Blackpool’s Clifton Chapter No 703 was consecrated on the 4th October 1872, which makes it the oldest chapter on the Fylde coast. Plans are already underway for the chapter’s 150th celebrations in 2022.
The chapter has an impressive history of first principals. A founder and first principal was Lord Skelmersdale, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Lancashire Western Division in 1872. Attending the installation ceremony was someone just as impressive in the form of Duncan Smith, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, representing the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison.
Accompanying Duncan were Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin, Blackpool Group Vice Chairman David Cook and Blackpool Group Secretary Steve Jelly. They were supported by no less than six acting Provincial grand officers, Bernard Snape, Vinnie Carte, Bill Hembrow, Peter Mann, Umesh Dholakia and Doug Smith. Adding further credence to the proceedings was chapter member and grand officer Ian Robertson.
The evening’s ritual could only be described as slightly different from the usual being demonstrated on the Fylde coast. For obvious reasons it cannot be described in great detail, but it is satisfying to know that 148 years ago we would be witnessing a very similar ceremony.
It would be prudent to remember that Blackpool in 1872 was very different from the town we know today. Horse and carriage would be the main mode of transport. Visitors to the chapter, mainly from Preston would arrive by train and walk to the Clifton Arms Hotel or ride down Talbot Road by horse drawn carriages.
Blackpool Tower had not been built or even thought of, no trams or electric street lighting and only two piers. The Pleasure Beach was just a field where gypsies and fairground artists gathered. The population of the town at the time was approximately 8,000; the population now would be in the region of 138,000.
Having welcomed Duncan to Clifton Chapter, Ray Lamb proceeded with the general business of the chapter then the main event of the day commenced. Director of ceremonies Martin Haines kept a watchful eye over the proceedings and effortlessly guided the companions to their respective positions and offered words of encouragement at the appropriate times.
In a well-rehearsed ceremony Rory Maskell, Jim Harper and Chris Cash were installed as the three principals of the chapter for the year ahead. Continuing with the quality of ritual, the robe addresses to the three principals were given by Martin Haines, Graham Hoadley and Michael Wilkinson. Vernon Broadhurst left the comfort of the treasurer’s table to deliver the address to the three principals. Ernie Gavan continued the prose by giving the address to the chapter officers in his own laconic style of delivery.
Leaving the best to last, Duncan Smith recited the address to the companions of the chapter in his usual confident manner, which can only be achieved by many visits to chapter installations.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Duncan conveyed the greetings of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, congratulating the new principals and the latest batch of officers on a fine ceremony.
Thanking Duncan for the kind words, first principal Rory was delighted to present Duncan with charitable donations of £500, shared equally between the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Blackpool Polar Bears, Under 16 Disabled Football, Bryan House and the Air Ambulance. Duncan gave thanks on behalf of the recipients for the chapter’s generosity.
Following the closure of the chapter, the companions happily retired to the bar to stock up on liquid refreshments to maintain the level of jollity throughout the festive banquet.
Entertainment in the form of the three principals song was sung by Harold Waggett with accompiament by George Holden on the piano.
Written and photography by Gordon Ivett.