Following ‘Storm Doris’, which wreaked havoc across Britain with 100 mph winds downing hundreds of trees, bringing untold misery to motorists and rail commuters across the country, and allegedly caused damage in excess of £400,000,000. The Leigh Group Dinner held biannually by Len Hart (Group Chairman) was, unlike ‘Storm Doris’, a sea of calm, peace and tranquility as 99 brethren, consisting of honorable guests, distinguished officers from surrounding groups and the members of Craft lodges and Royal Arch chapters in the Leigh Group assembled to celebrate the achievements of Len in particular and the Leigh group in general.
The busy evening commenced with the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison inviting the lodge and chapter principle officers to the upstairs lounge bar for the traditional “tea party”, where in the company of Tony Bent APrGM and Ian Cuerden Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, they were joined by acting Provincial officers; John Lee PrSGW, Jonathan Heaton PrJGW, Peter Taylor Provincial Grand Secretary and Keith Kemp Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies. The august team provided answers to the gathered brethren’s numerous and varied questions before moving to the Hilton Suite and mingling with the rest of the attending Leigh members.
Retiring to a dinner expertly prepared and presented by ‘Marks with Splendour’, caterers to the Leigh Group, the brethren enjoyed a marvellous meal consisting of the finest locally produced fayre available. Following the meal, the generous toast to Tony Harrison was presented by recently appointed Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Garry Bryon, who outlined for the benefit of the brethren Tony’s career both inside and outside Freemasonry. Garry then requested the brethren of the Leigh Group to rise and honour the toast, an invitation which they accepted with fervency and zeal.
Tony responded to Garry’s toast to his health by thanking the brethren of the Leigh Group for the generosity and hospitality shown to him and the accompanying Provincial team. Tony then reflected on the evening’s proceedings by thanking the brethren for taking part in the question and answer session earlier and for the manner in which the evening had been organised, conducted and run by the group officers, in particular the executive team consisting of Jonathan Heaton, Joe Hine and Len Hart. He continued by intimating that the West Lancashire Province was well thought of in the larger picture of Freemasonry in England and it was heartening that as it received a net surplus of aid each year from the core charitable trusts it now had the distinction of being the first Province to roll out a four- year charity appeal through the MCF 2021 Festival, enabling the Province to reciprocate that support.
He then outlined the fantastic strides that the membership team were making in recruitment but advised that every one of us should consider themselves membership officers and attempt to bring at least one new brother into Freemasonry in this our Tercentenary celebration year. Tony extended an invitation to all the brethren to support their recently appointed and promoted colleagues at the next meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool later this year. Tony also thanked Garry for the toast to his health and resumed his seat to rapturous applause.
The toast to the Leigh Group of lodges and chapters was proposed by John Lee who broke a few hearts by asserting that Leigh’s ‘claim to fame’ as the smallest group in the largest Province was now technically incorrect on both counts. It was not difficult to identify the sources of the ‘groan’ from the brethren and John quickly recounted experiences of Provincial visitors to Leigh who had privately and publicly commented on the special atmosphere experienced whenever anyone visited the group and the love of Masonry, warmth and joviality that shone through at these special occasions.
Following the toast, Len Hart rose to respond on behalf of the group and thanked the visiting guests from other groups in the area; which included the executive officers from the Wigan, Eccles, Warrington, Widnes, Chorley, and St Helens and Prescot Group’s. Len then continued by thanking his own vice chairman Joe Hine and secretary Jonathan Heaton for their unstinting support during the preceding year and also congratulated and thanked all the group officers for the hard work and consistent effort that they put in on behalf of the Leigh group.
Concluding the formalities, Len presented beautiful floral displays for Maureen, Linda and Doreen, gifts which were warmly received. The brethren then retired to the bar, proudly reflecting on yet another successful and thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Article and photographs by Wayne Barnes.