The original introduction to this article had been that Masons had flocked to Southport from all four points of the compass for the installation meeting of Lodge of Unity No 613.
However, on realising that an approach from the west would necessitate a dip in the Irish Sea, followed by a sand yacht over the extensive beach, a chug upon the miniature railway on the pier and then a steady amble along Lord Street, it became apparent that the more accurate phrase would be from ‘most points of the compass’. But as the latter does not carry the same resonance I will simply observe that they came from all over the Province of West Lancashire.
No matter from where they arrived, or how the members and guests travelled to Southport Masonic Hall, they were then able to witness a super ceremony followed by enjoyable food, good craic, and companionship. Principal of the visitors on this splendid occasion was the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews. He was accompanied by his deputy Phil Gunning and his predecessor Tony Harrison along with other esteemed grand and acting Provincial grand officers.
Of the acting Provincial grand officers, it was a delight to have present Provincial Senior Grand Warden Michael Tax who was making his debut appearance in that role. It was similarly pleasing to have Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald on hand to oversee proceedings and make sure that everyone was in the right place at the right time.
Lodge of Unity took on a new guise in 2022 when, after being about to hand in its warrant, it became a lodge for acting officers of the Province. Several original members of the lodge were made honorary members. The move ensured the continuance of the first lodge established in the town and whose DNA can be found in all the other lodges in Southport.
In 2022, the then Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison accepted the gavel and installed AProvGM Frank Umbers into the chair of the lodge in what was to be Tony’s last work in a lodge as ProvGM. How appropriate therefore that his first piece of ritual as a PProvGM was to present AProvGM Andrew Whittle to Frank for installation.
The delivery of ritual can be a somewhat daunting and stressful task no matter how experienced and skilled anyone is, add into that the presence of the luminaries in attendance one can only imagine the trepidation Frank probably felt. It did not show as he went about the business of installing his successor Andrew in fine style.
The address to the newly installed master was delivered by Phil Gunning with Mark orating the address to the brethren of the lodge. Both gentlemen added to the enjoyment of the ceremony. Lodge director of ceremonies Dave Boyes was kept busy in not only supervising the ritual but in presenting the working tools after he had made each proclaimation. He too can reflect on a job well done.
Although enforced absences meant that not all officers were present, it was indeed gratifying that the situation enabled two of the original lodge members to take part in the ceremony. Stewart Gaukroger acted as chaplain throughout and Bob Teesdale started in the role of junior warden before covering as senior warden.
To mark the occasion, the sum of £500 has been transferred to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. Following the formalities of the lodge room the installation banquet proved a success with the food well received and the company very much enjoyed.
The next meeting of the lodge is scheduled for 30t November and Andrew has decided that it will be held elsewhere. Full details will be circulated in due course.