The brethren of North Shore Lodge No 7916 had pressed their dress suits to an astute state of crispness; white shirts were gleaming and shoes glistened with a brilliance that could only be comfortably viewed through crimped eyes. They presented a picture of unparalleled respectability and suaveness, a standard they maintained throughout their installation meeting in which installing master Len Jolley deposited Anthony Lea into the chair of King Solomon in a ceremony that combined a delightful balance of solemnity and mirth, meticulously orchestrated and administered by the lodge’s director of ceremonies.
The director of ceremonies has served the lodge with diligence and devotion for many years. That he is a man of spirit, it is true; always doing his best, most certainly; and accepting of his own performance nothing less than excellence, undoubtedly so.
And it was with this efficient exactness that Ron Strangwick announced the arrival of the lodge’s principal guest for the evening, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Steven Reid, representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. How seemly it was that Steven should be the principal guest on this propitious occasion; debonair, charming and of warm expression and as always, impeccably attired in a perfectly hung morning coat, faultlessly-fitting waistcoat and razor-edged trouser creases. Steven admirably complemented the general aura of the meeting.
When reporting events, a difficult decision is always in how much introduction a representing officer requires. It is easy to assume that a grand officer of such distinction is well known to all and sundry and therefore requires no preliminaries but, on the other hand some newer brethren may never have had the pleasure of meeting the distinguished guest and are left in the dark, wondering who he is and what is he like. Steven Reid is not difficult to describe. Steven is a renowned local medical practitioner; a thoroughly decent chap; one of those all-round free-range quality good eggs that are a pleasure to bump into at any time so to speak; cheery, courteous, modest and inspiring. He is a chap of keen mind and diligent action, so dashed competent in every respect.
Accompanying Steven and decked out in equally snappy apparel were other distinguished grand officers, Peter Elmore, Ron Sands, Keith Jackson and Chairman of Blackpool Group Peter Bentham. Acting Provincial officer Gordon Ivett was also in attendance, along with an acting officer John Dowsett who had travelled all the way from Westhoughton, bringing with him some seven members of St James Lodge No 8910.
The installation ceremony consisted of a fine mixture of elder statesmen of the lodge and rookie brethren; taken all in all, a distinct representative gathering of North Shore’s premium talent and skill. Adding immensely to the atmosphere of the evening was the music contributed by the lodge’s organist George Holden, a player of unequivocal talent who, when faced with a challenge has a knack of selecting the most appropriate humorous ditties.
Despite the customary brief moments of minor hiccups that invariably occur when nerves are being stretched to their limits and bluebirds seem to fall from the skies in fits of perplexity, things were buzzing along quite satisfactorily and Len showed all the signs of enjoying the occasion to the full as he conducted the general business of the lodge and began to install Anthony into the master’s chair with ultimate eloquence, what in the vernacular might be termed ‘like a good ’un’.
Having being seated securely in the depths of the chair of King Solomon, Anthony’s demeanour was bright. His eyes were bright. His smile was bright. Brightness radiated from him and he was distinctly pleased and comfortably at home.
The quality continued with the delivery of the working tools by three of the younger members of the lodge, those of a master Mason by Andrew Fraser, those of a fellowcraft by William Parrington and those of an entered apprentice by Vincent Steele. Whilst all three did an excellent job, the efforts of William Parrington in presenting the extended version of the second degree tools deserves special mention. Imbibed with confidence like a man suddenly struck with divine mental and moral enrichment, William launched into a scintillating recital of the presentation, inviting a spontaneous wave of approving nods that reverberated around the room. William could not conceal his satisfaction at a job well done.
Investing of the new officers of the lodge with their collars and jewels of office brought out even more talent. At no point did the brilliance of the ceremony stumble. One after another the players demonstrated the true art of ritualism. Not one to hang back diffidently, Ramon Ashton confidently leapt into action in presenting the address to the immediate past master and responding as ones on whom performing seems to act as a welcome stimulus, Bob Sims made light weather of his delivery of the address to the deacons whilst Gordon Thomson showed similar masterfulness in his presentation to the stewards; a joy for all who experienced them.
Bringing an international flavour to the proceedings, Campbell Cheyne a happy, smiling Scottish chap of the best type gave a delightful rendition of the address to the worshipful master. Ron Strangwick, who until this juncture had confined his activities to his duties as director of ceremonies, now became a skilled solo performer for this director of ceremonies, well able to adapt to changing roles, addressed the newly invested wardens of the lodge with eloquence and panache.
It was then Steven Reid’s turn to address the brethren of the lodge and rising as if he had been straining at the leash to get started and with an enthusiasm that might well have been accompanied by a ‘yahoo and tally-ho!’ he produced an exhilarating and inspiring performance.
His enthusiasm was well justified for on completion of the ceremony, Len Jolley presented him with charitable disbursements to the staggering sum of £7,916 which included £2,837.75 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £508.90 to the Christie Hospital Trust, £508.50 to the Alzheimer’s Society, £381.25 to Macmillan Cancer Relief, £170 to Donna’s Dream House, £360 to Blackpool Scouts, £100 to Blackpool RNLI, £250 to Miles of Smiles, £250 to Invision, £250 to Trinity Hospice, £250 to Blue Skies Hospital Fund, £300 to the Marfan Association UK, £250 to Rosemere Cancer Foundation and £250 to the British Heart Foundation. A further £1,250 raised by the North Shore Ladies Committee was also donated to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. As might be expected, Steven was in awe of the generosity of the brethren and lavish in his approbation of the lodge’s efforts, points that he repeated when conveying the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison.
The lodge members also did their guests extraordinarily well at the festive board, dishing up a grade ‘A’ leek and potato soup, proceeding to a wholesome main course of braised steak and seasonal vegetables and mouth-watering dessert of syrup sponge and custard, followed by a light irrigation of post-feast coffee and clinched with cheerful after-dinner mint chocolates. The abdomen was left substantially fortified.
In response to the traditional raising of goblets to the grand officers at the conclusion of the repast, Steven, with the eloquence for which he is so greatly revered, conveyed his own congratulations to all the participants in what he described as a most enjoyable installation ceremony. The quality of the rituals was a point that he particularly emphasised. “Why do we learn our rituals and not use books?” he questioned his audience. “On joining Freemasonry, we are aware that the brethren had gone to a lot of trouble for our benefit and we owe a similar respect to them. It is just one of the many things that make Freemasonry intrinsically good.” The prescription was delivered straight from the doctor’s mouth and we know how beneficial to us it is. Freemasonry is good for the heart and an easy pill to swallow.