As a lodge of installed masters, the location for this auspicious visit was that of Woolton Golf Club which has been totally refurbished during the lockdown. Athenaeum Lodge of Installed Masters No 9368 which meets three times a year, has an interesting history in that it was founded in 1990 and originally met at Urmston Masonic Hall.
In 2017, facing certain closure due to falling membership, the directors and volunteers of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity (WLFC) office in Huyton, agreed to rescue the lodge and administer the lodge under the auspices of the WLFC and is therefore colloquially known as the ‘Charity Lodge’. However, there are three remaining members from Urmston, one of them 101 years old but sadly none were able to be present on this occasion.
Alan Riley opened the lodge and the secretary read the dispensation for the meeting and the lodge was then opened to the second and third degree. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell was admitted to inform the brethren that the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison stood outside and demanded admission.
Tony, who is a private member of the lodge, accompanied by 12 grand officers and seven Provincial grand officers and acting Provincial grand officers entered the lodge and took their places. Alan welcomed Tony and offered him the gavel of the lodge, which is his right, with Tony replying that he was delighted to be present and it was wonderful to see so many Masons present.
After salutations had been given to Tony, Mark Matthews and Andrew Whittle and Provincial Senior Grand Warden David Edwards, Alan rose to inform those present that during the lockdown two stalwarts of the lodge, namely the treasurer and secretary, had been called to higher service and he requested brethren to stand in respect of departed merit. As the saying goes ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ and members of the lodge had rallied round to find replacements.
Alan appointed past masters to assist him and Len Hudson presented the master elect Paul Louis McLachlan, who reaffirmed his obligation. Those below the rank of an installed master were asked to retire for a short time while Alan, with great sincerity and warmth, installed Paul McLachlan.
Master Masons were readmitted, saluted the newly-installed WM Paul and Alan Riley presented the working tools. The lodge was closed to the second degree where fellow crafts were admitted and they too saluted Paul, with Alan giving the working tools. The lodge was closed to the first degree and entered apprentice Freemasons were admitted, saluted Paul and received the explanation of the working tools from Alan.
The new officers of the lodge having been invested, with Tony being the senior steward, ably assisted by Andy Whittle and the warrant transmitted to Paul, Alan informed him that the ceremony of installation was complete.
Immediately Tony rose and conveyed his sincere thanks to Paul for taking the chair, commenting that the ceremony had been a happy and enjoyable one. Tony also thanked the installing master Alan Riley for all the work he had done along with the other officers. The newly-installed WM Paul had the pleasure of presenting Tony with a cheque for £635 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and this would make the lodge a vice-patron.
There were several propositions put forward for joining members and after the first rising the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell formed the procession to retire.
The lodge was then closed so that everyone could retire to the dining room for pre-dinner drinks. At the festive board the toast to Tony was given by Mark Matthews who thanked Tony for the leadership he has shown for the Province. In response Tony said he was very pleased to be accompanied by so many distinguished grand officers and was sure that, like him, they had enjoyed an excellent ceremony. Tony informed the brethren that there were some 250 men waiting for their initiation.
A further pleasant duty Tony had to perform was that of presenting the Paul with the lodge’s Vice Patron Certificate for the MCF 2021 Festival and he informed everyone that at the recent finale dinner in Blackpool he was ‘over the moon’ with the news that the Festival had raised £3,504,423, and still hadn’t come down – a magnificent sum, especially considering that the Province had been in lockdown for nearly two years. Tony also made mention of the fact that Alan Riley had received a Certificate of Commendation from the Grand Master for all the work he had been doing during lockdown. This was received with rapturous applause.
As the evening drew to a close, flowers were presented to Tony and the two assistant Mark Matthews and Andy Whittle and then the final toast was given by John Hibbert.
Article and pictures by Colin Roberts.