When the Grand Superintendent is a member of your chapter and attends the installation convocation at Morecambe Masonic Hall there is maybe just a little extra pressure to get everything ‘just right’.
However, in this case the members and their guests at Sandylands Chapter No 5702 were well aware that the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison likes to ‘fade into the background’ when attending the lodges and chapters of which he is a member and welcomes the opportunity to just relax and enjoy his Freemasonry.
Indeed, on this occasion it was Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Chris Butterfield who took centre stage as the representative and also in his role as group secretary. A trio of grand officers, namely Tom Holroyd, Bill Smith and John Robson also lent their support. Fresh from their investiture were the new acting Provincial grand officers from both Lancaster and Furness and South Lakeland groups in the persons of Phil Preston Provincial Deputy Grand Sward Bearer, John Bates Provincial Grand Standard Bearer, David Tattersall Provincial Grand Organist and Provincial Grand Stewards Bob Stafford and Stephen Fox.
Protocol of course demanded that Tony was announced and escorted into the temple with due ceremony, accompanied by the representative and the other dignitaries, but in his typically self-effacing manner he wished the three principals well for the coming ceremony and quickly ‘stepped aside’ to allow Chris to assume his appropriate place. This then set the scene for director of ceremonies Keith Lamb to deftly supervise the impressive demonstration of ritual that followed.
The installing and immediate past first principal Allan Finney, thanked all the officers of the chapter for their stalwart support during his year in office before installing Colin Westwell into the first principal’s chair for the second time. In due turn David Liptrott was duly obligated and installed into the second principal’s chair by Colin and with equally excellent expertise Don Poulson was obligated and placed in the chair of third principal.
The delivery of the robe addresses were individually deserving of praise, with those of the purple robe and blue robe given by past principals Ray Griffiths and Frank Heath respectively. The scarlet robe address however drew particular praise from everyone due to its superb articulation by young companion Carl Horrax.
Once the appointment and investiture of officers had been completed, Chris Butterfield rose to bring the greetings and congratulations of the Grand Superintendent. He humorously observed that he had indeed been ‘commanded to bring greetings and best wishes’, so that was what he was going to do! He expressed the hope that he had delivered them appropriately, as he felt certain of some extremely rapid feedback. Chris then gave the greetings in a very effusive and polished manner. The permanent broad smile and frequent nods from the person seated immediately to his right was ample proof of his satisfactory achievement.
Before resuming his seat, Chris received charitable donations in the form of two cheques from the companions of the chapter. The first for £376.55 in favour of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and the second for £50 to Lancaster Masonic Group for onward donation in support of Sue Cousen in her sponsored ‘Ultimate Trails Challenge’ that will benefit the Masonic Samaritan Fund. Chris expressed grateful thanks on behalf of both beneficiaries.
A lively and very happy festive board followed in the hall dining room. Tony Harrison made a very brief but heartfelt response to the toast to the Grand Superintendent, remarking how much he enjoyed being able to attend his own chapter and meet old friends. Needless to say, the applause at the conclusion of his remarks was very loud and enthusiastic.
The main address of the evening was in the hands of Chris Butterfield, who demonstrated once again his ability to bring appropriate and very dry humour to the art of ‘speechmaking’. He began by remarking that the Grand Superintendent tasked his representatives with delivering ‘certain messages’ at the installations they attended on his behalf. He continued that the Grand Superintendent always eventually learnt if his ‘directions’ had been fulfilled satisfactorily. With a swift glance to his right, he quipped: “I hope I get this right!”
Once he had offered his own congratulations and expressed his admiration for an impressive performance by all the participants, the content of his address focussed on four issues that he considered particularly pertinent to Royal Arch Masonry. Recruitment, he remarked, is the responsibility of every member and therefore all companions should be active in encouraging their lodge members to join. However, due regard should be given to the appropriate timeliness of such encouragement and the personal circumstances of each Mason.
He appropriately linked this issue to his second topic, the ‘Talking Heads’ presentation developed by the Metropolitan Grand Chapter which features a dialogue of questions and answers between a Royal Arch Mason and a potential Craft recruit. This presentation, the companions learned, will hopefully be staged at various venues across the Province in the future. The final two issues he made reference to were the demonstrations of the ‘enhanced exaltation ceremony’ staged recently, together with the imminent publication of an accompanying explanatory booklet and as a final topic, he gave some additional details regarding the pending amalgamation of the national Masonic charities.
As proceedings drew to a close, Allan Finney proposed the toast to the health of the three newly installed principals and in responding to that toast, the first principal Colin Westwell not only expressed his thanks to all who had attended but also thanked Allan for his dedication in leading the chapter during his term of office. It can undoubtedly be stated with conviction that the evening was thoroughly enjoyed in the finest Masonic traditions of enjoyment and fun by each and every participant, irrespective of rank or fortune – or lack thereof!