Advance word had it that a band of Scottish Freemasons, armed to the teeth with goodwill and joie de vie, were to storm across the border to conquer Emblem Lodge No 6727 at Blackpool Masonic Hall, determined to spread joy, laughter and fun whilst also instructing the brethren of Blackpool in the ways of Scottish ritual in a second degree passing ceremony.
With customary Masonic warmth, the invaders met no resistance and were welcomed with enthusiasm and geniality by the brethren of Emblem Lodge. But then again, the laird of the lodge is master Paul Easton, himself a true Scot and it was he who had planned the invasion in the first place.
Numbering more than 50 brethren from Lodge St Bryde No 579 and other lodges in the Province of Lanarkshire Middle Ward, the invading throng was led from the front by the master of Lodge St Bryde Bryce Morrison and Past Provincial Grand Master James L Jack. Their mission was simple. A contingent of Masons had assembled a demonstration team to execute a second degree ceremony exactly as they would in their own lodge. Superbly orchestrated and inspiringly executed; any General would have been proud of the result. There is little doubt that, had Bonnie Prince Charlie been a member of Lodge St Bryde, he would have fared far better in his quest.
Special dispensation had been granted by the Province of West Lancashire for the demonstration ritual to take place and Emblem Lodge opened its proceedings in customary manner before closing it again to permit the members of Lodge St Bryde to enter and open their lodge in their inimitable way. The principal officers, deacons and inner guard of Emblem Lodge relinquished their posts to brethren of Lodge St Bryde, after which the master of Lodge St Bryde introduced the members of the demonstration team. The show then began. It was a traditional Lodge St Bryde ceremony of passing.
The ritual, in the eyes of the members of Emblem Lodge and English visitors was redolent of what historians may discern as that of the ‘Antients’, as opposed to our more familiar ‘Moderns’ ritual. There were many similarities in the text and perambulations but distinctly different variations, making it fascinating for the uninformed viewer. Fellowcraft Freemason and member of Emblem Lodge Declan Smith had been selected as the guinea pig – correction, acting candidate, for the demonstration. He did not approach the challenge with excessive confidence but rather more with the diffidence of a wary tortoise popping its head out of its shell during a thunderstorm. Nevertheless, it was clearly a moving experience for him and, although filled with trepidation on occasions, his enjoyment and pride were obvious.
The standard of performance from the demonstration team was top notch. All were faultless. All performed with passion, sincerity and decorum. And the outcome was one of sheer admiration from the gathered throng. It was a joy to experience.
Paul Easton, the master of Emblem Lodge and the initiator of the plan was delighted. To him it seemed that everything was absolutely for the best in the best of all possible worlds. He was feeling most braced. His mood could only be described as chirpy. His brow was without a trace of a furrow, his eyes were alight with hearty sparkle and his general bearing and demeanour were those of one who had just made a killing at the bookmakers.
At the denouement of the formal proceedings, the congregation retired to the festive board in high spirit. The ceremony had been a roaring success. All the players had performed to perfection. Refreshment had been acquired at the bar and a most delightful atmosphere now prevailed in the dining suite.
The day’s work was done and done to the satisfaction of all. It was now time to revel. And they revelled to perfection. If there is one thing that the Scots like, it’s a good party and they were hell-bent on making this a particularly good party. Whisky flowed in abundance and vocal chords became more relaxed, culminating in that most Scottish of Scottish party traditions – the sing-song. It was a time for each person to perform his individual party piece.
Following recognised protocol, the responsibility of starting it off was laid squarely on the shoulders of the master of Emblem Lodge Paul Easton who, with gusto, blasted out that old sing-along favourite ‘Delilah’ (with no threat to Tom Jones’ popularity). A cheer went up and a bit more whisky was poured down! As one would expect, it was then up to the master of Lodge St Bryde Bryce Morrison to challenge Paul, belting out another of those all-time sing-along favourites ‘American Pie’. Another cheer went up and some more whisky slid down!
The populace was now fired up and ready for participation in some potent singing (and with an odd poem or two thrown in to ensure that culture and decorum were properly represented). To cries of “Gie it Laldie”, “Wan singer, Wan song”, and “Gaun yersel”, classics such as ‘Are you Lonesome Tonight’, ‘King of the Road’, ‘Bonnie Wee Jeannie McColl’, ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’, ‘The Gambler’ and ‘Sweet Caroline’ were just a few of the star performances that brought all the more geniality and camaraderie to the proceedings. And the whisky kept flowing! To the surprise of many, an accordion and guitar magically appeared and the revelry continued with even greater passion and zeal. And the whisky still kept flowing!
Reviewing the recent scene and the Scottish invasion: the quality of the ritual in the lodge room had been superb; the orchestration of the ceremony had been superb; the spectacle of the event was first class; the enjoyment derived from it was first class; the camaraderie and gaiety of the festive board had been to the highest standard and the quality of singing had been – questionable!
All in all, the evening had been a resounding success. There is no doubt that our Scottish brothers returned to Caledonia in the knowledge that the English brethren were cheerily saying, “They came, they saw, they conquered”.
One might say that that covers the facts admirably.