“Brother junior warden there is a report”. The junior warden gave the normal response “See who seeks admission” when to the surprise of everyone in the room the response was: “The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp seeks admission”!
These words set in progress an amazing experience for the worshipful master and brethren of the City of Lancaster Lodge No 281 when they met at Rowley Court, Lancaster, to initiate 21-year-old Adam Hughes, as Keith informed the WM that the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison stood outside the door of the lodge and demanded admission!
The WM Steven Dougherty was, to say the least stunned, and after a prompt he said “Admit him”! Tony entered the lodge and after saluting the WM he was introduced to Steven who, having recovered his composure, offered Tony the gavel of the lodge. Tony was quick to reply that he was making the visit to enjoy watching the ceremony, not to do any work and he returned the gavel!
He then said: “I know that your candidate is unwell this evening and you are now planning to perform a first degree demonstration and I am happy to act as the candidate if you would like me to”. Steven said the lodge’s newest member had already agreed to take that part and Tony could relax and enjoy his visit to City of Lancaster Lodge.
Tony, in his usual self-effacing manner replied: “The real reason for my visit is that I thought it would be nice to congratulate the lodge and all the brethren for their hard work in bringing about full accreditation as a ‘University Lodge’. I have not visited the lodge for some time and I did not wish to detract from that by making it a full-blown official visit with all the ceremonial usually attached to such a visit and I am very happy to watch the demonstration.”
Steven returned to the precept and said the next business was to perform a first degree demonstration and he asked Graham Rotherham to assist him and act as the candidate. The lodge deacons Andrew Ridal (SD) and Paul Finlay (JD) conducted Graham through the demonstration of the initiation ceremony with skill that reflected the work they had put in to learn their parts of the ceremony.
Steven was assisted by Ian Jones (lodge chaplain and ADC) who did the work after the obligation and Jack Baxter (lodge secretary) who delivered the first degree working tools. At the festive board after the lodge had been closed Tony said he did not want to say “sorry” for visiting the lodge without notice as he had really enjoyed the demonstration and he was sure that having seen the excellent work carried out by all the brethren who took part in the demonstration that the members of the lodge are very capable and able to perform the ceremonies to a very good standard and all the future candidates would be introduced to Freemasonry in an exemplary manner.
Tony also said he was delighted when he heard the news that the lodge had been awarded full accreditation as a ‘University Lodge’ by David Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master, who currently heads the UGLE University scheme.
Tony concluded by thanking all the brethren of the lodge and John Stanley (Lancaster Group University Co-ordinator) for the work they had put in since the first discussions took place in 2010 to see if the lodge could be admitted into the scheme.
City of Lancaster Lodge came to be formed from the amalgamation, in 2006, of two Lancaster lodges: the Lodge of Fortitude No 281, which was consecrated in 1789 and John O’Gaunt Lodge No 3815 (the daughter lodge), which was consecrated in 1917. After amalgamation, there was a slow influx of candidates, one of whom was a recent graduate of Lancaster University who subsequently introduced several of his friends in the following months. Since amalgamation, the lodge has initiated 25 brethren and from 2010 to March 2015, 11 gentlemen through the Universities Scheme who are studying at the University of Lancashire.
William Bognar was the first candidate initiated under the University Scheme at a special meeting held at Rowley Court, Lancaster in August 2011. William was born in Romania and his family were very supportive of his entry into Freemasonry. He studied accounting and finance. The senior warden of the lodge Elliot Maclean will be the first of the brethren initiated under the scheme to become WM at next years installation meeting. Graham Rotherham is the lodge’s newest member. He works for the Home Office in the Immigration Enforcement team and is currently studying for an MSc in Criminal Investigation. Graham was initiated in March 2015 and it is hoped that Adam Hughes will become a Freemason at the first meeting of the 2015/16 season later this year.
The lodge meets 10 times a year and as a result, hasn’t yet found it necessary to undertake multiple ceremonies; but members did agree that other lodges in the group could assist in conferring ceremonies, to aid the quicker progression of those brethren in the scheme. Several have willingly volunteered and have undertaken second degree ceremonies for some of the brethren. In addition, Matthew Triggs (one of the undergraduates) spent 12 months in Texas as part of his studies. Sul Ross Lodge No 1300 which meets at College Station which is close to Texas A&M University where Matthew was studying mathematics, assisted by undertaking Matthew’s third degree.
Since starting the trial of the scheme, several of the brethren have left the university and moved on due to work commitments. Two have joined English speaking lodges in Romania, whilst three have joined another Universities Scheme Lodge, Gray’s Inn, in London, where they are now taking an active part and hope to progress through the offices of the lodge. All of the brethren initiated as part of the scheme are still in regular contact with City of Lancaster Lodge as the lodge members watch their progress and they say they are happy to still feel part of their mother lodge albeit it from a distance!