It was a great turn out for the Wigan Group’s 49th Worshipful Masters and First Principals Festival at Bryn Masonic Hall, with over 100 brethren packing the lodge room and later dining downstairs. The occasion followed a tried and tested format, with initial tea, coffee and biscuits with informal socialising in the bar, followed by a question and answer session in the lodge room. The panel consisted of the four distinguished guests; Danny Jones (Deputy Grand Superintendent), 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), and of course they were supported by Malcolm Taylor (group chairman), Geoffrey Porter (group vice chairman) and Stewart Blagg (group secretary). Barrie Crossley (Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies) provided his usual skills to ensure the event ran smoothly.
The questions in the question and answer forum were interesting and varied, which prompted the distinguished guests to explore and explain various topics, including the new ‘Talking Heads’ initiative which looks at recruitment into the Royal Arch, as well as the pros and cons of joining chapter at an early stage in a Masonic career. The discussion around this topic was lively and with some breadth, with contributions from Danny Jones and Ian Cuerden and many opinions from the audience, but the general consensus was that the timing was an individual thing, and making the progression from craft to Royal Arch should only happen when brethren are ready and any attempt to coerce or speed things up should be avoided.
Inevitably, the question of finances were raised and Peter Taylor did a splendid job unravelling the mysteries of Provincial and Grand Lodge subscriptions and finances in general, whilst Tony Bent went into great detail on the strategy and practicalities of recruitment to the craft and some of the important issues to be addressed when a new candidate seeks admission. These particular questions, like the others posed, were responded to in an open and frank way, stimulating debate from around the room.
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. Barrie Crossley managed the proceedings with the usual formal toasts being taken. Jim Miller proposed the toast to the Deputy Grand Superintendent and Danny Jones was pleased to respond. He congratulated everyone present who had received Provincial first appointments and promotions and also thanked David Ogden, who was retiring after many years as Regional Charity Steward.
Danny reminisced happily about David at eight years of age selling raffle tickets at lodge socials he attended with his father, a habit that had continued ever since. He also spoke of enhancements to the Royal Arch ceremony being showcased throughout the province and re-iterated the information about the ‘Talking Heads’ initiative. Stewart Blagg proposed the toast to the Wigan Group and Malcolm Taylor proudly responded, explaining about the group team and their achievements. He also expressed his delight at having Danny Jones as the principal guest, Danny being a previous Chairman of the Wigan Group. In something of a Wigan tradition, Malcolm was pleased to end the evening by presenting his guests with that world famous local delicacy – Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls!