April 14th at Derby Masonic Hall, the annual general meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire took place on one of the first bright and cheerful weather days in recent months.
Due to recent rain the grassed areas had been closed to protect them from damage from parked cars, which only served to make the jobs of the parking stewards even harder than usual. Nevertheless, they performed their roles effectively and above all cheerfully despite the congestion that was only to be expected!
The temple was full, and after the Provincial Photographer had performed his duties and the numerous dignitaries paraded in, the Provincial Grand Lodge was opened in due and solemn form by the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master Arthur Steven Varley.
The usual business having been transacted, the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master invested his acting officers for the year. The atmosphere in the room was as always good humoured and enjoyable and the ceremony was carried out as always in a flawless manner, overseen by W Bro Ravi Kumar Sahnan, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies. The Provincial Grand Master then gave his annual address which described in detail what a tremendous year 2017 had been and how much Derbyshire had been engaged in the Tercentenary celebration of the formation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717. But more followed ( a full transcript of the address can be found below )
A new Lodge was consecrated, the Motorcycle Lodge – the first since Cornucopia in 2016.
Two Lodges in Glossop successfully merged and became united and strong as a result.
The fall in membership suffered in recent years was arrested and reversed for the first time since 1987.
A civic awards ceremony was held and many deserving local charities received tremendous financial support, along with a communities awards evening and several other dinners and church services.
Beauchief Abbey Lodge celebrated its Centenary, Rutland its sesquicentenary and Royal Sussex became the second Lodge in the Province to celebrate its bicentenary.
The Provincial Grand Master then went on to detail a very busy year to come with a number of important events due to take place. Full details are to be found on a copy of his address below.
To his astonishment, W Bro Colin Clayton ( Provincial Librarian ) was presented with the Provincial Grand Master’s award for outstanding service to the Province. Evidently Colin was unaware this would be happening as he was still speechless an hour later!
An excellent dinner followed. The Provincial Grand Master announced that W Bro Ian Copestake (Assistant Provincial Grand Master) had organised a raffle, the winner of which would be treated to four places in his private box to watch Manchester United play at Old Trafford. Many members and visitors (despite some protesting that they did not wish to win and commenting that the second prize was probably eight places) surprised the Brethren at their tables by buying tickets anyway and the raffle was well supported. The draw will be made at next year’s AGM and the winner will be announced at that time.
The Provincial Grand Master then presented the ” Travelling Gavel ” to Glossopdale Lodge. More information will follow on this but any Lodge can claim the Gavel subject to visiting the Lodge which currently holds it. A rule book of how to claim it will be published shortly. No doubt this will be a fun way of encouraging visiting and competition to take the Gavel will be widespread.
The Provincial Grand Master’s Address:
Another busy year has passed and I could happily spend the rest of the day extolling everything that you have achieved this last year – but I suspect that you probably wouldn’t appreciate it!
Our Tercentenary Year has been and gone culminating in the splendid celebratory meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in October.
In Derbyshire we celebrated in style and had fun doing so in what proved to be an incredibly positive and upbeat year for us.
We had our highly successful Civic Awards Dinner in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff and the Deputy Grand Master and our equally enjoyable Community Awards evening, numerous dinners and church services along with a myriad of other events.
We mustn’t forget, of course, that Beauchief Abbey celebrated its Centenary, Rutland its sesquicentenary and Royal Sussex became our second Lodge to celebrate its bicentenary, again in the presence of the Deputy Grand Master. Add on to that the Consecration of the Derbyshire Motorcycle Lodge and the highly emotional and very successful amalgamation meeting when Devonshire and Mallender became Glossopdale Lodge, then I think you can say we have had a busy and eventful year.
But putting all that aside what was our – no your – greatest achievement in the last Masonic year?
In 1987 we had 4083 members in 66 lodges. Since then year on year we have seen a steady decline in numbers such that by 2016 we were down to 2621 actual members. Along the way we have witnessed an increase in the number of lodges to a peak of 80 which has now reduced to 75.
This last year we have seen 112 initiations and 106 joining members compared to 87 and 71 respectively the previous year. In a nut shell brethren for the first time since 1987 our numbers are up – 75 memberships, 3 actual members so we now stand at 2624. A small but very significant increase that is all down to your hard work and enthusiasm. Many are young – in their 30s and that bodes well for the future.
So how do we continue to build on what you have achieved?
Simple – we carry on doing what we did last year only better and with more vigour and fun. That should be easy bearing in mind that this coming year appears to be just as hectic as last.
We are continuing to engage with the community with all the usual activities but 2018 is another special year for two reasons.
First it is the centenary of the signing of the Armistice in November 1918; secondly it is the centenary of the formation of the RAF.
To celebrate these two mile stone events we have undertaken to sponsor all 13 of the Air Training Corps that meet in our province and arrangements are in hand for a gala presentation evening here on October 18th.
On that occasion the young men and women of the ATCs together with their commanding officers will be entertained and presented with their awards. This will be in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant, a member of the Red Arrows, civic dignitaries and others. Hopefully an evening that they will remember and enjoy. Indeed Spencer Lodge has already established very positive links with the Derby ATC.
Many will remember the disastrous fire here on 2nd December 1990 when we lost so much – a museum quality collection of artefacts according to local historian Maxwell Craven – including the brass memorial plaque to those who fell in the First World War
We have a painting of it just by the robing area but it was never actually replaced.
That omission will now be rectified as the Province, in conjunction with Derby Masonic Hall and the Provincial Charity, is to have a permanent granite memorial in the garden and the work is well advanced. This will honour not only the fallen of the Great War but also those who have perished in subsequent conflicts – and remember Brethren that without their sacrifice we may not have had the freedom that we now enjoy to do what we are doing today. It is hoped that the memorial will be ready for dedication on November 2nd but you will be kept informed. Whilst we have a full list of those who fell in WW1, we do not have any such records for subsequent conflicts. Lodge secretaries have been asked to try and identify, from the minute books, any such names and WBro John Wood who is coordinating it, would be grateful to have these names as soon as possible so that they can be inscribed on the memorial.
There is also one other major project to commemorate the Armistice – it is in its early stages but at the moment I am not allowed to tell you anymore!
We launched our Remembrance or Poppy tie in conjunction with the Royal British Legion last November and WBro Martyn Bertalan has done sterling work in this respect. In the first year he sold 1,050 ties which means that on April 19th, at the RBL Popin Centre in Derby, I will be able to present a cheque to the Legion for £1,400. The manufactures have already donated over £200. A tremendous achievement. The Remembrance Tie is still available. I hope that in this special year those that have not yet bought one will do so.
I am sure that you are all familiar with the media frenzy after the “enough is enough” advertisement in three national newspapers and the desire of our new CEO, Dr David Staples, to hold open evenings to promote Freemasonry. Last year the lodges in Dore had a week long public exhibition which was hugely successful and attracted some 27 new members including 2 for the Lady Freemasons. It will be repeated this year with, I am sure, equal success and it is the wish and desire of the Provincial Executive for the lodges in each Masonic Centre to work together as an enthusiastic and energetic team and hold similar exhibitions and Q and A sessions. Our Communications Officer, WBro Stuart Riley and his Comms team will be on hand to provide resources and advice should that be required and he will be writing to all the Lodges and halls shortly. WBro Eddie Mitchell has agreed to organise one here so we are looking for the other Halls to follow suite; to engage with the public and embrace this initiative and make it work.
You cannot have failed to see the Blue Plaque on display in the corridor commemorating Dr John Hollis Piggott who was the first Master of Tyrian Lodge 253, our oldest surviving Lodge. Tyrian as well as the first Derbyshire Lodge – Virgins Inn – are both mentioned on the plaque. My inaugural address as WM of Installed Masters was on the Virgins Inn which stood where the Assembly Rooms are now. I made a throw away comment about a Blue Plaque which WBro Colin Clayton, the Provincial Librarian and Archivist, picked up and ran with. The result is that we have now been honoured with the 23rd plaque on the Derby Civic Society’s Blue Plaque Trail and it is hoped that when it is formally unveiled in June on the Huub building in Full Street (opposite what would have been the Courtyard entrance to the Virgins Inn), we can make something very special of it. I am led to believe that this is the first time a Freemason has been honoured by a Blue Plaque anywhere. Colin – I and all the brethren are immensely proud of you for all the hard work and effort you have put into this project.
Our Prostate Screening Initiative run at a number of our Masonic Halls by WBro Mick Hitchcock, our Charity Steward, and with support from the Mark Degree, has been hugely successful in all respects. 361 brethren were tested and 14 referred on for further treatment and on 4th April Cornucopia Lodge hosted a special meeting when 159 brethren, including my fellow PGM’s from Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire, thanked Miss Jyoti Shah, the Macmillan Consultant Urological Surgeon, her team and the Blood Bikers, listened to a most informative talk and, along with the Mark Degree, presented her with two further cheques for £2,000 each plus the proceeds of a raffle totalling £800. This is an ongoing and rolling initiative which will be expanded over the coming year. Our thanks must go to WBros Mick Hitchcock and Philip Ablott, the DPGM in Mark, for this tremendously successful initiative. It is heartening to learn that the Government is also beginning to invest substantial sums of money into Prostate cancer research and screening.
You will have noticed that our retiring Secretary, WBro Eddie Foulds is absent. He is standing down after 6 years of devoted service to this Province and has been a tireless worker, adviser and sounding board for both me and my predecessor. He leaves the secretariat in very good and efficient order indeed,
His absence is, I’m sorry to say, due to his health. It is no secret that he was one of the 14 who required further immediate treatment and the chemo is beginning to take its toll. He very nearly didn’t keep his appointment with Miss Shah and had to be bullied into it by WBro Ablott – thank goodness he was! We all wish him the very best for both his retirement and, more importantly, his health. He sends his best wishes to each and everyone one of you, especially his fellow Provincial Grand Secretaries.
This coming Masonic year we see Mellor Lodge and Cestrefeld Lodge celebrating their centenaries, Phoenix Lodge of St Anne its Sesquicentenary plus Cantelupe, one of the leaders in terms of attracting new members, its 50th.
We have benefitted from being a pilot Province for the Pathway Scheme and WBro Johnson – our Membership Officer and now our Provincial Senior Warden, is to be congratulated for all his hard work. He is not frightened to question things and has a desire to get it just right for this Province. Two well attended briefings have set the ball rolling and a large number of our lodges have already booked him to give his talk. In his capacity as Provincial Senior Warden he will have ample opportunity to promote this initiative which, if done properly, can only benefit us in the long run.
Indeed it is greatly encouraging to see the number of Entered Apprentices attending other Lodges to witness Initiation ceremonies and the roll out of the presentation of the personalised copy of the “Charge after Initiation” by the Lodge Liaison Officers has, undoubtedly, helped in this respect.
We have had one exciting and successful year and this one looks like it will be equally if not more so. As I said last year I have the benefit of a formidable and engaged Provincial team. The 2017 team, from my loyal Deputy through to the Tyler, including our retiring jocular Pursuivant, who doubled as the Provincial Father Christmas, have been tremendously supportive and hard working as have the non- collared officers, especially the provincial Photographer, and the members of the Cornucopia Lodge. To the team of 2018 – I know you can meet the challenge!
We would all be as nothing though without the dedicated and efficient Secretariat along with the very tolerant but not to be trifled with Office Manager, Julie Foster. They keep this Province running smoothly and thoroughly deserve our respect and appreciation.
In like manner the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies and Assistants have put in many hours of hard work to make sure that all our Provincial visits and meetings are of the highest standard. They command our respect and admiration by the way they conduct themselves and I have greatly appreciated their dedication to duty.
To those stepping down from any office today, I thank you on behalf of the Province for all that you have done and wish you well for the future.
To those receiving first appointments and promotions – congratulations – you have earned your appointments or promotions for the work you have already undertaken and the work that you will be expected to do in the Province or in your Lodges. No appointment comes “of right”
As always I am delighted that the MW Grand Master has honoured several brethren with appointment to or promotion in Grand Rank.
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 you fulsome appreciation.
In the Tercentenary appointments, and already resplendent in their new regalia, receiving first appointment in past rank to AGDC are WBros Martyn Bailey and Philip Bowler.
Promoted to PJGD WBro Neil Hartburn who has run the TLC project since its inception and has now supplied Teddies for Dementia patients at the Royal Derby.
To be appointed in April at the Annual Investiture to the acting rank of JGD WBro Jonti Powis and to the past rank of AGDC WBro Philip Ablott.
Receiving promotion in past rank to SGD my APGM WBro Steve Jones.
Congratulations to you all.
Brethren, it has been a fun and very enjoyable year. Let’s make this coming year even better and strive to drive the Province forward in all areas. Your support is invaluable and all that we have achieved this year is due to your efforts.
Remember, the views of the newest member on the future of Freemasonry in this Province are just as important as mine or other senior figures and all should be heard.
One final point – Brother Charity Stewards be aware we have been invited to hold a Festival for the MCF culminating in 2025. I will be appointing a Chairman of the Festival shortly and he will now be forming his team and doing the ground work ready for the formal launch next year. Give him and this Province your support.
Brethren I am proud to be a Derbyshire Freemason and this year I have been doubly proud of you all.”
Right Worshipful Brother Arthur Steven Varley, Provincial Grand Master for Derbyshire.