If you are one of those people who seeks an extra bite in his day and revels in the pleasures of witnessing well-orchestrated and well-conducted ritual, Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool No 4122 would have provided a veritable feast on the occasion of its installation meeting at Blackpool Masonic Hall in which Craig Scott placed Robert Marsden squarely in the chair of King Solomon.
It was a ceremony of first class order – one filled with personality and oomph. Fellow Masons in attendance added even more to the fare with dignitaries of character and esteem garnishing the day with spirit and spice. Chief amongst these was cheery grand officer Geoffrey Pritchard, representing the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. Those who are familiar with Geoffrey will be only too aware that he is the ideal ambassador for the Provincial Grand Master’s perpetual message of enjoying Freemasonry. Guaranteeing fun, laughter and pleasure, Geoffrey oozes persona. Few bring more fun to Freemasonry than Geoffrey Pritchard.
Accompanying Geoffrey and pepping up the day even more were grand officers Terry Hudson and Giles Berkley, supported by grand officer designate and Blackpool group chairman John Turpin and his vice chairman David Cook, along with acting Provincial officers Alan Howie and Gordon Ivett who, incidentally, is also secretary of the lodge.
Well, anyway, returning to the agenda of the day. Opening the lodge and dispensing with the general business, master of the lodge Craig Scott conducted the proceedings with alacrity and preciseness. Although feeling the pressure, a natural emotion on these occasions for any installing master, he drew on his inner strength and produced the goods in a delightfully sincere and calm manner.
Master elect Robert Marsden stamped his mark in the minutes right from the beginning with a superb recital of his obligation; clear, confident and crisp. It was immediately evident that all were out to impress. And that Robert was enjoying the experience of being placed in the chair of King Solomon was clearly evident. Perched on the illustrious seat, his face lit up, bright and perky as a Jack Russell that had just been presented with an ox’s thigh bone.
The whole ceremony was orchestrated with military precision under the general-ship of the lodge’s director of ceremonies Terry Barlow, a chap who exudes efficiency from the perfectly presented Windsor knot in his tie to the gleaming surface leather of his footwear.
Newer members of the lodge who presented the working tools of the three degrees were not going to be outclassed either. Justin Burgoyne who recited the tools of a master Mason summoned all his grit to overcome initial trepidation and storm through the piece with class and distinction. James Wilkes and Neil Callaghan showed no sign of any nervousness when each gave faultless displays in presenting the tools of a fellow craft and an entered apprentice Mason respectively. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, perfection would be an appropriate description of their efforts.
The quality continued throughout the ceremony. Installing officers, Richard Clarke (installing senior warden), William Rigby (installing junior warden) and Sam Roy (installing inner guard) performed their allotted recitals with similar crispness and clarity. Trevor Richards also gave a fine performance in his presentation of the complex explanation of the 47th Problem of Euclid when he addressed the immediate past master and guest organist Stephen Lloyd temporarily relinquished his seat at the organ to provide an excellent address to the newly-invested deacons.
Robert’s close friend John-Paul Lovie had elected to perform the address to the newly installed master and, despite his natural diffidence, the genuineness of his presentation brought a special meaning to the recital.
But excellence in performing ritual was not the preserve of ‘light blue’ brethren. The higher echelon was also expected to be tested. Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Terry Hudson, in wholly relaxed mood, provided a masterclass in ritual with his inimitable deliberation of the address to the newly invested wardens and Geoffrey Pritchard, charged with the address to the brethren of the lodge as is customary with representing officers, delighted the gathered throng with his impassioned delivery – a fitting and perfect conclusion to the ceremony.
At the announcement of the conclusion, a much relieved Craig Scott sighed audibly, mopped the brow and relaxed. He could now smile and enjoy the rest of the day. It had all gone spiffingly and he had every reason to be thoroughly pleased with the manner in which Robert had been installed, a point that Geoffrey made when he rose to convey the greetings and best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master.
In response, Robert presented Geoffrey with charitable disbursements amounting to £1,600, comprising £300 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £300 to the Positive Youth Trust, £300 to DEBRA, £300 to Blackpool Samaritans, £300 to Baby Beat and £100 to the Blackpool Masonic Building Fund. Geoffrey was lavish in his praise of the lodge and its members for their generosity.
The ceremony had been a roaring success. All the players had performed in princely fashion. Refreshment had been acquired at the bar and a most delightful atmosphere now prevailed in the dining suite where the populace had flocked to enjoy its chosen feast. If the laughter and mirth of the dining suite reflected the enjoyment of the ceremony, it confirmed the excellence of the day. Not a dissentious voice was heard among the chit-chat and laughter.
A traditional format of a festive banquet that follows an installation was observed and at the appropriate moment, the sequence of toasts was begun. In response to the third toast, that to the grand officers, Geoffrey Pritchard duly rose. Now, if the reader has followed these chronicles with proper care, he will be aware that Geoffrey is a chap who is guaranteed to bring joy and laughter whenever he addresses an audience. This day was no exception.
Geoffrey is the one, the reader will recall, who delighted the populace earlier in the year when he celebrated his 50 years in Freemasonry. His flair for oration would bring a smile to the face of even the most depressed cockroach. To a fun-loving bunch like the Rectitude brethren, it was magical. Raucous laughter followed each of his humorous anecdotes and observations. Within the body of humour nevertheless, he managed to intersperse more serious messages; the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, care structure, recruitment, retention and retrieval and others. His over-riding message however was one that is particularly close to the Provincial Grand Master’s heart – that of enjoyment in Freemasonry.
The merriment and mirth continued through all the speeches with Craig Scott (now in a completely relaxed state) toasting the health of the new master and Robert ensuring that the pattern of fun was sustained during his response. Making it an even more memorable evening, a particularly splendid rendition of the master’s song was blasted out by Nick Harrison, accompanied by Stephen Lloyd at the piano.
The Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison likes to know that everyone is enjoying their Freemasonry. Well, when Geoffrey Pritchard is in attendance at an installation and the quality of the ceremony is as accomplished as that at Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool No 4122, Tony can be assured that a hugely enjoyable day is inevitable.