Brethren, it is a great pleasure to see so many of you here today at our meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, which provides an opportunity for all of the Lodges in our Province to get together, with our many distinguished guests from far and wide and I thank you all for attending and making this a special and enjoyable occasion.
I have just had the pleasure of carrying out two of the most important items on the agenda today, that of the recognition of long serving brethren, followed by the appointment and promotion of Provincial Grand Officers.
To all of those brethren I thank you for your past support and I urge you to continue with that support. For a Province of 80 Lodges to function efficiently and effectively, we need many brethren with a wide range of skills and determined commitment. The increasing demands on the Province mean that this is a widening need and therefore a continuing requirement for that commitment from all of you.
During the year W Bro Robbie Alberry, one of our Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, stood down and I thank him for the support that he gave to the Province during the tenure of his office.
My two new Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, W Bros David Maskell and Martin Winchester have settled in well since their investiture last September and I have been pleased to re-appoint them this afternoon.
You are aware that I have appointed a new Provincial Charity Steward, a new Provincial Almoner and a new Provincial Mentor today. I must thank the retiring Provincial Charity Steward, W Bro David Leaity, for the sterling work that he has done in the skilful management of our Provincial Charities and for laying the foundations for some important changes. I must also thank W Bro Martin Winchester for his dedicated and caring work as our Provincial Almoner. Also, my thanks go to W Bro Jeremy Squibb for the work that he has undertaken as Provincial Mentor over the last two years.
Having appointed a new active Provincial team today means that the 2016 active team steps down and again, I must thank them for their support and enthusiasm throughout the last twelve months at the many installations and other meetings where they have been on duty.
I am pleased to say that the first fast track Provincial Stewards that I appointed in 2016 have been extremely supportive in various roles throughout the year, giving me the confidence to pursue further fast track appointments this year. You will note that the new Provincial Charity Steward and Provincial Almoner were both fast track Provincial Stewards and I am delighted that they have risen to a further challenge.
Later this month the Grand Lodge Annual Investiture Meeting will be held and I take this opportunity to congratulate my two new Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, W Bros David Maskell and Martin Winchester on being appointed Past Junior Grand Deacons, my Provincial Secretary, W Bro Barry Williams and my Provincial Communications Officer, W Bro Phillip Lakin, on being appointed Past Assistant Grand Standard Bearers. Congratulations also go to our Grand Superintendent, W Bro David Pascoe, on his promotion to Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer.
Brethren, I am now in my third year as your Provincial Grand Master and I can honestly say that the last twelve months have been extremely busy but rewarding, with many challenges arising within the Province and new initiatives being introduced by Grand Lodge.
These initiatives are being implemented by the newly formed Improvement Delivery Group, the IDG, under the Chairmanship of the Assistant Grand Master, R W Bro Sir David Wotton and one of the Provincial Grand Masters involved is sitting not far behind me.
Following on from the work of the Membership Focus Group, they are implementing the 2020 Strategy, which covers a number of important issues and involves the Royal Arch as well as The Craft. As I have said on previous occasions, if we wish to survive as an organisation in a modern society then we must embrace change. This is not change for the sake of change, but to improve the way in which we operate our Lodges, without affecting our core Masonic traditions and ritual.
One of the areas that the IDG wants us to consider is Lodge meeting places and their suitability to meet the expectations and requirements of both new and existing members, who expect certain standards in a modern society. This initiative involves Provinces undertaking a complete review of all Masonic buildings and their ownership, to consider, in essence, if they are fit for purpose, financially viable and in the correct type of ownership.
This will be a structured and positive attempt to identify any problem issues and areas where improvements can and should be made. Whilst I appreciate that Lodge buildings are matter for individual Lodges, as a Province we do have a collective responsibility to ensure compliance with laws, regulations and best practice. In addition, if we are to attract and retain new members, then we need to make ourselves attractive.
This process will start later in the year with a meeting of all Masonic building representatives and the project is being headed up by my Assistant Provincial Grand Master, David Maskell, who is a Chartered Surveyor.
Brethren, for some while now we have been talking about 2017 and the Tercentenary Celebrations, to mark 300 years of the United Grand Lodge of England. Well I am sure that it will not have escaped your notice that we are now three months into 2017!
The Province of Cornwall is one of eight Masonic Provinces in the South West making up Regional Communications Group 9 and our Group decided to mark the 300 years with a Tercentenary Banner. I am delighted that we have been able to have a preview of this magnificent banner today, courtesy of the Province of Devonshire. The banner will be dedicated at Devonshire’s Provincial Meeting on 10 April and then be handed over to the Province of Jersey to start its journey through each of the eight Provinces. In September this year, it will be formally handed over to us at a ceremony on the banks of the Tamar at Saltash and it will then make its way through our Province. In October, it will be transported by the schooner The Spirit of Falmouth, courtesy of the Turn to Starboard Charity, to the Isles of Scilly where it will be paraded through the streets of St Mary’s for a grand finale celebration.
Our Tercentenary Committee, headed up by my Deputy Peter Roberts, has devised a programme of Provincial events to celebrate this very special year. The first Provincial event, our Tercentenary Sunday Lunch, took place two weeks ago here in Newquay and was a tremendous success. In addition to brethren and their families, we were delighted to have as guests a number of civic dignitaries and representatives from the press.
Another significant event will be the service at Truro Cathedral, on Sunday 18 June, for brethren and their families. I am delighted to tell you that, for the first time in many years, those who wish to will be able to join me and my executive and parade through Truro to the Cathedral in full regalia. I am also pleased to say that The Lord Lieutenant has accepted my invitation to join us on this occasion, so I do look forward to as many of you as possible giving me your support.
One of the objectives of this celebration year, is to involve our local communities and this will be evident again at our Family Fun Day on Saturday 8 July at Trebudanon Point to Point Course near St Columb. This has been planned as an event for all ages, with the emphasis on fun and enjoyment and I do look forward to seeing as many of you as possible with your families and friends. I must thank W Bro Peter Collins for taking on the planning and organisation of this assignment, which has been a substantial logistical challenge.
In addition to the Province, I am hoping that each Lodge will be holding their own celebratory events and wherever possible involving their local communities. I know that many Lodges are holding open days and it is my hope that each and every Masonic building will have at least one open day during 2017.
Each of these events and many others will give us the opportunity for some very positive public relations opportunities and my goal is to use these opportunities to continue my mission to make Freemasonry an accepted and respected part of our communities.
In this vein, I am pleased to inform you that the Province of Cornwall has taken part in a Nationwide Tercentenary event, organised by the Province of Dorset, known as The Jurassic Coast Adventure. This is a project to enable over 200 disadvantaged children to attend the PGL Adventure Centre at Osmington Bay, near Weymouth, for a five day fully supervised activity holiday. PGL in this context means “Parents Get Lost”! We have sponsored two children from Cornwall with matched funding from United Grand Lodge and they will be letting know all about their experience after their visit to Osmington Bay in August this year.
Another initiative that our Province has taken up is the formation of a branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity. This Charity, whose patron is the Pro Grand Master, is to provide disadvantaged individuals with the opportunity to take part in fly and coarse fishing. I am delighted that W Bro Roberts Williams, the Secreatry of St Annes Lodge in Looe, has agreed to take on this project and be the first Chairman. My Deputy has already written to Lodge Secretaries about this new initiative and the key to its success will be the involvement of you the brethren, whether or not you are anglers. The very appropriate strapline for this charity is “Catch A Smile”, so let’s make it happen.
Later this month, the 17th April marks an historic event; in conjunction with the tercentenary year, Sky TV will be broadcasting the first of a series titled “Inside the Freemasons”. This is a documentary that has been filmed at Freemasons Hall in London and at various locations across the country, depicting a whole range of aspects of Freemasonry. Sky TV have had editorial control throughout, but look to have dealt with this in an even handed and fair way. I had the opportunity to attend a preview of this, after the Grand Lodge Quarterly Communication last month and I can thoroughly recommend anyone to watch this, particularly those who are not Freemasons.
As a Province, we have achieved tremendous success with positive press coverage over the last year, thanks to the tenacity and perseverance of our Provincial Communication Officer, W Bro Phillip Lakin, who has broken down hitherto insurmountable press barriers and developed links with many of the newspapers throughout the Province. With the support of his Provincial Communications team, we as a Province have attained a very high position in the league table of positive press articles prepared by the Communications Team at Grand Lodge.
A year ago in this meeting, I had the unprecedented pleasure of presenting a cheque for £75,792 to the representatives of the Macmillan Cove Appeal. As a follow up to this, last November I had the pleasure in taking representatives from most of the Lodges in the Province to see the completed and the operational building. This gave us the chance to see how our money had been spent and to appreciate the valuable facility that is now available to the people of Cornwall.
As one of the top three donors to the project, we have had the honour of not only being named on the etched glass window as you enter the building, but also there is a very distinctive individual plaque inside thanking the Freemasons of Cornwall. Another positive outcome of this was that Emma and Susie, the ladies from Macmillan Cancer Support who had received the cheque, spent a day with us on our unit at the Royal Cornwall Show, because they wanted to tell the people of Cornwall about our support. What better positive PR could you get than that!
Brethren, as I have already said we face many challenges ahead, but please do not be disheartened; rather 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.
Brethren 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 well for the coming year and to say have a safe journey home!