One is bound to say that, as a general rule, a Mason’s idea of a rewarding evening is to attend a sensitive installation ceremony in which a cheery, admired brother is placed in the chair of King Solomon in a sincere and entertaining manner. It is even more rewarding when the lodge at the centre of the activities has members that are renowned for their friendliness and the warmth of their welcome. Such an evening is full of feel-good factors. And the ceremony of installing Tony Hind into the chair of Mereside Lodge No 6360 was full to the brim with endorphins; charm, talent, sincerity, humour and reverence. All the ingredients were there and they were lavishly dished up.
The warmth of the welcome could not have been greater than it was to the principal guest, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Harry Cox and his supporting retinue. Geoffrey Pritchard, a grand officer of the highest order was in attendance, along with Vice Chairman of Blackpool Group John Turpin, group secretary David Cook and acting Provincial grand officers David Thomas, Jason Dell, Jim Finnegan and Scott Devine. They were all in for a real treat.
Inevitably though, when expectations of excellence are high, there is a corresponding exponential increase in anxiety amongst some of those who will be performing in the ceremony. The principal protagonist affected was, understandably, the installing master John Brumfield, the one with most of the ritual to do.
As a companion for a cheery hour or two, one could not choose better than John. A ready smile and chirpy disposition makes him an ideal socialising chum. But John is not insensitive to the pressures of performing an installation, particularly when the heritor of the chair is an experienced and highly respected Mason like Tony Hind. Butterflies are bound to swarm and flutter within an installing master who is eager to do justice to his responsibilities. And John was no exception; the butterflies were exceedingly fluttery.
Having got over the initial disappointment of Harry returning the gavel of the lodge after he had pleadingly offered it him, he produced a charming and sincere ceremony. He was clearly ruffled and initially, somewhat tongue-tied. But as soon as he had got his tongue unhitched, he set off in good style and finished the ceremony like a veteran performer, much to the admiration of the assemblage.
Amongst the many delightful elements of the proceedings was the choice of installing officers. The installing senior warden was Graham Kenyon, master of Brotherhood Lodge No 3967. Martyn Jones of Blackpool Temperance Lodge No 5303 was installing junior warden and Roger Barnes, master of Great Marton Lodge No 3985 was installing inner guard. The involvement of a wider diversity of Masons in an installation ceremony often adds a special charm to the proceedings and encourages the attendance of visitors. This scenario was clearly evident at the meeting with a broad cross-section of visitors from all three groups on the Fylde in attendance.
Tony, the newly installed master was clearly delighted with the ceremony and so too was Brian Dicks, director of ceremonies of the lodge and the one charged with ensuring smooth running of the proceedings. He had evidently licked the performers into fine shape. The delivery of ritual was excellent; clear, passionate and precise.
Early players included Peter Roscow who provided a wonderful rendition of the working tools of a master Mason and Kevin McCumiskey who demonstrated his excellence in similar fashion with his presentation of the working tools of an entered apprentice. Further approbation was lavished on John Brumfield. Not only had he undertaken the responsibility of installing Tony but he had added further to his burden by presenting the second degree working tools; and the extended version at that. His dedication to his responsibilities was much admired.
The audience was again treated to a demonstration of excellence in ritual when John Bellhouse recited the address to the immediate past master; a complex piece of ritual which is an absolute pleasure to listen to when well performed. John performed it with eloquence well beyond the ordinary, much to the approval of all in attendance.
There followed a flurry of fine performances. Graham Kenyon and Roger Barnes stamped their abilities on the proceedings in their addresses to the senior warden and inner guard, leaving the congregation feeling that the standard of ritual in each of their respective lodges must also be to a very admirable standard.
During the investiture of the officers of the lodge there were again demonstrations of superb ritualism. Richard Gosling punched home a memorable rendition of the address to the deacons and Brian Dicks showed his talents when addressing the assistant director of ceremonies. Provincial Grand Steward Jim Finnegan proved his credentials with a scintillating address to the stewards of the lodge.
Experience excelled when Mike Burnett addressed the newly installed master. A gentle and sincere performance gave an emotional edge to the passage. It could not have been better. Similarly, George Lee, another highly experienced Mason, brought brilliance to his delivery of the address to the wardens. To complete the installation ceremony, there only remained Harry Cox’s address to the brethren. Escorted with due reverence by the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas to the customary spot in the lodge room, Harry as always, performed with the eloquence and sincerity that has become expected of him.
None was more grateful and relieved than John at the utterance of the words: “Worshipful master, that concludes the ceremony of your installation”; ending the triumph of the moment by letting out a clear sigh of satisfaction. At this juncture, of course, Tony as the newly installed master took charge of the lodge and, as is customary, presented Harry with charitable disbursements.
One supposes that every chappie in the world has a bright moment in his life to which he can look back with a glinting eye and jaunty stride. Some rare coves, if one can judge by a number of TV adverts nowadays, have them practically all the time if they use toothpaste A or chew on chocolate bar B; but, for Tony, his moment seemed to be when he inherited the chair of Mereside Lodge. His cheery face beamed even wider in handing the cheques over to Harry: £1,000 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £300 to Combat Stress, £300 to Highfurlong School, £300 to Air Ambulance, £100 to the Blackpool Masonic Building Fund and a number of more modest donations to good causes; a marvellous total of £2,085. Harry was lavish in his praise of the lodge’s generosity.
The formal proceedings completed, the flock retired to the festive banquet to enjoy desultory conversation and jocularity. Tony appeared entirely relaxed in his position and chatted merrily with Harry, perhaps reminiscing over the times when they were work colleagues. Little surprise that Tony was so at ease; this was not his first occasion of being master of a lodge. A man of his experience takes such responsibilities in his stride. He has been there, done it and wears the apron. It is merely another enjoyable element of Freemasonry that he can get his teeth in to.
Responding to the toast to the grand officers, Harry thanked all the brethren for the warmth of their welcome and went on to apprise the brethren of some of the important issues of the Province. Of particular note were the ongoing work of the Membership Focus Group, the recently formed ‘Light Blues Club’, the forthcoming festival and tercentenary celebrations and understandably, the continuing importance of recruitment, retention and retrieval.
Following the toast to the new master, the master’s song was sincerely rendered by Harry Waggett accompanied by George Holden, after which Tony responded by thanking all for their support and help. His easy manner and ready sense of humour came to the forefront when relating anecdotes of his earlier mastership and Masonic experiences. Mereside Lodge will undoubtedly enjoy a fun and productive year with Tony at its helm. After all, he has ample experience to draw from.