The evening was cool yet fragrant with the promise of Spring when Kevin McCumiskey made his way down Adelaide Street towards Blackpool Masonic Hall. Despite the imminent challenge of being installed in the master’s chair of Mereside Lodge No 6360, his mood was serene. His emotions jostled between excitement and trepidation. But any feelings of trepidation that Kevin may have experienced were paled into insignificance when compared with the challenge that faced his installing master Tony Hind. More of that in a moment!
Principal guest at the installation ceremony was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright. In sharp contrast to Kevin and Tony, Robert was relaxed and very much looking forward to a joyous evening free of care and stress. He is by nature calm and reassuring, a quality that Tony would have dearly wished for in his role as installing master. As Assistant Provincial Grand Masters generally do, Robert did his best to sooth the nerves of the primary protagonists. It seemed to work – to some extent.
Accompanying Robert and being equally reassuring was Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Terry Hudson, along with Blackpool group chairman John Turpin, vice chairman David Cook and group secretary Steve Jelly. Adding further lustre to the procession of dignitaries were acting Provincial officers Tony Rigby, Malcolm Sandywell and Liam Mawdsley.
The meeting proceeded in style with Tony opening the lodge and dispensing its general business with aplomb and efficiency. All seemed at peace. Then, as has often happened at installation meetings, the dignitaries entered; nerves became slightly shaky and tonsils began to disregard their brain’s instructions. A small degree of confusion inevitably crept into the proceedings.
Tony leads a hectic Masonic life. At the time of the installation, not only was he master of Mereside Lodge but he was also the extremely industrious and long-standing secretary for Hesketh Lodge No 950, based in Fleetwood. Being an eminent member of two lodges can very easily confuse the mind, especially in a stressful situation when under pressure as installing master at an installation. There is a likelihood of an occasional slip of the tongue – and it happened to Tony. Force of habit on a few occasions led Tony to automatically announce Hesketh Lodge, rather than Mereside Lodge. Consequently, Kevin could have inadvertently been installed as master of either Mereside Lodge or Hesketh Lodge – or both!
A lesser mortal could have been unsettled on such occasions but Tony is a cheery, buoyant sort of chap whose ready wit allows him to bounce back with strength and charm. The result was that the ceremony was even more charming and captured the hearts of those in attendance. An audience warms to a ready smile like Tony’s.
Mereside Lodge is also a lodge that strongly believes in supporting its fellow members. Its ethos gives it a distinctive strength. The brethren work together like a well-oiled machine and each one aims to please. They also select their helpers with care. For instance, the installing officers on the day were: in the office of senior warden, secretary of the Lancaster group Scott Devine; in the office of installing junior warden Phil Houldsworth, and as installing inner guard, a stalwart in Masonry, Sheldon Rawstrone. A better trio would have been tough to find in any Provincial postcode.
The lodge was not without its home grown talent. It was in abundance. Kevin was perfect in his obligation as master elect when he took up his post and, pausing momentarily to gather his thoughts and seemingly imbibing zestful energy, he launched into the ritual with zip and clarity. It was a fine performance and much appreciated by the throng of happy onlookers.
Returning to the lodge after their sojourn, the newer light blue brethren greeted the newly installed master in customary manner and the working tools of the three degrees were presented in impressive style. With distended eyes of ones who are filled with inspiration, Peter Roscoe, John Brumfield and Gavin Kimberling launched themselves into magnificent recitals of the working tools of a master Mason, a fellowcraft Freemason and an entered apprentice respectively. Their audience, with eyes of admiration, soaked them up with relish.
The excellence continued with dazzling displays from the more experienced brethren. John Bellhouse provided an admirably lucid exposition of the 47th problem of Euclid in his address to the immediate past master and Michel Burnett and Harry Waggett each threw themselves into their work with even more than their customary energy in their addresses to the newly installed master and newly invested wardens. Their flow of speech never faltered and they were both animated and lively, bordering on the lyrical.
Having reached that point in the proceedings at which the principal guest is contracted to deliver the address to the brethren from the south-east corner of the lodge room, Robert Wright was sedately guided thither by the efficient Brian Burgess-Dicks and, on his arrival, he spoke suavely and warmly. You can’t beat suave warmness on these occasions and he was able to be as warmly suave as could be imagined. It was a lesson to all.
The ceremony had been impressive and thoroughly enjoyable, points that Robert highlighted when he rose to convey the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master. He gave special recognition to the three ‘light blue’ brethren who had performed the working tools and to Tony for the charming and sincere manner in which he had installed Kevin into the chair of King Solomon.
As impressive as the ceremony had been, the lodge’s donations to charitable causes was equally impressive with a total of £3,009 being distributed to a wide diversity of causes including the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, the Blackpool Masonic Hall Building Fund, MacMillan Nurses, Blackpool Autistic Society, Highfurlong School, Red Marsh School, Woodlands School, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, High Fives, Trinity Hospice, RNLI Lytham and the Masonic societies for bowling, shooting, fishing and golfing.
Redeploying to the dining suite for the festive banquet, the brethren were in uplifted mood and refocused their attentions to relaxation and revelry. There was, by this time, little doubt that Kevin had been installed into the chair of Mereside Lodge and that Hesketh Lodge would have to find its own way. Goodhearted banter and desultory chit-chat filled the air as refreshers took effect and satisfaction in the day’s events mounted. By the time that Robert Wright responded to the toast to the grand officers, the populace was bordering on the unruly – but were highly receptive to his quips and anecdotes. A grand officer could not have wished for a better reception. Robert went down a storm. There was, nevertheless a serious side to Robert’s speech. Interspersed in the joviality, Robert put the brethren abreast of the Provincial stop press; the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, the tercentenary celebrations, the Provincial Grand Lodge Meeting of 10 May 2017, the upcoming TV programme on Freemasonry on Sky 1 on 17 April 2017, and recruitment, retention and retrieval.
The revelry continued with Harry Waggett’s sincere rendition of the master’s song, accompanied on the piano by Jim Coupe, while copious quantities of wine were relentlessly decanted by the masses, so much so that it was unlikely that anyone remembered if Kevin had been installed as master of Mereside Lodge or Hesketh Lodge or both!