A family affair at Stanley of Bickerstaffe

It is very rare these days to write about an initiation into a lodge, most of a publicity officer’s time is taken up reporting on installations and celebrations within their groups’ lodges and chapters. So it was a welcome change for Barry Hewitt Publicity Officer for the Ormskirk and Bootle Group of Lodges and Chapters to receive a personal invitation to attend such an event.

Pictured from left to right, are: Eddie Clarke, James Clarke and Andrew Clarke.

Pictured from left to right, are: Eddie Clarke, James Clarke and Andrew Clarke.

Stanley of Bickerstaffe Lodge No 3511 was the lodge in question, and the Ormskirk Masonic Hall was the venue, for what would turn out to be a most moving and emotional evening. You might ask what was so special about this initiation, please read on and all will be revealed.

WM Andrew Clarke warmly welcomed over 50 members and guests to the meeting before opening the lodge. Once the usual business had been completed a ballot was taken to admit, and if successful, initiate James Clarke a professional Chef employed at the Legh Arms at Mere Brow, Preston who just happened to be the WM’s son.

Andrew brought a smile to many attending by confirming that he had personally ascertained the suitability of the candidate and had come to the conclusion that he will make an excellent Mason. The ballot proved unanimously in favour of admittance, so Michael Barker treasurer of the lodge was instructed to attend on the candidate. Andrew then asked his father Eddie Clarke organist of the lodge to undertake the duties of junior deacon for the ceremony.

Following the declaration and confirmation by the treasurer that the necessary forms had been signed and more importantly the fees had been paid, James was admitted in due form properly prepared. James was conducted around the lodge in the safe hands of his grandfather who on a number of occasions quite rightly was overcome with emotion.

The whole ceremony undertaken by Andrew, ably assisted by the other officers of the lodge, was carried out in a most exemplary manner and it was only towards the end after presenting the ancient charge to his son that the emotion of the occasion caught up with him. Taking a minute to pull together his thoughts he then undertook to warmly welcome his son (a Lewis, son of a Lewis Mason) as the newest member of the lodge.

Mark Phillips (left) welcomed by lodge member Frank Umbers Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman.

Mark Phillips (left) welcomed by lodge member Frank Umbers Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman.

To have three generations of Masons in any lodge is a remarkable achievement and a very rare occurrence. I am indebted to Ray Jackson secretary of the lodge, who following a conversation with his brother in law Ray Tompsett, very kindly searched the lodge’s archives of which he informs me that he is still coughing from the dust; to reveal that this has occurred once before. On 11 April 1978, some 39 years ago, when his own father Tom Jackson was in the chair, he invited Greg Smith to occupy the chair of King Solomon to initiate his two sons Peter Fredrick Smith and Gregory Paul Smith into Freemasonry and on that occasion he was assisted by his father Peter Smith. Incidentally, Ray Jackson also mentioned that he had himself officiated at that ceremony as senior deacon, and looking at the lodges records has brought back many happy memories of his own time spent with his father in the lodge.

Amongst the many guests attending this recent special occasion Masons came from as far afield as Southport, Aughton and Bootle with one very special Mason, a visitor to England coming a little further, in fact from the United States of America; Bro Mark Phillips, who is a member of Colorado Springs Lodge No 76 Colorado USA and also Lee Lodge No 209 Waynesboro, Virginia USA.

Mark who recently visited Liverpool Masonic Hall in Hope Street at the same time as Eddie Clarke and both striking up a conversation was cordially invited as Eddie’s special guest. As a publicity officer I have observed many young Masons in lodge and I can safely say that if Mark is typical of the Masonic brotherhood in the USA, Masonry has nothing to fear on that great continent.

Later at the festive board once again Gary O’ Brien had pulled out all the stops providing us with a veritable feast of Moules marinere (mussels to you and me); steak and kidney suet pudding and for dessert warm Pecan pie with ice cream. Following the usual toasts James responded to that of his health, proposed by his father, taking time to thank his proposers Andrew and Eddie and concluded by saying that he was looking forward to attending as a member and that he hoped he would be an asset to the lodge.

The evening was a very emotional occasion, a true family affair, and will live long in the memories of the members of Stanley of Bickerstaffe and their guests. Let’s hope it won’t be another 39 years before the Ormskirk and Bootle Group celebrate a similar occasion.

Story and photographs by Barry Hewitt.

The members of Stanley of Bickerstaffe Lodge welcome their newest member.

The members of Stanley of Bickerstaffe Lodge welcome their newest member.