On the 20th October 1999 the Province of Down held its first ever Charity Conference at the Ballymacarrett Masonic Hall, Newtownards Road, Belfast.  The 400+ Masons attending the Conference represented 151 Lodges as well as the 9 District Charity Committees within the Province.

R.W.Bro. W. G. Ian Ritchie, the Provincial Assistant Grand Master of Down with special responsibilities for Charity, introduced the Conference and said that the theme was to be Charity - Education and Communication.   He went on to say that the role of the Almoner and Steward of Charities within each Lodge was vital to the progression of our Charities and also for the stimulation and growth of our great Order.

The Conference was chaired by the Provincial Deputy Grand Master, R.W.Bro. William Mawhinney.  In his opening address he welcomed all present, thanked all the speakers who represented many of the Masonic Charities for their attendance and said he looked forward to their presentations.

The speakers in attendance were:-

R.W.Bro.  Samuel H. Boyle Masonic Charities Liaison Board
V.W.Bro. Michael McWilliam Masonic Girls & Boys Benefit Funds
V.W.Bro. Trevor Morrow Victoria Jubilee Masonic Benefit Fund
W.Bro. Eddie Donnan Belfast Masonic Widows Fund
V.W.Bro. Alex Barkley Belfast Masonic Charity Fund
R.W.Bro. Douglas Thompson Down Masonic Widows Fund
W.Bro. Jim Kelly Grand Masters Millennium Appeal

During the conference the main points of each speaker’s presentation were projected on a large screen using computerised presentation software.  This form of presentation enhanced the enjoyment of the conference for all present and was designed and developed by the Provincial Grand Secretary, V.W.Bro. Richard Gray.

At the end of the conference the new video produced by the Masonic Benevolent Institutions was shown.  The brethren in attendance showed their grateful thanks and appreciation of this and the presentations made by the various speakers with a thunderous round of applause.

After the conference R.W.Bro. Ritchie said he was absolutely delighted with the response of the Brethren from the Province of Down and that the Conference had raised the profile of the Masonic Charities within the Province.  He went on to say that the Conference theme of Charity - Education and Communication was only part of an ongoing plan within the Province of Down to improve and increase the knowledge of the brethren with regard to the objectives and operations of all the Masonic Charities.

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