Lodge of Peace and Unity No 314 within the Preston Group, like many Lodges, embraced the digital age when the country and in turn Freemasonry, was hit with the effects and consequences of the national pandemic.
Zoom became a new word in the vocabulary but as many have discovered, a virtual meeting needs to be structured in order to be meaningful and enjoyable. Virtual meetings have been held during the lockdown months, and usually on the evenings when the lodge would normally meet in person. Lodge assistant director of ceremonies, John Kay, co-ordinated the various suggestions which were then put forward for consideration.
The lodge was fortunate in arranging for Commander Jonathan (Jonty) Powis, a member of Navy Lodge No 2612, that meets in Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, to provide a generic overview of his time in the Royal Navy, including his active service in the South Atlantic in 1982 on HMS Conqueror, his various shore postings and ‘inter alia’, his command of three various classes of submarine.
On leaving the Royal Navy he worked at Rolls-Royce introducing into service the UK, France and Norway’s NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS). Currently Commander Powis is the Operations Director for the Britannia Maritime Aid Project and President of the Derby Sea Cadet Unit.
At a later Zoom meeting, Peace and Unity’s resident and acclaimed historian, John Stanley, enlightened the brethren with the topic: ‘The Masonic Hall Bombing’ – a little known event from the home front 1941. During this impressive lecture, it was explained that a lone German bomber, a Dornier, was on its return journey to its base probably in Norway, having flown to its destination of Glasgow; upon following the Solway coastline on a bright moonlit night, the crew noticed one or two ‘naked’ lights on the ground. Thinking that they were possibly approaching the nearby munitions factory, the crew jettisoned its pay load of bombs on what was actually the small town of Gretna, more particularly the Masonic hall. It seems that upon leaving the Masonic hall after a meeting, the front door was left ajar which allowed a beam of light to illuminate the immediate blacked out area. It is also likely that a certain illumination was provided by cars leaving the hall with their lights on, albeit dimmed with wartime required covering.
At the following Zoom meeting Flight Lieutenant Steve Morris, a member of St John’s Lodge No 2825 in Blackpool, arranged his diary and enlightened the brethren of the lodge on his career with the Royal Air Force as a qualified navigator, including his time in the first Gulf War, flying operational missions in the Tornado GR1 as a member of 617 Squadron, a unit made famous for its exploits in the ‘Dambusters Raid’ in WW2.
Lodge of Peace and Unity has a close affiliation with its chapter, namely Holy Royal Architect Chapter No 314. Past first principle of this chapter, William (Bill) Huck celebrated 50 years as a member of Holy Royal Arch Chapter, and not wishing to allow the pandemic to interfere with this achievement, held a Zoom meeting. Bill Huck will have the unique distinction of celebrating his achievement twice, an ‘actual birthday’ on the appointed day, with an ‘official birthday’ in the usual chapter meeting format later in the year, if circumstances allow; Bill is matching the reigning Sovereign who, as everyone knows, has two birthdays.
Sadly, one of the lodge meetings was held to recognise and mourn the passing of our very dear brother, Tom Blackburn. Many eloquent tributes were made at the time, but the lodge was fortunate that Bill Huck, one of Tom Blackburn’s close friends for some 67 years, provided the eulogy both at the funeral itself as well as at the subsequent lodge meeting.
The lodge members are now looking forward to the opportunity of meeting together along with other members of our wonderful organisation. The next step being the lodge annual golf competition which, this year, is being held in August at Lancaster Golf Club, where members and their guests compete for a most prestigious trophy.
Lodge of Peace and Unity is mindful that many lodges in the Preston Group have been imaginative in keeping their respective lodges active during the pandemic, and many will have stories to tell. This submission is made to describe one of the many pieces in the Preston Group jigsaw.