Brethren, I can’t tell you what a privilege it has been to have been a member of this wonderful institution for 50 years, let alone having been Pro GM for over 13 years. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when accepting the appointment of Deputy GDC back in 1983, but, if I had done, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. When I was appointed GDC in 1995, I thought that was the pinnacle of my masonic career and I would still say that it is the best job there is, as everyone has to do what you tell them!
When I retired as GDC in 2002, I expected a nice quiet role on the back benches and had no idea that Lord Northampton was intending for me to take over from Iain Bryce as Dep GM. Then I was even more flabbergasted when he asked me (told actually) to take over from him, not least because I had no idea he was intending to step down himself. The last 13 years have been a marvellous experience and I could never have hoped for everyone to be so kind, generous and supportive wherever I have been. During my time in various offices, I have been to every Province and I genuinely couldn’t say which visits I have enjoyed most, they have all been wonderful and I can’t thank the various PGMs and GrSupts enough for the support and curtesy they have always shown me. I don’t need to know what they said behind my back.
I have also been to 21 of our 32 Districts, as well as 2 out of our 4 Inspectorates, and have been so impressed by the pride they all show in being part UGLE. They all have competition from other Constitutions, mainly Ireland and Scotland, but also in a few places, the Netherlands. Many also have Grand Lodges of the Country in which they reside, often formed by us or the other Home Grand Lodges. I like to think that in recent times our relationship with those Grand Lodges is very cordial and I have already mentioned the Grand Lodge of India who are here today and most welcome they are.
My main job is to represent the Grand Master when he is unable to be present and that includes visiting Overseas GLs. It has been fascinating to carry out these visits and see the different ways they perform their ceremonies and to see all the various different regalias that are in use. I believe I have been to over 20 other Grand Lodges. Many visit us on a regular basis and I like to think that I have made many friends around the world and most particularly in Europe.
Brethren, I hope we are all hugely proud of our record of charitable giving which had always been in our DNA, whether it is financial assistance or voluntary work matters not, we are just good at it.
However, the highlight of my time as ProGM has clearly been the Tercentenary year when all our Provinces and Districts got up to some wonderful antics for the purposes of raising Charitable Funds and also found imaginative and important ways to donate those funds.
It all, of course, culminated at the great extravaganza at the Royal Albert Hall. After that event I received so many messages of congratulations for the excellence of the event. I took them all in my stride and, most certainly, did not admit to having done precisely nothing myself, to the extent of not even knowing until it started, what on earth was going to happen. I think my lack of such knowledge made the event even better than had I known. It was truly memorable and is still talked about. How lucky we are to have such talented brethren capable of putting on such a show.
Throughout my time in office I have had incredible support from so many. I have had the same DepGM throughout and I could never have asked for better. I have to say that as he will soon become my boss! RtWBrs David Williamson and Sir David Wootton have been wonderful Assistants. The Board and its Presidents and the Secretariat have all played such an important part in making my life easy, but I am going to be slightly indulgent and single out VWBr Graham Redman who over the 27 years since I became GDC has always been the person I relied on to tell me if I was about to make a howler. He did, of course, revel in doing so and I suspect has saved me from many near calamities.
Br, I shall finish by simply saying thank you to all of you for your support and for putting up with my rather quirky sense of humour for so long.