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GM's St.John's Day Address

Grand Master's
St. John's Day Address

St. John’s Day – 27th December 2001  

Following the excitement of the year 2000 when we celebrated the 275th Anniversary of the founding of  The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, we made a difficult start to 2001 – the first year of the new Millennium. We had barely commenced our activities when the outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease necessitated the introduction of travel restrictions. We had no option but to cancel all Masonic Meetings and social events for several months.

The total cessation of activities caused a loss of momentum throughout Irish Freemasonry. Contributions to our Charities dwindled to almost zero with serious consequences, particularly for our Victoria Jubilee Masonic Benefit Fund.

The Grand Lodge Meeting scheduled for Cork on March 3rd. was cancelled. This caused a great deal of additional fruitless work for Brethren in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster which was very regrettable, however, we look forward to travelling to Cork on March 2nd 2002 to celebrate the founding of that Provincial Grand Lodge 275 years ago.

The Grand Lodge of Ireland resumed work at the Meeting in Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin on June 7th.  M.W.Bro. Darwin H. Templeton in the Chair.This occasion was well supported and we welcomed many visiting Brethren from overseas.  I had just reached the end of my ten year term as Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wicklow & Wexford, R.W. Bro. Harvey Heavener was installed as my successor. R.W.Bro. George Miskimmons was installed as Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Armagh, succeeding R.W. Bro. Noel Bones who had retired having served that Province with much distinction. M.W. Bro.Templeton, Grand Master announced his intention to retire after nine years in Office and stated that he would install his successor at a special meeting of Grand Lodge in November.

Following the Summer recess, on September 12th. we learned with surprise and regret that both M.W.Bro. Templeton, Grand Master and R.W. Bro. Kenneth Patterson, Assistant Grand Master had tendered their resignations with immediate effect.  R.W.Bro. Eric Fenelon, Deputy Grand Master remained in Office and assumed the duties of Grand Master until a new Grand Master was installed.

We must gratefully acknowledge the important events which occurred during 

M.W. Bro. Templeton’s term as Grand Master:-

  • The formation of the Grand Master’s Council enabling senior Brethren to meet and discuss important topics affecting the future of Irish Freemasonry.

  •  The publication of a policy document  “Programme for Change – The Way Ahead” which will always chart the future direction of Irish Freemasonry. This document must be constantly highlighted.

  •  The printed Ritual, information leaflets for the public and booklets providing guidelines as to the duties of various Lodge Officers.

  • The second Grand Master’s Festival of Charity in which we supported the victims of Alzheimer’s Disease and their Carers. This Festival was very well supported and raised in excess of £500,000. We demonstrated that Freemasons are good citizens and made many good friends in the Alzheimer Disease Society, Belfast and The Alzheimer Society of Ireland in Dublin.

  • The commencement of the merger of some regional Annuity Funds with the Grand Lodge V.J.M.B.F. to bring about the standardisation of the level of annuities paid to beneficiaries.

  • The celebrations in the year 2000 of the 275th Anniversary of The Grand Lodge of Ireland. All of us carry pleasant memories of this important milestone in our history.

  • The Grand Master’s 2000 Appeal mainly to support the VJMBF Annuity payments which has to-date raised in excess of £160,000 under the Chairmanship of R.W.Bro. Dennis Millen. Incidentally any Lodges still holding funds raised for this Appeal are requested to remit their money urgently.

These achievements made a very positive impact on the progress of Irish Freemasonry during  M.W.Bro. Templeton’s tenure of Office as Grand Master. We wish him well in his retirement.

R.W.Bro. Eric Fenelon indicated that he did not wish to continue in Office as Deputy Grand Master after November, nor did he wish to be considered for the  Office of Grand Master. At the Grand Lodge Board Meeting in Rosemary Street, Belfast on September 13th I was nominated for the Office of Grand Master. 

Grand Lodge met in Newtownards, Co. Down on October 6th.  The meeting was chaired by R.W.Bro. Eric Fenelon,  in the absence of any further nomination for the Office of Grand Master, I was very honoured to be unanimously elected to that Office. I announced my intention to appoint R.W.Bro. George Dunlop, Provincial Grand Master of Londonderry & Donegal as Deputy Grand Master and R.W.Bro. William Mawhinney, Provincial Grand Master of Down as Assistant Grand Master. This information was received with enthusiastic acclamation. The Grand Secretary announced that all three installations would take place at a special Communication of Grand Lodge arranged for November 22nd. followed by a Celebration Dinner in Jury’s Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin.

The Chairmen of the Grand Lodge Charities then presented their reports. We are indebted to them, the members of the Committees and V.W. Bro. Michael McWilliam for their excellent work.

The special Communication of The Grand Lodge of Ireland was held at 3-30 p.m. in Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin on November 22nd. attended by over 500 Brethren. R.W.Bro Eric Fenelon in the Chair, welcomed many representatives of overseas Grand Lodges and especially M.W. Bro. The Marquess of Northampton, Pro Grand Master of  The United Grand Lodge of England and  M.W. Bro. Archibold Orr Ewing, Grand Master Mason of The Grand Lodge of Scotland.  I was duly presented to R.W.Bro. Fenelon who proceeded to install me Grand Master, the greatest honour which can be conferred on any Brother in Irish Craft Masonry. Then I installed R.W.Bro. George Dunlop as Deputy Grand Master and R.W. Bro. William Mawhinney as Assistant Grand Master.

I had the pleasure of presenting M.W.Bro. The Marquess of Northampton with his Patent as representative of the Grand Lodge of Ireland at the United Grand Lodge of England.

That evening almost 400 Brethren and their Ladies attended a very enjoyable Celebration Dinner at Jury’s Hotel.

I wish to again thank everyone connected with the organisation of this very successful day especially the Grand Secretary and Staff in Freemasons’ Hall and all Grand Lodge officers who were very supportive.

Special mention must be made of R.W.Bro. Eric Fenelon, for the exemplary manner in which he carried out the duties of Deputy Grand Master for the past nine years and particularly during the last few months. I wish to personally thank him for his support and for installing me as Grand Master. We hope that R.W.Bro. Fenelon will be with us for many more years so that we can benefit from his experience and wise counsel.

On December 1st. I briefly visited Paris with Pam & The Grand Secretary for the Installation of M.W.Bro. Jean-Charles Foellner as Grand Master of the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise. This was an interesting experience and gave me the opportunity to meet many of the senior Freemasons from European and other countries.

I reported to Grand Lodge meeting in Dublin on December 6th that I had constituted a Grand Master’s Council that morning. The Council consists of all Provincial Grand Masters and the Chairman of the Dublin Metropolitan Board. I have asked the Council to urgently consider two subjects:

  • Membership – I am very concerned about the constant fall in our numbers which will affect our viability in the future and our ability to raise funds to sustain our Charities.  I believe that we can find an answer to this problem if we look hard enough. One option is to consider the appointment of a Membership Secretary in every subordinate Lodge.

  • The 10 Year Rule – I think that this should be suspended with regard to all Offices in subordinate Lodges to make it easier for to fill Offices with competent Brethren who are able and willing to help.

The rule will continue to apply with regard to all other appointments in Grand Lodge, Provincial Grand Lodges and all Boards and Committee connected with Craft Masonry. 

The Council’s recommendations will be reported to Grand Lodge in due course.

After consultation with the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, we have decided to publish quarterly a Grand Lodge News Sheet in a simple inexpensive format. We hope that it will improve communications and that all Brethren will find it interesting and informative.

On December 15th, I attended an impressive meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down, this gave me the opportunity to express my gratitude for the support for my election a Grand Master. It gave me particular pleasure to install R.W. Bro. John F. Kerr as Provincial Grand Master to replace R.W.Bro. William Mawhinney our new Assistant Grand Master. I wish to thank the Brethren of the Province of Down for the warm welcome and courtesy extended to me. 

As we reflect on the past year, we remember with regret and sadness the death of distinguished Brethren who served us so well, notably R.W.Bro. Joseph A. Moran who left an indelible mark on Irish Freemasonry. We keep in our thoughts and prayers those Brethren who are, or have been very ill, in particular

R.W.Bro. George Power,  R.W. Bro. Jack Mawhinney and R.W. Bro. Charles McCollum. We hope that they will soon be restored to good health.

We must record our grateful appreciation and thanks to all Brethren who work diligently and give generously of their time to our Grand Lodge committees.

Especial thanks are due to our Grand Secretary, R.W.Bro. Michael Walker, the Assistant Grand Secretaries and  all our Staff for their loyal support. R.W.Bro. Michael Walker has completed 20 years service as Grand Secretary this month, filling this important Office with great commitment and distinction, we look forward to benefiting from his knowledge and expertise for a few more years. 

I am very grateful to R.W. Bro George Dunlop and R.W. Bro. William Mawhinney for accepting my invitation to serve in the Offices of Deputy and Assistant Grand Master respectively, they are held in high esteem and I know that we will work together as a good team. I hope that we will provide strong leadership, focus attention on matters of the highest priority, motivate and encourage all Brethren to face and confidently overcome the challenges ahead.  Thank you for the very large number of messages of congratulations and good wishes which have been sent, we find these to be most encouraging.

One of my main priorities is to foster a better public image,  dispelling the myths and misconceptions about Freemasonry that have gained credence over the years and to reassure the public that we are not a sinister, secretive organisation and that Freemasons are good, caring and responsible citizens.  I have already made a start in this direction by giving six press interviews and two twenty minute interviews on BBC and RTE Radio. The result has been very positive and I hope that this will continue.

If we can all work together in a positive manner, totally committed, I am confident that Irish Freemasonry has a great future but everyone has a part to play, there is no room for apathy.

Thank you for your support and friendship during my first five weeks in office.

Pam and I wish to convey to you and your families, our warmest greetings and good wishes for a New Year filled with peace, happiness, good health and prosperity.

Eric N. Waller

Grand Master