The Warrington Group Chairman’s Dinner was attended by almost 100 Freemasons who enjoyed the company of the principal guests Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton and Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Barry Jameson.
Following a welcome from Derek Bird, (director of ceremonies) he called upon Ken Smith to say grace. An excellent four course meal was then served by the Masonic hall staff. Ken then returned thanks and Chris Eyres, group chairman proposed the loyal toast.
Andy Barton, Warrington Group Vice Chairman, proposed a toast to the retiring chairman Chris and the Warrington Group. He gave a short account of Chris’ life in the position of chairman, with some cheerful memories that would remain with him, including getting onto the wrong train when he accompanied Chris to grand lodge to receive his honours, leaving a third party on the station at Crewe and almost missing the train coming home. Andy thanked Chris and his wife Ann for their help and hard work they had put in over the past five years. He added that he had learned a great deal over that time with Chris as his lead and Chris would be greatly missed, but on a jovial note, exclaimed he wouldn’t miss the 9am Saturday morning meetings at Chris’ home. He finished by saying that 2013 had not been a good year with Chris’ health, and following serious surgery and almost a full recovery, the result of which is to slow him down very slightly and is the reason for his retirement and perhaps to take things at a slightly slower pace. The toast was for the continued health and success for Chris, Ann and the Warrington Group.
In his response, Chris started by saying a big thank to Andy Barton for his toast and the Warrington Masonic Group in particular and the brethren for their reception of them. He said he was very proud to be standing there as Chairman of Warrington Group and to welcome Kevin to his first group dinner visit as an APrGM. He thanked him for being a great source of encouragement and advice. Chris commented that Kevin is a true friend of the Warrington Group, and on behalf of all the brethren, he would like to thank him and wish him well in all his endeavours.
Chris was also very pleased to welcome Barry Jameson, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals. As a member of this group and former group vice chairman, Chris said, Barry is well known to all of us and it has been a pleasure to have his company this evening and thanked him personally and publicly for his continuing support that he had shown to him personally and the group in particular.
A formal welcome was also extended by Chris to his colleagues from other groups, group chairmen: Malcolm Parr from Leigh, Derek Williams from Widnes, Colin Rowling from St Helens and Prescot and Andy Whittle from Woolton, who were accompanied by members of their group executive and those from the South Eastern Group. Chris commented that he was honoured by their presence on the evening and personally thanked them all for the support and friendship they had afforded him, particularly over the past five years.
Final, Chris welcomed and thanked the grand officers of the Warrington Group. He said he had no doubt that on first hearing of his appointment there would have been some raised eyebrows amongst our distinguished colleagues. He hoped that he had dispelled those anxieties, but could assure everyone that without the assistance of our grand officers he would have fallen well short. They have all been his mentors. With gentle nudges from some, straightforward talking from others or just a kindly word, they have been his guide, as too was our dear departed Ian Boswell, who had such faith in him.
Looking back over the year’s group activities, Chris went on to say how pleased he was to see almost 100 brethren here attending to celebrate the life of the Warrington Group, and that support is one of the reasons why it has been a pleasure for him to serve in the capacity of chairman. Several events have been held with great success including the service of re-dedication, the New Masons’ Night, the Carol Service which benefited from the introduction of a Silver Band, which gave the opportunity for seven newer Masons to take a major part in the proceedings. Also, the New Year’s Eve celebration, the Gentlemen’s Evening with the great Alex Murphy and comedian Mike Maguire raising £2,300. The Group Ball was a fabulous evening with 127 in attendance, an especially good meal and a stunning female vocalist. A major event this year had been the opening of the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry. The Trustees have brought a business mind-set to underpin the whole process and thanks to their careful planning and by proving we have sustainable income streams in place, through your generosity they hope soon to gain charitable status. That would be the icing on the Museum’s cake.
Chis congratulated and thanked Dave, Joanne, Duane, Paul and all the part time staff for their continuing efforts to make the dining so special. The Warrington Masonic Hall Company is run by a team of volunteer directors who carry out their tasks for our benefit. They spend many hours throughout the year without reward and without seeking reward, to maintain this building and the high standards of catering associated with our Masonic home. He commented that brethren have demonstrated their support for the Masonic hall time and again with their generosity, through their lodges and chapters, by making donations to the Hall Company to assist them in keeping them at the very top of the tree. This has been recently demonstrated by their support for the Lift Fund which has now almost reached its target of £24,000. That is a magnificent achievement in such a short space of time.
The enthusiasm for the Royal Arch and the recent developments within it has been a source of great pride for the group. We have a great team leading the Royal Arch in the group. They are continually looking at ways to broaden the scope of the order and to make it even more enjoyable. We take great pride in the success of our annual Joint Convocations which bring together companions from our four chapters to make a presentation in the presence of the Provincial team. In addition, a number of companions from across the chapters have formed a team to demonstrate an enhanced exaltation ceremony bringing drama and explanation into play. They have successfully performed here in Warrington and have been requested to take the ceremony to other groups in the coming season. Chris said: “We are also putting together a presentation called ‘Talking Heads’ to demonstrate in craft lodges the values behind and importance of the Royal Arch, for Craft Masons to complete their journey through ancient Freemasonry. I know that Barry Jameson, our Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, will be pleased to hear from any lodges who might wish to receive this presentation at one of their meetings after the summer recess.”
Concluding, Chris said that he had thoroughly enjoyed his time as chairman of this fine Masonic group and it was not an easy decision for him to stand down, but he believed the time was right for him and also right for the group. Together with Andy and John McIntyre they have formed, he believed, a strong team which has led this group, along with Colin Boardman, for four years. He commented he could not have wished for a better team to work alongside. They have been loyal, diligent and a power of strength, supportive and questioning, clipping his wings on occasion as was necessary. There is an infrastructure here which he knows will benefit the new Group Executive and he is sure that you will support them in the future in all in their undertakings as you have done in the past. I would like to congratulate Andy on being appointed my successor and Chris Gleave on succeeding him. Chris then said: “My retirement has come as a relief in some ways to my dear wife Ann. She has never suggested that I should step down now rather than next May as planned, but she is relieved for me. Over many years Ann has always supported my Masonic endeavours and commitment. I would like to pay tribute to the part she has played in my Freemasonry and also to the wives, partners and families who indulge us and allow us to be the Masons and men we are. We are often heard to say that family and health should come first, and I believe that if we really mean that we should not pay lip service to it.”
He finally thanked the brethren for allowing him the privilege of being the figurehead of this wonderful group. Enjoy your Freemasonry!