Almost 100 Masons converged on Lancaster Masonic Hall, Rowley Court, recently to witness a dramatic demonstration of a third degree ceremony under the Scottish Constitution by Lodge Dumfries Kilwinning No 53 who were making their annual fraternal visit to Lune Lodge No 4724.
On a day that had seen reported wind speeds of over 110 mph on the west coast of Scotland, the northern visitors had bravely battled the elements to ensure that they did not let their ‘Sassenach’ audience down. The fraternal friendship between these two lodges has developed over a number of years and Lodge Dumfries Kilwinning can boast a history dating back to at least 1575 in addition to having Robert Burns junior, the ‘Bard’s’ eldest son, as one of its past masters.
A dispensation had been granted to Lune Lodge allowing them to change the date of the meeting and the reading of this was one of the first items of business before Ben Benabda WM ‘called off’ the regular lodge meeting in order to receive the Scottish deputation who were led by their Right Worshipful Master, William (Billy) Burnett. After receiving a very enthusiastic and warm welcome, the regular officers of Lune Lodge vacated their positions and were replaced by their Scottish counterparts, in preparation for the ceremony. Now, as some may know, the third degree ceremony as practised under the Scottish Constitution, is considerably more dramatic and tactile than that usually witnessed south of the border. Therefore, it was with this in mind that one of the younger, and according to Lune Lodge DC Neil McGill, ‘dispensable’ members of Lune Lodge, Paul Morgan, had been persuaded to ‘volunteer’ as the victim…sorry, candidate for the evening’s demonstration.
The ceremony that followed, conducted by a number of past masters of the Dumfries Kilwinning Lodge together with their RWM, was a rare delight to witness. To those brethren who had not seen a ‘Scottish’ version before it was both familiar and dramatically different in terms of enactment and content. The candidate, Paul Morgan, resolutely endured the various trials made of him and like the audience was, at the completion of the ceremony, left in no doubt that he had been a part of something very special, enlightening and memorable. Such was the appreciation of the audience that when the master of Lune Lodge, Ben Benabda, rose to thank the Scottish visitors for their work, the whole room stood to give an ovation. At the conclusion of his thanks, Ben presented Billy with a cheque for £300 as a contribution to the visitors’ charity fund. Billy expressed very grateful thanks and gave assurances that the monies would be swiftly allocated to a local charity in the Dumfries area.
Lancashire Hot Pot, quite appropriately, was the main item on the menu at the festive board held in the Rowley Court dining suite. However, other equally delightful regional specialities featured in the menu of events that followed. A hilarious parody of the ‘Tale of Tam o’ Shanter’ renamed as ‘Tam the Bunnet’ was enacted by Bobby Jess, complete with a fascinating array of ‘props’. Many of the audience were reduced to tears by this virtuoso performance. Another recipient of a regional delicacy, was Paul Morgan, the ‘candidate’ who was presented with a bottle of ‘usquebaugh’ or for those who don’t have the Gaelic, whisky! As the literal translation to English is ‘water of life’, it was a very appropriate gift and its anaesthetic properties were commended to him as a relief from his recent ‘sufferings’.
As the evening swiftly passed, in no small measure due to the enjoyment and friendly exchanges that were much in evidence, the toasts were given and received with especial sincerity and warmth. Before the ‘official’ proceedings were concluded, Billy Burnett presented Lune Lodge with a hand carved gavel or heavy maul as a memento of the visit. In expressing his thanks for the gift, Ben Benabda was also able to announce that the raffle had raised the princely sum of £515 for good causes. Following the Tyler’s toast, many were reluctant see such a happy and enjoyable evening come to an end, so there then followed an impromptu ‘ceilidh’ with harmonious contributions from the brethren from both sides of the border. It would be indiscreet to disclose the hour at which the festivities came to an eventual close but it was undoubtedly the case that everyone left to ‘tak the high road’ firmly avowing that they were ‘no awa tae bide awa’. Here’s to their next merry meeting!