A number of distinguished guests were present at the ‘Halls directors’ dinner’ held at Prescot Masonic Hall. After an excellent meal Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent introduced the theme for this years diner ‘Our Community’.
In talking about Masonic charities Tony said he wished to dispel the charge often laid at our door that we only support our own. This not being correct he proceeded to provide an insight into the giving. In the recent past grants by the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity have been given in almost equal measure to Masonic and non-Masonic causes. Over £6,000,000 of grants were dispersed in 2014 by the Grand Charity.
The WLFC has from their own charitable funds made non-Masonic community grants of over £100,000 in the same year.
Tony then gave mention of the following local support for charities and good causes by the WLFC in Knowsley and St Helens: St Helens Young Carers, Prescot Parish Church Community Hall, St Helens Choral Society, Littledale and Shevington Residents’ Association based in Tower hill in Kirkby, Haydock Amateur Rugby League Football Club, Ronald McDonald House, Spartac Gymnastics, Willowbrook Hospice and St Helens Libraries Writing Competition – four years of prizes to best written work depicting life in 1914-18.
In addition Prescot Masons donated £500 to St Helens Centurion Project at St Mark’s Parish Hall and Masons from across the group raised over £20,000 for a wheelchair for Connor Marsden, an Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) sufferer in 2012. Sadly Connor died in July 2014.
In proposing the toast to non-Masonic Charities, Tony said we are proud of our fund raising and giving, being ever mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves whose lives we will enhance but never meet.
Responding to the toast George Howarth, Member of Parliament for Knowsley said that it is important that Masonry is more open both locally and nationally. The shared values of generosity, of giving and generosity of spirit makes it important for people to know more so they have both tolerance and respect. He said working in politics, it can become easy to categorise people when blind to the positives and a constant dilemma when aiming to do the right thing is to strike a balance and maintain traditions but also to change. George likened Freemasonry to his work as an MP, pointing out that it is important that people know what an MP actually does. Having the enormous privilege of being able to stand up in Parliament, trying your best to help people and having the opportunity to engage with issues in other parts of the world is an enormous privilege.
Colin Rowling (group chairman) having the privilege of proposing the toast to the guests began by saying that the group was very pleased to have present several guests who are no strangers to our Masonic halls. Namely Lady Kristy Pilkington, MBE and Honorary Freeman of the Borough of St Helens, The Rt Hon George Howarth MP, Councillor Andy Bowden, Cabinet Member for public health and wellbeing in St Helens and Peter Mallet, the Neighbourhood Crime and Justice co-ordinator for St Helens. Also present was the Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside, Alan Chick, Mayor of Knowsley Councillor Frank Walsh and the Mayor of St Helens Councillor Geoff Pearl.
Colin enlightened the gathering about the work of the honoured guests and their varied interests, their commitment and service in the community of Knowsley, St Helens and Prescot and he had much pleasure in proposing the toast to the guests whilst also thanking the respective hall boards for their unstinting work.
Alan Chick Deputy Lieutenant rose, to bring the good wishes of the Lord Lieutenant and her apologies for not being able to be present. He said ”It was therefore his pleasant duty as one of the deputies to represent the Lieutenancy for Merseyside and to respond to the toast on behalf of his fellow guests who have learned something about your charitable work.” He continued Freemasonry provides an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to make a major contribution to society through its own charities, as well as through donations to many voluntary and charitable organisations. The financial constraints being placed on our Local Authorities at this time is reflected in the reduction of services to our communities; consequently many voluntary and charitable organisations are struggling to survive. Today and in the foreseeable future your continued support will be needed more than ever.”
In concluding Alan expressed thanks on behalf of the honoured guests, for the very warm welcome and hospitality and in proposing the toast to the Group he wished the St Helens and Prescot Group of Freemasons continued success.