Wellington Park, Leyland was the venue for the Leyland and District’s bi-annual group dinner with the principle guest being none other than Philip Gunning, Deputy Provincial Grand Master. There were over 80 members and visitors keen to have a chat with Philip and of course, dine in his company.
The evening was split in to two parts; the first was a question and answer session where Philip (Phil) and his team for the night were to face a number of questions posed by the members of the Leyland Group. Phil was pleased that he wasn’t alone as there were one or two not so straightforward questions. Chris Blackwell Leyland Group Chairman, Tony Hall Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, Peter Taylor Provincial Secretary and the Senior and Junior Wardens for the Province John Lee and Jonathon Heaton were Phil’s team with each being able to fill in the blanks; the second was to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of each other’s company in the Balmoral Suite for the group’ dinner.
At the start of the evening Phil introduced himself and he thanked the group for their invitation to spend the evening, together with his team, at the Masters and First Principals Group dinner. He then went on to welcome everyone to the event and said that he was more than happy to field any questions, providing he knew the answers.
The first question raised by the brethren was related to the Sky1 TV programme titled, ‘Inside the Freemasons’ where the discussions seemed to be lengthy and topics varied. There were brethren who thought the series was excellent and just what the Craft needed and there were others who thought we should be more cautious of just what we were presenting – were we presenting too much or not enough of the right content?
One of the questions posed on the evening was related to making Freemasonry more affordable and which might incorporate special lodge fees for various groups of people depending on age and income. How do we encourage new membership especially when the administration fee was a substantial amount for a newcomer to pay? This was answered with Peter Taylor breaking down the fee into its respective portions where there are set fees for both Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge; the remainder of the fee being pertinent to each of the respective groups in the Province. Phil then answered a query relating to the promotions process and whether he thought it was a just and fair process. He responded in the affirmative and this was supported by Tony Hall both of them outlining the process. The question and answer session came to an abrupt ending as it was almost time to dine and Phil thanked the audience prior to the team leaving the room to a round of applause.
The Balmoral Suite hosted the second part of the evening where everyone dined for the group dinner consisting of a vegetable soup starter followed by steak pie, chips and peas and rounded off with coffee and mints. There were a number of toasts following the banquet and none more important to that of Phil Gunning Deputy Provincial Grand Master. This was given by Wayne Haslam, the current WM of Longton Lodge No 6237, on behalf of the Leyland Group. He rounded off the toast by asking the brethren to raise a glass and honour the toast to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master. Phil thanked Wayne for the toast to his health. He reflected on the evening’s proceedings by first thanking the brethren for taking part in the question and answer session earlier and by thanking Wellington Park for being the host venue and providing convivial surroundings and an excellent meal and service.
Jonathon Heaton then toasted the Leyland Group and in his response to this toast, Chris Blackwell reflected on the evening and current Masonic season’s events. He congratulated all members of the Leyland Group for their enthusiasm to succeed in their lodges and therefore enjoying their Freemasonry. He also made reference to the recent Leyland Lights tercentenary bike ride down to London and of course to United Grand Lodge of England which set about raising funds for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. During his speech Chris presented a cheque on behalf of the Leyland Group to the 2021 Festival for £750. Chris also presented a bouquet of flowers to Phil for him to take home to his wife Ann, again on behalf of the Leyland group. There not being much else to be said on the evening, it ended with everyone leaving on a happy note and retiring to the bar; or for those who had had a long day simply, retiring home.