‘Tranquillity’ conjures up images of calmness, timidity and diffidence; of a reluctance to break silence and to slowly but fastidiously plod along. It should offer an opportunity to drift into quiet repose.
But Blackpool Lodge of Tranquillity No 6544 members had different ideas and aims at their installation ceremony. Stamping his authority on the proceedings in no uncertain manner from the kick-off, master of the lodge Ray Johnson made it clear that the gathered troops were going to pay attention to this ceremony. Opening the meeting with strength and clarity, the throng sat up, listened and paid attention to his words. It was going to be Johnson out and Wade in. This was Ray’s chance to shine and he was going to make the most of it. It was obvious that the day was going to produce a pipping installation ceremony.
Principal guest on the evening was Duncan Smith representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. This was the first outing since his appointment to grand lodge that Duncan had represented the Provincial Grand Master but there was no hint of the rookie in his performance. Like a seasoned pro, Duncan brought a perfect blend of dignity and humility, of warmth and officialdom and of ease and efficiency. Even more importantly, he oozed enjoyment and fun in his Masonry, an element that Tony would have very much approved of.
Accompanying Duncan were grand officers Jeffrey Pritchard and Chairman of Blackpool Group Peter Bentham, supported by group vice chairman John Turpin.
Following the customary salutations to grand and Provincial grand officers, the installation, or more precisely, the proclamation ceremony proper began for the master elect had been master of a lodge on a previous occasion. The master elect Colin Wade was presented by his uncle John Tew, the lodge’s director of ceremonies. Colin, who was master of Emblem Lodge No 6727 in 2007, is a familiar face to Freemasons in Blackpool and will no doubt continue the good work done by his predecessor Ray.
In a meticulously orchestrated ceremony, Ray sedulously placed Colin into the chair of King Solomon with confidence and panache, qualities that were to be evident throughout the whole of the proceedings.
Of particular note were the presentations of the working tools of the three degrees, performed by Jeff Masters, Anthony Ellis and Alan Albiston respectively. There are those who perform ritual with an apparent ease and spontaneity and there are those who obviously find the prospect daunting. Jeff Masters is definitely one of the former and proved his qualifications in his delivery of the third degree tools.
Although in Freemasonry for a much shorter period of time, Anthony Ellis gave a superb rendition of the extended second degree tools. Lesser men have shuffled their feet, sweated their brows and taken dizzy spells when faced with such a trial but no such human wreckage was in the stature of Anthony. He stepped up ready to serve and dished it up without batting an eyelid.
It was then the turn of Alan Albiston, another recent member of the lodge. With piercing eyes transfixed upon him, presenting the first degree working tools was enough to unnerve the staunchest of nature’s beasts. But did Alan care? Not a hoot. Alan delivered the tools with eloquence and calmness. It was a masterly stroke that generated a unanimous and co-ordinated wave of appreciation to ripple around the lodge room.
It is unlikely that a pack of bloodhounds scouring the FY postal district could have located three other brethren who could have done a better job than Jeff, Anthony and Alan did on this day.
The same high standard was sustained throughout all the remaining ritual. Brilliance shone in John Tew’s address to the new master, in Ray Johnson’s address to the wardens and in Duncan’s sincere and animated address to the brethren, demonstrating his supreme skill as a ritualist.
There were also delightful and rarely heard pieces of ritual that provided a refreshing and unique element to the day’s events. Howard Nordwind’s address to the immediate past master was just one example and John Tew’s address to the newly invested chaplain was another. Adding further to the delights of the day was organist George Holden’s selection of tunes, providing a special atmosphere of reverence interspersed with moments of humour, a combination that created a memorable ceremony.
In bringing the greetings and best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master, Duncan was full of praise for the quality of the ceremony and all its participants, feeling unable to identify the star of the day when presented with such a galaxy of talent. His enjoyment of the ceremony was further boosted when presented with charitable disbursements totalling £2,455.55, the beneficiaries being the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity to the tune of £945.55, the Blackpool Masonic Building Fund £100, Blackpool Victoria Hospital Baby Unit £400 and Rainbow House £1,000.
There was no let-up in the punch and exhilaration of the proceedings when the throng retired to the installation banquet. Excellent food, strong conviviality and lively banter created a very special occasion. The traditional raffle brought an extra surprise. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company had donated a prize of a trip for two to the island, including the car ferry crossing and hotel accommodation in Douglas. The jubilant winner David Catterall expressed his delight, saying that he and his wife had been planning to visit the Isle of Man and the prize offered the ideal opportunity.
Responding to the toast to grand officers, Duncan drew attention to current Masonic issues, including the establishment of a Provincial Focus Group to centre on recruitment and retention, the changes to the Provincial Care System and the newly formed Masonic Charitable Foundation. He also provided details of the planned tercentenary celebrations and the imminent festival, emphasising the need for strong support of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity in advance of it. Previous experience has indicated that a marked reduction in income for the WLFC is likely during the festival period.
Nick Harrison, accompanied by George Holden on piano, toasted the newly installed master with power and sincerity in his rendition of the master’s song. It was a fitting conclusion to a day in which Colin Wade was well and truly installed as the new master of Tranquillity Lodge.