Who better to award a field promotion to than someone who has spent his working life as a farmer? But to start at the beginning, the latest convocation of Baldwin Chapter No 1398 was a special gathering to mark the golden anniversary in the Royal Arch of Graham Slater.
The meeting at Dalton-in-Furness Masonic Hall was opened and local Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Barrie Crossley was admitted. He was accompanied by grand officers Rowly Saunders and Alan Jones along with Norman Thompson, Past Grand Superintendent of Cumberland and Westmorland.
Also forming part of the procession were acting Provincial grand officer Ken Needham and along with Barrie Bray. They were all under the watchful eye of Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald. Barrie Crossley was welcomed by the chapter first principal David Grainger and all was proceeding as expected.
However, Barrie then departed the chapter and re-appeared to announce the arrival of the Deputy Grand Superintendent Chris Butterfield. That was not part of the original plan but was indeed a pleasant surprise.
Barrie then occupied the principal chair and asked that Graham Slater be seated before him. Barrie delivered an excellent tribute to Graham which included some illuminating history of the area which must have involved deep research.
High Haume Farm, occupying 150 acres on a hill overlooking the estuary of the river Duddon and the south west fells of the Lakes, was where the celebrant had a very successful farming life. The farm has been in the family since 1851. To put that in context, it was 12 years before the first Masonic lodge was formed in Furness.
A history of the area published in the late 1800s, when the iron ore industry was at its height, reported that High Haume stood on its hill like an oasis amongst all the mines which surrounded it. All that remains of that iron ore industry nowadays are some of the water filled shafts which are put to good use by the local fishing association.
When he was 65 years of age Graham, as is a family tradition, left the farmhouse and handed over the running of the farm to his son. He did not retire completely being on hand to help his son with the tasks and at the same time passing on his knowledge. Farms nowadays need to diversify and in making the best of the scenic views, in addition to sheep and cattle, there is now High Haume Glamping.
In 1973 Graham had been exalted into Baldwin Chapter having been proposed by his father who at that time occupied the role of janitor. For over three decades Graham has been involved in the running of the chapter initially as assistant director of ceremonies but subsequently for many years in the main office as director of ceremonies. He has brought his own style to the position. His stated aim has been to help companions enjoy the Royal Arch. He appreciates that not everyone is a natural ritualist and has used his friendly manner to coax the best out of his charges with encouragement and praise for their efforts. Not frightened of raising a smile in the meetings, when appropriate, his larger-than-life personality is a draw for visitors.
Following the address by Barrie, group chairman Gary Rogerson was called upon to read the certificate from the Grand Superintendent which was then presented by Barrie. In the ordinary course of events that would be the end of the formalities. However, it was at this point that Chris rose and promoted Graham to the very high rank of Past Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra to mark his outstanding service to the order over many years.
It looked for a while that Graham, for once, would be stuck for words. But when Chris informed him that as a ‘poor farmer’ he would be pleased to know that as it was field promotion there would be no fee to pay to Province, Graham’s eyes lit up and he quickly regained his equilibrium!
The announcement by Chris of this award to such a popular companion was met with loud and sustained acclaim. To mark this special occasion a donation of £200 was made to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity.
Following the formalities a full dining room resounded with chatter, laughter and all that is associated with good camaraderie. The toast to the health of the celebrant was proposed by his long-standing friend Frank Pearson a member of Dalton-in-Furness Chapter No 6828.
The response from Graham was generous to those who had come along to support him and thankful for the efforts of those who had made it possible. But in true fashion, he held the attention of the room and at times reduced everyone to tears of laughter with his tales of events long passed. It proved an excellent evening of companionship which Graham summed up with one word, perfect.