As the song goes, ‘Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside’. The Met Office may have warned of an incoming storm, and it may have been a wet day in Blackpool, but the expectations and excitement in the splendour of the Winter Gardens remained high indeed. Provincial Grand Chapter is an occasion not to be missed.
Well over 400 companions came together to celebrate the appointments and promotions in the Royal Arch within the fine Province of West Lancashire. As ever, the pomp and ceremony of the parade into Provincial Grand Chapter had hairs rising on the necks of the assembled multitude. You can share the experience by and getting a feel for the atmosphere.
Ably assisted by his fellow principals and attendant directors of ceremonies, Mark Matthews opened Provincial Grand Chapter in style. Following respect for departed merit he welcomed the visiting dignitaries, who were welcomed and greeted with acclamation.
Immediately, Mark proceeded to re-appoint Chris Butterfield as his Deputy Grand Superintendent. Mike Threlfall was also re-appointed as Second Provincial Grand Principal. This was to be Godfrey Hurst’s final action as the Third Provincial Grand Principal as he was retiring after many years of dedicated service. Succeeding him was Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals was David Barr, who was appointed, obligated, and duly invested as Third Provincial Grand Principal by Mark.
Next it was the turn of the Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals; Ian Sanderson, Malcome Alexander and Paul Hesketh, to be reappointed, Colin Rowling and Barrie Crosley were retiring their positions, and along with the replacement for David Barr, John Murphy, John Robbie Porter and Gary Rogerson were appointed and invested.
With the Provincial team all complete, it was now the turn of those companions who were either receiving acting rank, their first appointments or promotion in the Royal Arch. The Provincial Grand Stewards, assisted by the Provincial Grand Directors of Ceremonies, ensured all the recipients were escorted to the Grand Superintendent with dignity and style. The excitement was etched on every face as they approached Mark to be ‘collared’ accompanied by very nice words of congratulation.
After all the business had been transacted; the recession was enacted. The splendid parade witnessed earlier was re-enacted but in reverse with slightly different personnel. The companions burst into a spontaneous round of applause. This is also available to view by . Everything ran so smoothly, and the efforts of the team of stewards from the Furness and South Lakeland Group played a big part, along with the directors of ceremonies, musical brethren, the janitor and those responsible for the heavy lifting.
The Winter Gardens emptied, and before the companions made their way for the post convocation banquet, there was much socialising, renewing old acquaintances making new friends and sharing a story over some liquid refreshments. This is always a wonderful affair, when companions from all over the Province formally dine together. There was again a buzz of excitement as companions found their tables and their seats. Then the Grand Superintendent, accompanied by very distinguished guests took their seats to huge applause.
Appetites satisfied, toasts toasted, companions sat back to listen to the short address by Mark Matthews, and learned a little more of what was in store for the Royal Arch in West Lancashire. There is a great opportunity to expand membership, and everyone was charged with promoting the excellence of the Royal Arch to non-members. Newly appointed Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah Ian Stirling, responded on behalf of the newly appointed and promoted companions, adding congratulations and giving some useful advice.
With a positive message ringing in their ears, the companions departed having enjoyed an excellent day in Blackpool. It was to be a wet journey home, but that won’t dampen the spirits, and the Winter Gardens will be full again next year.