PROVINCIAL GRAND MASTERS REPORT FOR 2016 (R W Bro. R. David Hamilton).
As with previous years, we held four Stated Communications.
Our 148th Installation Communication was hosted by the Portadown Brethren, in the Masonic Hall, Portadown.
It was announced that The Provincial Deputy Grand Master, R W Bro. Ossie Steenson and The Provincial Assistant Grand Master, R W Bro. John Clarke, both having served six years in their respective posts were stepping down. I thanked R W Bro. Bobbie McDowell for continuing as my Assistant. The outgoing Officers were thanked for their support over the last year in particular thanks to R W Bros. Sidney Conn, David McFarland and V W Bro. John Richardson for their work and dedication. Thanks also to V W Bro. Barry Crawford who stepped down as Organist.
W Bro. J A G James was Installed as Provincial Grand Treasurer, W Bro. John Matchett was installed as Provincial Grand Steward of Charities and V W Bro. J Richardson was Installed as Provincial Grand Almoner together with the other Provincial Grand Lodge Officers.
Our first Provincial Grand Lodge Officers dinner was held on 30th October 2015 proved to be a great success.
Brownlow Lodge 781 Lurgan celebrated their 60th anniversary on Saturday 5th December 2015, the Provincial Grand Secretary and I enjoyed the celebration evening.
V W Bro. Robert Gill reported on a meeting he had attended with the Grand Master and representatives from the Provinces, in November in relation to Grand Lodge News and its future format.
Grand Lodge St. John’s Day Communication was well attended and it was great to see a large number from our Province there to witness VW Bro. Brian Ebbs Installed as Grand Lodge Inner Guard and VW Bros. Henry Blackburn and Ken Ramsey Installed as Foreign Representatives.
I announced that we would host the Grand Lodge March Communication in the City Hotel Armagh on Saturday, 5th March.
The April Communication was hosted, as usual, by the Armagh Brethren, in the Masonic Hall Armagh. Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master – we were delighted to welcome the Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master, R W Bro. Rodney L McCurley and he was presented with a cheque on behalf of the Province for the newly refurbished Northern Ireland Hospice. The Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master thanked the Province for their generosity and spoke of the work carried out by the Hospice.
Provincial Grand Steward of Charities
W Bro. John Matchett reported that a meeting of Almoners and Stewards of Charities had taken place in Tartaraghan Masonic Hall on Monday 11th April 2016. There were some 45 Brethren present, who were welcomed by W Bro. Geoff Lamb, Secretary of Lodge 789.
The speaker for the meeting was V W Bro. John Richardson, who had recently submitted a successful application to the charities commission for the Richardson Memorial Charity Fund, and gave a very informative talk on the progress of the Fund.
The appointment of R W Bro. Rev. Richard Moore as Provincial Deputy Grand Master was announced, with his Installation at the June Communication in Dundalk. This announcement was met with a standing ovation.
R W Bro. Ossie Steenson, Provincial Deputy Grand Master returned his chain of office to Provincial Grand Secretary and spoke of the kindness and support he received while in office.
Defibrillator training took place in Markethill, conducted in a very professional way by an instructor from the British Red Cross. Thanks to the Brethren who attended for training.
The Provincial Grand Secretary and his team were thanked for their work in arranging Grand Lodge Grand Lodge Communication in Armagh City Hotel, when R W Bro. Gilbert T Irvine was Invested as Foreign Representative for the Grand Lodge of France.
The Provincial Deputy Grand Master designate, Provincial Grand Secretary, V W Bros. Philip Dowzell and Tom McBirney, W Bros. Russell Barr, David Crozier and Geoff Lambe will recommend how best to celebrate our 150 year anniversary in 2018.
The commitment that R W Bro. Eric Mackaral gave to our Order was acknowledged, having just stepped down after 23 years as secretary of Lodge 881, Clones.
The June Communication was held in the Hamilton Suite, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dundalk. Our grateful thanks to all the Dundalk Brethren for their excellent arrangements.
We welcomed our distinguished Brethren along a warm welcome to Provincial Grand Lodge of Down Masons V W Bro. Neil Coey and W Bros. Billy Thompson, Billy Downs and Richard Totton on what they consider annual pilgrimage to the Province of Armagh.
Installation of Provincial Deputy Grand Master
R W Bro. Rev. Richard Moore, Provincial Deputy Grand Master designate, was presented for Obligation, Investiture and Installation as Provincial Deputy Grand Master. R W Bro .Moore’s sponsor was W Bro. Ray Walsh and his chain bearer W Bro. Steven Merredew of Lodge 411. Placing him in his chair I thanked him for accepting the role of Provincial Deputy Grand Master and I look forward to working with him in the future. The Director of Ceremonies called the salute to the Provincial Deputy Grand Master and R W Bro. Moore replied thanking the Provincial Grand Master for the honour bestowed upon him. He thanked his sponsor and chain bearer and referred to having fond memories of working with R W Bros. Dermot Hill and Charles Hatch, Past Provincial Deputy Grand Masters. He said he was aware of the importance of the office and would carry out his duties to the best of his ability, thanking everyone for their good wishes.
Tribute was paid to R W Bro. John Clarke, who was Installed as Provincial Assistant Grand Master in June 2010 in Markethill, remarking on his quiet manner, wise counsel and support during his term of office. We wish him well and trust he will be long spared to attend Provincial Grand Lodge.
V W Bro. John Richardson, who had previously served as Provincial Grand Treasurer and Almoner, was announced as R W Bro. John Clarke’s successor, and would be installed at the October Communication in his home town of Lurgan.
V W Bro. Richardson’s appointment left a vacancy in the office of Provincial Grand Almoner and I was pleased to announce that W Bro. Bobby Stewart had accepted the office and would be installed at our October Communication.
It was announced that V W Bro. Derek Scott had decided to resign from the office of Local Charity Treasurer, having been most diligent and enthusiastic in that role from 1997 our grateful thanks to V W Bro. Derek for all his hard work and attention to detail, and we were pleased to announce his successor; V W Bro. Tom McBirney of Harmony Lodge No. 352.
The October Communication was hosted, by the Lurgan Brethren in Brownlow House, Windsor Avenue, Lurgan.
I was pleased to welcome many friends of VW Bro. John Richardson, Provincial Assistant Grand Master designate, who were attending to witness his Installation.
Installation of Provincial Assistant Grand Master
V W Bro. John Richardson, Provincial Assistant Grand Master designate, was presented for Obligation, Investiture and Installation as Provincial Assistant Grand Master. V W Bro. Richardson’s sponsors were R W Bro. Ossie Steenson and W Bro. Kenny Lawson and his chain bearer was V W Bro. Tom Gardner.
Placing him in his chair I thanked him for accepting the role of Provincial Assistant Grand Master and looked forward to working with him in the future. After the salutation, R W Bro. Richardson replied thanking me for the honour bestowed upon him and having accepted it with pride.
Investiture of Provincial Grand Almoner
W Bro. Bobby Stewart was Invested as Provincial Grand Almoner, an important role and a job for which he is well qualified.
I thanked the Provincial Grand Lodge Directors of Ceremonies for the dignified manner in which they perform their duties.
Presentation to Children to Lapland Trust
W Bro. Jack Rogers, Founder and Chairman of the Children to Lapland trust, was presented with a cheque in support of the Children to Lapland Trust. This presentation was followed by a personal presentation from my Standard Bearer W Bro. Jim Rogers.
W Bro. Rogers thanked everyone for their generosity and support, speaking of the work of the Trust he delivered a very moving account of their previous trips to Lapland and in more recent times to Euro Disney.
Provincial Grand Steward of Charities
Our October meeting of Almoners and Stewards of Charities, in Richhill hosted by Lodge 328, was attended by 45 Brethren. The guest speaker was Lisa McGrogan of MacMillan Cancer Support who gave a most interesting and informative talk on Cancer Support and took questions from the floor. My thanks go to the Provincial Grand Steward of Charities, W Bro. John Matchett and Provincial Grand Almoner, W Bro. Bobby Steward for a successful meeting.
The Province continues to support our local Samaritans by helping with the annual street collections. This year it was held in Armagh, several Brethren from various Lodges assisted with the collection, which was greatly appreciated by the local branch of Samaritans. Thanks to R W Bro. Sidney Conn for coordinating the collectors.
Provincial Grand Lodge Officers
Our second Provincial Officers dinner was held on Friday 21st October in Markethill, with our Ladies attending, it proved to be an enjoyable evening.
A celebratory dinner was held on the 28th October in Portadown to thank R W Bros. Ossie Steenson and John Clarke for their loyal services to the Province and we were delighted to welcome our guests from other Provinces.
Provincial Grand Lodge Golf
Our grateful thanks to the Charity Golf committee, R W Bros. John Richardson, Bobbie McDowell and W Bros. Dennis Robinson, Jimmy Blair, Alan Hewitt and Gareth Watson for their work at the competition held on Friday 17th June at Portadown Golf Club. Local and Masonic charities profited.
During the year the Province suffered the loss of several esteemed Brethren: R W Bro. Charles Knipe, V W Bro. Frank Richardson, V W Bro. Sam McIntyre, W Bro. Richard Heslip and V W Bro. Tom Kenny, to their families and loved ones we extend our sincere sympathy.
I would extend our grateful thanks to the Grand Secretary and Assistant to the Grand Secretary with best wishes for a long and happy retirement.
Also to Heather and her staff at Freemason’s Hall for all their ready help and support during 2016.
We are grateful for the dedication of the permanent Officers of Provincial Grand Lodge, especially the Provincial Grand treasurer, V W Bro. John James, the Provincial Grand secretary, V W Bro. Gilbert T Irvine and the Assistant Grand Secretary, W Bro. James Blair.
To those halls and lodges who provide accommodation and refreshments for our Communications and meetings; also those Lodges who have extended a warm welcome and generous hospitality to the Officers of Provincial Grand Lodge during official visits, thank you.
To my wife Corrine and all the other understanding wives and families of busy senior Officers, I thank them for their support and understanding.