Brethren, there is no question that we owe to the Past Pro Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Lord Northampton, an enormous debt of gratitude for his dedicated and unstinting service at home and abroad. As a man of humility he would not wish me to cover in detail the successes of all his initiatives and projects during his fourteen years, first as Assistant Grand Master, and then since I installed him as Pro Grand Master in March 2001. But I would highlight achievements such as the creation of the Rulers’ Forum, the appointment of a Grand Chancellor, the move of the Masonic charities into 60 Great Queen Street and the development of the Mentoring and Orator Schemes, all of which have contributed significantly to improving communications between Great Queen Street and Provinces and Districts - one of Lord Northampton’s principal objectives on becoming Pro Grand Master.
In addition, I want to acknowledge how much he has done to support my policy of speaking openly about our Freemasonry. This change in culture towards open communications has resulted, for the good, in a greater understanding of Masonic affairs by the general public, as well as educating the Brethren to feel less inhibited in talking about Freemasonry. Indeed Freemasonry in the Community was a major initiative to restore Freemasonry to its proper place in society.
But Lord Northampton’s efforts were not restricted to this country. He was very conscious of our Grand Lodge’s role as arbiters of regularity, and apart from his many travels overseas on Masonic business, he ran in London in November, 2007, a most successful conference that left overseas Grand Lodges in no doubt where we stand on this important subject. For this he earned the respect of the foreign Grand Masters. In sum, Brethren, I cannot express strongly enough my gratitude and appreciation for Lord Northampton’s energy and dedication as my Pro Grand Master.
And now Brethren, to the future. The newly appointed Pro Grand Master is an extremely experienced Mason, having been Grand Director of Ceremonies for eight years and then Deputy Grand Master since 2004. As a businessman of long experience at the highest level he also has a clear vision of the way forward. The new Deputy Grand Master has been, as you all know, Grand Director of Ceremonies for nearly six years (April 2003) and Chief Executive of a London Bank and he is now Senior Bursar at a Cambridge College. I mention their Masonic and business experience because, although Masonry is not a business, Grand Lodge has begun, under the direction of the Grand Secretary, to be managed along business lines.
This year I intend to preside at the Annual Investiture meeting of the Supreme Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch on 30 April. The Pro Grand Master therefore will preside over the Craft Annual Investiture the day before. He will have the opportunity to outline to you his own ideas on that occasion, but I do know that the Pro Grand Master is keen that the Grand Lodge team continues to improve business efficiency and further to strengthen the growing relationship with London, the Provinces and the Districts. He has chaired my Council’s Charities Committee with a prime objective of encouraging synergies between the four Masonic Charities. The Deputy Grand Master will take over this role and I know he will continue to encourage this process.
Open communications with members of the non-Masonic community will remain a key objective supported by, for example, the new Grand Lodge website, Freemasonry Today magazine and the very successful events that are run for non masons from this wonderful building.
An important consideration is to encourage Lodges to select only quality candidates and then, with the Mentoring Scheme to see that they are cared for and educated throughout their Masonic journey. I do ask you Brethren, always to be mindful of the future of the Craft, so that we can be confident of the next generation of Masons.
Altogether Brethren, I believe the Craft is in the soundest shape than it has been for many years and that it is an Organisation much more confident in itself. I look forward to working with these three senior Brethren in ensuring that Freemasonry continues to flourish.
Finally, I must mention that I also had the pleasure of investing Very Worshipful Brother Oliver Lodge as Grand Director of Ceremonies. In wishing him every success in this important role I thank him and his assistants for the efficient running of today’s meeting. I also thank the Grand Secretary and his team for all they have done to organise the meeting. Finally, Brethren, thank you for being here today to witness this historic event.