Provincial Grand Master - Installation Speech

Full text of the RW PGM's speech at UGLE on the 9th of February 2018.

Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master and Brethren all

Deputy Grand Master, may I commence by thanking you for being in attendance today, in these magnificent surroundings, and for the exemplary way in which you and your team have conducted my Installation Ceremony. I am sure the brethren will agree, it has been magnificent!

May I also thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies for preparing us at rehearsal, and the Deputy Grand Secretary, for his prompt advice and guidance in these past weeks. 

To our honoured guests, we extend a hearty Buckinghamshire welcome and thank you for coming from far and wide to support us today. My team looks forward to supporting you and your events in the future.

A very special thank you to the Provincial team, led by Tony Robinson and Gary Brodie. Their hard work, patience and diligence in planning and implementing the arrangements for today has ensured the success of this special meeting.

V.W. Bro Robert Wharton, Buckinghamshire owes you a debt of gratitude, for the many years of hard work you have dedicated to its service. Your decision to step down has led to considerable change in the provincial team, but we fully understand that your retirement is due to your recent health.

On a personal note, thank you for agreeing to stay on the Executive as council to our new team and for being a good friend. Be assured we will try to emulate your great style and presence in the future.

Robert it gives me great pleasure, to present you with this gift, donated by the brethren, as a mark of the high esteem, in which you are held.

Congratulations to our new Deputy, Hugh Douglas-Smith, who has some very ‘big boots’ to fill.

Hugh is a past Steward, Deputy Director of Ceremonies and Warden who has probably done more than most, within this great Province. He produced the first provincial website in 2006, has delivered three more websites in the interim, completed the full automation of provincial reporting and developed an online booking system for provincial events.

All huge tasks which very few knew had his name on them. 

Thank you to Graham Dearing and Phil Blacklaw who continue as APGM’s. More about their challenges later.

Congratulations to Tony Robinson who retains responsibility for the Provincial Office, Website, Education and much more as APGM, and to Barry Sparks, Derrick Ardron and Stephen Knight on their new appointments.

I am looking forward to working with this new, talented and highly motivated team, to achieve our considerable objectives.

Accompanying me today, for my obligation was one of my mentors, W.Bro. Donald Doe who, almost thirty years ago, to the day, walked me round as Junior Deacon at my Initiation into Five Points Lodge.

Ron Keating, a lovely chap, very much his own man and another stalwart of the Lodge was due to accompany Don but sadly passed away a few weeks ago. My son Jack has taken Ron’s place today.

I have been privileged to know many other outstanding masons, especially my father Bryan, who initiated me and my godfather Noel Mortimer, who conducted my Installation ceremony as Master, just after my dad had died. Not an easy ceremony I can tell you!

I cannot let this occasion pass without mentioning V.W.Bro. Don Varney, my mentor in the craft, who gave guidance and friendship to me and my family. All were amazing freemasons and I feel that they will all be with us in spirit today.

In my masonic career I receive great support from my wife Sarah and my family and we will take every opportunity to include our wives and families as far as is possible in everything we do.

It is my intention to consider calling off and inviting our wives to attend our Investiture in October so that they can to witness their partners receiving their honours.

May I personally thank, the many workers behind the scenes in our Province. The Show Team Manager, Ladies Club Chairpersons, Provincial Communications Officer, Membership Officer, Website Team, Photographers and Concord Magazine Editor, all so vital in our future plans.

Following the huge success, of our new Motorcycle and Classic Car lodges we are going to consecrate a Caravanning lodge and we are considering both a Football lodge and a Scouting lodge.

If you have an interest in this or have any other ideas for new lodges, then please let us know.

I now wish to highlight, our immediate priorities, for the short-term future:

The MCF 2021 Festival needs every Lodge and every Mason to achieve our goal. Graham Dearing will continue to be the driving force behind the festival together with many other innovative new challenges within his portfolio.

We currently have over £830,000 in pledges and donations but there is still a long way to go if we are to match the outstanding efforts in our neighboring provinces and our last festival. I am confident that we will all rise to the challenge posed by the 2021 Festival.

There are many substantial events being planned to support the Festival including the Car and Bike Lodges attempting to attend a meeting at all Centre’s in the province in one day. This I have been told is impossible. So we will definitely be doing that one!

Brethren I invite you all to be creative and work hard in organising many more events that enable us to enjoy ourselves as we strive to meet our 2021 charitable objectives.

Our biggest challenge however is to “Stem the Decline in our Membership”

You have all received a copy of the Membership Pathway and it is my intention to embrace all of its principles in the coming months as we seek to identify new members and reduce losses. For the first time, in our recent history our new initiates dropped below 100 in 2017. This is of grave concern to me!

Therefore, in addition to implementing the Pathway, I have put in place a new Marketing team under APGM Phil Blacklaw, who has been challenged, to develop a marketing strategy, to specifically generate new Initiates.

Reporting to Phil, are John Waller as Communications Officer and Howard Wells heading up Marketing. I have great expectations for the talents of Phil and his team.

They have already had significant success in lining up the BBC to cover two strong charitable stories in the north of the province in the next few months.

In support of our Marketing efforts, we now have the most outstanding promotional short films on our BucksPGL YouTube channel which can be easily accessed via a button on the homepage of our website.

Among these are the new MCF Charity film, as seen at the Royal Albert Hall, the Masonic Fishing Charity, filmed using drones, a Carers day at Silverstone kindly supported by His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, and the, spectacular Windsor Race day, attended by over 10000 members, of the public.

Interestingly, the film most viewed on the BucksPGL YouTube channel is entitled, “Don’t Wait to Be Asked”.

I encourage you all to get potential candidates to look at these short films. They are just perfect for motivating recruits to join the craft.

As an example, I recently invited a masonic skeptic friend of mine to view “Don’t’ Wait to be Asked” and others. He is now about to join the Classic Car Lodge. He was inspired by the quality, depth and history portrayed by Freemasonry. 

With new initiates in mind, I challenge every member of the Province, to identify a Candidate for Initiation once every two years. Berkshire issued this challenge with very good results.

I also challenge you all to try and deliver even more enjoyable meetings, even better ritual, and an improved and lasting welcome and friendship, for newer members.

We are resourceful individuals and we can all do this if we want to. 

Lodges such as Eton Lodge are a great example of what can be achieved. They have gone from 17 to 33 members in three years. When I asked their leader Kevin Ambrose how they did it, he said, “We just started focusing on the lodge all the time, and not just when we came to a meeting”.

While we have a small improvement in retention this past year, it is important that we seek every opportunity to retain our members.

I am excited about Hugh’s latest development, an online membership and retention warning system. The system has been created, following a manual pilot this last year, which identified six members at risk and with good mentoring and counsel we have retained all six.

The new system consists of table planning and printing and delivers automatic guidance to the Lodge Mentor and Secretary of members at risk, based on attendance. It is to be tested at the Marlow Centre by Eddie Irwin and I feel that it can be a game changer for the future.

I would like us all to focus much more on the care and attention of our older brethren. We need to make sure that they do not feel a burden if they become infirm and cannot attend. These lovely chaps have a wealth of experience and knowledge and in most instances have been the backbone of their Lodges and I challenge you all to make sure that they always have assistance and transport to get to our meetings, to enjoy our company and to feel valued by younger brethren.

For this reason, I have asked Eraldo Guarino to join the Executive reporting to me directly, to identify and provide support to any lodge in need of assistance.

May I conclude by saying that our Province is full of exceptional people, outstanding business minds, movers and shakers.

I appeal to you all to turn that outstanding ability towards promoting this wonderful organisation.

I most sincerely thank all of you for coming here today to take part in this ceremony in these glorious surroundings.

I can assure you that my team and I will work very hard on your behalf and we are delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to serve this wonderful Province.