It was one of those British autumnal nights when the weather was unable to make up its fat-headed mind whether to be mild and cheery or wet and miserable. For a moment it had been very pleasant and then the heavens suddenly dispensed a deluge. Darned annoying if you haven’t got a stout umbrella with you. The whims of the British climate however did not deter stoic Masons from journeying to the Masonic hall to attend the installation meeting of the Blackpool Lodge of Integrity No 5864; and jolly pleased they were too for it was a corker of a ceremony.
Spirits were instantly lifted on entering the lounge bar of the Masonic hall. A rather decent place the lounge bar at Adelaide Street; plenty of comfortable armchairs, relaxing background music, a goodish well-stocked bar serviced by the cordial and efficient Mel and Sarah, and a tranquil yet jovial atmosphere.
By the time a number of What-ho’s, How-are-you-diddling-old-bean’s and other such customary warm greetings had been dispensed with and a few refreshers had been downed in preparation of the main event, the brethren had gathered themselves in the lodge room in anticipation of a relatively short and concise ceremony because the fresh-faced youthful master of the lodge Joe Codling was to be proclaimed master for a further term, generally a fairly brief procedure.
The quality of the ceremony has been summarised in the title of this chronicle but, no doubt, the reader has been struck by the brevity of its headline and is compelled to exclaim, somewhat indignantly: “Hold your horses one moment! Surely such scantiness of words cannot possibly do the ceremony justice!”
And the reader’s observations might be right. A bucketful of glowing adjectives however would not more accurately define it than ‘faultless’, for that is what it was. Delightful, thoroughly enjoyable, brilliant; they are all applicable representations but that is because it was faultless.
From the very first moment that Joe opened the proceedings with a warm but efficient air, the day got better and better. A small but noteworthy procession filed into the lodge room. It was headed by acting Provincial grand officer Bill Hembrow. Following him were the Vice Chairman of Blackpool Group John Turpin and its illustrious chairman Peter Bentham. The rear was brought up by the dapper and jovial Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Philip Gardner, the principal guest representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison.
The proclamation ceremony proper then began and installing master Granville Coxhill performed as if brilliance had descended on him. He articulated with crystal clearness and there was a sureness and apparent spontaneity in his performance that instantly generated utterances of approval to reverberate around the room. The gathered throng was unanimous in this.
Junior brethren of the lodge were no less superb in their presentations of the working tools of each degree. In a faultless recital of the working tools of a master Mason, Martin Atkinson performed with surgical precision. It was splendid. Another faultless performance was dished up by Colin Rodgers. Confronted with the ordeal of delivering the extended version of the second degree working tools might have had a weaker mortal tying himself in apologetic knots and perspiring at every pore but Colin’s brow remained unmoistened and not a single hint of a knot was apparent. Completing a faultless trio of working tools and chalking upon the slate another major triumph, Kevin Croft delivered the implements of the first degree in perfect form.
Indeed, all participants in the ceremony performed to perfection; always the way with such zealous workers. Installing senior and junior wardens Steve Smith and Jon Selcoe, along with installing inner guard Jack Monks demonstrated their skills and showed why they rank so jolly high as ritualists.
Although the proclamation was an abridged version of an installation ceremony, there was no skimping on quality or content. Compensating for the reduced ceremony, the lodge was closed formally in each degree; no by virtue-ing in Blackpool Lodge of Integrity, only the complete and authentic thing will suffice.
The whole day had an ideal balance of reverence and dignity, with moments of cheery humour at appropriate times. As always where Roy James is providing the organ music, the atmosphere was emotive and sensitive yet ebullient and jovial when deemed fit. Even the programme of events ensured a perfect balance with a ballot for membership for an 18 year-old undergraduate and in variance, a notification of Michael Kember’s 50 years in Freemasonry celebration. The contrast was a joy to experience.
At the close of the ceremony, Philip Gardner brought greetings from the Provincial Grand Master and one could see from his glistening eyes and the benevolent smile peeking out from behind a perfectly coutured beard, not to mention the warmth of his demeanour, that Philip had been greatly impressed by the quality and aura of the ceremony and he was exuberant in his praise of all those involved. The icing on the cake came when he was presented with charitable donations of £800 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and £400 to the Victoria Hospital Babies Unit; disbursements that further demonstrated the excellence of such a small lodge.
The festive board that followed the formal part of the evening retained the same air of excellence. Dignified mirth and affable comradeship radiated at every moment. Philip’s response to the toast to grand officers combined humour with an inspiring message of encouragement to young brethren by adoption of the concept of a ‘Three Columns Club’ in which young Masons meet socially for mutual support and further advancement of Masonic knowledge.
The master’s song, superbly performed by Roger Lloyd-Jones and accompanied with gusto by John Wall at the piano, provided a crowning glory to the evening.
It was mentioned earlier in this narrative that ‘faultless’ would suffice in its praise of the evening. That was because the occasion encompassed everything that is good in Freemasonry; respect and camaraderie amongst a diverse range of ages, professions and cultures; empathy and encouragement; personal development and support of others; compassion and charity; fun and enjoyment.
Philip and the throng of brethren had distinctly enjoyed a spiffing day and ‘faultless’ is undoubtedly a fitting testimony.