary Burton, Brian Ruderman, Mel Sayers and Alex Thompson – PAGDC

And the following well known brethren upon their promotion in grand rank:

DPGM:  Ian Craigs - PGSwdB
APGMs: Michael Daws, Brain Rudd, Vic Wood and John Chan – PSGD
Ivan Foster and Donald Jowett - PJGD
Let us acclaim their well deserved preferment.

Everyone today seems to me to be in such a hurry and if we are not careful we will find masonry in general and our lodges in particular subsumed by this lifestyle.

The essence of masonry is regularity and progression and there is accordingly no room for fast-tracking or short cuts, no substitute for experience gained with the passage of time. Having subjected ourselves to its rules and regulations we cannot then ignore these or attempt to manipulate them for selfish reasons.  I accept that masonry must move forward but this must not be at the expense of the standard of ritual and ceremonial or in response to expediency or purported necessity.  Proper planning is essential if our lodges are to operate efficiently or in some cases simply survive.  It is incumbent upon you as experienced brethren to ensure that the requirements of our constitution and bye-laws are observed and implemented. By way of example ask yourselves the following questions:

When did your lodge hold a committee meeting at the end of its year to review its programme, the performance of its officers and to consider the finances of the lodge?

When did it last meet prior to the commencement of its new year to consider the master’s programme, that all regular officers were in place and review those matters dealt with at the previous committee meeting?

When was it explained either at these meetings, or at all, to the junior or senior warden that it was incumbent on him to have identified suitable candidates for his year in the chair?
What steps have been put in place to look after your candidates so that the ceremonies are explained to them and that they can proceed through the offices at their pace rather than at a pace which suits the lodge?

How would you respond thereto?

I suspect that many lodges do not implement some or any of these under the ill-conceived presumption that a Past Master going back into the chair already knows what is required.  Sadly this is often not the case and results in the absence of proper or indeed any planning.  You must recognize that if this course of conduct persists and worse still complacency prevails, for example where over a period of years successive Past Masters go back into the chair, the lodge will become increasingly introverted and almost inevitably close.  

Our excellent support team has provided and in some cases continues to help lodges experiencing a temporary difficulty with regular officers. Its purpose however is to provide temporary relief.  It does not exist to keep lodges going for the comfort of their brethren.  If the support team answers a request from a lodge for help then I expect all the lodge’s brethren, irrespective of age, to be proactive in its operation by at least holding office, taking part in its ceremonial and by identifying and providing candidates.  If the welfare of these lodges does not improve within a reasonable period of time – say two to three years – then I believe that the support should be withdrawn unless there is strong evidence for its continued presence.  

During the past year the provincial officers accompanying principally the Deputy and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and occasionally myself have attended a centenary celebration, golden and silver jubilees and other anniversaries as well as formal visits to lodges whereat without exception the welcome was warm and friendly and the standard of ceremonial and ritual extremely pleasing.  The senior warden, John Bradbeer - who during the past year had the pleasure of seeing his son initiated in the premier lodge in the province – Royal Grammar School where he subsequently assisted in his raising - and the Junior Warden Bill Cassidy – together with the Senior Warden now affectionately known as Butch and Sundance - proposed toasts to the lodges which were invariably informative, frequently humorous and always well-received.  I thank them for their contribution and hope that they and indeed all the officers have derived as much pleasure from this apsect of the past year as have my colleagues and I.  

Our social committee has had another busy and rewarding year arranging inter alia the provincial ball - the province’s answer to strictly come dancing – and a number of social evenings and events.  The golf society held another very successful charity day and also two outings for its competitions.  The bowling association has been successfully resurrected with matches against neighbouring provinces being resumed and the Wright Markham trophy being held once more.  The proceeds from all of these ventures have gone to the festival in aid of RMTGB next May.  My thanks to all brethren involved for their enthusiasm and industry.

It may seem churlish even impertinent to challenge the effectiveness of these fundraising efforts but the bald facts, brethren, are that they could and should be run purely for enjoyment if only every brother in the province honoured the commitment which we all gave on joining masonry – to respond to a claim for charity - something which at present 50 % of the brethren, who to date have made no direct contribution, have signally failed to do.  Making no contribution to the festival is in my view not an option open to anyone who professes to hold the principles of masonry to heart.  I can inform you that we currently stand at just under £2.2M towards our target of £2.5M.  I am confident that I can rely upon you all to prevail on your colleagues who remain obdurate to recant and respond positively to my request by making the appropriate donation.

I hope that the distribution of the newsletter to all brethren has been of benefit in keeping everyone up to date with provincial matters and that the forthcoming introduction of a new web-site under the auspices of John Chan will provide another more immediate medium of communication.  

Our meeting has been enhanced by the presence of our distinguished guests from other provinces who it is now my pleasure to introduce to you.  I hope that they have all enjoyed their time with us so far, that they will continue to do so and that our efforts to reciprocate the warm and genuine friendship extended to us when we visit their provinces and the generous hospitality which we receive have met with their approval and have not been in vain.

I am delighted to welcome the Grand Secretary and trust that the arrangements which we have made for his comfort have been acceptable and that what he has witnessed will enable him to return to headquarters with satisfaction to himself and advantage to the province.

And last but by no means least the presentation team from RMTGB.  

Brethren let us now show our guests how much we value their presence in true Northumbrian fashion.

The support of the other masonic orders is never taken for granted by me and is much valued. I am consequently delighted to acknowledge their support.

On your behalf brethren I wish to record a number of formal thanks:

To the brethren from RMTGB for all their help to date; they have once again demonstrated in most forceful and persuasive terms the exceptional work which the trust does and the direct benefit therefrom which persons in our province currently enjoy.  

To the management of the Gosforth Park Racecourse company for their assistance with the arrangements for our meeting.

To the host lodges for the contribution of their members in providing stewards and for assisting with the logistics of the delivery and removal of the lodge furniture.

Especial personal thanks go to the Director of Ceremonies his Deputies and Assistants for their expert conduct of proceedings today and also at all our formal provincial visits and events; and

To the Provincial Secretary and the Assistants at Provincial Office not only for the preparation for this meeting but for all their hard work throughout the year in the efficient administration of the province.

Finally, brethren I and the Executive will of course be pleased to receive your thoughts and views on all aspects of this meeting but request  that before rushing to tell us how much better you could have done you take time for mature reflection and submit these contemporaneously with your aspirations for appointment to or promotion in provincial grand rank.

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