©Provincial Priory of Kent
Triennial Conference of World Great Priories
When the honour of hosting the Conference was handed to England in Helsinki in 2006, it was most naturally assumed that it would take place in and about London. The actual location of the ancient capital of Britain, Winchester, was therefore an inspired choice, and was organised superbly by the Provincial Priory of Hampshire & Isle of Wight.
Winchester September 2009
Most of the Conference activities were centred around the Victorian Guildhall. This was where knights from all over the World, from France, Australia, Togo, USA, Germany, Finland, and many other countries, gathered for an official welcome by the Mayor of Winchester and the ME&S Grand Master, Leslie Felgate Dring, on the morning of Thursday 3rd September. The Mayor entered the Guildhall with his Mace Bearer, and Sword Bearer, followed by the Grand Master, preceded by his own Sword Bearer, and followed by his Banner Bearer, Kentís own Peter Wise. During the Grand Masterís speech he presented two cheques of £5,000 each to the Mayorís Charities, and to the local St Johnís Hospital.
In the afternoon there was a demonstration of a KT Installation Ceremony of 1825, performed superbly by members of the Province, and introduced, purportedly from a contemporary jail cell, by the Provincial Prior, Trevor Gulliver. The first of two Gala Banquets took place that evening, in a split location. Half the guests dined in the Guildhall, while half dined in a huge marquee on the lawns of the Cathedral.
On Friday, the Consecration of the Grand Masterís Preceptory took place, with 100 invited Founders. The Grand Master himself carried out the Consecration Ceremony and was then Installed as First Eminent Preceptor by the ME & S Grand Master of Scotland, ME Kt. David Niven, who became the Preceptoryís only Honorary Member.
That evening the second Gala Banquet took place, again split between the Guildhall and Cathedral lawn. It must be said that the weather remained warm, sunny and dry throughout the planned events.
Finally on Saturday 5th September, there was a magnificent attendance at Winchester Cathedral for Evensong. Knights from all over the world, in full regalia, marched from the Guildhall to the Cathedral. The American Knights, with their plumed cockade hats were particularly impressive!
The Grand Master, with the Cathedralís clergy entered in Procession, to the sounds of the Cathedral organ and of the most beautiful of choirs – the Occam Singers. The Dean, in his sermon, welcomed the Order, and remarked that he thought that they were a Masonic Body who had "definitely got it right!" He was delighted to see the Cathedral so full. After the Service, there were refreshments served on the Cathedral lawns and all the knights and their ladies went happily off home, with some marvellous memories of three days, the like of which will not occur again in England for more than 30 years.