I do hope that you enjoyed your lunch, but not too much! Let’s see if I can keep your attention.
Would you please stand and be acknowledged if you have proposed a Candidate into Freemasonry during the last 12 months. Brethren, you deserve our thanks for attempting to secure the future of our Order and the thanks of those Candidates you have helped to become members of what is a truly wonderful organisation. Your responsibilities have of course just started – it will be necessary for you to ensure that the recommendation you made to your lodge, was indeed a wise one and that can only be judged if your candidate remains engaged and plays a full part in the life of the lodge. Let’s show our appreciation of these Brethren who have gone the extra mile, because of their interest in and loyalty to their lodges (applause).
To those of you, who I have just invested, please realise that you are my new troops on the ground. I want you to be proud of your appointments, whether they are to an active or a Past Rank; proud enough to tell your friends and colleagues that you are a Provincial Officer in the Masonic Province of Yorkshire North & East Ridings and skilled enough to tell them why you are so proud of your Province and of Freemasonry in general. I certainly think we have a lot to be proud of, and in order to promote the values of Freemasonry to the local and national business communities, we are taking one of the hundred stands at the Hull Expo in June.
Inevitably, the investing of new Officers results in the active year of others coming to an end; but what a year Richard Smedley, Andrew Popely, Jack Sharpe and the rest of the active team have had. Many special events; and I feel sure that my Wardens will not forget taking the Chairs at the 150 year celebrations we attended in Hull and in Driffield.
Today we have replaced our Provincial Grand Treasurer, Robert Blackburn, and on behalf of you all I wish to thank him for looking after our financial interests this last 5 years. Robert has not enjoyed particularly good health recently, so I am pleased to see him here today looking so well. He visibly perked up when his last set of accounts were adopted with no questions.
Of course it is always pleasant to be able to welcome our Distinguished Guests from other Provinces, and today is no exception. I attend their Annual Provincial Meetings and always find an extremely warm welcome. They have become, over a period of time, not just visitors but firm friends.
Leading the delegation from Lincolnshire is the Provincial Grand Master, Graham Ives. Graham, we do not look at the Humber as a barrier, but rather at the Humber Bridge as establishing an unbreakable link between our Provinces.
Leading the delegation from Durham, we have the Provincial Grand Master, Eric Heaviside. Eric had major surgery earlier this year and we are very pleased to see him, not only here in York with us, but looking so fit and well.
From Cumberland & Westmorland we have the Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson with his team. Norman has also overcome illness in recent months and it is good to see you looking so well.
What with my own surgery and the problems faced by Eric and Norman, you could be excused for thinking that Provincial Grand Masters are an unhealthy lot. Not a bit of it – we just work so hard that a little additional maintenance is required from time to time
From Northumberland we have Provincial Grand Master Ian Craigs and his team. Whilst Ian has visited us many times whilst Deputy Provincial Grand Master, this is his first visit to our Craft meeting in the top job and we wish him well for the future.
Unfortunately, David Pratt, the Provincial Grand Master of the West Riding cannot be with us today as they pre-arranged an Executive weekend away. Fortunately, Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Paul Clarke and Tony Llewellyn together with Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Robert Bowhill are able to be with us.
I would like you to give a very warm welcome to Richard Anderson, our Past Provincial Grand Master on the platform today. Richard, it is good that you have now completed the traditional year of purdah and feel comfortable about coming out to play once more. (Applause)
I am also delighted to recognise the Heads of other Orders who are with us today and perhaps they would like to stand. (Applause)
Brethren I know that you have done a lot of welcoming and must be tired out, but the welcomes would not be complete if I did not introduce the Grand Officers of the year. We had a very enjoyable day with them at the Investitures in London on the last Wednesday in April. If they would stand when I refer to their appointment, you could perhaps applaud at the end if you have any strength left.
Our Province is fortunate to have an Active Officer of Grand Lodge in VW Bro James Newman President of RMBI. Additionally, Past Ranks were awarded to W Bros Bill Burnett and Martin Eggermont as PAGDCs, and to Mark Hall and David Lawrance as PAGStBs, whilst Paul Darley was promoted to PAGDC.
I think they all deserve our congratulations (applause)
Brethren, in the course of my duties as your Provincial Grand Master, I visit many lodges and see more and more ritual being read, rather than committed to memory and recited. My question to any mason would be – are you not prepared to try and maintain the high standards set in your lodge by the many fine masons who have gone before? I was always taught that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. I accept there will be a few exceptions, when a Master is genuinely unable to learn his ritual owing to, for example, illness or age, but in such cases he should try to learn the Opening and Closing of the lodge and leave the Past Masters to conduct all other parts of the ceremonies. The only ritual books in a Lodge Room should be that of the Director of Ceremonies and the Prompter and there is nothing wrong with needing a prompt here and there as long as you have put in the work and done your best. I often hear it said that men are too busy today, but is that right? There are many men in this auditorium today who learned their ritual despite stressful jobs with long hours and family commitments, proving the old adage that if you want a job done properly ask a busy man.
Brethren, we shall shortly be sending to every lodge, the template of a Mentor’s report which will need to be completed and submitted electronically on an annual basis. I hope you will agree with me that it is essential for us as a Province to measure the success or otherwise of our Mentoring Programme. In 2014 we initiated more than a hundred new masons, which is very good indeed. Unfortunately, nearly two hundred resigned or were excluded. It will be obvious to all of you that we need to stem the tide of resignations. The solution is, in part, very simple, but we are just not adopting it. We should not be asking ourselves, after the event, why a brother has resigned because that, in all probability, is too late. We should be asking a brother why he did not attend and we should be doing that, in a caring way, after his first absence. The more meetings he misses, the less chance there is that he will return. It is all too easy to say “that is the job of the Almoner or Mentor”; but if we really are the caring organisation that we claim to be, then all of us should be only too happy to telephone that Brother the day after a meeting to tell him that he was missed, and to ask him if he is well or needs our help in any way.
Surely all our brethren were considered carefully before being offered membership and were considered fit and proper persons to join us; if they then start to miss meetings there must, therefore, be a reason and we owe it to them and to ourselves to find it out and help address it.
It has been an extremely long day and we are indebted to our Provincial Secretary together with Marie and Linda for making all the arrangements (applause)
Meetings such as this require a lot of planning, to say nothing of rehearsal, and thanks are due to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team, as they are to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies of the Chapter and his team who got us off to such a good start this morning. Many members of the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge and Chapter have assisted during the day, not least the team who missed out on lunch to convert this auditorium from a Royal Arch to a Craft format. (Applause)
Those of you present at lunch are aware of the many different calls upon my time today brethren, but I think the fact that I am here with you clearly demonstrates how very proud I am to be your Provincial Grand Master.