One of the jewels in every group’s year is the group dinner, and after such a long time in lockdown this one was eagerly awaited. It was not just by the members of the group but by John Cross, as it was the first one for him in his new role as the North Fylde Group Chairman and his team.
Held at Cleveleys Masonic Hall, the group had the pleasure of the company of Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning as its principal guest, together with a strong Provincial team; Assistant Provincial Grand Master Duncan Smith, Assistant to Provincial Grand Principals David Barr, Provincial Senior Grand Warden Daniel Crossley, Provincial Junior Grand Warden Ben Gorry and Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor. Just to ensure the smooth running of the evening there was also, not one but two Provincial Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies Ryal Modlin and David Thomas.
The evening started with a lively question and answer session held in the lodge room. Philip threw himself into the evening with the first question about the ‘Membership Pathway’ and the United Grand Lodge digital marketing campaign and getting younger members into the Craft.
Paul Dunne who is a wheelchair user raised the issue of wheelchair access to Masonic buildings. Paul is a member of Dona Conferentes Lodge No 9392 which is a peripatetic lodge and meets at different venues for each meeting. Paul told the meeting that he had contacted a hall to ensure that he would be able to attend a meeting as the hall had a stair lift but when he got to the hall, he found that there were steps leading to the stairlift.
Paul asked for the Masonic Yearbook to highlight halls that are wheelchair accessible. Philip, answering, said that this question had never come up before but he would deal with it as a matter of urgency and that it would be the first thing on his agenda in the morning, raising it with the Halls Cabinet liaison Barry Jameson. Philip would liaise with Peter Taylor to upgrade the Yearbook to include this information in the next publication so that we could better serve the disabled Masons within our community.
Among other subjects covered were the Royal Arch and recruitment, lodge and chapter mergers, Hermes, the new digital administration system and the various other degrees within the Masonic community.
On completion of the question and answer session, the guests moved to the bar area, prior to being seated in the dining room, where a three-course meal of tomato soup, steak pie with seasonal vegetables and jam roly-poly covered in lashings of custard to finish was enjoyed by all.
Once the meal was complete, the master of Wyre Lodge No 7704 was called on to propose the toast to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning.
Philip rose to respond to the toast. He started by saying that this was one of the best meetings that he had attended, both in the quality of the questions and the participation of the attendees. Philip thanked everyone who attended on behalf of himself, Peter Taylor and the Provincial team that had attended. Philip reiterated the valuable lesson that was gained about disabled access and how important it was that no member should be excluded from meetings because of their disability.
Continuing his response, Philip said: “It is always good to visit a group in good heart and that starts from the top.” Philip thanked Duncan Smith for all he has done, not only for the North Fylde Group but for the Blackpool and South Fylde Groups as well. Philip moved to thank the group chairman John Cross, saying: “The group was in good form and for a group to be in good form it had to have a good leader and John was every bit of that.”
Philip congratulated the group on 15 Provincial appointments, and in particular Paul Smedley who received the rank of Provincial Senior Grand Deacon and Gavin Egan who had received Provincial Grand Tyler. Moving to promotions, Philip congratulated Bob Major and Geoff Balls who had each received Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Finally, Philip congratulated John Kitchener and John Pitches on becoming Past Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendents of Works.
Bringing his response to a close, Philip said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic there had been some dark days. It has shown the wider public the work that Freemasons have done within the communities that we are a part of.”
The evening coming to an end and the speeches complete, John Cross had one final pleasant duty; the presentation of a bottle of Gordon’s Gin to Philip to thank him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to attend the group dinner.