100 years after a lodge has been founded is cause for a major celebration and after months of preparation and planning Liverpool Mercantile Lodge No 4319 was happy to meet for such an occasion.
The lodge normally meets on the first Thursday of the month but received a special dispensation to hold a meeting on the exact date of its centenary – 100 years after the date of its consecration – 23 November 1921.
To mark such an auspicious occasion the lodge deemed to invite a number of West Lancashire Masons to become honorary members of the lodge; Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and Assistant Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews. Two retired Gladstone Group officers, William Culshaw and Philip Marshall were also extended the honour, all of whom accepted the invitation with pride.
With over 95 members and guests gathered at the Derby Suite in the Adelphi Hotel, a reception awaited. The Provincial Grand Master Tony and the Provincial team mingled with members and guests to enjoy canapés and drinks as they caught up with each other, some for the first time since the suspensions of meetings.
Director of ceremonies Paul Shepherd kept tightly to the timetable of events and summoned lodge master Michael Collins, officers and members of the lodge to line up for a group photograph. The visitors and guests were then invited into the lodge room to start proceedings.
Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell was admitted and announced the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and the rest of the Provincial team were without the door of the lodge and demanded admission.
The brethren stood as Tony, proceeded by the Provincial Grand Sword Bearer, two Provincial Grand Standard Bearers and other Provincial grand officers were admitted. Michael welcomed Tony to the lodge and offered him the gavel. Tony thanked Michael and accepted. Tony then called upon the Provincial Grand Wardens to occupy the wardens’ chairs; Provincial Senior Grand Warden Daniel Crossley and Provincial Junior Grand Warden Ben Gory. Tony then proceeded to open Provincial Grand Lodge.
After receiving salutations, Tony began by explaining the reason for his visit; to celebrate the centenary of the lodge. He called upon the Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor to read the centenary warrant before Tony presented it to Michael. Michael accepted the warrant on behalf of Liverpool Mercantile Lodge and duly thanked Tony. Michael was also presented with his centenary jewel. This was also the cue for members of Liverpool Mercantile Lodge to display their own centenary jewels.
Tony then called upon the Provincial Grand Chaplain Reverend John Hall to take the floor. John proceeded to deliver a tribute to the lodge, which was made with genuine passion and with a hint of good humour, making reference to his favourite Merseyside band, ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’.
Director of Ceremonies Paul then took the floor to recite a brief history of the lodge from its inception right up to date. This was warmly applauded by all present.
Following the brief history, Tony then announced he had a pleasant duty to perform, calling for Ian Walton to be placed in front of the master’s chair. This took everyone by surprise; most of all Ian.
Ian has recently relinquished numerous roles in both the Craft and Royal Arch, as well as treasurer of the Gladstone Group and Annual Masonic Charity Ball.
For his outstanding service, Tony appointed Ian to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Ian was visibly moved by the unexpected promotion which everyone agreed was well deserved. The brethren showed their delight by applauding loudly.
As the ceremony concluded, Tony and the Provincial team retired under the direction of Malcolm Bell. It had been a ceremony which will be long remembered by all who attended. Following a brief interlude for pre-dinner drinks, lodge director of ceremonies Paul called upon the members and guests to take their places at the tables. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm entered the dining room to request everyone to stand to receive master of the lodge Michael, Tony, and the rest of the Provincial team. The brethren applauded as Tony and the team entered the dining room. They remained standing whilst the Provincial Grand Chaplain said Grace.
An excellent silver service five-course meal followed with very attentive stewards who made sure that all wine glasses were kept topped up.
Provincial Grand Master Tony, in responding to a toast to his health by Mark Matthews, thanked his team for accompanying him on this unique occasion. He also gave a special thanks to Paul Shepherd for attending to the smooth running of the evening, the attention to detail, presentation of the history and all the research involved. He also thanked lodge secretary Dr Peter Lingfield for all his hard work and correspondence.
Adding some light heartedness to the evening was the presentation to Michael of a birthday cake – although this one was not likely to be shared amongst all present as it was adorned with just one candle. Michael joined in the merriment and blew out the single candle. This was followed by a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’.
All too soon, the evening’s celebrations drew to a close and the last toast of the evening, that of the tyler’s, was proposed by tyler Paul Harford.
Malcolm then called upon everyone to be upstanding while Tony and his team retired. It was the end of a perfect evening which will remain in the memories of all in attendance for a long time.