“That concludes the ceremony of your installation” was the cue for Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson to convey the greetings and best wishes of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison to the three principals and companions of Peace and Unity Chapter No 3966 at its installation meeting in Blackpool. It is, of course, a customary and recognisable sequence at any installation meeting. In rising to his feet and introducing the traditional greetings. However, David broke from tradition and stated that had the Grand Superintendent been present, he would have said, “David, can you explain to me what happened?”
What prompted this statement was the unusual structure of the ceremony that David had just witnessed. The quirkiness of Peace and Unity Chapter’s installation ceremony is well documented amongst local Royal Arch Masons and after so many years of perfecting its eccentricity, one would expect that it would come as no surprise to visitors. The chapter’s idiosyncrasies continue however to astonish them. To a first-time observer, the immediate impression is that the ceremony is conducted in reverse order; spats over bowler so to speak, using a popular colloquialism.
It must be said nevertheless, that the enjoyment of the evening is not diminished by the peculiarity of the ceremony. One may from time to time be watching with gaping mouth but that is one of its many charms. The element of surprise is a strong tonic. But, to the reader of these chronicles, such discursive ramblings do not throw light on the happenings of the day and no doubt, it would be helpful to relate the tale from the beginning.
A goodly crowd of Masons had gathered at the Masonic hall and the convocation was opened in a manner that would be recognisable in most chapters. An opening address was superbly recited by the chapter’s director of ceremonies Richard Anderson prior to first principal Bob Sims opening the chapter and despatching the general business with alacrity and finesse. At this point, all was as might be expected.
Principal guest David Randerson and his retinue were paraded into the meeting, again with traditional reverence and decorum. Accompanying David were fellow grand officers Ron Weatherill, David Harrison and Stuart Thornber, supported by Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin and vice chairman and the group’s Royal Arch contact David Cook, along with acting Provincial grand officers Gordon Ivett, Martin Linton, Martin Dennison and Ron Strangwick. Yes, everything was still as would be expected at this stage.
But at this juncture, recognised convention seemed to become distorted. Strange things were happening. All three principals elect were lined up in the west of the chapter room and were required to repeat an obligation to the chapter and Royal Arch Masonry in general.
It was a rare procedure to say the least and Blackpool Group companions are simple, straightforward people who, when surprised, do not conceal their surprise, and who, not understanding any situation in which they find themselves, demand explanation on the spot. Individuals glanced at individuals, each hoping for clarification. Individuals returned glances of confusion to individuals and clarification was not forthcoming, not even from companions of the chapter. There was a lot of glancing at each other but it seemed that confusion would reign.
Following this unique oddity, the ceremony returned to something a little more recognisable to the majority of companions. Glenn O’Brien, the first principal elect, who has been first principal in a number of chapters on previous occasions, was called on to ratify his obligation as first principal and was anointed in compliance with the custom of the chapter. Randal Boyd took his obligation as second principal under the direction of Glenn O’Brien and was similarly duly anointed. Third principal elect Emanuel Adeoye was likewise obligated by Randal, following the rare practices of ablutions and shedding of footwear, apparently another of the traditions of Peace and Unity Chapter.
The introduction of a number of unique procedures was the aspect of the ceremony that was foreign to many companions from other chapters. But the differences were not to end there. All companions were welcomed to remain in the chapter room throughout the duration of the ceremony, other than at that crucial moment when each principal was to receive the signs and tokens of his office.
However, the general populace was well satisfied with what it had seen, yet a strain of confusion could be perceived in the atmosphere that was easily attributable to the uniqueness of the ceremony.
When Glenn O’Brien, Randal Boyd and Emanuel Adeoye had been firmly and decisively placed in the first, second and third principals’ chairs respectively, it was the moment to return to a recognisable sequence of events. Robe addresses were recited to the three principals; that of the scarlet robe to the first principal by Richard Anderson, that of the purple to the second principal by Malcolm Woods and that of the blue to the third principal by Giles Berkley. Thank goodness there was a return to normality!
The investiture of the officers of the chapter was also conducted in traditional manner and when completed, the throng was treated to a trio of superb addresses. David Cook in his address to the three principals brought to performing ritual the same intense energy which he awards every challenge in Masonry. He is only satisfied with excellence and goes for it full on like a Jack Russell after a rat.
Director of ceremonies of the chapter Richard Anderson was the next to perform. Addressing the officers of the chapter, his whole demeanour radiated wholesome and warmly confidence, a level of confidence that comes only from thorough preparation. And the result was a perfect delivery. Not even an expert in such matters could have perceived the slightest flaw in his performance.
And then came Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals and honoured guest David Randerson with his address to the companions of Peace and Unity Chapter. His performance was a world away from a mere recital of the piece. He fashioned it into his personal offering of an art form; animated, eloquent and passionate. It made the hairs on the back of the neck bristle.
The ceremony may well have been different from that seen at most chapters and its contents may have been foreign to many visitors but there was no doubt that a great deal of effort had gone into its orchestration and performance. The companions had worked hard and David Randerson eyed the toilers with a comfortable and kindly eye. The results of all this industry made the Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals feel happy. He watched it all with every evidences of joy and approval. David likes to see this sort of industry going on all round him when he visits chapters.
At the denouement of the formal proceedings, the gathering migrated to the bar for refreshers before the starting-gun signalled that dinner was ready and they all toddled off to the banqueting suite; there to enjoy a feast of fine food and wine in an atmosphere dripping with gaiety and joie de vivre.
Refreshed by good food and genial company, David Randerson’s brain was lively and sharp for his response to the toast to the grand officers. He distilled his speech with measured care as if dispensing a rare Napoleon brandy. It was amusing and entertaining whist still getting across the important messages that the Grand Superintendent is eager to share amongst Royal Arch companions.
At the top of his list was the forthcoming Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, encouraging companions to make a pledge in its support. He also directed the companions to visit the West Lancashire Freemasons’ website on which festival ties, pocket squares and cufflinks can be purchased. He did warn the companions however not to confuse the Festival Jewel with the Tercentenary Jewel and to ensure that all payments go to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival account, rather than inadvertently directing them to the tercentenary celebrations account. He also urged his audience to promote the Royal Arch by staging ‘brethren to dine’ evenings, ‘Talking Heads’ presentations and adopting the enhanced exaltation.
It was then fellow grand officer David Harrison who took to the stage to perform the principals’ song, and very impressive it was. Singing a cappella, he raised an enthusiastic chorus and consequently, the three principals were well and truly toasted. It was another memorable moment of the evening.
As alluded to at the start of this chronicle, the Grand Superintendent, had he been present at the installation, may well have enquired of the ceremony: “David, explain to me what happened”, because of its individuality and idiosyncrasies but when considering the enjoyment, camaraderie and geniality of the entire evening, David’s answer would inevitably have been: “We had a really fun night Tony.”