PrGM unveils 19th century tracing cloths

The members of Stretford with Trafford Lodge No 4379 were joined by many guest from around the Province, foremost of these was the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison who had been invited to attend the meeting of the lodge to officially unveil the three Masonic tracing cloths that were purchased in 1872, 1873 and 1889 by Architect Lodge No 1375 which met at Swinton Masonic Hall up until it surrendered its warrant in 2014.

Tony Harrison is welcomed to Swinton Masonic Hall by Dave Walmsley who presented Tony with the traditional packet of Eccles cakes.

Tony Harrison is welcomed to Swinton Masonic Hall by Dave Walmsley who presented Tony with the traditional packet of Eccles cakes.

The lodge was opened by John Harrop the worshipful master of Stretford with Trafford Lodge. John was a member of Architect Lodge and was WM of Architect Lodge on two occasions. After completing the normal lodge business, which included a ballot for a new member John opened the lodge in the third degree. As soon as the lodge had opened in the third degree The inner guard announced that the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Keith Kemp requested admission. Keith was admitted and announced that the PrGM stood outside the lodge and demanded admission. John said he would be delighted to receive him.

Tony entered the lodge accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Master, John Hutton, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Keith Kemp, six grand officers, Eccles Group Chairman, David Walmsley and four acting Provincial grand officers Ian Lynch PrSGD, Eric Lynch PrAGASuptof Wks, Tom Fredrickson PGStdB and Ken Wilson PrGStwd.

John welcomed Tony on behalf of the members of Stretford with Trafford Lodge and promptly offered him the gavel. Tony said he was delighted to be present at this unique occasion, but swiftly returned the gavel, saying: “I have no idea what John planned to do during the evening so it was better placed in his hands”.

Tony is pictured with John Harrop (left), John Hutton (right) the acting Provincial officers and Dave Walmsley.

Tony is pictured with John Harrop (left), John Hutton (right) the acting Provincial officers and Dave Walmsley.

After salutations were given to Tony, John resumed labour in the first degree. Patrick Wilkinson gave an excellent explanation of the first degree working tools.

First degree tracing cloth before and after restoration.

First degree tracing cloth before and after restoration.

John then asked Tony to officially unveil the first degree cloth, which Tony said he was delighted to do. The electric motor then slowly revealed the restored cloth to the brethren as the cover was rolled up.

John then asked Robert Macmillan to give a short talk about the first degree tracing cloth. Robert said the story of the Architect Lodge floor cloth tracing boards began 139 years ago when the lodge was formed. The floor cloths each measure approximately 7ft x 4ft and the first degree painted floor cloth had been a personal purchase by Samuel Studd who presented the cloth to Architect Lodge in October 1872. Samual was installed as WM of the lodge in 1874. Robert continued his talk by saying: “A picture paints a 1,000 words and this is true of these tracing cloths” He then gave a brief explanation of the painting.

John thanked Robert for his talk and resumed work in the second degree.

The senior warden of Stretford with Trafford Lodge then gave an explanation of the second degree working tools.

Second degree tracing cloth before and after restoration.

Second degree tracing cloth before and after restoration.

John then asked Tony to officially unveil the second degree cloth, which Tony said he was delighted to do. The electric motor again slowly revealed the restored cloth to the brethren.

John then asked Robert Macmillan to give a short talk about the second degree tracing cloth. Robert started his talk on the second degree floor cloth by saying the cloth was purchased by the lodge in October 1889 for the sum of £9 10s. He said that this cloth was very different to most second degree tracing boards in that its major focus was the staircase leading to the middle chamber. He went on to further describe the detail in the rest of the painting.

John thanked Robert for his talk and resumed work in the third degree. The lodge secretary Mal Walters gave an explanation of the third degree working tools.

Third degree tracing cloth before and after restoration.

Third degree tracing cloth before and after restoration.

John asked Tony to officially unveil the third degree cloth, which Tony said did and the cloth was revealed to the brethren.
John again asked Robert Macmillan to give a short talk about the third degree tracing cloth. Robert started his talk by saying the cloth was purchased by the lodge in October 1873 for the sum of £6 10s. He said: “This cloth was very dramatic as the artistic message seems to concentrate on what can only be described as the symbolic death and resurrection of man”. Robert continued with further revelations about the painting and concluded by saying that: “The artist is saying that death is not the en, it is just the beginning of a wondrous spiritual journey of discovery”.

John once again thanked Robert for his talk and then closed the lodge in the third and second degrees and resumed labour in the first degree.

Pictured from left to right, are Former members of Architect Lodge: Jeremy Dootson, John Harrop, Brian Pearson and Robert McMillan.

Pictured from left to right, are Former members of Architect Lodge: Jeremy Dootson, John Harrop, Brian Pearson and Robert McMillan.

After the communications from Grand lodge were read, John Hutton gave greetings on behalf of the grand officers. John said he would like to thank all the brethren who had taken part in the meeting and all the lodges and brethren that had contributed to the fund to restore the three floor cloths to their former splendour. He said special thanks went to the members of Architect Lodge who had donated the cloths to Swinton Masonic Hall so that brethren and visitors to the hall could enjoy the beautiful paintings for many year to come.

After the meeting was closed the brethren adjourned to the dining room for a very enjoyable meal.

All the brethren were given a booklet about the history of the floor cloths and their renovation click here to open the booklet

After the meal John Hutton proposed the toast to the Provincial Grand Master, during his proposition he said: “Any lodge wishing to come to Swinton for a one off meeting to have use of the floor cloths then they would be most welcome.”

Tony receives a presented with a bouquet from John Harrop.

Tony receives a presented with a bouquet from John Harrop.

Tony replied to the toast by thanking the WM for the invitation to attend this special evening, for the hospitality and work he had witnessed in the lodge by all those brethren who took part. He thanked all the acting Provincial officers for their support. In conclusion Tony thanked the brethren for their donations to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity saying: “We are about to go into festival and although I do not have details for you now, I know that the WLFC needs your support as its donations will fall dramatically when we go into the festival, so I urge all lodges and chapters to give as much as they can to the WLFC”. He concluded by thanking the members of Architect Lodge who had so kindly donated the three floor cloths to Swinton Masonic Hall.

At the end of the evening Tony was presented with a bouquet to take home for his wife.

The brethren enjoy good food and good company.

The brethren enjoy good food and good company.