Church Alley has a Dickensian feel and could easily be imagined as the name for a passageway taken by Ebeneezer Scrooge in Cornhill, London as described in A Christmas Carol. However, its origins predate the famous story and is first mentioned in William Enfield’s ‘An essay towards the history of Liverpool’ in 1774.
In Enfield’s work, it is known as ‘Old Tower’ referencing the site of an old defensive tower, Enfield ascribing that to an earlier works that ‘the buildings are mostly of free-stone and that it is secured on the west side by a tower’, hence the name given to the street of Old Tower.
This street is the home of the Liverpool Athenaeum, one of the very first subscription funded libraries by its members who are known as proprietors. In 1889, George T Shaw, became master and librarian of the Athenaeum Library. As an eminent Liverpool historian and author, he produced a work on the ‘History of Liverpool Directories’, using the very first Liverpool Directory of 1766 by John Gore, noting that the Old Tower street name had been changed to Church Alley.
George Shaw was granted an honorary Master of Arts Degree by the University of Liverpool, in recognition of his works in 1926, and his portrait still hangs in the library today. It is fitting that University Chapter of Liverpool No 4274, also meets in the very same library reading room.
Companions were called to order for the opening of the chapter, having first been welcomed by first principal John Gibson, second principal Matt Casson, and third principal Sean Brookhouse, who was deputising on this occasion for David Waring.
Having opened the chapter in due form, the next order of business was to exalt two members of the University Lodge of Liverpool No 4274, Adam McQuire and Volkan Ezkan. Assistant sojourners, Wayne Warwick and Philip Farrar, were excellent in conducting their charges and presenting the two candidates to the chapter. Principal sojourner Adam Lindop, was equally superb in his command of ritual, which was executed with flair and made the ceremony a very pleasant one indeed to observe.
The three principals all playing an equal part, completed the ceremony of exaltation, and the icing on the cake was in the capable hands of the treasurer Rob Burgess, who delivered a very impressive recital of the mystical signs of a Royal Arch Mason. The two exaltees were suitably impressed by the prowess of Rob in delivering that part of the ceremony.
With a ballot for honorary membership of the chapter unanimously declared, this honour was bestowed on the janitor Brian Beaumont. Swiftly following this, two more candidates for exaltation were declared, making it six candidates to be exalted in a single season, the future of the chapter is in very capable hands.
The business of the chapter concluded, it was closed in due form and companions and guests retired to the fine dining room at the Athenaeum, and continuing the literary theme, in celebration of Robbie Burns a ‘Burns Dinner’ had been arranged.
To start the celebration of Burns, second assistant sojourner Philip Farrar, said grace ‘Burns style’ and the evening was off to a fine start. The dining menu was a delight with a starter of cullen skink (velouté of potato and cream with smoked haddock), followed by the very traditional haggis, neaps and tatties, and rounded off with a delightful desert of cranachan (raspberry fool with oats and honey).
Philip then gave a very interesting talk on Burns and interjected this with Masonic references throughout the poetry of Burns with an excellent recital of some of his well-known and more obscure works. Philip had obviously put a lot of work into the talk and at the conclusion he was very warmly applauded with congratulations for his excellent efforts.
Following the customary toasts, the two newly made Royal Arch Masons were congratulated on joining a vibrant and exciting chapter, and all wished them well on their Royal Arch journey. The evening celebrations were ending, and it appears only right that the words of Burns should bring the evening to an end.
May Freedom, Harmony, and Love,
Unite you in the grand Design,
Beneath th’ Omniscient Eye above,
The glorious Architect Divine,
That you may keep th’ unerring line,
Still rising by the plummet’s law,
Till Order bright completely shine,
Shall be my pray’r when far awa.
With the final toast, given by the janitor Brian Beaumont, an excellent evening of fine ritual, fine dining and finer poetry, the companions bade farewell to the next time they meet again.