Progress of Irish Freemasonry in 1999

The Grand Master's Address to meeting of Grand Lodge

Monday 27th December 1999

As always my review starts with sadness and deep regret at the death of' several distinguished and well loved Brethren. The full list is to be found in the obituary section of our annual report but I must mention a few of them by name to-day. R.W.Bro George C Andrews, R.W.Bro. Alexander Jaffe, R.W.Bro. Johnston Sherman, R.W.Bro. William Long, R.W.Bro. Ronald L. Shepherd, R.W.Bro. John McL Pratt.

All these late Brethren and those not herein named gave generously of their time and talents for the furtherance of Freemasonry and our deepest sympathy goes out to their family circles.

Last St. John's Day I was pleased to be saluted and proclaimed as your Grand Master as were the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters who were continuing in office. All Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors were reappointed. Grand Lodge officers were installed, invested, proclaimed and saluted according to ancient custom.

At our June meeting I was pleased to receive and welcome delegations from the Grand Lodge of the United Grand Lodge of England and South Africa. Also present were our overseas Brethren from Nigeria, Ghana, Glittering Star Lodge No 322 and St. Patrick’s Lodge No 295.  As always a most enjoyable lunch was later enjoyed by all.

The annual tripartite meeting of the Home Grand Lodges was held in London.  The meeting was dominated by the Grand Lodge of India problem. The report prepared by myself and our Assistant Grand Master was duly presented and considered.  Unfortunately no solution acceptable to all concerned could be found and a most unsatisfactory  situation continues

During the year several overseas trips have taken place. I had planned to visit Bermuda and Jamaica but in the event the Deputy Grand Master accompanied by his wife Sylvia and the Grand Secretary substituted for me. In Bermuda the Deputy Grand Master constituted the Bermuda Lodge of Installed Masters and opened a Masonic section in the Bermuda College library. He and his wife Sylvia then proceeded to Jamaica where he visited several Lodges. It is significant that I have to-day installed as R.W. Junior Grand Chaplain, R.W. Bro Rt. Rev Alfred J Reid, Bishop of Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The Deputy Grand Master accompanied by the Grand Secretary visited the Grand Lodge of Sweden for its Installation Communication. The Grand Secretary and I had a very pleasant visit to Helsinki for the 75th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Finland. We later proceeded to Estonia where we attended the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Estonia. I had two delightful visits to Scotland during the year. First M.W. Bro the Rt. Hon Lord Farnham, Pro. Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and I were guests of honour at the 400th birthday celebrations of Lodge St Mary's, No 1, Scotland; and after much wonderful pageantry and ancient Masonic ritual were duly elected honorary members of the Lodge. A celebration never to be forgotten. I was also chief guest at the St Andrew’s Festival of the Grand Lodge of Scotland when M.W. Bro Archibald D. Orr Ewing was installed as M.W. Grand Master Mason. I had the pleasure and privilege of proposing the main toast of the evening to the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

The Assistant Grand Master, accompanied by his wife Lillian, visited the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium for the installation of the M.W. Grand Master. Overseas trips are expensive and time consuming and can be very tiring and stressful for the participants but it is absolutely essential that our Grand Lodge keeps in touch with world Freemasonry and its problems if it is to retain its rightful place at the forefront of our Order.

At home our October meeting was held in Newry Town Hall and for this we are deeply grateful to Newry and Mourne District Council.

As is now usual at this meeting, reports were received on the progress of the Masonic Benevolent Institutions. These are fully recorded in the minutes but I would like to draw your attention to the following. The Masonic Welfare Fund hopes to commence receiving applications for assistance in the year 2000.  The Masonic Charities Committees have produced a new video "The Masonic Order in Ireland ‑ 275 years of Dedication to Charity" which has been sent free to all Lodges and I trust will be shown widely to Masonic and Non-Masonic gatherings.

The trustees of the Freemasons of Ireland Medical Research Fund have agreed to support a three year project at Belfast City Hospital in cochlear implantation to aid hearing in profoundly deaf children and others.

I am delighted that the co-operation between our various Charities continues to develop satisfactorily and that the majority of our widows are now being treated with equality and that we are making excellent progress towards our ultimate objective of equal opportunities for all our dependents. It is not possible to thank individually all those Brethren who so willingly give of their time, skill and experience to the running of our Charities.  I know they all take great pride in the success of their endeavours and we all owe them a debt of gratitude and sincere thanks.  I would again remind Brethren of the Grand Master's Millennium Appeal, the proceeds of which will be donated entirely to Masonic Charities responsible for the well-being of our poor and distressed dependents and I call on all Provincial Grand Lodges, subordinate Lodges and individual Brethren to support R.W.Bro Dennis Millen who has courageously agreed to undertake the supervision of my appeal.

I record an event which could well be a landmark for our Order.  I congratulate Masonic Havens Ltd. who have purchased a 42 bed nursing home with 22 acres of land from St. Joseph’s in Virginia, Co. Cavan and have retained architects to produce sheltered housing on the site.  I understand the local Council has shown great interest in this project which will be cross-community and should bring great credit to our Order and to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath whose Provincial Grand Master I installed to-day.  I welcome this wonderful initiative and it is my intention to visit the site early in the new year.

Another unique Masonic occasion was the laying of the foundation stone of the new Masonic Centre in Limerick by R.W. Bro Geoffrey G Ashton, Provincial Grand Master of North Munster. I know that it is intended that this centre, when completed, will be a central point in the local community. It is intended that Grand Lodge will visit North Munster next year.  Many other events have taken place involving the general public which would not have happened a few years ago and I am delighted that Brethren are resolved to ensure that the Masonic Order is recognised as part of the community in which they live.

The Grand Master's Council has met several times during the year and has shown its worth to the Order, particularly in conjunction with the Grand Lodge of Instruction, in examining and editing the new information and instruction leaflets which have now been issued.  I am currently waiting for a report on membership which I have asked the Council to consider.

On the domestic front the issue of the various new leaflets i.e. the printed ritual for the three degrees of Craft Masonry and the Installed Master; the guidelines and instructions for Secretaries, Treasurers, Almoners, Stewards of Charities and Directors of Ceremonies and Inspectors, the leaflet for candidates and a brief explanation of Irish Freemasonry for the public means that we now have the tools to implement “programme for change” which is vital to the very survival of our Order.

Our Grand Lodge Website has been an outstanding success and we are deeply grateful to V.W.Bro. Richard Gray and his team for overseeing this exciting project.  Finally a piece of news – Grand Lodge has purchased a lovely portrait of the Lady Freemason, Elizabeth St.Leger, and it is at this moment hanging in the museum. Go and see it.

Brethren, it is my duty on your behalf to extend our thanks to all members of our Order who have given of their time so generously and served on the various Grand Lodge committees. I am grateful to our R.W. Deputy Grand Master and R.W. Assistant Grand Master, R.W. Grand Treasurer and R.W. Grand Secretary and his three assistants for the excellent support, advice and assistance given to me during the year. A very special thank you from us all to the staff for their continuing excellent work.

It has been with pleasure that I attended many meetings and functions during the year. I wish to thank you for the wonderful friendship and fellowship extended to me and for your most generous hospitality.

My wife and I wish that good health, happiness and prosperity go with you all, into the new Millennium.

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