When the representative of the Provincial Grand Master attending your installation ceremony is the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies you might, as the installing master and as the lodge DC be the two people in the room feeling, perhaps, a little under pressure. No? Well that’s fine, so we’ll make things a little more interesting by adding the PrGM Tony Harrison, PAPrGM Phil Gardner and a few grand officers to your list of observers.
However, it was quickly apparent that nothing was going to disturb the calm demeanour of the two principal performers or indeed, ruffle the master elect at the installation meeting of Poulton le Sands Lodge No 1051.
Morecambe Masonic Hall was filled to bursting point when Keith Kemp PrGDC was the representative and principal guest at the PrGM’s own lodge. The other grand officers, in addition to those previously mentioned were Tom Holroyd and Dennis Butterfield. The acting Provincial grand officers in attendance were Peter Pemberton PrSGW, Ernie Greenhalgh PrGAlm who is a lodge member, Paul Thompson PrJGD and Richard Dennison PrGStwd.
With commendable alacrity, Keith Lamb WM dispatched the regular business items and lodge DC Frank Heath re-entered the lodge room to announce that the PrGM demanded admission. The procession entered and Tony very quickly introduced Keith as the principal guest, intimating very clearly that he was attending simply as a lodge member and present only to relax and enjoy the ceremony. Protocol, however takes little cognizance of personal wishes and therefore Keith promptly welcomed Tony and offered him the gavel of the lodge. It was returned with effusive thanks but also with some rapidity and a firm expression of confidence in the installing master’s abilities. Following the receipt of the due salutations, Tony insisted on Keith occupying the chair to the immediate right of the WM.
The master elect, Stephen Plevey (Steve) was presented for installation by his friend of long acquaintance Norman Haworth and having given his assent to the charges of an installed master and taken the obligation he was placed in the chair of Poulton le Sands Lodge by Keith Lamb. On this occasion, the words ‘measured’, ‘dignified’ and ‘sincere’ are truly justified, as the manner in which Keith conducted the ceremony was deserving of no less praise. The abbreviated versions of the working tools of each degree were deftly and succinctly explained in the third, second and first degrees by Neil McGill, Mike Ashton and fellow craft John Allington respectively. Without detracting from the performance of the first ‘veteran performer’ the renditions given by John and Mike were particularly noteworthy. The addresses were likewise of an impeccable standard. That given to the master by David Walker was highly commendable and was followed by a beautifully articulated address to the wardens delivered by Brian Milner. In his address to the brethren Keith Kemp demonstrated the oratory skills that are so evidential of his expertise and competence. Appropriately, the address to the lodge stewards was eloquently given by Provincial grand steward Richard Dennison.
On the announcement that the ceremony of installation had been completed, the ‘representative’ rose as expected but with a subtle and artfully contrived difference. Keith Kemp observed that traditionally this was the point at which he would normally bring greetings from Tony. He continued that it seemed far more appropriate that as Tony was present, he should do the job himself and deftly took a pace backwards. Rising swiftly to take the opportunity offered, Tony expressed his ‘utter delight’ at not only being able to attend his own lodge installation meeting but thanked Keith for giving him the opportunity to congratulate Steve on his attainment and also to be able to warmly compliment Keith Lamb and all the lodge officers for such a marvellous ceremony.
In his reply the WM echoed the sincere and very evident appreciation of everyone present for Tony’s attendance and then announced that the IPM would like to present some cheques and details of charitable disbursements to the representative. Keith Kemp was astounded and delighted to announce that the lodge had gifted in excess of £7,200 to Masonic and non-Masonic charities.
The ensuing Festival of St John held at the Lothersdale Hotel, Morecambe was quite simply one of those Masonic social events that exemplify how much enjoyment and pleasure we all derive from our Freemasonry. Over 100 diners enjoyed the ambience and excellent culinary offerings of this wonderful venue. The newly installed master, Steve and his IPM Keith were repeatedly congratulated by all and in his usual effusive style, Tony made sure that he passed around the room and had an opportunity to chat with everyone. The dinner proceeded in the normal format but there was a decidedly special ‘buzz’ and atmosphere as if everyone was, by virtue of his presence, involuntarily following the regularly expressed wish of the PrGM to ‘have fun’
The ‘representative’ rose, again as is customary, to respond to the toast to the grand officers. However, on this occasion, the lodge DC was afforded an unexpected break from his labours as a ‘past DC’ of the lodge took over the customary position behind the speaker. The expression on the face of the Provincial grand director of ceremonies was one that those present will cherish for many years as he turned to realise that Tony had ‘taken post’ behind him. Tony quietly advised Keith that as it was his lodge he was claiming this rare and possibly unique chance to reciprocate the same honour and courtesy that Keith had afforded him on innumerable occasions. The applause from the room was truly deafening! With the resigned air of someone who knows when it is pointless to remonstrate, especially with the ‘boss’, Keith continued.
He began by offering his own congratulations and hopes for a healthy and happy future year to the new master. He congratulated all members of the lodge for not only the part they had played in the ceremony but also on the news announced at the meeting that they had five candidates awaiting initiation and a considerable additional number awaiting proposal. Noting that the lodge evidently needed no guidance on the subject of recruitment, he made brief mention of the importance of retention and retrieval. Publicity and communication were other issues that he urged members to play an active part in supporting, especially by keeping their group publicity officer informed of events and functions and forwarding photographs and material for publication. He congratulated the lodge for the success it had achieved following its amalgamation from Rowley, Sandlylands and Poulton Hall lodges in 2006 and said that it was marvellous to note that Steve was the first master to take that office as an initiate of the new Poulton le Sands Lodge. After making reference to other topical items of news and developments, he concluded that it was evident to him that Tony’s own lodge needed no encouragement to enjoy their Masonry as it was undoubtedly ‘signed up 100%’ to the idea’. He sat down to loud and enthusiastic applause and a congratulatory pat on the back from the ‘acting DC’.
Following the toast to the PrGM, Tony made a brief response to thank everyone for the wonderful reception he had been given and to assure everyone that he was having a marvellous time leading this ‘great Province’ and looked forward to welcoming everyone to the next Provincial grand lodge meeting in the near future.
The toast to the master was given in an amusing and personal manner by Norman Haworth, his friend and one time employer who amongst the many secrets he divulged, exposed that he had on one occasion sent Steve to develop their business in India as he felt that Steve had a more robust digestive system than himself – an interesting criteria for commercial economic strategy!
Following these revelations, the master’s song was then sung beautifully by John Cherry with accompaniment by David Tattersall.
Replying to his toast, Steve proffered a wide array of thanks and stated his firm belief that both he and Poulton le Sands Lodge were ‘in for a great year’.
Few, if any, were eager to leave such an enjoyable evening behind and the generous raffle total of £420 raised was again proof that fun and good works are truly Masonic traits.