Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Phillip Gunning was the principal guest at the Eccles and District Group of Lodges and Chapters Biennial dinner held at Swinton Masonic Hall. Phillip was accompanied by Deputy Provincial Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell and Mark Barton, together with Provincial Senior and Junior Grand Wardens, John Lee and Jonathan Heaton. Other distinguished guests were Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, John Hutton and Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principles Barry Jameson.
The Provincial team were greeted by Dave Walmsley, Chairman of the Eccles and District Group, Vice Chairman, Stuart Boyd and Group Secretary, Patrick Walsh.
The format of the evening was one of friendship and acknowledgement for the work carried out in the Eccles group which was enjoyed both in the pre drinks at the bar followed by a meal in the main dining room.
The Venerable Alan Wolstencroft PAGChap returned thanks.
The toast to the principle guest was eloquently delivered by Christian Hansford, worshipful master of Andrew Lodge No 3328, who had done his homework researching the history of Phillip which was portrayed like a “This is your Life”.
In his response to the toast, Phillip thanked Christian for his most informative rendition of his life and complimented him on his research.
Phillip paid compliments to the Eccles group and in particular to Dave Walmsley (group chairman) for the excellent work he had done and commenting on how well he looked. Phillip went on to congratulate the brethren who will be receiving first appointments and promotions at the forthcoming Provincial Grand Lodge in Blackpool. He paid particular reference to Tony Edden who has received a grand Provincial grand rank promotion (PJGD) and Dave Walmsley (PGStdB). He also paid compliments to Harold Smith (PPrJGW) in acknowledgement of the work both he and his wife Rosemary carry out at Elm Bank Masonic Hall. Phillip conveyed an open invitation for the brethren to attend the Provincial Grand Lodge to support the Provincial Grand Master and also the brethren of the Eccles group who will be receiving honours on that day.
Phillip expressed the message that we must continue to enjoy our Freemasonry but more importantly that we spread the word and continue to talk about it to non-Masons. He said that events are and have been taking place to celebrate 300 years Freemasonry and encouraged the brethren to make an effort to try to attend some of them during this special anniversary year.
Phillip concluded by expressing his thanks to the Eccles group for their kind hospitality and wished them continued success for the years ahead.
The Provincial Junior Grand Warden, Jonathan Heaton proposed the toast to the Eccles group and also expressed how impressed he was with the stories of the group events as seen on the group website and thanked the group for what had been an enjoyable evening.
Eccles Group Chairman Dave Walmsley responded to the toast by thanking Jonathan for his toast and also to Phillip for his kind words. He paid tribute to his group officers for their support and to all the lodges and chapters in the Eccles group for their work and support.
Dave announced that he is organising a group ball at the end of May which he hoped would be well supported to celebrate the tercentenary.
He said that there is much work to be done and that he is confident that the group will go from strength to strength. He thanked all those who had contributed in making this a memorable evening and a special thanks to Jonathan Platt (group minutes secretary) supported by Patrick Walsh for organising the event.
The event concluded with the tylers toast given by Alan Perks.
As the Provincial team prepared to take their leave Dave presented Phillip and his Provincial team with bouquets and a packet of the traditional Eccles cakes each.
Article and photographs by Tom Fredrickson.