The Southport Group Chairman Colin Jenkins, managing director and contractor for the Tercentenary event, charged the vice chairman Phil Stock, with the task of organising a suitable event for the Southport Group to celebrate ‘300 years of Craft Freemasonry’.
Phil (works director) dutifully, in the early months of 2016, engaged the support and assistance of Eric Morris (clerk of works), an enthusiastic brother with an infamous ability for organising lively events and activities. In May 2016 an organising committee (shop stewards) was assembled by Eric including legendary bon viveur Bryan Henshaw, Paul Hardman and Peter Martin; good men and true, notorious for overseeing outstanding ‘shindigs’ of years gone by, plus a very ‘young’ Mason, fellow craft Troy Melling. It was agreed that hall chef Wayne Warhurst would be an ideal asset to the team. Thus, the event’s guiding lights; the ‘T’ team was formed. It was agreed that the inimitable John Mawdsley, be approached to serve as ‘tapster and fines master,’ to which he gladly agreed.
‘Old English Nights’ have for eons been the strength of light-hearted festive board traditions, so it was decided to organise our tercentenary event on the lines of said custom, with a twist – an ‘Olde Lanky Neet’ – which, sadly and immediately, alienated a few members whose roots lay to the east of the Red Rose county. Initial, uncommitted response, was overwhelmingly: “Oh yes! That’s for me, book me a table!”
A suitable meal had been agreed with chef; The Ormskirk Ukulele Band engaged; mementoes in the form of an engraved shot glass acquired and stewards’ aprons procured for the evening. The brethren were encouraged to pitch up in their cloth caps and neckerchiefs to sing and be merry, to celebrate this milestone in Masonic chronicles.
It was soon realised that members wished to invite family and friends and so the event was opened to non-Masons. Also, it was felt the event might prove an ideal means to attract potential candidates, whilst offering a further opportunity for those already ‘signed up’ to experience a Masonic affair.
An ‘early doors’ pint was accompanied by salted nuts, ‘monkey’ nuts and pork scratchings on the lounge bar tables – very well received Lanky ‘horses dooveries,’ especially the scratchings. Guests were relieved of £5 ‘to purchase’ a bag of 50 pence pieces – more of this later. All were gathered, by order of the guest of honour, Colin Jenkins.
On being ushered into the Scarbrough Dining Room, they received ‘The pig’s head’ with ovation, borne by chef Wayne, to the approbation of all in attendance. Paul Hardman then declared The Lancashire Day Proclamation in best town cryer manner.
In 1295 the first elected representatives from Lancashire were called to Westminster by King Edward I, to attend what later became known as ‘The Model Parliament’. The Lancashire Day Proclamation is read out by town criers throughout the county on 27 November: “To the people of the city and County Palatine of Lancaster. Greetings! Know ye that this day, November 27 in the year of our Lord 2017, the 65th year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Lancaster, is Lancashire Day.
Know ye also, and rejoice, that by virtue of Her Majesty’s County Palatine of Lancaster, the citizens of the Hundreds of Lonsdale, North and South of the Sands, Amounderness, Leyland, Blackburn, Salford and West Derby are forever entitled to style themselves Lancastrians.
Throughout the County Palatine, from the Furness Fells to the River Mersey, from the Irish Sea to the Pennines, this day shall ever mark the people’s pleasure in that excellent distinction – true Lancastrians, proud of the Red Rose and loyal to our Sovereign Duke. God bless Lancashire; God save the Queen, Duke of Lancaster.”
Following grace, proposed by Phil Stock, all were seated, only to find no cutlery laid up for their starters of Bury black pudding or Lancashire hot pot. Consequently, all diners, to their consternation, were relieved of their first 50p ‘donation’, to purchase said ‘eatin’ irons’ for the evening from the shop stewards!
The usual condiments, accompanied by rough cut bread with real butter served in traditional butter dishes, were available in uniquely labelled bottles or jars, namely ‘Olde Lanky Neet’ brown sauce, ketchup; English Masonic mustard and ‘perfic’ Provincial pickles, the latter being a real triumph with diners (along with the pork scratchings). It was rumoured that a Mason, who shall remain nameless, consumed one whole jar of pickles (though many suspected it was more).
Tapster John, was empowered to ‘fine’ any person he deemed swayed from the directives included in the personalised ‘contract’ set before each diner – or whatever he considered relevant. All those without caps ~ fined 50p. All those with incorrect headwear ~ fined 50p. All those without beards ~ fined 50p. All those with beards ~ fined 50p and so it proceeded.
Rumour had it that a recalcitrant guest was even penalised 50p for breathing at the wrong time, or perhaps it was challenging the authority of the tapster. In ‘Wheeltappers and Shunters’ style, Colin Jenkins was custodian of a rotating bell set before him to control good order, which he achieved amicably with the co-operation of the assembled multitude, or perhaps it was the fear of being fined for non-compliance!
A fine main course of Heccy Beccy chicken or Fleetwood sea bass, with all the local trimmings were consumed. This was followed by a Lancashire cheeseboard or ice cream. Finally, a measure of port was dispensed into the commemorative shot glasses, provided for every guest present as a lasting memento of the celebration evening and to honour ‘The loyal toast.’
Following the return of thanks, on completion of an excellent meal and the loyal toast, the Ormskirk Ukulele Band took to the floor for its first spot featuring well loved ‘singalong’ melodies included in a song book that cost all assembled, you’ve probably guessed – 50p! It was designed for the band to sing the verses with the audience joining in the chorus and/or individual tables appointed to lead the singing. This strategy went by the board!
There was so much animation, enthusiasm and yearning to participate; everyone joined in every phrase of every song, be they decent singer or be they not, with a volume that was unheard of compared with any other Masonic gathering ever staged in our hall.
Tranquil moments occurred between songs when one became aware of gentle masticating resonances; copious amounts of traditional liquorice toffees and peanut brittle, sponsored by a local dentist and well known dental supplies company, had appeared at table!
All 10 songs in the booklet were addressed with raucous choral alacrity, closing with a standing ovation following the band’s war songs medley which included, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag”, “It’s a long way to Tipperary” and “Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler?”
Up stepped the authoritative shop steward Bryan Henshaw, to conduct a ‘Chorley swindle’ with fabulous prizes including spirits, prosecco, wines, beers, sweets, strings of onions, a bag of firewood, tea towels and scrubbing brush and the pig’s head; conventional, and all customary ‘Lanky’ themed items.
At this point one wag passed comment referencing the strung, suitably shredded local newspapers situated in the ‘privy’. Younger attendees were amused to hear of the origin and utilisation of said cherished household artefacts from years gone by ~ such attention to detail, including the photo-copied Hilda Ogden ‘flying ducks’ on the stage backdrop! Originals were for sale at £400-£600 on eBay.
Once good order was again restored, the best of attention was directed toward tapster John, who proceeded to deliver, for the unequivocal, verification and edification of the astounded assembly, a series of comedic ‘Lanky’ themed elegies, odes and narratives (some of dubious analogous content), which resulted in convulsive hilarity throughout. The man is a remarkable raconteur and storyteller of the highest quality; he was well received and applauded as such.
The Ukulele Band returned for its second spot, to close out the evening, having spent the ensuing break between sets, eating, drinking and making merry in their ‘dressing room’ playing charades, whilst participating in other motivational team-bonding antics!
This spot featured some of the band’s own repertoire: ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, ‘Living Next Door To Alice’, ‘The Irish Rover’, ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Delilah’, ‘I Wanna Be Like You’, ‘We Love To Boogie’, ‘Five Foot Two Medley’, accompanied by numerous bells, whistles and monkey noises, culminating in the encore, ‘Jambalaya’. Because neither band nor the audience wanted things to finish, the band performed ‘Folsom Prison’ again!!
Phil Stock attempted to gain order to deliver his well-prepared ingenuous vote of thanks, but such was the exhilaration and euphoria, very few had the wherewithal to focus on him ~ but those to whom his words were aimed, appreciated his contribution to what was an outstandingly successful occasion for Freemasonry in general and for the Southport Group in particular.
Of course, none of this mighty extravaganza could have been possible; indeed created, without the indomitable spirit and tireless effort of our ‘Lanky Foreman’, one Eric Morris Esq. So, many congratulations to him!
In conclusion, special thanks are due to Julie’s and Wayne’s staff, for tending to everyone’s beverage and comestible requirements with quiet efficiency and of course, not forgetting the 65 who attended and actively participated to make the occasion a thunderous success. Roll on 400 years and the quadricentenary celebrations of Freemasonry! Ta rah.