Provincial Grand Master’s address at his Installation

          RW Bro. Steven Varley

RW Bro. Steven Varley

Right Worshipful Past Assistant Grand Master and Brethren.

It is a great honour for our Province that RW Bro. David Williamson, our Past Assistant Grand Master, is here today and that we have been able to persuade him to abandon his retirement for a short time.

Sir, your attendance has made it a very special day not only for me but also for all the brethren of this province which is very special to me and all Derbyshire Freemasons and I would like to thank you and your colleagues from Grand Lodge for the very dignified and friendly manner in which you have installed me as Provincial Grand Master. It is a ceremony I will never forget.

All of us are aware of the great amount of work you have undertaken on behalf of the Order during your 13 years as Assistant Grand Master both here and abroad and especially your support and enthusiasm for the Universities Lodge Scheme.

You are still an active Freemason in a number of Orders and we wish you the health and strength to continue to enjoy your Freemasonry for many years to come.

We also thank our good friends RW Bros. Robin Wilson and Michael Sawyer for acting as Grand Wardens, our own W Bro. Paul Chaffe for acting as Grand Chaplain together with W Bro. Giles Shilson and his team for their kind advice, attention to detail and thoroughness.

Behind the scenes, the secretariat at GL have been a constant source of information, advice and support and I am delighted that the Grand Secretary, RW Bro. Nigel Brown, is able to be here. Please take our thanks, and particularly those of our Provincial Secretary, W Bro. Eddie Foulds, back to your colleagues in London.

I have just mentioned our Provincial Secretary, but am happy to mention him again as over lunch he and members of his team will be reorganising this temple for the afternoon’s meeting. He has been a tower of strength and apparent calmness and I thank him and his colleagues in the provincial office, including Julie Foster the office manager, for all their support.

When the date of my Installation was announced by Grand Lodge I was a little apprehensive not only as to the actual date but also that, as it was a working day and not our regular Saturday slot, it might cause difficulty for some of our brethren and thus reduce the numbers attending. I needn’t have worried. We have 278 in this Temple and a further 60 in the Rose room on a video link. Unfortunately many more have had to be turned away as we simply do not have the space. Regrettably here in Derbyshire we do not have any other suitable venue that could accommodate such large numbers or would be prepared to host us. The only other option – the Assembly Rooms – suffered a disastrous fire some 18 months ago and has been closed ever since. Mind you, it is very comforting to be at “home” for this special event.

I have also been made aware that a number of brethren have cancelled business trips abroad or rearranged matters to be able to attend either this morning or for this afternoon. I am both amazed and humbled by the response but I don’t suppose I should be as this warmth, friendship and support is typical of the great spirt and unity which exists in this wonderful Province of ours. I am very proud to be a Derbyshire Mason and pride in Derbyshire and its Freemasonry is an attitude and belief that I have come across consistently since I was first initiated.

Some 10 years ago my predecessor, RW Bro. Graham Rudd, said in his address that he had inherited a Province in excellent form. Thanks to his stewardship I too am lucky in that I am inheriting a very healthy, happy and strong Province. There will inevitable be some changes; our Province is like a house – after 10 years certain areas need freshening up but I will deal with that this afternoon

Brethren, it seems like yesterday that I came through those doors as a candidate for initiation into St Werburga Lodge – being led by someone I didn’t know, wondering what my father had let me in for but trusting him implicitly as always.

Without his support, guidance, encouragement and tutoring on masonic etiquette, I would not be standing here now. Above all it was his faith in me and his friendship that I valued most and for that I cannot thank him enough. I see him sitting in the Grand Lodge above with his contemporaries – John Clewes, Martin Jones, Bob Murray, Ray Gregory to name but a few, hopefully pleased and proud but chuntering away. Knowing my father I know exactly what he would be saying – “get a move on, it’s lunchtime!”.

And on that note…….I thank you all.

Provincial Grand Master’s address at the Annual Meeting following his Installation

Brethren,

Earlier I had the opportunity to welcome our distinguished brethren and guests – now I have the opportunity to welcome you all and thank you for your attendance and support. To those who have been here for the long haul – I admire your stamina!

To all the brethren whom I have had the pleasure of investing with their first Provincial rank – congratulations. Congratulations also to those who are to be invested at the promotions meeting on 15th April in Burton. These appointments recognise the work that you have already done either in your own lodge, Masonic Centre or within the Province as well as for the continuing work that you are expected to undertake in your new rank or office.

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Appointments and promotions in Derbyshire are earned – not to be expected or assumed as of right.

The success of today’s meetings has been down to an incredible amount of hard work and dedication from a large number of brethren not least our Provincial Grand Secretary and his team in the Provincial Office and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies and Assistants as well as all those unsung heroes who have helped out in some capacity either in arranging the temple, escorting our distinguished visitors or dealing with the car park arrangements. To each and every one of you a heartfelt thank you from me. Your efforts, support and loyalty mean a great deal to me as I start my term as the 15th Provincial Grand Master of Derbyshire. I am really proud of you all.

This morning I mentioned that there would inevitably be changes and the refreshing of certain areas.

Whilst I have been fortunate to inherit a happy and strong province, there is still the great concern – a concern not simply in this province – relating to falling numbers. With a view to increase the strength of our province I have therefore asked my Deputy, W Bro. Brian Evangelista, to concentrate on recruitment and retention and to create a team that will look as this worrying area. This team will work in conjunction with and feed into the Membership Focus Group set up by Grand Lodge and on which several of the Right Worshipful Brethren behind me are involved, as is our own W Bro. Tony Harvey.

I have asked W Bro. Steve Jones to undertake a wholesale review of Masonic Development which will include, among others, education and etiquette, the Mentoring role, Orations and talks, the University Scheme and the Lecture Festival. The aim is to combine these areas as a team working under an Assistant Provincial Grand Master thus providing a comprehensive approach that focuses on the development of our junior brethren and those approaching the chair of their lodges. There will, of necessity, be some overlap with recruitment and retention.

I make no secret of my desire to see every one of our lodges timetable at least one annual talk or lecture to increase Masonic knowledge– whether it be on etiquette, Charity or the work of the Almoner –as part of its regular work rather than as a fill in because there is no ceremony. I believe that this is a powerful yet thoughtful way to enhance the knowledge of us all.

Work is already being undertaken by W Bro. Martin Bates in respect of a review of the Liaison Officers role within this province and how best they can serve our lodges and the Province

One thing we learnt from the 2014 Festival was the value of communication and how important it is to structure that communication not just via lodge secretaries but directly to each and every brother where possible. I have already reappointed W Bro. Stephen Williams as the Information and Public Relations officer; his role is to develop a much more proactive approach in dealing with the media. He and the Provincial Grand Secretary will be looking to recruit suitable brethren to work in this vital area. The aim is to create a state of the art website and communications system as well as supporting my Deputy and APGMs in their tasks.

As part of improving communications W Bro. Harvey has undertaken the successful publication of Derbyshire Today and we have already received very positive feedback. I anticipate he will become more involved as the communications brief expands and develops.

I would also like to see our lodges develop a higher profile within the community whether it be presenting cheques to local good causes, laying wreaths on Remembrance Sunday or making local organisations aware that we are willing to give talks on Freemasonry.

With the finish of the 2014 Festival, it is time for our lodge Charity stewards to start to replenish the coffers and support local charities, the Provincial Charity and prepare for the next Festival in whatever guise it may be. The Provincial Charity has had little funding for the 6 years of the Festival but has continued to give major grants and many smaller donations – recently we gave £10,000 to Radio Derby’s Colin Bloomfield Melanoma appeal which received considerable favourable media coverage. We continue to support Derby’s Cathedral Choir and the National Children’s Choir of GB with bursary funding as well as several children’s camps for those less privileged youngsters. The Fun Fair for children with special needs at Long Eaton continues to be a successful and happy annual event. Indeed such is the success of this event organised by W Bro. Philip Bowler and the Showman’s Guild that 524 children and carers attended in 2012 and this year 908 are booked in with 4 weeks still to go!

So brethren, if you have a cause or charity that you feel may benefit from support via the Provincial Charity or the Community Fund then please contact W Bro. Graham Sisson – nothing ventured nothing gained!

W Bro. Peter Hodcroft and his Provincial Charity team do a marvellous job ensuring that many smaller charities in our community receive a much needed boost to their funds. They and all our Charity Stewards thoroughly deserve our support and praise.

Other plans and ideas are being considered and discussed but constraints of time preclude their mention here.

Brethren, Derbyshire is extremely fortunate to have 5 Brethren being honoured at the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge on 29th April.

  • Our Grand Superintendent, W Bro. Charles Cunnington, has received a first appointment to the acting rank of Junior Grand Deacon.
  • W Bros. Manus Booth and Roger Haylett are both to be appointed as Past Assistant Grand Directors of Ceremonies.
  • My APGM, W Bro. Martin Bates, is to be promoted to Past Senior Grand Deacon.
  • And one of our stalwarts, W Bro. Ernie Tryner, is to be promoted to Past Junior Grand Deacon.

I am sure you would wish to join with me in congratulating them.

Brethren, thank you for your support, attention and patience. I wish you a safe journey home.

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