On a warming and bright spring day in the late afternoon a delightful ceremony took place at Liverpool Masonic Hall at the installation of Ray Moorcroft into the WM’s chair of Woodend Lodge No 5302. Ray has been a member of Woodend Lodge for over 35 years and his previous term as master was in 1984
The meeting was opened by installing master Derek Evans who stepped in due to the illness of the current master John Shipp. Derek was ably assisted by his two wardens, Paul Mathews and Ray Moorcroft and after opening the lodge he welcomed the visitors before then admitting a sizeable deputation from Liverpool Epworth Lodge No 5381, led by their WM George Christie.
The installation proceedings commenced with the entrance of the principal guest Mark Dimelow, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, accompanied by Sam Robinson, Liverpool Group Chairman. They were preceded by lodge deacons in a most dignified procession which included officers of this and other Provinces. After welcoming Mark, Derek requested Graham Ledson to occupy the chair of senior warden thus allowing master elect Ray Moorcroft to be presented by Bryan Wearing and Richard Sutton. In due time the immediate past and installing master Derek Evans placed Ray into the chair according to ancient rite and custom. Derek then had the pleasure of presenting to him Woodend’s Hall Stone jewel with the full explanation of its significance.
In 1919 after the First World War, Grand Lodge decided 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 this 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; individual, lodge and Province or District. That for Woodend Lodge to be a medal on a light blue collarette to be worn by successive masters of lodges contributing an average of ten 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. The design of the medal, the outcome of a competition won by Cyril Saunders Spackman, RBA, RMS, was described at the time in these terms:
The jewel is in the form of a cross, symbolising Sacrifice, with a perfect square at the four ends, on the left and right, squares being the dates 1914-1918, the years in which the supreme sacrifice was made. Between these is a winged figure of peace presenting the representation of a temple with special Masonic allusion in the pillars, porch and steps. The medal is suspended by the square and compasses, attached to a ribbon, the whole thus symbolising the Craft’s gift of a temple in memory of those brethren who gave all for King and country, peace and victory, liberty and brotherhood”.
Following this Ray appointed his officers for the coming year after which the address to the new master was given by Brian Wearing and Mark Dimelow gave the customary address to the brethren of Woodend Lodge in a most sincere and profound manner. The installing master was assisted throughout by DC Alan Jones, master of the lodge in 1994 and Graham Ledson who led the salutations and presentations to the new master with professional ease. At the conclusion, Mark rose and congratulated Ray on being made master and passed to him also the congratulations and best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master for a happy and healthy year in office. He also congratulated all of the officers who had taken part in a most enjoyable ceremony and in particular the installing master Derek Evans who had stood in at such short notice. In response Ray presented Mark with cheques for donations of £100 to the Liverpool Masonic Hall Appeal and £100 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. Mark thanked the lodge members for their generosity to these worthy causes before he and his entourage processed from the lodge concluding a most memorable Ceremony.
In the adjoining banqueting suite, the members led by Mark proposed a toast to the new worshipful master with gusto before being seated to partake in a sumptuous festive board. Much to his surprise, Brian Wearing had not managed to keep his secret of the day to himself as the room burst into a stirring rendition of happy birthday amidst much cheering. Later during the evening Mark replied to the toast proffered to him by saying that although he had earlier been able to bring the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master it was now his privilege to give his own congratulations to the lodge members. He thanked the lodge members for their warm welcome and said at this time of moving forward the greatest attributes would be patience, tolerance and commitment. Thanking the lodge for the charitable contributions and the benefits of using the gift aid scheme. It was uplifting to see the support the lodge continued to give to the family home, Liverpool Masonic Hall, its importance to Masonry and the community should never be ignored or underestimated.
The toast to the new master was given by Graham Ledson, a close personal friend of Ray for many a year and in his response Ray thanked Graham for his kind words and added that although this was the last lodge meeting prior to the summer break a number of events were planned, including a garden party at his house in July, to which all were cordially invited. Alan Jones had the pleasant task of proposing the toast to the visitors, while reminding all how nice the winters are in southern Spain, the response to the visitors was given by George Christie. Ray also had the delight of presenting a magnificent bouquet of flowers to Mark at the end of the evening as a small token and a thankyou to his wife.
The evening ended in magnificent style with John Hibbert’s unique rendering of the tyler’s toast, an intriguing display of mental dexterity and virtuosity which brought a look of incredulity as well as a broad smile of delight to those not yet accustomed to John’s full version of the last toast of the evening.