Companions attending Provincial Grand Chapter at Southport were afforded a another relatively mild autumn day as they made their way into the Southport Convention Centre. Of the many in attendance the assembly saw companions receive a first appointment and others were promoted.
After opening Provincial Grand Chapter, the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison welcomed the distinguished guests from other Provinces and said he really hoped that they would enjoy their time at the meeting and take back to their Provinces many happy memories of the meeting. After Tony announced their names the companions welcomed the visitors with acclamation in the usual West Lancashire manner.
Having proceeded to confirm the minutes of the last convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter held at Southport in 2017, Tony continued to address the companions, expressing his delight at seeing so many West Lancashire companions present to share in the Provincial Convocation, some whom were principals of their chapters and some who were attending for the first time. He hoped that they would all enjoy the convocation and return to their chapters saying what a wonderful occasion it had been and encourage others to come along in the future.
He then continued by expressing his gratitude to the senior officers of the Royal Arch team and was delighted to be able to re-appoint his Deputy Grand Superintendent, his Co-Principals and Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals.
On noting Ian Cuerden’s retirement, he remarked: “Ian, you have served as one of my assistants for the last five years, throughout which time you have carried out your duties with both dignity and thoroughness, and this coupled with a great sense of humour has made it a pleasure to work with you and I wish both you and your wife Doreen and long and happy retirement.”
Tony then appointed Michael Threlfall as an Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals with specific responsibility for the Wigan and District, Leigh and Preston Groups.
In his primary address, Tony began by saying: “It has given me the greatest pleasure to welcome all our distinguished guests here this afternoon and I really do hope that they will enjoy their time with us and take back to their Provinces many happy memories of our meeting. I am so pleased to be back in Southport once again and delighted to see so many West Lancashire companions here to share in our Provincial Convocation. I offer a warm welcome to you all, many of you may be here for the first time and I hope that you will enjoy the experience.
I trust that many of you have availed yourselves of the PSA testing that the Province has made available to all companions prior to this Convocation, supported as always by the WLFC. Masonry continues to donate huge sums of money into research of prostate cancer and if our efforts have saved just one brother, and extended the lives of many others, then I hope you agree it has all been worth it.
So far, this Masonic year, the members of Chapter of Hope No 2679 meeting in Eccles, have celebrated their centenary and it was a pleasure to attend their celebrations, accompanied by my Provincial team. This season there will be two further chapters celebrating 100 years. We will be visiting:
Hesketh Chapter No 950 on 27 March and Marquis of Lorne Chapter No 1354 on 17 May, and I am sure that we all offer our congratulations to these chapters for reaching this astonishing landmark.
The ‘Masonic Bikers’, fittingly known as the `Sons of the Widows` have recently become members of Skelmersdale and Waterloo Chapter No 1380, which was on the point of surrendering its charter. Happily, the numbers are now on the increase and the chapter is thriving. If you have an interest in motorcycling, then I’m sure the members would be more than happy to hear from you.
Companions, my Deputy Grand Superintendent and the RA Cabinet continue to push forward with initiatives to promote and develop the Royal Arch. They have constructed a strategic plan which has at its core, the concept of developing the Royal Arch as a high-quality experience of Freemasonry with an emphasis on clarity and enjoyment – enjoyment companions being my continued emphasis.
In terms of promoting the Royal Arch in this way they have recently circulated to the group chairman a ‘Good Practice Guide for Chapters’. This focusses on four elements: so important for the future of the Royal Arch (i) Attracting new members: which must be one of our highest priorities for the RA to move forward in the 21st century. It is enjoyable, it is vibrant, it is stimulating and more important it completes our Freemasonry. (ii) Our ceremonies and the retention of members: This is vitally important for all our chapters.
The recently introduced ‘Enhanced Ceremonies’ together with several other initiatives, Talking Heads, Joint Convocations and Provincial Team visits now appear to be working extremely well in a large number of our chapters. This is offering our companions a variety of interesting convocations, enabling greater enjoyment and more importantly, ensuring our exaltees have a wonderful experience when joining our chapters.
(iii) Festive boards and social events: The theme of enjoyment must be extended to both of these very important aspects of our RA Masonry and will assist chapters to encourage brethren to join us. (iv) Planning for the future: This we must all attend to for very obvious reasons. As we are only the current custodians of our Masonry here in West Lancashire and we all want to leave a legacy for our successors to enjoy.
Currently 43% of the brethren in this Province are members of the Royal Arch. So, in the coming months, let us see if we can make that 50% for next year`s Provincial Grand Chapter meeting. It is ‘doable’, and you companions, together with the Royal Arch leads in our Craft lodges can make that difference.
I do hope that all chapters will use this ‘Good Practice Guide’, when it is published, to examine their own practices and to work with their group executives, especially their RA Lead, to ensure that we do indeed make the Royal Arch a high-quality experience for all our members and build upon our future together.
In order to compliment this quality experience for both Craft and Royal Arch Masons, during the summer months, I authorised an independent ground-up review of our website. This brand-new site is almost complete and some of the new pages will be projected on the wall throughout dinner. It really does show off our Province to be the largest and the best – leading from the front and by example. I’m confident you will approve companions.
Now companions, I must make mention of the West Lancashire 2021 Festival for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Firstly, I thank all those companions and chapters who have already pledged towards the Festival and would ask those of you who have not yet done so to consider doing so as soon as possible. Our Festival is for a very short 4-year period and we are now half way through.
This Province has an enviable reputation of charitable giving and I have no doubt that this Festival will show that once again West Lancashire is at the forefront of everything that is good about Freemasonry. I trust that every companion will support this Festival to the best of their ability. May I say how thrilled I am to see so many of you wearing our Provincial tie and indeed – WEARING YOUR FESTIVAL JEWEL WITH PRIDE.
Tony addresses the companions. I wish to inform you of two very special events planned for 2019 to enable us to support the 2021 Festival. On Saturday 6 April at the Blackpool Winter Gardens we are to hold a charity star studded Concert ‘A Night with the Stars’, tickets for which are now on sale. The concert is headlined by: Jim Davidson, Anita Harris and Mick Miller and promises to be a sell-out. Tickets will also be available to the general public, but we have reserved the principle parts of the Opera House for Freemasons and our families so, as they say, book early to avoid disappointment.
In February, March and May 2019 our very own ‘IRON MAN’ Peter Taylor, Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, is to take part in ‘Taylors Sponsored Trilogy’ which will consist of two running races, namely the ‘Great North Western Half Marathon’ in Blackpool and the ‘Coniston 14’ and finally in May the ‘Southport Triathlon’. Peter is hoping that all Freemasons within the Province and beyond will sponsor him for just £1 per event, that’s just £3 or more if you see fit.
So, let`s do it companions. (it will be worth it just to see him out of breath with a painful expression. Not sure about the lycra though!!)
Talking of sporting prowess, I’m delighted to announce the formation of West Lancashire Freemasons Rugby Football Club, (Union that is), with our very own Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton as the Honorary President. For many years, Paul was a Referee Development Manager for the RFU, so our team will be in safe hands.
The brother and companion responsible for the day to day running of the team is Gary Hacking, who is a member of Greenhill Lodge No 6260 and Coronation Chapter of West Houghton No 7258. The team is now registered with the RFU and Wigan RUFC has very kindly agreed for the team to use their ground for training. Thank you, Gary for all your hard work in bringing this team together and I look forward to watching the first 15 playing in the very near future. An inter-Provincial match perhaps with one of our neighbours?
On your behalf companions I would like to express a big thank you to the Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Peter Taylor for the huge amount of work that he and his staff, Diana, Violet, Andrew and the many volunteers, have put in, to not only making this meeting such a success, but for all the work they have carried out during the year.
To Paul Hesketh the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, thank you to him and all his deputies, for their contribution to today’s ceremonial and for all you have done during the past year in carrying out your many duties around the Province.
To David Barr, who is retiring today as the Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah and all the acting officers of the past year. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed yourselves and that you have been able to attend many chapters during your special year. And last, but by no means least, to all those companions who have represented me at the many Royal Arch installation convocations throughout the year, my personal thanks for your continued loyalty and support.
Finally, may I thank those companions from the Ormskirk and Bootle Group of Lodges and Chapters who have looked after us all so well here today. For stewarding this meeting, taking care of security and ensuring that we have been able to enjoy our convocation. Grateful thanks also to the Southport Group for the loan of their Masonic furniture. All these companions will no doubt still be working whilst we are enjoying ourselves at the bar and the banquet.
Companions thank you for your attendance here today, continue to enjoy your RA masonry and may God bless you all.”
The celebrant’s banquet was held in the adjacent main dining room and was very well attended.