Due to the success of Centurions of Merseyside Coronation Lodge No 2923, it was necessary to move the date and venue of the lodge’s installation meeting in order to accommodate over 60 brethren who wished to attend.
The numbers were boosted by a large contingent of brethren from the Province of Sussex which included Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Sussex Michael Harris. The members of the lodge were also delighted to welcome Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wardens. Since its recent formation the lodge has held its meetings at The Artist’s Club in Eberle Street, Liverpool. On this occasion however the venue was too small and Garston Masonic Hall was chosen and a necessary dispensation applied for.
Prior to the opening of the installation meeting, the WM Peter Duggan requested the secretary Bob Patterson to read the dispensation, thus permitting the meeting to be held at a different venue and on a different day than that stated in the by-laws.
Peter then, with the assistance of his wardens, opened the lodge and following confirmation of the minutes of the previous meeting, the lodge was opened in the second and subsequent third degree. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell was admitted to announce that the Provincial Grand Master James Anthony Harrison was without and demanded admission.
The brethren stood as Tony, accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Derek Parkinson, group chairman John James, together with other grand and acting Provincial grand officers were admitted. Peter formally welcomed Tony and offered him the gavel. Tony replied that as he was aware that the lodge’s ritual was somewhat different, he would return the gavel with a polite thank you. Malcolm then conducted salutations. Labour then resumed in the second degree and the Provincial wardens who were also in attendance were requested to occupy the relevant chairs. David Edwards and Paul Storrar duly obliged.
Roger Philips, the master elect, was presented and repeated his obligation in a word-perfect manner. Peter requested Paul Sinclair to occupy the master’s chair for the next part of the ceremony. When a board of installed masters was declared, Paul proceeded to install Roger in a solemn and sincere ceremony according to ancient custom. Roger was saluted by past masters, master Masons, fellow crafts and entered apprentices in turn as the various degrees were closed down. Roger appointed his officers for the ensuing year; as senior warden was Andy Ince and as junior warden was Jim Ramsey.
The next part of the proceedings saw one of the highlights of the evening as the working tools were presented. Those of the third degree were recited by David Hitchmough; those of the second degree by Kevin Gates Lundun and those of the first degree by entered apprentice Kieron Quigley. The brethren were unable to stop themselves from applauding each brother enthusiastically as, one after another, they managed to deliver their respective pieces with ease.
The address to the WM was delivered by Dave Maynard of Royal Connaught Lodge No 2676 in the Province of Sussex; that to the wardens by Provincial Senior Grand Warden David Edwards and that to the brethren of the lodge by Tony Harrison. Notably, all the addresses were also both earnest and heartfelt.
At the conclusion of the ceremony of installation, Tony took to his feet to congratulate Roger as the newest ruler in the Province and wished him good health to enjoy his very busy year in the chair. He also congratulated Peter Duggan and Paul Sinclair on the excellent way in which they had installed Roger. Tony then walked the length of the lodge room to congratulate Kevin, David and Kieran on the superb manner in which they had each presented the working tools.
No sooner had Tony sat down when Roger rose and stood to present him with an envelope. Tony thanked Roger and the members of the lodge for their generosity on discovering a cheque for £250 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and a cheque for £500 for SSAFA, the UK’s oldest national tri-service military charity. The assembled brethren applauded loudly.
The grand officers retired after the first rising to enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the large dining room in the beautiful Masonic hall, served by the many cheery stewards.
The business of the lodge complete, they were joined by the other members and guests. Following grace, said by the chaplain Syd Ford, 65 members and guests enjoyed an excellent five course meal served by the friendly staff. Much wine taking took place and in response to the many toasts that were proposed, Tony thanked the acting Provincial grand officers who had accompanied him, the deacons, the wardens and his director of ceremonies Malcolm and deputy director of ceremonies Ian Halsall. He also thanked John James and the other Gladstone Group officers, including group secretary Paul Storrar, his Provincial Junior Warden. He appealed for more initiates of the right calibre. Attract, retain and retrieve members was the message he wanted to get across. He hoped that as many brethren as possible would attend his lodge, to be held in Blackpool on 1 April 2020 to support the brethren who are to be appointed and promoted on the day.
He also touched on the Royal Arch, the website, Solomon and the success of the rugby team who have yet to win a match. The toast to Provincial Grand Lodge received a response from Provincial Junior Grand Warden Paul Storrar. Following his various congratulations to officers of the lodge, Paul ended with a story which had everyone falling about with laughter. As there was a large contingent of visitors from Sussex who had travelled up with Roger, his story poked a little gentle fun regarding the north/south divide.
All too soon it was time for the last toast of the evening in the capable hands of the tyler John Hibbert. It was obvious from the mood of the brethren gathered that a most memorable evening had taken place.
Article by Phil Marshall and photographs by Phil Marshall and John Daley.