Watery sunshine gently illuminated the sparsely populated promenade of Blackpool on a fair winter afternoon that was sporadically interrupted by short bursts of stinging hail. Nevertheless the heartening rays graciously infused a novel jauntiness into pedestrians and traffic alike, so much so that even tram drivers smiled and jested and ever-vigilant bobbies jovially wafted gloved hands to the occasional passer-by.
Whilst the vagaries of the British weather brought some small measure of congeniality to a minority of the town’s inhabitants on the promenade, joyousness abounded in the Masonic hall at Adelaide Street when brethren gathered to celebrate the installation of James Edward Phillimore into the chair of King Solomon in Blackpool Temperance Lodge No 5303. James or Jim as he prefers to be called is a creative arts designer and the artistic flair and creativity of the lodge was very apparent on the day with a superb ceremony that warmed the hearts of all those who had braved the elements. Pivotal to the excellence of the proceedings was William Watt the installing master whose calm confidence is magnetic. There is about him something spellbinding that seems to sooth and hypnotise. He has probably never encountered a charging Bengal tiger but should this unlikely exigency ever arise there is little doubt that the animal, on catching his glance, would check itself in mid-stride, roll over and lie purring with its legs in the air. By the simple eloquence of his example, all the other members of the cast performed to an equally high standard.
The brilliance of the ceremony was much admired by the visiting dignitaries, a point that Eric Picton, representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, was eager to convey to the brethren. Echoing Eric’s sentiments were Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Terry Hudson, Chairman of the Blackpool group of lodges Peter Bentham, grand officer Geoffrey Pritchard, and Norman Cope, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Province of East Lancashire. Supporting the grand officers were vice-chairman of the Blackpool group of lodges John Turpin and acting Provincial officers Andrew Bartlett, Martyn Jones, Ryan Modlin, and Chris Walpole.
Of particular note in the ceremony were three of the junior brethren who were highly lauded for their performances in presenting the working tools. Those of the third degree were superbly delivered by Ryan Spedding; those of the second degree were faultlessly presented by David Edwards and John Campbell gave an excellent explanation of the first degree tools, particularly impressive when one considers that John has been in Freemasonry for less than a year. The whole ceremony was a most inspiring innings with an abundance of flair and talent on show, making it one of the most meticulous and entertaining installations of the season. Superbly choreographed by the lodge’s director of ceremonies Martin Linton, the team executed its roles with panache and sincerity; not a single member performing less than impeccably.
From the instant that the installing officers were perched in their seats; Martin Haines as installing senior warden, Martyn Jones as installing junior warden and David Nicholson as installing inner guard, the stage was set for brilliance. Presenting Jim Phillimore to William Watt was Tim Walton, Jim’s proposer when he first joined Freemasonry and it was obvious that he was delighted to carry out the duty. David Brumwell’s address to the new master of the lodge was no less superb than the preceding performances and the standard was maintained throughout the address to the wardens by Umesh Dholakia, that to the deacons by Ken Jones and, finally, Eric Picton’s splendid discourse to the brethren of the lodge.
Relaying the best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison to Jim and the brethren, Eric complimented all involved on the brilliance of the whole ceremony and was even more delighted when he received charitable donations amounting to £1,500, comprising £1,100 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £300 to the Salvation Army, and £100 to the Blackpool Masonic Hall Building Fund.
But it wasn’t just the sheer theatre of the rituals that made the evening so special. There was a vivacity in the air; a buzz that comes with definitive camaraderie and a resoluteness to enjoy the occasion. As it emerged through the evening, it became more pronounced and engaging; an element that Eric revelled in during his response to the toast to grand officers at the banquet that followed the installation ceremony. His warm, genial and relaxed delivery was the icing on this memorable cake.
Demonstrating the versatility of the brethren, Harry Waggett performed a charming rendition of the master’s song, superbly accompanied by George Holden on the piano.
Apparent to all those who had ventured out on that wintry day in Blackpool was the warmth of the welcome extended by the brethren of the lodge and the huge amount of work that they had put in to achieving such brilliance in their rituals and in producing a most enjoyable ceremony.