Well, here we are well into 2017 and starting another month which got off to a quiet start being the Bank Holiday weekend so it was a nice relaxing weekend for both Maureen and I.
Wednesday 3 May I was off to Southport for the annual Provincial Grand Lodge meeting of the West Lancashire Mark Masons. The weather was wonderful and we arrived at the Floral Hall in Southport to be met by many Mark Masons who were about to enjoy a wonderful Provincial meeting under the direction of the PrGM Keith Beardmore. The meeting was extremely well attended and there were many distinguished guests from all parts of the country. An excellent meeting followed by a first-class banquet. It was nice to meet up with many friends that I had previously met when I was the Deputy PrGM in the Mark degree. This was a most enjoyable and relaxing day.
On Saturday, after a beautiful day at home and ample time for a delightful walk along the promenade to Heysham village, in the early evening Maureen and I travelled to Barrow-in-Furness to the Fairfield Masonic Centre. It was the evening for charitable donations to be made to local charities from the proceeds of the Furness and South Lakeland Group’s annual boxing tournament. Many local charities were well supported by the local Masons and I was equally delighted to receive a substantial donation towards the MCF 2021 Festival. We enjoyed the evening which culminated in a wonderful finger buffet before returning home.
On the following Monday, I made the relatively short trip to Carnforth for a day`s fishing. Well, actually it was to support the West Lancashire Masonic Fishing Society, who were holding a two-day event for underprivileged and disabled children and adults. It was a terrific day out, but sadly only three fish were caught during what was a wonderful day, and it must be noted that the weather could not have been better. However, the participants, their carers’ and Masonic brethren present had a great time.
The next day, 9 May and late in the afternoon, I travelled to Blackpool in preparation for the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting the following day. I met with the Provincial secretary Peter, my deputy Phil and director of ceremonies Keith, to discuss any last-minute changes or updates for the meeting.
Wednesday 10 May and it was an early start this morning. I set off to the Winter Gardens where I was met by many stewards and other brethren preparing the Winter Gardens for our annual meeting. The entire venue looked stunning and I was most impressed with all the arrangements that had been put in place. Following the morning rehearsal and a light lunch, the meeting started. I was delighted to see so many West Lancashire brethren in attendance and we were joined by many distinguished guests from other Provinces, who not only attended but witnessed the launch of the MCF 2021 Festival. We’ve had a tremendous start to our Festival with over £1,000,000 already pledged by brethren, lodges and chapters.
I hope that those of you who were at the meeting enjoyed it and those who could not make it on this occasion will have seen the report on the Provincial website. The Opera House theatre was an excellent venue for our meeting. It really was an exceptionally good day followed by an excellent banquet in the Empress Ballroom attended by some 730 brethren. I offer my most grateful thanks to all those who helped to ensure this annual meeting was such a huge success.
On Friday 12 May, after having time to relax and recuperate in the day, in the evening Maureen and I accompanied by Keith Kemp, were off to Westhoughton Masonic Hall, where we were attending the retirement dinner for Ernie Greenhalgh, the retired Provincial Grand Almoner. It was a splendid evening attended by many members of the care team and other group officers from across the Province. We all enjoyed an excellent meal and gave Ernie and his dear wife Sheila a good ‘retiring send-off’, wishing them both well for a long and happy retirement.
On the Saturday following, I attended the annual Provincial meeting of the Knight Templars Order, at Wellington Park, Leyland. It was an excellent meeting attended by brother Knights from all over the Province of Lancashire who were joined by many distinguished guests from other Provinces. Following this meeting Maureen and I travelled to the Village Hotel in Whiston where we were attending the ‘Black Tie Tercentenary Dinner’, for the brethren and their ladies of the Woolton Group. What an excellent occasion this was. It was attended by some 150 brethren and their ladies. Our pre-dinner drinks were accompanied by vocalist Mike Tattersall, who is a local Mason and vocalist, before we enjoyed an excellent banquet followed by entertainment from the ‘Brothers Grimm’ and the hotel disco. During the evening, the group chairman Andy Whittle presented a cheque to the Tithebarn Masonic Home charity and additionally a cheque for £4,500 to me for the MCF 2021 Festival, on behalf of the members of the Woolton Group. A wonderful evening which I am sure was enjoyed by all who attended.
Tuesday 16 May, heralded another long journey as late in the afternoon, I travelled by train to London accompanied by Phil Gunning. We were to have quite an early start the next morning as that was the date of the investiture meeting of the KT’s Great Priory held at Great Queen Street. I was most fortunate to be one of many recipients of an appointment to ‘great rank’ and following the investiture of the new Grand Master, some 200 others and I were appointed and invested. After a very long and hot meeting in the Temple we retired to the Connaught Rooms for a most welcome drink and banquet dinner before returning home by train later in the evening.
On the morning of 18 May, I was picked up at Lancaster by the Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Peter and my Deputy Grand Superintendent Danny Jones for the journey to Carlisle. We were also accompanied by Paul Renton, Ian Higham, David Randerson, Barry Jameson, Sam Robinson and Stewart Seddon. We were met at the Sands Centre by members of the Cumberland and Westmorland Royal Arch, who extended a warm welcome to us all. Their Provincial convocation meeting was well attended and Norman Thompson their Grand Superintendent enjoyed an excellent meeting as did we all prior to moving onto the Shepherds Inn restaurant for an excellent roast beef dinner. I was most surprised, for at the following dinner, Norman Thompson very kindly presented me with a cheque for the MCF 2021 Festival which I had just launched the previous week at Blackpool. My most sincere thanks are expressed to all the companions of Cumberland and Westmorland.
Another Saturday meeting this week and I was off to Saul Street, Preston. It was the investiture of the new Intendent General in the Red Cross of Constantine for the Division of North East Lancashire and Steven Bolton was being invested by Graham Flight, the Grand Sovereign. The meeting was extremely well attended by members from the district and many visitors from other adjoining districts. After the luncheon, I travelled back home to pick up Maureen and then we were off to Ulverston for the Tercentenary Charity Concert arranged by members of the Furness and South Lakeland Group. It was held at the Coronation Hall and was very well attended by Masons, their families and many non-Masons from the area. A wonderful evening of entertainment was much enjoyed which I am sure raised a fantastic sum of money for charity.
After a relaxing day on the Sunday, I was off to Wellington Park the following evening to attend the first of what I hope will be an annual event. It was the ‘Grand Recipients Dinner’, held to honour those brethren and companions who had this year received the appointment to or promotion in Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter. When in London at their investiture, the recipients unfortunately cannot take guests to the dinner so this was our West Lancashire way of enabling guests to attend a special celebratory dinner which was extremely well attended. I hope that everyone attending enjoyed the occasion as much as I did.
On 23 May, I was back at Wellington Park, Leyland again in the morning for the constitution and dedication of the St Molaise Council of Knight Masons. This meeting was well attended with brethren from London and Dublin assisting the founders of this council. Following the meeting we appreciated their fellowship and relished a very satisfying lunch before returning home.
The next day, in the afternoon, Keith Kemp and I together with Barry Fitzgerald, the deputy DC travelled to Blackpool for the installation meeting of North Shore Lodge No 7916, held at the Masonic Hall, Adelaide Street. I was welcomed by many grand and Provincial grand officers who joined with me in witnessing an excellent ceremony conducted by Michael Tax, who installed his successor Ramon Ashton into the chair. The lodge room was full to capacity and we all saw a great Masonic feast of ritual. Following the pre-dinner drinks in the bar we had a delicious festival banquet followed by the usual speeches before returning home, having had a wonderful time in Blackpool.
On 25 May, in the evening I was a guest at the Knights of Malta installation held at the Morecambe Masonic Hall. It was a very well attended meeting and very relaxing for me as I had nothing to do but enjoy the company and witness an excellent ceremony, in the presence of the Provincial Prior David Gallear
A Bank Holiday weekend followed and the pleasant prospect of nothing to do but enjoy the holiday. Sadly, the weather was not too good so our walks along the promenade were non-existent but would you believe that Maureen found me something else to do!
The final day of the month arrived and in the evening, I went to Singleton Lodge accompanied by Keith Kemp. As an honorary member of the ‘DC`s Mess’, I attended their annual dinner. It was a splendid occasion and we enjoyed a delicious meal in the company of a number of past and present Provincial DC`s and deputy DC`s of the Province.
And so, the merry month of May draws to a close. It has been a very busy month filled with sunshine and rain, together with a lot of fun, but sadly our lives and the merriness of the month of May came to a very cruel and sudden end at the Manchester Arena. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to those who lost their lives and all who suffered in any way.
Provincial Grand Master