Meetings of Pro Patria Lodge No 9952, the military lodge of the Fylde Coast, are becoming a significant items in the diaries of local brethren, with more than 80 turning out to witness the installation of Mark Smith as the new master.
The lodge is a member of the Curcuit of Service Lodges, some 50 military lodges spread across the country. Pro Patria currently holds the travelling gavel of that organisation, which is a trophy akin to the ‘crowd jewel’ of the Fylde Coast. Both trophies encourage visiting between lodges.
Amid suitable military pageantry, the retiring WM Juan Topping and his officers entered the lodge room. They were preceded by Carl Spindler carrying the Union Flag. The lodge was then opened and the secretary, Bob Wareham, presented the dispensation to hold the meeting at the Savoy Hotel, Blackpool. Several items of lodge business were adroitly despatched including the successful election of four joining members.
Once the initial proceedings had been dealt with, the lodge brethren were pleased to receive Ian Ward, who on this occasion was representing the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews. Ian was supported by several grand and Provincial grand officers including Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger, who is a member of the lodge, and Graham Fielding, Past Assistant Grand Sword Bearer.
They were joined by Richard McHale Provincial Grand Standard Bearer and Neil Higgins Provincial Grand Pursuivant. Also in attendance were North Fylde Group Chairman John Cross and Furness and South Lakeland Group Chairman Gary Rogerson. The customary salutations were afforded to David Grainger, the grand officers and the Provincial grand officers. David, Ian Ward and Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden Edwin Fisher responded respectively.
It was then time to place the installing officers for the ceremony and Juan Topping asked Graham Kenyon to act as installing senior warden, North Fylde Group Vice Chairman Tony Farrar to act as installing junior warden and North Fylde Group Secretary Mike Brown to act as installing inner guard. With these three brethren in place lodge almoner Steve Booth presented Mark Smith for installation. Mark delivered his obligation with confidence and accuracy and was then installed into the chair of King Solomon in an excellent manner by Juan, assisted by the other installed masters present. This stage of proceedings was concluded by an excellent rendition of the tools of an installed master, delivered by Bob Wareham.
Brethren of the lodge then saluted and greeted the new master in the three degrees, with the working tools of a master Mason explained by Kevin McCumiskey. A long version of the explanation of the fellow craft’s tools was delivered by Jimmy Cutler and those of an entered apprentice were given by Mike Joyner. All of these were delivered in fine style. John Cross then delivered the address to the WM in a polished manner and Ian Ward addressed the brethren of Pro Patria Lodge in excellent fashion.
With the ceremony completed Mark Smith’s first duty was to present charitable donations to Ian Ward to the value of £3,000. These were for the following recipients; Victoria Rifles Lodge No 822 (Ukraine Appeal) £250, Fleetwood Sea Cadets £250, Blackpool Sea Cadets £250, Lytham St Annes Sea Cadets £250, Barrow-in- Furness Masonic Hall £250, Heads Up mental health charity for the Armed Services Community £250, Scott Sutherland Project £500, Support our Paras £500, and West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity £500.
In conveying the greetings of Mark Matthews, Ian Ward congratulated all who had taken part, sentiments echoed by Graham Fielding when speaking for the grand officers. Edwin Fisher said that it was a splendid job by the whole team, particularly the director of ceremonies and his assistant. With the business complete the brethren then retired to the festive board.
A hearty meal was enjoyed by all and the usual toasts were observed afterwards. During these toasts the brethren discovered that the new WM is a Lewis, as his father was a member of Tithebarn Lodge No 8446, which still meets at Poulton-le-Fylde. Mark was master of Anchorsholme Lodge No 5854 in 2004, where he was installed into the chair on his 48th birthday.
As well as being a founder of Pro Patria Lodge, Mark is also a founder of the Blackpool Royal Marine Association. He followed his days as a Royal Marine by joining the Reserve Army where he held the rank of Sergeant. He lives with his partner Tracey. He has two sons, one of whom lives in Australia, the other is a Major in the Army. He has four grandchildren, the youngest is seven months old and keeps him busy. Along with cycling Mark regards the grandchildren as his main hobby.
A raffle was held during the festive board which raised £305 and the total sum taken for charity during the evening was £555. The Master’s Song was performed by Peter Baldwin, accompanied by James Coope. New master, Mark, also used the festive board as an ideal opportunity to present Juan Topping with his past master’s jewel.