An axiom of fellowship

It is essential in electing a companion to take the office of first principal of a chapter that the selected nominee be an example of that moral rectitude of conduct befitting of such high office. Indeed, all three principals should fulfil the criteria of their stations. And Blackpool Chapter of Fellowship No 7692 scored a treble in choosing Phil Houldsworth, Jim Finnegan, and Tom Houldsworth as first, second and third principals respectively.

Pictured from left to right, are: Jim Finnegan, Roger Perry, Phil Houldsworth and Tom Houldsworth.

Pictured from left to right, are: Jim Finnegan, Roger Perry, Phil Houldsworth and Tom Houldsworth.

Phil Houldsworth is a Mason of merit; respected, admired and trusted. Jim Finnegan, the untiring genial host of many lodge and chapter functions at Blackpool Masonic Hall and an all-round good egg is also a Mason of merit. Tom Houldsworth (uncle to Phil Houldsworth), a senior and experienced companion and exemplary Mason is equal in stature to his co-principals and likewise highly respected. The credentials of all three are impeccable.

Whilst many chapters would consider themselves fortunate if blessed with a mere handful of gifted ritualists, Blackpool Chapter of Fellowship appears to hold a plethora of talent.

Roger Perry, representing the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, was the principal guest of the evening at the chapter’s installation convocation and he, along with distinguished grand officers; Past Grand Superintendent of the Province of Derbyshire Tom Briggs and Geoffrey Pritchard; along with the Chairman of Blackpool Group John Turpin, his vice chairman and Royal Arch leader David Cook, supported by acting Provincial Grand Stewards Juan Topping and Phil Bolton and Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah David Barr, and joined by Past Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Jack Monks were amongst the eminent companions treated to an alluring ceremony in which many more distinguished companions took part.

The three principals with their robe address companions, pictured from left to right front row, are: Jim Finnegan, Phil Houldsworth and Tom Houldsworth. Rear row are: Damian Kendrick, Neil Higgins and Brian Rimmer.

The three principals with their robe address companions, pictured from left to right front row, are: Jim Finnegan, Phil Houldsworth and Tom Houldsworth. Rear row are: Damian Kendrick, Neil Higgins and Brian Rimmer.

Installing first principal David Gladwin, reliable, dedicated, conscientious and always a willing participant, got things off to a splendid start in opening the chapter, dispatching the general business and in thanking all the companions for their support during his tenure as first principal. He expressed his approbations of the companions of the chapter on the excellence of their commitment, enthusiasm and steadfastness, saying it had been a pleasure throughout his year of office.

And so it was that he got down to installing the three principals for the ensuing year. All three principal protagonists did a fine job in installing their successors; Jim Finnegan proclaiming Tom Houldsworth as third principal (Tom having acted as first principal way back in 1999), Phil Houldsworth installing Jim Finnegan as second principal and culminating with David Gladwin seeing Phil safely and firmly decanted into the first principal’s chair.

Not only were each of their performances a delight to witness, the show was augmented by the high quality of scripture readings and prayers by chapter Scribe Ezra Richard Gosling and assistant director of ceremonies Arthur Caldicott respectively; all under the watchful eye and guidance of the chapter’s director of ceremonies Michael Burnett.

The three principals in relaxation mode and ready to party.

The three principals in relaxation mode and ready to party.

Brilliance was in abundance and the whole cast provided a series of delightful addresses, one after another. And what a list the cast composed of!

Particularly impressive and enjoyable were the robe addresses by newer recruits to the ranks. Neil Higgins in his recital to the first principal gave it his all. The animation of his performance was what impressed itself on the throng’s retinas. Damien Kendrick in performing the address to the second principal unleashed a major talent and Brian Rimmer with the blue robe address to the third principal played the game with extraordinary zeal and attention to detail.

Following such triumphs was not going to be easy but, in calling in the big guns, success was assured. And it would be hard to find any gun bigger than Past Grand Superintendent of the Province of Derbyshire Tom Briggs who, in his address to the three principals, demonstrated that the higher up the rankings one is, the more skilled one becomes. Needless to say, it was flawless.

Paragon of Masonry Jon Selcoe was next up for judgement with his delivery to the officers of the chapter. Jon applies his lively, alert and agile mind so effectively that he masters the most challenging of passages with ease but then, being the accomplished ritualist that he most certainly is, one suspects that even his somnambulistic side would be equally up to the task.

Roger Perry speaking at the festive banquet with John Turpin (seated) and Michael Burnett (rear).

Roger Perry speaking at the festive banquet with John Turpin (seated) and Michael Burnett (rear).

The final address, to the companions of the chapter, was as is customary, given by the principal guest on the evening, on this occasion Roger Perry. He had deduced that if a favourable outcome to the venture was to be secured, it would be necessary to perform with excellence. So he performed with excellence. He is a man who is always ready to perform with excellence when the cause is good.

Talent in the chapter is equalled by the munificence of its companions, a point that Roger focused on when presented with charitable disbursements amounting to £964; with donations of £396 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £375 to Macmillan Nurses, £93 to the Sponsored Walk and £100 to the Blackpool Masonic Hall Building Fund. Conveying the best wishes of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, Roger thanked the companions for their generosity saying: “It is a magnificent sum for a small chapter to donate.”

The warmth and fellowship of the companions was further evident at the festive banquet that followed the formal ceremony. High spirits and the knowledge of a job well done ensured a genial and sociable mood as the happy revellers tucked a hearty beef stew and dumplings, followed by Black Forest gateau amongst their gastric juices. It was now a fully satisfied proletariat.

Harry Waggett (left) toasting the three principals in song.

Harry Waggett (left) toasting the three principals in song.

The joviality continued during the traditional speeches of the evening with Roger’s response on behalf of the grand officers. Light-hearted anecdotes were interspersed amongst the serious messages appraised by the Grand Superintendent. Understandably, the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival was a key issue, as was the need for all companions to consider themselves to be almoners and mentors.

Responding on behalf of the Provincial grand officers, Provincial Scribe Nehemiah David Barr preserved the warmth and geniality of the evening during his short but entertaining discourse. He exhibits a relaxed and easy manner that puts his audience equally at ease.

The delights of the occasion were charmingly concluded by a sincere rendition of the principals’ song by chapter organist Harry Waggett, accompanied at the piano by his good friend George Holden.

Excellence had governed the day from commencement to closure and the companions of Blackpool Chapter of Fellowship demonstrated that size is not important but the manner in which one uses talent most definitely is. The chapter had used its talents and adhered to its axiom of fellowship to the utmost and the outcome was a massive success.

Pictured from left to right rear row, are: David Cook, Phil Bolton, Juan Topping and John Turpin. Front row: David Barr, Roger Perry, Jim Finnegan, Phil Houldsworth, Tom Houldsworth, David Gladwin, Tom Briggs and Geoffrey Pritchard.

Pictured from left to right rear row, are: David Cook, Phil Bolton, Juan Topping and John Turpin. Front row: David Barr, Roger Perry, Jim Finnegan, Phil Houldsworth, Tom Houldsworth, David Gladwin, Tom Briggs and Geoffrey Pritchard.