The first Saturday in September was just another day in the life of Dominion Lodge No 4289 as the brethren assembled at Prescot Masonic Hall for their annual installation meeting, nothing at all remarkable, as yet another master (the 95th) was about to be installed and another one was about join the list of immediate past masters – both for the first time.
WM, Garry Simcock, opened the lodge promptly at 3:30pm but unusually all the visitors, Provincial officers and one grand officer were in at the start, something that had never happened before in the lodge’s history.
The minutes had been circulated and were approved and the secretary reported that notice of all the correspondence had been circulated to the brethren. Then came the almoners report, what was going on? Why on earth was the business being conducted in this unusual order?
The lodge was then opened in the second degree and then swiftly onwards into the third when, according to lodge tradition, the acting director of ceremonies rose to ask the brethren to rise and salute Colin Rowling, a member of the lodge and Chairman of the St Helens and Prescot Group, who had been honoured since their last regular meeting by the Grand Master with the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. The acting DC then escorted Colin from the Lodge, instructing him to salute the WM on his way out!
Then came the knock on the door and Keith Kemp the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies was admitted, who after saluting the WM, announced that the Provincial Grand Master was without and demanded admission.
“We will be delighted and honoured to receive him” replied Garry and the PrGDC then announced the most incredible procession, consisting of not only the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison and his Assistant Kevin Poynton with his wardens, his DC and a Deputy DC, a Past Junior Grand Warden, one past and two current Assistants from the Province of Cheshire, two Past Junior Grand Deacons and six further grand officers. A line-up fit to grace a meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge.
After much saluting, Garry proffered the gavel to Tony in humorous terms imploring him to keep it and install his successor. Some might say foolishly he accepted it and explained that whilst on some occasions he might keep it that it was his intention to return it, at this point Garry just looked at Tony and for a split second, to the hilarity of the brethren; it looked as if Garry was not going to take it back! This set the tone for what turned out to be one of the most happy, friendly and emotional ceremonies ever witnessed in the annals of Freemasonry.
The lodge was then adjourned to the second degree where the Provincial Senior Grand Warden, Michael Threlfall and the Provincial Junior Grand Warden, Peter Schofield were invited to take the wardens chairs for the ceremony of installation and Dave Lovell, who has either been or acted as inner guard for the past three years, was asked to remain in post.
Master elect Scott McMillan was then presented to Garry by Malcolm Long (his uncle) and John Brownlow, who had known him since he was four. Garry in expert fashion, then commenced the ceremony and (after the secretary had read the ancient charges and regulations), obligated Scott in exemplary manner, without missing a comma.
He then returned the lodge to the third degree before thanking his officers and asking all those below the rank of an installed master, with the exception of the master elect, to retire from the lodge for a short while. He then in a truly Masonic and generous act invited Scott’s father, Robert McMillan to take the chair.
What happened next defies description and for obvious reasons, cannot be explained but what can be said is Scott was regularly installed into the chair – the inner workings having everything, warmth, kinship, friendship, tears and joy all in equal measure with the very rare sight of Bob McMillan being rendered speechless!
The brethren present were all affected with one complaining of a ‘sweaty eye’!
The board of installed masters was duly closed and after admitting master Masons, Bob then proclaimed his son from the east, with the master Masons greeting him with three. Jeff Moss, then explained the working tools in excellent fashion before the new WM closed the lodge in the third degree. Fellowcrafts were then admitted and after saluting the WM, Bob once again proclaimed Scott, this time from the west before they greeted the WM again with five. Mick Southern gave an exemplary explanation of the second degree tools. The entered apprentices then entered the lodge, saluted the WM in passing and after Scott was again proclaimed by his father from the south, greeted him with the entered apprentice sign three times, prosper the art three times, and the number of the lodge in handclaps. These tools were also expertly presented by Mark Lawrence.
The IPM then rightly returned to centre stage to present the warrant, the book of constitutions and the by-laws to his successor, before telling the WM that he was now to appoint and invest his officers. After the PrGDC had conducted the appointment and investiture of the wardens, Garry continued with the investiture of officers until he enquired of the WM: “Whom do you appoint Director of Ceremonies” “Worshipful brother dad” came the reply. Dad was duly invested and after squaring the lodge with Garry (whose performance was deserving of a lap of honour) and returning him to his seat, continued with the investiture until the appointment of the ADC, who was announced as ‘uncle Mal’!
The address to the WM predictably fell to Bob McMillan, conducted by uncle Malcolm with grandad Norman looking on while mum was waiting outside the lodge room with auntie Natalie ready to serve the Provincial drinks.
The address to the wardens fell to Mike Threlfall, which was of course followed by the address to the brethren by Tony Harrison, who on finishing the address, squared the lodge, explaining on his way round, much to the mirth of the brethren that whilst he got on well with the PrGDC he wouldn’t want to cross the new lodge DC!
Garry then addressed the WM saying: “That completes the ceremony of installation” which caused the Tony to rise and bring his congratulations to Scott, reserving special praise for Garry and Bob for their parts in the ceremony.
After a brief interlude for the alms collection and after the first rising, the PrGM accompanied by his distinguished retinue retired, they were joined after the second rising by the Provincial officers, led by Frank Davies PPrSGW, with strict instructions to re-convene with their drinks in the lodge room as soon as possible, as it was the only space large enough for the 71 brethren who qualified to toast the new WM.
At 6:15pm the 91 brethren present were asked to make their way into the dining room and the festivities commenced promptly, according to the programme, as the new WM accompanying Tony entered the room in procession.
The atmosphere at the festive board was very convivial and the sound of conversation and laughter were heard throughout the evening with the Dominion Lodge knocks being heard long and loud after every toast, reply and wine taking.
Kevin Poynton, replied to the toast to the health of the grand officers and rolled over into proposing the toast to the health of the Provincial Grand Master in typically entertaining style, which was well received by all present
In the response to the toast to his health, Tony explained that he had been impressed with Scott’s work in the chapter demonstration team at Lancaster Masonic Hall, which had prompted his visit to Dominion Lodge and brought news of the re-location of the Provincial Grand Lodge office to Leyland and the changes to the care structure which he felt wold be pivotal in the progress of the Province; he also made reference to the yellow envelope scheme which he hoped that all lodges would take up to take advantage of the generosity of the Inland Revenue!
The toast to the master, by Garry Simcock was well received and the masters song was sung by dad, who managed it without tears!
The Provincial Grand Master and those waiting upon him retired after the response by the WM but several grand officers stayed which meant they did not miss an unscripted item which occurred towards the end of the evening. Stephen Flood, from the Province of Cheshire, announced that he was delighted to have been invited to the Minions Lodge, only to find on his arrival that he had been mistaken and it was Dominion Lodge, however, undeterred, he presented Scott with a yellow collar covered in minions with a picture of Gru also in evidence as the first master of the Minions Lodge and to Bob, he presented a DC’s wand with a model of King Bob the minion on top!
After the toast to the guests, two hilarious replies were given by Kirk Mulhearn, from East Lancs and Tom Lomas, from Cumberland and Westmorland, before dad finished off with a rendition of a ‘Perfect day’.
Just another day in the life of Dominion Lodge really!