Demonstration teams are popular attractions at lodge and chapter meetings and in recent years a plethora of teams have performed with demonstrations of 18th century degree ceremonies, Scottish degree ceremonies, modern chapter exaltations, ‘Talking Heads’ presentations and many more; not forgetting the Fylde Group Lodge of Instruction Festival.
For this purpose, a gathering of 29 West Lancashire brethren from the Fylde Coast, Southport and Wigan Groups met at Preston station. They were preparing to travel to Freemason’s Hall, Queen’s Street, London as a team with a difference; they were going to the home of United Grand Lodge to demonstrate a West Lancashire installation, for real!
The organiser of the trip was Chris Sage, holder of London Grand Rank and a member of Broadwater Lodge No 9027 that meets at Fleetwood. Chris was also the master elect of the Lodge of St Mary Balham No 3661 that meets at Freemason’s Hall. The team consisted of friends that Chris has made since his move to Blackpool in 2000. The team was going to install one of its own, ‘an honorary northerner’ as one brother put it. As many will know, there are no two lodges that work exactly the same. The team therefore choreographed an eclectic ceremony combining a number of the ‘quirks’ seen in their respective lodges. There were also reserves in the team ready to cover if necessary. Peter Bawden of Broadwater Lodge was one such member who assisted the lodge by acting as their opening inner guard while Mark Allen of Mount Lodge No 6654 was organist throughout the whole event.
The lodge was opened by its master Marios Alexandrou, in the Buckinghamshire Temple. There were six distinguished brethren present. They included Metropolitan Grand Inspector Jeremy Beech who is a Past Senior Grand Deacon; senior visiting officer Jonathan Hillman, accompanied by other grand officers Ronald Worby, George Cody and Barry Payne, with the lodge’s visiting officer Peter Walker, holder of Senior London Grand Rank, present in his official capacity.
The secretary Keith Waddy transacted the business of the lodge with alacrity and the scene was set for the installation ceremony. WM Marios Alexandrou then invited John Deal of the Southport Emulation Lodge No 3675 to occupy the master’s chair. Brian Dicks of Mereside Lodge No 6360 was asked to act as director of ceremonies while Tony Hind and Provincial grand steward of the Province of West Lancashire Jim Finnegan, both also of Mereside Lodge, took over as installing senior and junior wardens respectively. With Ben Clarkson of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship No 7692 acting as installing inner guard and Darren Shillito of Thornton and Cleveleys Lodge No 3854 becoming chaplain, the team was in place and ready.
The lodge was opened in the second degree and Darren Shillito presented Chris Sage as master elect, after which Chris advanced and recited his obligation. In customary fashion, the lodge was opened in the third degree and the installing officers assumed control. Chris was duly installed according to ancient custom in fine style. Thus installed, Chris invested his predecessor Marios Alexandrou as immediate past master and Marios was presented with a past master’s jewel, with an explanation thereof delivered by Ron Fenton of Hesketh Lodge No 950.
Brethren were admitted in their order of precedence and they saluted and greeted the newly installed master in the appropriate degrees. The working tools in the third degree were explained by Carl Gittins of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship, those in the second degree by John Brumfield, master of Mereside Lodge and finally Steve Cullen of Southport Emulation Lodge explained the first degree tools.
Glenn O'Brien of Landmark Lodge No 7273 presented the Hall Stone Jewel. This golden jewel on a sky blue collarette was presented to the lodge on 1 December 1926. It serves as recognition that former members of the lodge contributed worthily to the building of, the then new, Freemason’s Hall.
The appointment and investiture of officers of the lodge then followed. The senior warden Andy West and junior warden Jason Reid were placed in their chairs by the installing wardens who explained their gavels, columns, duties and pillars. The remainder of the lodge officers were then invested. The address to the deacons was by Graham Suthers of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship. The address to the inner guard was by Ben Clarkson, with the address to the stewards given by Jim Finnegan. The principal addresses were then delivered by Walter Daubney of Mereside Lodge, who delivered addresses to both the newly installed master and to the brethren, with Clive Gitsham of Tithebarn Lodge No 8446 delivering the address to the wardens.
A notice of motion in the name of Robert Harvey, the lodge almoner, then proved in favour of £300 being donated to Prostate Cancer and £300 going to the Metropolitan Masonic Charity. Following this a collection of alms raised a very generous sum of £179.
Salutations, which in this lodge occur just before the risings, were extended to the grand officers, receiving a suitable response from Jeremy Beech and to the officers of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges, receiving an informative response by Peter Walker.
The lodge was then closed and the brethren retired to the Dorset Suite at the Grand Connaught Rooms for a fine banquet, during which the toasts appropriate to a London lodge were observed. In response to the toast to holders of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges, Peter Walker observed that the hub of conversation during the meal was a clear indication of the friendly and vibrant effect of this wonderful event. He praised the installation team for an interesting and fascinating ceremony which was so well done, adding that there were pieces of ritual that he had never witnessed before. He concluded by saying that he hoped that the brethren from West Lancashire would return on future occasions.
The toast to the WM was delivered by Marios Alexandrou, He stated that the Lodge of St Mary Balham had installed a great master and added that Chris had done a fine job during the evening and the lodge was looking forward to a successful year in his capable hands. He noted that it was nice to see so many guests present from the north, who added so much to this meeting. He urged Chris to bring his many friends as often as possible. Following this toast the ‘master’s song’ was performed by Arthur Caldicott, to the delight of all.
Chris responded with special thanks for the support of his visiting team. He spoke of the work done to make sure that the ceremony ran smoothly and said that he knew how ‘nervous’ St Mary Balham director of ceremonies Arthur Lewer had been about what the team were going to do, but knew the meeting would go well. Chris advised his audience that 12 West Lancashire lodges had been involved in the team and hoped that everyone had enjoyed the ceremony. He closed by expressing his pleasure to be at a banquet with so many people in attendance.
The toast to the visitors was delivered by Andy West, saying that it had been a splendid night with a brilliant ceremony. He added that it was a treat to see how things are done in West Lancashire and concluded by urging all the visitors to return whenever they could. In response, Mike Fishwick of Sincerity Lodge No 3677 expressed his pleasure at being asked to respond on behalf of the visitors, having been present on a previous occasion that Chris went into the chair. He thanked the members of the lodge for the way they had received the visitors and for providing such a magnificent meal.
In keeping with the West Lancashire theme, the raffle was conducted in the ‘Westhoughton’ fashion by Mark Tomlinson of Thornton and Cleveleys Lodge. With an excellent table of prizes, the numbers were flying. With that extra prize for claiming the last number up for grabs, there was some interesting and amusing bidding in the later stages. The raffle raised the excellent total of £420 which will be donated to Masonic and non-Masonic charities.
After starting the following morning with hearty breakfasts, the team met with Mike Baker, the Director of Communications at Grand Lodge, who treated the team members to a special tour of Freemason’s Hall, including rooms that the general public don’t get to see. The day continued with a boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich. After a fish and chips lunch they removed to the Tower of London where they had a brief walk before moving onto the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street, which was rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of London. There has been a hostelry there since 1538. It was in such a historic setting that the team enjoyed a final sojourn before collecting their luggage and catching the train home.