Superb was the inevitable judgement of the many brethren who attended the centenary meeting of Semper Fidelis Lodge No 4428 at St Annes Palace. With Mark Matthews the Provincial Grand Master Designate as the principal guest much was expected. WM Steven Reid made absolutely sure that the lodge did not disappoint.
Steven is one of an illustrious number of masters of the lodge who have held high office, both at grand and Provincial grand lodge level, having been appointed as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the Craft in 1998, then Deputy Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch in 2005. Who better than he therefore to welcome a glittering array of notable leaders into the lodge for what proved to be an excellent celebration of the lodge’s 100 years in existence.
Supporting Mark Matthews on this occasion were Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Duncan Smith and David Ogden; Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master Howard Jones; Past Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Bill Huck, Stanley Oldfield, John Hutton and David Randerson. Also supporting were no less than 11 grand officers and eight acting Provincial grand officers. The lodge was also pleased by the attendance of David Pugsley, the holder of Senior London Grand Rank.
Having welcomed the principal guest and his retinue, Steven Reid offered the gavel of the lodge to Mark, which he accepted. Mark then invited Provincial Senior Grand Warden Chris Taylor and Provincial Junior Grand Warden Sylvester During to occupy the wardens’ pedestals and directed the other acting Provincial grand officers to take post before opening Provincial Grand Lodge. He then addressed his opening remarks to the brethren assembled before proceeding with a history of Semper Fidelis Lodge thus far.
Mark advised that the current members of the lodge had much to thank the founders for in the establishment of the traditions and style that have carried the lodge through their first century. He particularly mentioned Stanley Galloway, who had been the driving force behind the formation of the new lodge and the assistance he received from Arthur Foster, who was later to be the first member of Semper Fidelis Lodge to become Provincial Grand Master.
The office of Assistant Provincial Grand Master was one that was to become synonymous with the members of the lodge however, as no fewer than five Semper Fidelis members held that office between 1923 and 1971. The most well-known of these was Sir Knowles Edge, Baronet, who went on to be the lodge’s second member to become Provincial Grand Master. Mark went on to mention several other notable members and recounted many anecdotes from the last 100 years before calling upon John Hall, the Provincial Grand Chaplain, for an oration to the lodge.
In his oration, John reiterated the drive which led local dentist Stanley Galloway to forge ahead with the formation of the lodge. He also mentioned those notable members who had held high office along with the 20 other lodge members who had achieved grand rank. He went on to tell of the connection that the lodge had with the sea and of prominent Freemason Sir Clement Royds, who had purchased a new lifeboat to replace the one wrecked off Southport in 1886 while assisting the crew of the stricken ship ‘Mexico’. As this event is featured on the lodge’s banner and was mentioned by John’s predecessor in post, Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst, in his history of that banner, John read from that history. John’s reading of that quote in a very close approximation of Godfrey’s powerful voice brought a smile to everyone’s face, not to mention a chortle or two! John went on to rededicate the lodge with a quote from Ecclesiastes, chapter three.
With the end of John’s prayers, Mark Matthews closed Provincial Grand Lodge and before he handed the gavel back to the WM he had one more duty to perform, for which he called lodge member George Caulter to be presented to him. He then had the pleasure of promoting George to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon and regaling him with his new collar, as well as his letters patent.
Before closing the WM presented a short history of the lodge, outlining many of the significant people, events and successes over the past 100 years. The brethren then retired to the bar and thence to a magnificent festive board where the customary toasts were observed. As is usual at Semper Fidelis Lodge, the wine for these toasts was regularly topped up by several lodge stewards. Diners were constantly assured by stewards, such as Mike Middleton and George Caulter, “Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where this came from!”
Duncan Smith, responding for the grand officers, thanked the lodge for and excellent meeting and praised Lee Munro and his catering team for yet another fine meal. He continued by predicting a bright future under the leadership of the new Provincial Grand Master, who he then toasted. Mark continued the theme of his forthcoming investiture by encouraging those present to attend and witness the occasion, particularly as the Pro Grand Master Jonathan Spence would be travelling from London to officiate during those proceedings.
Mark went on to talk about membership, Royal Arch Masonry, the Pro Grand Master’s strategy initiative, the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and thanked his acting Provincial grand officers for their continued work and support, particularly Provincial Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies Ryan Modlin and Barry Fitzgerald for their sterling work in keeping order during the ceremony. Mark also thanked the lodge for an excellent festive board before proposing a toast to the continued success of Semper Fidelis Lodge.
A response followed from the WM in which he thanked several people (particularly the secretary Steven Carr) for their individual and collective efforts to ensure the success of the meeting and the production of a 506-page book recording the history of the lodge. This was followed by a toast to the visitors by the junior warden, Roger Grocott, in which he outlined many changes in society since the lodge was consecrated. This received a reply from the Provincial Senior Grand Warden Chris Taylor, who thanked the lodge for an excellent meeting and also drew comparisons between his home town of Southport and of Lytham St Anne’s with particular reference to the wreckage of the Mexico which had been previously mentioned.
A fine evening was brought to a close by Peter Maxwell proposing the tyler’s toast, however, several members and guests lingered in the bar afterwards, many recounting highlights from a superb evening.