On arrival at the Masonic hall in Blackpool and on entering the swish lounge bar bursting to the seams with cheery Masons, there was an air of joviality and warm companionship. It was the occasion of the installation meeting of the Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship No 7692 and all were set on proving that the lodge is fellowship by nature as well as by name. Cordiality was at the core of the welcome with camaraderie at its helm. There could not have been a more fitting primer to what transpired to be a special day.
Mingling with the populace and chatting with all and sundry were notables such as the ever exuberant Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent and his fellow grand officers Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Terry Hudson, Provincial Charity Steward Ted Rhodes and North Fylde Group Chairman Duncan Smith, along with an array of distinguished Provincial officers headed by Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin and his vice chairman David Cook. The place was simply oozing with atmosphere and desultory conversation buzzed with fellowship.
The preliminary formalities concluded, the masses popped along in light mood to the opulence of the upper lodge room to commence the main agenda item, that of installing James Coupe into the chair of King Solomon. As in the lounge bar, the ceremony itself had camaraderie and fellowship at its centre. A broad spectrum of members and visitors were involved with the ceremony, a feature that gained an edge over many installations. All ranks of Masonry were involved and the work was shared amongst a diverse range of members. It was a quality that added a special charm to the evening.
Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship is a host lodge with lively and agreeable inmates, willing to exert themselves to entertain visiting company, and is well placed to ensure success at any ceremony. They belong to a group of hosts who adopt an ‘everything-must-be-done-to-please’ philosophy. And it was with this ethos that Fellowship Lodge summoned its regiments.
Master of the lodge Graham Suthers opened the proceedings and discharged the general business with alacrity and efficiency prior to progressing through the degrees in readiness for the entry of principal guest Tony Bent and the other distinguished personages, preceded by acting Provincial officers Gordon Ivett and Peter Ridehalgh.
Inviting Wayne Beacher to occupy the office of installing senior warden, David Edwards that of installing junior warden and Mike Yeo that of installing inner guard, Graham got the proceedings off to a flying start. Graham is one of those cheery souls who seem to wear a perpetual smile, bringing sunshine with him wherever he goes. And it was in that general mood that the ceremony progressed. After the initial portion of the ceremony and obligation of the master elect, Graham handed the reins over to the effervescent stalwart of the lodge Arthur Caldicott who completed the inner workings. Arthur, like Graham, has a face of cheerful efficiency, a face that shows no sign of ever having been marred by a frown and he brought his sunny disposition to play in his section of the ceremony.
It was then back to Graham to proclaim the new master and oversee the re-entry of more recent members and the presentation of the working tools of each degree. First out of the blocks was Neil Higgins to perform the working tools of a master Mason. Having been unleashed on the piece, Neil threw his soul into it and recited it with eloquence, clarity and feeling – almost audacious in its excellence. Next to enter the limelight was Brian Rimmer with the extended version of the working tools of a fellowcraft Freemason. He delivered the narrative in splendid form; stamping his DNA firmly on the piece. Rounding off the triumphant trio, Damien Kendrick showed a great deal of zeal and enterprise in his presentation of the working tools of an entered apprentice and approving whispers amongst the throng substantiated the general view that the performance had been top notch.
During the investiture of the officers, a broad spectrum of personalities was involved, reinforcing that sense of fellowship that existed throughout the evening. John Turpin was roped in to address the invested director of ceremonies and Ted Rhodes appropriately addressed the charity steward, likening the role of a charity steward to one with the heart of a lion and the hide of a rhinoceros.
Secretary of the lodge Phil Houldsworth introduced his special flavour of humour into his address to the assistant secretary, reminding Damien Kendrick that it would now be his responsibility to accept all blame for any of Phil’s errors. Jim Finnegan of Mereside Lodge No 6360 was another of the visiting brethren to be involved in the ceremony when he addressed the stewards of the lodge.
There then followed the customary addresses to the new master, the wardens and the brethren of the lodge. Following Phil Houldsworth’s address to Jim Coupe, Terry Hudson provided a lesson in ritual with his deliberate and meticulous address to the wardens before Tony Bent delivered a powerful and passionate address to the brethren; a performance that was animated and superbly dramatic.
At the conclusion of the installation ceremony, Tony again rose; this time to convey the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and congratulate Jim Coupe on attaining master-ship of the lodge. He took particular pleasure in extending his praise to the three brethren who had presented the working tools, perambulating the room in order to congratulate each individually.
Overwhelmed by the whole experience, Jim Coupe whose face glowed with a happy smile, got a grip on the case and humbly addressed Tony to present charitable disbursements totalling a magnificent £2,026.75, comprising £600 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity; £476.75 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival; £200 to Brian House; £200 to Blackpool RNLI; £200 to NW Air Ambulance; £200 to Prostate Cancer and £150 to the Blackpool Masonic Hall Building Fund. Such a generous sum was guaranteed to light Tony’s face with a happy smile too and he was lavish in his praise of the lodge’s generosity. And he was still suffused with an optimistic glow when the ceremony drew to its conclusion and the congregation retired to the festive board in high spirit.
The camaraderie and fellowship that had been so evident at the commencement of the evening continued into the revelling at the festive banquet. Laughter and mirth was the order of the evening and as the grateful glow of gin and tonics, whisky and sodas, or other chosen refreshers began to make themselves felt, the throng softened into a totally relaxed mood.
The traditional speeches followed the mood. Tony Bent’s brain, refreshed by good food and genial company, was lively and sharp for his response to the toast to the grand officers. Speaking with the eloquence of some prophet of old, every word carried conviction. He is a man with a sharp mind; a man who is graced with a brain intended for hard exercise and, consequently, he provided a most entertaining and stimulating speech. It was perfect for the occasion.
Graham Suthers in toasting the health of the new master displayed his modest yet slightly wicked sense of humour and there was no doubt that it was the right stuff to give the troops. The same thing could be said of Harry Waggett with his sensitive and cheery song to the master, accompanied by George Holden at the piano.
Jim Coupe in responding and still in a state of shock, was exuberant in his thanks to all who had played a part in making the evening so memorable for him. The spirit of Fellowship had left a warm glow in the minds and hearts of all who had revelled in the ambience of the occasion. It seemed as if the brethren had been on velvet from the start.