All superfluous knobs and excrescences had been well and truly knocked off and further smoothing and preparation had been rendered in the hands of expert workmen to produce a thoroughly enjoyable ceremony, much to the pleasure of David Randerson who was representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison at the installation meeting of Ashlar Lodge No 5154 that saw Michael Thompson become master of the lodge for a second consecutive year.
Accompanying David and equally enjoying the occasion were grand officers Stuart Thornber and Chairman of Blackpool Group Peter Bentham. Offering his support to the lodge and distinguished guests was Vice Chairman of Blackpool Group John Turpin.
Whilst a proclamation, by its very designation, is an abridged version of an installation ceremony, there was no skimping on the quality of ritual. From the moment that the ceremony first started it was obvious that it was going to be gold around the edges.
Yet none are surprised that a well organised lodge will produce excellence. Weeks of practising; everyone well cued; all participants knowing exactly what is expected of them and all of them fired up and ready to go.
That may have been the scenario until a few moments before the start of the meeting. At the 11th hour, all was not well. Whilst the throng generally thronged in jocular fashion in the lounge bar at the Masonic Hall in Blackpool, a couple of lone figures were dashing around, deep in thought and obviously tense. They were Mike Thompson, master of the lodge and William Farrington, the director of ceremonies. The two of them had on their minds much which called for rapid thinking and urgent re-organisation for news had just reached them that the installing senior and junior wardens had been involved in an accident and would not be able to attend. In addition, the lodge’s junior warden had been unavoidably detained at work and was not expecting to arrive until the end of the ceremony. If that were not enough, the arrival of the brother who was to perform the working tools of a fellowcraft Freemason was also in jeopardy. Holy mackerel! What could be done at this late hour and in a small lodge with all present already in office?
As any good general would do in such dire circumstances, Mike and William immediately mustered the troops, not only those from their own lodge but also willing visitors. And what a gifted bunch they found. With only five minutes notice, Ray Hargreaves stepped into the breach as installing senior warden and Roger Fish filled the role of installing junior warden. Michael Fisher, another visitor, was installing inner guard and the ever exuberant Chris Walpole assumed the hats of temporary junior warden, part-time tyler and steward, as well as undertaking the task of presenting the working tools of a fellowcraft.
Stepping in at the last minute to perform ritual? A recipe for disaster one would predict. Not a bit of it! As seasoned campaigners and with the resolve that becomes them, they performed to perfection, gaining the approbation and plaudits that they justly deserved.
Home-grown talent also performed superbly. Installing master Gerald Lowe, who himself had only had a couple of weeks’ notice, gave a warm and sincere performance, as did Michael Wigham and William Farrington in their addresses to the new master and the new wardens respectively. The high standard continued throughout the ceremony with Geoff Barker delivering the working tools of a master Mason in fine style and James Harrison providing a faultless rendition of the first degree tools.
From the visitors, Chris Walpole’s credentials were proven when he impeccably presented the extended version of the second degree tools, all after only one hour’s warning. Ray Hargreaves’ address to the senior warden went without a single slip of the tongue; a superb performance, and Roger Fish addressed the junior warden with panache and elegance, although not strictly to the words of emulation.
Stepping up to the plate and demonstrating his supreme skill as a ritualist, David Randerson provided a passionate address to the brethren. Speaking with animation and fluidity, it was clearly evident that his performance touched a spot with his audience. It was a perfect conclusion to the formal elements of the ceremony.
Ashlar Lodge is only a small lodge but the donations to charitable causes that Mike presented to David were a measure of the heart that lies within the lodge. David expressed his delight and astonishment at the generosity of the lodge on receiving cheques of £1,000 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £50 to the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, £250 to Street Life and £250 to Aiming Higher. This total was in addition to donations from earlier in the year of £250 to Brian’s House and £305 to the RNLI.
On an evening that, through unforeseeable circumstances could have been calamitous for the lodge, a strong spirit of teamwork and proficiency had cemented to produce brilliance and unqualified delight. It was a testament to the camaraderie, loyalty and deep respect that the lodge has generated between its members and visitors, an element that was clearly illustrated by the atmosphere of friendship, fun and pleasure that abounded at the festive board.
The customary master’s song was performed by Michael’s long-time friend Brian Tracey to accompaniment from George Holden and the sincerity and genuineness of Brian’s performance was visibly appreciated by Michael. In his response to the toast to the worshipful master, Michael was copious in his praise of all those who had taken part in the evening’s proceedings and who had ensured its success.
It just goes to show what can be achieved at the hands of expert workmen.