The officers and members of Widnes Group hosted their biannual group dinner at Widnes Masonic Hall and this year they were honoured to have the Provincial Grand Master Brother Tony Harrison along with several distinguished and acting officers in the group present. This group dinner was the first official visit to Widnes for Tony Harrison in his position as Provincial Grand Master. Accompanying Tony were Kevin Poynton (Assistant Provincial Grand Master), Barry Jameson (Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals), Peter Taylor (Provincial Grand Secretary) and Keith Kemp (Provincial Director of Ceremonies). In the usual fashion the honoured guests held an open forum in the lodge room where any brother could ask questions of the province in an informal setting, question regarding the Craft or Royal arch were accepted.
The main questions were regarding recruitment and retention; this started as just a simple question but ended up as a discussion between the provincial panel and the group members. From the lengthy conversations it appeared that some lodges in the group were thriving and somewhere treading water. Goodwill Lodge No 3896 reported having half a dozen new candidates in the past few years and in some cases had to run double initiations due to calendar limitations.
Steve McNee, Widnes Group Mentor raised the issue of University lodges and trying to get a stronger relationship with them. He is hoping that when students leave the University lodges and are placed with local lodges we might benefit more by getting some joining members. Another interesting idea that was raised by the Widnes Group Secretary John Gibbon was that of a ‘Light Blue Club’, a group created for younger Freemasons to meet and converse outside of the boundaries on the lodge room. The Provincial panel liked the idea and reported that it had been a complete success in other groups. John hopes to use the club to attract non-Masons through social connections of the younger members.
Once the question and answer session was over, Tony thanked the brethren firstly for inviting him and the panel and for the nature and depth of the questions. The panel left the room to a round of applause and everyone moved into the Alan Locke Suite for the next part of the evening, a hotpot dinner with cheesecake and coffee for dessert. During the meal there were several of toasts and none more important than that to the Provincial Grand Master. This was given by Ian Edge, junior warden of Lodge of Equity and Appleton No 1384, on behalf of the group. He eloquently toasted Tony’s health with a few additions for entertainment, before finishing off, Ian asked the brethren to rise and honour the toast.
Tony’s responded and thanked the brethren of the Widnes Group for the generosity and hospitality shown to him and the provincial team present with him; he also thanked Ian for the toast to his health. Tony reflected on the evening’s proceedings by thanking the brethren for taking part in the question and answer session earlier, and for the manor that the evening was organised and run by the group officers, in particular the executive team consisting of Derek Williams (chairman), Neil Pedder (vice chairman) and John Gibbon.
Once the official toasts had been honoured, Derek made his speech to the brethren and guests, thanking the Provincial team for attending and being subjected to the questions in the lodge room. Derek also thanked his team of officers for the support they have shown to him since his appointment as chairman. He also mentioned that group would be hosting a Gala Dinner later on in May and that all brethren that should try to attend.
At the end of the evening, Tony was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Derek to take home for his wife on behalf of the group; Derek also presented Tony with a whisky tumbler engraved with the group logo and details. After a very successful group dinner the group officers and brethren of the group looked forward to the next time they meet and wished the Provincial team a final farewell and thanks, given some of officers were due to end their time as acting officers in soon.