Pro Patria Lodge No 9952, the newest lodge on the Fylde coast, was consecrated on 9 February 2018 as a military lodge, a home for Freemasons or those wanting to join the Craft who have served in the armed services; soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Up and down the country there are what are called ‘themed lodges’; lodges that have brought together men who work in similar fields, share the same hobbies or have been to the same school. But lodges like Pro Patria are more than a theme, they are made up of men that have fought in the same wars and seen some of the worst horrors so we are kept safe.
There is something unique in a soldier, sailor and airman’s mind-set that many civilians would not understand. They hold a close family bond, even many years after leaving the service. They share a humour, yet in times of need can count on the unqualified support of the same brother. They are indeed a unique breed.
Pro Patria Lodge doesn’t hold a regular ‘Ladies Evening’, but it does have something completely different, a Regimental Dinner. Following the regular meeting in May such a dinner is held to which non-military Masons and non-Masons are invited. The events of the evening may be a surprise to some but following the etiquette of a Mess dinner the event goes on into the night where a goodly sum of money is raised for our charities. It will be no surprise to learn that, as well as supporting many differing charities, military and veterans’ charities are particularly close to their hearts.
The lodge draws its members from all over the Province and is called a peripatetic lodge which assembles at a different West Lancashire Masonic venue for each meeting. It even has a smaller version of its banner to display at meetings. Pro Patria has a base at Cleveleys Masonic Hall in the North Fylde Group and this was the venue for its proclamation ceremony.
Juan Topping was initiated into Foxhall Lodge No 7484 in 1997 and has served his lodge and Masonry with the distinction that typifies the man. In his mother lodge, moving through every office, Juan has served as director of ceremonies since 2010. After joining Senatores Lodge of Installed Masters No 8966 in 2005 Juan took on the sometimes unenviable role of treasurer.
In keeping with the lodge’s founding principles, Juan has served his country with distinction, being a member of the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, the first battalion to serve a two-year tour in Northern Ireland. In his civilian life, Juan volunteers operating the cameras and radios in the control room of Blackpool Council CCTV, assisting the shops, pubs and police when any criminal activity is observed or reported.
A founding member of Pro Patria Lodge, Juan was first installed into the chair of the lodge in 2019 and has dutifully watched over the lodge during the COVID-19 lockdown, so it was only fitting for the lodge to bestow a third year on him.
The evening’s proceedings got underway with Juan and his officers entering the lodge room, preceded by the Union Flag. At the appropriate moment in the lodge’s proceedings the principal guest John Lee, representing the Provincial Grand Master tony Harrison, was admitted. John was accompanied by David Grainger, Jim Woods and the North Fylde Group Chairman John Cross.
There are few set procedures for proclamation ceremonies and even though this was a simple ceremony it was performed with the upmost sincerity, with the director of ceremonies Phil Houldsworth proclaiming Juan master for the ensuing year.
No sooner had the ceremony been completed when John Lee rose to his feet to convey the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master to Juan and the brethren of the lodge. In return Juan said he had the greatest of pleasure in presenting John with cheques for; Support our Paras of £1,000, West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity of £500, Rosemere Cancer Foundation of £250, sponsorship of Martin Clements’ Coast to Coast cycle ride, St Annes Palace of £600 and Cleveleys Masonic Hall of £500.
The business of the evening completed, the lodge was closed and the brethren moved to enjoy a sumptuous festive board. A raffle held during the evening raised £495 to continue the generous work of the lodge for the coming year.