Chelsea Pensioners at unique ceremony in Symphony Lodge No. 4924

Wednesday, 09 September 2015

A symphony in red

The gloom of summer had lifted. Twiddling thumbs on idle hands had now been usefully employed in fastening cufflinks and buttoning waistcoats in readiness for the first meeting of the new masonic season. No doubt having travelled, explored and generally sojourned their way through the summer months to relieve the boredom of masonic abstinence, they were now totally charged in preparation to enjoy this, their first meeting, to the full.

The doors of the masonic hall on Adelaide Street in Blackpool had been invitingly swung open and enthusiastic masons, intoxicated by the anticipation of a unique ceremony, had flooded in. After what may be called their forced sojourn, the returning brethren were fairly lapping up the camaraderie of the lounge bar.

Why a unique ceremony one may ask? The exceptionality of the occasion was immediately evident when glancing around the lounge bar, there were the usual smartly attired brethren in dark dinner suits and morning suits. There were the usual gleaming white shirts. There were the usual highly polished shoes. But there was also something most unusual! Two bright scarlet uniforms stood out from the thronging mass. These were the distinctive uniforms of Chelsea Pensioners.

John Gledhill, master of Symphony Lodge No. 4924 is a Chelsea pensioner, unique in itself in the Province of West Lancashire but making the occasion even more unique was that John was to preside over the initiation ceremony of another Chelsea Pensioner, his good friend and colleague Alan Thubron.

An agreeable untemperamental old boy is John. He prefers to avoid the limelight, slipping into the background with quiet dignity and mellow worth, for modesty prevents him from thrusting himself to the front of the queue. But on this very special occasion he proudly brought himself to the forefront. He had met Alan when he registered in at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the two of them had immediately struck up a strong friendship.

Alan, a veteran of the Catering Corp, had been a serviceman for 22 years, being attached to the Queen’s Regiment for 16 years. That he had experienced a colourful career in the army would be an understatement, having served in many campaigns and proudly sporting the medals to prove it. From the moment of his arrival at the masonic hall to the conclusion of the proceedings, his good humoured face wore an expression of delight. It was obvious that he was thoroughly enjoying his day and introduction to Freemasonry.

Attending the initiation ceremony and lending their support to John and Alan was Blackpool Group Chairman Peter Bentham and group secretary David Cook. John, himself a veteran campaigner, wasted no time in demonstrating his military acumen. Having despatched the general business of the lodge with expediency, he proceeded to tactically invite the immediate past master Jules Burton to occupy the WM’s chair and conduct the ceremony. Well, it was by way a respite for John and he obviously welcomed it.

Jules, a natural thespian in person, is a renowned ritualist, performing with passion and sincerity and once in the chair he soon opened negotiations with the candidate with the customary questions to the initiate. In a well practiced manoeuvre, Keith Roberts confidently conducted Alan around the lodge, much to the appreciation of the gathered onlookers. At each phase of the ceremony, excellence was in abundance. Jules was masterly as usual. Granville Coxhill performed the investiture of the badge of a mason with sparkle and perspicacity and Michael Glover presented the working tools without a single slipped syllable.

The highlight of the ceremony was, however, the recital of the charge after initiation. It was at this juncture that John Gledhill proved his worth as master of the lodge. In a delightful and genuine performance, John provided his audience with a memorable show. It was heartfelt, unpretentious and warmly delivered to his friend and colleague. It was a special moment for John and Alan and an unforgettable experience for those fortunate enough to be present on the day.  

The director of ceremonies of the lodge, Alistair Still, who sports the features and aura of a well seasoned regimental sergeant major, was noticeably pleased with the day’s proceedings. The ceremony had been superbly orchestrated, coordinated and performed – exactly what one might expect from a lodge named Symphony!

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