10 November 2010
An address by the ME Second Grand Principal George Francis, Acting First Grand Principal
Companions, it is now five years, give or take a day, since I was installed as Second Grand Principal here in Supreme Grand Chapter in November 2005, by the then Pro First Grand Principal, the Marquess of Northampton, DL, and it continues to be a most enjoyable and rewarding office. During that period, I have officially visited all but one of our forty-six Provinces and, of course, London on several occasions (and I hope to visit that last Province shortly). On each and every visit I have been struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of all Companions, and I sense everywhere a new confidence and an awareness of our future; the decline in our membership numbers over many years has slowed considerably, and in some Provinces our numbers are gradually increasing again; more importantly, the number of exaltations is holding steady and I believe they will also begin to increase, reflecting the hard work being put in by many Companions, Chapters and Provincial teams.
The focus of our attention is now moving to the celebration of the Bi-Centenary of the Royal Arch in 2013; to mark the official recognition of the Royal Arch as “the completion of pure and Antient Freemasonry”, at the of the two great English Grand Lodges in 1813, which also created the United Grand Lodge of England. We therefore celebrate our official birthday, or to put it another way, the full emergence of the Royal Arch as we know it, 200 years ago.
A key item is the programme for a celebratory Convocation on 16 October 2013 (to replace the normal November Convocation that year). There will be a lunch in the Grand Connaught Rooms beforehand, followed by the Convocation to be held later in the afternoon here in the Grand Temple, in the presence of the First Grand Principal, followed by a guest dinner to be hosted by him at The Savoy in the evening. Details of who will be able to attend each event will be communicated to you by your Grand Superintendent, in due course.
Another important element in the programme is a fund raising exercise over the next three years to provide a permanent reminder of our celebrations. The amount raised will be used to create a Research Fund for the benefit of the Royal College of Surgeons, to be administered at no extra cost alongside the Craft’s 250th Anniversary Fund for the purpose of research by the Royal College. As soon as this Convocation is closed, and before the outgoing procession, we will be hearing a presentation by members of the Royal College about their research work, so their presence here today gives me the opportunity officially to launch The Royal Arch Masons’ 2013 Bi-Centenary Appeal for the benefit of their Surgical Research Fellowship Scheme.
Grand Lodge has always supported the Royal College since its foundation in 1800 and, more specifically, since the 250th Fund was set up in 1967 to provide support for the Fellowship Scheme. As you will see from a leaflet you should all have received this morning, our Appeal will reinforce our support for this vital work, bearing in mind that the Royal College is a registered charity, receives no direct funding from the NHS, and relies heavily on voluntary contributions; it is fair to say that this is how they prefer to operate.
We have opened a Relief Chest with the Grand Charity into which all donations will go. The aim over the next three years or so, is to raise a minimum of £10, plus Gift Aid, from every Companion; that is a little over £3 a year, but this would raise more than one million pounds. You will appreciate that Gift Aid is worth nearly 30% added value to your individual donation, so we hope that Chapter donations will incorporate this additional amount. The leaflets will be distributed through Freemasonry Today, and to every Companion by London, the Province or District.
As I have already mentioned, the final Fund will be overseen by us, through Trustees appointed by the Royal Arch, and used to provide specific Research Fellowships in the same tried and tested way as the 250th Fund and at no extra cost.
This cannot in my view fail, in due course, to benefit all Royal Arch Masons, or those near and dear to them.
Finally, Companions, I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of you for your attendance today, and for all you do for your Chapters and Provinces, to keep the Royal Arch flourishing and in great heart.
Companions, as time is marching on, I will move on to the announcement of appointments made by the ME The First Grand Principal before we close, and then hear from the Research Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. Thank you Companions.