Brethren from all parts of the Province, and Distinguished Guests from across the Country, assembled at Newcastle Racecourse on Thursday 25 November for the Province’s first Annual Meeting since Lockdown, to celebrate all that is good about our wonderful organisation.
The Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Ian Craigs greeted and welcomed all, particularly the Provincial Grand Masters and their Officers from the Provinces of Durham, Yorkshire North and East Ridings, Yorkshire West Riding, West Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmoreland. The Distinguished Guests suitably replied.
The meeting was then opened in due form and business transacted, including the following:
The Provincial Grand Master referred to the number of Brethren who had passed to the Grand Lodge Above and expressed his condolences to their families. They lived respected and died regretted.
Appointments and Promotions
The Provincial Grand Master proceeded to reappoint –
- The Very Worshipful Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Kevin P Stannard PGSwdB
- Assistant Provincial Grand Master W.Bro Dr Gregory R Smith PSGD
- Assistant Provincial Grand Master W Bro Alasdair J P Watson PSGD. The Provincial Grand Master was especially pleased to greet W. Bro Alasdair following his recent serious illness and wished him well in his recovery.
- Assistant Provincial Grand Master W Bro Gordon Craigs PSGD
The Provincial Grand Master then proceeded to invest W Bro George Joseph Sanger PSGD as Assistant Provincial Grand Master. Brethren from Perfect Ashlar Lodge 7966, Swinburne Lodge 2680 and Viking Lodge 7934 escorted W Bro George to the Provincial Grand Master, where he was duly appointed.
The Brethren then saluted these Officers in due form.
W. Bro Sanger on being appointed Provincial Assistant Grand Master
The Provincial Grand Master then proceeded to appoint or promote Brethren in recognition of their services to The Craft. All awards were gratefully received and all recipients deserve our congratulations for their efforts. He then congratulated these Brethren and wished them well for the year ahead; he also took the opportunity to thank the outgoing Provincial Team for their hard work and dedication during the past two years.
…..and gratefully received
Charity Blesses He Who Gives
Charity is the denominating characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and there are well-established Masonic initiatives which help some of the most vulnerable members of our community. The Provincial Grand Master referred to this as our ‘Let’s get on and help’ approach, examples of which include:
- The £3.248,927 raised for the 2020 Festival for the RMBI funds, and duly presented to Sir David Wooton, Assistant Grand Master at a celebration dinner held in the Grand Hotel, Gosforth on 2 October 2021; This is regarded as a spectacular achievement for the Province;
- Gosforth Lodge No; 1664 through their Lodge Charity have supported 26 local charities;
- The Richard Henry Holmes Charity’s grants totalling £88,000 to both Masonic and non-Masonic recipients;
Covid Lockdown affected us all and had an additional and serious impact on many of the most vulnerable of our community. Initiatives to help include:
- local Brethren establishing the UGLE ‘Meals on Wheels service in the Province, which at the time of writing is in its 80th week. Other initiatives include arranging shopping trips and offering a DIY service;.
- Oriental Lodge No 9371 buying and delivering PPE equipment to care homes;
- Brethren of various Lodges establishing and operating a system to deliver surplus foodstuffs from Morrisons to local foodbanks;
- The MCF helping local charities with Covid Support Grants totalling £124,000 and sending over £600,000 to Northumberland to help Masons and their families.
All these initiatives have received letters of commendation from grateful recipients. The Brethren concerned are a credit to themselves, their Lodges and The Craft.
The PGM made particular reference to W Bro Norman West, who has been Provincial Almoner for the past 14 years and is also a Trustee of the Richard Henry Holmes Benevolent Fund. During this time, W Bro Norman has been tireless in helping both Masons and Non-Masons in their time of need. The PGM was delighted to congratulate W Bro Norman on his recently being awarded The Order of Mercy in an impressive Ceremony in London; the Order of Mercy is a very prestigious award bestowed on a maximum of 50 people per year by the League of Mercy (founded by Royal Charter in 1899) ‘in recognition of voluntary service, assisting in the relief of sickness and suffering.’ W. Bro Norman’s particular strength, according to the Provincial Grand Master was ‘his personal touch which puts him at one not only with the beneficiaries, but also with the MFC in London.’ There will be many grateful recipients of W. Bro Norman’s help who will echo these sentiments.
It is clear that communities will have to rely increasingly on help such as this – and heartening to know that there are Brethren are so willing and able to provide that help. Long may the spirit of ‘Let’s get on and help’ continue in our Province.
And within Lodges, Brethren have made extra efforts to simply to maintain contact during the Pandemic, to give practical help where needed and to support one another. Sometimes a friendly, familiar voice is all that’s needed and it was with this in mind that W Bro Richard Erskine WM of the Duke of Connaught Lodge 3892 held Zoom ‘meetings’ every week from the beginning of Lockdown in March 2020, till meetings resumed earlier this year. These ‘Zooms’, which continue to be held monthly, were very much appreciated by all, particularly Lodge members whose work commitments meant that they were stranded in some very inhospitable parts of the world.
The Future’s Bright
Lodges are once again meeting, and whilst some Brethren are reluctant to attend, the future remains very bright for our Province. The Provincial Grand Master has been visiting Lodges since Lockdown ended and is delighted at the positive attitude of Brethren. He stated that
‘Everyone [is] keen to see each other, delighted to return and determined to get on and leave the Pandemic behind. There is a backlog of 50th and 60th Year Certificates to present, a Centenary to celebrate, a 75th Year Anniversary to commemorate and a banner to dedicate;’
In addition, young and newer Masons have spoken to him of their enjoyment of Masonry to date and of their commitment to progressing; Initiations are taking place and there is a steady stream of Candidates. The Pathways, Learning and Development and Mentoring Schemes continue to develop throughout the Province; the Universities Scheme continues to attract young undergraduates and the Light Blues continue to provide a convivial social setting for newer Masons; and the Communications Team ensures that Brethren are kept informed and involved in all aspects of Masonry in our Province.
Finally, the Provincial Secretariat ensures the smooth running of these initiatives and the Provincial Grand Master thanked the Provincial Grand Secretary and his Officers particularly for all their hard work during Lockdown. The general outlook is very positive.
The Provincial Grand Master ended by stating that
‘We have met today to celebrate all that is good about our wonderful organisation – and there has indeed been a lot to celebrate. The Pandemic has tested many of us and we as individuals and as an organisation have persevered in the best Masonic tradition in helping ourselves and families, the Community and the Craft. With the help of the GAOTU we will continue to do so and I look forward to meeting and hearing from as many of you as possible during the forthcoming year.
‘May the GAOTU keep you and your families safe and I wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas’
The Provincial Grand Secretary then announced that the next Annual General Meeting would be held in the same venue on Thursday 24 November 2022. The Proceedings were then closed and followed by a very enjoyable meal at the Festive Board.
The Lodge banners displayed at the Annual General Meeting