It has recently considered the reorganisation of the General Council which was set up in 1999, but which unfortunately has not functioned successfully. Recommendations have now been made which, it is hoped, if implemented, will make the General Council more effective as a representative and consultative body, available to the Rulers, the Board of General Purposes and others who are responsible for the guidance and administration of the Craft and the Royal Arch.
These recommendations are now being circulated to Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents for their views, following which I hope proposals will then be brought before Grand Lodge.
Brethren, I thought you might be interested to hear about the official overseas visits that the Rulers have made since last September.
Last October the Deputy Grand Master, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, visited our District of Ghana to install the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, RW Bro. Kow Abaka Quansah.
He had the pleasure also of investing the President, Brother H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor with a promotion to PSGD, when the latter attended District Grand Lodge during his election campaign. I am pleased to say he won the election. The Deputy Grand Master also presented a prostate cancer scanning machine to the main teaching hospital at Korle-Bu.
At the end of January Lady Northampton and I, accompanied by the Grand Director of Ceremonies, visited our Districts of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and Bahamas and Turks.
In Jamaica we were greeted by our District Grand Master, RW Bro Afeef Lazarus, and apart from attending his District Grand Lodge and District Grand Chapter, I consecrated a District Grand Stewards Lodge. The Governor-General, Brother His Excellency Sir Howard Cooke GCMG, GCVO, received me in his official residence and I was able to tell him about his impending promotion to PGSwdB.
Our next stop was Nassau, where I had the pleasure of installing Excellent Companion James Bain as Grand Superintendent in and over Bahamas and Turks.
I then flew down to visit the brethren of Turk’s Island Forth Lodge No. 647 on the island of Grand Turk, with their remarkable wooden temple on the very edge of the sea. I subsequently flew to Caicos, where I laid the foundation stone for a new Masonic building in Providenciales.
In mid February the Assistant Grand Master, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, visited our Inspectorate of Malta and congratulated our Grand Inspector, VW Bro Barrie Parsons, on his recent appointment.
At the end of February, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I visited our Inspectorate of Bermuda for two nights and congratulated VW Bro Robert Rego on his appointment as Grand Inspector. We discussed also the possibility of turning Bermuda into a District.
At the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge last September we were fortunate to have as our guests the Grand Masters of the Grand Lodges of Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.
At that time they issued an invitation for me to return the compliment and visit them this year. Last month, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I visited South America in an attempt to build closer fraternal relations with many of the Grand Lodges in that part of the world.
We started our journey by enjoying a very agreeable 24 hours in Buenos Aires, with the Grand Master of Argentina and other senior brethren. We also met many brethren from our own District of South America, Southern Division, and visited their Masonic building.
The next day we flew to Santiago where we attended a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Chile, which had been arranged especially in honour of our visit. The Grand Master, MW Bro Jorge Carvajal, spoke about the influence English Masons had had on their country’s independence and on the development of Chilean masonry.
He then proceeded to honour me with Honorary Membership of his Grand Lodge and presented us both with impressive presents, one of which is for our Library and Museum. It is a leather-bound book containing remarkable photographs of Brother Shackleton’s ill-fated journey to the Antarctic and is truly a work of art in itself. I hope to display soon in the Library and Museum everything that the Grand Secretary and I received on this trip.
Apart from meeting with many senior brethren from the Grand Lodge of Chile I met also Grand Masters of Grand Lodges in Panama, Columbia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay who had flown in especially for the meeting.
This was the first time a Pro Grand Master from England had ever visited them in an official capacity and they made us feel very special with the warmth of their welcome. I was delighted also to be able to meet brethren from our only Lodge in Chile, Lodge of Harmony No. 1411, who meet in Valparaiso.
After two nights in Santiago we flew to Uruguay accompanied by the Grand Master, MW Bro Carlos Bolana, who is President of the C.M.I., an intra-American Masonic organisation whose members include Grand Lodges in every country from Mexico to the tip of South America.
Once again we enjoyed outstanding hospitality in Montevideo, and I was further honoured with Honorary Membership of the Grand Lodge of Uruguay during a dignified ceremony in their very beautiful Grand Temple.
After two nights in Montevideo we flew to Sao Paolo, where we had a meeting and dined with the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Brazil, MW Bro Laelso Rodrigues, and MW Bro Claudio Buono, Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Sao Paolo.
There were also other brethren from both those Grand Lodges present as well as some of our own brethren from our District of South America, Northern Division. Once again I was honoured by both those Grand Lodges and enjoyed a most fraternal evening.
The following day I returned to England to attend the centenary of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 while the Grand Secretary continued, as planned, to visit other Grand Lodges in Rio de Janeiro, namely the State Grand Lodge and Grand Orient.
He then attended a specially convened meeting at the headquarters of the Grand Orient of Brazil in Brasilia, before returning to Sao Paolo to visit their State Grand Lodge and Grand Orient. Finally he attended a meeting of our District there before flying home.
Brethren, it is always a great pleasure to visit our Districts and Inspectorates and reassure our brethren overseas that they are not isolated from the centre. We use these trips as a way of communicating information and making new friendships with our brethren all over the world.
When we visit overseas Grand Lodges we are received always with great affection and respect, coming as we do from the Mother Grand Lodge of the world. The objective of this visit to South America was to cement closer relations and further mutual trust and respect between our Grand Lodges.
There is no doubt that this was achieved, mainly thanks to the goodwill that already existed in every Grand Lodge we visited, and for that I thank them all. This trip demonstrated beyond question the truth of the maxim ‘masonry universal’.
I am pleased to tell you that three Charity Festivals have been held so far this year. They were on behalf of the RMBI, held by the Province of South Wales, Western Division on 6 May which raised over £1m, the NMSF, held by the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight on 10 May, which raised nearly £7m, and the RMTGB, held by the Province of Cheshire on 13 May, which raised over £5.5m.
Brethren, I am sure you would wish to join with me in congratulating those Provinces concerned on the great success of their Festivals, and in particular those Masons who were instrumental in helping to raise so much money for these important Charities.