Ormskirk and District Group held their bi-annual Masters and First Principals’ Festival at Ormskirk Masonic Hall. A very well attended meeting of 96 brethren and companions were honoured by the presence of the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning who was accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright. Also in attendance were Tony Hall Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, Arend van Duyvenbode Provincial Deputy Grand Secretary, Provincial Senior Grand Warden Mike Threfall and Provincial Junior Grand Warden Peter Schofield. Representing the group was Frank Umbers (Ormskirk and District Group Chairman); also in attendance on the evening were representatives from the Southport and Bootle Groups.
The evening festivities were in the very capable hands of the two Provincial Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell and Mark Barton. The evening started with a ‘meet and greet’ to enable the WM’s, IPM’s of Craft and principals of chapters within the group to meet with senior officers of the Province.
Philip formally welcomed everyone with the opening remark: “If the question is easy I will answer it, if it is difficult Robert will be asked to answer it, and if it is very, very difficult Frank will respond.” This remark led to much hilarity. The question and answer session got underway; it was very friendly, lively and open, with topics including recruitment and retention; publicising Freemasonry, tradition versus modernisation and the potential for attracting university students into the Craft. These and many more topics were discussed before the PrDGDC Malcolm Bell called proceedings to an end and everyone made their way to the dining room.
The hall’s resident chef Gary O’Brien with the help of his hard working staff provided an excellent dinner of black pudding stack, hand carved sugar baked ham, followed by profiteroles, coffee and mints. After dinner during the formal toasts Ian Brown, WM of Standish Lodge No 4955 proposed a witty toast to the health of the principle guest, touching on Philip’s Masonic career and his forthcoming promotion, with some interesting facts on his working life, hobbies and sporting interests. In Philip’s response he said that he was delighted and privileged to be in Ormskirk, this being an important and integral part of his Masonic career. Philip concluded by saying: “It is always good to come to Ormskirk, I enjoy every single minute of it and a large part of that is because of each and every one of you, brethren continue to enjoy your Freemasonry.”
Mike Threfall then proposed a heartfelt toast to the Ormskirk group. He mentioned by name all the group officers pointing out that his very first outing as Provincial Senior Grand Warden was to Aughton Lodge No 7996 in the group and he recalls being more nervous then than on this occasion. He remembers as a fresh faced young warden Frank Umbers looked after him and it was a fantastic night.
Frank thanked Mike for his toast before presenting a number of cheques on behalf of the Ormskirk Group to various charities. Frank praised the work of the late Ronnie Goodyear who had over a number of years raised in excess of £13,000 with his charity collection tins. Derek Midgley then received £250 for Rainbow House Mawdesley, Mike Dutton accepted £250 for MNDA, Stuart Cunningham received £260 for Macmillan Cancer Support, Martin Howell accepted £250 for the Alzheimer’s Society, Andy Clarke, on behalf of Eddie Clarke, received £250 for the Friends of Tithebarn, Peter Smith received a cheque for £1,000 for the Ormskirk Masonic Hall Association, John Wrennall accepted two cheques, each for £1,000, to West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and MCF 2021 Festival. Frank was delighted to announce that during the past two years the lodges and chapters have collectively donated in the region of £56,000 to Masonic and non-Masonic charities.
Frank also informed all present that during the past two years the group had also donated £9,000 for capital projects within the hall of which £4,500 will be spent on re-decorating the upstairs lounge and bar area later this year. Frank expressed his thanks to all the guests and especially to Malcolm Alexander (group secretary) and Stephen Brereton (group vice chairman) for organising the festival. At the conclusion of the evening everyone agreed it had been a most enjoyable and successful occasion.