From the garden of his home on the south side of Morecambe Bay, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Phil Gardner can look across the watery expanse to Piel Castle, which is the main feature of a small island bearing the same name situated to the south of Barrow-in-Furness.
In 1487 the island was the landing point for the unwelcome invasion by Yorkist pretender to the throne Lambert Simnel who was subsequently defeated at the Battle of Stoke Field.
In contrast, Phil was very warmly welcomed when he found himself making his way round the bay to Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall as the principal guest at the installation meeting of Piel Castle Lodge No 6099.
Others had taken a more demanding route than the A6 and A590, as it was the day of the ‘cross bay walk’ and a number of the brethren in attendance had, in splendidly sunny weather, trekked through sand, mud and sea water to complete the walk.
Joining Phil was Furness and South Lakeland Group Chairman Peter Schofield, along with local acting Provincial grand officers Barry Fitzgerald, Dave Cole, Phil Burrow and Keith Halligan. In addition Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Steve Plevey, a member of Poulton le Sands Lodge No 1051 in Morecambe, had made the trip north in support of Phil. A large number of masters from other lodges in the group were also on hand to witness proceedings.
It was the second time that outgoing master Dennis Laird had occupied the chair of the lodge and, as on the first occasion, he installed his successor with great precision and feeling. New master Tony Jackson, and the assembled onlookers, cannot have been other than impressed with the work undertaken by Dennis. It was a delight to witness.
The manner in which Tony recited his obligation and conducted his other responsibilities on the day bode well for the coming 12 months.
The cuff links worn by Tony for the meeting had previously been sported by his grandfather, father and godfather when they had been installed as the head of Piel Castle Lodge. He was obviously very proud to be able to carry on this family tradition.
Not only did Dennis discharge his duties as installing master impeccably he also delivered the address to the wardens in a faultless manner.
The high standard set by Dennis was maintained by all who took part in the ceremony. Ian Cottam delivered the working tools of an installed master, Bill Joughin the third degree tools, Bob Heron the second degree tools and Lee Storey those of the first degree. Steve Plevey was called into action to address the deacons as to their duties. The address to the newly installed master was undertaken by Stuart Dickinson and that to the brethren by Phil.
There was to be no resting on the back bench as immediate past master Dennis, he was invested as secretary. He is also secretary of Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall and no doubt will find plenty with which to occupy himself in those roles. If that is not enough he was also appointed mentor of the lodge with his responsibilities being outlined to him by group mentor Keiron Mullan.
Dennis took over from Peter Storey who retired after 18 years as lodge secretary. Peter is a great character and has his own inimitable style; one of the highlights of any visit to the lodge being to have listened to Peter’s broad rural Cumbrian accent as he read the minutes which were always concluded by the phrase “the temperature of the lodge at its zenith was” with the reading being given in Fahrenheit not the new-fangled centigrade. The reading of the minutes and the announcement of the temperature will join Peter in retirement.
To mark the occasion Phil was presented with a cheque for £850 in favour of the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival; this sum entitling the lodge to receive a certificate for their patronage. In addition over the year Piel Castle Lodge has donated £1,134 to the hall building fund and contributed £687 to other worthy causes.
Following the formalities, a superb four course meal was enjoyed downstairs in the Fairfield Suite. In replying to the toast to the grand officers, Phil commented on the excellence of a ceremony which he had thoroughly enjoyed.