The installation meeting at the City of Lancaster Lodge No 281, which is now a fully accredited member of the Universities’ Scheme, saw Michael James Cole take the chair as master for the ensuing year. This particular installation proved to be quite a unique occasion as it transpired that not only was Michael, in his own words, ‘the first Three Column’s Club member, (a club which is exclusively for new Masons) to go through the chair’, an important mile stone in its own right, but he also had the honour of wearing the new City of Lancaster’s master’s collar for the first time.
The City of Lancaster Lodge was formed after the amalgamation of the Lodge of Fortitude No 281 and the John of Gaunt Lodge No 3815 in 2006. It had been agreed that until a master’s collar could be obtained for the new lodge, the master’s collar from the Lodge of Fortitude would be worn, but now the masters’ collars from the Lodge of Fortitude and the John of Gaunt Lodge will be worn by the senior warden and the junior warden respectively, which is an excellent way to keep the memory of those lodges at the forefront of the brethren’s minds.
The principal guest for the evening was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Harry Cox who was joined by fellow grand officers Lancaster Group Chairman Jim Wilson and Christopher Butterfield (Chris). Also present were group vice chairman Neil McGill, group secretary Scott Devine, and acting Provincial grand officers Bernard Snape and Paul Fuery.
Once the business of the lodge had been completed the director of ceremonies Adrian Wells requested permission to retire and on his return to the lodge announced that the Assistant Provincial Grand Master Harry Cox was without and demanded admission. Upon his entry into the lodge the installing master Steven Dougherty extended a ‘very warm welcome’ to Harry and then as expected promptly offered him the gavel of the lodge. Before swiftly returning the gavel, Harry answered that “it would be a privilege to accept this, but we are all here to enjoy ourselves and I was not at the rehearsals.”
In a ceremony that would be noted for its excellent ritual, the master elect Michael Cole was presented for installation by the secretary of the lodge Jack Baxter, before the installing master Steven placed Michael into the chair of King Solomon in a most distinguished manner. After being placed in the chair of the City of Lancaster Lodge, Michael gave the ‘alternative’ address to the immediate past master. For a young Mason this display of Masonic ritual was very impressive.
The working tools of an installed master were presented and explained by the lodge’s director of ceremonies Adrian in admirable style. However the explanations of the third, second and first degree working tools, which were in the hands of three young Masons, namely Graham Rotherham, Jake Arkinstall and Matthew Triggs respectively, were of such a high standard that the director of ceremonies must have been delighted with their performances. Worthy of special mention was Jake’s delivery of both the extended version of the second degree working tools and later, after being placed in the junior warden’s chair, his address to the lodge stewards. Continuing along this theme of excellence were the addresses given to the newly-installed master by John Stanley, that to the wardens by Tom Baines and that to the brethren by Harry Cox.
Rising at the conclusion of the ceremony, Harry congratulated Michael, on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, on being installed as master of this very fine lodge and wished him a happy and successful year. Harry continued by saying that had the Provincial Grand Master been present he most definitely would have congratulated the immediate past master Steven and all who had taken part in an excellent ceremony, adding it was great to see everyone enjoying themselves, just as the Provincial Grand Master would wish.
At this juncture Harry was presented with details of the very generous disbursements that the lodge had made to both Masonic and non-Masonic charities. The magnificent sum of £1,500 had been donated to a variety of beneficiaries including £500 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £500 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £400 to the Rosemere Cancer Foundation and £100 to Marie Curie Cancer Care. On behalf of the recipients, Harry Cox offered grateful thanks, especially to Steven, ‘seeing that the money was collected in his year of office’.
There then followed a rather pleasant, but again a rather ‘unique’ presentation by Chris Butterfield, when he presented Steven with the lodge past master’s jewel. This had originally been presented to the first past master of the John of Gaunt lodge in 1919, a certain W Bro Pittaway.
At the festive board which was held in the banqueting suite of Rowley Court, Harry was delighted to have the opportunity to offer his own congratulations and best wishes to Michael, his officers and brethren of the lodge for such a ‘delightful’ ceremony. Further praise was given to both Steven for his work over the last two years and to the ‘younger brethren who did the working tools’.
Saying that ‘he had never been to an installation quite like it’, Harry was also fulsome in his praise for Jim Wilson and Chris Butterfield, especially for their support on the evening. The City of Lancaster Lodge being Chris’s own lodge, Harry commented that Chris must be very proud of the work undertaken in the lodge, adding that when one attends one’s own lodge one feels for each and every brother when undertaking their ritual. Speaking directly to Michael he said, ‘tonight, you have been supported by 12 masters in office from the group and two from outside, so please make sure you encourage your brethren to support other lodges’ where they can.
Harry then made reference to the forthcoming Tercentenary celebrations, with special reference to a forthcoming television series highlighting Freemasonry, requesting that the brethren encourage non-Masons to watch as it could be used to bring people into Masonry.
Further topics Harry mentioned included the new Care Structure, the continuing need to support the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity during the 2021 Festival and the forthcoming Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in Blackpool. Harry went on to congratulate Neil McGill and Trevor Barber on their promotions, with further thanks proffered to the acting officers for their support, to the director of ceremonies Adrian for looking after him and to Jack Baxter, who was stepping down as secretary, for all his hard work. Harry concluded by wishing each of the brethren present much success and that he had ‘thoroughly enjoyed the evening’.
In proposing the toast to the new master, the installing and immediate past master Steven Dougherty gave an appropriate résumé of Michael’s career and achievements in Masonry and although he was sure Michael would make a good master of the lodge he ‘would help him as much as he could’.
Following a fine rendition of the master’s song by Doug Armitage accompanied by Roy Domville, there was a fitting response by Michael to his toast and in the process thanked everyone for their assistance in making it such an ‘evening to remember’, with particular reference to Steven for all his support over the years. To complete the evening in fine fashion it was announced the raffle had raised £378.
Article and photos by Paul Thompson.