The PGM’s Address at the Annual Meeting
At the Provincial Annual Meeting on 13 July, the PGM said in his address:
Brethren, this is now the fifth time I have had the pleasure and honour to address you as PGM.
So can I begin by welcoming you all again formally and thanking you most sincerely for your attendance and support here in London within these iconic surroundings – the very heart and soul of English Freemasonry.
Our Annual Meeting is a time for looking forward to the start of a new Mark Masonic season but also the opportunity to reflect on the activities, or at least some of the activities, of the past 12 months. And what another wonderful year this has been once again for your Province of London! We have worked hard and played hard, combining leisure and social activities with fundraising and charitable events; and still finding plenty of opportunities for the serious or formal side of our Mark Masonry.
There have been 2 organised excursions to the Tower of London to accommodate the number of you who sought to witness the Ceremony of the Keys; the Provincial Golf Day at Leatherhead; the Provincial Officers’ Mess Lunch at the Union Jack Club and a dinner in the beautiful surroundings of Bakers’ Hall, where we will be returning for the Autumn Mess Luncheon on 6 October. There was our End of Year Party at the Holiday Inn and of course the Annual Burns Event in Bournemouth.
The consecration of Prince Michael of Kent Lodge in Bucharest and the subsequent Consecration of two R.A.M. lodges in the District of Romania were also well supported by London Members, who gave further support to R.A.M. Elevation and Installation ceremonies in that country. Freemasons Without Borders, our largest London Lodge by memberships, has lived up to its name by taking two of its meetings outside of England – one to Edinburgh and one to Gibraltar; and we look forward to supporting R.W. Bro. Cristian Mihutoiu by travelling in force to Bucharest in September to see him perform an Advancement Ceremony, as that London Lodge’s newest W.M.
We have had a Banner Dedication at Aegean Lodge, the Centenary celebration of Public Schools Lodge with another four Centenaries planned for next year; plus a 150 Year Celebration for New Era Lodge. The Province continues to grow, as we have Consecrated a new Royal Air Force Lodge and Reponed the former Gibraltar Lodge as a new lodge for Secretaries. And we will be keeping Grand Secretary busy next season, too, when we present Petitions to Consecrate another 3 Royal Ark Mariner Lodges for Irenic, Loyalty and Royal Air Force. Those proposed Consecrations will take our numbers to 109 Mark Lodges & 90 R.A.M. – that’s 199 units – just one short of the magic 200 Lodges!!
Our membership numbers are more than keeping pace with losses. Since our last Annual Meeting we have Advanced 133 Brethren and Elevated 106. Plus we have seen 149 Joiners in the Mark and 53 in R.A.M. taking our overall numbers to 3,400 Mark and 1,900 R.A.M. members. Brethren, you are all great recruiters for your Lodges – keep up the good work! Remember that the Province will continue for another year to pay the Grand Lodge Registration Fees for Mark Joiners and Advancements.
I am delighted to see so many of our newly Advanced Brethren here today. Amongst them is Brother James Ballantyne of Maguncor Lodge whose ceremony of Advancement and Festive Board only finished at 10 p.m. last night. Brother Ballantyne, would you please stand and take a bow; and indeed would all our new Brethren of the season please stand so that you can be acknowledged and welcomed by us all.
Innovations this year have included the building of our own Travelling Ark, courtesy of V.W. Bro. John (Noah!) Ellis. This symbol of Royal Ark Mariner brotherly affection is intended to promote good attendance and inter-Lodge visiting between Royal Ark Mariner units and a formal programme will be in place for the start of the new season. My thanks to the Worshipful Commander of Connaught Army & Navy Lodge for carrying the Ark today and presenting it to Provincial Grand Lodge.
In our Welcome Packs we now include a newly designed explanatory booklet for our new Members and our business cards for issuing to potential candidates at Chapter meetings. Another marvellous opportunity for introducing Royal Arch and Craft masons to the Magic of the Mark Degree.
One of the impacts of Covid and lockdown was the non-production of our Year Book. But thanks to the sterling efforts of W. Bro. Andy Bull of Ubique Lodge, this publication has been revived and copies of the new 2023 edition are available and will shortly be distributed to all Lodge Secretaries.
Alongside our efforts towards our own membership drive, we were pleased to support the Metropolitan Grand Chapter’s Awareness Event at Freemasons’ Hall; and of course you are all aware of our support for the Metropolitan Grand Master’s Air Ambulance Appeal, when, along with 9 others I cycled in the London to Brighton Charity Bike Ride! Brethren, your contributions to that Appeal both from Lodges and individuals are nudging towards our target and on your behalf I hope to be able to present a large cheque to Sir Michael Snyder at the London Grand Ranks Investiture Meeting on 1 November. Brethren of the Mark Province of London, the level of your charitable giving to a whole host of beneficiaries is outstanding – particularly to the Mark Benevolent Fund to whom you contributed well in excess of £50,300 towards the 2023 MBF Festival. I applaud your generosity.
These are only some of the highlights of 2022/2023. For a more detailed and comprehensive list, I commend to your attention our London Group Facebook page and website and our quarterly magazine the London Mallet. My thanks go to Richard Criddle and his team for the upkeep and creation of these important communication channels. As ever my undying and heartfelt thanks to all on the Secretariat and Jonathon Wallis’ ceremonial teams who make this meeting happen and who ensure the smooth running of the Province throughout the year. I have already thanked Robert Anderson for his past services and he, having passed the Secretary’s quill pen to Gurdeep Virdee, I wish you, Gurdeep, all the very best in your new and demanding role. Brethren of the Province of London, you and I are blessed with an excellent Executive team of Chains, Treasurer and other hard-working individuals who keep the show on the road 365 days of the year and on a voluntary basis too! You know who you are Brethren and for your continuing efforts you have my very grateful thanks.
To our musicians, the London Celtic Pipes & Drums; our trumpeter W. Bro. James Deller, the Organist and Deputy Organist W. Bro. Bob Alder and V.W. Bro Doug Black, thank you for your memorable and talented contributions to today’s programme.
At the very start of this Address, I mentioned the honour and pleasure I have of holding the Office of PGM. My continuing in that role is only possible through the support and affection, however great or small, I derive from each and every one of you. Thank you all most sincerely for the continuance of that support. I would like to end this Address by thanking all the outgoing Officers and congratulating all those who I have had the greatest of pleasure this afternoon in promoting in and appointing to, Provincial Grand Rank. May you all enjoy your appointments, Brethren, and may the honour of those ranks bestowed lead you to an even greater affection and level of service towards this wonderful Province of London.
May the GOOTU bless and keep you all safe, until we meet again.