In a packed lodge room at Morecambe Masonic Hall over 100 brethren witnessed the installation of Michael (Mike) Anthony Ashton into the chair of Poulton Le Sands Lodge No 1051. Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning was the principal guest, accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger, Lancaster and District Group Chairman Jim Wilson and fellow grand officers Philip Gardner and Tom Holroyd. They were supported by acting Provincial officers Richard Wilcock, Bernard Snape, Ian Thompson, Christopher Grey and Christopher Larder. This impressive assembly was superbly directed by Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell. Also in attendance on this august occasion were group vice chairman Neil McGill and group secretary Scott Devine.
On his entry into the lodge room Philip was warmly welcomed by the installing master David Shaw and offered the gavel of the lodge. Expressing his gratitude for the sentiments expressed and then accepting the gavel, Philip promptly returned it, assuring David that “I know it is in good hands.” Consequent to his being presented for installation by the lodge secretary Mike Craddock, the master elect Mike Ashton was then placed in the chair of Poulton Le Sands Lodge with enviable skill and sincerity by David. Indeed, the high quality of the whole ceremony was amply maintained by the contributions of Alan Thompson with his flawless address to the master, Brian Milner’s inimitable rendition of the address to the wardens and the excellent presentation of the working tools by Darren Clifford, Mark Laverty and Antony Clarke in the third, second and first degrees respectively.
On completion of the ceremony Philip rose to give the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and confirmed that had he been present Tony would have welcomed Mike as master of his own lodge and wished him much success, happiness and good health for his year in office, adding that he had been commanded by Tony to extend his best wishes to all present and hoped they would enjoy their Freemasonry. Philip was delighted to receive notification of donations to Masonic and non-Masonic causes totalling £6,778 which included £1,500 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £1,500 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £604 to St Johns Hospice, £408 to Motor Neurone Disease Association, £335 to the Alzheimer’s Association, £500 to Cancer Care, together with £1,597 to various other Masonic causes. In recognition of the donation of £1,500 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, Philip presented the master of the lodge, on behalf of Poulton Le Sands, with a certificate acknowledging their status as a vice patron of the MCF 2021 Festival, adding “thank you, thank you most sincerely.”
The Festival of St John was held at the Lothersdale Hotel in Morecambe where Philip, in response to the toast to the grand officers, was able to offer his own personal congratulations to Mike on attaining the chair of King Solomon, adding that “your year will simply fly by, enjoy it to the full and get out to as many lodges as possible. The more you put in, the more you will get out.” Philp went on to praise not only the installing master David and the brethren who presented the working tools – “they were excellent” – but also all the officers of the lodge who had taken part in the ceremony.
His personal thanks went to David Grainger and the grand and acting Provincial officers for their company, with a special thanks to Jim Wilson for inviting him. Philip moved on to discuss the ‘critically acclaimed’ forthcoming television documentary called ‘Inside the Freemasons’ which will be shown on television later in the year.
The body of Philip’s address was a discussion about Freemasonry and what it means for different people. “Masonry will never let you down” Philip stated, “it will look after you, your family and your dependants and is relevant to all we undertake, which is a really important message, especially for younger Masons. Freemasonry donates to many worthy causes, both local and national and in so doing extends its relevance into society.” Philip moved on to include updates on the Tercentenary celebrations and the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, with a special mention regarding the lodge achieving vice patron of the Festival, stating that “it is an amazing achievement.”
The toast to the newly installed master saw Jim Stewart of Warton Lodge No 8411 deliver a very personal and often humorous summation of Mike’s career and family life. On completion of the address to the master, the musical tribute in the form of the master’s song was performed with style by John Atkinson, with musical accompaniment by Roy Domville.
Mike in his reply to the master’s toast, thanked Philip for his attendance and in ‘making it a memorable day’ and to all the brethren for their hard work both during the ceremony as well as in the festive board. In concluding his speech, Mike commented that the ceremony and festive board had been wonderful and hopefully the start of a special year.
A fitting finale to a memorable day was the knowledge that the raffle had raised the enormous sum of £490, with a further £50 donated by the masters in office as a result of their ‘master’s swindle’
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.