At a packed Provincial Convocation on 24th March, the Grand Superintendent, Dr. Richard Neale, announced his impending retirement from office. By the time his patent expires next year Richard will have served as the head of the Royal Arch Province of Buckinghamshire for ten remarkable and successful years.

During his valedictory address to the assembled Buckinghamshire companions and many good friends visiting from other Provinces far and wide, Richard clearly, was noticeably affected by the emotional strain of saying goodbye. To begin with, he offered his sincere congratulations to all those who were receiving their first appointment to Provincial rank as well as those receiving a promotion. His message to them was to “Look after and promote your Chapters and help to mentor the newly-exalted Companions, because they are our future”.

Moving on to the Royal Arch Bicentenary celebrations, he commented that the Province of Buckinghamshire had achieved the remarkable feat of amassing over £42,000 towards the Supreme Grand Chapter appeal on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons. This was double the expectation when the appeal was launched, and he wanted to offer his most grateful thanks to all Chapters and their members who had contributed to this worthwhile cause. He particularly noted the hard work and dedication exhibited by the out-going Charity Steward, John McKenzie who, despite serious illness, showed great dedication and ability in promoting and organising the Buckinghamshire initiative and, according to Richard, “his was a magnificent effort”.

He then went on to thank all the members of the Bucks Royal Arch Executive team for their hard work and support during the year. He especially acknowledged all those whose efforts had contributed towards the success of the Provincial Convocation.

Concluding on a very personal note, Richard recalled all the “interesting friends” that he had been fortunate to make over the years and thanked them for their “kindness, fun and advice – never a dull moment!” Commenting on what might be regarded as his legacy to the Province, he said, “I watch with interest the progress and maturing of so many Bucks Royal Arch Masons, and hope that the profile of the Royal Arch in this Province has been raised as a result of our efforts.” Then, with a cautious eye to the future he extolled the Province to “Look after my successor, and I am sure that he will reciprocate in kind.”

In an increasingly emotional conclusion to his final address, Richard thanked what were to him, three very special people. He mentioned the Provincial Grand Master, Gordon Robertson, and his predecessor, Ray Reed and said how grateful he had been for their friendship and support over the years. Their mutual cooperation had truly exemplified the ‘indivisibility’ of the Royal Arch and the Craft. Finally, his parting words of gratitude were reserved for his most supportive and loving wife Pru, who had been his veritable backbone throughout his long and successful tenure as Grand Superintendent. She had helped him in so many ways that it was difficult to express just how much he wanted to thank her. With that, Richard took his seat for the last time to a spontaneous standing ovation from all present.

As an era ends, so a new one is soon to begin for the Royal Arch Province of Buckinghamshire. Meanwhile, Dr. Neale’s work goes on unabated until his successor is announced and the Province begins to gear itself up for the installation of a new Grand Superintendent next year.

 Dave Pickering and Cornet

 A fanfare from the cornet of Dave Pickering greets Richard Neale to the opening of his final Provincial Convocation.