If there’s one thing that we Brits excel at, it is definitely pageantry, pomp and circumstance and all that sort of stuff. We recognise it in ourselves. Elgar composed a descant about it. Most of the world admires it in us. The truth is that we are jolly good at it. It’s in the blood no doubt and we can turn it on at the drop of a hat. It is that quality of being able to bring a buzz to any occasion, an aptitude to putting the icing on the cake in order to transform an otherwise humble event into a memorable celebration and stir pride in the hearts of all onlookers. We can billow out our chests and proclaim: ‘What a wonderful occasion’.
And nobody does it better than we Freemasons. But, having said that, when considering the essential ingredients of pageantry, we have them all ready at our fingertips; a fascinating history, well-established traditions, the flamboyancy of our regalia, a strong sense of belonging and a pride in what we are and do. They are all there, ready and waiting, it only needs an occasion to bring them together.
The Provincial Grand Lodge meeting provided that occasion and when set in the magnificent surroundings of the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, the spectacle was complete. Who could have helped but feel the corpuscles racing round the tissues, goose-bumps down the spine and a tingling of the flesh?
But what of those receiving honours on the day? Whether they were first appointments to Provincial Grand Lodge or being promoted to a higher rank, they could not have been more enthused by the splendour. Over 1,000 fellow brethren in attendance, all with eyes firmly fixed on each recipient as they stood in the spotlight on the podium as their collars of office were slipped about their necks. The excitement was exhilarating, the emotion overwhelming: it was a thoroughly uplifting experience.
Those honoured on the day with acting Provincial ranks were probably the most deeply moved for their appointments will find them experiencing more of the pageantry of Freemasonry during their year of office. They will be supporting the Provincial Grand Master or one of his assistants at installations and celebrations. They will lead processions in and out of lodges. They will, if they execute their duties assiduously, visit many lodges and a wide diversity of Masonic Halls. They will witness a range of rituals and experience the idiosyncrasies of different lodges and more to the point; they will meet a huge number of new brethren and establish friendships that can last a lifetime. It will be a very special year for them.
Amongst the Masons who are part of the Blackpool Group who were honoured with acting ranks were Bill Hembrow who received the rank of Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, Roy James Provincial Deputy Grand Organist, Brian Ogden Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, James Finnegan Provincial Grand Steward and Gordon Ivett Provincial Grand Tyler. All were clearly proud to the tonsils with their appointments and a glow spread across their faces. The Duke of Wellington probably looked much the same after his accomplishment at Waterloo.
No less delighted with their first appointments were Vincent Carte who was honoured with the rank of Past Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendent of Works, as was Adolphus Taylor. Receiving the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon was Colin Wade whilst Edward Jackson and Derek McMenemy were honoured with the rank of Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and David Holt and Dennis Mackay were collared with the jewel of Past Provincial Assistant Grand Sword Bearer. Gerald Lowe and Anthony Healey brought up the rear when they accepted their rank of Past Provincial Assistant Grand Superintendent of Works.
Additionally on the day, some were celebrating promotions, amongst them being Colin Goodwin who was honoured with the distinguished rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Ian Smith, William Snell, Graham Suthers, Stanley Graham and Stanley Sykes all received the high rank of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and Martin Haines was elevated to the impressive rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon.
All in all, the emotion of joy had marked every recipient, whether acting ranks, first appointments or promotions. However, in the circumstances and in the atmosphere of such pageantry a certain degree of gleefulness was only natural. No doubt all Masons will be celebrating the successes of these brethren.