Grand Master's Address
7th December 2002
The year 2002 has passed quickly, my new role as Grand Master has proved to be a challenging and interesting experience. This address will cover some of the main events of the year and will also highlight topics on which I believe we should focus our attention in the coming year.
With sadness we note the loss of some distinguished and highly respected Brethren, in particular I must mention: R.W.Bro. Hugh Milling, R.W.Bro. John S. Mawhinney, R.W.Bro. Capt. Sam B. Aga and R.W.Bro. John F. Kerr who gave generously of their time and ability to support our Order. We extend our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.
St.John’s Day meeting of Grand Lodge on 27th December 2001 was very well attended. I installed the Grand Lodge Officers for 2002, proclaimed the Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors and addressed Grand Lodge on the events of 2001. The charity collection was donated to the Samaritans throughout Ireland. We enjoyed food and fellowship afterwards in the main dining room.
In February, I visited The Provincial Grand Lodge of Londonderry & Donegal to Install and Proclaim R.W.Bro. Robert Quigley as Provincial Grand Master at a packed meeting followed by an enjoyable Celebration Banquet.
The March Communication of Grand Lodge was hosted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster at Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork as part of their 275th Anniversary celebrations which were deferred from last year due to restrictions on travel necessitated by the outbreak Foot & Mouth Disease. At the Grand Lodge Communication two important decisions were made, a Motion to amend Grand Lodge Law No. 7 was unanimously approved, Grand Lodge Officers elected for the ensuing year will in future be proclaimed and saluted at the December Stated Communication of Grand Lodge and the newly elected Officers of subordinate Lodges will be submitted for approval. Grand Lodge also resolved, on the recommendation of Grand Master’s Council, to suspend the provisions of the Ten Year Rule concerning tenure of Offices and appointments applicable to subordinate Craft Lodges. I had the pleasure of installing and proclaiming R.W.Bro. Alan J. Campbell as Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster and R. W. Bro. Ralph D. Seligman as Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bermuda. The meeting was very well supported and that evening we enjoyed an excellent Banquet attended by 450 Brethren, Ladies and Friends to celebrate the 275th Anniversary of the Province. I congratulate everyone involved with the arrangements. It was a memorable occasion.
On March 22nd the Grand Secretary and I visited Brussels for the Installation of M.W.Bro. Alexandre Cleven as Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium. We were very well received and it was useful to meet our counterparts from many other Regular Grand Lodges. On April 6th we made a similar visit to Rome for the Installation of M W.Bro. Fabio Venzi as Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. Both visits were very successful. Irish Freemasonry is held in very high esteem so we play an important role in maintaining high standards and supporting other Regular Grand Lodges.
The Northern Provinces Committee, chaired by R.W.Bro. George Miskimmins organised a very impressive Banquet at the Balmoral Centre, Belfast in April to celebrate the appointment of the new Deputy Grand Master, R. W. Bro. George Dunlop, the new Assistant Grand Master R.W.Bro. William Mawhinney and myself as Grand Master. The evening was a great success, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the event, not least Pam & I. There was extensive positive media coverage in the Belfast Press two days later and a full page report in the Ulster Tatler. This reflects our strategy of seeking media coverage when suitable opportunities arise. We are grateful to W.Bro. Trevor Hanna, Press Lodge, Belfast for his invaluable support in this regard.
On April 22nd I attended the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim meeting in Larne. The Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro. Adam McKinley and all Officers of the Province made me most welcome. I appreciated the opportunity to address the very large attendance at this impressive Communication.
A highlight of the Grand Lodge June Communication is the visiting delegations from Sister Grand Lodges, this year was no exception. We were delighted to welcome from the United Grand Lodge of England, the Assistant Grand Master and Grand Secretary; from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, The Grand Master Mason and Grand Secretary; from the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, the Grand Master; the Grand Lodges of Togo and Estonia were also represented. A successful Communication was followed that evening by a most enjoyable buffet supper in Freemasons’ Hall attended by Brethren and their Ladies including our Distinguished Visitors from Sister Constitutions.
The following week, accompanied by M.W.Bro. Lord Donegall, Past Grand Master and our Grand Secretary, I travelled to London to attend the June Communication of the United Grand Lodge of England on the Chair was occupied by the M.W. Pro Grand Master, M. W. Bro. Lord Northampton. This was an unforgettable experience and the warm welcome and genuine fellowship extended to us was quite exceptional. The following evening we attended the Centenary Communication and Dinner of Lodge of Erin No. 2895 (EC).
R.W.Bro. George Dunlop, Deputy Grand Master, supported by the Grand Secretary represented us at the annual tripartite meeting held in August in London at which matters of common interest to the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland were discussed.
On October 5th. Grand Lodge met in Enniskillen at the Invitation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Tyrone & Fermanagh. We enjoyed a great day, the Killyhevlin Hotel on the banks of the River Erne provided a perfect setting with excellent facilities. We are indebted to the Brethren of the Province for all the arrangements made. I had the pleasure of investing and proclaiming R.W.Bro. David H. Weir as Provincial Grand Master for Tyrone & Fermanagh.
Grand Lodge Officers for 2003 were elected, I was very honoured to be re-elected as Grand Master and pleased to confirm the re-appointment of R.W. George Dunlop as Deputy Grand Master and R.W. Bro. William Mawhinney as Assistant Grand Master.
Brethren to serve on the Boards of Management of the four Grand Lodge Charities were also elected. The Chairmen of the Grand Lodge Charities presented their Annual Reports. R.W. Bro. Dennis Millen, Chairman, Grand Master’s 2000 Appeal, presented the final report on the winding up of the Appeal and the distribution of the proceeds. We are most grateful to R.W.Bro. Millen for his dedication to this project. Full details of these reports will be printed in the Grand Lodge Annual Report for 2002.
I attended the Provincial Grand Lodge of the South Eastern in Carlow in October and enjoyed an interesting evening with the Brethren of the Province. I must thank R.W.Bro. Arthur Keppel, Provincial Grand Master and his Officers for the courtesy and warm welcome extended to me.
At this point, on behalf of Grand Lodge I wish to express gratitude and appreciation to all Brethren who serve on all Grand Lodge Committees and our Charity Boards of Management for their commitment and dedication. I am very grateful to R.W.Bro. Michael Walker and all Staff at Freemasons’ Hall for their total support. I must mention V.W.Bro. Cecil Taylor, Assistant Grand Treasurer who has just retired after 25 years in Office during which he carried out his duties meticulously. I know everyone will join with me in wishing Cecil many years of happy retirement. We welcome W. Bro. Arnold Smith as our new Asst. Grand Treasurer.
As the 277th year of the Grand Lodge of Ireland draws to a close, I realise that Freemasonry is as relevant to our members and society today as it was 277 years ago. The values of Freemasonry, ‘Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’ remain as valid as ever. Membership has fallen from the unsustainable heights of the 1960s and 1970s and this is a matter of concern, so I have asked Grand Master’s Council to investigate the problem of falling numbers. A committee has been set up to do this under the Chairmanship of R.W. Bro. Robert Quigley, we hope to have the report on its findings and recommendations early in the New Year. In the meantime, without pre-empting this report, I urge all Brethren to make a special effort to recruit a suitable new member to every Lodge in 2003 and I ask that our Almoners fulfil their duties conscientiously by maintaining contact with Brethren who do not attend Lodges regularly or at all with a view to minimising the annual loss of members.
A major priority must be to create a better public image of Freemasonry in Ireland, we must demonstrate that Freemasons are caring, responsible members of society and that we are not a sinister, secretive organisation solely concerned with advancing the interests of our members. During the year I have given talks to various non-Masonic Groups about Irish Freemasonry and will continue to do so when suitable opportunities arise. I believe that by achieving a better image we will find it easier to recruit suitable new members. Our Grand Lodge Web Site is a great step forward, providing an effective shop window for an increasingly computer literate public.
We are indebted to our Web Master, R.W.Bro. Richard Gray for his dedication and skill in this regard. Our Web Site has just recorded 100,000 hits!
We must all engage in planning effectively for the future and not just drift from year to year. Lodge Officers should give more thought to planning for the future. This responsibility must rest squarely with the three principal officers who should prepare a programme for their Lodge covering at least the following 12 months. All Lodges must be active, interesting and imaginative so that Brethren will be enthusiastic and eager to attend. Apathy is the enemy which must not be allowed to defeat us. Worshipful Masters and Wardens, please rise to the challenge, face the New Year with confidence and make attendance at your Lodge a stimulating, enjoyable experience.
Ritual plays an important role and imparts great dignity to all our proceedings, please ensure that we maintain standards at the highest level. I feel that we should devote more time at Lodge meetings to explaining the significance of the working tools, symbols and ritual so that Brethren will achieve a better understanding of Freemasonry and its values.
Charity is an important aspect of Masonic ethos. During the past year the Grand Lodge Charities have made submissions with regard to possible future developments. Due to pressure of work, these submissions have not been fully assessed. To speed up this process, I have asked V.W.Bro. Samuel H. Boyle to consider the submissions and report on their feasibility, he will liase with our Charity Funds so that Grand Lodge can more effectively support their objectives. We have an enviable track record of support for our dependents providing financial support for education and annuities. Our funds operate within very strict guidelines which cannot be altered so inevitably there are some deserving cases which fall outside these guidelines, for this reason the Masonic Welfare Fund was started to act as a safety net, this fund is gathering momentum and has great future potential. Our resources both Human and Financial are not infinite so the viability of all new projects must be fully investigated to ensure success. For some years past our Charities have developed rolling five-year financial projections. I suggest that as part of forward planning, the time has now come to set targets for fund raising so that each Province and Lodge will be aware of its financial target for that year and can plan accordingly.
I suspect that many Brethren are unaware of the extent to which we have been supporting non- Masonic causes over the years. Our Freemasons of Ireland Medical Research Fund since 1990 has supported research into Arthritis at Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast and St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin; Community Medicine at University College, Galway; and currently - Cochlear Implants for children born deaf enabling them to hear. This exciting project is based at Belfast City Hospital, the experience gained there is shared with Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. A detailed Report of this project, acknowledging our involvement, will appear in a major Belfast newspaper within the next few days. Our last Festival of Charity raised over £600,000 for the relief of the distress and suffering caused by Alzheimer’s Disease.
Almost every week, Lodges somewhere are supporting local charities of their choice.
The Grand Lodge News Sheet currently mentions three such contributions. Two days ago, the Assistant Grand Master, R. W. Bro. William Mawhinney presented a cheque for £3,200 to Newry Hospice, this money was raised by Lodges meeting in Newry and is by no means their first donation of this kind and reflects great credit on the Brethren involved. This demonstrates in a very meaningful way that Freemasonry is a caring, responsible organisation, participating in the life of the community. I am confident that that we will see more of this type of charitable activity in the future. We must not forget that money donated to non-Masonic Charities must be specially raised for that purpose. I believe that our record in every aspect of charitable work is excellent both by way of assistance to needy Brethren and their dependents and also to society in general.
In the past year, I feel that there has been an expectation for change, Grand Lodge is under new management! and we are two years into the new Millennium but Freemasonry does not lend itself to radical change, it continues to evolve every year. I suspect that the greatest change required is in our own attitude. Everyone matters in Freemasonry from the most recently raised Master Mason to the Grand Master, each one of us has a role to play in our continued success. We must all look forward to the future in a confident, pro-active, positive manner; proud of the fact that we are part of the worldwide Brotherhood of Regular Freemasons which has so much to offer to all men of integrity and goodwill.
In closing I must express my gratitude to some Brethren. To the R. W. Bro. George Dunlop and R.W. Bro. William Mawhinney for their total support during the past year, I could not have chosen a better Deputy or Assistant Grand Master.
To R. W. Bro. Eric Fenlon, Past Deputy Grand Master for his wise counsel.
To all Grand Lodge Officers for their support and regular attendance to their duties, it has been a great pleasure working with them, I think we have a great team. Our new Grand Lodge News Sheet has been well received, issued quarterly and prepared by R.W.Bro. William Clarke to whom I send congratulations and sincere thanks.
I am privileged to have attended many functions during year, sometimes with my wife Pam and I wish to thank everyone for the wonderful friendship extended to both of us. We wish all Brethren and their families Seasonal Greetings and the best of good health, happiness and prosperity during 2003.
Eric N. Waller, Grand Master 7th December 2002
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Copyright - Grand Lodge of Ireland 2002