Of all human qualities worthy of merit, industriousness is possibly one of the most admirable. ‘Sweat and tears’ to achieve a desired goal is a noble ethos in life and particularly relevant to the principles of Freemasonry. The journey of self-development is a challenge that demands continuous effort and fortitude. The ancient maxim ‘nil sine labore’ (nothing without labour or effort) springs to mind. Take for example the challenge of learning and performing our ritual. A few fortunate individuals are highly gifted with an inherent talent for digesting, retaining and regurgitating complex passages of text. But for the majority of us, the task requires extensive determination, continuous effort and, some may even say, tedium on occasions. Be that as it may, the rewards are worth the effort. It disciplines the mind. It challenges the spirit. It fortifies our development. Effort generally differentiates between failure and success.
No better example of the value of diligence could be found than at the installation meeting of Blackpool Lodge No 1476 at which Chris Hill installed Lee Martin in the chair of King Solomon in a ceremony that screamed out ‘a lot of work went into it’. Chris would be the first to admit that learning ritual does not come easy to him (unlike his father Stan who, as those who are acquainted with him would say, is a naturally-talented ritualist!!!!). Chris had obviously worked hard at learning the ritual. Chris had sweated and toiled over the text. But his assiduousness was rewarded. He provided a delightful and sincere ceremony for his audience to enjoy to the full. His success was, however, more than just a personal triumph. Success brought satisfaction that in turn produced pleasure; pleasure that generated an atmosphere oozing with cheeriness and brightness. The feeling of success was shared by all in attendance.
Wallowing in the uplifting ambience of the evening was principal guest Ian Ward, representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. Ian, himself a very skilled ritualist, was full of admiration for the effort that Chris had put into the ceremony, a fact that he was quick to emphasise in his address at the end of the proceedings. Enjoying the occasion with Ian was fellow grand officer Giles Berkley, Blackpool group chairman John Turpin, his vice chairman David Cook and group secretary Steve Jelly.
From the beginning, Chris did superbly well. He opened the lodge and conducted its general business with alacrity, confident that the rest of the team had also worked hard at learning the ritual. Elements of the ceremony added further interest for the spectators. Reading of the minutes from 100 years back gave an insight into Freemasonry of by-gone days. Of particular note was a donation of five guineas to the Alpass Festival (one of the Province’s charities of the day in support of Masons’ widows – later incorporated into the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity). Slight variations in the ritual provided further interest with unusual passages not generally encountered in standard installations. The addresses to the wardens were especially interesting.
These and other idiosyncrasies provided welcome deviations from the norm. But it was individual performances of ritual that gave greatest pleasure to the gathered throng. Lee Martin in his obligation as master elect was outstanding; confident, clear and authoritative.
Three of the newer members of the lodge who presented the working tools of the three degrees earned particular approbation from the audience. Performing in front of a crowd of veteran Masons is daunting, even for the most experienced of ritualists and each of the three young members was obviously under pressure. But they were made of stern fibres (and a lot of hard work had gone into learning their respective parts) and they performed like seasoned pros.
Concentrating his faculties and performing to the full with every sinew in his body, Glyn Manton blasted out a remarkable rendition of the third degree working tools, much to the adoration of the assembled dignitaries.
Many young men, faced with the ordeal of reciting a piece as complicated as the extended version of the second degree working tools, would have the air of one who has taken his life in his hands. But Lee Lord appeared to be relaxed, finding the dialogue to be delightfully easy. On completion of the piece, nevertheless, Lee sighed audibly with relief. No doubt he felt like a man who had just dodged a charging bull.
Despite his being an entered apprentice and his relative newness to Freemasonry, Darren Clemson showed no disposition to evading participation in ritual. Instead, he leapt to it with ‘vim-ish’ enthusiasm, as if his life depended on it. He was audacious and inspiring. It is impossible to explain such natural talent, of course. One can merely state the facts; so many of these young Masons are hot stuff.
More experienced Masons also demonstrated their expertise. Peter Green recited the complex address to the immediate past master (the tongue-twister explanation of the 47th Problem of Euclid) in a most impressive manner. Bob McGown and Keith Beardmore delighted everyone with the unusual addresses to the senior and junior wardens respectively. Terry Barlow, director of ceremonies of Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool No 4122, was recruited to present the address to the newly installed master. His recital was so scintillating that it held his audience in a species of trance, one combining approbation and total respect.
How much better could it get? That question was answered with startling promptitude. Ian Ward stepped up into the scene with a demonstration of perfection with his address to the brethren of the lodge. He dispensed the piece with a great deal of spirit and sincerity. There are certain supreme moments which cannot be adequately described. This was one of them.
But this chronicle of events cannot be concluded without special reference to another aspect of the ceremony, as good as the individual presentations of dialogue were. The role of the director of ceremonies can never be overstated. It is his orchestration of events and cementation of individual performances into a cohesive display that establishes a sense of completeness. It is even more remarkable when the individual concerned is called upon at short notice. Wally Atcheson who normally resides at the secretary’s table was, on this occasion, transposed to the floor to undertake the responsibility of director of ceremonies. Calmly and precisely, Wally coordinated the action with meticulous attention to detail. Had the Duke of Wellington or other great military strategists been present, they would have nodded approval at the efficient and crisp way in which Wally conducted the ceremony.
In conveying the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master, Ian Ward was explicit in his praise of the ceremony and the effort that the members of Blackpool Lodge had put into the ritual. Describing it as delightful and sincere, Ian was particularly enamoured with the work of Chris Hill and the three young Masons who had presented the working tools. His pleasure on the day was further heightened when presented with charitable disbursements to the tune of £2,944. “A remarkable amount from such a small lodge” was his verdict; a sentiment shared by all the visiting Masons.
At the denouement of the formal proceedings, the congregation retired to the festive board in high spirit. The ceremony was over and the hard work of the ceremonialists had paid dividends. Eyes were bright and steps were light and sprightly. All were deeply conscious of an air of approval surrounding them. They had done well and they knew it. Their satisfaction manifested in a general joie de vivre, a perfectly chirpy mood. From the serving of the soup to the arrival of the cheese board, their boisterous joviality grew with every course of the festive banquet.
Ian Ward, in keeping with the general ambience of the day, delivered a reflective, yet entertaining, speech in his response to the toast to grand officers. He reiterated his praise of the brethren who had worked so hard at producing a delightful ceremony and thanked all concerned for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. He continued his talk by encouraging the brethren to support the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, directing them to the Provincial website and the merchandise section from which Provincial ties, pocket squares and cuff-links can be purchased, as well as pledging the procurement of a Festival Jewel. He also reminded the gathering of various events that are planned as part of the tercentenary celebrations and the official launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2017 Festival at the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in May.
Following the master’s song by Harry Wagget, newly-installed master Lee Martin, speaking from his heart, expressed his pride and delight at being a Freemason and thanked the members of Blackpool Lodge for honouring him with the mastership of the lodge. Confident, eloquent and sincere, there is no doubt that Lee will be a major asset to the lodge.
Chris Hill and the members of the lodge had put in a great deal of effort into the ceremony and they were duly rewarded with a major success. The message was clear. It may have been hard work but it was certainly worth it. There can be no neater way of putting in a nutshell the outcome of the day than to state that it was a triumph for the members of Blackpool Lodge No 1476.