The members and guests of Longridge Lodge No 8077 had a lot to celebrate when they met a Wyrebank, Garstang for their April meeting. Top of the agenda was a visit from Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger who was attending to join in the celebrations marking the golden anniversary of the lodge. Two very distinguished members of the lodge joined David in his procession into the meeting, namely Tom Blackburn and Howard Jones. Additionally, Bill Huck and Lancaster Group Chairman Jim Wilson were delighted to attend and swell the support of grand officers.
The acting Provincial grand officers on duty were led by Mark Barton PrDGDC and included the Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst PrGChap, John Holmes PrSGD and Scott Devine PrGStwd. A large number of visitors and guests from both the Lancaster and Preston areas had also come along to join in on what proved to be both an entertaining and informative occasion.
On opening the lodge Colin McNamee WM said how delightful it was to see the room so full. He expressed the gratitude of all the members for the level of support that the large number evidenced. He continued by inviting one of the two remaining founder members of the lodge, Trevor Wadsley to take the chair for the initial part of the celebrations. After the customary salutations had been given, David Grainger briefly noted that he had earlier in the day had the great honour and privilege of presenting a commemorative certificate marking 50 years of service in Freemasonry to a member of the lodge. He remarked: “It is a very happy coincidence that your first initiate from 1966, Wellington Slater, or as you all know him as Wally, can celebrate his golden anniversary concurrently with the lodge.” He continued: “It is unfortunate that due to poor health he is unable to attend the meeting today but whilst we were visiting with him at his home he gave a letter to your WM which will be read out at the festive board.” (See ‘A golden glow over Longridge for Wally’)
Trevor then invited his fellow founder Tom Blackburn to occupy the master’s chair. Tom’s first task was to ask the lodge secretary Martin Slater to read the minutes of the consecration meeting held in April 1966 at Saul Street, Preston. The information contained within the minutes proved very illuminating.
Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst Provincial Grand Chaplain then gave a stimulating and artfully compiled oration, the theme of which drew its inspiration from the symbols depicted on the lodge banner.
With his inimitable style and gravitas, Godfrey skilfully articulated an explanation of the symbolism; placing each graphic within it true context in relation to the origins of the lodge and its moral application within Freemasonry. In his explanation of the ‘eagles claw’ which features prominently on the banner, he suggested that like the eagle, Freemasons should always strive to ‘fly higher’.
Tom Blackburn then invited Jim Gibson to give a presentation on the history of the lodge. Jim has spent a very considerable amount of time meticulously researching the origins and progress of the lodge during its half century of existence and as a result has produced a very informative and highly readable book. He gave a delightful precis of its contents, initially explaining the difficulties encountered by the founders in establishing the lodge within the Province of West Lancashire as Longridge, by geographical tradition lies within East Lancashire!
A startling figure perhaps to newer Masons was made in the revelation that in 1968 the average waiting time between an applicant’s submission for membership and his initiation was five years! The ‘family affinity’ of the lodge was also highlighted by Jim in his observation that ‘the lodge has had no less than 16 fathers and sons in membership; five sons having followed their fathers in attaining the master’s chair’.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Jim was warmly thanked and congratulated for his endeavours. He responded by acknowledging the help and assistance of many of his current lodge colleagues and their predecessors.
At this juncture Colin McNamee resumed his rightful place and presented David Grainger with a cheque on behalf of the lodge in favour of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. The significance and overwhelming generosity of the figure revealed by David was of delight and surprise to all the guests and visitors alike; £8,077.
In thanking the WM and all the lodge members for their splendid gesture, David stressed: “That through this wonderful gift, many deserving people whom we will never personally know, will have their lives improved and their suffering eased.”
At the vibrant and happy festive board held in the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite, the assembly was treat to another excellent combination of food and service. In proposing a toast to the lodge, David Grainger congratulated Longridge Lodge for all its achievements, they could be justifiably proud of their record. He expressed confidence that they would reach their centenary celebration in the fullness of time but doubted that he would be in a suitable condition to attend!
A fitting and much deserved toast to the founders was made and responded to with gratitude by Tom Blackburn, who together with his colleague Trevor Wadsley later found themselves much in demand, appending their signatures to the flyleaf of the copies of Jim Barton’s book which were purchased in impressive quantities by the guests.
In drawing the celebrations to a conclusion, Colin McNamee read aloud the letter from Wally Slater in which Wally congratulated and thanked his colleagues. Colin gave effusive thanks to all who had attended and contributed to the occasion before wishing them a safe homeward journey.