Attendance exceeded all records this year as 1,000s of visitors enjoyed the seventh annual Hope Street Feast which was blessed with a dry start but a wet afternoon.
The curiosity of the public was undiminished as record numbers took the opportunity to visit the Liverpool Masonic Hall which once again opened its doors to all-comers. The lounge bar was thronged with visitors who were able to enjoy the full bar and refreshment facilities provided by the hardworking hall catering staff. In addition to cold refreshments, the servings of traditional hot ‘scouse’ and red cabbage, beef curry, and meat balls were as popular as ever and the many customers kept the catering staff busy throughout the day.
The West Lancashire Regalia shop was manned by members of the committee who reported brisk sales of both masonic and non-masonic items. This store now has a considerable inventory and is able to supply all masonic items. Chairman Derek Cadwallader and secretary Mike Melling assisted by Eric Poole were pleased to answer many queries and talk about Freemasonry with the many visitors and customers. Derek said: 'Sales benefitting Masonic halls were greater this year than for any previous Feast. I am really pleased.'
Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Paul Shepherd, Liverpool vice-chairman Steve Walls, group treasurer Steve Kayne and Liverpool Masonic Hall Chairman John Roberts gave members of the public continual conducted tours throughout the day of the lodge rooms and facilities of the hall. They also answered the many questions posed by visitors regarding the theory and practice of the Craft. It is estimated that over 1,500 visitors received the tours of the hall. Chairman John Roberts said: 'People who toured the hall were really complimentary and appreciated the opportunity they had to see inside this magnificent building.'
Other volunteers assisted by sitting in their regalia in the lodge offices to help explain the layout of lodge rooms. Masonic history expert Geoff Cuthill was on hand at the War Memorial to explain to visitors the valiant contributions made by Liverpool masons to the defence of the realm in battle and to expound on other historic events in Freemasonry.
These tours proved extremely popular and long queues quickly developed to view the magnificently Corinthian, Roman and Egyptian suites. The War Memorial and long hall which contains a museum of historic masonic artefacts proved a fascination for many of the visitors. It was quite apparent that many of the them were deeply interested in Freemasonry judging by the depth and types of questions being asked of and answered by the tour guides.
This year recruitment to the Craft was boosted by the presence of the Provincial trailer manned throughout the day by the very hardworking group membership officers David Sullivan and Paul Rattigan. Both did a superb job of being the friendly faces and first contacts for potential new members. They distributed leaflets containing information about Freemasonry and encouraged members of the public to tour the Hall. A large number of enquiries were made regarding membership and requesting further details.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master Stanley Oldfield accompanied by his wife Marlene were on hand throughout the day to support and encourage the hardworking volunteers.
The centenary meeting of Tower of Sir Francis Drake Lodge No.3583 was held in the magnificent Corinthian Suite at Liverpool in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master Peter Hosker, who opened a meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge for the purposes of the ceremony.
The lodge was formed in January 2004 following the amalgamation of Tower Lodge No.3583, which had been consecrated on 26 April 1912, with Sir Francis Drake Lodge No.8109, and there were 71 members and guests present to celebrate this special centenary meeting.
The Master of the lodge, Eric Wilson, had the pleasure of welcoming the Provincial Grand Master, who entered the lodge room accompanied by his full entourage of officers in a magnificent and colourful procession.
Eric ceded the gavel to Peter who took the Chair and nominated his Provincial officers for this special opening of Provincial Grand Lodge. These included Howard Jones, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Stanley Oldfield, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Paul Renton, Senior Warden, Ian Sanderson, Junior Warden, Rev Graham Halsall, Chaplain, Geoffrey Lee, Provincial Grand Secretary, Keith Kemp, DC, Neil McSymond, Deputy DC, Paul Rattigan, Sword Bearer, Eric Hart and James Cartledge, Deacons, John Stanfield and John Breakwell, Standard Bearers, Frank Kennedy, Pursuivant, and Alan Locke, Tyler. They were preceded by Stewards Geoff Cuthill and Robb Fitzsimmons and accompanied by other Grand officers.
The Liverpool Group was represented by chairman David Hawkes, deputy chairman Sam Robinson, vice chairman Roy Ashley and secretary Roy Cowley.
Peter said: “I am delighted to be here with my Provincial team. Lodge 3583 has prospered and it's members can be justly proud of what has been achieved.” He then called upon the Provincial Grand Secretary to read the Centenary Warrant issued by the Grand Master. This warrant also gives lodge members permission to wear a special Centenary jewel. Peter then presented the Warrant to Eric who promised that it would be preserved, unsullied as he now received it.
Peter then called upon the Rev Graham Halsall to deliver an oration to the lodge. What followed was truly an oration of such quality, eloquence and erudition which held the assembled brethren spellbound. Graham commenced with a condensed history and origins of the lodge gleaned from the few lodge records which had survived the wartime blitz and other ravages of time. He went on to compare the physical properties of a tower being the image of strength, durability, security and fortitude; these being qualities to which Freemasons should aspire and to demonstrate. At the conclusion, Graham was congratulated by Peter for his well-researched and well-rehearsed oration. The assembled brethren concurred with extended applause.
The ceremony then took an unexpected turn when the Provincial Grand Master announced that he had decided to take advantage of this special Provincial Grand Lodge to confer a promotion on 85 years old member of the lodge, Bill Gallagher, to the high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. This surprise promotion is well deserved as Bill has been WM of the lodge on four occasions in 1996, 1999, 2009 and 2010. Previously a member of the now defunct Skelmersdale Lodge No 1380, Bill was WM on no less than seven occasions and was also that lodge’s almoner. He was appointed to the rank of PPrSGD in 2003. A strong Royal Arch Mason, Bill has also been the first principal of Skelmersdale Waterloo Chapter No.1380 five times and has been appointed to the rank of PPrGSoj. Peter directed Geoffrey Lee to read the patent before investing him with the collar and jewel of his office. Peter said: “I congratulate you on 25 years of outstanding Masonic service made more remarkable by virtue of your advanced years.” A surprised Bill replied that he was grateful to accept the honour on behalf of the lodge and thanked Peter accordingly.
Next followed a prayer of rededication, led by Rev Graham Halsall and the closure of Provincial Grand Lodge. Peter returned the gavel to Eric who resumed the WM’s chair. It was remarked that Eric had conducted the proceedings in a most efficient and dignified manner despite medical problems.
Eric then rose and thanked the Provincial Grand Master for the wonderful and enjoyable ceremony. He then presented Peter with two cheques both for substantial donations to the West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity and to the Liverpool Masonic Hall Fund. Peter thanked the lodge members for their generous contributions to these most worthwhile causes.
The Provincial party then retired in an equally magnificent and colourful procession to a sumptuous festive board.
Nobody present could fail to be impressed by the dignified and stately manner in which this important and historic landmark had been celebrated by the Provincial Grand Master and his officers and by the officers and brethren of Tower of Sir Francis Lodge No 3583.