It was a wonderful day by the seaside as Mark Matthews presided over his first Provincial Grand Lodge meeting at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool since his official installation as leader of West Lancashire Freemasons, and what an event it turned out to be. The Winter Gardens was the ideal venue with 1,000 of West Lancashire’s members in their colourful regalia, and a full programme and full pageantry making this truly a ‘grand’ event.
The day started early for some, with members of the Wigan and District together with Leigh Masons setting off in the early hours to organise security, logistics and help prepare the venue for what was to follow. These were followed later by all the senior officers of the Province, together with those who were to be involved in the upcoming spectacle, so that under the watchful eye of Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell, they could rehearse and iron out any issues. This was the last time that Malcolm would oversee the event, as later in the proceedings he was appointed as Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Wigan and Leigh groups, replacing David Ogden who retired after distinguished service in that role.
Practice does make perfect. The entrance of the Provincial team and distinguished guests was really impressive, with that military precision and pomp and circumstance for which the team is renowned. It was further enhanced by the rousing music from Stephen Derringer on the organ, the procession being accompanied by his own composition of the processional march, and by appropriate music at every stage of the proceedings. After welcoming his distinguished guests and formalities completed, Mark then appointed and invested his team, commencing with his two wardens. Michael Tax was appointed as senior warden and David Rigby as junior warden and both took their chairs, replacing Chris Taylor and Sylvester During. The rest of the acting officers, including the new Provincial DC Barry Fitzgerald, who took over the responsibility of guiding proceedings, were then invested followed by those receiving first appointments. All ran smoothly with military precision, and on completion Mark gave his address to the Province, a full transcript of which can be seen by clicking HERE.
Following on from the address all those receiving promotion were conducted by the stewards and congratulated individually by Mark. The importance of this recognition cannot be overstated. Those being appointed and promoted are recognised for the contribution they make to their lodges, the charities, the Province and work in the wider community, and Mark is proud of all those who contribute in different ways to enhancing the reputation of our fine institution. All the business being concluded, the Provincial Grand Lodge was closed and the parade out, with the same pomp and precision, was expertly orchestrated by the new Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald. There was time for liquid refreshment and a good ‘catchup’ with friends old and new, before the formal banquet in the Exhibition Centre hall.
The banquet was, and always is a lavish affair, and this was no exception. The senior officers of the Province, together with distinguished guests from other Provinces, joined Mark on the top table. Mark welcomed all the attendees, and in a series of formal wine takings and toasts, conducted proceedings under the watchful eye of Barry Fitzgerald. It was a delightful way to end what had been a memorable day for all present.