Neil’s installation, an evening for celebration

The installation meeting of Lodge Amounderness No 7105 held at Wyrebank, Garstang, drew high praise from all who attended. None was higher than that expressed by John Robson who was the principal guest and the representative of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. He was grateful to be supported by fellow grand officers Lancaster Group Chairman Jim Wilson, Howard Jones, William Huck, Tom Blackburn, Donald Richardson, Colin Williams and William Seddon. Adding further dignity to this special occasion were acting Provincial officers John Vent Provincial Grand Registrar, Bernard Snape Provincial Junior Grand Deacon and Christopher Larder Provincial Grand Steward.

Neil Cooney (left) thanks George Askins for an excellent installation.

Neil Cooney (left) thanks George Askins for an excellent installation.

A packed lodge room witnessed a delightful ceremony led by installing and immediate past master George Askins. The master elect Neil Cooney was presented by the senior deacon Ian Cuerden and was placed in the master’s chair with full dignity and splendour by George, whose faultless ritual was an example to all. Ian Cuerden then went on to give the address to the master, whilst the address to the wardens was delivered with enviable skill by Michael R Threlfall. The address to the brethren was orated with precision and gravitas by William Huck. The explanations of the working tools for each degree were expertly delivered by Michael Threlfall (third degree), Hal Hamer (second degree) and Peter Walsh (first degree). One further address, not always seen at an installation ceremony, was the explanation of the immediate past master’s collar by Don Richardson, which was much appreciated by its recipient George Askins and indeed by all the brethren who were in attendance.

At the conclusion of the installation ceremony, John Robson rose to bring the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master. He had absolutely no doubt that Tony would have been extremely impressed with the whole ceremony and especially the quiet and authoritative way George had installed Neil. On behalf of Tony, he wished the new master and the brethren the best of health to enjoy their Masonry in the coming year. At this juncture, John was presented with details of the very generous disbursements that the lodge had made to both Masonic and non-Masonic charities.

The generous sum of £2,000 had been donated to a variety of beneficiaries including £1,000 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £250 to the ‘Master’s Charity’ (TBC) £250 to the Garstang Scout Group and £500 to the Stroke Association. On behalf of all the recipients John offered grateful thanks.

The presenters of the working tools: from left to right, are; Michael Threlfall, Hal Hamer and Peter Walsh.

The presenters of the working tools: from left to right, are; Michael Threlfall, Hal Hamer and Peter Walsh.

The installation coinciding with the day of the annual celebratory tribute to the life and works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the meal at the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite began in true ceremonial style by the delivery into the festive board of the traditional haggis installed on a silver platter and preceded by the piper Bob Wilson who was attired in the traditional dress of Scotland. The subsequent address to the haggis was given by Ivan Walters. After enjoying the hearty repast laid on by the Wyrebank staff, with accompanying varied libations, the response to the toast to grand officers was eagerly anticipated by the audience.

John began by thanking Jim Wilson for inviting him and adding how it was an honour and a privilege to be with so many grand officers on the evening. John continued by offering his own congratulations to all the brethren who had taken part in the ceremony and wished the new master a very enjoyable year, commenting he had great confidence that the members of the lodge would support him in his year as master. Further praise was offered to what John called the ‘permanent’ officers of the lodge, such as the almoner and the chaplain, who sometimes get overlooked.

John also raised the forthcoming Tercentenary celebrations with special emphasis on the Lancaster and District Group service at the parish church of St John the Divine, Sandylands. Commenting on the money raised for charity that he had been given earlier John was particularly pleased that non-Masonic charities had also benefited from the lodge’s charitable giving.

In proposing the toast to the new master, the installing and immediate past master George Askins gave an appropriate résumé of Neil’s career and interests such as golf, fishing and even supporting Everton football club, adding humorously that everyone has his faults.  George being a good friend of Neil was very pleased to be able to give the toast to the master and was breathing a sigh of relief as his own year as master was now complete.

The master’s song was delightfully performed by Ian Cuerden and Peter Walsh with accompaniment from Fred Parker. Neil responded to his toast by first admitting he was lost for words for a change. Finding his voice Neil thanked George Askins for all the help he had received from him whist preparing to be installed in the master’s chair. Neil was also honoured that Peter Walsh, who he had brought into Masonry, was one of the people singing the master’s song and particularly since he was singing the master’s song for the first time.

To complete the evening, Neil was presented with an engraved case and pen from Peter Walsh as a memento from the Lodge of Amounderness.

Article written by Paul Thompson. Photos courtesy of Stewart Aimson.

The new master Neil Cooney (centre left) with lodge members and distinguished guests.

The new master Neil Cooney (centre left) with lodge members and distinguished guests.