A wise man once said: “Choose your friends carefully!”
Choose your friends carefully – Sometimes I wish that I had heeded that advice. You see, I have been friends with Mark Holloway, the Provincial Publicity Officer since our days together as Provincial Stewards, and I just knew that one day he would ask me to write a blog about my experiences of being Provincial Junior Warden. With that I mind I have been keeping a diary of my year and here are some excerpts from that diary.
Masonic life for me changed dramatically in late January 2012 when I received news that I was to be appointed Provincial Grand Junior Warden. I quickly found out that Duncan Smith was to be the Senior Warden and on asking other Masons about him, they all spoke in glowing terms; so glowing in fact, that I pictured him as the kind of ‘Teacher’s Pet’ I had known at school. I got a sinking feeling that this year could have its down side as I was going to be partnered with ‘Mr Perfect’, and just like school days everyone will say ‘Why can’t you be more like him?’
Five minutes after meeting him I thought, ‘How wrong can you be?’ It was clear that Duncan was a really genuinely nice guy and my first impression of him being the smarmy teacher’s pet lay in tatters. I now looked forward to a great year with my new beer-drinking, fun-loving, straight-talking best friend.
Our first unofficial outing together was the Provincial Ball in March 2012. My intentions were to have a quiet drink and give a good impression of myself. What I hadn’t bargained for is being sat on a table with two people intent on making sure that our table was the party table. Yes, that person who I had mistakenly thought to be the ‘Teacher’s Pet’ and his lovely partner Karen, were there to party and me being so polite, what else could I do but join in?
The first Installation we attended happened to be at Duncan’s own lodge. The lodge junior warden was staying in office which meant no need for an address, therefore, no work for me to do in the lodge room. Little did I realise it at the time, but similar situations in other lodges meant that this would happen several times throughout the year. This, of course, has given the Provincial DC and his deputies an opportunity to jokingly say that they have hardly seen us do any work – at least I think they are joking!
The first time that you represent the Provincial Grand Master at an installation is a memorable occasion, and for me it was memorable in that I was mistaken for someone else. One of the senior officers of that lodge had ‘blanked’ me prior to the ceremony, then afterwards apologised, explaining that he was expecting me to be short, fat and bald. I wonder who he thought I was!
One part of the job that I have really enjoyed is responding at the festive board. I do try (notice I did say try) to add a little original humour in to my responses. The rule of thumb is if the Provincial Grand Master laughs, then you know that it is humorous; after all, he must have heard most Masonic jokes and witticisms 100s of times. There was one response that I know he appreciated as he later told me so. We were at a lodge of Installed Masters and I started by saying:
“This, of course, is my first visit to this lodge, but my 23 visit since I took this office. During that time I have witnessed Master Masons become masters of lodges, past masters become masters of lodges, past masters of other lodges become masters of another lodge, past masters of the lodge who were past masters of the lodge before they became a past master again become masters of the lodge, and even the master of the lodge become the master of the lodge for a second year. But this is the first time I have seen a past master of another lodge become a master of another lodge of past masters of other lodges.’
During the year I have travelled the length and breadth of the Province and have met so many Masons who are genuinely pleased to be Freemasons. I have been part of a fantastic team and have thoroughly enjoyed the company and friendship of that team, especially that of my partner, Duncan.
However, as Provincial Grand Lodge fast approaches, when I will become just a has been, I have one hope for the future. That is that people will now be able to tell the difference between me and that short, fat, bald guy – whoever he may be!
Finally we both wish the new Provincial Grand Wardens of the Province of West Lancashire, Mark Matthews and Joe Hall the very best in their year.
Provincial Junior Grand Warden