The format and principal protagonists of the ceremony guaranteed a successful and highly enjoyable evening, a point that was agreed on amongst the companions who were fortunate enough to be present. The rituals were completed in a faultless manner and the atmosphere of the event was geniality and respectfulness. Ian Stirling and his crew could rightfully be proud and delighted.
But, hold the line a minute. Enthusiasm for the occasion has lead these chronicles to race off without keeping the reader properly informed of the event in question. It often happens that way. One enjoys oneself so much that in relating the story, one overlooks the fact that the reader hasn’t a clue of what one is jabbering about.
Right ho, then; marshalling the facts. The occasion was the installation convocation of Blackpool Chapter of Integrity No 5864 that witnessed Alan Barnes becoming first principal, Anthony Rigby becoming second principal, and Nick Cutting taking the third principal’s chair, all under the watchful eye of chapter director of ceremonies Ian Stirling. All pretty clear so far, what?
An array of grand officers and distinguished Provincial officers were in attendance to support principal guest Paul Renton. Regular readers of these chronicles will recall Paul, on whose activities these pages have had occasion to touch on a number of times before. He is Second Provincial Grand Principal and is an extremely bright individual, immaculately suave and incredibly charming; a perfect gentleman from topknot to shoe sole and one who can be relied on to provide an excellent evening in any Royal Arch chapter. Grand officers who had turned out to offer their support included Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson, Stuart Thornber, and David Harrison, along with Provincial dignitaries such as the chairman of the Blackpool group John Turpin, his vice chairman David Cook and group secretary Steve Jelly. Adding even greater lustre to the band of important companions was acting Provincial grand officers David Thomas, Ron Strangwick, Martin Linton, Stephen Holcroft and Gordon Ivett.
The scene is now set for the ceremony proper. Initial nervousness amongst the installing first principal Adolphus Taylor and the three principals elect Alan Barnes, Anthony Rigby and Nicholas (Nick) Cutting, no doubt brought on by thoughts of the presence of such a galaxy of cognoscenti, soon faded when they got into the flow of things – and from the comforting smiles of the notables.
The programme followed the customary sequence, although there were a number of interesting idiosyncrasies in the ritual, particularly in the manner in which the obligations were recited. First off the mark was Nick Cutting who had been presented to third principal Anthony Rigby, followed in turn by Anthony being presented to second principal Alan Barnes and Alan being presented to first principal Adolphus. All three obligations were recited with conviction and sincerity, with the scripture readings by Marin Sirbu, Kevin Croft and Joe Codling adding further dignity to the occasion.
Again in customary fashion, unqualified companions retired from the chapter room during the installation of the three principals and, when the obligatory ritual had been completed, the companions who then returned from their sojourn greeted the newly installed principals in the traditional manner and the robe addresses were presented in turn to the three principals.
First out of the starting blocks was Joe Codling with the scarlet robe address to newly installed first principal Alan Barnes. The trio of splendid recitals was completed after Jonathan Moss and Kevin Croft presented the purple and blue robe addresses to Anthony Rigby and Nick Cutting respectively. All three addresses were admirably lucid expositions.
Following the investiture of the officers of the chapter, it was time for more experienced companions to demonstrate their credentials. Bringing yet another gleam of light to the proceedings, Philip Alderson provided a delightful oration of the address to the three principals and Trevor Richards made a magnificent address to Adolphus in presenting him with the past first principal’s jewel.
Well, Trevor is an old campaigner in the battles of ritual and, as they say, practise makes perfect. His performance was a splendid victory and his audience was full of admiration, particularly when his presentation was interrupted by a nauseating ring from a mobile phone. (Stan Hill has requested that the owner of the phone shall not be divulged and these chronicles will respect Stan’s plead. He shall not be mentioned!) Trevor, appearing unperturbed by the distraction, continued in cool manner and his delivery and indisputable oratorical skills carried all before him. There are certain supreme moments which cannot be adequately described. This was one of them.
Stalwart of the chapter Jonathan Selcoe was the next to stamp his mark on the proceedings with his address to the officers of the chapter and there is one thing that can be relied on with utmost confidence when Jon is called upon to perform ritual. Jon will produce a masterpiece. He is clear, precise and theatrical in his performance. Nothing can describe it more fully than masterly.
The final address of the installation ceremony, the one to the companions of the chapter, was in the hands of the principal guest Paul Renton. The Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas escorted Paul to the allotted spot and, this kindly act performed, David withdrew to leave Paul to address the companions. And what a splendid address it was; animated, sincere and passionate.
The installation concluded, it was again Paul who was projected into the limelight in conveying the greetings of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison. Paul was profuse in his approbation of those who had participated in the ceremony, making particular mention of Adolphus and the director of ceremonies Ian Stirling and his assistant Jon Selcoe. Paul also took advantage of the moment to thank the acting Provincial officers for their support at the convocation.
He was further delighted when he was presented with charitable disbursements comprising of £450 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and £100 to the Blackpool Masonic Building Fund, two causes that he was very keen to see supported.
David Randerson, in his response to the first rising, reiterated Paul’s remarks and had been impressed with the hard work that had gone in to the ceremony, an opinion that was shared by the gathered throng. There was no denying the fact that the approbation of the populace engendered a certain cosy satisfaction in the minds of the Blackpool Chapter of Integrity companions.
Retiring to the installation banquet, a more relaxed trio of principals and a relieved duo of past first principal and chapter director of ceremonies were intent on a degree of revelry that would accurately reflect their satisfaction of the day. The banqueting suite was buzzing with desultory chit-chat and frolicking laughter, made even merrier when charity steward Bob Bennett announced a special raffle prize – a five foot long fluffy dog named Cookie – so named after Blackpool group vice chairman David Cook because, according to Bob, “it lazes about all day doing nothing but is loved by everyone, yet impossible to get a drink from!”
The gaiety of the evening continued throughout and the companions were also treated to a fascinating explanation of many elements of Royal Arch Masonry during Paul Renton’s response to the toast to grand officers. It went to show that every day offers an opportunity of advancing our Masonic knowledge – and that day offered an even better opportunity than other days.
Grand officer David Harrison was also put to work during his visit to the chapter by punching out a rousing rendition of the song to the three principals, superbly accompanied by Roy James at the piano. It was just another wonderful addition to an already memorable occasion. Perhaps the icing on the cake was that the chapter’s charity account was boosted by an additional £470 by the generosity of those in attendance. All had gone superbly well and it was little wonder that the companions of Blackpool Chapter of Integrity left in a mood of cosy satisfaction.