Honoured guests, ladies, gentlemen and brethren, as grand master of the Order of WomenFreemasons, it is my duty, one which engenders feelings of extreme pride and pleasure,to extend a very warm welcome to each and everyone of you here today.
I make special mention of our members from Australia , Canada, South Africa, Zimbabweand Spain who have travelled thousands of miles to be with us. And closer to home,I am equally delighted to welcome our brethren from Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man,Scotland and Wales.
One hundred years ago grand lodge was formed by the first three London lodges of the Order,then named the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry. No mean feat when women werefighting for recognition in many other important spheres. Since then, despite two world warsand other lesser problems, our number of craft lodges has grown to almost three hundredand sixty. There have of course been casualties along the way but we now enjoy controlledexpansion not only in craft but in every degree beyond.
Apart from the ceremonial side, much of our work is centred around fund raising for charity.We operate two registered charitable trusts which provide necessary funds not only forsupporting our own members but we also make regular donations to local, nationaland international appeals.
We own and operate two highly acclaimed residential homes, one in Lytham St Anne’s andthe other in Worthing, which cater for those who no longer wish to live alone or perhaps areelderly and can no longer cope with running their own home. Both of these outletshave masonic temples which enable all residents to continue their masonic activities.
Later this afternoon, I will have the undoubted pleasure of presenting two cheques tocharities which have been selected by our membership and I feel sure that all will be morethan pleasantly surprised by the amounts involved.
To mark this most notable of occasions, we have released several items of masonic jewellerydesigned by one of our most highly esteemed members; a book has recently been published,researched and written by another of our senior members and we are taking part in anexhibition publicising freemasonry for women. But of course the highlight of our hundredthyear is this celebration at this most prestigious of landmarks – the Royal Albert Hall.Our principle organisers of this pageant, my two assistant grand masters, have with a littlebut vital assistance, provided us with a varied and interesting programme and I would atthis stage offer advance thanks not only to them but to all who have played a part in theorganisation of what I feel sure will prove to be a truly remarkable and memorable occasion.
Ladies, gentlemen and brethren, we have much to see and hear, so if you are all sittingcomfortably, then we’ll begin.