The North Fylde Group joint convocation was first conceived before lockdown by the then Assistant Group Chairman John Cross. John recruited companions from throughout the chapters within the group. Many practices were held. The Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison and the Provincial team had the date confirmed in their diaries and Saturnian Chapter No 7563 was ready to host the convocation.
Then along came the COVID lockdown and resultant disappointment for all. The months of planning, preparation and rehearsing had to be put on a back-burner. Time marched on and in 2021 John was promoted to North Fylde Group Chairman and taking his place as Assistant Group Chairman, Tony Farrar took up the torch of producing the joint convocation.
Tony, every bit the professional, recruited his cast and prepared to direct a production every bit as colourful and epic as one of the classic Hollywood films. The new date was set for Saturnian Chapter’s March 2022 meeting and practices held to make sure the evening was going to be a memorable one.
62 companions squeezed into the chapter room at Cleveleys Masonic Hall to witness a production ‘years in the making’ and the guest of honour was the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison. Among the numerous distinguished guests was Second Grand Principal Christopher Butterfield, Third Grand Principal Reverend Canon Godfrey Hirst, Assistant to the Grand Principals David Barr and North Fylde Group Chairman John Cross.
The chapter was opened by the three principals, Steve Willingham, Steve Bracegirdle and Shaun Haynes, who quickly moved through the early business of the chapter. A knock then came on the door and Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Ian Halsall entered. He announced that the Grand Superintendent stood without and demanded admission. First principal Steve Willingham said that the chapter would be pleased to receive him.
A colourful parade of grand and acting Provincial grand officers preceded Tony into the chapter room, where Ian formally introduced Tony to the three principals and he was invited to accept the sceptre of the chapter by Steve, to which Tony, (with some delight), returned the sceptre to Steve’s care saying: “I am here to enjoy the evening.”
Steve announced that the next business was to receive a presentation by the companions of the chapters of the North Fylde Group, the ‘Building of a Chapter’. Tony Farrar took to his feet to say: “We shall now prepare the room and admit the janitor.” The room was plunged into near darkness and in turn the first four narrators, Geoff Diggles, Ian Winnard, Damien Davenport and Peter Dunn, took to their feet to describe their parts of building the chapter. Their narration was only interrupted by other companions entering the room to bring implements and present them to the assembled companions.
The fifth narrator, David Rowbotham rose to give an enthralling description of the 12 tribes of the Israelitish nation and their respective banners which were paraded around the room by their respective banner bearers, preceded by two guards Jim Gregson and Steve Lloyd. The sixth narrator John Pitches, added to the colour of the evening by giving a detailed description of each of the banners.
Mike Brown carried on with the story, bringing to life the principal officers of the chapter and, starting with the scribes Ezra and Nehemiah, Mike took the time to relate the officers to their Craft equivalents and to the exaltation ceremony. During this oration the three principals took to their feet to give an explanation of their roles, which benefited both newer and more experienced companions.
Finally, the curtain was brought down on the fabulous production by narrator eight, Umesh Dholakia, who gave the valedictory or closing address. A relieved Tony Farrar took the opportunity to thank everyone who had taken part and had given so much time to make the presentation a success.
Just prior to the chapter being closed, Tony Harrison rose to thank the chapter for hosting the convocation and congratulated the chapters of the North Fylde Group on an enjoyable evening, saying that he had certainly made an advancement in his knowledge.
The Third Provincial Grand Principal Reverend Canon Godfrey Hirst gave a passionate talk about the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity whose current task was to help those fleeing Ukraine because of the invasion. Godfrey then led the chapter in prayers for a speedy end to the conflict and a speedy relief to those in need. Godfrey thanked Saturnian Chapter for donating the proceeds raised during the evening to further assist the effort to assist Ukraine.
Those companions who bore the implements and banners, without whom the presentation would have been less spectacular, were John Lee, Paul Smedley, Terry Murtaugh, Glen Jackson, Barry Simmonds, Russ Forsyth, Josh Patterson, Jack Baxter, Martin Clements, Derek Broadbent, Jon Davies, Michael Lumby and Dave Calvert.
At the festive board David Barr had the honour of proposing the toast to the Grand Superintendent, making a note that throughout Tony’s eight years of leadership of both the Craft and the Royal Arch, there had been one guiding thread – ‘enjoyment’.
In his response Tony thanked those grand and acting Provincial grand officers who had attended and supported him. Tony also complimented John Cross and Tony Farrar and the members of the North Fylde Group for putting together such a colourful and informative evening.
Moving to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, Tony thanked everyone for their part in raising £3,504,423, despite the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic had presented. Tony spoke of the Royal Arch and recruitment and encouraged the companions to recruit members from the Craft into this wonderful and colourful degree, pointing out that it is an essential next step in the completion of their Masonic journey.
A raffle was held, and together with the money collected in the chapter, raised £500 for the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity Ukraine Appeal. At the end of the evening Tony was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for his wife Maureen.