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Can I begin by giving you all a very warm welcome to our Provincial Grand Lodge meeting, not only to the Brethren of the Province but to all of our visitors from other Provinces, some of whom have travelled great distances to be with us today. I know that I have mentioned you all individually, but I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without welcoming you all again to this Premier city of Leicester! I do thank you all for the way you always make myself, my Deputy and my Executive so very welcome at your Provincial meetings.
I particularly welcome our junior brethren who have not yet reached Provincial rank. This is YOUR Provincial Grand Lodge and your support today is very much appreciated.
Can I thank all of the outgoing Provincial Grand Officers who were of course appointed by my predecessor R.W.Bro. Tony, for their work and support over the past year. Your loyalty to me over the past 11 months is greatly appreciated. Two of our Brethren who have served the Province over many years have retired this year. W.Bro. Bruce White has been our Provincial DC for nearly the past 8 years and has served the Province well as has V.W.Bro. Barrie Percival as our Provincial Charity Steward for the past 10 years. I do wish them both a relaxing retirement and I thank them for all that they have done.
To the Brethren who have today received Appointments and Promotions, congratulations to you all. Your preferment is a gesture of appreciation of your commitment to our wonderful Order and as an encouragement for continued support which I know you will continue to give.
Since my appointment last June I’ve had the great pleasure of presenting 50 year Certificates to W.Bro. John Gilbert of Knight of Malta, TI Lodge and V.W.Bro. John Knew of Simon de Montfort Lodge. Both of these brethren still actively support their Lodges and the Province and I do congratulate them again for achieving their 50 years.
Last December, our usual fully subscribed coach trip to the RAM Assembly at Great Queen Street, expertly arranged again by W.Bro. Bryan Simpson, saw W.Bro. Martin Sercombe receive his Royal Ark Mariner Grand Rank from the M.W. Grand Master and congratulations to him. It was of course sad that our late Provincial Grand Tyler who should have also been there to receive his honour, had passed to the Great Overseer, prior to that meeting.
We are now looking forward to the Grand Lodge Investiture meeting next month where we will see our Provincial Treasurer W.Bro. Keith Harkness receiving a promotion to Past Grand Senior Overseer, W.Bro. Bryan Simpson who was our Provincial Secretary from 2005 to 2009 will be promoted to Past Grand Junior Overseer entitling both these brethren to receive the appellation of Very Worshipful Brother. Our Provincial Almoner, W.Bro. Geoff Hibbert, will receive his first appointment in Grand Lodge as Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and W.Bro. Barry Sayers will also receive his first appointment as active Grand Inner Guard. The usual coach party organised by our Provincial Senior Warden W.Bro. David Sansam, will be there in support and I do congratulate these 4 brethren and thank W.Bro. David for making the arrangements together with his good lady Angela for providing the usual tongue and ham rolls.
Past initiatives in the Province still continue to be popular and successful and I’m a big believer in the saying ‘if it’s not broken then why mend it’. The family weekend at Sandbanks never loses its popularity as do the Mark and the RAM Ladies dining out evenings and the Christmas lunch. Our last Christmas lunch was particularly entertaining with the appearance of our Provincial Secretary as Santa’s elf! Just imagine the scene Brethren and Don tells me that now he has bought the uniform he wants the job next year! Our overseas travels still continue. In February, 21 of us including partners travelled to that jewel in the Costa Blanca – Benidorm, for the District of Spain’s annual meeting and at the end of this month 48 of us are off to Honfleur in France. Not satisfied with UK and European travel we are also planning a trip to India next February with my Deputy acting as the guide. (and medical advisor!)
Only a couple of weeks ago we dedicated our first Provincial Royal Ark Mariner banner which you all saw paraded in earlier for the first time with the delegation of Royal Ark Mariner Commanders. I do encourage those of you who are not yet Royal Ark Mariners to join us and rally under it.
Brethren, the generosity of you all never ceases to amaze me. You can all see from the list that you found on your seat that since our last annual meeting nearly £21,000 has been donated to many local charities and worthy causes from either the L&R Mark Benevolent Fund or the PGM’S Discretionary Fund.
For a small Province with only 16 Mark and 9 RAM lodges I’m sure you will agree, that is a fantastic achievement. As I speak our newly appointed Deputy DC Bro. Simon Castleman is starting the 500 mile Camino de Santiago walk in France finishing in Spain in four weeks’ time and is donating the sponsorship money, which now totals in the region of £1600, to the Discretionary Fund. I’m sure you will all join with me in wishing him Good Luck!
Myself, my Deputy, the Provincial Wardens and members of the Executive have made at least two visits to every Lodge in the Province throughout the last year and have been most grateful for the warm reception and most generous hospitality that we have received at these meetings. All of the meetings have been well attended with Advancement ceremonies being carried out, sometimes doubles, and all contributing to maintain our enviable reputation of a membership average of over 50 per Lodge. Most of these visits are recorded in our Magic of the Mark newsletter edited by Terry Weston and appear on our recently relaunched website through the expertise of our Webmaster Bro. David Yates.
I couldn’t finish by not mentioning the loss last December of our Past Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro. Reg Reader. Since I became Deputy Secretary in 2008 R.W.Bro. Reg was always an encouragement to me and I am aware that the success of our Province really began when he took over in 1988. We do miss him. We are though, delighted to have with us this evening my predecessor R.W.Bro. Tony, back in from the cold, and his predecessor R.W.Bro. Michael. I am always grateful to both of them for their wise counsel.
Brethren, the bar is about to open and I do not wish to delay you further but the successful outcome of meetings such as this cannot happen without the hard work and dedication of a team of brethren. To Don Peacock, the Provincial Secretary, his Deputy Peter Gibson Leitch, the outgoing Deputy Secretary Clive Weston and the Registrar Terry Weston, who work like beavers at the office in Lutterworth, to the DC team led upto today by Bruce White and his team and from now by Andy Lee, to David Lathrope assisted by John Gilbert for providing and operating the sound equipment and to the members of St Georges lodge for manning the carpark – thank you to you all.
Brethren all, I thank you for your attention, please do continue to enjoy the Magic of the Mark!!
R.W.Bro. Stephen Davison