9 December 2015
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I am so pleased to see the excellent turnout today and I would like to extend a very special welcome to those of you attending a Quarterly Communication for the first time. It was four years ago that we decided to admit Master masons to our Quarterly Communications meetings and the number who attend indicate that it has been a popular decision. Whilst you cannot vote, I hope it is still a worthwhile visit and that you will continue to come and encourage others to join you.
Since the last Quarterly Communication in September, the Grand Master celebrated his eightieth birthday on 9th October. On behalf of all of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent.
2015 has been a very busy year. The particular emphasis has been on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the overall mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that long term future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group, supported by 18,000 responses from members to the recent surveys, has shaped this strategy which, in turn, has been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. The strategy concentrates on our vision and our values. Our 2020 strategic objectives are attached to the front cover of the latest edition of Freemasonry Today.
This enables all our members to read the strategy, it also asks members to help in supporting both the strategy and the objectives. To be clear, this strategy can only be achieved with the support of the vast majority of the members.
Concurrently the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress whilst liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of the main events that are being planned locally – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm which is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master and with most able help from the Charity Presidents, Chief Executives and Boards of Trustees We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
Preparations for the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and during the past few weeks the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.
In advance of April’s launch, publicity about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. As you leave today you will be handed a simple leaflet which introduces you to the identity and approach of the new charity.
Brethren, I am delighted to announce that the Most Worshipful The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Excellent Companion Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion.
Brethren, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas. In recent times, brethren, we have tended to refer to Christmas as the Festive Season. In Paris last weekend at the GLNF we were wished a Happy Christmas by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel during his speech in GLNF and afterwards I was wished the same by several brethren from other religious backgrounds. They all consider us to be grossly over sensitive on the subject. So, Happy Christmas, everyone!
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, has opened the RMBI’s fully refurbished, state-of-the-art care home at James Terry Court in Croydon
Also at the ceremony were the Mayor, Cllr Yvette Hopley, residents of the home, and guests and volunteers from the masonic community.
The Duke toured the home, joined by Surrey Provincial Grand Master Eric Stuart-Bamford and Deputy PGM Derek Barr. Also present were RMBI President James Newman, former President Willie Shackell, who presided during the rebuild, and Chief Executive David Innes.
Following the £10 million refurbishment, James Terry Court can now house 76 residents and has 13 apartments for independent living. Surrey masons have generously supported the redevelopment: Springfield Lodge, No. 6052, donated £75,000; a local ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign raised more than £25,000; and The Grand Stewards’ Lodge donated £20,000. The Association of Friends of James Terry Court also provides substantial support each year.
The Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker and the Deputy President of the RMBI Chris Cain were welcomed to Tithebarn by Laurie Scott (Chairman of the Friends of Tithebarn) and the Home Manager Linda Johnson.
Ray Martland, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Roy Pyne, Provincial Grand Almoner (West Lancashire), David Littlewood, Provincial Grand Almoner (Cheshire), along with many of the Friends of Tithebarn and their wives and partners were also in attendance, along with the chairmen of several groups from the Province: Frank Umbers (Ormskirk), Peter Levick (Bootle), Brian Henshaw (Southport), David Hawkes (Liverpool) and Harry Cox (North Fylde).
In his opening speech Peter said: “I am delighted to have been invited to open what I thought was to be called the ‘Garden Room’ but is now to be called the ‘Jubilee Room 2012’, which is this ‘Jubilee’ year.
"I still remember with pleasure my visit to Tithebarn in March 2009, when I was delighted to officially hand over to the RMBI Chief Executive David Innes the new ceiling lifting system in the Maude Sullivan Wing. After the handover, my wife Julie and I were pleased to take an escorted tour around Tithebarn, and we were most impressed with everything we saw."
He continued: “Linda, I congratulate you and your team on the continuing excellence of your work and I hear nothing but praise about the quality of care you unfailingly provide. This is a wonderful example of what we Freemasons believe in, kindness and caring for those in need.
"The Friends of Tithebarn are special people, and not only the Friends, because I am told that increasingly the wives have become involved. Laurie Scott's appointment to Grand Rank last week by the Duke of Kent was most appropriate, recognizing the work of Laurie and the Friends over so many years.
"I understand that during the past four years, the Friends have done so much to improve the lives and wellbeing of the residents. I make no excuse for making mention of their good works, because it is important that we celebrate what has been done and achieved: Refitting the main Ambulance and providing a smaller ambulance, supplying the Home with new curtains and throw-overs for 41 bedrooms, purchasing three new large televisions for the main lounge, the Maud Sullivan lounge, and the library, supplying a new bookcase for the library, and two new computers, two printers, laptop and corner desk for the quiet lounge, providing new garden furniture, including five benches and three gazebos, supplying a computer controlled VDU in the entrance hall to display the daily programme to residents and visitors, helping the Home Events Organiser with residents' outings, and also supplying and distributing Christmas presents, and lastly, and I think there is a list of volunteers waiting to help - cleaning the pond!
"And now, there is more, much more - a new garden room extension to the main lounge, which is of course why we are here today. I understand that the extension has been on the cards for a very long time, and I think that the work has been ongoing for the past 18 months. The Friends are contributing the magnificent sum of £50,000 in respect of the project and this will go a long way to meeting the overall cost. And the RMBI are paying the balance. Also, the Friends are providing the furnishings and fittings for the room. All this means more benefits for the residents providing more useable space and creating options, it means more space generally, more space for the holding of activities, and more space for the holding of specialised activities.
"I know that the home is very much indebted to the Friends and they are to be congratulated and thanked for everything that they do, particularly with regard to this new garden room extension. They in turn receive wonderful support from the West Lancashire Freemasons’ who continue to give so freely and so generously. All of this makes me very proud to be a Freemason. And it is good to see the chairmen of the groups involved here today.”
Chris Cain then gave a short address on behalf of the RMBI, in which he said: “As I visit the homes around the country, I am impressed by the hard work and support the ‘Friends’ give their homes, I really do thank the Friends of Tithebarn for their magnificent support of the home and for their part in the creation of this new facility for the residents”.
Peter then declared the new Jubilee Room 2012 open. He then joined the residents of the home in the new room where he cut the celebration cake.
The Friends of Tithebarn then presented flowers to the principal guests.
The RMBI carried out a major program of work on Tithebarn, which started in August 2010 and was completed in December 2011. The work included the installation of two new fire escapes to comply with fire and safety regulations, seven bedrooms were extended to include en-suite facilities, a new nurse call system was fitted, a new fire alarm system was installed, plumbing was replaced and the wing was rewired, a new bathroom with lifting facilities was created, a new staff room with changing facilities was installed and a refurbishment of the kitchens was carried out and a new general storage area was built along with a new office for the home maintenance manager.
To find out more about Tithebarn or the RMBI visit www.rmbi.org.uk