Anyone who was at Pharos Lodge No 7421 could not fail to be moved by the demonstration of a Scottish third degree delivered by the brethren of Lodge Ladywell No 1474 of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire. Peter Dunn was the candidate for the evening, and it was a ceremony he will never forget.
As warm rays of sunlight bathed the beautiful seaside town of Fleetwood, a group of Scottish Freemasons gathered on the promenade to take pictures, for across the road, Fleetwood Masonic Hall had opened its doors to welcome the delegation of Masons from north of the border.
The demonstration came about due to Pharos Lodge member George Brooks who, while visiting his daughter Kelly, who lives in Tullibody, Alloa, George noticed the Lodge Ladywell Social Club and decided to pay it a visit to enjoy a drink. While there George got chatting to the lodge members and was invited to join them at one of their meetings. From there George was proposed as a member by the master Russell Scott and joined the lodge as an associate member.
Forming an idea, Russell talked to George about coming to Fleetwood to visit George’s Pharos Lodge and do a demonstration. Working with the secretary of Pharos Lodge, John Darrell, months of planning, practicing and having to obtain the necessary dispensations from the two Provincial Grand Lodges resulted in a Saturday emergency meeting being arranged to hold the meeting.
With the lodge room packed, practically every chair was filled and with those that were not reserved for the visiting Scottish Masons, the WM, the Reverend Canon John Hall, Provincial Grand Chaplin, welcomed all the visitors to the very special meeting and proceeded to open the lodge. Once open, John Darrell rose to his feet as secretary to read the dispensation convening the meeting.
John Hall then proceeded to open the lodge to the third degree before he swiftly called upon the assistance of his brother senior and junior wardens to ‘call off the lodge.’ The lodge was duly closed, and the Pharos Lodge director of ceremonies Dennis Smith requested that the officers of the lodge with the exception of the WM vacate their seats. With a hush falling across the room, the brethren sat in anticipation of what was to come, none more so than Peter Dunn, as the designated candidate.
From outside the door of the lodge came the unmistakable drone of bagpipes stirring, the tyler opened the door and the Scottish brethren paraded into the lodge room led by the piper, tall and proud. Resplendent in kilts the Scots lined up on either side of the square pavement with their WM, Michael Empson, at the head of the procession. He saluted the WM of Pharos Lodge and was formally introduced by the Lodge Ladywell director of ceremonies Stewart McLaren. The masters then exchanged places. On his own behalf and that of his lodge, Michael welcomed the brethren to the demonstration and thanked John for presenting him with the gavel of the lodge, saying: “I hope that in presenting me with the gavel of the lodge it will lose none of its lustre.”
Michael then asked his wardens, deacons and other officers of Lodge Ladywell to take their places in the lodge. The lodge room was then reconfigured to that of the Scottish Constitution. Michael then requested the director of ceremonies, deacons and the candidate (Peter) to leave the room.
Peter was escorted out of the lodge room and prepared to be raised to the Scottish third degree. From then on, Peter’s lips are sealed as to what specifically went on. As a group publicity officer, Peter’s role is to take pictures, sit in the background and report on the events. Even though Peter didn’t get the chance to see all the proceedings, he wouldn’t have changed places with anyone in the hall that day and what went on will live with him for a long time.
But what Peter can say is that during the demonstration the skill in delivering the ritual was at another level, at times it was more like listening to beautiful poetry and even though he was mentally comparing the two constitutions, he could not detect a word out of place. The perambulations around the lodge were done with the precision of any military parade, the skills of the deacons, John Scott and Alister Kerr, conducting the uninitiated into their constitution could not be denied, all under the direction of their DC Stewart McLaren. All this was made more impressive because at one point when Peter was out of the lodge room the deacons told him that they had to adapt their ceremony on-the-go because their lodge room has two doors and in different positions.
In an afternoon of so many highlights it is only right that they are named from the WM Michael Empson whose command of the proceedings and skill of ritual set the stage to his officers and members of the lodge who weaved their story upon it.
The prayers were given by Robert Carruthers, while Ralph Reinflesch delivered the retrospective with all the skill of a past master. John Scott Snr, made an animated delivery of the secrets. Russell Scott, the lodge’s immediate past master, delivered the emblems and walking charge which was a particular ‘stand-out’ moment amongst the many of the afternoon. Alister Kerr did not disappoint in his delivery of that most important ritual, the traditional history. DC Stewart McLaren released his wand for a moment to make short work of the third degree working tools. Robert Hunter of Lodge Clackmannan No 1303 and honorary member of Lodge Ladywell delivered the explanation of the extended apron, while the final charge was in the very capable hands of Colin Prentis.
Closing the demonstration, the master of Lodge Ladywell, Michael Empson presented John Hall with a quaich, a Scottish silver cup of friendship, which has been used over the centuries to offer a welcoming drink and to fill it, a bottle of whisky. Michael then called on his brethren to vacate their seats and line-up either side of the square pavement, Michael then returned the master’s chair and gavel of the lodge to John. The brethren, plus one, then paraded out of the lodge to the skirl of the bagpipes.
To bring the curtain down on such a memorable afternoon, the brethren descended to the bar to enjoy more of the afternoon’s delights. The brethren then moved to the dining room where once they were seated, both masters were piped into the room. The festive board, comprising of a fabulous buffet, was completed with a raffle that raised the magnificent amount of £500 which was split and £250 was presented to Michael Empson, which in the best principles of Masonry, he returned to John for donation to which ever charities that Pharos Lodge supports.
Once the festive board was complete the brethren retired to the bar to continue the festivities well into the evening. With entertainment by Murray Drylie playing many a tune on the bagpipes, putting an added element of fun for all to enjoy.
The meeting showed the differences in our ritual, but more than that it served to show that no matter our differences in ritual or constitution, the bond of Masonic brotherhood and friendship was truly on display. It cannot be denied that the brethren made a daily advancement in their knowledge. It is hoped that a return visit from the members of Pharos Lodge can be arranged in the new season to strengthen the bond of friendship between the two lodges.