To all those whom I have had the pleasure of appointing to or promoting in Provincial Grand Rank today, along with the recipients of my Certificate of Service, I offer my warmest congratulations. The award of Provincial Rank is recognition of past services along with strong encouragement for yet greater contribution in so many fields.
Hertfordshire, in common with most other Provinces, has seen a reduction in recruitment which, coupled with an ageing membership, has placed heavy demands on fewer people.
Today’s meeting is a case in point. It requires an awfully large number of Masons to successfully plan and execute the meeting of a Provincial Grand Lodge as well as to ensuring the smooth running of the Province throughout the year.
W Bro John Vasquez and his team here provide huge and freely given assistance to stage this event. The Provincial Grand Secretary and his staff, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies together with his Deputies and Assistants, the Board of Provincial Grand Stewards, all of these brethren devote many man hours in striving to deliver the very best that is possible and when, having produced a first class occasion, make it all seem to have been done quietly, smoothly and with great success.
There are two particular activities that we currently undertake that require more volunteers. The Visiting Officer Scheme has proved to be a very valuable tool in early identification of Lodges in difficulty, thus giving early warning of the possible need for remedial action or assistance.
The University Scheme Lodge is also proving particularly successful but it does require an inordinate number of experienced Masons to assist with multiple candidate ceremonies which, at first glance, appear to be daunting but which, when successfully performed, produce huge personal satisfaction for all those involved.
Both of these activities need more volunteers, so Brethren, do not be shy in offering your services, I am certain that many of you will have talents that we as yet unaware of but which could be of very great assistance in promoting the success and well-being of this Province.
The overriding activity this year has been the celebration of the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England. A great number of events have been held throughout England and Wales which will culminate in the “Grand Finale” at the Royal Albert Hall on 31st October.
The highlight of Hertfordshire’s own celebrations was the service held at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban in June attended by the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the Bishop of Hertford.
Good progress continues to be made in respect of the 2019 Festival for the RMTGB and I am extremely grateful to all of those brethren who have contributed, and continue to contribute magnificently, to its success which will be celebrated at a Festival Banquet to be held at Guildhall, London, on Saturday 6th July 2019.
The subject of charity leads me to mention the recent Community Awards granted by the Masonic Charitable Foundation to worthy recipients nominated by individual Provinces. Charity is a matter that has always been close to the heart of Freemasons in Hertfordshire and I am delighted to be able to tell you that this Province mustered more votes than any other Province in the United Grand Lodge of England.
Our total of 7,993 votes cast was beaten only by Metropolitan Grand Lodge with 9,225 votes but they do have five times as many members as Hertfordshire!
Brethren, today’s meeting marks the retirement from office of a number of Provincial Officers.
First and foremost it is with much regret that Michael Cooper’s indisposition has forced his early retirement as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master. We thank him for his contribution to this Province and wish him a speedy recovery to full health.
Peter Thompson retires as Provincial Mentor, a role that he has discharged very successfully since 2011. George Laverick stands down as Provincial Orator after an eight year term and Darren Bending retires as Communications Officer, a post he has held for three years.
We thank all of these brethren for their services to the Province and wish them well in their retirement except, of course, that George is not retiring from active duty but is, instead, taking on the very important role of Provincial Senior Grand Warden.
And finally Brethren, thank you all for your attendance here today and for the goodwill and friendship extended to me and to my Executive Officers when we visiting your lodges. Unfailingly we are welcomed with warmth, friendship and much generosity.
Brethren, it is a great privilege for me to be your Provincial Grand Master and to have the support of so many members of this province of “Happy Hertfordshire”, whilst I continue to pursue what is, after all, one of my hobbies, albeit one that requires me on occasion to make difficult decisions but which, ultimately, provides huge personal satisfaction.
May God bless you all.