On the 2nd of April the meeting room at Derby was packed to capacity as the Provincial Grand Master opened Provincial Grand Lodge and duly invested his new Provincial Officers. There was a good retinue of distinguished guests including several visiting Provincial Grand Masters as well as heads of other orders.
Please see a copy of the Provincial Grand Master's address below:
It is only 8 months since we last met as a Province but we seem to have crammed several years’ worth of work into those few months. It has been hectic but thoroughly enjoyable and a joy to see Freemasonry, in this Province, bouncing back from the awful Covid years. That pestilence is still with us and we will probably have to learn to live with it. There is nothing wrong with being cautious – as we have always been taught - but life and Freemasonry must go on.
It is only too easy to remember all the unhappy and upsetting events that occurred over the last few years- friends lost and special events cancelled. Last year I stated I was a firm believer in turning a negative into a positive – you took me at my words and not only turned a negative into a positive but a positive into a super positive and that mind set is continuing.
The resumption of play in September saw a flurry of activity in most Lodges and Masonic Halls with the Chains trying to cover as many Initiations, Passings and Raisings as possible while a team of current and past Wardens covered all the Installations. A heartfelt thank you to all those who put so much effort into making the resumption of Freemasonry in this Province so successful and we have seen the numbers increasing with every meeting.
So, where have we been in the last 8 months and where are we going in the next 12 and beyond?
The Amadeus Travelling Headset was honourably retired on September 23rd with every lodge which had claimed it being presented with a framed certificate. The whole concept of the Travelling Headset, devised by Bro Andy Glaves, did so much to raise spirits and engender a fierce competitive spirit during the dark days when we could only meet by Zoom. The Tercentenary Travelling Gavel came out of hibernation on the same night and is back on the road again.
St Werburga Lodge celebrated its delayed Centenary in style the next night. Littleover Lodge also celebrated its 25th anniversary and continues to flourish.
The refurbished and renovated Belper Masonic Hall was formally opened in October, befittingly at the meeting of Beaureper Lodge whose forefathers had the foresight to buy the building in the first place. The Ashbourne Lodges Open Evening – they used to be called White Table Events – saw 20 non-masons attending and 12 have either been or are waiting to be initiated. WBros Doug McConnachie and Chris Nichols along with the Provincial Membership Officer are in the process of planning further events in New Mills and Glossop, Belper and here in Derby.
We have had discussions with Derby University, via the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, not only in respect of forming a Freemason’s Society at the University but also how we can possibly assist the students with work placements in certain fields of study as part of our commitment to the community.
November saw the consecration of Resurgam Lodge, the first ever Brass Band Lodge, which, by advertising in the Brass Band magazine drew back into Freemasonry 8 hitherto unattached Freemasons. A special concert was given afterwards by the Fairey Band, one the premier Brass Bands in the UK. The conductor, a non-mason, addressed the audience at the end and rather rashly said he didn’t realise he knew so many Freemasons. Watch this space!
We also resumed the Community Awards and had 2 highly successful evenings at Chesterfield and Derby in the presence of the Mayors of Derby and Chesterfield and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill CBE. At Derby the Annie Hall Memorial Award was presented for the first time by her husband, WBro Michael Hall. You will no doubt recall that Annie was a former High Sheriff of Derbyshire, a great supporter of Freemasonry and Foundation Derbyshire and tragically lost her life in those devastating floods a few years ago.
Cornucopia Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards hosted a special meeting which saw the dedication of the new Provincial banner bearing our recently granted Coat of Arms, designed and submitted on our behalf by WBro George Carruthers. It was only fitting he should carry the Banner during the Dedication Ceremony. The members of Cornucopia then conducted an exemplary Passing Ceremony for Hartington Lodge to ease the pressure with the back log of ceremonies. The Cornucopia Lodge would like to make this a regular event and welcome invitations from other Lodges to perform a Passing ceremony on their behalf.
The Care Leavers Christmas Hamper organised by WBros Malcolm Prentice and Trandeep Sethi to replace the traditional lunch again proved a huge success, received a very impressive write up in FMT and was even featured on the local TV news except, somehow, here they managed to omit any reference to Freemasonry – we knew though as did the care leavers!
If all this wasn’t enough, we managed to catch up on a large number of 50 and 60 year celebrations including RWBro Rudd, VWBro Collison and who can forget the very special occasion when WBros Hall and West received their 50 year certificates with the WM who initiated them 50 years ago, our own Peter Pan of Freemasonry, WBro Ernie Tryner, taking the Chair of his Lodge once more.
An additional 19 of our brethren received the Grand Master’s Certificate of Commendation for work undertaken during the Pandemic – primarily for volunteering in Vaccination Centres – congratulations to them all.
So that’s a rapid gallop through the last 8 months but more importantly, what of the future?
Let’s start with Membership – a simple word but one which is so important to us as Freemasons. We are a membership organisation and depend on our members – you - to ensure Freemasonry continues as an effective and viable body. Without you and new members joining and staying, we are nothing.
The Provincial Pathway Officers – the generic name for all those involved in anything to do with membership – has, under the stewardship of the Deputy PGM, continued to work extremely hard and their labours are, undoubtedly, bearing fruit. The Calling Notice for this meeting shows how many are involved in all aspects of Membership. Not only are you bringing new members in but our loss rate has been reduced. You will have seen the Registrar’s Report in the Calling Notice and our figures speak for themselves. An overall loss of only two last year! As of today, we are plus 35 – a super positive performance by you all.
We have published, for the first time, the Membership Strategy for this Province. It is based on the Members’ Pathway and is not simply my ideas or those of the Executive – we have included other key officers in the deliberations along with members of our Porchway Club and their insight and views have proved invaluable to us in formulating this strategy. This is a living document so if you have any innovative ideas, please share them with us all.
Brethren are also realising that being appointed a Lodge Membership Officer or Mentor does require a lot of work and dedication and is not simple a collar for Fred who is the senior PM and deserves some office!
The new Provincial Membership Officer, WBro Burgess, has already made his mark and his expanded team, many of whom are MMs or below, have proved to be highly dedicated and effective – this was no more so than during the National Digital Marketing Campaign when every effort was made to ensure contact with those curious enough to submit an enquiry. Of the 174 internet or NDMC enquiries we received since March, 90 have already been placed with Lodges and 46 are work in progress. Their progress is being carefully monitored and brethren please remember – this is not a race to see who can initiate the quickest. These potential new members are not known to us and care and due diligence must be exercised in all cases. Getting to know them and them getting to know us is vital and I would not expect to see an unsponsored initiation taking place in less than 9 months.
Over 75% of our lodges now have active Lodge Membership Officers and most Lodges have submitted a Lodge Outline.
From the real restart in September to 31st December 2021 we saw 85 initiations with many Lodges having emergency meetings or doing multiple ceremonies – our Motorcycle Lodge did 4 in two separate ceremonies on one Saturday! From the 1st January to now there have been 65 initiations with many Lodges reporting they have numerous candidates waiting to be proposed, balloted for or initiated – one Lodge proposed 11 at one meeting – all good news but something which, in itself, requires careful management.
Our experienced and wily Provincial Mentor, WBro Martyn Prior, has an exceptionally dedicated team and, along with WBro Burgess, has this delightful problem in hand. The problem – how do you keep them all engaged and active and not dropping out after a couple of years?
We have talked about a ‘Shadow Scheme’ before and this is slowly being implemented in Lodges so junior brethren get some experience of the key Lodge Offices before they go through the Chair – effectively assistants to those Officers. This is just one way of keeping them engaged and prepares them for life after being a WM. If you haven’t started such a scheme, then please speak to The Provincial Mentor. However, the problem doesn’t end there because we still have the potential for losses of PMs who find they have nothing to do once they have completed a year as IPM or Tyler. This is because, in many cases, the key offices of DC, Chaplain etc are being held for an inordinate length of time by the same person who does not want to relinquish his post and often threatens to resign if asked to do so! There must be a case here for some form of limitation being put in place to prevent ‘Collar Hogging’.
These two areas are all part and parcel of effective Lodge planning – not just in who is going to be Master but how to keep the young ones busy and ensure the lodge remains vibrant, alive and active and not moribund. Should you require help and assistance in these areas feel free to approach the Provincial Mentor or Membership Officer for advice.
Membership is not just about bringing new blood in, it is about retaining those members we already have – engaging with those who do not attend regularly, assisting those who are moving away from or into our area to find a suitable Lodge near their new home, establishing the real reason for a resignation and bringing back into the fold those who have lapsed for one reason or another. Our New and Young Masons Club – the Porchway Club – continues to flourish and provides invaluable assistance to our newer brethren -they are our future and encouraging younger men to become Freemasons and nurturing them along their journey is so important to us all. In that respect our thanks must go to WBro James Bentley who is the Porchway club Co-ordinator and Bros Nick Barnwell and Gavin Jones, the Chairman and Secretary respectively.
I am delighted our Membership Team is working hard in all those areas and I know you, the brethren of Derbyshire, will support all our efforts in ensuring this Province remains strong, vibrant and friendly.
Hermes will almost certainly be a useful tool and will assist us with monitoring membership, providing us with more accurate and up to date information. Unfortunately, its implementation, which should have been yesterday, has now been put back by UGLE till the beginning of May. If anyone has any queries re Hermes, then feel free to contact WBros Pete Chapman or Martyn Bailey.
So, what else is on the agenda?
Okeover Lodge celebrates its delayed 150th anniversary on April 7th and King Egbert Lodge celebrates its delayed Centenary on October 29th. Vulcan Lodge will also be celebrating its centenary on a date to be fixed later in the year.
The Promotions meeting is here on Friday April 22nd with the Lecture Festival being held on Monday 4th July at Long Eaton and RWBro Stephen Blank has kindly agreed to be our President this year.
I understand there are also likely to be at least two further banner dedications.
On July 16th here at Derby we consecrate our 76th Lodge - Nomads Rugby Lodge No 10015. I am hoping this will attract a large attendance from the other Rugby Lodges – Leicestershire and Rutland are consecrating their rugby Lodge today and hence no Tigers present! I also anticipate there could be a good attendance from our neighbours Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire particularly as RWBro Marshall will be JW and RWBro Lockley SD.
If all goes according to plan, the Consecrating Officer will be the Deputy Grand Master, RWBro Jonathan Spence, himself a qualified referee and a Harlequins supporter.
At long last we may be in a position to dedicate and hand over the Remembrance Garden at Crich along with signing the Armed Forces Covenant – more to come on this event. The early part of 2023 will also see the final Cadets Awards Night which will be the Cadet Units of the Mercian Regiment.
As next year is the 70th Anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, Philip Bowler is in advanced discussions with the Chatsworth Estate regarding creating a Coronation Wood to mark this occasion – the idea is for every unit of every Order that meets in Derbyshire to sponsor a tree within the wood with a plaque and a Roll of Honour.
Tutbury Priory Lodge is also in the process of repurposing itself as a Shooting Lodge – a bold step but with 18 joining ‘shooters’ and two candidates already, one which should secure its future and be another specialist Lodge with the ability to attract in new members. There are also rumours abounding of a Rock Music Lodge!
This is just a brief snapshot of what is happening – time prevents me from outlining everything.
Of course, our Festival 2025 is back on track and you have raised over £852,880.00 already towards our £1.5 million target with 11 Lodges reaching their target and 7 having been presented with the Festival Award. I am still on for the abseil off Millersdale Viaduct on June 29th and WBro Danny Brown is lining up more yet challenges for me to do! However, it is not just your generosity towards the Festival which has astounded me but also your continued giving to local charities and good causes. Some £10,000 has already been pledged by you towards the Red Cross Ukrainian Appeal and WBro Hitchcock has secured matched funding from the MCF. The full extent of Derbyshire’s contribution to charity will be revealed in the excellent Charity Booklet WBro Hitchcock has yet again prepared and which will be available at the Festive Board. Whilst on this subject, The Derby Bucks Mixed Ability Rugby Squad are sponsored by the Provincial Charity – the match shirts carry our name as sponsors - and they compete in the World Tournament in Cork in June. 40% of the 25-man playing squad have some form of mental or physical disability and their participation would have been in doubt but for the tremendous generosity of several individual members. Dean Jackson provided kit bags, hoodies and t-shirts, Nick and Chris Lewis did all the embroidery and artwork etc, Mark Lee provided 60 water bottles and carrying containers, Stuart Riley provided after match polo shirts and Philip Bowler arranged the production of the Tournament ties – all the kit is emblazoned with our Provincial Logo and name. Thank you from all the Bucks for your support.
As always, I am delighted the MW Grand Master has honoured several brethren with appointment to or promotion in Grand Rank in 2022.
I would ask those brethren to stand when their names are read out and remain standing until I have finished when I am sure, brethren, you will wish to show your fulsome appreciation.
Promoted to PGSwdBr, thus becoming a Very Worshipful, our Provincial Grand Superintendent WBro Charles Cunnington, and to PSGD WBro Martin Giles.
Receiving first appointment to acting rank as AGDC, WBro Neil Cross and to PAGDC WBro Peter Whysall.
Hearty congratulations to you and I look forward to seeing you all invested later this month.
Occasions such as this don’t just happen and I am grateful for the hard work, time and effort of a number of people who have made sure today and all previous events run as smoothly as possible. So, a huge thank you to the Provincial Secretariat and particularly Julie Foster as well as the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremony and his ceremonial team. In truth I don’t know who frightens me more – the Provincial Grand DC or Julie!
This is going to be a tremendous year and I have the benefit of an enthusiastic and dedicated Provincial team. To the incoming Officers, my hearty congratulations, enjoy your year, have fun and I am sure you will do your best to emulate your predecessors in enthusiasm and commitment. We should all be proud to be Derbyshire Masons. I'm proud to be a Derbyshire Mason and I am so very proud of you.