When promulgating the many pleasures of Royal Arch Masonry one cannot disregard the marvellous spectacle of its ceremonies; the pageantry, the exuberance of the room furnishings and the vibrancy of its attire, particularly that of the three principals. And the pleasure is amplified many fold when the personalities of the participants are as colourful and ebullient as their surroundings.
Blackpool Chapter of Sincerity No 4175 is not devoid of characters and its premium members were in grand form in the lower temple at Blackpool Masonic Hall for its installation convocation that saw Joseph (Joe) O’Brien, Jonathan (Jon) Selcoe and Jeff Basson placed into the first, second and third principals’ chairs respectively.
The retiring first principal and one of the founders of the chapter Trevor Drabble opened the proceedings and conducted the general business in fine style, including a ballot for joining member Denis Askham, before the evening’s honoured guest Christopher Band, representing the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, strolled into the chapter room accompanied by officers of Supreme Grand Chapter Bill Eardley, Harry Cox and Stuart Thornber, along with Peter Bentham, Chairman of Blackpool Group, Duncan Smith, Chairman of North Fylde Group and acting Provincial officers Gordon Ivett, Bob Bennett and Roy Fenton.
Although the installation ceremony was an abridged version with Joe O’Brien being installed into the first principal’s chair whilst Jon Selcoe and Jeff Basson were inducted into the second and third principals’ chairs respectively, both having served in those offices on previous occasions, the quality of the ritual was not compromised. Indeed, throughout the proceedings all the participants demonstrated the highest of skills.
As already alluded to, the colourful character of Royal Arch ritual is further enhanced by the effervescence of those participating in the proceedings. Trevor Drabble, the highest ranking Provincial officer on the Fylde and a true elder statesman of the chapter is one such individual. He is a founder member of the chapter and has been an integral part of its evolution since its consecration in October 1988. Despite the maturity of his years, Trevor is one of the brightest and most focussed of chaps to have ever scraped the skin off a rice pudding. Charming, unassuming and ever courteous, he installed Joe O’Brien into the first principal’s chair in word-perfect fashion. In turn Joe inducted Jon Selcoe into the second principal’s chair and then Jon inducted Jeff Basson into that of the third principal, all in fine manner.
There then came an opportunity for some of the more recent members to shine. In delivering the robe addresses to the three principals Roy Fenton, who was charged with the scarlet robe, Granville Coxhill who had the responsibility of the purple robe and Paul Easton who delivered the blue robe address, proved themselves ritualists of no mean order. Clear, confident, sincere and perfect, each one earned the full admiration of the onlooking companions.
Following the investiture of the officers of the chapter, during which time John Wall had been providing further enjoyment by his selection of delightful tunes on the organ, Trevor Drabble once again demonstrated his excellence in his address to the three principals.
Then, leaping into action with the self-assurance of one of those Hollywood superhero chappies and all but revolving like a static tornado as a prelude to his performance, ‘Ritualman’, alias Jon Selcoe, another founder member of the chapter, launched into a scintillating delivery of the address to the officers of the chapter. It was most stimulating.
It was then the turn of Christopher Band to demonstrate his talents in his address to the companions and although the preceding competition had been fierce, Christopher is a pretty hard chap to out-general and he delivered it with the clarity and skill of a true professional.
In conveying the best wishes of the Grand Superintendent to the three principals and companions of the chapter, Christopher was full of praise for the quality and enjoyment of the ceremony. His enjoyment was further boosted when presented with charitable disbursements of £400 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and £400 to Trinity Hospice, a grand total that Christopher recognised as a ‘clear indication of the generosity of the companions of the chapter.’
At the festive board that followed the conclusion of the installation ceremony, Christopher, in his response to the toast to the officers of Supreme Grand Chapter, drew the companions’ attention to a number of current issues that Provincial Grand Chapter wish to emphasise, including the need to support the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, the launch of the new Provincial website, the importance of our Masonic Halls and a recommendation to introduce the concept of Royal Arch Masonry to initiates in the Craft at an early stage of their joining the fraternity.
The customary song to the three principals was superbly performed by Shaun Haynes, equally superbly accompanied on the piano by John Wall. As is the tradition in the Blackpool Chapter of Sincerity, a toast was proposed to the founders of the chapter and in his response on behalf of himself, Trevor Drabble, Bill Eardley, Stuart Thornber and the other founders, Jon Selcoe paid a warm and moving tribute to a founder no longer with us.
The day had been a great success, the installation ceremony had been magnificent, the festive board had been highly genial and enjoyable, the founders of the chapter had been remembered in glorious style and those who continue to strengthen the chapter by playing an active role in the rituals had done so with passion, panache and sheer brilliance.