Craft banner dedications are few and far between these days and a spectacle to behold. Even rarer than Craft banner dedications are Royal Arch banner dedications. It seems only fitting that one of the oldest chapters on the Fylde coast should be numbered among them.
Fylde Chapter No 2758 was consecrated on the 17 March 1908, so is now 113 years of age. It is the third most senior chapter in the Fylde after Clifton Chapter No 703 and St Anne’s Chapter No 2457. The chapter is named after its mother lodge, Fylde Lodge No 2758 which has, unfortunately, since closed. The exaltation fee in those days was five guineas, (approximating to about £557.50 in today’s money); the joining fee would now be £187 and meals £22.
In November 2018 the chapter companions decided to create a chapter banner. A small steering committee was formed to design it and an appeal made to the companions to raise funds for its manufacture. With the assistance of David Randerson the design was planned to show the founder’s breast jewel predominantly in the centre, acknowledging their foresight in forming the chapter. The ‘triple tau’ is depicted on either side of this jewel with the shovel, pick and crow also being shown. The predominant red colour was chosen as it is customary in chapter. The finished design was a fitting testament to the hard work and dedication of the companions, but perhaps one companion deserves a special mention, that of Trevor Hunt, a member of Fylde Chapter for 34 years, who was the driving force behind the banner.
After much planning and dedication from the companions of the chapter, the banner dedication day was coming round fast, 30 May 2020. But as all are only too aware, the pandemic hit and all the planning and looking forward was apparently for nothing. All the hope and dreams of the companions were shattered – all looked lost.
Then came summer 2021 and news that meetings could start again; the hopes of the companions, the planning and preparation moved into high gear, not only for the members of Fylde Chapter but the Provincial team lead by Deputy Grand Superintendent of The Royal Arch Province of West Lancashire Paul Renton, Second Grand Principal Christopher Butterfield and Third Grand Principal (Clerk in Holy Orders) Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst to prepare for the dedication.
As the guests arrived for the spectacle the chapter room was closed so that Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas, aided by his deputy Jason Dell could put the members of the chapter and the Provincial team through their paces to ensure the ceremony would go off with military precision.
The chapter was opened by the three principals led by Ryan Modlin and ably assisted by Paul Darlington and Creag Williams, who swiftly moved through the first part of the evening’s business.
At the time to start the most anticipated part of the business, the Provincial Grand Organist David Tattersall took to his seat, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies entered the packed chapter room and announced that the Deputy Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch Province of West Lancashire Paul Andrew Renton stood without and demanded admission.
Paul was accompanied by Christopher Butterfield and Godfrey Hirst, along with Assistant to the Grand Principals David Barr and other grand and Provincial officers.
Once Paul and the other distinguished guests had taken their seats, Ryan rose to welcome Paul and, as is customary with such events Ryan offered Paul the sceptre of the chapter which, on this occasion, Paul accepted. Paul then requested that Godfrey Hirst; David Thomas; Jason Dell; Trevor Hunt (the banner bearer, and there could be no more a prouder man than Trevor); John Lee; North Fylde Group Chairman John Cross and David Tattersall form a banner deputation to lead the banner into the conclave and pass around the chapter.
Paul then read an oration starting with the history of banners and their significance to Royal Arch Freemasons saying: “The origin of banners, although a part of Heraldry, is a custom lost in the mists of time. There are personal banners such as those of our monarch the Queen, and peers and knights of the realm. In feudal times, the banner or flag or standard was a rallying point for the soldiers of a knight in the heat of battle, and this led to the custom followed by British regiments throughout the ages. There are banners in churches and banners adopted by many organisations like ours. In Freemasonry it has been a respected tradition from as long ago as the early 18th century to have banners for Grand Chapter, Provincial and District Grand Chapters and for individual chapters. Masonic historians relate that in the 18th and 19th centuries Freemasons, often clothed in regalia and badges of the Order, carried their banners in public processions when celebrating special national or civic occasions.”
If there could be a stand-out moment in an evening of highlights, then few would disagree that that was when Paul asked Godfrey Hirst to deliver an oration.
Godfrey started his oration by talking about the impact of the pandemic and how it had affected the evening because the Provincial choir was unable to attend because of COVID. Godfrey sprung in to song, paraphrasing Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’ with reference to clergy and banners. It might go something like: “When church banners duty’s to be done, to be done, a vicar’s lot is not a happy one.”
Godfrey moved to a comment about the history of the chapter saying: “The chapter, this splendid chapter, has had its ups and downs over the past 113 years since its consecration but today I wish to quote from the oration given on your 75th anniversary by a former clergy colleague Harold Kirk Smith, that brilliant Royal Arch Freemason, orator and writer. I think his words are still appropriate on this banner dedication day.”
He said: “This chapter has not only had a brilliant past but I believe it can have an equally brilliant future. It still possesses able men who can raise the flag of Fylde Chapter higher than ever before. You are heirs of a great tradition.”
Godfrey continued by saying: “Indeed, behind this banner lifted high, I hope companions of this chapter will indeed go on with purposeful and determined intention to hold fast to the highest principles and tenets of Royal Arch Freemasonry. Just a thought – perhaps you may consider appointing a regular banner carrier, as was the case in many chapters in the past, simply to remind you of your banner’s significance.”
Godfrey moved to the design of the banner and the significance of its symbols and again was moved to song, singing the second verse of the principal’s song: “When the sojourners three, who were Masons free, began to clear the ground with a pick and crow and shovel to throw they delved till treasure they found.” Godfrey continued to present a highly enlightening description of the other symbols on the banner.
Godfrey completed his oration by saying: “The lot has fallen to me in a fair place, I have a goodly heritage. Hold fast and be proud of your heritage, and labour on to ensure it continues to be a fair place for those that come after you.”
Once the dedication had been completed Paul returned the sceptre of the chapter back into the hands of Ryan who promptly completed the business of the evening and closed the chapter. The companions then made their way to the dining room to enjoy a suitably fitting grand three course meal.
A raffle held during the meal raised £311 and the evening’s proceedings were completed by Bob Bennett delivering the janitor’s toast.