The annual Blenheim Lodge No 7519 remembrance service was enhanced further in 2017 with the working of a double passing to the degree of fellow craft beforehand. The lodge was opened as performed in emulation by the WM Paul Donnelly, ably assisted by his wardens Ian Turner and Alan Ball along with DC Phil Pattullo.
Once the opening business had been dealt with, Paul enquired if there was any person present who sought advancement to the second degree. Vaulting out of their seats reminiscent of a Batman and Robin appeared Jim Cummings and Louis McGee, who on correctly answering the required questions retired to be made ready for the ceremony. And what an excellent shared ceremony was witnessed, flawless throughout, firstly by Paul, then continued by John Owen.
Ian Turner invested Jim and Louis with the distinguishing badge of the fellow craft Mason, with Alan Ball presenting the working tools of the degree, while Phil Pattullo explained the tracing board associated with the second degree. Following the second degree ceremony Brian Powell was presented with his Grand Lodge certificate which was explained to him by the grand officer within the lodge John Wilcock.
On completion of the meeting all retired to the festive board in the Roman Suite for a top-class evening meal. After the toasts had been completed those present watched a moving short film presented by Ian Turner with regard to the annual ‘Ride to the Wall’ event, which he has participated in since its inaugural run.
‘Ride to The Wall’ is a unique motorcycling event which gives motorcyclists an opportunity to gather together at a place of remembrance, to pay their respects to our fallen service men and women and in doing so, raise funds solely for the purpose of perpetuating their memory and recognising the sacrifice made. The RTTW event sees veterans and civilian bikers, ride from across 11 different starting points around the country as well as in Europe, particularly Belgium, and converging on The National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire to pay their respects to the names of the fallen and to those who can no longer ride by their side.
Now in its 10th year, Ride to the Wall has already raised £600,000 for the arboretum, including a record £121,000 raised last year and as always, the event took place on the first Saturday in October. At the conclusion, Ian informed the brethren that the planning for the run of 2018 is already in the early stages.
A welcome visitor to Blenheim Lodge was Tony Fennell, the present WM of Childwall Lodge No 5235. It was noticed that Tony was wearing the lodge Hall Stone Jewel which Tony gladly explained what it denoted.
In 1919, after the First World War, Grand Lodge decided that in response to a suggestion from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, to embark on the building of a new headquarters for the English Craft as a memorial to the many brethren who had given their lives during the War. For this purpose, a special committee was set up in 1920 and an appeal made to every member of the Constitution for contributions to the fund which, from the target set, came to be known as the Masonic Million Memorial Fund.
Contributions to the Masonic Million Memorial Fund were to be entirely voluntary and were to be recognised by special commemorative jewels. These were of three types for the three categories of subscribers, of the same basic design but of different sizes and precious metals, one for individuals, another for a lodge and the third for a province and district.
The jewel worn by Tony on a light blue collarette is worn by successive masters of lodges which at the time contributed an average of 10 guineas per member, such lodges to be known as Hall Stone Lodges (thus giving the jewel its name). 1,321 lodges at home and abroad qualified as Hall Stone Lodges; their names and numbers are inscribed on commemorative marble panels in the main ceremonial entrance vestibule of Freemasons’ Hall. Childwall Lodge is one of the two remaining Hall Stone Jewel lodges meeting in Liverpool Masonic Hall today, the other being Acacia Lodge No 4512.
The next part of the evening unfolded, the now traditional ‘lodge service of remembrance’. With WM Paul Donnelly carrying the Blenheim Lodge wreath and led by the piper and bugler, the brethren walked in solemn procession from the Roman Suite along to the War Memorial. Paul laid the wreath of remembrance while a lament to the fallen was played by piper Bob Walters.
At the sound of the ‘Last Post’ played by bugler Ian Ogle, the silence was observed, then to the haunting notes of the pibroch the brethren returned to the Roman suite. Here they listened to a recital of five poems associated with the Great War given by Geoff Cuthill of the Merseyside Association for Masonic Research. An unusual and eclectic choice of poems, the first called ‘Between the Mersey and the Dee’ by an unknown hand with the initials G D W, and published in the Wallasey News in the November of 1914. The next three poems were penned in the 1960’s, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the war, written by two of the well-known Mersey poets, Brian Patten and Roger McGough. The first of these, entitled ‘Sleep now’ in memory of Wilfred Owen, was written by Brian when he was only 15 years of age. The next two coming from the pen of Roger McGough, being ‘A square dance’ and ‘On picnics’. All three poems figured in the 1967 penguin classic book of poetry, ‘The Mersey Sound’.
Geoff chose as his final poem one penned by another local lad, West Kirby born Lieutenant Leonard Comer Wall who was killed at Ypres age 20, on 9 June 1917, a Territorial Force volunteer who had enlisted with the 1st West Lancashire Brigade Royal Field Artillery. The final line of his poem has ‘We win or die, who wear the rose of Lancashire.’ These words are used to encircle a red rose on the enamelled plaque marking West Lancashire divisional graves.
Sadly, the evening eventually came to a close with the tyler’s toast as the brethren departed for home.