It was an impressive turn out for the Wigan Group’s 50th ‘Worshipful Masters’ and First Principals’ Festival’ at Pemberton Masonic Hall, with leaders of our lodges and chapters packing the lodge room and later dining downstairs. This was not surprising considering the enthusiasm within the group, coupled with the star -studded cast that had attended to officiate and participate in this bi-annual event.
The occasion followed a tried and tested format, with initial tea, coffee and biscuits accompanied by informal socialising in the bar, followed by a question and answer session in the lodge room. The panel consisted of the four distinguished guests, headed by none other than Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, assisted by Tony Bent Assistant Provincial Grand Master with responsibility for the Wigan Group, Ian Cuerden Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals with responsibility for the Wigan Group and Peter Taylor Provincial Grand Secretary and Scribe E. They were ably supported by Geoffrey Porter group chairman, David Ogden group vice-chairman and John Selley group secretary. Keith Kemp Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies provided his usual skills to ensure the event ran smoothly, along with Peter Littlehales PrAGDC. In addition, Provincial wardens John Lee and Jonathan Heaton, together with Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah Jim Miller completed the distinguished line up.
The questions in the ‘Q and A forum’ were interesting and varied, which prompted the distinguished guests to explore and explain various topics including the current MCF Festival; the issue of rising costs and reduction in membership; recruitment; the age profile of lodges and some recipes for success. The forum being completed, it was time to adjourn to the bar where discussions carried on in little groups here and there with a buzz of enthusiasm visually and audibly noticeable.
The brethren were then ushered into the dining room, nicely decked out with white clad round tables to receive the distinguished guests. A fine meal followed, with lots of chatter about the room. Keith Kemp, ably assisted by Peter Littlehales, managed the proceedings with the usual formal toasts being taken. Ian Green, master of Heber Lodge, proposed the toast to the Provincial Grand Master who was pleased to respond by thanking Ian for the generous toast to his health and recognising and thanking all of the group officers for their contribution to the effective running of the Province. He congratulated everyone present who had received Provincial first appointments and promotions, and hoped that they enjoyed their Masonry as much as he and his wife Maureen had enjoyed the last 40 plus years. He also explained and endorsed the Masonic Fishing Charity (MTSFC), an initiative supported by the Pro Grand Master, which was aimed at providing an enjoyable, rewarding and stimulating experience to those suffering from disability and serious learning difficulties.
Jonathan Heaton, himself from the neighbouring Leigh Group, proposed the toast to the Wigan Group. Geoffrey Porter proudly responded, explaining about the group team, their achievements and offering his thanks to all concerned. He also expressed his delight at having the Provincial Grand Master as the principal guest, accompanied by so many distinguished colleagues. He was then delighted to present a cheque to Tony for £3,000 in favour of the MCF 2021 Festival, which prompted another presentation in response as Tony handed over a Festival Patron’s certificate for the group. It was a delightful duty for Geoffrey to present flowers to Tony and his two assistants, Tony Bent and Ian Cuerden, before they retired. As a ‘parting gesture’ and in something of a Wigan tradition, John Selley was pleased to end the evening by presenting the guests with that world famous local delicacy – Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls!
Article written by Barry Dickinson.