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The year begins in the days shortly after the Provincial Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Southampton Guildhall, when most Hampshire and Isle of Wight masons begin a three month break. The Provincial Secretary (ProvGSec) will have been hard at work before the AGM creating the visits list for the new season so that the Provincial Grand Master (PGM), his Deputy, the Assistants and the new Wardens can arrange their diaries. Once agreed, the schedule is sent to the ProvGDC and he allocates an active Deputy or Assistant DC to lead the escorting teams. Simple enough one would think: over 80 dates and 10 diaries to coordinate, ensuring they each have a selection of VIPs from across the province, all 6 ADCs to get one each with the Wardens, not too close together, holidays and special days being considered. Perhaps not so simple! You can be sure the ProvGDC has sympathy for the ProvGSec who has to do something similar for the other 50 and more, active officers!
At about this time, a visits administration training session is arranged for the new Provincial ADCs and it is at this point they realise that they will need to be the equivalent of a top class secretary, a diplomat, a leader, omnipotent and, above all, able to think on their feet. A second training session is held for the new team of ADCs in mid-summer, together with the sword and standard bearers, to practice what seems vaguely familiar. Watching the less frequently seen ceremonial is akin to watching a repeat of a favourite TV detective; you know who will be arrested but can’t remember how or why.
Time to relax now for the ProvGDC you might think? Arranging the visits in conjunction with lodge secretaries begins almost straight away for those that will take place at the beginning of September, with all the newly active officers raring to go but a little unsure of what they have to do. The best advice I can give is that the assigned DC will lead from start to finish, so everyone else can enjoy the ride and play their part as directed.
The new season garden party at Chandlers Ford for the year’s active officers and their partners takes place at the beginning of September, with a chance for everyone to meet the rest of the team and members of the Provincial Cabinet and Executive. Rain or shine it’s a very special event. After the brief address from the PGM, the real purpose of the day gets under way. The excitement during the buffet for the upcoming visits is tangible and extends way beyond that of appointment in July; and it’s not just the brethren who are affected, as many of their partners are asking questions about who, what and when!
Each year has a different set of special visits but there are some which act as fixed landmarks. Regular official visits are special in their own right both for lodges and the new team. Some of these regular visits are made extra special by them coinciding with key anniversaries in a lodge’s existence or the dedication of a lodge banner. The banner ceremonies tend to come as a surprise to lodges; not that they are taking place, but that lodge members play such a significant part in the ceremonial. The landmarks however really do stand out: the Provincial Stewards Lodge Installation when the PGM installs the new Master and every member and their guests are mentally marking him and the ProvGDC out of 10 for precision; the special investiture at the beginning of February when many brethren beyond the normal cycle for appointments and promotions are honoured at what is in effect a mini AGM. This meeting truly is special.
Occasionally there is the consecration of a new lodge or the dedication of a new masonic building. These are especially notable events. The time and effort expended in bringing them to fruition is considerable, and it never fails to amaze that so many brethren give so much time and dedication to a successful outcome. The goodwill that is generated is beyond compare. I wish we could bottle and sell it. As the team grows and matures, an event occurs at the beginning of March which reminds them forcibly of that masonic adage: ‘hasn’t the year gone quickly?’. This is when brethren receiving appointments and promotions in the following July get ‘that’ letter.
From time to time, the ProvGDC accompanies members of the Cabinet on visits to other provinces, which adds another dimension to the masonic circuit and he gets a reminder of things to come. As the appointment acceptances pour in to the provincial office, the ProvGSec and his team and the ProvGDC begin the most intense period of planning. The pressure starts in mid-March and steadily builds towards the first Wednesday in July. It is now that the problems of the multiple diaries, people and visits pale into insignificance. 400 and more brethren to be sat in the correct order for investment; 120 or so official visitors from other provinces and other orders in Hampshire and Isle of Wight, also with named seating on the stage and intermingled with others strategically positioned.
The AGM is without doubt a Deputies show. Without current and past Deputy DCs, the ProvGDC would have an impossible task. Together with a large team from the Stewards Lodge they make it work. The Stewards deal with all the essential minutiae: checking-in, issuing active jewels, car parking, accompanying visitors, putting up signage, place naming, distributing programmes, the catering and reception at the Novotel, crowd control and, above all else, building and demounting the lodge room within the Southampton Guildhall. No ProvGSec, no Deputies and no Stewards equals no AGM. It is an exhausting but rewarding day. For most of the AGM team the day starts at the Guildhall at 7:30 am and ends at the Novotel at about 10 pm.
Now, time to relax, er, no – go back to the very first sentence.
Ian Preece - Follow Ian on Twitter @IanYonder
Editors Corner
Welcome to Insight Issue 7! Thank you for all the feedback on our last issue. Please let us know what you think about this issue. Send comments to our email address
Photo Credits :- Air Ambulance - Cover - Ron Murrant, with thanks to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, Rick Wakeman - Page 7 Bottom - Lee Wilkinson 3 Insight • Issue 7

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