The dreariness of a rain-sodden day did nothing to dampen the spirits of the companions of Blackpool Chapter of Sincerity No 4175 as they squelched their way to the Masonic Hall in Adelaide Street. On crossing its threshold, any gloominess that may have been attempting to impose itself on the mood of the companions was immediately dispelled. Those readers who are familiar with the lounge bar at Adelaide Street will be only too aware of its attractiveness as a social vortex; genial, welcoming and sizzling with life. In no time at all, the companions were full of beans and buck; happy, smiling British chaps of the best type – one might say indecently cheerful on such a foul day.
Ideally complementing the cordiality of the masses was much admired and renowned orator Geoffrey Pritchard, principal guest and representative of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison on the day. Accompanying Geoffrey were the equally genial grand officer David Harrison; Chairman of Blackpool Group John Turpin, vice chairman David Cook, group secretary Steve Jelly and acting Provincial grand officers Ron Strangwick and Gordon Ivett. One could not have cast a more cheery production in any Fylde postcode.
Encouraged by warm enthusiasm from the chapter’s director of ceremonies Jonathan Selcoe, the three principals Kevin Ricketts, Jeff Basson and Jimmy Rogers got proceedings under way in classic style, dispatching the general business with alacrity and efficiency as if only the best would do and eager to welcome the procession of dignitaries.
And a warm welcome is exactly what they received. Geoffrey Pritchard in his role as representative of the Grand Superintendent is a companion who justifies his allotted role admirably, ensuring that the Grand Superintendent’s ethos of enjoying one’s Freemasonry is carried out to the full. His easy manner instantly relaxes any tension that the main protagonists in a ceremony may be experiencing.
Wasting not a second, first principal Kevin Ricketts invited John Forster to act as installing scribe Nehemiah and Jonathan Selcoe presented Dennis Askham to third principal Jimmy Rogers who supervised Dennis’s obligation as third principal elect, with Peter Green reading the passages of scripture with sincerity and feeling. That element completed, similar efficiency prevailed when Jimmy Rogers was presented to Jeff Basson to be obligated as second principal elect with John Cartwright preserving due reverence in the reading of the scripture passages.
As Kevin Ricketts was remaining as first principal for an additional year, a simple proclamation by Jonathan Selcoe soon finalised that element of the proceedings before the newer members of the chapter were required to retire for a short while.
During their absence, Jimmy Rogers was installed as second principal and Dennis Askham was similarly placed as third principal. Things were moving along crisply and cheerily.
Returning to the chapter room after their temporary sojourn, the newer companions greeted the three principals in the customary way before reclaiming their seats and settling down to some pretty nifty ritual. They were treated to a bevy of addresses that would have delighted even the most critical of directors of ceremonies.
Requiring to be positioned in front of the three principals in order to deliver the robe addresses, John Forster, Granville Coxhill and Paul Easton proceeded thither, no doubt in a faint mood of trepidation. Their hearts were probably racing and their palms moist with apprehension but there had been no need for concern. They each impressed the gathered throng with their eloquence.
First to perform was John Forster, a chap who has devoted himself sedulously to Freemasonry and who has gained a reputation for excellence and who confirmed that excellence with his brilliant recital of the scarlet robe address to the first principal. Next came one of our most congenial buddies, Granville Coxhill who, in delivering the purple robe address to newly installed Jimmy Rogers, pitched it strong and passionately, sparing no effort. It was a delight. Completing the trio in fine form was Paul Easton who brought yet another gleam of light to the proceedings with a stunning blue robe address to Dennis Askam.
But more quality was yet to follow after investiture of the chapter’s officers. Stepping up to the mark to deliver the address to the three principals was vice chairman of the Blackpool Group David Cook. He appeared relaxed yet mentally agile; no sagging at the knees, no quivering limbs. All in all, his demeanour suggested one who had prepared to the full and demonstrated that he had done his homework by producing a five-star performance.
Jonathan Selcoe had also prepared himself well for the address to the officers of the chapter. He was alert and quick-witted. So much so that, on commencing the ritual, he performed with exceptional vim and clarity. But then, we expect that of Jonathan.
Rounding off the sequence of addresses, it was Geoffrey Pritchard’s turn to excel with his address to the companions of the chapter. He took up his post with appropriate reverence, cleared his throat and out poured a recital of the finest quality, dispensing the piece with a great deal of spirit and sincerity.
Geoffrey’s contribution effectively brought the formalities to a close and at the announcement that the installation ceremony was concluded, Geoffrey again rose to convey the best wishes of the Grand Superintendent. Responding to Geoffrey’s words, first principal Kevin was pleased to present Geoffrey with disbursements for charitable causes to the tune of £670, comprising of £200 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £300 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £70 to the Sponsored Walk and £100 to the Blackpool Masonic Hall; donations that were very gratefully received by Geoffrey.
At the denouement of the formal proceedings, the companions withdrew from the chapter room and elatedly tottered off to the bar to procure their chosen refreshers as groundwork for the festive banquet. Having pushed a few gin and tonics over their larynxes, the happy throng were ready to revel in style. In the general exodus of revellers, one individual was particularly buoyant – Jonathan Selcoe, the chapter’s director of ceremonies. Throughout the ceremony he had orchestrated events according to specifications and ensured a smooth running programme, although on occasions he did appear confused over which chapter he was actually at. Being a long-serving member of both Blackpool Chapter of Sincerity and Blackpool Chapter of Integrity No 5864, there were a few slips of the tongue in which he referred to the latter, leaving the three principals a little unsure about which chapter they had actually been installed in.
The festive banquet progressed in jovial mood. The ceremony had been a roaring success. All the players had performed superbly well. Refreshment had been acquired at the bar and a most delightful atmosphere now prevailed in the dining suite. It was a perfect congregation for Geoffrey Pritchard’s style of oratory when responding to the toast to the grand officers. Those accustomed to his speeches are aware that laughter and fun are the primary ingredients and his audience is guaranteed wholesome entertainment. The rain outside even stopped during his oration!
Rounding the evening off in perfect fashion, David Harrison provided a rousing rendition of the song to the three principals, accompanied by John Wall at the piano. It was a fitting closure to a warming evening; one that more than compensated for the misery of a rainy day.