GRAND MASTER’S REPORT FOR 2005
I find it hard to believe that we are now in December 2005, the year has flown by and I have held Office as Grand Master for four years. I am glad to be able to present a positive report on the present state of Irish Freemasonry.
Sadly we must remember all those Brethren who passed away this year and notably R.W. Bro. Charles McCollum, Past Grand Treasurer and Past Provincial Grand Master of Armagh; R.W.Bro. James E. Weir, Past Grand Senior Warden, R.W. Bro. R.J.Clinton, Past Secretary of the Masonic Benevolent Institutions and R.W.Bro. R. Eric Fenelon, Past Deputy Grand Master. We mourn their passing and will always value their exceptional service and contribution to our Order.
The minutes of the four quarterly meetings of The Grand Lodge of Ireland will be printed in full in our Annual Report for 2005 and also feature on our website irish-freemasons.org to I will highlight just a few items.
The March meeting was held in The Ashdown Park Hotel, Gorey, Co. Wexford hosted by The Provincial Grand Lodge of Wicklow & Wexford by kind invitation of R.W. Bro. Harvey Heavener. I installed R.W.Bro. Basil Fenton as Provincial Grand Master of South Connaught. I also installed R.W.Bro. Cecil Tilson as Provincial Grand Master of Meath. We formerly recognised the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta which we constituted in November 2004 and agreed to exchange Representatives.
The June meeting held in Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin is especially sociable and we were delighted to welcome senior representatives from the Grand Lodge of Greece, the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the United Grand Lodge of England and of course, many of our Brethren from overseas e.g. South Africa Northern, Nigeria, Ghana, Bermuda, Jamaica and the Bahamas, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Gibraltar. It is always a great pleasure to see them in Dublin and we appreciate their support. This meeting was a milestone in the history of our Order. R.W. Bro. Michael J. Walker relinquished his Office of Grand Secretary having served with great distinction in that capacity for 24 years and earned the respect of all Brethren not only in Ireland but in other regular Masonic Constitutions worldwide. We wish him a long, happy well-earned retirement. I installed R.W.Bro. Barry Lyons as our new Grand Secretary and I have every confidence that Bro. Lyons will serve us very well. I also installed R.W.Bro. Leslie Evans as Provincial Grand Master of the Midland Counties.
Following the meeting, we joined our Ladies for an enjoyable Buffet Dinner.
In October, Grand Lodge met in the Provincial Masonic Hall, Rosemary Street, Belfast by invitation of the Provincial Grand Master of Antrim, R.W.Bro. Adam McKinley and the Provincial Grand Master of Down, R.W.Bro. Robert Armstrong.
Officers of Grand Lodge for 2006 were elected. I feel very honoured to have been re-elected as Grand Master for a fifth year. I confirmed the reappointment of R.W.Bro. George Dunlop as Deputy Grand Master and R.W.Bro. William Mawhinney as Assistant Grand Master and I gratefully acknowledge their invaluable support during the past year.
This meeting focuses in particular on our Masonic Charities. We elected Brethren to serve on the management boards of our Grand Lodge Charities and we must pay tribute to them for the conscientious way in which they fulfil their duties to manage the respective Funds within the rules of those Funds. Reports were presented on the work of four of our Charities. It is reassuring to note that they are functioning well and continue to provide very effective support for those of our Brethren and their dependents who need our help.
On average at any point in time from Grand Lodge Charities, some 1,000 Brethren or Widows are in receipt of Annuities to help them to enjoy reasonable living standards and some 460 Girls and Boys receive grants towards the cost of Education at Primary, Secondary and Third Levels. I am not aware of any other organisation in Ireland which provides this level of support for those of its members in need. We should be justly proud of our charitable achievements and also be ever mindful of the importance of charity in the ethos of Freemasonry.
During the year, the Deputy and Assistant Grand Master and I travelled to many parts of Ireland visiting Lodges and Provinces to support them in all their Masonic endeavours and to establish contact with our Brethren at local level. This is a rewarding experience for all three of us and we greatly appreciate the warm welcome extended to us wherever we go. My own travels brought me to Lodges in the Provinces of Antrim, Down, Meath, North Munster, South East, Londonderry & Donegal and the Dublin Metropolitan area. Probably the most notable events for me were the official opening of the new North Munster Masonic Centre in Limerick and the newly rebuilt and extended Masonic Hall in Longford. These two events confirm that Freemasonry is vibrant and thriving and our 25,000 Brethren in Ireland and 5,000 overseas are looking forward to the future with confidence.
In April I travelled to Gibraltar accompanied by my wife and the Grand Secretary for a ceremony to dedicate a new Banner for the Irish Inspectorate there. I am grateful to R.W.Bro. Joseph Chiara, Grand Inspector for the arrangements made for this event which was most impressive. The Mayor welcomed us with a Civic Reception and I gave TV and Press interviews which received wide coverage.
Our Brethren in Gibraltar are to be admired for the high profile they enjoy in the community.
I attended the annual meeting of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy held in Rome on June 25th by invitation of M.W.Bro. Fabio Venzi, Grand Master who presented me with the Order of the Flaming Star, his personal award for service to Freemasonry. I was accompanied by R.W.Bro. Douglas Gray, their representative in Ireland and our wives. The whole proceedings in Rome were elegant and impressive.
Italy is a difficult environment for Freemasonry and M.W. Bro. Venzi is to be congratulated on successfully leading a Regular Grand Lodge there which has no involvement in religious or political affairs. We wish him continued success.
Last year we formed a Company, Events GLI Ltd, owned by Grand Lodge to promote fund raising events for non-Masonic Charities throughout Ireland as a further extension of our community involvement. Events GLI Ltd promoted the Placido Domingo Concert at the Point Theatre in Dublin on March 9th. It was an utterly magical evening, the memory of which will remain with me for ever.
An audience of over 4,000 enjoyed superb entertainment by the World’s leading tenor who received standing ovations at the close of a wonderful performance.
The Concert received very wide publicity in the media. Although the Concert incurred a financial loss, we did fulfil our obligation to the ten non-Masonic Charities which we selected for support by presenting each with a cheque for Euro 5,000 at two receptions held in Dublin and Belfast during September.
The 250th Anniversary of the birth of Mozart, born on 27th January 1756, will be widely celebrated in 2006. Mozart was an enthusiastic Freemason.
Events GLI Ltd have been retained by the Austrian Embassy, Dublin to organise three concerts in Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin on 10th and 11th. November 2006 . Pam & I attended a reception at the Austrian Embassy last week by kind invitation of the His Excellency The Austrian Ambassador to launch a special website mozart2006.ie to promote the celebrations.
Events GLI Ltd plan to promote musical events viz. Big Band Jazz, Piano recitals, Musicals and a Concert throughout Ireland next year to raise funds to support various charitable causes. The first event will be a Piano Recital featuring Lance Coburn in St. John’s Cathedral, Sligo at 8.00 pm on Friday 3rd. March 2006, the day before Grand Lodge meets. Further events will be announced soon and details will be available on the Grand Lodge website.
The Freemasons of Ireland Medical Research Fund agreed to support a research project being undertaken by the Department of Physiology at University College, Cork starting in September. The project will investigate how gene therapy may be used to slow the progression of chronic renal failure associated with obesity and diabetes type II which are increasing at an alarming rate in Ireland and most developed countries.
This project is part of our ongoing commitment to support a variety of medical research projects throughout Ireland thereby making a positive contribution to Irish society both now and into the future.
Following discussion at Grand Master’s Council, our Provincial Grand Masters have agreed that we should hold another Grand Master’s Festival of Charity. I hope to provide details at the March meeting of Grand Lodge to be held in Sligo. It is important that we should hold occasional Festivals of this nature to provide a specific project and sense of purpose in which all Brethren can be involved.
We will continue our policy of co-operating with the media whenever suitable opportunities arise. This year we have achieved significant press coverage which will go a long way to reassure the public as to the true nature of Irish Freemasonry by demonstrating that:
? It is not a secret society but embraces confidentiality.
? It is not a religion or a substitute for a religion.
? It emphasises universal harmony and does not permit discussion of religion or politics.
? It is not a benefit society and to join for personal gain will only lead to disappointment.
? It is an organisation of men who espouse the basic principles of integrity, goodwill and charity whose worthwhile values are a force for good in the community.
I appreciate the great support our Brethren have given by their attendance at Grand Lodge during the year, I hope that it has been a rewarding experience for everyone. The work of Brethren on various committees is essential to the momentum of our Order and I can assure them that it does not go unnoticed. Grand Lodge could not function without our loyal staff here in Freemasons’ Hall to whom we are very grateful.
In December particularly, our thoughts turn to Family and friends as the Festive Season and New Year approach. Pam & I and our family send Seasonal Greetings to all Brethren and their families in Ireland and Overseas and Best Wishes for your health, happiness and prosperity in 2006.
Eric N. Waller, Grand Master 1st December 2005