A celebratory dinner and presentation was held at Ormskirk Masonic Hall in honour of Philip Harry Gunning Deputy Provincial Grand Master in appreciation for his work as Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Ormskirk and District Group and the Southport Group.
On the evening, 94 brethren representing all the lodges and chapters in the two groups came together to show their thanks to Philip for his dedication and commitment over the last four years. This special occasion was attended by Robert Wright APrGM accompanied by four grand officers, Jim Charnock, Christopher Hamilton, Tom Norris and Ormskirk and District Group Chairman Frank Umbers together with Southport Group Chairman Colin Jenkins. Also in attendance were acting officers Geoffrey Lever, Edward Harrison and John Karran and the proceedings were in the very capable hands of Mark Barton PrDGDC.
With a rousing response from all present Philip and the principal guests took their seats at the top table. After grace was delivered by Edward Harrison the hall’s attentive staff served a sumptuous three course meal. The menu comprised of traditional Bury pudding stack with peppered sauce, hand carved sugar baked ham with Madeira gravy with colcannon potatoes and seasonal vegetables, followed by warm treacle tart with white chocolate ice cream.
Once everyone was suitably refreshed and the tables cleared Frank Umbers proposed the first toast of the evening. Robert Wright then rose to propose a toast to Philip, taking the opportunity to congratulate Philip on a very well deserved promotion to Deputy Provincial Grand Master and wished him continued good health in his new role. Robert then went on to say that Philip had always been welcomed on his many visits to the two groups and that in his inimitable style put everybody at their ease, especially at celebratory events, highlighting the many hours of research that Philip had put into his presentation to make the occasion special for the celebrant.
Robert continued, saying that Philip has enthusiastically supported the Ormskirk and Southport Groups in the many social and Masonic events over the years. Touching on Philip’s love of field sports, Robert said he has a great passion for conservation and care of the environment, commenting that Philip is a very generous man and recently shared with him his recipe for cooking grouse. Following permission from Philip to reveal the family secret Robert said you take two bricks, warm them in the oven at 220 degrees on the middle shelf, then prepare the grouse and season well, bake in between the bricks for 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and let it rest for five minutes, throw away the grouse and eat the bricks, because they are probably more tasty. This led to much hilarity.
Robert concluded by saying: “Philip we wish you well in your new role and we are all proud to have had you as a representative of our groups and we wish you every success for the future.”
Before Philip responded to the toast, Frank had the pleasure of presenting combined gifts from the two groups; an engraved ‘hip flask’ (with Phil’s shooting interests in mind), a bottle of Sloe Gin (for the hip flask) and a bottle of Champagne. In doing so, Frank said that on his own behalf and that of Colin and all the brethren, this was a token of appreciation for his unstinting support, guidance, direction and knowledge.
In responding Philip graciously thanked everyone for the thoughtful gifts saying how overwhelmed he was. Continuing, he thanked Robert for the very fine way in which he proposed the toast and for saying all the nice things about him, most of which he said were true, depending on who you asked. Philip then gave a short resume of his Masonic career cumulating in saying that he felt honoured to have been in the right place at the right time. Taking on the role of Vice Chairman of Ormskirk Group in 2005 and later chairman at the retirement of Roy Worthington and then promoted to APrGM when John Moore retired.
Philip went on to say that Robert was correct to say how much he enjoyed representing and presenting special celebrations and reckons that the hours it takes him to prepare those presentations is nothing compared to the commitment that those brethren have shown. Philip went on to highlight some of the celebrations he has officiated at encountering stories that have amazed him. In Philip’s time as APrGM he has undertaken 59 50th’s, five 60th’s, one 70th and one 75th, a remarkable achievement for anyone.
Continuing Philip said that for the first time in 29 years he will have no group responsibility and will miss that, but will still have that overview of the Province and will continue to take a keen interest in what the Ormskirk and Southport Groups are doing under Robert’s guidance.
Summing up Philip said: “I have enjoyed every single minute in serving the groups and there has been one important constant, and that is you, you the brethren of the Ormskirk and Southport Groups have made all of this possible.” Philip then thanked Frank and Colin and also Malcolm Alexander (Ormskirk Group Secretary) and Geoff Jackson (Southport Group Secretary) for organising the wonderful evening and to Gary O’Brien the halls chef for the magnificent dinner; which brought resounding applause of appreciation.
Concluding Philip said: “From the bottom of my heart thanks to each and every one of you, my grateful thanks. I really do look forward to seeing you all in the years and months to come. Continue to enjoy this wonderful organisation.”
To round off a very enjoyable occasion, Colin presented a bouquet of flowers to Philip for his wife Anne.