At the beginning of our meeting, I had the pleasure of welcoming our distinguished guests and it is now my pleasure to welcome all of you. I am delighted that so many of you have been able to attend our annual meeting today and I thank you for your support.
The highlight of our agenda this afternoon has been the recognition of brethren who have served both their Lodges and Freemasonry in Cornwall, in many different ways.
The brethren, to whom I have been pleased to present my Certificate of Service to Freemasonry, have demonstrated tremendous commitment and dedication and are an example to all of us.
To those who have received their first Provincial Rank or a promotion, I congratulate you and I urge you to continue to giving support to your Lodges, the Province and Freemasonry in general.
For a Province of our size to function effectively, we need many committed members with wide ranging skills, coupled with enthusiasm and determination.
The 2017 active Provincial Team, who step down today, have shown such enthusiasm throughout the last year and it has been a pleasure to have them accompany me and my executive, not only to installation meetings, but to the many other events which have taken place during this special celebratory year.
One of the active Provincial Officers retiring today, is someone who has been a part of the very fabric of Cornish Freemasonry for many years. Worshipful Brother Peter Blackwell-Smythe has been our Provincial Chaplain for the last 13 years, serving under 3 Provincial Grand Masters. He also held the active post of Assistant Grand Chaplain in 2007-2008 and you will be aware that Peter was recently offered a Grand Rank promotion. However, due to that original active role in Grand Lodge and his long and sentimental association with the term “Chaplain”, he has decided to keep his current Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Chaplain. Peter has been a tremendous support to me and he was instrumental in the arrangements for our tremendously successful Tercentenary Cathedral Service in Truro last June. I am sure that everyone here will join me in expressing our grateful thanks to Peter and to wish him well in his retirement.
Our Provincial Secretary for the past three years, Worshipful Brother Barry Williams, is also standing down today and I must express my sincere thanks to Barry for his support during my first three years of office and for his wise counsel on all manner of issues.
However, Barry is not withdrawing totally from Provincial matters as he is taking on another role which is something which I will come to in due course.
At the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge last month, I, with a number of brethren from our Province, was delighted to see Worshipful Brothers Michael Williams and Vivian Stratton receive their first appointment to Grand Rank and Worshipful Brother Jeremy Edwards receive a promotion. These were additional appointments by the Grand Master, as part of the Tercentenary Celebrations and I warmly congratulate them.
Later this month, Worshipful Brothers Andrew Deacon and Robin Webb will receive their first appointment to Grand Rank, at the annual Grand Lodge Investiture Meeting and I am pleased to take this opportunity to also warmly congratulate them.
The last twelve months have been unprecedented for us in the Province of Cornwall and in Freemasonry throughout the English Constitution. Driven by the Tercentenary Celebrations, we have seen many events which have given us the opportunity to enjoy ourselves and also to showcase Freemasonry to the general public in a very positive manner. I must thank the Tercentenary Committee, headed by my Deputy, Very Worshipful Brother Peter Roberts, for all of their hard work and planning.
The Family Fun Day was a major success, with a wide range of attractions catering for all ages, particularly the children and after a barn dance in the evening, culminated in a spectacular firework display. Many people were involved in what was a huge logistical exercise, from planning to getting the site set up and operational. I have already expressed my thanks to all involved, but I would like to mention in particular Worshipful Brothers Peter Collins and David Leaity, without whose skills and resources it would not have been possible.
Many of our celebratory events included civic dignitaries such as the Lord Lieutenant, Local Mayors and Council Leaders and the clergy. This has given a tremendous boost to Freemasonry, which is steadily becoming more recognised and acceptable to our local communities.
The parade through Truro in full regalia was so well attended and a proud and memorable occasion for all involved. This was followed by the Cathedral Service with our families and friends and it was most pleasing to hear the Dean giving a very positive message about Freemasonry in his sermon.
The Lodge open days have been a positive way to show the public what Freemasonry is about and a great opportunity to dispel many of the myths. I would like all Lodges to continue with these open days on a regular basis, which I am certain is bound to benefit us in a number of ways.
Our Provincial celebrations were brought to a magnificent conclusion on the Isles of Scilly, with the attendance of our Assistant Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother David Wootton.
The overall celebrations reached a spectacular conclusion at the Royal Albert Hall in October, where I had the privilege of representing the Province of Cornwall as your Provincial Grand Master, joining with Provincial Grand Masters, District Grand Masters and Grand Masters from all over the World.
As part of the Tercentenary celebrations, the Masonic Charitable Foundation allocated special grants to all Provinces, whereby a number of charities within each Province were nominated and then voted for by the public.
The charity with the most votes in our Province was the Cornwall Blood Bikes and they were awarded a grant of £25,000. This was a huge boost for the charity and enabled them for the first time ever to place an order for a brand-new motorbike, to help with their essential work. This was recently delivered and in a blaze of publicity for Freemasonry, at a gala evening in Truro last night, I was asked to handover the new bike, which they have called “The Spirit of Cornwall”.
Looking ahead to the development of Freemasonry, the next important initiative to be launched by the Improvement Delivery Group is the Members Pathway.
This is a very comprehensive collection of guidance and good practice, designed to assist Lodges in all aspects of recruiting, inducting and developing quality candidates and most importantly, retaining them. The Pathway is not prescriptive, but a very important and useful tool, that will be of great assistance to all Lodges as a constructive way of planning and ensuring their future.
Our Provincial Membership Officer, Worshipful Brother Phillip Lakin, and Provincial Mentor, Worshipful Brother Eugene Clemence, have both recently been on a training course to enable them to assist Lodges in the effective roll out of this initiative and to encourage Lodges to adopt the benefits of the Pathway recommendations. Please give this your serious consideration, because this can only be of benefit to us all.
The future of this Province and Freemasonry in general, depends on the attraction of quality candidates, preferably of younger years, in order to stem the flow of losses, many of which are related to old age and infirmity.
In Cornwall, we have a growing population of University and College students, which are clearly a potential source of younger candidates. Over the last year, in conjunction with the regional representative of the University Lodge Scheme, we have been considering the possibility of setting up a University Lodge here in the Province of Cornwall.
Whilst this has met with a mixed reaction from some, I am convinced that, if this is approached in the correct manner, we have a tremendous amount to gain.
Moving on to charity, I have not promoted any one specific cause in the last twelve months, but I have been pleased to encourage support for the Royal Arch in their call for donations to the Chestnut Appeal, to provide a Prostate Cancer Scanner for Treliske Hospital, the first in Cornwall.
The Grand Superintendent, Worshipful Brother David Pascoe, was delighted to inform me that the total raised through the Royal Arch to date is almost £50,000 and this has made a very significant contribution towards obtaining the equipment, which costs in the region of £125,000.
Before Christmas, I was invited to attend a presentation at Treliske Hospital in connection with another appeal, that of the Cornwall Birth and Baby Appeal. Many of you will be familiar with the Princess Alexandra Maternity Wing, where there has recently been a major refurbishment of the Neonatal and Maternity Departments and I was able to have a preview of the latest phase of the development, the new midwife-led birth unit. However, in order to obtain much needed specialist equipment to ensure the best possible care of mother and baby, they have a fund-raising appeal target of £500,000.
As a Province we have supported many charities catering for later life and I would like to think that we could now give support to the very young and their mothers. To this end the Cornwall Masonic Benevolent Fund has already made a grant of £1,000 and I would like the collection at this meeting also to be donated to the Birth and Baby Appeal, so please give generously.
Still on the subject of charity, there is a word that we will be hearing a lot more of in the coming months and particularly from next year. That word is Festival, because we are moving towards our next Festival, which is in 2024, in aid of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Planning has already begun and our Provincial Charity Steward is arranging a Charity Stewards conference to discuss the Festival and in particular the use of the Relief Chest Scheme, which will considerably streamline the transmission of your donations to the Masonic Charitable Foundation, where all monies will earn a very favourable rate of interest.
I have appointed Worshipful Brother Vyvian Jenkin as Festival Director and the Festival Secretary is Worshipful Brother Barry Williams. A Festival Committee is being formed and one of their first tasks is to plan the Festival launch in early 2019. Information concerning this and all aspects of the 2024 Festival will be circulated later this year.
Brethren, by now you are probably thinking we’ve heard about enough. So, the final matter I wish to cover is just that “Enough is Enough”.
Earlier this year, following spurious newspaper articles, the Chief Executive Officer at Grand Lodge, Dr David Staples, took the unprecedented step of vigorously responding to the unfounded allegations concerning Freemasonry. Not only has Grand Lodge taken the newspapers to task over the articles, but also reported the matter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for unfair discrimination.
This is the first major step in Freemasonry taking a stance against the continuing unfounded allegations against us in the press in a very appropriately named campaign “Enough is Enough”, which was followed up with a number of TV and Radio interviews with Dr Staples. This has resulted in a number of newspapers publishing retractions and clarifications and hopefully will put an end to the nonsensical articles which periodically seem to appear on dry news days.
Brethren, as I have said on a number of occasions, we face many challenges, but please do not be disheartened; see these as an incentive to spur us on to ensure the future of our Province and Freemasonry as a whole. We are all volunteers and we must not lose sight of our main objective, which is to enjoy our Freemasonry.
I do hope that you have enjoyed our meeting this afternoon and it only remains for me wish you, your families and all of the Lodges in the Province a very happy year ahead and to say to you all have a safe journey home!