There are some interesting things to be discovered about one’s leaders at a group dinner, particularly when the reception consists of a round of convivial chats with the members. There are even more gems to be gleaned when an eagle-eyed lodge master gets to grips with a toast to the principal guest.
The South Fylde Group dinner is a biennial event which moves between the Palace at St Annes and Poulton-le-Fylde Masonic Hall and the principal guest at Poulton-le-Fylde for the 2017 dinner was Provincial Deputy Grand Master Philip Gunning. Supporting Philip at the event were the South Fylde senior officers. These were Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson and group chairman Ian Ward. Also present were group vice-chairman John-Robbie Porter and most of the other group officers.
At the reception all of the above were circulating and exchanging news and views with the many lodge masters, chapter principals and brethren and companions present. From the buzz of conversation, with the occasional guffaw, it was clear that those present were getting on well. There were cheers when Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas announced that dinner was about to be served. All present looked eagerly but with slight disappointment for a flicker of a smile from the ‘taciturn Thomas.’ Nobody doubted that he knew what he was doing; such is David’s reputation for cool, calm, efficiency.
The amount of talking that went on was thirsty and hungry work – needless to say the bar staff became rather busy before the waiting staff became even busier. The sound of convivial conversation increased in volume as those present tucked into hotpot followed by apple pie. Dignitaries took wine with each other and with everyone else before the plates were cleared and the serious speeches began. After toasts to Her Majesty the Queen and the high rulers of Masonry, it fell to David Edwards, a member of Baines Lodge No 7844, to toast the principal guest. A solicitor by trade, David is naturally adept at gathering information about people and just as good at standing up and speaking. He had accumulated an interesting plethora of facts for the edification of his audience. He advised that Philip Gunning had enjoyed a long and distinguished career in craft and chapter. A most recent landmark was having his son Andrew as chain bearer at Philip’s installation as Deputy Provincial Grand Master.
David continued by talking about Philip’s non-Masonic achievements, advising that golf had been a large part of his life. Philip is a past captain of Shore Hill Golf Club and plays off a single figure handicap. He has played in the Lancashire Constabulary golf team which won the national police championship five times during the 1990s along with the ‘towering golfing thoroughbred’ David Winder. Philip’s other interests include shooting, aviation, fast cars, and astronomy.
In responding to this toast the principal guest presumed that David Winder may have given David Edwards some advice with the detail of his speech. This led nicely into jokes about David Winder playing golf and never occupying his own fairway. It seems that David is never happier than when he’s playing from somebody else’s fairway, from where he can hit the ball onto the green with alarming regularity. Your correspondent remembers the word ‘bandit’ being used at one point but wasn’t sure of the context!
Philip was full of praise for the welcome he had received on arrival and had been impressed by the happy atmosphere at the event, with everyone talking and engaging with each other. He congratulated Ian Ward on presiding over such a marvellous group, which he added was in very good hands.
Philip went on to congratulate Godfrey Hirst on his re-appointment to Provincial Grand Chaplain and mentioned with praise Godfrey’s two orations during the recent celebration services at Lancaster and Warrington. Philip went on to congratulate David Kenworthy, Clive Gitsham, Kevin Burns, John Topping, Stephen Wadsworth, Martin Dennison and Arthur Halstead on their impending appointments at Provincial Grand Lodge and hoped that they would enjoy their new ranks immediately and for years to come.
Philip continued by congratulating David Winder for his hard work on the forthcoming Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, which is to be launched at Provincial Grand Lodge on 10 May 2017. He also thanked the acting Provincial officers in attendance that had been out with him and the other representatives at special meetings during the year. Finally, Philip thanked Ian Ward, John Robbie Porter and Dave Barr for arranging a very enjoyable event, which he had really enjoyed.
Provincial Junior Grand Warden Jonathan Heaton proposed the toast to the South Fylde Group stating that it was the people that ensured the success of the group. He continued by saying that as an outsider looking in he had witnessed some great ambassadors at work. As well as the senior group officers, he had also watched Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee with appreciation. John, who is also group membership officer, is very enthusiastic and has become a friend for life. He also mentioned publicity officer Glenn O’ Brien who seemed to be constantly working. He praised David Thomas for the work he did as Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies and added another quip at David’s taciturn demeanour and asked if anyone had ever seen David smile!
Responding for the group, Ian Ward thanked Jonathan for his kind words and proceeded to speak highly of each of his colleagues, outlining their duties and their huge commitment to the success of the group. He thanked David Winder and David Randerson for their wise counsel and John Robbie Porter for looking after Royal Arch Chapter issues. Ian referred to group secretary Dave Barr as the Rolls Royce of administrators and spoke of the unseen hard work of Graham Smith, the pastoral care officer. Continuing on, Ian praised the work of Ted Rhodes the regional charity steward and Dave McKee for the work they are doing to publicise the festival, adding that if any lodge or chapter wished a talk they only needed to ask. Ian gave particular praise to John Lee, the multi-talented multi-tasker. Mentors Peter Weller Nigel Walker and Brian Horrocks were mentioned with praise and Ian concluded by thanking Gareth Owen for his work on the group website and Glenn O’ Brien who was ever present at important and unimportant events to record and report.
The final toast of the evening was proposed by the master of Fairhaven Lodge No 5076 Terry Stevens-Lewing.