Provincial Grand Lodge Of Gloucestershire

Valedictory Lunch

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Valedictory Lunch

On Sunday 12th May a valedictory (farewell) lunch was held for Tim Henderson-Ross to mark his ten years as Provincial Grand Master. The sun shone upon those gathered at The Hill in Stroud: clearly only a small representative sample of those who had supported Tim over ten very active years could be there. Happily Tim’s wife, daughter, son and family were able to be there to help celebrate such an important part of their father’s life.

Tim’s successor Ian Davies, who will be installed on Saturday as Provincial Grand Master, gave the address.  Ian’s and Tim’s speeches are, by kind permission, reproduced in full below. David Mason, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, presented Tim with gifts as a mark of gratitude from the Province for all he has done for us. Tim explained that it was quite poignant to be given the standard pattern of engraved decanter which he had given to each of his Deputies and Assistants over his ten years: whenever he drew from it he would feel in union with them. To aid that process he was also awarded a bottle of ‘Scottish wine’ in salute to his roots.

The Assistant (and soon to be Deputy) Provincial Grand Master, Mark Smith, acknowledged the fact that Tim could not possibly have given so much for so long without the support of wife Tricia to whom he presented a bunch of flowers and a bottle of gin.

Although it was a farewell lunch Gloucestershire Freemasons will be confident that Tim’s support will continue ‘behind the scenes’ for many years to come.

The address given by Ian Davies to the outgoing Provincial Grand Master:

Ladies, gentlemen, and brethren, in preparing to propose this toast I thought I would start by studying the Provincial Grand Master’s Masonic career.  I was quite exhausted by the end of it.  Initiated into the Lodge of Grace in October 1993 he worked his way up the ladder to become Master in 2000.  He has been Master in 3 other lodges Felicity in 2006, Royal Alfred in 2021 and currently Impeesa in 2023.

His first Provincial appointment was an active post as Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2005 re-appointed in 2006 & 7.  In 2006 he slipped in a year as Metropolitan Junior Grand Warden.  2007 to 11 he was Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies followed by Assistant Provincial Grand Master from 2011-13, from October 2013 he spent six months as Deputy Provincial Grand Master before becoming our Provincial Grand Master in 2014.

I remember just before the announcement the excitement and speculation surrounding the successor to Right Worshipful Brother Adrian Davies which ended when his appointment was announced at RLFF, and as Max Boyce would say “I was there”.  It’s been interesting to see the rumour mill working from the opposite side over the last 12 months.

You will now step down in just under 2 weeks.  How many days, hours and minutes to go?

That’s an incredible 19 years of continuous active service to this Province and I know it will continue for many more to come.

Ladies, gentlemen, and brethren if that’s not enough during all of that time he has also held active rank at Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter on 5 separate occasions. Grand Steward in 2007, Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2008, Grand Steward again in 2014, Grand Sojourner in 2015 and Deputy Sword Bearer in the Royal Arch in 2020.  He also sits on the Grand Master’s Council a post which is for life.

Sir, during your tenure you have overseen many new initiatives: the Members’ Pathway in two iterations, the change from Membership Steward to Mentor and more recently the addition of the Membership Officer.  You started an outstanding Festival raising £1.75 million in the five years to December 2018.  Your most recent initiative, Project 21 really fired the imagination of the brethren, raising £340k in just 18 months.  It leaves our communities in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Southmead with state of the art scanning equipment delivering rapid diagnosis of illness and ailments that has already and will continue to both improve and save lives.

We have a well established annual Charity Day, hosting many of the charities that the Province has supported in the previous year, thus enabling them to showcase their work and to network with one another.

Since becoming our Provincial Grand Master, you have presided over the consecration of three new lodges; Thornbury, Newent Daffodil and Five Valleys.  You have also presided over a Bicentenary, two sesquicentennial (150 year celebrations) Zetland and Royal Forest of Dean, and three centennial Black Horse, Sodbury Vale and Perseverance.  And 10 lodges have achieved semi-centennial anniversaries (50 years). Sir as well as the three lodges and one chapter that you’re a subscribing member of you are also an honorary member of seven other lodges in this Province.

Sir you have been an excellent role model, delivering first class ritual with decorum both in the lodge room and at the Festive board where you always respond with erudite poise.  (I often need to go home and check on the meaning of words you’ve used).  You always encourage good standards and when necessary, admonish poor conduct, for example, the telling, or not, of risqué or even blue jokes.  Actually, that reminds me of a blue joke.  How do you kill a blue elephant? With a blue shotgun.  The follow up to that one is, how do you kill a pink elephant?  Anyone?  Twist his trunk until he turns blue and kill him with a blue shotgun.  I think I might have got away with that one.

Sir you have managed the province with great efficacy.  Always tremendously well prepared for meetings particularly the exec meetings which you chair aplomb, never appearing to lose control nor become flustered but always remaining calm, at least on the surface.  (A very tough act to follow).

Compassionate for your fellow man, you are always considerate of the needs of brethren and their families never wishing to overburden them with work and always accommodating should they need time and space.  None of the many demands have seemingly fazed you.  Throughout your tenure you have shown great wisdom and judgement.  After all, my masonic career has developed during your tenure.

On top of all of this you have displayed a very generous spirit hosting many parties and Sunday lunches for the active officers and those supporting the province.  (I might be able to stretch to a beer, some sandwiches and a bag of crisps).

Is it said of course, that behind every great man is an even greater woman and you have been fully supported throughout by your wife Tricia.  Sue, please take note.  You both deserve a very well earned rest.

Sir, you leave the Province in a very stable condition with positive signs of growth; a solid platform on which we can depend and build.  I believe I speak for all the brethren and particularly those present when I say thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and leadership but above all for your friendship.  Ladies, gentlemen, and brethren please rise and join me in the toast to our Provincial Grand Master.

The response from Tim Henderson-Ross, outgoing Provincial Grand Master:

I suspect that every one of the Masons here present has at some point over the last 10 years witnessed me presenting a past Master’s jewel to a master of the Lodge who has just stepped down after one year in office. For the non-Masons present, a past Masters jewel is in fact a small medal which is awarded by the Lodge to an outgoing master in recognition of all the work he has done in his year of office.

The form of words I use on such occasions varies greatly as it depends on the achievements of that brother in his year – but there is one common denominator.  During the presentation I ask him that  – when he goes home that evening – he takes my thanks to his wife or partner for her support during the year on the basis that  – he can’t really do his job properly, and he certainly can’t enjoy it  – unless he has the full support of his wife.

Now if that is true of the wife of a man who has served one Lodge for one year –  can you imagine how much appreciation is due to the wife of a man who has run 83 lodges for 10 years.  I am of course referring to my wife Tricia. I am glad –  my dear –  to be able to publicly acknowledge and thank you for all you have done for me in the last 10 years. Quite simply, I could not have done it without you.

Ladies, gentlemen and brethren, would you please join me in showing our appreciation for what Tricia has done for me and the Province in the last 10 years.

There is another aspect of this support of which you may not be aware. She knows most of your ailments, medical operations, and a lot of your domestic arrangements. I cannot tell you how often I have returned home after a meeting and Tricia has asked “How was George after is operation or Charles after his recent illness.”  When my face shows complete ignorance on this subject, I get that pitying look which  every husband knows –  which is a mixture of exasperation and wonderment –  that one can survive in this turbulent world whilst forgetting so many things. So, I will let you into a secret about my apparent encyclopaedic knowledge of your health and domestic circumstances.  Tricia gives me a briefing before I leave home and gives me strict instructions to gather the correct information from whoever I shall meet that evening.

While on the subject of family – – I also want to thank my children Jeremy and Tasha, my daughter-in-law Fiona and my grandchildren Isla and Callum for being here today. They have had to make the most elaborate arrangements to attend this lunch but I can tell you I am deeply grateful to you for those efforts in order that you can share this valedictory lunch with Tricia and me today.

As Provincial Grand Master I am, of course, the figurehead of the team running this Province. I have been extremely lucky in having three outstanding Deputies throughout my 10 years of service.

First, John Thurston then Nigel Bridges and currently David Mason. A Deputy is much more than an Assistant with a few extra bells and whistles. There are things that can only really be discussed with the Deputy –  sometimes because the PGM of the day wants to think the unthinkable or say the unsayable –  and all three of those Deputies have supported me wonderfully.

John Thurston was the first.  Early on I was very touched by his solicitude about my health and well-being.  I felt the warmth of that support and appreciated it greatly. it was only later he told me that he was concerned about my health because he realised he was a heartbeat away from the top job  – which he did not want –  and therefore sought reassurance that I would survive for a little longer.

Nigel Bridges, who is not here today because he is sailing off the west coast of Scotland, deployed his considerable intellectual skills honed as a lecturer at the Royal Agricultural College to make me consider many different options to the problems and situations which confronted us.

And lastly David Mason who cut his teeth as our Registrar. The registrar is in fact the in-house lawyer for the province. Very early on in my tenure –  before David himself became a Ruler –  he said something which I have always treasured. He said “I will always strive to give you the best advice I can. I recognise that sometimes you cannot or will not follow that advice. In such cases I promise that I will do my best to extricate you from the trouble which will inevitably ensue.” I have always thought that this was a wonderful statement of support in that he would do his best even when I was tempted to do my worst.

There are then the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters –  of whom there have been six –  apart from those who went on to be Deputies. The quality of those Assistants may be gauged by the fact that the current two – Ian Davies and Mark Smith – will be our future Provincial Grand Master and Deputy Provincial Grand Master respectively. I say to all of those who have served as Rulers that I much appreciate your hard work and the support that you have given to me and the Province during your period of service.

Of course we have had a lot of fun in the meantime. I remember with particular fondness the Rulers’ meetings we had where the four serving Rulers of the time could talk through the issues the day. These meetings were deliberately timed so that after a few hours we could go around to my house and enjoy an informal lunch which had been prepared for us by Tricia. And so, the hours passed very pleasantly whilst proving that truism which states that Freemasons are incapable of performing any function – however rudimentary – without having something to eat or drink.

Of course, even the four Rulers do not do most of the work in running this Province. That is mainly done by the executive committee and other non-collared officeholders, many of whom are here today. There are too many to mention by name but I hope over the years I have made it clear to all of you how much I valued your hard work and your dedication. Though I cannot name you all there are a few which I will pick out for various reasons.

Masonry is a highly structured organisation with many rules and lots of reporting. Therefore, the provincial office is particularly important in the smooth running of the province. I have been very lucky in being served by two outstanding Secretaries – first Malcolm Sargent and then Geoff Warburton, both of whom have run small and highly motivated teams during their tenure. The Province would grind to a halt in about five minutes if the Provincial Secretariat did not run smoothly. The ironic joke is that the office is officially open for two mornings a week but the job could not be done without an almost full-time commitment.

I also wish to mention Peter Coles, the Charity Steward.  I say this not for the great work that he and his team have done with the various Festivals – though I assure you that I treasure all you have done in that regard – but for being the originator of this lunch.  It had been the intention of Tricia and I to go quietly at the end of my tenure.  We did not want to make a fuss.  Peter, or perhaps the whole Butchers Arms Chapter – assuming they have not been barred again from that particular tap room – encouraged us to have this lunch and we are delighted that he did as it has given us both a huge amount of pleasure to see so many friends here today.

Over 10 years there have clearly been changes in those who have held the various offices which are essential in the running of this province. However, there are two who have served throughout the 10 years and ironically, they both can be deemed to serve the spiritual needs of myself and the other brethren.

The first is our Provincial Grand Chaplain Richard Westacott.  Quite apart from normal Chaplain duties Richard has played an important part in all the great Provincial ceremonies of the last 10 years whether it be the Consecration of a new Lodge, the Dedication of a Banner or a celebration of an important anniversary. His orations are the centrepiece of all those ceremonies.  These ceremonies are of course organised by the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, first Peter Lynch and now Chris West. It is in the organisation of these that we always meet up with an unknown, a divine imponderable.  The Director of Ceremonies can time the whole thing to the nearest minute but we never quite know what the Provincial Grand Chaplain is going to do. I refer to him as part of my team but I recognise that he reports to a much higher authority than me which may account for the length of time he has served as my Chaplain.

The other who has served throughout is the Provincial Grand Organist Tim Cross. There is no doubt that our meetings would be rather pedestrian if it were not for the sublime music that Tim provides at all of our major events. He proves that there is more to music than just playing a sequence of notes whether or not they are in the right order. It is the gift of musicality which is so important.  I thank you Tim for all you have done to make our meetings so special over the 10 years of my service.

Now my tenure is coming to an end – this particular adventure is nearly over and the race is almost run.  My whole experience as your Provincial Grand Master has been fulfilling and fun –  but it was so  – because I was the leader of a team of which all you here were members or represent those who were members. So, to all of you I say thank you and now, like the old soldier in the song – it is time for me – to – just – fade away.

Thank you.

We thank Dick Smith for the photograph of the piper and of the group on the lawns of The Hill; other photographs and article are courtesy of the Provincial Communications team.

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Valedictory Lunch
Valedictory Lunch