Brethren, I am very grateful to the Masonic Orphan’s Welfare Committee for their kind invitation to attend their annual general meeting held in Arthur Square yesterday morning. In all honesty, they were a Committee that I was not familiar with, and I found it very interesting to learn a little about their history, structure and duties. And what a story they have to tell. The Committee was set up by Sir Robert Baird, Grand Treasurer of The Grand Lodge of Ireland and tasked with the duty to assist the children attending the Masonic Boys and Girls schools by providing them with uniforms, text books and travel expenses. This was a role that Sir Robert had been doing for many years at his own expense, and this new Committee took over this important role at the time of his death.
However, times have changed greatly since this Committee was set up, and its main focus today is to provide assistance to orphans and children of necessitous freemasons from the Irish Constitution, wherever they may be living, with an emphasis on students at third level education who are assisted by the Committee through the provision of an annual grant (currently £ 180.00). Outside of that specific remit the Committee also provide special case grants and have in the past supported the purchase of specialist tools for apprentices, equipment for medical students, and specialist equipment such as wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs for disabled students and even travel expenses for students attending overseas conferences.
The Masonic welfare committee is only able to continue with this important work thanks to the generosity of a few Lodges, Chapters, Preceptories and Charity Committees, who loyally support their activities by donating a small percentage of their available Charity funds. The Committee will be celebrating its centenary next year, and as part of its fund raising activities it will be selling Centenary jewels at a cost of £ 25.00 sterling / 35 euros, available from Rosemary Street, Belfast or Molesworth Street in Dublin. I’m very grateful to Wor Bro Colin Bonnes, the outgoing Chairman for his useful briefing paper with the details above. One final point is that although the Committee have historically been based in Belfast, its services are available to applicants throughout the Irish Constitution.
The Annual General Meeting began promptly at 11.00AM with a full complement of Members present and in the presence of RT Wor Bro Ken Porter Assistant Grand Master of Antrim. We received comprehensive reports from Wor Bro D Wallace, Committee Treasurer and Wor Bro Alan Patterson Committee Secretary, which briefed us all on the activities of the year 2015 -16. Some 95 student qualified for the full £ 180.00 grant this year, and progress was made in respect of future fund raising for 2017 and beyond. Wor Bro Colin Bonnes stepped down as Chairman and Wor Bro Dennis Walker was elected to fill the office of Chairman in the year 2016 -17. The meeting was formally closed and we adjourned to the Sir Robert Baird dining room for a very pleasant lunch. I was then invited to say a few words, ( which can be studies elsewhere on the site ) and the meeting formally closed at 3.00PM.
On a final note, I would encourage you all to buy a centenary jewel and help to finance the worthwhile activities of this fund, as it actively continues to support, those students would might need some additional financial support during their three, four or five years at Univewrsity. Once the fund decides to support you, they continue to do so whilst you remain in 3rd level education. To date the Committee have been at Grand Lodge in Armagh and PGL of Down in Newry selling their wares. They hope to be present at many other such meetings in the months ahead. So, if you do happen to see them, come forward and hear first hand about the work that they do, and then get yourself a commemorative jewel to mark the occasion.