In excess of 120 Mark Master Masons from Brethren to Right Worshipful Brethren joined the Worshipful Master, W.Bro. Barrie Green and the Worshipful Brethren and Brethren of Halifax lodge No.706 on 8 January
Why? Because we came together to witness a celebration virtually unique, that of being in the company of our current Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother James Steggles and his FOUR predecessors, Right Worshipful Brothers, James Bramley Morley, George Henry Philip Birch, Brian Morris Batty and James Bennett Truswell.
After the usual formalities, upon a report, the Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro. James Steggles was welcomed into the Lodge and, on this occasion, took the Gavel. Upon the next report, and to the delight of all present, Past Deputy Provincial Grand Masters, R.W.Bro. Brian Emmett and V.W.Bro. Brian Addy were welcomed. It only remained for W.Bro. Derek Cope to announce that outside the Lodge were a motley crew of Past Provincial Grand Masters who were once able to demand admission but no longer, so politely they were asking to be admitted, adding that he would not accept any responsibility for what may happen if they were refused. Fortunately the Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro. James Steggles agreed. The distinguished guests entered to sustained rapturous acclamation and genuine affection, the like of which I doubt they have ever witnessed before, but which they totally merited.
R.W.Bro. Brian Emmett then presented an address which chartered the 23 year journey that had brought us to this point. It commences in 1989, following the retirement of Right Worshipful Brother Carl Whitehead, with the installation of Right Worshipful Brother James Bramley Morley as Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro. George Henry Philip Birch as Deputy and W.Bro. Brian Morris Batty as Assistant. Three of our players are now in place as also, incidentally, is W.Bro. Brian Addy as Provincial Grand Secretary. So began an era when R.W.Bro. Bram established the first meeting of Lodge Almoners in 1991, a pleasure for him as he has a passion for the Almoners role and said ‘when help was needed, it was provided’, effectively the mission statement of our Cleeves and Whitehead Trust. Later, the same year, the West Yorkshire Token bearing the initials of R.W.Bro Carl was introduced and the Provincial Grand Master’s award established for worthy brethren. The first carol service took place in 1993 and the annual charity meeting in 1994 was the first amalgamated event for Almoners and Charity Stewards.
Retiring in 1994 he was succeeded by R.W.Bro. George Henry Philip Birch with W.Bro. Brian Batty as Deputy and as Assistant, a shy retiring individual, W.Bro. Brian Emmett. R.W.Bro. Philip’s period in Office got off to a flying start with the announcement that in 1995 there would be a Provincial Meeting of Royal Ark Mariners in Sheffield, after which our ladies would be invited to Lunch. This of course continues and is held under the banner of the Carl Whitehead Lodge of Installed Commanders No.110. It was in 1994 that the Provincial Officers Sunday Lunch was established, still going strong today. Other initiatives that took place during R.W. Bro. Philip’s period in Office: The Llandudno holiday for those in need, September 1996, under the care of W.Bro. Philip and Mrs. Judith Mann, what we owe those two and Mrs Frieda Buxton, 1998 saw the first of the Almoners Luncheons, and the rest is history. The previous year had seen the establishment of the first Provincial social event, a Family Fete at Salendine Nook School in Huddersfield. The following year, the Provincial Meeting, this being the first time a delegation of Royal Ark Mariners took part, was held at Bradford Grammar School where we still meet and with the original format that still persists to this day.
R.W.Bro.Philip passed the reins to Right Worshipful Bro. Brian Morris Batty in 1999, and during his retirement address whilst expressing thanks to all who had helped him, spoke specifically about the Provincial Grand Secretary, W.Bro. Brian Addy who had brought the 1700 plus records into the 20th century and subsequently did the same for the records of the Charities. W.Bro. Brian Emmett was installed as Deputy Provincial Grand Master with W.Bro. Eric Alexander Keay, sadly no longer with us, as Assistant Provincial Grand Master. This heralded the beginning of Escorted Visits, a regular on the calendar and a highlight of the year for the Lodges involved. 2001 also saw the birth of the Booklet, ‘An Introduction to Mark Masonry’ and it was at this Provincial Meeting that No. 4 arrived on the scene, W.Bro. James Bennett Truswell being appointed Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, I still remember those stentorian tones.
In July 2002 at a Special Meeting held at Vulcan Lodge of Mark Master Masons No.1191, W.Bro.Alex was appointed Deputy Provincial Grand Master and W.Bro. Brian Addy as Assistant Provincial Grand Master. Someone else had now arrived with W. Bro. James Steggles as Deputy Provincial Grand Secretary. We now move forward to 2004 and the Installation of W.Bro. James Bennett Truswell as Deputy Provincial Grand Master. It was at this meeting that R.W.Bro. Brian commended the word Team to the Province, ‘TOGETHER EVERYONE ACHIEVES MORE’ so true. Later in the year, separate meetings of the two Charities at the time agreed to merge and form ‘The Cleeves and Whitehead Trust’ of which, today, we are all so proud and which became effective in March 2006. Modesty forbids him but here I have to add that the success of this project is very largely down to R.W.Bro. Brian Emmett, as is much of its continuing success, and he will not thank me for saying this.
The Provincial meeting of 2005, which sadly due to ill health R.W.Bro. Brian could not attend, witnessed the dedication of the West Yorkshire Provincial Standard that he had donated. In June the Provincial Social Committee was formed to take on the responsibility of organising social events and refreshments at the Provincial Meeting. At the 2007 Provincial meeting, R.W.Bro. Brian announced that at the 31 August he would retire, this was after 23 years of unstinting and dedicated commitment to the Order that he values so highly.
September 2007 and the quartet is complete with R.W.Bro. James Bennett Truswell being obligated and installed as the Provincial Grand Master, V.W.Bro. Brian Addy as Deputy and W.Bro. Robert Corfield as Assistant. March 2008 and one of those memorable Mark meetings when R.W.Bro. Bram received his Certificate of 50 years continuous membership of the Mark Degree, over 100 present in Halifax. At the 2008 Provincial Meeting, R.W.Bro. Jim spoke of the Keystone Anniversary Fund and thanked V.W.Bro. Keay and W.Bro. Tony Clee, also sadly not with us, for all their efforts with the 250 Club, very much the vehicle to raise the funds. Some 9 months later at a special meeting of Knaresborough Castle Lodge held at Wetherby Masonic Hall, R.W.Bro. Truswell obligated and Installed W.Bro. James Steggles as Deputy and W.Bro. John Fred Clough as Assistant. This was followed in the Autumn by the Consecration of the first daylight Lodges in the Province with Morley Lodge of Mark Master Masons No.1905 in September and Morley Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners No.1905 in October, both now very successful. In 2010, a most unusual event, R.W.Bro Truswell by the power vested in him ‘Called Off’ Provincial Grand Lodge. W.Bro. Philip Mann, Mrs. Judith Mann and Mrs. Frieda Buxton were then admitted and were invested and acknowledged with the Provincial Grand Master’s Award in recognition of the outstanding service they had given, and continue to do so, for the Province of West Yorkshire. Later that year, he announced the Royal Ark Mariner Distinguished Service Award for those who had given long service to the order, it not being applicable to holders of R.A.M.G.R.
Unfortunately, R.W.Bro. Truswell was unable to attend the 2012 Provincial Meeting. It fell to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro. James Steggles to receive the 150th Keystone Button, on behalf of the Province, from the Most Worshipful Brother, Benjamin Addy, the Pro. Grand Master. On the 17 November when R.W.Bro. James Steggles was obligated and installed as Provincial Grand Master; our quartet became complete with R.W.Bro. James Bennett Truswell, a Past Provincial Grand Master.
R.W.Bro. Emmett finished his address by saying ‘Based on his research, a successful Provincial Grand Master does not DO but encourages those he appointed to DO’. As can be seen by the astonishing list of achievements by our Past Provincial Grand Masters, they were extremely successful at encouraging.
R.W.Bro. Steggles, the Provincial Grand Master then presented a letter, recognising their astonishing achievements, and commemorative Plaque to each of our Past Provincial Grand Masters with further acclamation from all present.
After a very pleasant Festive Board and very kind sentiments expressed in the toasts, all wound there way back home having passed a most pleasant and rewarding evening. None more so than the Principal Guests who had undoubtedly had a very emotional experience.
W. Bro. Duncan Smith P.G.S.D