of Provincial Priory
The 2011 meeting of Provincial Priory took place at The Cambridge Motel, Shepreth on Thursday 23rd June. The attendance of 143, included two Past Provincial Priors of Hertfordshire, Provincial Priors from nine other Provinces and a number of distinguished guests. Within the numbers present were four Knight Commanders of the Temple (KCT).
This well liked venue proved, once again, successful for a meeting warm and friendly in it’s atmosphere and slick in its presentation.
Besides those who were appointed to active office and are listed in the “Province” section of this web site, promotions were given to E.Kts. R.E. Lee and D.S. Knights to Past Provincial 2nd Constable and E.Kt. I. Bates to Past Provincial Herald. First Appointments were given to E.Kt. L.W. Sinclair to Past Provincial Standard Bearer (VB), E.Kt. M.A. Scanes to Past Provincial Sword Bearer and E.Kt. D.J. Bell to Past Provincial Aide-de-Camp.
The occasion was marked by a couple of pre-publicised changes within the Provincial Executive; E.Kt. John Linley retiring as Provincial Vice Chancellor and replacing V.E.Kt. Peter Aikman as Provincial Chancellor, and E.Kt. Barry Searle being appointed Provincial Vice Chancellor. But the one big change, which came as a total surprise to most of those present, was the Provincial Prior, R.E.Kt. Brian Blanchard announcing his intention to retire at the end of February 2012. His announcement and explanation of this is given to his address to Provincial Priory:
Provincial SubPrior, Prelate & Constables
Some of Hertfordshire's Great Priory Officers
Kt. Ron Roland guarding the shop
Knights enjoying the sunshine and (below) the beer
The Provincial Prior's Address
Bro. Knights this is the eighth time that I have addressed you at such a muster since I became Provincial Prior in 2004 and was installed in this very hall by the then Grand Master, Leslie Felgate Dring. I had served him previously for several years as Deputy Great Marshal. In fact since 1997 when he was first appointed to that office my association with him has stretched unbroken throughout the whole of his rule over us as our Grand Master, an office I might add he has carried out with dignity and humility, bringing great credit to himself and to our Illustrious Order. This year, as you are aware, saw his retirement at Great Priory and the Installation of his successor, Timothy John Lewis. He, like Leslie Felgate Dring, is a true gentleman in every sense of the word and we are indeed fortunate in having him to rule over us for the foreseeable future.
His Installation at Birmingham was a wonderful affair with a record number of Knights in attendance and I was very proud that Hertfordshire showed the way with 25 Knights supporting the event - we must have had one of the largest, possibly the largest contingent from any Province. They were there, not only to see the Installation of the new ME&SGM, but also to see him confer the honour and dignity of Great Priory Rank upon several Knights in the Province. Terry Bates and Les Butler were both promoted to PGtReg and are now V.E.Kts, and Gavin O’Sullivan was also promoted to PGtStB(B). First appointments to the rank of PGtA-de-C were also conferred upon Brian de Neut and Colin Hellyer. We congratulate all of these worthy Knights on their well-earned preferment. It was also pleasing to see the Deputy Commander of my B/G, E.Kt. Keith Brackenborough finally accepted as a member of the Grand Master’s B/G and performing with that elite body for the first time and even escorting the new Grand Master Designate into the Temple for Investiture - a ‘baptism of fire’ if ever there was one.
This past year has seen the usual activity, both social and official, within the Province. I and my Sub-Prior have both visited all my Preceptories and everywhere we have been we have always been met with much enthusiasm and hospitality. On the occasion of my visits, I have always been accompanied by an escort of active Provincial Officers and a contingent of my Body Guard. They have done so at their own expense and in their own time and I have been most encouraged by their commitment and grateful for their support.
Bro. Knights, it has been increasingly obvious over the last two or three years that the Province has been leaning heavily on the money-raising efforts of my Social Committee to show a surplus in the Year End Accounts. It was a situation which I could no longer ignore. The Province must be seen to be self-supporting and paying its way, rather than having to rely on hand-outs to remain solvent. As you are aware I decided to introduce certain measures early this year to redress the situation, and as a result we recently held our Annual Service of Praise at Waltham Abbey rather than the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, which had been our venue for the last five or six years. The cost of meeting at the Cathedral had become beyond our means but I was nevertheless rather anxious to see if not meeting in the glory and splendour of the Cathedral would have an adverse effect. I must admit to being a little disappointed that numbers were a bit down, but my disappointment did not last long, as everyone who attended, including the visitors, gave the new venue the ‘thumbs up’ saying that because of the smaller size the atmosphere was more intimate, the interior of the Abbey was stunning, the Team Rector who delivered the Sermon was a revelation, the organist who played for us was ‘top drawer’, the car parking was easier, the afternoon tea in the Church Hall was the best ever and, of course, we welcomed back our singer, Emma Lincoln, after her enforced absence. All in all a very strong vindication of the change and I can inform you that we have already booked a return visit there for next year on May 13th. - a note for your diaries.
As a further means of improving our finances, I must also inform you that the annual dues payable to the Province will increase by £1.00 this year, which I might add is still within the maximum we can officially charge. I apologise for having to do this during this period of austerity, but as this is the first increase since I became Provincial Prior eight years ago it is not too unreasonable.
I have long since preached my desire that Preceptories work the Malta ceremony in their own Priories, with the assistance of another Priory or even the Province if necessary, but each year my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Out of 16 Preceptories only two work the Malta ceremony. In the past, the Province has always held a Provincial Malta meeting to accommodate those Knights Templar who would not otherwise receive the Malta degree, but I have now decided to force my hand and this year the Provincial Malta meeting will be done away with and the ceremony which we would normally carry out will now be performed in the Body Guard’s Preceptory, Crossed Swords, at their meeting in November. I hope and trust that this will stimulate other Preceptories to follow suit. This decision will have two other knock-on effects. Not having a meeting of the Province will save money, and it will also mean that I will not be investing Knights with their Malta Rank as I have done in the past. All of you who have been appointed to, or promoted in, Provincial Rank in the Temple today will, therefore, automatically assume the appropriate Rank in the Malta degree rather than having to wait for it to be conferred on you later in the year.
Whilst on the subject of appointments, may I congratulate all of you on whom I have today conferred Provincial Rank. They are honours well deserved and may you enjoy the prestige and recognition they bring to you during the coming year and beyond.
Bro Knights, my Social Committee has continued throughout the past twelve months to work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote the general social well-being of the Province. The immensely popular St. George’s Day Dinner was once again a great success, both socially and financially and is now well established as the social highlight of the Masonic Year. The Committee of two have also worked tirelessly promoting the sale of Regalia through the website and otherwise and in acquiring the manufacture of Mantle Badges for the Provincial Officers to wear at a very competitive price and their contribution to the Provincial Funds as a result is very much appreciated. Before leaving the social scene, may I remind you of our biennial Away Week-End which is to be held this year at the De Vere Dunstan Hall, Norwich on 18th - 20th November. You should all have received details from E.Kt Mick Chalkley, who is organising the event and I look forward to seeing as many of you there as can make it.
You earlier heard the Treasurer propose that £1000 be donated from our Benevolent Account to the Eye Hospital at Jerusalem. Bro Knights, as an initiative to encourage us all to give generously to the Hospital, I have, with the help of my friend the Prov Prior of N. & E. Yorkshire, produced a leaflet outlining a Gift Aid Scheme, which we can all take advantage of as individuals. It will be distributed to all Registrars during the coming week for onwards transmission to the members of their Preceptories. N. & E. Yorks have operated this scheme very successfully for some time now and whilst stressing that there is nothing obligatory on your behalf, I urge you to consider using it.
Bro. Knights, I am reminded that I owe a debt of gratitude to many people for making the past year and, of course, this meeting such a gratifying experience for me. Events like today, do not just happen without a lot of hard work and preparation, and my thanks are due to those Knights who have given of their services so freely today and throughout the year. I refer, of course, the support readily given by my Sub-Prior, and I have already mentioned those Provincial Officers who have escorted me on all my visits to Preceptories within the Province. I owe them all a great deal of gratitude for their support and commitment. To my Marshal and his Deputy for their organisation and constant care and attention to my every whim, and lastly to my Commander and Deputy Commander and indeed all the members of my Body Guard for their unfailing loyalty and dedication to my cause To all these Knights I am eternally grateful, but there is one of whom I have not as yet made mention, and I refer to my retiring Vice-Chancellor, E.Kt. John Linley. When I came to office in 2004 I appointed him as my Provincial Marshal, an office which he had been working towards for some time, but events overtook both of us and a little over a year later I had to ask him to be my Vice-Chancellor. Without hesitation, but I am sure with some reticence, he accepted the position and has been holding that office for the last six years. I have indeed been fortunate during this time to have had the benefit of his experience, his counsel, his guidance and his continued friendship, but today I have reluctantly bowed to his wish to stand down and in so doing I have promoted him to the more prestigious, but less onerous office of Chancellor. Bro. Provincial Marshal please escort E.Kt. John Linley to me. (There followed a presentation to E.Kt. John)