The term ‘Masonry universal’ would have been aptly applied to describe the attendees at the installation meeting of City of Lancaster Lodge No 281 at Rowley Court, Lancaster, with both members and visitors drawn from various parts of the world.
With the lodge eagerly awaiting confirmation of its full membership of the University Scheme after a successful trial period which has seen a marked increase in young men from the local campuses joining Freemasonry it is understandable that a wide geographical area would be represented.
The guest of honour at this meeting was David Grainger our own Assistant Provincial Grand Master who was accompanied by grand officers Chis Butterfield group secretary, who is a member of the lodge and Keith Kemp PrGDC. Acting Provincial grand officers Andrew Bartlett PrGReg, Paul Thompson PrJGD, Mike Jenkins PrAGDC, Richard Dennison PrGStwd and Barry Fitzgerald PrGStwd added further gravitas to the processional entry.
A very warm welcome was extended to David and all those present by the installing master Steve Nutter, who offered the gavel of the lodge to David with a look of hopeful expectancy. Promptly returning it, David remarked that he had absolute confidence that Steve would make a far better job of the ceremony than he and that he would not wish to deprive him of his final and special task as WM.
The master elect, Steven Dougherty, was presented for installation by Mick Gorry and after giving his assent to the ancient charges and regulations incumbent upon an installed master; he was placed in the master’s chair in a true spirit of fellowship by the installing master aided by Roy Domville and Ian Jones. In particular, the extended explanation of the inner workings given by Roy was both fascinating and a revelation for many as this version of the ritual had not been previously heard by them.
Rarely have the explanations of the working tools been performed with such confidence and competence as the performances that were given by young Masons Paul Finlay, Andrew Ridal and Matthew Triggs of the third, second and first degrees respectively. The quality and sincerity of the proceedings were further maintained by the individual addresses given. That to the master was rendered superbly by Tom Baines, the wardens were addressed with measured eloquence by Jack Baxter and the brethren were in receipt of an expressive and masterful intonated address so typical of David Grainger.
The investiture of lodge officers was also a noteworthy event demonstrating the willingness of the relatively new entrants to take on responsibility with Elliot Maclean, the second initiate of the trial University Scheme now taking the senior warden’s office. He was joined by another young Mason Michael Cole who was appointed as junior warden and promptly gave the address to the lodge stewards, outlining their responsibilities. A quick calculation of the ages of all the brethren appointed to progressive office would reveal a very encouraging, low average.
On rising to communicate the congratulations and best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, David Grainger expressed his admiration for the excellence of the work carried out and was sure that Tony would have been equally complimentary had he been in attendance. David also dryly observed that the installing master seemed to have grown in height a couple of inches by the end of the ceremony undoubtedly he suggested, due to the apparent reduction of the load he felt were on his shoulders! In completing the greetings, he paid special tribute to the three brethren who had presented the working tools.
When he stood to thank David, the new WM Steven Dougherty asked that the thanks and best wishes of the lodge be conveyed to the PrGM. Cheques were then handed to David totalling £2,000 with the beneficiaries being the WLFC, Lancaster Masonic Hall, Macmillan Cancer Support and the local charity Tigerlily Trust for bereaved parents, which he received with gratitude.
A packed dining room at Rowley Court enjoyed a happy and convivial Festival of St John. Masons whose mother lodges were as far dispersed as Quebec and Indianapolis and less ‘far flung’ as Cheshire and Cumbria joined with local brethren to complete a very enjoyable day.
David Grainger in responding to the third toast of the evening firstly gave his own congratulations and words of praise for the preceding events. He outlined a little of the history of City of Lancaster Lodge, especially since the amalgamation of Lodge of Fortitude and John o’ Gaunt Lodge in 2006 which created the present successful lodge. In mentioning the great success of the trial University Scheme he paid tribute to all those who had contributed to its development and maturity, noting that all that could be done certainly had been done in order to merit, its acceptance by the United Grand Lodge of England as a full member of the scheme. Looking around the room and noting the unusually youthful appearance of his audience, he observed that he could well be in the company of future leaders of industry and commerce, probably the next generation of Masonic leaders.
His address also contained a quotation from Benjamin Franklin concerning the benefit of involvement in contrast to instruction as a model for sustained engagement and commitment. This truism met with hearty agreement, especially from the North American brethren present. Prior to finishing his remarks, he reminded everyone of the need to keep the three ‘R’s’ firmly at the forefront of their attention, give appropriate and timely consideration to attaining Royal Arch membership and to also consider submitting suggestions of ways the Province should mark the forthcoming tercentenary celebrations.
The toast to the new master was proposed by Ian Jones and the musical tribute of the master’s song was well performed by Andrew Ridal with accompaniment by Roy Domville.
The traditional ‘master’s swindle’ from the table of serving masters produced a generous £70 which when added to the proceeds of the raffle amounted to the magnificent sum of £340 for worthy causes.
The evening concluded with many of the departing brethren no doubt musing on the advantages or otherwise of being young again!