Andrew Keith was installed as the master of Great Eccleston Lodge No 8895 by his predecessor John Nelson at Garstang Masonic Hall ‘in a fine manner’, as aptly described by the Lancaster and District Group Chairman Jim Wilson, who was the representative of the Provincial Grand Master.
It had originally been planned for Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger to be the principal guest but he had been taken ill on the day of the meeting and so, at fairly short notice, Jim had taken his place. Jim was accompanied by fellow grand officer David Rhodes and a veritable phalanx of acting Provincial grand officers, which included Andrew Ridal, Steve Plevey, David Cole, John Eccles, Keith Halligan, Philip Burrow and Stewart Aimson.
The meeting commenced with the master of the lodge John Nelson opening the lodge and after proficiently completing lodge business, the director of ceremonies Robert Whittingham rose to ask for permission to retire from the lodge, only to re-enter moments later to announce that the representative of the Provincial Grand Master stood without and seeks admission. After John had formally welcomed Jim on behalf of the brethren of Great Eccleston Lodge, Jim before taking his seat, humorously replied that he had been looking forward to this moment for at least five hours, a retort which had all the brethren laughing.
In a ceremony that attracted many descriptive superlatives, the most praiseworthy had to be reserved for the presentations of the working tools of the three degrees. The working tools of a master Mason were given by Les Newlands, those of the second degree by David Sawyer and the working tools of the first degree by Stephen Fisher. All were delivered with finesse and attracted great acclaim from the brethren, however the presentation by Stephen was of particular note as he had only joined the lodge within the last year.
No less praiseworthy were the addresses to the master, wardens and brethren. The address to the master was given by Stephen Hogg; that to the wardens by Graham Davies and the address to the brethren by Jim Wilson. At the close of the ceremony Jim was delighted to bring the greetings and congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. He felt sure that had Tony been able to attend in person he would have extended his warmest greetings to Andrew, being the newest master in the Province and also to the immediate past master John, for all his efforts during his year in office – in fact Jim thought he had probably been out more times than himself.
Jim was also extremely impressed with the notification of disbursements that have or are to be made by the lodge to charities and good causes totalling more than £4,000. Masonic donations such as the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity totalled over £2,700, whilst community donations such as the £1,000 to the Alzheimer’s Society will be made in the near future.
A lively and well attended festival of St John followed in the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite and in his response to the toast to grand officers, Jim was able to bring his own congratulations to the lodge and to everyone who had contributed to make the occasion such an enjoyable and successful one, especially the immediate past master John who has worked tirelessly over this past year and has been an excellent ambassador for the lodge.
Jim then moved on to share with the brethren a number of topics that the Provincial Grand Master wished to be brought to their attention. The most important subject was the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and the importance of our continuing support. Jim informed his audience that since 2010 this Province has received over £7,000,000 from the Masonic charities and by 2021 will have received over £11,000,000. This money is entirely for Masons and their dependants and is in addition to all other charitable giving such as to the hospices or the Air Ambulance for example. That money has to come from somewhere, hence the rationale for festivals. Great Eccleston Lodge is a good example of our group’s support and generosity towards the festival, being that they are already a Grand Patron of the 2021 Festival and it has not yet even run its first year.
In talking about supporting charities, Jim reiterated the need to attract new members if we are to continue to be successful, as we cannot raise money without a healthy membership. Jim said: “In moving forward, we need to look out for good men to join our fraternity, but in doing so we must also ask ourselves are we making ourselves good enough to attract the right sort of candidates? Are our lodges friendly and welcoming to new candidates? Do we make them feel wanted? Essentially, please enjoy your Masonry, as enjoyment and happiness are infectious.”
It is also important to note, Jim said: “Although the Royal Arch is important and essential if you want to complete your journey through ancient Freemasonry, we should not pressurise brethren to join unless they feel ready. This applies to all aspects of Freemasonry, whether it be pressure to take office, carry out ritual or joining other Orders, let our members pick their own speed.” Jim finished by thanking the grand and acting Provincial grand officers for their support and to the lodge secretary Graham Davies for all his work in keeping him informed.
John Nelson proposed the toast to the health of the newly installed master which included some very humorous observations on Andrew’s personal life, before John Bates gave an excellent delivery of the master’s song with accompaniment from David Tattersall. There was a fitting response by Andrew to his toast which he ended by thanking everyone for their assistance in making it such a night to remember. To complete the occasion, it was announced that together with the £40 from the master’s swindle, the evening had raised £596, a very pleasant piece of news to ease the journey home.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.