"M W Pro Grand Master
On behalf of all the brethren of the Province of Worcestershire, may I thank you, Sir, very much indeed for making the time to be with us here today and for ensuring that this important day for our Province is so very much more special.
Your visit here gives me and the Brethren the opportunity to say how much we appreciate all that you do for the benefit of the Craft and the Royal Arch, in particular in promoting the magnificent and memorable celebration of our 2017 Tercentenary and for implementing the strategy for the successful future of Freemasonry. I can assure you, Sir, that the key initiatives concerning; our Meeting Places, the Pathway and the Solomon Learning and Development resource, are all being enthusiastically embraced in this Province and the benefits are already being felt.
The fact is that the number of initiates recorded in 2018 was the highest for many years and is very encouraging.
But we certainly can’t be complacent – with the number of resignations still stubbornly too high. In all ways there is much to be done.
Several of our Meeting Places are actively engaged in planning for, and implementing, developments that will undoubtedly be of great benefit to the members in the years to come.
The Cubit Club for new and young masons has just celebrated its birthday after a spectacularly successful first year. It has a rapidly growing membership and has embarked on an ambitious programme of activities which will, I’m sure, continue to engage its members.
Our University Scheme Lodge, Worcester Lodge No 280, has now established a good relationship with the ever expanding Worcester University and it will welcome the Assistant Grand Master to its November meeting.
The recent 21st century Lodge presentation and the especially successful “Bring a Friend” event at Kings Heath, will be repeated in other parts of the Province next season.
I have already welcomed our guests, but to that I must add my personal thanks to the Provincial Grand Masters, present and past, and the other Provincial Rulers for their presence with us today. I can assure you, Brethren, that the support structure and friendships that exist between the Provinces is of enormous value and why the recent passing of R W Bro the Rev. David Bowen in Hereford was such a sad loss for us all.
"The fact is that the number of initiates recorded in 2018 was the highest for many years"
My congratulations, of course, to those of you receiving appointments and promotions, and whose special day this really is. I hope that you will find it a time to be remembered and a memory to be shared with all the members of your lodges and those still to join us as members of the organisation of which we are justly proud.
At the Annual Investiture at Great Queen Street in April, the M W Pro Grand Master conferred appointments and promotions in Grand Rank on a number of our brethren in recognition of their great contribution to the Craft.
We are all delighted with the first appointment to Acting Rank for W Bro Rev Justin Parker, our Provincial Grand Chaplain, as Assistant Grand Chaplain – many congratulations Justin, we are all very proud of you.
Our congratulations also to:-
W Bro Chris Firminger and W Bro Ian Hart appointed to PAGDC; and promotions to PSGD for W Bro Peter Manning and to PJGD for W Bro Andrew Sweeney and W Bro Eric Bourne, the latter until recently a trustee of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys;
To W Bro Charles Gwynn, our extremely hard working Provincial Almoner, was also promoted to the rank of PJGD, and for W Bro Granville Angel, our Prestonian Lecturer, to PAGSwdB.
Our congratulation to all of them.
To those who continue to serve the Province, either in office or, just as importantly, in a supporting role, I thank you very much for your ongoing commitment. Worcestershire would be much the less but for what you all do so willingly.
"Worcestershire would be much the less but for what you all do so willingly."
To those who are retiring from office today, you should know that I am extremely grateful for all that you have brought to the life of our Province of Worcestershire and hope that you will find ways to share with others the benefit of your experience and enjoyment.
Again, my special thanks to the retiring Assistant Grand Masters, Keith Evans and Michael Cox for their support, friendship and advice, which I very much hope will continue, and, of course, our best wishes go to Michael Cox in his new and important office as Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch Province.
W Bro Keith I appointed six years ago and his wise counsel has been invaluable during that time.
W Bro Michael was appointed more recently but he too has made a tremendous contribution since then.
I, of course, thank my Deputy, Stephen Wyer, and Assistant Provincial Grand Master Patrick Firminger, for their great ongoing support and for the way that, with varying degrees of success, they have attempted to advise me!
To the retiring Provincial Wardens, W Bros Chris Vendy and Mark Lodge, who have travelled the Province far and wide and who have been fine ambassadors and excellent company, thank you for all you have done and, as is the way in Worcestershire, for what remains to be done over the next several years.
Those of us who had the great pleasure of attending the Installation of John Phenix as our MEGS at Worcester in April will know what a great day that was and we all wish him every success and happiness as he begins his term of office. John and I have known each other, and worked together, for a long time, and there is no doubt in our minds that our already strong relationship will go from strength to strength.
As Patrick Firminger has reported, the appeal for our 2022 Festival for the Masonic Charitable Foundation was launched here 18 months ago and, as we now know, and thanks to your generosity and commitment, has now brought us to the halfway point of our target, the magnificent figure of 1.32 million pounds with, as the Chairman said, the clear proviso that the figure does include future pledges.
You can be proud to know that all the available funds are now with the charity for the benefit of all in need. Every Festival, I strongly believe, should provide opportunities for enjoyment and it has been a pleasure for Stephenie and me to join in many of them. No doubt that belief is shared by the neighbouring Provinces who are also in Festival, but whether the decision of the PGM of Warwickshire to jump out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane on Friday comes under the heading of enjoyment only he will know. In any case, we wish him well and a good financial return.
"Whether the decision of the Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire to jump out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane on Friday comes under the heading of enjoyment only he will know!"
Similarly, my volunteering to join Roger and Linda Michell last week for a short part of their walk from Shrewsbury to Great Queen Street, in support of the Shropshire Festival, was without the knowledge that 70 year old Roger is a lifelong member of Blackheath Harriers Athletic Club in London and a highly successful member of the English Seniors Speed Walking Team! It was not a stroll!
And it was only sometime after RW Bro Sir David Wootton accepted our invitation to take part in a Regatta on the river at Worcester in July that, given his unbeaten record as Captain of his Cambridge College boat, it became obvious that this was going to be an unequal contest, given my complete lack of experience. However, enjoyment is the aim and it’s all in a good cause. I am very grateful to the neighbouring Provinces who are looking to provide more opposition and to share the challenge.
The decision to move our Annual Meeting here to Droitwich was, in the end, not a difficult one, but I hope that you will find that Chateau Impney serves us well. It is certainly a distinctive landmark here in the centre of Worcestershire, having been built in the mid nineteenth century by John Corbett, “The Salt King” who was hugely successful in reviving the salt industry to the great advantage of Droitwich Spa and the surrounding areas.
Entirely coincidentally, this place has strong connections with my own family, who lived nearby. The family bible, given to me by my grandfather, well worn as it is, is inscribed “Presented to Ernest Vaughan with the kind regards of John Corbett 31st July 1894”. I am sure that it is the first time that this book has been back here in the intervening 125 years.
"It remains a great honour to be the Provincial Grand Master for Worcestershire"
So our thanks to the events team here, especially Peter Rosser, the operations manager, and his staff, for their great help and advice.
Reflecting on the past year, the highlights are too many to mention individually, but the celebrations of the centenaries of Kings Heath Lodge, Lodge of the Mystic Quest and St Mary’s Lodge, our three lodges consecrated at the end of the Great War, was very special; and it was my privilege to present a 70 year certificate to W Bro Alan Holder of Frankley Beeches Lodge and to hear him reflect on a lifetime of pleasure and satisfaction as a member of the Craft, is something I will always remember.
It remains a great honour to be the PGM for Worcestershire, with its varied meeting places, its different accents, and its special Installation Ceremony. I can only thank you all again for your continuing support, your hospitality and your friendship.
I must also thank W Bro Nick Burger, the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, for accompanying the Pro Grand Master. It is a pleasure to welcome you back again so soon after your attendance at the Royal Arch Installation in April.
As you can imagine, in these unique circumstances, the Provincial Grand Secretary and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies have worked enormously hard in the weeks leading up to this meeting – to them, their Deputies and Assistants, the Provincial Grand Stewards, the office staff at Bromsgrove, and a host of volunteers, my very special thanks.
I include, of course, thanks to Michael Cole and Julian Ridgers, Past Provincial Grand Secretaries, who have also given of their time.
A word about our organist today, W Bro Adrian Leopard, Past Deputy Grand Organist, for once again demonstrating his great skill and flair, in the unavoidable absence of our Provincial Grand Organist. Thank you Adrian very much indeed. And thanks also to W Bro Geoff Whiteley for providing the sound system.
We have much to look forward to, not least the unveiling, by the MW The Grand Master, in two week’s time, of the beautiful stone Victoria Cross, commissioned by Granville Angel and carved by Emily Draper in the stone masons’ yard at Worcester Cathedral. It is to have a permanent home in the inner porch of the Tower Entrance at Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street.
So, thank you all for being here today, thank you for listening to me, my best wishes to you all and to your families, and I hope that you will enjoy the summer.
RW Bro Robert C Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master