On a cold winters evening, Victoria Lodge No 2360 were delighted to welcome an old friend, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phillip Gunning and his team joined for an evening of high ceremony and festivities. Already the largest and most popular lodge in the Southport Group, a double initiation was timetabled for two promising and young new members.
The members of the lodge were in fine form and a large visiting contingent were also in attendance, including the group secretary Paul Hardman. The opening ode did boom out as the evening began; the lodge being so packed with people eager to see the double initiation. The WM, Brian McCarthy, opened the lodge and conducted the local business before the visiting Provincial officers paraded into the lodge room in grand style.
Accompanying Phillip were Provincial Assistant Director of Ceremonies Les Gilston and the Southport Group Chairman Phil Stock, both proud members of Victoria Lodge themselves. With Assistant to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Gregory Pinnington and Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Rob Fitzsimmons also joined to fulfil their duties.
Leading the parade were two esteemed and decorated members of the lodge, Roy Crawford and Grahame Johnson acting as Provincial deacons for the evening. It is extremely rare for four out of six of the Deputy Provincial Grand Master’s parade to be from the same lodge, but the procession did their brethren proud as they marched in flawless step with heads held high. Brian then offered Phillip the gavel, which was returned with a smile and a comment on how much he had been looking forward to watching the ceremony.
The business of the lodge then moved on to the double initiation. Brian asked his own director of ceremonies Jeremy Williams to perform the ceremony. Performing a degree ceremony in front of a lodge as large as Victoria Lodge can be a daunting experience, even more so with esteemed visitors present. Jeremy however quickly showed he had the heart of a lion as his strong, calm, clear voice filled the hall with its presence. The candidates were then welcomed in to be initiated.
Both Michael Jones and Callum Browne were to join the lodge and they paraded in together. They were guided through the ceremony by Jeremy, showing his knowledge of ceremony and clear voice were no early evening bravado but the results of many years hard work, dedication and character. He was rightly lauded afterwards by all at the festive board, as his performance had inspired not just newer brethren but also gentlemen of experienced pedigree. The ceremony concluded with the charge, read by the lodge ADC Mike Robinson, showing the visitors that the quality of ceremony seen up to that point was a matter of standard practice in Victoria Lodge. He was also rightly lauded afterwards by all.
Following the initiation, the candidates were welcomed by one and all, and probably wore their hands sore so many hands did they shake. Both new members wore great smiles upon their faces and clearly appreciated the welcome they had received.
The evening then moved on to the festive board, with the new menu at Southport Hall once again going down a treat. The usual toasts were made, songs were sung and Phillip Gunning entertained the members with a fine speech delivered with his customary ease and approachability. Naturally the quality of the ceremony performed by Jeremy and Mike could not fail to be recognised, but Phillip also touched on his previous visits to the lodge which he had clearly enjoyed immensely.
Finally, and most importantly he welcomed Michael and Callum to Freemasonry and afterwards all members did toast their health. This of course was the most important part of the evening, as Victoria Lodge once again finished the evening showing however much they enjoyed ceremony, in their lodge nothing is more important than friendship.