The companions of Salwick Chapter No 9115 were privileged to host a joint convocation with representatives from all of the Preston Group chapters. The occasion was honoured by the presence of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, accompanied by the Deputy Grand Superintendent Danny Jones and Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Ian Cuerden. They were supported by acting officers Tony Hall, Ian Higham and Peter Lockett and Preston Group Chairman Steve Bolton. Also supporting the occasion in attendance were five grand officers.
The main business of the convocation was the presentation of an explanation of the banners of the Royal Arch by members of the Preston Group of chapters. The event was championed by Ian Cuerden, greatly assisted by the group vice chairman Geoff Saul, who witnessed the participation of companions collectively representing every chapter within the Preston Group. The occasion saw the chapter room filled to capacity with some 70 companions present.
After the completion of the regular business of the convocation, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Ian Higham entered the chapter to announce the presence of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, who in due course was welcomed by the first principal Gowan O’Hagan.
Once all the companions were seated, Ian Cuerden then rose to set the scene with an explanation of the origin of the banners and their use in the past. This was followed by the opening address, given by Alan Jackson, and a detailed explanation given by Neil Clarkson as to the reasons for the specific arrangement of the 12 banners on each side of the pedestal within Royal Arch chapters. This part of the ceremony concluded with Bob Matheson explaining the significance of the four standards placed behind the principals’ chairs.
The next part of the ceremony saw the designated companions of the demonstration team collect their allotted banner from its position in the chapter and return to their seats in the west. Each then rose in turn, advancing with their banner, to stand before the arch and give an explanation of the symbolism and meaning of their banner. The 12 banners having been explained, the ceremony continued with Trevor Phillips presenting a review of the various tribes, their positive activities and the usefulness of the banners for the symbolism they represent in a Royal Arch chapter.
The ceremony concluded with Mike Walkden describing the lessons learnt from Freemasonry’s adoption of the meanings of the banners as a pointer to the maxims of our Order never to deviate from the paths of honour and virtue. Ian Cuerden closed the ceremony by saying what a wonderful opportunity it had been to see all the Preston Group chapters working together.
Tony in turn thanked all the companions who took part in what had been a delightful and informative ceremony. In particular, he thanked Geoff Saul for all his hard work in assembling the team and arranging the practices beforehand. He also thanked the chapter scribe Neil Clarkson, for all his efforts in organising the evening in such an efficient manner. He considered the ceremony to be a perfect example of a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge. The chapter returned to normal business and prior to the Provincial team retiring, the valedictory address was delivered in an excellent manner by Vincent Clarke.
Later in the evening, the group secretary Peter Littlehales had the privilege of proposing the toast to the Grand Superintendent, a toast that was well received by the brethren as well as the Grand Superintendent. In his response, Tony expressed his enjoyment at what had been wonderful ceremony with excellent ritual that had been a joy to behold. It was a ceremony that was indeed enhanced by seeing every chapter represented.
He went on to say it was pleasing to be in the company of Danny Jones and Ian Cuerden and the other grand officers. He thanked the group chairman Steve Bolton and the acting officers, Tony Hall, Ian Higham and Derek Lockett for their support on what had been an enjoyable occasion.
Turning to Masonic care, Tony informed the brethren that the new Masonic care structure was up and running and is achieving its objectives of allowing almoners to spend more time in their caring role. He reminded the companions that the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity needs constant support and with the Province hosting a festival in 2017, with the inevitable diversion of contributions towards the festival, it is most important that the WLFC is fully supported in the meantime.
Moving on to the festival, Tony indicated that the purpose of the festival was to aid the new Masonic Charities Foundation; a foundation set up to support all the Masonic charities. The festival will last for four years and he requested that all present give it their full support. He closed by encouraging companions to promote the Royal Arch in the direction of brethren who have yet to make that step in Freemasonry. His final words were to wish everyone well for the future.
Bringing the evening to a close, Gowan presented Tony with a bouquet of flowers as a thank you to his wife Maureen and also a bottle of whisky for himself, as a thank you for taking the time out of his busy schedule to honour the chapter with his presence.