67 brethren gathered at Fleetwood Masonic Hall to celebrate the installation of Chris Hardingham into the chair of King Solomon in Onward Lodge No 5540.
Chris owns two food supply businesses, Foodirect and Elly’s Warehouse. Chris is truly a man who demonstrates the finest principles of Masonry in his daily life. During the pandemic Chris stepped up to the mark and postponed the development of his new venture ‘Ellys Wholesale’ and threw open his doors to help Blackpool Foodbank who had out-grown their premises due to the increased need for their services and allowed them to store much needed supplies. Chris also donated much needed food and clothing to the ‘Forget me not trust food bank’ in Northenden run by Freemason Ezra McGowan. To recognise this contribution the Grand Master His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent has issued a certificate for his outstanding contribution to Freemasonry’s role in the fight against COVID-19. Chris is also a keen supporter of his hall and can often be found mowing the lawn and looking after the garden.
The lodge meeting was opened by Emile Timothy (WM) and once he had completed the lodge’s early business, Gavin Egan, Assistant Director of Ceremonies, entered to announce that outside the door of the lodge was Giles Berkley, the representative of the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews. Giles was accompanied by fellow grand officers; Harry Cox, Peter Greathead, Alan Walker MBE, Keith Jackson, Neil MacSymons, Jason Dell and the North Fylde Group Chairman John Cross. The grand officers had a full supporting team of acting Provincial grand officers Paul Smedley, Neil Higgins, Andrew Nicholson (Staffs) and Gavin Egan.
With formalities and introductions complete, the installation got underway with the installation officers taking their places; Adam Simpson as senior warden, John Kelly as junior warden and Paul Dunne as inner guard. The master then passed the gavel to David Holloway, Chris Hardingham’s brother-in-law, for the next part of the installation at which point Mike Brown took to his feet and collected the master elect from his seat presenting him to the gathered brethren. During the inner workings, Emile Timothy completed the ceremony by installing Chis with the sincerity that the ceremony demanded.
Once the board of installed masters was closed the working tools were presented expertly by Thomas Walderman for the third degree, James Lock for the second degree and Warren Langford for the first degree. Mike Brown again rose to his feet and showed his mastery of ritual by delivering the address to the master. The address to the wardens was by Alan Lock and the address to the deacons by James Rashid.
A notable address was that to the stewards by Andrew Nicholson, Acting Provincial Grand Steward (Staffordshire). Andrew was resplendent in full highland dress. Onward Lodge is Andrew’s mother lodge, which he left following university when he decided to remain in Stoke. Andrew returns to Onward Lodge every year with a delegation from his new lodge John O’Gaunt Lodge No 4054. Andrew’s father, Ian Nicholson, continues to be a member of Onward Lodge and is particularly proud that Andrew is able to deliver the address to the stewards at his mother lodge’s installation meeting during his acting year.
To complete the addresses, Giles rose to his feet and delivered the address to the brethren of the lodge and following the words: “That concludes the ceremony of your installation”, Giles again got to his feet to bring the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews to newly installed master Chis. Giles also extended the greetings to Emile Timothy for his hard work throughout his year in office.
In return Chris had great pleasure in presenting cheques and donations to Giles that totalled an impressive £2,000 which comprised of; £700 to Blackpool Sea Cadets, £200 to Fleetwood Foodbank, £300 to the Macmillan Windmill Unit, £300 to Trinity Hospice, £147.76 to the Fleetwood Masonic Club and to complete the generous donations, the lodge had provided hampers to 22 families containing all the necessary ingredients enabling them to prepare and enjoy a Christmas dinner, The families were identified, and the hampers distributed by the Pastoral care team at Millfield Science and Performing Arts College.
Throughout the ceremony there was one constant that was holding everything together and should not go without honourable mention and that was Gavin Egan, the lodge’s assistant director of ceremonies and also the Provincial Grand Tyler. Gavin’s professionalism and hard work shone throughout the ceremony and ensuing festive board.
The ceremony complete, the brethren descended to the more comfortable bar and ultimately the dining room to enjoy what has become an Onward Lodge tradition, a Burns supper of Scotch broth, haggis, neeps and tatties, roast beef and cranachan. The haggis was dramatically piped in by Rowan Bos and the address to the haggis was delivered with gusto by John Farrell.
In his response to the toast to the health of the grand officers, Giles delighted in bringing his own congratulations to the new master Chris and to his installing officers. Giles praised the three brethren who had presented the working tools.
As is customary, Giles brought messages from the Provincial Grand Master, explaining new working methods that bring the cabinets of the Craft and Royal Arch together and his wish to see memberships increase and his personal passion for ‘White Table Events’ to encourage this. Giles informed the brethren that there would be a membership pathway for the Royal Arch and spoke about the progress of United Grand Lodge’s ‘digital marketing campaign’
The master’s song was sung by John Darrell. A raffle held during the evening raised an impressive £463and to complete the evening, the tyler’s toast was delivered by Tom Egan.