The Loving Cup is claimed again by City

Brethren from City of Lancaster Lodge No 281 claimed the universities’ scheme Travelling Loving Cup, formally known as the David K Williamson Cup, from Alcuin Lodge No 6300 in York; as part of the scheme’s aim to encourage inter-visiting between universities’ scheme lodges and to further the goals of fraternity and togetherness.

Partaking of the Loving Cup. Pictured from left to right, are; Peter Schofield (in guard mode), David Grainger and Michael Cole, master of City of Lancaster Lodge.

The cup can be claimed by any visiting scheme lodge with four or more of its members present at a meeting of the lodge currently holding the cup. The DKW Cup was presented to the scheme by Past Assistant Grand Master David Kenneth Williamson, founder president of the universities’ scheme, on his retirement as president in 2015.

The Loving Cup was ready to be claimed from the City of Lancaster Lodge at their meeting in Rowley Court, Lancaster, which happened to be a double second degree ceremony. However, as no other universities’ scheme lodges attended on the night, the cup still remains in Lancaster – for the time being!

Over 40 brethren were present to witness Lancaster University undergraduates Ben Goldsworthy and Kieron Dougherty being passed to the degree of a fellow craft. The meeting and the festive board were enhanced by the presence of a large number of brethren from the Furness and South Lakeland Group, led by their group chairman Peter Schofield. Also in attendance were Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger and Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Philip Gardner. Lancaster and District Group Vice Chairman Neil McGill, group secretary Scott Devine and group coordinator for the universities’ scheme John Stanley, were also present.

The group secretary Scott Devine (left) drinks with John Eccles.

The Loving Cup was passed around the dining room at the end of the meal, immediately after grace, but before the first toast. It is a ceremony which is traditional within the Livery Companies of the City of London and dates back to before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Masonically, the cup passes round the table to the right, with each brother drinking to his neighbour. When the brother who is about to drink from the Loving Cup stands, those on either side of him also rise. In line with medieval tradition, one of these people will stand with his back to the person who is about to drink, so as to protect him from attack. The drinker and the person on his other side bow to each other, as this person removes the lid of the cup. In ancient times, this prevented poison from being introduced as the Loving Cup circulated. The drinker sips, then wipes the rim of the cup with an attached napkin. The second person replaces the lid, they bow and so the cup moves on; with the original drinker now mounting guard on the new drinker by turning his back and indicating to the one who was protecting him that he may sit down.

In medieval times, the passing of the drinking cup at a banquet or gathering was often the moment chosen by an unscrupulous rival to murder their opponent, or to remove a leader. When one of the company stood to drink, his body was momentarily exposed as he lifted the cup with both hands. Over time, it so developed that the companion who sat next to the drinker was required to become his pledge. If the pledge consented, he stood up and raised his drawn sword in his hand, thus defending the drinker from assault.

Masonically, it is quite a captivating procedure. Importantly, it is also a visible expression and symbol of our sharing and providing mutual aid or protection. As the photographs show, all who visited City of Lancaster Lodge for this enjoyable and unique night shared both the Loving Cup and an evening of good ritual, fine company and obvious festivity.

Article and photographs by John Stanley.