It is very gratifying for a lodge to receive praise for the quality of its ritual work but when that praise comes from the very highest Masonic authority, it is particularly cherished. The critical verdict of ‘an absolute delight to witness’ was delivered by none other than the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison when he was the principal guest of the members of Runic Lodge No 6019 at their installation meeting. A multitude of grand and acting Provincial grand officers joined Tony at Morecambe Masonic Hall to see Dav Morrow install his successor Desmond (Dan) Mitchell into the chair of this distinguished lodge with both sincerity and gentle humour.
The room was packed almost to capacity as a veritable sea of dark blue and gold regalia preceded Tony’s admittance into the lodge. Grand officers present were Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger, Phil Gardner, Tom Holroyd, Geoff Cousen, Peter Mason, Dennis Butterfield, Stewart Seddon and Chris Butterfield. Further swelling the ranks of distinguished guests was a veritable cornucopia of Provincial grand officers led by Provincial Senior Grand Warden Mike Threlfall and Provincial Junior Grand Warden Peter Schofield. Representing the Lancaster and District Group was Neil McGill (group secretary). The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp ably assisted by his deputy Mark Barton skilfully managed the impressive entourage.
The master of the lodge Dav Morrow began the ceremony by requesting the Provincial Grand Wardens to assist him by occupying the appropriate chairs in the lodge. Both Michael Threlfall and Peter Schofield readily accepted the invitation and once they were safely ensconced, David Tattersall temporarily relinquished the organist’s stool to present Dan Mitchell to Dav in order that he should receive from him ’the benefit of installation’. The necessary qualifications for the master’s chair were read out, as were the ancient charges and regulations and on receiving Dan’s acquiescence to them, he was installed into the chair in a particularly dignified and relaxed manner. Such was the evident enjoyment derived that Dan’s expression very quickly changed from nervous apprehension to a beaming smile, coupled with a growing confidence as it ‘dawned on him, what had happened’! The lodge secretary Chris Larder gave a very impressive delivery of the working tools of an installed master; a performance that was later matched faultlessly by David Tattersall, Ian Stephenson and Peter Tooze-Froggat in the third, second and first degree explanations respectively.
The appointment and investiture of the lodge officers was as usual, accompanied by appropriate ‘theme tunes’ for each appointment courtesy of the lodge organist David Tattersall, who added an impishly humorous touch to the process. The address to the master was given with perfect timbre and inflection by John Heaton, that to the wardens most appropriately and skilfully by Peter Schofield. The final address, that to the brethren was performed with the skill and sincerity which are the hallmarks of such renditions by Tony Harrison. Indeed, Tony had only a brief moment of respite before he was on his feet to congratulate the newly installed master and his officers. He had special words of praise and thanks for Dav Morrow, thanking him not only for the delightful manner in which he had carried out the ceremony but also for his efforts in leading the lodge for two consecutive years. This praise received grateful responses from the recipients and was followed by Tony being presented with details of cheques totalling £2,294 in charitable donations. The main beneficiary was the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity who received £1,000, whilst the balance of the total was divided amongst other worthy causes including the RNLI and Morecambe Masonic Hall Company.
The recessional music chosen for the retirement of the Provincial Grand Master and grand officers further demonstrated that no one is safe from the melodic wit of David Tattersall as he played the theme tune to ‘On the buses’ and accompanied the retirement of the Provincial grand officers with ‘Waltzing Matilda’, the significance of which was later revealed to a select few!
Slightly fewer than 100 guests dined at the Lothersdale Hotel, Morecambe where a very happy and convivial atmosphere pervaded the dining suite. This was in no small measure attributable to Tony, glass in hand, making his way around all the tables with a happy smile and making many enquiries about everyone’s health and enjoyment of their Masonry. Indeed such was his insistence on ensuring he had opportunity to speak to everyone personally that he was on his feet and ‘doing the rounds’ in between courses! A couple of much younger Masons were to be overheard speculating as to ‘where he got all his energy from’!
David Grainger was delighted to have the opportunity to respond to the toast to the health of the grand officers as this gave him the honour of following this with proposing the toast to the Provincial Grand Master. With artful brevity he summed up the core attributes that he believed made Tony such a wonderful leader of the Province, in particular he highlighted his enthusiasm, energy, approachability and caring ethos for all brethren of whatever rank or status. These statements were endorsed by deafening applause from the audience.
In his response, Tony thanked David and everyone present for the humbling and gratifying remarks that had been made in the toast to his health. Before making mention of the core messages that he wished to bring to everyone’s attention he wished the Lancaster Group Chairman and vice chairman a speedy recovery from their respective illnesses which had precluded their attendance. He expressed gratitude for the work undertaken by group officers, much of which he remarked was unknown and not seen by most members.
Speaking further on personal observations, he said it was marvellous to see so many masters of other lodges attending as this was often not the case at some installations. He then gave details of the main issues that he wished to apprise the brethren of, including particularly the new local care structure, Royal Arch membership promotion and the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, noting in particular the Province’s involvement in the inaugural festival commencing in 2017 for this new charity.
The toast to the Provincial grand officers was responded to by Michael Threlfall and he particularly highlighted the warmth of welcome he had received in addition to expressing his admiration for the quality of ritual work he had observed. David Tattersall then provided further proof of his ability to multi-task by proposing a toast to the new master Dan, before quickly slipping back onto the keyboard to accompany Fred Schofield in a fine delivery of the master’s song. Dan’s response to these tributes was effusive and very heartfelt, he in particular was anxious to ensure that everyone was aware that during his year in office he would be raising money for St John’s Hospice, an announcement that brought him many assurances of support.
As is traditional at Runic Lodge, the toast to the visitors given by the junior warden is sung rather than spoken. In his rendition, with the emphasis being particularly stressed on the first four letters of that verb, Terry Nealons proved that he could match and possibly exceed the standards set by his predecessors in the last two years. Reports that dogs and cats were seen running in panic from the vicinity and heading for the beach have yet to be verified. On that note, or rather lack of it, the evening ended with a final announcement of a raffle total of £446.