The Corinthian Suite at Liverpool Masonic Hall was the venue for the annual installation ceremony of the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter of West Lancashire No 8516. The chapter was established in 1979 to provide an opportunity for Provincial Grand Stewards of the Royal Arch to meet together and continue to cement friendships formed during their year in office. It also has a dual role in that it can promote the knowledge of Royal Arch Masonry by way of lectures and demonstrations and carry out such duties for the Province as the Grand Superintendent may desire or direct.
As is usual for this meeting, a large number of the stewards and guests were in attendance, with well over 100 booked in for the festive board. The chapter was opened in due form and ceremonial by first principal Peter Elmore, ably assisted by second and third principals Dave Rotherham and Chris Gleave. The three sojourners situated in the west were Stephen Holcroft, Stephen Riley Jnr and Malcolm Warren.
The three principals were pleased to welcome everyone to the evening’s proceedings, and after completing the standard business the next item on the agenda was a ballot. This was to approve, or otherwise, the membership of the chapter for a number of the currently serving Provincial Grand Stewards, which when happily proved to be in the affirmative were admitted into the room.
On being warmly received by Peter Elmore and the companions, who reiterated the thoughts of all in hoping that their membership was the start of a long and fruitful journey within the chapter. In response, Jonathan Heaton, on behalf of his fellow acting Provincial Grand Stewards thanked the chapter companions for inviting them to join, and that they would do all in their power to uphold the high standard laid down by their predecessors.
At this part of the meeting, Chris Hamilton spoke with great affection for the late Bill Smith, who had led the Provincial Grand Stewards Demonstration Team from the beginning, until his untimely death. To mark this an engraved Immediate Past First Principal Jewel has been commissioned to be worn in perpetuity within the chapter. This announcement was met with warm acclamation.
The installation proceedings then commenced with the entrance into the room of the Third Provincial Grand Principal Ian Higham which was heralded by the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Paul Hesketh. The companions stood as a colourful and dignified procession of grand and acting Provincial grand officers entered escorting Ian, including Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah David Barr and Provincial Deputy Grand Sword Bearer Stephen Riley Snr. Also included amongst that number was Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Sam Robinson who has responsibility for the Liverpool Group of Chapters, and Mark Matthews the Liverpool Group Chairman.
The three principals, Peter Elmore, David Rotherham (second principal) and Chris Gleave (third principal) welcomed Ian to Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter and proffered him the sceptre of the chapter. On graciously accepting the sceptre, Ian thanked Peter for his kind words of welcome, and returned it with a smile. Peter now took the opportunity to introduce fellow companions of the Provincial Grand Stewards Chapters of East Lancashire and Cheshire, who were Stephen Barritt second principal East Lancashire, and for Cheshire stewards chapter, first principal Stephen Christian, second principal Leyland Preston, third principal Anthony Lynch along with their Scribe Ezra, Neil McCrone.
Peter then thanked all the officers for the tremendous support given to him and his co-principals during the previous 12 months, with special mention of the chapter demonstration team who had travelled across the Province, at their own expense, bringing enlightenment and extending the depth of Masonic knowledge to wherever they visited. Peter also made special mention and praise regarding two unsung heroes of the chapter, organist David Tattersall and the janitor Paul Broadley. Sadly, Dave Tattersall was unable to be in attendance for the ceremony and at short notice Derek Hughson had been able to step in and was much appreciated by all.
As was only to be expected, the ceremony of installation was performed in exemplary manner with Roy Cowley being installed as first principal, Barry Robinson installed as second principal and Joe Williams installed as third principal. Roy’s first role was the investiture of Peter Elmore as immediate past first principal, before continuing in appointing his officers for the coming year. Roy had the pleasure of also investing Kevin Poynton as ‘The Steward’ of the Chapter, who will, as dictated by tradition, be installed as first principal at the 2018 installation ceremony.
On completion of the ceremony Ian Higham took the opportunity of bringing the good wishes and congratulations of Tony Harrison (Grand Superintendent), who wished fraternal greetings to each and every one gathered in Liverpool. Roy Cowley then had the pleasurable task of presenting, on behalf of the chapter members, three cheques. The first for £2000 in favour of West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity Centre, the second for £500 to the Saffie Rose appeal and the third for £250 to Liverpool Masonic Hall Building Fund.
The Saffie Rose appeal is in aid of the memory of Saffie Rose Roussos, the eight-year-old schoolgirl from Leyland who was the youngest person to be killed at the Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. Saffie had been attending her first concert at the Manchester Arena with her mum Lisa, who was badly injured by shrapnel in the explosion, while older sister Ashlee was also hurt in the attack. Ian Brown, a member of the chapter and the uncle of Saffie Rose Roussos, thanked all for their constant support since the tragedy and for all that they had done for the family. The donations will be used, amongst other things, to help bring in an artist to Saffie’s school to encourage her friends there to paint their pleasant memories of her.
Ian Higham presented to the chapter a certificate recognising their Grand Patronage of the West Lancashire 2021 Festival in aid of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This new MCF brings together and overarches the previous four main Masonic charities of the Grand Charity, Samaritan Fund, Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
On adjournment to the banqueting suite, a wholesome menu of Caesar salad, a main course of leg of lamb accompanied by seasonal vegetables, followed by a cheese board aided the further enjoyment of the evening.
In his response to the toast to his health and that of the other grand officers, Ian expressed his own good wishes to the newly installed principals. Thanks and appreciation were proffered to Malcolm Alexander for his devoted work in not only making the arrangements for this evening, but to him and the team who had just a few weeks previous arranged and organised the Provincial Grand Chapter at Southport.
Ian also had a number of messages that he wished to pass on from the Grand Superintendent. The three ‘R’s’ of recruitment, retention and retrieval were expanded upon, the role of the membership officer and the importance for everyone to see this as a duty. Regarding the MCF 2021 Festival, it should be a matter of great pride that this, the Province of West Lancashire, was chosen as the premier Province to launch the event. The Masonic Charitable Foundation has become the ‘one stop shop’ for all our needs, and the benefits would be much enhanced by the use of the gift aid envelopes.
Ian next expressed how pleased he was to be amongst the companions of this outstanding chapter, having last visited in 2014. It was always a delight to attend and the warmth of the reception given to the visitors was an absolute delight, which coupled with the enthusiasm of the companions present had made for an outstanding event.
The Royal Arch, being the completion of the journey through the whole of Craft Freemasonry made the whole better understood, and all Craft Masons should be encouraged to join when they felt ready. The evening flew past and in the blink of an eye Peter Broadley was on his feet with the final part of the evening, the janitor’s toast.