Tragic events sometimes necessitate last moment changes to a chapter’s programme and the way in which its members respond and handle the blow is a measure of their strength and resilience. Blackpool Chapter of Fellowship No 7692 was presented with such a crisis at its installation meeting with the sad loss of its third principal, a highly thought of and greatly missed companion. The circumstances of the chapter became even more severe when, due to ill health, its leading light, one of the finest of our species, Second Provincial Grand Principal Peter Elmore was unable to attend the convocation at which he was to be proclaimed first principal of the chapter.
Standing in for Peter on the evening was the effervescent Paul Hunter, a bird more than capable of producing the goods when the chips are down. Dapperly attired in a suit of irreproachable fit and groomed to perfection, Paul conducted the general business of the chapter with easy manner and confident purpose. Peter would have admired the zest and efficiency with which Paul conducted the affairs. It set the scene for a very successful, though abridged, ceremony.
Principal guest at the installation ceremony was the ever popular and highly respected Third Provincial Grand Principal Stanley Oldfield who, on entering the chapter with due reverence and stature, was accompanied by Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson and other grand officers Geoffrey Pritchard and Thomas Briggs, supported by Chairman of Blackpool Group Peter Bentham and acting Provincial grand officers Neil MacSymons, John Aitken, Bob Bennett and Gordon Ivett.
Receiving a warm welcome from Paul, Stanley was noticeably delighted to be present. With a furrow less brow, twinkling eyes and a benevolent smile furnishing his kindly face, he immediately put the companions at ease.
As already indicated, due to Peter Elmore’s unavoidable absence and the fact that David Gladwin was remaining as second principal for a further year, the ceremony was an abridged version of an installation with Peter being proclaimed first principal and David being proclaimed second principal. It left only Phil Houldsworth to be installed as third principal. Despite the inevitable pruning of the ceremony, the format and execution of the ritual was both excellent and entertaining.
Sharing the responsibilities of installing Phil into the third principal’s chair were Brian Dicks and David Gladwin; Brian performing the initial portion of the ritual and David completing it. It was a delightfully unusual format for executing the required task and was superbly performed, gaining warm appreciation from the visiting companions.
Throughout the ceremony, the quality of performances was tickety-boo to say the least. Director of ceremonies Michael Burnett demonstrated his oratory skills in the robe address to the second principal and younger companion Neil Higgins provided an exemplary recital of the robe address to the third principal.
Following the customary investiture of the officers of the chapter, Thomas Briggs, Past Grand Superintendent of the Province of Derbyshire presented the address to the three principals and oh boy!, what a wonderful performance it was. Souring to the heights of eloquence, it was passionate, dynamic and sincere; almost gloriously impudent.
Unwilling to be outdone, Tom Houldsworth was similarly audacious in his address to the officers of the chapter and Stanley Oldfield completed a trio of masterly ritual in his manifestation of the address to the companions. All three were a joy to witness and an inspiration to those who strive for perfection.
On completion of the ceremony, Stanley conveyed the best wishes of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison and expressed his delight at having had the opportunity of attending the chapter, congratulating all involved on a thoroughly enjoyable ceremony. Further delight was afforded him on receiving charitable disbursements totalling £751, with allocations of £100 to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, £100 to Guide Dogs for the Blind, £101 to the Masonic Building Fund and £350 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, with a further donation of £100 to the WLFC, raised by Peter Elmore during the Blackpool Group’s sponsored walk.
During the responses to the traditional risings that conclude convocations, David Randerson, on behalf of the grand officers, referred to the unusual structure of the ceremony as a consequence of the unhappy circumstances that had faced the chapter but praised all the participants for producing an excellent and most enjoyable evening. Jack Monks, on responding on behalf of the Provincial grand officers summarised the ceremony most fittingly as ‘different but delightful’.
The festive board that followed the formal proceedings was equally delightful. Throughout the day, respectful dignity and decorum had been observed whilst still enjoying lighter moments. The festive board continued in a similar vein and the highlights were when prominent companions proposed or responded to toasts.
The first, Stanley Oldfield, in responding to the toast to the grand officers chained his audience’s interest with a thought-provoking yet humorous speech that struck a warm chord with the group. It would not be putting it too strongly to say his audience was infected by joyous enthusiasm. Illustrating his points with appropriate analogies, Stanley emphasised the importance of supporting the forthcoming festival that will commence in 2017, whilst not neglecting the needs of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. He also encouraged the companions to familiarise themselves with the enhanced exaltation ceremony and the ‘Talking Heads’ presentation that is presently being performed in selected Craft lodges. His relaxed and genial oratory skills received warm acclaim from his onlookers.
Brian Dicks, the immediate past first principal, was equally skilled in his oration in toasting the health of the three principals, concentrating largely on the career of newly installed third principal Phil Houldsworth. Like a seasoned stand-up comic, Brian provided a hilarious account of Phil’s professional life, touching on little known events that perhaps Phil would have preferred to have remained under wraps!
Following a delightful rendition of the song to the three principals from Harry Waggett, it was Phil’s turn to respond. He did so in excellent style and with good-humoured banter, providing a perfect closure to a most enjoyable evening. The companions in attendance had been served up with a memorable day.
If the reader has followed this narrative with the closeness which it deserves, there will be a recollection of Jack Monks’ eminently accurate observation of the installation ceremony and his summary of it as ‘different but delightful’; a comment that perfectly sums up the whole evening.