Provincial Grand Lodge moved back to its spiritual home in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool for the first meeting since the Provincial Grand Master was invested as the PrGM.
Over 1,000 brethren attended the meeting to witness the investiture of Philip Gunning as the new Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Robert Wright as Assistant Provincial Grand Master along with the appointment and promotion of brethren from across the Province.
The Provincial Grand Master opened the meeting and then welcomed the visiting Provincial Grand Masters and his predecessor Peter Hosker along with other distinguished guests to the meeting.
He then completed the usual business including confirming the minutes from the last meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge held at Preston on 14 October 2014.
Tony then addressed Howard Jones who was retiring as Deputy Provincial Grand Master: “Howard, you have been Deputy Provincial Grand Master since being appointed by my predecessor Peter Hosker in 2012 and in 2013. I re-appointed you at my investiture. You have been in high office for almost 20 years since becoming Warden of the Province in 1996 and you finally decided that it was time for a well-earned rest. Thank you for all you’ve done for this Province and for your loyal support to me over the past 18 months. May both you and your wife Pat enjoy a long and happy retirement.” The brethren applauded Howard in appreciation of his contribution to the Province.
Tony invested Howard with his Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master’s collaret.
The ceremony of obligation and Investiture of Philip Gunning as Deputy Provincial Grand Master was conducted. Tony addressed Philip: “Philip Harry Gunning you became a Freemason in 1975 when you were initiated into Anfield Lodge No 2215 becoming its WM in 1985. You are also a joining member of a number of other lodges. Your first appointment in Provincial Grand Lodge was in 1991 as a Provincial Grand Steward and in 1995 you were promoted to PPrJGW. You attained the Grand Rank of PAGDC in 2002 and continued your dedicated work as charity delegate, then regional care officer, vice chairman and then Chairman of the Ormskirk Group and in 2011 you were appointed APrGM.
You became a Royal Arch Freemason in 1987 when you were exalted into St Michaels Chapter No 5756 and you are a member of other chapters. You attained Grand Rank in 2010 to that of Past Grand Standard Bearer.
Your vast experience in the charities, as group chairman and as an APrGM renders you amply qualified to become my Deputy Provincial Grand Master.”
Tony then said he was pleased to report that the remainder of his assistants had all indicated that they wish to continue in their important roles. He thanked them individually and collectively for all their help and support and said he was delighted to re-appoint them.
The ceremony of obligation and investiture of Robert Wright as Assistant Provincial Grand Master was conducted in consequence of Philip Gunning having been invested as Deputy Provincial Grand Master.
Tony addressed Robert: Robert Graham Sidney Wright, you became a Freemason in 1985 when you were initiated into Tollemache Lodge 4736 in the Province of Cheshire, and becoming its WM in 1993 and joined Starkie Lodge No1070 in West Lancashire in 1995 becoming its WM in 1998. Your first appointment was to the acting rank of PrAGDC in 2001 and after being promoted to PPrDGSuptWks you were made a Deputy DC in 2009. You were promoted in Grand Rank in 2013 to PAGDC.
You became a Royal Arch Freemason in 1990 when you were exalted into Letchworth Chapter No 5272 in the Province of Cheshire and joined Fermor Chapter No 1313 in this Province in 1995, becoming its first principal in 1999. Your first appointment in Provincial Grand Chapter was in 2004 and then you eventually continued as a Deputy DC from the Craft to this present day, up to now at least!
Accordingly, you are well qualified and experienced to become one of my Assistant Provincial Grand Masters.”
At this point Tony congratulated those brethren and companions who had recently received grand rank or promotions in Grand Lodge.
Group appointments and retirements were announced: Two group chairmen retired following dedicated and productive periods of office in the service of the Province. Tony said “They have led their Groups with distinction, and we owe them both a considerable debt of gratitude.”
They are: From the Leigh Group Bro Malcolm Parr and From the Warrington Group Bro Christopher Eyres.
Similarly, and with our abundant thanks for their hard and supportive work as vice chairmen: Martin Baxendale retires as Vice Chairman of the Lancaster Group, Leonard Hart retires as Vice Chairman of the Leigh Group and Andrew Barton retires as Vice Chairman of the Warrington Group and Keith Sanders retires as Vice Chairman of the Gladstone Group and Philip Gibbs retires as Vice Chairman of the South Eastern Group
The brethren, joined Tony in showing their appreciation of the service of these brethren to the Province.
Tony announced the following appointments to group office – To be chairman of the Leigh Group, Leonard Hart and to be chairman of the Warrington Group, Andrew Barton.
To be Group Vice Chairman of the Lancaster Group, Peter Pemberton, of the Leigh Group, Joseph Hine
of the South Eastern Group, David Durling, of the Warrington Group Christopher Gleave and of the Gladstone Group John James.
Tony thanked all these brethren for agreeing to assume these primary roles within our Provincial structure.
The Provincial Grand Treasurer, Neil Latham presented the accounts of the Province. Tony Bent, proposed that the accounts be received, adopted and entered into the minutes and Mark Dimelow seconded the proposition. Neil Latham was elected as Provincial Grand Treasurer for the ensuing year.
Tony then carried out the appointment and investiture of acting rank and first appointments. He said: “Brethren, we now come to that special part of our proceedings, when I invite those brethren who have been appointed and promoted in Provincial rank.”
After a charity collection which raised £4,779.76 for the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity was taken Tony addressed the meeting:
“Brethren, may I start by welcoming you here to the Winter Gardens, not only the scene of my Investiture as your Provincial Grand Master some 10 months ago, but to what is considered by many to be the spiritual home of our Provincial Grand Lodge meetings.
You will have seen by the agenda that there is much to do today so it is not my intention to prolong thins more than necessary by making a long address. That said, there are, by necessity, a number of things that I must mention, not only words of welcome and thank you, but for general information.
I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor Peter Hosker who I am delighted to see with us here today. And Peter, may I say, you are looking so well after your illness. I thank you for all that you did for the Province under your tenure of office and for handing it on to me in such good health.
Over the past months, the Province has been undergoing major changes in our ‘Care’ structure and the new process will come into effect in October. Taking advantage of technology, we have been able to streamline the process of applications and disbursements and, as a result, we have been able to remove most, if not all, of the administrative burden from lodge almoners. By implementing these changes our almoners should now be free to concentrate on the more pastoral aspects of their work.
Brethren, we are all almoners, and if you find, or suspect, that a brother, or his family, are in need of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact your Lodge Almoner. Help is on hand to cover almost every eventuality and I would urge you to take advantage of it.
On the topic of helping others, I must make mention two emergency aid grants that have been made by Grand Charity in recent weeks. The first of those was a grant of £20,000 in response to the devastation cause by the cyclone which wreaked havoc on the Island of Vanuatu. And, only last week a grant of £50,000 to Nepal following the earthquake which caused the loss of over 6,000 lives and destroyed so many communities.
Brethren, what better examples can there be of Freemasonry helping others in a time of need….. so go and tell your friends and feel proud of your membership of an organisation that provides aid across the world, not to Freemasons alone, as some would think and judge, but to those 1,000s of people, hardly any of who will be Freemasons.
In less than two years, the Craft will begin celebrations of its tercentenary. Plans are already at an advanced stage both centrally in London and here in West Lancashire. Under the direction of APrGM Tony Bent, we have all manner of things planned and, in the not too distant future details will begin to emerge of the various events we anticipate will take place to celebrate this most important milestone in the evolution of Freemasonry. I feel sure that you will enjoy them to the full.
I would like to reaffirm to you all, my support of the Masonic halls throughout the Province, for if we don`t have our halls available for us to practise our Freemasonry, then we cannot enjoy our Freemasonry. I trust that if you have any concerns about your Masonic centre then you will use the offices of Tony Hough and the Masonic Hall`s committee, who are there to advise on related matters.
Turning to Publicity, during the last few years our Provincial website has had several re-launches. Today I am delighted to inform you that a completely new website has been built and it will be launched in the next few days. I would like to thank Mike Ellis our webmaster and all the members of the publicity team for their hard work. Brethren I look at the website on a regular basis and I recommend it to you, as it is a very useful source of News, Provincial announcements, information and advice.
My thanks must go to the host group, Blackpool, under the direction of the captain of Stewards Arthur Caldicott for the assistance they have provided to ensure the smooth running of today’s meeting and to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp and his team for the management of the ceremonial which, as always, has been first class and a credit to West Lancashire, and to our Provincial Organist Stephen Derringer for his musical arrangements during this meeting.
An especial mention must be made of the Provincial Grand Secretary and his team, Arend and Diana, for the enormous amount of work carried out in the administration and arrangements for this meeting. Having just one Provincial meeting brings with it an extraordinary amount of work and Peter, you are to be congratulated on all that you and your staff have achieved. Please Don’t relax yet though!
To all those I have had the pleasure to appoint to their first Provincial Grand Rank heartiest congratulations and to those I am about to promote well done. Your promotion is just reward for the effort and commitment you have made and we look forward to seeing you enjoy your new rank for many years to come.
Finally, today the country goes to the polls to vote, similarly, by your attendance here today, in such large numbers, you have voted unanimously for the continued success of this Province and for that I thank you.
It really does mean a great deal to see so many of you here enjoying yourself because, after all, that is what it is all about.
God bless you all.”
The appointment and investiture of brethren receiving promotion was carried out.
Before the meeting was closed the Provincial Grand Secretary confirmed that an invitation from the Southport Group of Lodges to host the next meeting of PrGL on Thursday 12 May 2016 at Blackpool had been received.
Provincial Grand Lodge was closed in due form.
Over 600 of the brethren made their way to the Hilton Hotel where they enjoyed a wonderful three course meal, with a few glasses of wine.
During the meal the normal wine taking took place. Tony took particular delight in taking wine with the members of Quingenti Lodge No 8516 who had organised the banquet and served the wine.
After the meal the normal toasts were taken, the outstanding proposition of the night was given by APrGM David Winder who proposed the toast the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison:
“Good evening brethren – thank you for the warmth of your welcome. Always good to be in the company of an enthusiastic and dare i say it a live audience!
It is a delight and privilege to toast health of our Provincial Grand Master. Kipling for me perhaps best describes him – not Rudyard Kipling brethren – but Mr Kipling of cake making fame – when he simply said ‘exceedingly good’!
But brethren, what a dilemma, what to say, and what to do – should this toast be 20 minutes long or merely two?
So stop watches out we are on our way, trust me, it won’t be that long, so you can put those diaries away!
Well even the football officianado’s among you brethren, may not have realised that Jose Mourhino – Pep Gaudiola and Loius Van Gal have something in common with our PrGM……
They all have a proven track record of coaching in Europe!
They say that since last July and in his virgin year he has amassed more mileage than Richard Branson – they also say – that the reduction in the price of petrol is not in fact due to a reduction in the price of oil, but entirely due to the extra gallons used while visiting our surrounding Provinces, the adjacent Isle of Man, and London on many occasions.
He is reputed to have a platinum oyster card – which even Boris Johnson cannot acquire!
The mission statements of several blue chip companies would fit the ethos of our leader – Thompsons ‘miles of smiles’ or Nike’s ‘just do it’ come to mind. He is after all from the Morecambe area and so Eric Morecambe’s lyric of ‘bring me sunshine in your smile’ seems most appropriate!
Brethren, haven’t you found that his friendly style and open and approachable manner instantly place you at your ease. You know, we could be forgiven for thinking that he is actually enjoying the job!
Although his wife Maureen told me that he has not been sleeping well at night, please don’t be too worried brethren, this is not a medical problem at all, It is entirely due to his chain of office catching in his Provincial jim jams when turning over!
Brethren our Provincial Grand Master has in his former profession (excuse the pun) always had the drive to suceed and a record of delivering on time!
He is with the faithful support of Maureen certainly making the wheels on our Provincial bus go round and round and steering our Province in a most positive direction!
A polite reminder he is of course a most busy man and his attendances we clammer and seek – please remember that even for him there are still only seven days in the week. So on this indecisive national polling day – i am so very pleased to state that our leader has our willing, enthusiastic and absolute support
Indeed – a 100% mandate.
I know that you are now all eager to stand and give a hearty toast to Tony Harrison our Provincial Grand Master.
APrGM Kevin Poynton proposed the toast to the newly appointed and promoted brethren. The senior warden Mike Threlfall gave the response on behalf of the brethren who received Provincial honours earlier in the day.