It did not take the members of Aegis Lodge No 9115 very long to realise that in William (Bill) McGhee they had an accomplished East Lancashire Mason joining their ranks. Further discrete investigation revealed that he had occupied the master’s chair ‘over the border’ on no less than five previous occasions! It therefore should not be a surprise to anyone that Bill was ‘knocked for six’ when he was installed as worshipful master of Aegis Lodge in a splendid ceremony held at Wyrebank, Garstang.
The principal guest at this memorable and happy event was Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger who welcomed the company of fellow grand officer Geoffrey Lee. Also happily accompanying David was Peter Pemberton Provincial Senior Grand Warden together with fellow acting Provincial officers Andrew Bartlett, Malcolm Bell, Paul Thompson, Mike Jenkins and Richard Dennison. A colourful and very welcome additional presence was provided by a deputation of members of Salfire Lodge No 1505 of the Scottish Constitution, who were making one of their regular visits owing to their common association with Aegis Lodge through the Fire and Rescue services.
Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell entered the lodge and announced the presence of David Grainger. He was promptly admitted with due decorum and the installing master; Tony Cross offered David both a warm welcome and the gavel of the lodge. The greetings were graciously accepted but David returned the gavel with commendable alacrity, expressing his total confidence in the abilities of the lodge team.
The ceremony of installation that followed was a particularly happy and relaxed affair. The master elect was presented by the installing master’s father Mel Cross, who later gave a sincere and poignant performance of the address to the master. In a fine family performance, Tony completed what his father had started by installing Bill McGhee into the chair of King Solomon with true dignity and sincerity. The explanations of the working tools in each degree were effortlessly performed by Gordon Pilkington, Colin Richmond and Bob Tinsley respectively. The rendition by master Mason Colin Richmond was particularly noteworthy. In delivering the address to the wardens, Colin Muirhead who is also a member of Salfire Lodge gave a powerful performance that was mirrored with equal gravity by David Grainger in his address to the brethren.
On rising to bring the congratulations and greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, David Grainger expressed certainty that Tony would have been delighted by the relaxed and happy atmosphere that had prevailed throughout the proceedings. After thanking David, Bill McGhee handed over several cheques totalling £1,370 to the benefit of both Masonic and non-Masonic charities. Beneficiaries included North West Air Ambulance, West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and Action for the Blind amongst other worthy causes. David thanked the members of the lodge for their generosity and commended them on their efforts, especially in view of the fact that it is a relatively small lodge.
The Festival of St John held later in the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite proved a very popular event in terms of both the venue and the menu. An appropriate or perhaps coincidental acknowledgement of the role played by the Caledonian visitors was evidenced by the inclusion of ‘haggis parcel’ hors d’oeuvres! The following courses of stuffed chicken breast, sherry trifle and local cheeses admitted to no further cultural affinities!
In his response to the toast to the grand officers, David Grainger offered his personal congratulations and best wishes to all the participants. He gave an impressive and obviously well researched explanation of the origin of the name ‘Aegis’ and commended the founders of the lodge on the appropriateness of their choice of appellation. He continued his observations by touching on a number of current Masonic topics, including the tercentennial celebrations and imminent Provincial meeting, but the core of his remarks addressed the issues of recruitment and retention. In particular, he suggested that in addition to gauging the ‘suitability’ of prospective candidates we should be a little more introspective and ask ourselves what we as Masons can offer to attract new members. He also cautioned against applying pressure on new members to take office prematurely or join Royal Arch Masonry at an inappropriate time. The key message was that retention is easier to achieve than retrieval.
The toast to the master was proposed by Tony Cross and was followed by a fine performance of the master’s song from Bob Tinsley with accompaniment from John Whittall. In responding to these fine tributes, Bill McGhee thanked everyone who had attended and helped to make the day so memorable and enjoyable. He concluded by announcing that the raffle together with the generous donation made from the ‘master’s swindle’ of £55 had produced a grand total raised at the meal of £425.