This year’s Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge took place on Wednesday, 25 September at Freemasons’ Hall in London and saw over 900 Brethren fill the Grand Temple.
As well as the announcement from the Provincial Grand Master, covered here, the meeting saw several other key changes to the Provincial Executive; not least of which was the retirement of W Bro Jim Harrison as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master. Shortly before presenting him with the collarette and jewel of a Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, the Provincial Grand Master, Paul Gower gave a summary of the many contributions W Bro Harrison has made over his long career as an active Officer within the Province and thanked him for his service. He was then pleased to invest W Bro Adrian ‘Ollie’ Wells as his newest Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
In his address, the Provincial Grand Master took time to thank the Brethren of the Province for their incredible efforts in the 2019 Festival and, in particular, the members of the 2019 Festival Committee for their tireless work in making such a success possible. He also went on to recognise the fantastic work the Fleet House Light Blues Club were doing in the Province to engage and enthuse the more junior members of the organisation. Likewise, the Provincial Mentoring Team for their efforts in seeking to assist Brethren in making their ‘daily advancement’ and the Provincial Communications Team on their hard work on the new Provincial website (which is now live).
Given the news that concluded the Provincial Grand Master’s address, the Festive Board was especially full of good cheer and rounded-off a highly enjoyable, if somewhat emotional, Annual Meeting for the Brethren of ‘Happy Hertfordshire’.
The Remembrance Stone was commissioned in 2016 by Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and since its introduction in 1856, more than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients.
The Remembrance Stone was carved by Emily Draper, who was Worcester Cathedral’s first female Stonemason apprentice, having been sponsored by local Freemasons. During the preparation stage of the stone, Emily also found out that her Great Uncle was a Freemason VC recipient.
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, followed by readings from Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire (My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling) and Brigadier Peter Sharpe, President of the Circuit of Service Lodges (The Soldier by Rupert Chawner Brooke).
Over 130 guests were in attendance including serving military personnel, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and Sea Cadets, as well as Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of his unit – Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – while serving in Iraq in 2004. Johnson is also a Freemason and a member of Queensman Lodge No. 2694 in London. Music was provided by Jon Yates from the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, who performed the ‘Last Post’, a minute’s silence and the ‘Reveille’.
This was proceeded by the grand Unveiling and Dedication of the Remembrance Stone by The Duke of Kent, as a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of those Freemasons awarded the VC. The Duke of Kent also presented Emily with a stone carving toolset to aid her future projects. The event was concluded with a speech by Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, said: “It’s been a huge honour to mark the dedication of this wonderful Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone and another significant milestone in our longstanding history. “It is even more remarkable in the context that 14% of all recipients of the Victoria Cross have been Freemasons and I can think of no more fitting home than for it to be placed here at Freemasons’ Hall – a memorial to the thousands of English Freemasons who lost their lives during the Great War.”
W.Bro Jay Patel, APGM, and W.Bro Chris Noble, ProvGCS, recently visited North Weald Airfield where the two Essex and Herts Air Ambulance aircraft are stationed. This followed a recent MCF grant made to the Essex and Hertfordshire Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT) on behalf of Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Lodge.
They were shown around the station by Jane Gurney, CEO, and Natasha Robertson, fundraising manager, who explained about the work done by the staff and volunteers. "Understandably they are very proud of the new £6.5m state-of-the-art second aircraft which predominantly serves the Herts area," said Chris Noble. "They reminded us that the 27 Air Ambulance Trusts receive no Government funding and rely solely on public donations. They told us that without the support of Freemasons the service would suffer considerably."
The pilot showed them inside the helicopter and explained that the onboard computers could manage a perfect hover, in windy conditions, above an incident site, and advised that the four rotor blades alone cost £1.5m to replace. Unbelievably the Trust has had to recently invest in 'stab vets' at £400 each due to a rising incidence of verbal and physical abuse on the crews. Doctors and paramedics work on a three-year secondment from their hospital.
The EHAAT team has offered any interested Herts Lodge a brief presentation at a future Lodge meeting. Lodges should contact W.Bro Chris Noble via the Provincial Office for details.
W.Bro Russ Fenner, in the guise of Imperial Auto Services, has been thanked by Peace Hospice Care for his ongoing support as part of the Peace Business Partnership Scheme. Along with seven other local businesses, their annual membership covers 12 days of the Hospice Social Worker costs which ensures that patients go home with the right support in place for their ongoing needs and pays for eight syringe drivers to provide patients with continuous pain and symptom management relief.