The members of the Lodge of Lights No 148, which is the oldest lodge in the Warrington Group, were highly honoured by the presence of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence and the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison who joined over 150 Masons, including many being high ranking Masons who were in attendance to celebrate 250 years of the lodge’s existence.
A very warm welcome was extended to all by Stanley Jackson WM, who then opened the lodge in the first degree. The routine business was then conducted which included a declaration of master elect and officers for the ensuing year, before the celebrations started.
Keith Kemp, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies announced that Tony Harrison the Provincial Grand Master and his team of officers were without and demanded admission. Stanley replied that he was delighted to receive them.
The ensuing entry procession was a magnificent visual spectacle of dark blue enhanced with gold, which prepared the way for Tony’s admittance, which was preceded by an extensive escort of Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, grand officers and acting Provincial grand officers. Included in the escort were Philip Gunning, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Kevin Poynton, Anthony Bent, David Winder, John Hutton, Derek Parkinson and Robert Wright and Andy Barton, Warrington Group Chairman. The Provincial team completed the entourage who were all assembled with military precision as Tony entered the lodge.
Stanley extended a very warm welcome to Tony and all the grand and Provincial grand officers, saying he was delighted to receive the PrGM and all his officers to the lodge and hoped they all would have an enjoyable evening. He then offered Tony the gavel which he accepted and returned. Salutations were then given under the direction of Keith Kemp.
John Griffin, Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies entered the lodge to announce the presence of Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, who entered the lodge accompanied by an escort of distinguished grand officers including Howard Jones, Dennis Rudd, Jack Forsyth, Peter Connolly, Gordon Amos, David Redhead, Derek Hunt, Chris Eyres, Duncan Smith and Andy Whittle along with other grand and Provincial grand officers.
Stanley extended his greetings to the Right Worshipful Brother Jonathan Spence and all the grand officers saying it was a sheer pleasure to see so many distinguished brethren and he hoped they too would have a most enjoyable evening. Stanley then offered Jonathan the gavel which he accepted and returned saying it would be in safer hands. Salutations were then given under the direction of John Griffin.
Gwilym Jones, a senior member of the lodge, rose to give a short history of the lodge. Upon conclusion he presented copies to the Stanley, Jonathan and Tony and informed everyone that a copy of the history would be available for all the brethren at the festive board. The presentation proved both interesting and informative and was well received by the brethren.
An excellent oration was delivered by Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst. The oration explained some items displayed on the lodge banner which included the three great though emblematical lights of Freemasonry. Godfrey concluded his oration with solemn prayer of rededication. The oration was followed by sustained applause from the brethren.
Stanley then presented charity donations to Tony, including Warrington Masonic Hall Company £4,500, New Masonic Charitable Foundation £2,000, West Lancashire Masonic Charities £6,000, Ecclesholme £800, Warrington and District Alzheimer’s Society £500, Clare House Children’s Hospice £500 and the Walton Lea project £500. The grand total being £14,800 was the target the lodge had adopted some time ago, being the lodge’s number with two zeros added!
Response by Tony was initially complete silence, which later at the social board he referred to as: “being gobsmacked”. Upon regaining his thoughts said he was: “speechless to receive such truly magnificent charity donations and the largest he had ever received”. He continued by saying it would give him great pleasure to hand the cheques to the recipients and thanked the lodge members for their tremendous generosity.
The lodge’s generosity continued by David Tabron, chairman of the joint social committee, presenting a cheque for £675 to the WM from the joint committee, this being for the lodge widows Christmas gift which would provide £75 for each widow.
Tony then asked for John Gregory, the lodge secretary to be presented to him. A very shocked John was escorted to Tony who then promoted John to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden, saying it gave him great pleasure to promote John for all the hard work he had done over several years both for the group in general and for the lodge in particular.
The business of the lodge being completed the grand and Provincial grand offers retired in true ceremonial style and the lodge was closed in due form.
An excellent five course celebratory banquet followed consisting of pork, duck liver and port pâté with mixed micro leaves and crusty bread, wild mushroom, bacon and barley broth, lemon sole and asparagus fishcake served with homemade tartar sauce, turkey escalope rolled with a chestnut port and orange filling wrapped in bacon with chef’s potatoes and seasonal vegetables, and individual chocolate and rum pyramid. A selection of premium red and white wines accompanied the meal, which was followed by tea or coffee.
At the celebration banquet, in response to the toast to the grand officers, Jonathan began by relating some of the events occurring in 1765, the year of the lodge’s consecration. A year when the HMS Victory, ship of the Royal Navy was launched in 1765. She is best known as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. He went on to say that he had enjoyed his visit to the Lodge of Lights and thanked the WM for his hospitality. Thanks also went to John Griffin for his control of the proceedings as the acting Grand Director of Ceremonies and to the Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst for his stimulating and thought provoking oration.
Jonathan continued by reminding brethren of the priorities in Freemasonry being home first, career second and Freemasonry third and the need to get younger men involved in Freemasonry. He said it was good to see that the lodge was helping by being sympathetic to the demands placed on young men as they develop their working careers. He emphasised that there is no such thing as a Masonic career. As members progress they may be asked to take on a responsibility that they would hopefully carry out to the best of their ability. This may lead to further opportunities within the Masonic community that should in no way be considered as a career path.
Jonathan concluded by saying he was delighted to be with Tony and his Provincial team on this memorable occasion and wished him and the Province of West Lancashire well for the future. He closed by proposing a toast to the health of Tony which was followed by continued applause from the brethren.
In his response, Tony thanked Jonathan for his kind words saying he was delighted to welcome him to West Lancashire. He thanked Jonathan and his colleague, John Griffin for sparing the time to travel to Warrington to attend and take part in the ceremony, a ceremony that represented a very special day for the Lodge of Lights. Tony stated that he was extremely delighted to promote John Gregory on this auspicious occasion and he again congratulated John on his elevation.
Tony also presented the history booklet to all present and recommended its perusal saying it is very informative and thanked all the brethren who had brought the booklet to its present published form. Tony continued by saying the brethren in 1765 could not have foreseen the future leading to this sestercentennial celebration event. He congratulated the lodge on its achievements thanking the lodge members for the support they has given down the years and continued to give to the Warrington Group today.
He went on to thank the lodge members for their very considerable charity donation of £14,800 that had left him ‘gobsmacked’ in the lodge and commented: “What an incredible achievement over £108,000 donated to charity since 1974 and I am quite sure it would be over £250,000 during the existence of this lodge.
He then said he was delighted to have had Jonathan Spence, as our principal guest and I know as far as the brethren of this Province are concerned and no doubt our neighbouring Province of Cheshire that we all join together, as one, to wish this lodge all the very best for the future. He then thanked the Provincial team for their support and attendance and the Masonic hall team for the excellent food and service.
Tony went on to give an account of some the historical events happening in the year when the lodge was consecrated: “Back in 1765, George the third was on the throne of this country. His reign was blighted by mental instability as depicted in the film `The madness of King George`. He had lost control of most of Europe and the Americas, thankfully we had beaten the French in the seven year’s war and some 50 years later we would give them another hiding at the battle of Waterloo. Yes brethren this lodge was consecrated 50 years before Waterloo! You share your anniversary with Hennessey Cognac, Lloyds Bank and the launch of HMS Victory – which is still today a commissioned ship in Her Majesty’s Navy. Living conditions of the time are difficult to appreciate these days, think of it, no gas or electricity, footpaths, taps with running water, or TV. It would be another 235 years before a mobile phone would go off in Provincial Grand Lodge!”
Tony continued: “In 1865 when the lodge celebrated its centenary the year that was dominated by the American Civil war which ended on 23 June. It is interesting to note that the last act of that war occurred nearly five months later when on 7 November that year, in the River Mersey, the Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah finally surrendered her colours. On 14 April that year in the Ford Theatre, Washington, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. It was also the year that the New York Stock Exchange was founded, as was HSBC, the Salvation Army.
In 1965, the lodge celebrated its bi-centenary, the ‘Swinging 60s’, were well established and it was the year that saw the death of this country’s greatest statesman Winston Churchill. In America, the Vietnam War had begun, and racial tension was being fuelled by marches of the civil rights movements. We had entered into the space age, although it would be another four years before man would walk on the moon. Beatlemania was well established and they would play the first ever open air concert in Shea Stadium New York. Natural Gas was discovered in the North Sea and by far the most popular event of all, Mary Quant introduced the mini skirt!
So now your 250th year – I knew the number 250 had some significance, apart from it being a quarter of a millennium, and so it is. According to Google Maps, it is exactly the mileage from my house to the front door of Grand Lodge via the M6 – M1 using the M6 Toll Road. Having been consecrated in 1765 the lodge has existed under the reign of two of the longest serving monarchs, Queen’s Victoria and Elizabeth. There have been nine others, three of whom were either Grand Master or Past Grand Master. The lodge has survived 35 major conflicts, witnessed man take to the air and land on the moon and goodness knows what else in terms of life on earth. It has witnessed the greatest advancement in technology in every possible dimension. The lodge has been in existence for a total of 91,325 days. If you have had eight meetings a year for 250 years that means there have been 2,000 meetings, which means that you could easily have had 60,000 brethren attend your meetings.”
Tony concluded by saying: “Brethren my prayer and that of this Province is that the Lodge of Lights continues to go from strength to strength. There is a possibility that some of the younger brethren here this evening will still be around when this lodge celebrates it’s tercentenary, I really do hope so and I trust on that occasion you will recall with great fondness your brethren of today that made that future possible, because in all things we are only custodians of what we have, in fact, you have not inherited this lodge from your founders, you have borrowed it from the brethren who will follow and hopefully when the time comes to pass it back, it will be in just as good as a shape, if not better, as when you received it.” He closed by proposing a toast to the Lodge of Lights No 148.
Stan Churm, responded to the toast started by explaining and confirming that he was not a founder member but the most senior one! Stan thanked Tony and for his toast to the Lodge of Lights No 148 and started to reflect on some of the happenings about that time in 1765. At this time Warrington was a small market town, Manchester was also a market town and Liverpool a small port. Commenting that in those days travel was very difficult saying that it would take several days for Jonathan to travel back to London compared with today less than two hours. Many other parallels were drawn.
Today Stan reports the membership of the lodge stands at 41 with two candidates in the pipeline. He feels confident about the lodge’s future and agrees with Jonathan’s comments regarding helping members and stressed that some slightly older members, say in the 45 years plus age group, also need to be encouraged.
In conclusion Stan said that the lodge was continuing on the very solid foundation placed 250 years ago.
The evening closed with the Provincial Grand Tyler, Gordon Ivett, proposing the Tyler’s toast.