A goodly number of cheery brethren were in desultory conversation while partaking of the beneficent activities of the bar-room at the Savoy Hotel in Blackpool as a preamble to the installation ceremony of Senatores Lodge of Installed Masters No 8966. A great deal of cordial ‘what ho-ing’ and back slapping was being exchanged and a strong spirit of the Auld Lang Syne was in the air. Expectant warmth descended on the gathering with a distinct buzz being very much to the fore.
And little wonder that there was a buzz in the air for the installing master was none other than Assistant Provincial Grand Master Harry Cox. On one of his good days there can be no more than a handful of men in the Province of West Lancashire that can compete with the quality of Harry’s rituals. With Harry at the helm, any meeting is ensured of a good day with eloquence well above the ordinary for Harry is one of those chaps who spare no effort to produce the goods.
The lucky master elect to benefit from the ceremony of installation was much respected Freemason, Stuart Sager and there could not have been a more impressive turnout for this auspicious occasion. Fittingly, the principal guest was Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and accompanying Philip was a pantheon of Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, grand officers and acting Provincial officers. All in all there were some 17 grand officers that included the group chairmen from all three groups on the Fylde; Ian Ward from South Fylde Group, Peter Bentham from Blackpool Group and Duncan Smith from North Fylde Group. Further gilt and splendour was added by a plethora of acting Provincial officers that included Rev Godfrey Hirst, Dave Thomas, Gordon Ivett, Jim Finnegan and James Rashid.
In the presence of such a galaxy of notables, it was inevitable that the evening would be one to remember. That the rituals were of the highest order was corroborated by Philip’s comments at the festive board that followed the ceremony; but more of that later.
Having opened the lodge and greeted the principal guest and received his distinguished entourage, Harry offered the gavel of the lodge to Philip who, most graciously, declined to accept it and the ceremony of installation commenced.
A litany of complimentary adjectives could be employed in describing the quality of rituals but for the sake of brevity in this chronicle, brilliant is exact and will suffice. Due to the fact that all the brethren in the lodge are highly experienced Masons, the ceremony was an abridged version of that generally performed. Addresses to some of the officers were unnecessary and paraphrased accounts of the working tools were adopted. Nevertheless, the quality of the performances was not compromised. The third, second and first degree working tools were delightfully presented by Peter Weller, Mike Heed and Glenn O’Brien respectively.
The grandeur of the occasion was clearly evinced when grand officer Colin Moxey rose to give the address to the master. There are not many installation ceremonies that benefit from the participation of so many grand officers. Demonstrating his unquestionable skill as a ritualist, Alan Whitehouse performed a faultless address to the wardens. An aura of excellence ascended from him and it was obvious that his brain was working like a rip saw and that a couple of tipples of the elixir of life before the meeting had no doubt put a keen edge on it. It was raw magnificence.
Following Alan’s example and having been escorted with due dignity by the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Dave Thomas and anchored at the allotted spot, it was at this juncture that Philip Gunning sallied forth and delivered the address to the brethren with the self-assuredness of a Roman general announcing to the Senate that he had just conquered Gaul and was now ready for a spot of light lunch before pushing on to take Britannia before the pubs shut. The result was a masterpiece of Masonic ritual.
Conveying the best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison to the new master and brethren of the lodge, Philip spoke glowingly of Harry’s role as installing master and of his delight in having been invited to the meeting. His delight was further evident when presented with charitable disbursements amounting to nearly £3,000 with £1,500 benefiting the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and the remainder assisting a diverse range of local charities.
Retiring to the festive board to enjoy the sumptuous banquet provided, the inmates were in high spirit and a strong sense of camaraderie permeated the hall. In his response to the raising of glasses to the health of the grand officers, Philip once again spoke of the high standard of rituals that had been enjoyed in the meeting, demanding a ‘hear, hear’ from his audience by his suggestion of: “Hear, hear, I hear you say” and an immediate riposte of ‘hear, hear’ from the floor. This became a Philip catchphrase and ‘hear, hear’ was a recurring retort throughout his speech
Unleashing himself and performing the master’s song with his customary resounding gusto befitting of the Albert Hall, Godfrey Hirst, accompanied by the more reticent Keith Jackson, wished the master the best of health and a most rewarding year in office before the gathered brethren joined in the celebrations. A most enjoyable evening it most definitely was. The ceremony was of the highest order. The camaraderie was unrivalled. Hear, hear, I hear you say!