The subject or subjects on which to direct the spotlight at an installation ceremony in Royal Arch Masonry is generally a foregone conclusion. The three principals are the obvious choice one may cry; they are the main beans in the soup. It is their day. They are the reason that companions have gathered together and they play the leading roles. It is a simple decision in any chapter. But Blackpool Chapter of Integrity No 5864 is no ordinary chapter; it consists of an asterism of stars.
Newly honoured acting Provincial officers Peter Weller Provincial Grand Standard Bearer, Bob Bennett and Roy Fenton both of whom are Provincial Grand Stewards and Gordon Ivett Provincial Grand Janitor. They could not have had a more idyllic ceremony as their maiden outing than the one they attended at Blackpool Chapter of Integrity at which they supported Stuart Thornber, who was the principal guest as representative of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison. Peter, Bob and Gordon who had received their honours on the previous afternoon at the meeting of Provincial Grand Chapter held at Southport Theatre and Convention Centre were treated to a very special first official duty in their new positions.
The ceremony of installing the three principals was particularly poignant for Bob and Gordon as both are members of the chapter, Bob having been first principal in 2012 and Gordon in 2013. Their first official excursion was therefore very much on home turf. Surely the spotlight should be directed on them.
Trevor Drabble, a Royal Arch Mason of long standing and also a member of the chapter, brought even more honour to the chapter on having being promoted to Past Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, making him the highest ranking Provincial officer in the Fylde area. Such is the quality of the companions of Blackpool Chapter of Integrity that another spotlight is required.
Joining the trio of acting Provincial officers from West Lancashire was acting Provincial Grand Steward Andy Denton from the Province of East Lancashire. In their supporting roles, the acting officers led Stuart into the chapter to witness the ceremony that saw John Chapman proclaimed as first principal for a second year. Turn a spotlight on John.
Donning the purple robe of second principal was Adolphus Taylor who was inducted into the chair as he had held the office on a previous occasion in 2009 and Alan Barnes was installed into the chair of third principal and accordingly received the blue robe. So, in the one ceremony the companions enjoyed a proclamation, an induction and an installation. Surely such a combination of rituals is deserving of a spotlight.
One could expect nothing less than a delightful ceremony when thumbing through the list of companions in the chapter. Under the guidance of Jon Selcoe, the director of ceremonies in the chapter, quality was exactly what was dished up. And once again, yet another spotlight is required, this time directed at Jon Selcoe. This was the night that he retired from his role as director of ceremonies after 18 years of dedicated service to the chapter.
The three robe addresses were also worthy of a front stage position. Young companion Kevin Croft proved himself a rising star with his robe address to the first principal. Alan Whitehouse delivered a dramatically animated version of the robe address to the second principal and Ian Stirling followed in fine style with his robe address to the third principal.
After the officers of the chapter had been invested and the ceremony drew to a close it presented the opportunity for Stuart to bring to the principals of the chapter and the companions the greetings and best wishes of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, whom Stuart felt would undoubtedly have wished to congratulate all who had taken part in the proceedings. Understandably he was particularly generous in his praise of the younger companions who had done such a superb job and felt that Jon Selcoe’s role as director of ceremonies had been instrumental in exhorting and encouraging the companions to produce such a delightful ceremony.
Stuart was also delighted to receive notice of disbursements made by the chapter of £400 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and £150 to the Thornton Primary School PTFA., thanking the companions for their generosity and assuring them that it is much appreciated by the final recipients.
The festive board was attended by some 40 companions and enabled Stuart to bring his own greetings and congratulations to the three principals and companions and update them on the latest initiatives of Provincial Grand Chapter including the dramatic demonstrations of the enhanced ceremony of exaltation.
It was at this point that Stuart turned the spotlight on the companions who had received honours at the previous evening’s Provincial Grand Chapter meeting. He spoke at length of the wonderful achievement of Trevor Drabble and extended to him his wholehearted congratulations. He then centred his attentions on Gordon Ivett, Bob Bennett, Roy Fenton and Peter Weller, congratulating them on their appointments to acting ranks. But there was more praise to be delivered. He now referred to the affable character of Jon Selcoe, extending him sincere thanks for all the work and dedication that he had put into his role as the lodge’s director of ceremonies over the last 18 years.
With so many achievements by members of the chapter and so much to applaud, the companions hands turned red raw, steam billowed up and had the companions had them about their persons, thermometers would have popped.
Following a delightful rendition of the principals’ song by John Darrell, ably accompanied by John Wall, it was first principal John Chapman’s turn to respond to the toast to the principals. Having lubricated the larynx with more than a few whisky and sodas during the evening, John delivered a passionate and sincere speech, thanking all the members for their continued support and warm friendship. It had been his turn to step into the spotlight and he was making the most of the opportunity.