St George’s Lodge of Harmony No 32 is a lodge of antiquity having met continuously in Liverpool since 1755, it can rightfully claim to be one of the oldest lodges in the world. The lodge has many historic traditions of which the members are especially proud, unique and a privilege to observe.
On this occasion, distinguished guests, members, and visitors all gathered for the annual installation ceremony at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel, Ranelagh Street, Liverpool. This is just one of the many locations that the lodge has met over the centuries, with ‘The Adelphi’ being their chosen meeting place for the longest period in their history, with just over 125 years of lodge meetings here, between the 19th to the 21st century, from a total of 269 years since the lodge’s consecration.
Before the lodge is even opened, the keen-eyed brother can observe the uniqueness of the lodge, from the historic Georgian master’s chair dated 1784, the ‘tracing cloth’ on the lodge floor, which is a floor cloth rolled out in place of a tracing board. The current floor cloth is a reproduction of the original which is now on public display in the Museum of Freemasonry, London. The cloth is unusual in that it depicts all three elements of the ritual in a single piece of artwork, which is usually depicted by three tracing boards that we now see in modern lodges.
Once all were settled, master of the lodge Simon Dawes welcomed all to the lodge and proceeded to open the lodge in fine form, assisted by the lodge officers. Having opened in all three degrees, Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Rob Fitzsimmons was admitted and announced that Ian Elsby and the rest of the Provincial officers stood without. Simon pronounced that the lodge would be delighted to receive them, and all stood whilst Provincial officers were admitted.
Once the Provincial officers had been seated appropriately, a further announcement was made and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald was admitted and announced that the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews stood without and demanded admission. Again, Simon pronounced that the lodge would be honoured to receive him.
A distinguished procession was then formed, consisting of the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phillip Gunning, Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Frank Umbers and Malcolm Bell, accompanied by the Provincial Senior Grand Warden and Provincial Junior Grand Warden, Michael Tax and David Rigby respectively.
Also, present were two special guests, Past Deputy Grand Master Russell Race and Senior Grand Warden Sir Andrew Parmley, who were accompanied by Gladstone Group Chairman Paul Storrar and other grand officers.
The WM, Simon, formally welcomed Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews to the lodge and offered him the gavel of the lodge. Mark, in accepting the gavel, commented that he would be happy to observe proceedings on this occasion and returned the gavel to Simon. The scene was set for the commencement of the installation ceremony.
Ed Warner and Steven Robinson were requested to occupy the chairs of the junior and senior wardens respectively. Charles Grace and Simon Parrington then rose and crossing the floor of the lodge collected the master elect Paul Shepherd and presented him to the WM Simon for the benefit of installation.
Past master Geoffrey Lee recited the necessary attributes required of a master, to which Paul signified his unqualified assent, Paul then recited his obligation of master elect, which was delivered in perfect sincerity. Having been duly obligated a board of installed masters was convened.
David Edwards then installed Paul into the chair of King Solomon in time honoured fashion and in an exemplary mode which was a masterclass of ritual to observe. Having been duly installed, David closed the board of installed masters and led the brethren in the necessary salutations to a newly installed master.
It was now the turn of Dermot Maloney, who having admitted master Masons, tended to the salutations in that degree and performed the working tools of a master Mason. Labour being resumed in the second degree, Dermot again admitted fellow crafts, instructed the brethren in the correct salutations and performed the working tools of a fellow craft Freemason. With the lodge being resumed in the first degree, Dermot once again admitted entered apprentices, tended to the correct salutation of that degree and finally delivered the working tools of an entered apprentice Freemason.
Gladstone Group Chairman Paul Storrar then rose and presented the WM Paul with the collarette of the lodge, which he then invested him with. Paul was then invited to begin the investment of his officers, giving the senior and junior wardens the collar addresses. Having invested all the officers, grand officer Keith Sanders delivered the address to the master. Ian Sanderson followed an impressive display of ritual by Keith, following suit and delivering the address to the wardens. Finally, was Charles Grace giving the address to the brethren of the lodge, completing an impressive oration of ritual by all concerned.
That was the cue for the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews to rise and give his congratulations to the new WM Paul and the numerous brethren who had made the installation ceremony so enjoyable to observe. It was then time for the lodge to be called off, and the brethren filed in their regalia from the lodge room to the Pearce Suite for the festive board.
St George’s Lodge of Harmony festive table is perhaps unique in the province, it consists of mahogany leaves which rest upon a bespoke frame, the length of the dining table ultimately limiting the number of brethren who can dine around its perimeter. With silver candelabra used to illuminate the entire table from the master to the senior warden, dining is conducted solely by candlelight.
There are many traditions observed around the festive board, with exclaiming of the pleasure of wine between the brethren, to the judicious use of the firing glasses to great effect, as well as the lodge organist, or Brother Pipes as he is known on his harmonium, accompanying the many songs sung in the lodge, denotes a visit to this fine lodge is as much an aural experience as well as a visual one.
Amongst the many toasts from the distinguished brethren present, perhaps the final word should be left to immediate past master Simon Dawes, who led the toast to the master of the lodge Paul Shepherd, in wishing him every success in the year to come and the surrounding accompaniment of the firing glasses around the festive table, signified a united acceptance of that sentiment from all who were present.