There is a happy moment in the year, generally at a point somewhere in the early weeks of October, when one glances in one’s diary and is reminded that lodge installation ceremonies are once more upon us.
‘Twas the very first installation ceremony of the new Masonic season at Blackpool Masonic Hall and the eager brethren of Brotherhood Lodge No 3967, along with their valued guests, had entered the arena resolute in their aim of dishing up a powerful show.
The principal guest who was representing the Provincial Grand Master on the evening was David Thomas. His position as a Past Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies would, understandably, put pressure on the Brotherhood Lodge team to perform the ceremony to the highest of standards. Accompanying and supporting David on the occasion were fellow grand officers Rev Canon Geoffrey Moore and Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin, along with group vice chairman David Cook, group secretary Steve Jelly and a number of other group officers, as well as acting Provincial grand officers Jim Finnegan and John Guest.
Marshalling his troops, lodge director of ceremonies Mark Smith brought the full weight of his military experience to bear on the team to ensure success in its campaign. And his efforts were not in vain. Fortunately for Mark, the lodge has a solid core of ‘light blues’ who have forged themselves a bright reputation on the strength of their ritual.
Master of the lodge Stephen Booth had elected to relinquish his chair for the ceremony and invited another member of the lodge to conduct the more complicated and demanding elements of it; such was his commitment to preserving the highest of standards. Consequently, Mark first recruited master-ritualist ‘light blue’ Graham Kenyon as chief protagonist, knowing that he would deliver the goods in fine style and install Clive Tandy into the chair of King Solomon with dignity and panache.
Graham immediately jumped into action by inviting Bill Hembrow and Stephen Edwards to act as installing senior and junior wardens respectively, whilst requesting that Russell Douglas remain at his post as installing inner guard. Again, wasting no time, Bill Parsons grasped the master elect by the hand and presented him to Graham. Things were moving along swiftly and buoyantly.
Clive had previously occupied the chair in 2015 and consequently, an abridged format of the installation ceremony proceeded. The abbreviated format did not distract, however, from the quality of Graham’s ritual. It was sensitive and sincere, precise and powerful.
After having been meticulously decanted into the chair, Clive drew himself up to his full height to peer over the pedestal and revel in the customary greetings and recitals of the working tools of each degree. And it was at this juncture that the ‘light blues’ shone most brightly.
The first illuminating delivery was from master Mason Lee Beckett who captured the charm of the third degree tools in dramatic fashion. Equally alluring was fellow craft Darren Goffin with his scintillating oration of the extended version of the second degree tools and in order to demonstrate that the ‘dark blues’ were equally up to the task, David McBain, (at short notice), rattled off the working tools of an entered apprentice with class and distinction. His performance completed a magnificent trio of working tools.
Mitch Midgley-Davies reaffirmed the standing of the dark blues with an exemplary recital on the presentation of the Hall Stone Jewel. Clive was now well and truly in the chair.
Racing through the ceremony; investing the officers of the lodge and abandoning the need for many of the traditional addresses, it was soon time for Mark Smith to escort the representative of the Provincial Grand Master to the allotted spot for his delivery of the address to the brethren of the lodge. As might be expected of a past Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, David Thomas’s delivery was articulately precise, disciplined and meticulously measured. So spectacularly delivered was the recital that it clearly fell into the category of a goose-bumps moment. It was a masterpiece. It just goes to show that these new young grand officers are definitely made of the right stuff.
An announcement that the installation ceremony had been concluded signalled the time for David to arise once more and convey greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, and with the warmth and sincerity of Tony himself, David congratulated the team on the excellence of the ceremony, understandably lavishing particular praise on the ‘light blue’ brethren – Graham Kenyon, Lee Beckett and Darren Goffin.
Responding to David’s congratulatory remarks, newly-installed Clive presented David with charitable disbursements amounting to £1,000, comprising £250 to Prostate Cancer Research, £250 to Foxhall AFC and £500 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. Impressed with the generosity of the lodge, David was keen to express his thanks and admiration, assuring the gathering that all would be faithfully applied.
The formalities of the occasion being satisfactorily concluded, the populace sojourned to the banqueting suite to push down their evening feast of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, at which they all took aboard a healthy cargo. The success of the installation ceremony seemed to have promulgated a healthy appetite. Eyes were bright and steps were light and sprightly. All were deeply conscious of an air of approval surrounding them.
And it was in this atmosphere of joy that the festive board continued. The pleasure grew even greater when David rose to his feet to respond to the toast to the grand officers. As a gifted raconteur, his rhetoric was a perfect balance of humour and reverence; of spontaneity and judgement. A casual observer would have said that it stimulated the old blood corpuscles to race through the veins to no little extent. It warmed the cockles of the heart and reinforced that belief that this young grand officer is definitely made of the right stuff.
It had been the first installation meeting of the new season and had set a high standard for other lodges to follow. As far as Brotherhood Lodge is concerned, with a bevy of young candidates in the wings, if they are all of the calibre of those ‘light blues’ who participated in the installation ceremony, one can only expect an even brighter future for the lodge and many more years of excellence at installation meetings.