It is without doubt that, in December 1927, a young mother in West Lancashire would have been delighted as she held her new-born son, Raymond William Leather, for the first time. Little would she have known that just days short of 90 years later, that little bundle of joy would be proclaimed as the WM of Lodge of Faith No 484. After making his dramatic appearance so long ago, eager to make his mark on the world stage, how good it is that, in the month of December, Ray will not only celebrate retaining the chair but also his 90th birthday.
It was with this backdrop that Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phil Gunning had the privilege of attending Bryn Masonic Hall to witness the installation of the Lodge of Faith. Phil was not to witness the ‘normal’ installation ceremony, as Ray Leather, the current master, was proclaimed as WM for yet another year, the third in succession. Lodge of Faith is not great in numbers, and normal ‘light blue’ progression through the offices has not been possible for some years, but the dedicated members work hard to maintain the standards of this proud and historic lodge. Ray joined the lodge in October 2007, and has been an active, deeply involved member since.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master was accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent, the Wigan Group Chairman Geoffrey Porter, supported by grand officers, Malcolm Taylor and David Ogden, who is also the group vice chairman, together with the group secretary John Selley, and group charity steward Chris Reeman. Adding further support were four acting Provincial grand officers; David Kenworthy (PrGSwdB), Fred Dickinson (PrAGPurs), Trevor Jones and David Rigby (both PrGStwds), ably managed by Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell.
As master of the lodge, Ray was pleased to welcome Philip into the lodge room, and as protocol dictates, offered him the gavel. In response Philip remarked: “Had it been a full installation I might have retained it but, as it is a proclamation, I feel I should return it to your safe hands.” Phil then took his place in the lodge to witness the proclamation followed by the appointment and investment of lodge officers for the ensuing year.
Following the announcement that the ceremony was complete, Phil rose to communicate the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, feeling sure that Tony would want to congratulate all who had taken part, none more so than the director of ceremonies Evan Walsh, who had done a splendid job throughout the unscripted ceremony. Philip was delighted to receive donations made by the lodge to charity; £100 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and a donation of £300 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity.
At the excellent festive board, Ray revealed that this is not the only lodge to elect him WM this year because, in October, Ray was also installed as master in Minnehaha Minstrel Lodge No 2363 in the Province of East Lancashire.
He has also served as WM in other lodges. In 1984 Ray was initiated in Aegis Lodge No 9115. He also joined Samaritan Lodge No 3336, in the Province of East Lancashire, becoming master of that Lodge for the first time in February 1990. He has served again in 1995, 2001, 2002 and 2007. In April 1993 he was master of his mother lodge, Aegis Lodge and again in 1999, 2002, 2011 and 2012. In total he has been WM 16 times, eight times in West Lancashire, six times in East Lancashire, once in Warwickshire and once in Cheshire.
Peter Spencer conducted a quick-fire sale of numbers for a lodge raffle raising £194 towards the lodge widows fund. The first prize went to Phil Barr, the WM of Bryn Lodge No 6553 and the second prize to David Kenworthy, the Provincial Sword Bearer. Peter Spencer, when proposing the toast to the health of the WM, thanked Ray for helping out the lodge by continuing for a further year. Fred Parker sang the master’s song, something he has done every time Ray has been master.
Before departing, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and the Assistant Provincial Grand Master each received a spray of flowers for their wives.
As indicated by his impressive CV, Ray is a very experienced Mason and holds the rank of PPrGSuptWks. He is married to wife Audrey. Ray’s main interest outside of Masonry is as Vice President of the British Fire Service Association and National Chairman of its welfare fund. Ray was a life-long fire-fighter, retiring as Divisional Commander. He is the proud holder of the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in recognition of his outstanding public service. The lodge is proud to have faith in Ray to guide them through the next year hopefully from strength to strength.