After 150 years, Bootle Pilgrim Lodge was opened in the first degree by the acting master of the lodge Keith Rushton with several offices temporarily occupied for the evening by members from the once Bootle Lodge No 1473.
Following the usual lodge business of the first degree, departed merit was given by the lodge’s chaplain George McDonald in retrospect of all the past masters and brethren the lodge had lost in the past 25 years since the previous anniversary celebration of 125 years in 1999. George then read out the names of the past masters, before giving a minute’s silence.
The lodge was then raised to the third degree when the lodge’s director of ceremonies Stephen Oliver retired from the lodge and was re-admitted and announced that Assistant Provincial Grand Master Frank Umbers was without and demanded admission, Frank was then brought into the temple.
Though 150 years is not officially recognised by Provincial Grand Lodge as a period of celebration, the lodge was well attended by dignitaries for this signal event with the presence of the principal guest Frank Umbers accompanied by visitors Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman Graham Chambers, grand Officer Roy Pine and the acting Provincial grand officers.
Following a warm welcome and well-deserved salutes, Frank brought the sincere best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews, who hoped they all to have a very enjoyable evening of celebration. The master then offered the gavel to Frank Umbers who accepted it and occupied the chair of King Solomon to present a necessarily brief 150 years history of the Bootle Pilgrim Lodge. The lodge was returned to the first degree by virtue and two entered apprentices and a fellow craft were readmitted along with the tyler
The history began by setting the context of the area in the mid 1800’s. With an increasing and sometimes unruly population of 27,000 due to the developing world trade and larger merchant fleet, the area of Bootle with Linacre was soon to become an integral part of the expanding Liverpool Docks.
Prior to 1874, there were only two local lodges, Skelmersdale Lodge No 1380 and Fermor Hesketh No 1350. Francis Ellis Ibbs, a local Iron founder and former master of both Toxteth Lodge No 1356 and Downshire No 594, saw the social need for other lodges in the area due to an ethos of Brotherly Love, Service and Charity. His petition to the Grand Master was granted with a warrant for Bootle Lodge dated 3 December 1873 and naming him as its first master. The level of the demand is indicated by a meeting in May of 1899 when 10 brethren were passed and 10 brethren were raised on the same day.
In 1933, the lodge was instrumental in beginning the Bootle Masonic Temple Fund which was, with the driving force of William Gale and assisted by Alex Ross of this lodge, successful in raising the monies necessary for the purchase of the Balliol Road Masonic Hall. William Gale’s portrait hung proudly at Balliol Road for many years.
Hence, on 19 February 1974 the lodge’s very proud master Thomas Hunter at the centenary celebration was honoured by the attendance of the Provincial Grand Master, Sir Knowles Edge, Baronet and on Thursday 4 February 1999, its 125th anniversary was celebrated by the master David Flynn, a former sea captain, in the presence of Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, T James Irvine.
Unfortunately, due to a compulsory purchase order placed on the Balliol Road Temple in 2007, the lodge temporarily moved to Ormskirk Masonic Hall. Whilst searching for a permanent home a strong bond was developed with Pilgrim Lodge No 6207 which was also seeking a change of venue. Hence on Thursday 4 November 2010 the two Lodges amalgamated at their now permanent location of Litherland Masonic Hall adopting the name, Bootle Pilgrim Lodge No 1473, thereby keeping the older lodge number. It was then agreed that the Pilgrim Lodge’s master’s collar was to be worn by the senior warden. However, at John Spurr’s 50th anniversary he gifted the lodge a new master’s collar. Hence the original Bootle Lodge’s collar passed to the senior warden and the former Pilgrim Lodge’s collar is now used by the junior warden.
Frank then went on to reflect upon the variety of professions that have graced the lodge including professors, doctors, deputy chief constables, chief fire officers, master mariners, chief engineers, marines, lay preachers and others, all with a plethora of interests, hobbies and experiences for others to draw upon, since it can be these very equal differences which bind a lodge together and help it to healthily go into the future with mutual benefits for all.
The WM’s chair was then returned to the master, who prior to their sitting presented, Frank with a cheque to the traditional value of the lodges number being equal to £1,473 for the benefit of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, for which Frank extended his own gratitude for the help these monies will give to unknown future recipients. He also noted with thanks that over the past 150 years the lodge will have donated many 10s of £1.000s in charitable relief, which is one of the main pillars of Freemasonry. Frank then continued with the pleasant task of presenting the master with a new set of square and compasses gifted by the brethren of the lodge which with the master’s permission he replaced onto the Volume of the Sacred Law.
Before the risings, notice of receipt of the Grand Lodge certificate for Ricky Lawton was given which Frank was invited to officially present to the Ricky, which was then signed by Ricky at the secretary’s table.
The festive board was attended by 51 brethren who at prayer sought to be ever mindful of our own good fortune and of those with less and who are in need. The meal consisted of fine servings of sticky BBQ pork, followed by traditional roast beef and vegetables, ending with ice cream sundae with an optional cheese board and wine for toasting. During the meal, conversation and joyous laughter was to be heard throughout the hall and a raffle was organised which, combined with the alms taken in the lodge, added up to £307.70p, which was presented as a cheque to group chairman Graham Chambers for the ongoing group foodbank appeal and who registered his sincere appreciation on behalf of the group and the future recipients during these financially difficult times.
At the start of the evening festivities, there was a drinks reception and during the festive board all brethren attending were presented with an engraved commemorative whisky glass.