Any great show or spectacle, be it drama, music, dance, comedy or tragedy embraces a common denominator – it arouses the senses in its audience. It establishes empathy and yields a sense of an emotional involvement in the performance without actually being a part of it. It is a quality that is difficult to attain but the members of Saturnian Lodge No 7563 achieved just that at its installation meeting that saw Mark Dugdale install Ken Winstanley into the chair of King Solomon in a dignified, sincere and sensitive ceremony.
In order to successfully attack the senses in an audience, it isn’t necessary for each and every performer to achieve perfection. There is a need however for an obvious attempt at perfection by each performer, an indication that everyone is desperately striving for it. Consequently, if a mistake is made, the audience vicariously suffers the pain of the performer.
Similarly, when a performer delivers excellence, the audience equally shares his elation. That is the degree of empathy that the ceremony at Saturnian Lodge achieved. The audience was engrossed in the show and shared the sentiments and desires of the performers. It is a difficult sensation to describe and in attempting to explain it, the phrase, ‘you needed to be there’, about sums it up.
Within 30 seconds of opening the lodge, Mark Dugdale’s efficiency was proved to the hilt by the crisp, precise and adept manner in which he discharged the general business. It was obvious that he was going to put on a special display.
Following an announcement by the lodge’s director of ceremonies Jonathan Selcoe, a modestly-sized but noteworthy procession filed into the lodge room, fronted by acting Provincial grand officers Stuart Gay, Craig Sutton and Gordon Ivett, with grand officer William Eardley and Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin and his vice chairman David Cook providing a fittingly respectful guard of honour to the representative of the Provincial Grand Master, Provincial Junior Grand Warden Jonathan Heaton.
Installing officers were duly placed in their respective seats; Rodney Gee as senior warden, Dryden Hyde as junior warden and Colin Goodwin as inner guard. Treasurer of the lodge Bernard Hopkinson temporarily vacated his seat in order to present master elect Ken Winstanley to Mark Dugdale.
Mark is a modest young man but one who applies himself with zeal and oomph to produce perfection. Those were exactly the qualities of his performance that captured the fellow feelings of the throng in attendance. There was no brashness, no brazenness. It was a sensitive and sincere performance and a joy to experience. Ken Winstanley was installed into the chair of King Solomon in exemplary fashion.
On being deposited in the chair, the room seemed to reel before Ken’s eyes. It was as if he had been wounded by being smacked on the back of his head with a sandbag. For a while he sat and diffidently gazed about him. Time stood still for him, as if he were in shock. Eventually he leaned back against the opulent chair, steadfastly clutching its robust arms. Becoming master of the lodge was obviously a moment that Ken cherished.
At this tense juncture of the ceremony, director of ceremonies Jonathan Selcoe stepped onto the floor to continue with the proceedings. With the confidence and authority of a natural leader, Jonathan pronounced Ken the new master of the lodge and led the customary greetings through the three degrees.
In the book of Emulation, hardbound and all rights reserved, page 198 lays the recital for the working tools of a master Mason. Many young men, faced with the ordeal of reciting a piece as complicated as this, would have the air of one who has taken his life in his hands. But Scott Holden appeared to be one who had found the dialogue delightfully easy. It was a masterly performance.
The next presentation was to be the extended version of the second degree working tools, an arduous piece with complicated text needing a nerve of steel. Mark Brierley however, was equal to the occasion and recited it in magnificent style.
It was then the turn of fellow craft Freemason Desmond Burke to face the heat with his delivery of the working tools of an entered apprentice. He was no doubt feeling a bit worked up. Taught; on edge; tense, so to speak. But the audience was fully behind him and he showed real guts and determination. On completion of his ordeal, his relief was clearly evident. He passed a gentle hand over the forehead and became generally relaxed. He had done well and deserved to relax.
During and following the investiture of the officers of the lodge, there was a flurry of excellent addresses. Rodney Gee, Dryden Hyde and Colin Goodwin set a high standard in their addresses to the senior warden, junior warden and inner guard respectively. Secretary Malcolm Woods demonstrated his versatility with addresses to the mentor and wardens while Jonathan Selcoe reinforced his reputation as a class ‘A’ performer with his brilliant addresses to each of the deacons.
Bernard Hopkinson vacated his treasurer’s seat once more to address the newly installed master and Jonathan Heaton provided a highly polished address to the brethren of the lodge.
The entire ceremony had been a delight. But it had that little something extra. Parked discreetly in the corner of the lodge room was secret weapon George Holden, who with remarkable dexterity and wit, provided a much-appreciated concerto of organ music that created atmosphere and introduced subtle and spontaneous humour to the proceedings.
On conclusion of the ceremony, Jonathan Heaton rose to convey the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and was emphatic that Tony would have thoroughly enjoyed the day. That was enough for Ken to eagerly cut Jonathan short in thanking him for those kind words and inviting him, there and then, to the festive board. Ken’s excitement at being in the chair was clearly evident. He couldn’t wait to get to the festive board and celebrate to the full. Nevertheless, Jonathan calmly and diplomatically continued to congratulate Mark Dugdale and the brethren on the quality of the ritual and stick to recognised protocol.
Ken duly returned to the programme, presenting Jonathan with charitable disbursements amounting to £900, comprising of £500 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £200 to Rosemere Cancer and £200 to Brian House Children’s Hospice, donations that were greatly appreciated by Jonathan. Ken completed the lodge business, finally closing the lodge in a calm and controlled manner. The installation ceremony had been a victory for the lodge and all retired to the festive banquet in genial and celebratory mood.
The banquet too was a wonderful occasion. Not only was the meal of the highest standard but the ambience of the banqueting suite was unparalleled, created largely by the pianistic skills of George Holden who provided timeless background tunes throughout the bulk of the time. It had the air of a captain’s dinner on a luxury liner during the golden age of trans-Atlantic travel.
There was a further delightful surprise when three of the light blue members, Desmond Burke, Scott Holden and Steven Bird formed themselves into a vocal trio to deliver the master’s song. It provided a further morsel of magic to an already enchanting evening.
The qualities of the day were elaborated on by Jonathan during his response to the toast to Provincial grand officers, showering praise on all who had been involved in the ceremony and expressing particular admiration for the newer brethren who had so lucidly presented the working tools of the three degrees.
Turning to matters that the Provincial Grand Master wishes to be conveyed to members, Jonathan highlighted the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival which will be at the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in May 2017, urging all to be in attendance at the meeting and to support the festival by their patronage, whilst at the same time not forgetting the needs of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity.
It became apparent that 2017 will prove to be a busy year, (if not hectic), with the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, the tercentenary celebrations, the recently introduced care structure and hopefully, many new candidates into Freemasonry. Jonathan proved to be an articulate and entertaining speaker in which every word he said had currency.
His closing words were in expressing his genuine and heart-felt thanks for a most enjoyable evening – a sentiment common to all those present. It had aroused their senses and the sensation will remain with them for a long time.