Wigan Group 52nd Masters and First Principals Festival was held at Ashton Masonic Hall in Bryn in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews. The evening started with a drink’s reception followed by a question and answer session in the temple. The panel consisted of Sylvester During, Chris Taylor, Malcolm Alexander, Mark Matthews, David Ogden, Peter Taylor and Mick Southern, and they fielded a number of questions from the assembled brethren and companions.
The questions were lively and varied and covered topics from enquiring how the Provincial Grand Master was finding his new role, an update on Hermes, the connection between Craft and RA Masonry and finally one to Peter Taylor regarding what he was going to do now he had Mick Southern as an assistant. All the questions were answered concisely and clearly and the answers proved very informative.
Dinner was served in the dining room downstairs with the usual exceptional catering being provided by Phil and Christine Hughes, to the acclaim of all present.
The toast to the Mark Matthews was proposed by Jonathon Heaton from Borsdane Lodge No 6460 in a respectful yet humorous manner and covered aspects of both his personal career and Masonic career.
Obviously delighted and amused by the toast to his health, Mark replied, highlighting the following topics: The link between the Craft and Royal Arch, with the Royal Arch being the step to complete the Masonic journey before joining other orders. 38 to 40% of Craft Masons are also in the Royal Arch. There is now only one Cabinet in West Lancashire which covers both the Craft and Royal Arch.
Help is available for anyone struggling with the high cost of living via the West Lancs Freemasons’ Charity, and is confidential and free.
Support was requested for both the Provincial Grand Lodge at Blackpool on Wednesday 10 May and the Charity Steward’s Ball which is being held at Bryn and Saturday 23 September.
Thanks were expressed to the Wigan Group Executive Committee for all their help, and also to the masters and first principals, especially at the Q&A session. A special thanks went to David Ogden for all his hard work as Assistant Provincial Grand master who is retiring in May, and a welcome to Malcolm Bell who is assuming the role.
Freemasonry means different things to different people, including but not limited to ritual, social and charitable aspects. Above all it is a hobby and is meant to be enjoyed.
The next toast was in the capable hands of the Provincial Senior Grand Warden Chris Taylor, who apart from a selection of dubious jokes, thanked Phil and Christine and their staff, gave a brief history of the Royal Arch in Wigan and encouraged all members to keep supporting all junior brethren. He was impressed by the number of light blues and white belts which is a good sign for the future. He also complimented the group on its charity giving record, and also as being the home of the Biker’s Chapter and the charity undertaken by the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association.
In closing, thanks were given to the group executive committee for all their hard work, and he wished success to all the masters and first principals and then proposed the toast to the Wigan and District Group.
John Selley, the group chairman, responded to the toast by thanking Chris and made mention of the following: Best wished to David Ogden, thanks to Malcolm Alexander for his attendance, to all the grand officers for their help and support and to all the visitors.
Special thanks to Geoff Porter for all his help and well wishes to Chris Reeman, and hope to see him soon. Thanks to all the officers of the group and also the chairmen and directors of the halls, including the secretary, care team, publicity officer, membership officer (including a special thanks to Bob Duff for 10 years’ service as group membership officer), almoner and group charity steward.
All lodges and chapters gained at least vice patronage at the recent festival, with 9 achieving grand patronage. The total raised was £212,000.
2 major fundraiser events are planned for the forthcoming year; the group sponsored walk and the week away in January 2024. Finally, John presented a cheque for £10,000 to the Mark Matthews in aid of the Ukraine Crisis Appeal.
In closing John thanked Phil, Christine and the staff and also Malcolm Bell and Gary Smith as DC’s. Following the tyler’s toast, all brethren and companions retired after a splendid evening in excellent company.