The Preston Group Dinner is a biennial event at which a current senior member of the Province is invited as the guest speaker. In the intervening year, the group holds an ‘unofficial’ dinner at which a senior member of the Province who has retired from office is invited to speak on a subject of his choice. This year was an unofficial event at which the guest speaker was Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Steven Reid.
The group executive comprising; chairman Steve Bolton, vice-chairman Geoff Saul, secretary Peter Ledder and treasurer John Rimmer were in attendance, with Assistant Provincial Grand Master, David Winder and Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, Ian Cuerden supporting the event at which almost 100 members of the Preston Group sat down to dine.
Prior to the start of the meal, the group chairman welcomed Steven as the principal guest thanking him for accepting the invitation to be the guest speaker at the dinner. He welcomed all the brethren in attendance, thanking them for their support. He was pleased to note that every lodge and chapter within the Preston group was represented at the tables.
Following the success of previous years, the dinner consisted of two courses that on this occasion was turkey and ham pie with the usual trimmings complemented by ‘Eton Mess’ for dessert and coffee and mints to close. From the empty plates on the tables, the skills of Alistair, the hall chef, were once again very much appreciated.
Whilst the diners were relaxing after the dinner, Steve Bolton informed the brethren that the 2017 Provincial appointments and promotions had been released and he was pleased to say that the Preston group was well represented in the honours cycle. He asked the brethren present and so honoured, to stand whilst he congratulated them on their achievement, thanking them all for the work they had contributed to enable such awards to be made. He then asked all the brethren seated to show their support in the usual manner with an accolade of resounding applause.
Coming to the main event of the evening, following a short introduction, Steve handed the floor to Steven Reid who rose to the applause of the brethren.
There followed an interesting talk that, much to the amusement of the listeners, was sprinkled with humorous anecdotes and apocryphal tales. Steven started by relating some of his adventures during his medical career before his attention turned to the subject of Freemasonry.
Referring to the immediate post war periods of Freemasonry, Steven reminded the brethren that there was an enormous upsurge in membership as many returning soldiers wished to retain old friendships as well as new. Such demand, post 1945, resulted in nine new lodges being consecrated within the Province in a single year. It was a time when it was common for potential members to have to wait for up to six years before being admitted. It was a time when the journey to the master’s chair could take upwards of nine years. However, times change and membership of the Craft, like other organisations has ebbed and flowed. Steven noted that, in the case of Preston, the number of lodges has gradually reduced from the post war heady days of 36 lodges down to the present 13, a number, he felt, that was about right for the present time.
He continued by identifying what he considered as the three main aspects of Freemasonry, the ritual, the charity and the friendship. There are many organisations that support charity and offer friendship but Freemasonry is the one that includes ritual, defined as “a sequence of activities including gestures, words and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.” He saw this as the scaffolding on which Freemasonry rested and is a part of Freemasonry that asks brethren to deliver from memory. It is a task that impresses the candidate as he realises the effort that brethren have put in in learning ritual just for him as the candidate.
He concluded by reminding brethren that they are all custodians of Freemasonry and they must all make every effort to hand it on in at least as good a condition as they, as Freemasons, had received it.
There followed sustained applause from all the brethren present for what had been an enjoyable, informative and entertaining talk.
On behalf of the brethren, the group chairman thanked Steven for his excellent contribution that had been enjoyed by all present. He went on to present Steven with a bouquet of flowers for his wife, Mary, as a present from the Preston group by way of a big thank you for approving his attendance at this ‘Not the Preston Group Dinner’ occasion.