Address of the Pro Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons
M.W.Bro. Raymond John Smith
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 ( shortened version )
Brethren, a very warm welcome to this September Communication of Mark Grand Lodge, the first of the new Masonic Season. I hope everyone has enjoyed the on/off English summer and for some, but maybe not all, a short break from masonic meetings when perhaps the garden or DIY took priority.
My most important duty today is to bring the apology of the Most Worshipful Grand Master, His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, for his absence today. He has an incredibly busy schedule with numerous commitments and official engagements and today is no exception. He has asked that his best wishes be communicated to you, he greatly enjoyed the June investiture meeting and hopes the busy year ahead proves to be another successful and enjoyable one.
Following that investiture meeting our Grand Master wrote to the Grand Secretary expressing his pleasure at the success of the meeting, the impressive numbers attending with an amazing number of visitors many from overseas. It was indeed a very special day for all of us but more particularly for those receiving appointments or promotions.
The June meeting of Grand Lodge had hardly passed and the Mark Benevolent Fund Anniversary Festival was upon us on Saturday 8 July at Trunkwell House in Reading, under the Presidency of R.W.Bro. Richard Olliver, Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire. A Province of 19 Mark Lodges and 9 Royal Ark Mariner Lodges who, with the support of other Provinces and Districts, raised a magnificent festival total of £666,666. A truly remarkable achievement.
I am certain we all thank the members of the Province of Berkshire for their generosity and their Provincial Grand Master and his festival committee for their ingenuity and fine leadership.
The festival next year will celebrate 150 years since the formation of the Mark Benevolent Fund by Canon Portal in 1868. It will take place on Saturday, 7 July 2018 at the County Show ground in Lincoln under the Presidency of R.W.Bro. Revd Trevor Walker, the Provincial Grand Master for Lincolnshire. It will, I am certain, be a most memorable occasion.
150 years of charitable support for members in distress and grants to worthy causes is indeed something to be proud of and to celebrate. In addition to the festival several other events are already being planned to mark this significant achievement. Whilst details are being finalised I am able to tell you that on 30 January 2018 we will inaugurate the Canon Portal Memorial Lecture – a bi-annual event where a lecture will be delivered on a topic with a charitable theme.
To round off our 150th celebrations on 15 September 2018 next year our Most Worshipful Grand Master will be present at a thanksgiving service to be held in Lincoln’s Inn chapel.
The outstanding success of the Mark Benevolent Fund Charity Walk has been well reported and Provincial Grand Masters and other members of Provincial Executives who bravely, if a little naively, took part in the walk, will be pleased to know that it is not intended to repeat it next year.
However the M.B.F. Trustees have decided that the proceeds of the walk, some £437,934, will be utilised to support the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes. Work is still going on to identify what vehicles are required and their most suitable locations and we expect to make an announcement before the end of this year about the full extent of the support we will be providing to this charity.
The activities of the Mark Benevolent Fund have increased awareness of the assistance it gives to individual Brethren and to worthy causes. It has become clear that to educate our Brethren about the fund and, in particular, the ways in which support can be obtained, additional resource is necessary. As part of the restructuring of the administration at Mark Masons’ Hall the Grand Secretary has appointed W.Bro. Darren Coleman, P.G.A.D.C., to a newly created post of Charities Manager with a specific brief to implement a proactive educational programme. I hope you will agree, Brethren, that this sharpened focus on sharing news of the M.B.F. is a welcome development.
The most recent M.B.F. newsletter distributed electronically via Lodge Secretaries, detailed the huge difference the M.B.F. grant to the St Oswald’s hospice in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a new kitchen has made to the lives of both the residents and staff.
We have heard first hand from Mr Paul Barrett in his address to us of another benefit to the community that a grant from the Mark Benevolent Fund has had. Brethren, we should all be very proud of your generosity which enables this work to continue and for that I thank you very much indeed.
Continuing on the charity theme Brethren, on 1st July, I was privileged to be present at Armoury House, home of the Honourable Artillery Company, to witness the inauguration of our renewed partnership with St John Ambulance. You will recall that earlier this year the M.B.F. announced a major grant of over £3 million pounds to St John to fund the cost of 52 new vehicles to replace those purchased by the fund some 17 years ago. The handover event was a great showcase for the work of the M.B.F. and was graced by the presence of H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, Grand Prior of St John who received the keys to the first two vehicles from our Grand Master H.R.H. Prince Michael of Kent. I am delighted to say that those first two vehicles are now in service in the Provinces of Cheshire and East Lancashire.
Further news on the handover of the remaining 50 vehicles will be communicated to you soon.
The GLMMM website has a critical role to play in sharing information about all the orders administered from Mark Masons’ Hall as well as supporting the administration of Districts, Provinces and Lodges. I am delighted to announce that work is now underway to design and build a cutting edge new website serving all orders with an expected launch date of December. This website is part of a new communication strategy also encompassing social media contact and delivery of more efficient administration processes.On the domestic front the summer recess has seen significant refurbishment work taking place at 86 St James’s Street to further enhance our headquarters. The work brings to an end the current 5 year building maintenance programme which has delivered notable improvements to the facilities available to all who visit and use the premises.