Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, it is an incredible sight to see so many of you at our Annual Investiture this afternoon – and a real joy to welcome you in such numbers.
To our regular visitors, or those visiting this magnificent building for the first time, I extend to you a hearty welcome and trust that you will have enjoyed the spectacle that is our Annual Investiture.
I must state how indebted we are to Paul Christopher, Provincial Grand Secretary, and his administrative team, for this organisational feat, which has enabled us to welcome our members, their relatives and friends today. Together with Chris Clark, our Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his ceremonial team, they have worked tirelessly with John Vasquez and the UGLE team to ensure the success of today’s arrangements.
Today, we have come together to celebrate all that we have achieved during the last 12 months and to rejoice with those who have contributed in such ample measure to the success of our Lodges and the development of the Province. As a result, they have been rewarded with an appointment or promotion to Provincial Grand Rank – and their preferment is as much for the services they have given to date, as that which will be anticipated from them in the coming years.
I would also like to congratulate and publicly acknowledge members of our Province who, in this very room some days ago, were appointed to Grand Rank by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. Perhaps they might stand as their names are read, so that you might join me in congratulating them with applause:
FIRST APPOINTMENTS – Andrew Charles WADDINGTON, Robert James RAFF, Graham RAVEN & Ian MACKNELLY.
PROMOTIONS – Brig. William Edward SHACKELL CBE, Mark Robert Jason EYLES-THOMAS, James John MARSH, David JORDAN & Edward John SMITH.
Today marks a new beginning for two of our senior members. Colin Holland becomes part of our Executive team and, after almost four years as Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Philip May has accepted a new important Provincial role responsible for member welfare, and our annual PSA event. I wish them both well in their new roles.
In the last year, we undertook a “root and branch” overhaul of our Provincial honours system, which not only rewards members for their achievements in their respective Lodges, but now also for services to the Province and in the Community. Some 4,400 members were reviewed to ensure that we could be certain that none had been overlooked, including long-standing Master Masons. This exercise was a huge undertaking for our Deputy and Assistants, and the first tranche of that review has been rewarded today.
So successful has this review proven that, on 4 July, at Oakley House, we will be holding a further Provincial event where an additional 100 members will be receiving preferment, and they will be receiving correspondence from me shortly in that regard. In fact, given the new procedures I implemented for talent management, our Craft Executive team have identified some 530 individuals for preferment over the next 5 years – a quite incredible achievement, which will ensure the future success of the Province.
As with every developing membership organisation, our strategy continuously evolves and our three Provincial Strategic Objectives for 2019 and beyond will be:
- Increasing our Membership,
- Increasing our Fundraising, and
- Raising still further our Community profile
Membership development continues to be my over-ridding priority and focus. The new UGLE “Members’ Pathway” was formally launched last year and our Provincial Membership Officer, Mentor and Almoner will be present at this years’ Membership Conference here on 21 May and further Provincial Pathway events will follow at our Centres.
To assist with membership retention, I have appointment W.Bro Tony Harvey to Head Learning and Development, and he will be responsible for maximizing our member’s masonic education, knowledge and awareness, and also focus on improving our Training resource.
In addition to our Shooting, Cycling and Motorcycling Lodges, I have received further expressions of interest for new themed Lodges – based on Rugby, Golf, Motoring, Fishing, Music and Marine themes. These will enable us to engage with a considerable number of non-Masons who share these interests.
To assist in that aim, our new Provincial website launches today – which will not only continue to be a dynamic and ongoing resource for our members, but very much more engaging for our Community and those who may be considering membership.
The development of our newer and younger members continues to be a prime focus and the membership of our Light Blues Club continues to rise – it was good to be able to welcome many of them this afternoon. They have produced the Members Passbook, which is available today, and is a rich source of information and a record of a member’s Masonic journey – their personal “Grand Tour” if you will, which no member should be without. In addition, following the filming of last year’s PGL, the DVD of that event is available for you to purchase today as a memento of the occasion.
The preparatory work this year for the forthcoming launch of our 2026 Provincial Festival on 1 January 2020 has been impressive. Roland Stokes, and his team of Festival Liaison Officers, will continue to encourage you to replenish your Relief chests and provide assistance, so that each Lodge and Chapter has the resources to make its contribution. In addition, I encourage every member of the Province to consider a regular modest contribution by gift aid to the Festival – which is entirely in accordance with their financial means.
Every Charity Steward in the Province will have received my personal invitation to attend the Festival Briefing event at Oakley House on 30 September, where we will announce our financial objective, together with details of our Festival jewel and honorifics which you can aspire to, in advance of the formal launch of the Festival taking place in January next year.
As regards Community engagement, it has been my avowed intention to increase, ever further, the profile of our Province throughout our community, with a wide range of different charities and with the local media. We have continued to strengthen our links with our local Mayors, Charities, Beneficiaries and the Press, and we will continue to participate in a wide number of Civic Events during the year.
Our Communications Team is continually seeking press and media opportunities to illustrate how Freemasonry can make a positive contribution to society – by identifying local causes where West Kent might make an impact, and I need your continued contribution wherever you can identify an opportunity for us to do so.
This year, to name just a few, we have helped Lee Baker, a member of our Community, with funding to overcome a life-threatening affliction; we’ve supported a Girl Scout with very limited means achieve her lifetime dream of attending the World Scout Jamboree; enabled an 8 year old boy with a terminal illness to achieve some of the items on his bucket list, through the kind auspices of Andrew Child; and thanks to Stefan Wright, of Burnt Ash Lodge, assembled a team of 16 members to refurbish a Pensioner’s home who had been burgled whilst in hospital undergoing major surgery – each of which made the Press.
Oh, and the lady’s son-in-law was so touched with how we helped her in her time of need, that he has applied to join one of our Lodges.
To further enhance West Kent’s community profile, a new External Events Team, co-ordinated by W.Bro James McNulty, will help promote the Province at local shows, displays and public events in the wider community, commencing this summer.
The Executive and I, along with West Kent Members at all levels, continue to participate in Civic Parades and local events – many of which have involved wearing Regalia in public, which continue to increase our local presence, and the public’s awareness of Freemasonry and its values.
The Widows’ Sons Christmas Toy Run for underprivileged children was yet again a tremendous success, and there have been some humbling individual efforts by West Kent members that have made us so very proud, and will hopefully inspire others to similar heights in the future.
In terms of West Kent’s welfare, the PSA testing programme in the Province has continued to support and promote the health of our members, their friends and family – with some 1,500 people tested. During those events, 113 individuals were advised of abnormal readings and 18 cases of Prostate Cancer were detected, thus saving lives.
We have also done much in the field of internal and external communications and am most grateful to the Head of Communications for again producing the wonderful glossy brochure which is for sale today, which highlights just a small number of the key events we have enjoyed together during the last 12 months.
The eagle-eyed among you notice that the Provincial Executive are all wearing the new Provincial Tie, designed by Bro John James, and which is now on sale today. Its design enables it to be worn as openly in the Community as at our meetings, and acknowledges our Kentish heritage and the 2026 Festival.
It is available in two forms – one for members to purchase and a second – much more cherished version with the Invicta horse in gold, which I will have pleasure to present to the few who have excelled and gone the extra mile to assist with our endeavours.
Today, I am delighted to award the first of these cherished ties to a member who has once again led a team on an outstandingly challenging endurance event, which raised thousands of pounds toward our 2026 Festival, and I now call on W.Bro Daniel Unthank Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, to join me, so that he can become the first recipient of this cherished version of the tie.
Brethren, I remain enormously conscious of my responsibility to lead our Province in a modern and engaging way, which will make our cherished fraternity ever attractive in an ever-changing world, and provide our members with pride in their membership and a fulfilling experience for themselves and their families.
Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, thank you so much for your attendance today. May you all have a happy and relaxing summer break, and I look forward to your ongoing support and commitment in the coming season. God Bless you all.