The beneficiary of this years sponsored ‘Cross Bay Walk’ was, not surprisingly, the West Lancashire MCF 2021 Festival
What was surprising though, was that the event was blessed with one of those very rare gifts that is sometimes granted by the fickle British climate, a hot summers day! West Lancashire Freemasons, partners, family members, friends and an assortment of four legged, tail wagging companions assembled on the promenade at Arnside in preparation for the ‘crossing of the sands’.
The Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was there to ‘wave the walkers off on their way’, being unable to join them himself due to another charity event commitment later in the day. However, the group were not destined to be without top level Masonic leadership, as the PrGM for the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland Norman Thompson was accompanying the group, along with many brethren from his own area. Providing the essential guidance on this perilous trek was the man who undoubtedly understands the quixotic nature of the sands of Morecambe Bay better than anyone - Cedric Robinson MBE is the official ‘Queen’s Guide to the Sands’, a post which he has held since 1963.
He is the 25th guide, the first was appointed in 1548 and the guide is paid a nominal salary but the holder of the post also has the use of the 700-year-old Guide’s Cottage at Kents Bank, which is owned by the Crown and managed by the Duchy of Lancaster. In the period between late spring and early autumn, many groups, sometimes up to 500 in number are guided at weekends by Cedric and his assistants across this ancient thoroughfare which was used in medieval times by the monks of Furness Abbey.
Almost all the groups undertaking these ‘passages’ are motivated by raising sponsorship for their efforts to benefit charitable causes. It was in the company of walkers supporting other diverse charities that the Masonic contingent left the promenade at Arnside to complete the initial stage of their journey along the coastal footpath to a point just past New Barns Bay where they were met by Cedric and his team.
From this point, many experienced ‘sand grown un’s’ will tell you that the objective, Kents Bank railway station on the far shore, looks deceptively close. However, wiser council will relate that you now have a steady two to three-hour trudge to endure as you ‘zigzag’ your way across the literally shifting sands and wade sometimes in waist high water through the estuary of the River Kent.
The vagaries of the quicksand pools, migrating channels and rapid and variable tide courses in Morecambe Bay are the very dangerous elements that make the guidance and knowledge of Cedric and his team such an essential ingredient for any group or individual venturing into this environment. Having safely navigated this challenging ‘marine Sahara’ of the Lancashire – Cumbria border under the relentless glare of the burning noonday sun, it was with a mixture of relief and sense of achievement that the walkers crossed the last few yards over the muddy saltmarshes at Kents Bank before they were able to seek rest and refreshment at the Abbot Hall Hotel.
It was here, in the shade and tranquillity of the hotel grounds that the weary but elated pilgrims were enabled to reflect on a memorable and safe passage of the sands and compare blisters. Phil Preston, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for the Province of West Lancashire, paid tribute to all who had taken part in the fund-raising endeavour and expressed particular thanks to John Wrennall who had organised and coordinated the event. The total raised will be announced a little later, once all the sponsorship money has been collected.
The tercentenary celebrations in West Lancashire were very much in the thoughts of the many members and guests attending the biennial Hall Directors’ Dinner of the St Helens and Prescot Group held at Prescot Masonic Hall
This event hosted by Colin Rowling, Group Chairman, was to celebrate the continued success of the membership of the group and also to acknowledge the excellent work undertaken by the board members of the St Helens and Prescot Masonic Halls.
Everyone attending the evening received a very warm welcome to the hall by master of ceremonies Graham Williams. The principal guest David Steer, QC, Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside, was accompanied by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and his wife Anne. Also in attendance were the Mayor of Knowsley, Councillor Frank Walsh, the Mayor and Mayoress of St Helens Council Councillor David and Councillor Jeanette Banks, the Deputy Leader of St Helens Council Councillor Andy Bowden, The Right Honourable, The Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley and Lady Kirsty Pilkington MBE, Ambassador for the Willowbrook Hospice.
The evening got underway with guests taking a comfortable seat in the Masonic Temple to witness a performance of ‘A Timeline Drama and Pageant’ presented by the members of the St Helens and Prescot Group of Lodges and Chapters.
The team announced their arrival with a hearty knock on the lodge door; then the Herald (Dave Burgess) followed by the team, dressed in authentic period costume with wigs, entered the room and announced the start of the pageant. The timeline began in 1646 with Elias Ashmole (played by Allen Yates) who becomes the first recorded speculative Freemason in England. This took place at Warrington, which was then in the County of Lancashire. While Elias Ashmole is conversing with the Herald, there can be heard the ring of a chisel working on stone in the hands of a more experienced workman, the operative mason John Stones. John (played by Norman Lay) represented those skilled tradesmen who, for hundreds of years, knew and kept the secrets of how to measure and build the iconic castles and cathedrals.
The pageant sees the introduction of the first ever worshipful master of the new Grand Lodge which was formed in 1717, which gives us the current tercentenary date of 2017. This was Anthony Sayer (played by Don Fraser). Events move on when five years later, the constitutions drafted by James Anderson are accepted and printed. This character is portrayed by John Roughley, who later also plays the part of the Duke of Kent. Only seven years later, we see the arrival of Samuel Pritchard, (Peter Hornby), who is ‘credited’ with exposing the secrets of Masonry in print.
Moving on over 20 years, we witness the arrival of Laurence Dermott, (Chris Maloney) a painter and decorator by trade, but obviously a man of some intellect, who arrived from Ireland and would later be instrumental in forming a rival Grand Lodge which became known as the ‘Ancients’. Chris also later played the character of the Duke of Sussex. In 1753, Lodge of Loyalty (now No 86) receives its Deputation to constitute a lodge in Prescot and so in later times becomes the oldest lodge in the Province of West Lancashire to this day.
When the Grand Lodge met to discuss a problem, two of the players mentioned above were joined by two more team members Alan Jones and Don Fraser.
The penultimate section focuses on William Preston (Frank Davies, the originator of the pageant,) twice expelled from Grand Lodge for his perceived misdemeanours, re-admitted and sets up a legacy to finance study and lectures, which is alive and well today with the annual Prestonian Lecture. The final scene in the pageant is the unification of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, when the Dukes of Sussex and Kent, heads of the respective Modern and Ancient Grand Lodges, join as one, with Sussex then taking his seat as the first Grand Master of United Grand Lodge. The performance was undertaken with dignity and interspersed with humour throughout.
The guests then made their way into the banqueting suite which was elegantly decorated in a blue and white theme. Following grace delivered by Chris Maloney (chairman of St Helens Masonic Hall Ltd), the guests enjoyed a four course meal of luxury pâté with Melba toast and salad for starters, a main course of roast sirloin of English beef, Yorkshire pudding accompanied by seasonal vegetables and for dessert Eton Mess, then a choice of English cheeses with biscuits.
Following dinner, the first toast of the evening, ‘The Queen’ was proposed by Graham Hughes (chairman of the Prescot Masonic Hall Ltd) which was then followed by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning proposing the toast to ‘The Tercentenary of Masonry.’
Philip commenced by saying how delighted he was to be invited to propose the toast to 300 years of Freemasonry. He spoke about the foundation of Masonry and its origins, mentioning that its popularity grew following a succession of Royal Princes joining the fraternity, the first being in 1727 when HRH Frederick Lewis Prince of Wales was initiated. Others included George IV, Edward VII, Edward VIII and George VI all of whom went on to become Grand Masters, also acceding to the throne. Still today, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is a subscribing member of Navy Lodge and The Duke of Kent will be celebrating 50 years this year as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. Philip went on to mention the importance of the charitable side of Freemasonry and the vast amounts of money distributed over the years to assist in relief of national and man-made disasters and humanitarian crises throughout the world. In conclusion Philip said that the values that were established 300 years ago, honesty, truth, integrity and kindness are just as relevant today as they were all those years ago.
In response to Philip’s toast, Frank Davies (pageant leader) gave an overview of how the pageant was put together with members representing lodges and chapters within the group who were not known to each other, but over the last 12 months had joined together to become a very happy team. The members have given nine performances to date with a further nine booked for the future. Frank was delighted to announce that £1,000 had so far been raised for the 2021 Festival.
Colin Rowling proposed the toast to ‘Our Guests’ declaring how proud he was to be the group chairman. He then gave an interesting account of the background of each distinguished guest with poignant details of their many achievements. Colin then had the pleasure of presenting three cheques of £100 from the SHPG, the first to Lady Pilkington who accepted on behalf of her charity, Willowbrook Hospice; the next to the Mayor of Knowsley for the Big Health Project in Kirkby which is part of the Knowsley Food Bank; and thirdly to the Mayor of St Helens for his ‘Appeal Fund.’ Flowers were then presented by the hall chairmen to Lady Pilkington, Anne Gunning and Jeanette Banks.
To conclude the formalities, David Steer, QC, DL, gave an eloquent and witty response as befits a Queen’s Council, on behalf of the distinguished guests and brought warmest greetings from Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside Dame Lorna Muirhead and her congratulations on this special 300th anniversary celebration. He went on to congratulate the performers saying that the pageant was interesting and entertaining and felt very much at home with it, as having worn one of those wigs in court for the best part of 40 years, he felt very much in tune with the whole affair. David pointed out the many similarities between Freemasonry and the Judiciary - its traditions, customs, ritual and secrets, before revealing a judicial secret which had to remain within those four walls; bringing much hilarity to the proceedings. In concluding David commented: 'You are all to be congratulated upon your heritage and all your good charitable works and donations.' He then thanked everyone for the very warm and generous reception he and the guests had received and wished the group continued success in all they undertake.
As the evening came to a close, Colin thanked the two hall chairmen, Graham Hughes and Chris Maloney, and also John Roughley and John Whalley for their involvement in making the evening a great success.
The members of Westhoughton Lodge No 4215 hosted the demonstration team from the St Helens and Prescot Group on behalf of the Chorley Group at their regular meeting held at Masonic Hall
The team are visiting groups around the Province as part of the Tercentenary celebrations and performing a timeline drama and pageant about the evolution of Grand Lodge from 1717 to 1813.
This project started out some years ago as an idea for something to do at a meeting when the oldest lodge in the Province - Lodge of Loyalty No 86 had nothing to do. At first, the concept was that a "Master of Ceremonies" would announce the year of the event and one of the characters would step forward and deliver his story.
Each character would have been given a script with key words/phrases highlighted and he was asked to deliver the story using the key words but without having to learn any lines.
When it was announced that APrGM Tony Bent had been appointed to co-ordinate the 2017 celebrations and he was looking for ideas from lodges, the most senior member of Loyalty Frank Davies PPrSGW mentioned what he had in mind. From that point on, the project became a living being which the team just had to deliver.
Recognising that they were straying into "theatreland", Frank enlisted the help of an experienced thespian, Freemason and friend David Burgess who readily offered his services. In doing so, David passed the script to a friend of his - Jacob Larch, who is a professional scriptwriter no less and Jacob converted the Master of Ceremonies into the Herald the brethren saw and added the historical facts delivered by him during the performance.
Following a brief open and close meeting the players took over the lodge room setting the scene for the brethren present to show how the Grand Lodge was formed. As the drama unfolded the brethren were kept entertained whilst witnessing a re-enactment of how the Elias Ashmole, the earliest known recorded Freemason initiated into an English lodge in 1646.
The team based their pageant on how the first Grand lodge meetings were carried out 300 years ago. The drama was not only informative, but had a great humour to its story which was most appreciated by the brethren watching.
On the completion of the drama the worshipful master thanked all the pageant brethren for their wonderful work.
The evening concluded with fun and laughter at the festive board including a raffle which raised the princely sum of nearly £200 – half of which was shared with the pageant brethren who were donating it to the MCF 2021 Festival. The brethren of the pageant put on a first class and most entertaining production.
Once again heavy rain did not deter the hundreds of attendees who packed into St Elphin’s Church, Warrington, to attend the second Provincial service of thanksgiving to celebrate 300 years since the formation of the first Grand Lodge in the world at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard on 24 June 1717
St Elphin’s is the Parish Church for the town of Warrington, a place of worship has been present on the site of St Elphins Church since about 650AD, and the presence of a priest in Warrington was recorded in the Domesday Book. According to tradition the first church was built by Saint Oswald for his companion Elphin, who remained as the first priest there until his death in 679. The earliest fabric in the present church is in the chancel and the crypt, which survive from the church built in 1354 by Sir William Boteler. The church was badly damaged by the Parliamentary forces in the Civil War. Following this the tower was rebuilt in 1696 and the nave in 1770. The south aisle was added in the early 19th century. Most of the fabric of the present church is the result of an extensive restoration between 1859 and 1867 by Frederick and Horace Francis. It was during this restoration that the spire was added.
The Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wife Maureen were joined by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Tony Bent, Mark Dimelow, Harry Cox, David Winder, John Hutton, Derek Parkinson, Kevin Poynton and Robert Wright, many of whom were accompanied by their ladies.
A broad range of Masons from grand officers to entered apprentices took part in the service that was a combination of celebration and thanks. The clergy processed into the church preceded by Mark Barton and Malcolm Bell both of whom are Provincial Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies, followed by the both Provincial wardens, the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and the Provincial Grand Master who was preceded by the Provincial Grand Sword Bearer and followed the the Provincial Grand Standard Bearers. The processional hymn of ‘Praise my Soul the King of Heaven’ was sung with overwhelming gusto and provided a rousing start to the service.
The congregation were welcomed very warmly by the Lay Reader Lee Marsh who said how pleased he was to see so many Brethren and their families attending that service of thanksgiving.
Following the bidding prayer, the choir sang Psalm 150 which was followed by a reading from ‘Chronicles’ by Richard Clatworthy, a Fellowcraft which detailed the prayer by Solomon at the building of the Temple. Another inspiring and uplifting hymn, to the familiar tune of ‘Cwm Rhondda’ followed with the congregation rising superbly to the task in rendering, ‘Guide me O’ thou Great Redeemer’ with a passion that would have brought a tear to the eye of many a Welshman.
The second reading from ‘Luke’, concerning the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ was given by Clive Smith, an Entered Apprentice. This reading was to be reflected on in greater detail during the Oration.
Tony Bent, who has been responsible for the organisation and promotion of the Tercentenary celebrations within the Province, then gave an inspiring and thought provoking presentation on the work of Freemasonry within the community. He highlighted the ‘quiet and unassuming manner’ in which Freemasonry operated as a force for good and charitable works, reflecting that we had been, in the past perhaps ‘too quiet and self-effacing’ about our work. He further suggested that Masons were not just generous in their donations of financial assistance but were repeatedly as philanthropic in the gift of their time.
In his concluding remarks, he reminded the congregation that Freemasonry had always and should continue to be acutely aware of its roots in the local community and the role it can and should play in supporting that communal foundation. He ended by suggesting that although it was tempting and indeed understandable that we could reflect with pride on the past 300 years, it was equally important that we looked to the future and renewed our commitment to maintaining and promulgating the principles of Freemasonry.
Following a further appropriate and inspiring hymn led by the choir, the Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst ascended the pulpit to deliver his oration. Taking as the core of his text, both the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ and the very human need to ever be seeking ‘truth’, Godfrey delivered a resounding and uplifting homily in his inimitable and poignant style. He used many examples which highlighted the ‘principles and tenets’ of Freemasonry and reminded everyone that although the ‘Volume of the Sacred Law, would guide us to all truth’, we as ‘children of our Creator’ had a responsibility to ‘be diligent in determining fact from fake’ and implored that, ‘may the search for truth be the focus of our further endeavours’.
During the offertory, which was made to the benefit of St Elphin’s Church, Masonic stewards assisted and the congregation sang ‘For all the Saints, who from their labour’s rest’. This was followed by prayers of thanksgiving, led by Godfrey, and culminating with the singing of that quintessential celebratory hymn ‘Jerusalem’ accompanied by further stirring and profoundly moving accompaniment from Steven Derringer PrGOrg.
In a final act of avowal and reaffirmation, Godfrey invited all Freemasons to stand and join him in a pledge of ‘Dedication to future endeavour’ which they all exceeded to in response to each enquiry of ‘Will you?’ with the resounding reply of, ‘We will, the Most High being our helper’.
Very appropriately the final hymn of the service was ‘Now the evening’s shadows closing’ followed by ‘The National Anthem’, prior to the recession led by the Provincial team followed by the clergy.
Speaking after the service, Tony Harrison expressed his gratitude and thanks to the magnificent support shown by the brethren and their families: 'It has been a wonderful and historic occasion and I am really grateful to the brethren for their support this afternoon.' He also acknowledged the time and efforts employed in organising such a successful celebration that had been undertaken by Tony Bent and his team.
If there were ever a doubt that the new Provincial ties are suitable for any occasion, Steve Ralph from the Leigh Group, West Lancashire, wore his on a visit to Buckingham Palace.
Steve, who is an acting Provincial Grand Steward, was attending the palace to receive his award as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (MBE). It was a special day for Steve, who received the award in the Birthday Honours list for his long service to the Scouting movement.
As autumn nears its end and the signs of winter start to dominate, and as the nights draw in and temperatures fall, members of Bryn Lodge No. 6553 which is member of the Wigan Group in West Lancashire start to get ready for their annual pilgrimage
A pilgrimage it must be acknowledged to be, as the hardy brethren have religiously made the journey to visit a lodge in a different country / jurisdiction for the last 16 years.
Last year was a trip to Flanders and Chevalier Ramsay Lodge No. 4 of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium and in previous years the team of lodge members visited Ireland in 2001, then Scotland, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Holland (to a lodge working under the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts), Portugal, Majorca, Jersey, Greece, Gibraltar, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Hungary. On each occasion, they have visited an English-speaking lodge, and seen many variations of ritual, customs and culture. This year it was to Paris, and to St George’s Lodge No. 3, under the jurisdiction of the Grande Loge National Française, meeting at the Grand Lodge headquarters in the northern suburbs of Paris.
So, it was a cold and frosty (very early) Thursday morning when the intrepid travellers set off from Bryn Masonic Hall, on one of David Ogden’s coaches, loaded with bacon and sausage sandwiches, pies, chicken legs, boiled ham barm cakes, tea and coffee, and perhaps a little beer. 20 brethren made the trip, including the WM Mark Seddon, his wardens, all the light blue officers, stewards and to make the trip perfect, a new fellow craft and a recently initiated entered apprentice, as well as the ‘old stagers’ who originally started the trips all those years ago, as ‘juniors’ themselves. After a very pleasant, albeit long, journey the team based themselves in the Montmartre area of Paris, near to the famous Sacre Coeur church. In such a great location, they had a great time exploring the local area, bars and restaurants, and entertaining the locals with some melodious, albeit partisan, singing in the early hours.
All refreshed and rested on Friday, it was time to head for the lodge, suitably attired and raring to go. The 659th regular meeting of St George’s Lodge was to be an initiation ceremony. Two of the brethren, John Tabern and Garry Rowland, were a little exited as well as a tad apprehensive, having been given the honour of taking part in the ceremony, John as Junior Deacon and Garry in delivering the address at the NE corner.
With the assistance of satnav, following a short journey which battled through that nightmare which is Paris traffic, the expectant and eager brethren were dropped off just around the corner from the lodge with plenty of time for a relaxing drink at the bar, or so they thought! They were victims of a cruel turn of fate, there being two addresses in Paris with similar street names, one in district 6, the other in district 17, and guess what? Yes, you’ve got it, they were at the wrong one, some 40 minutes away from the lodge, through the rush hour.
A quick apologetic phone call was made to Michael Hawksley, WM of St George’s Lodge, who was very understanding and volunteered to open the lodge and deal with business and domestic matters until the brethren’s arrival. And so it was, the lost explorers were eventually re-united with their coach and arrived at the Grand Lodge building and were received into the lodge enthusiastically by Michael and his officers and distinguished guests.
St George’s Lodge, despite being in Paris and operating under the GLNF, work our familiar Emulation Ritual in English. Warranted in 1914 as a civil lodge, it obviously attracted much attention from visiting brethren during the troubled years that followed and rapidly became an Army Services Corps and Royal Engineers military lodge.
All present were treated to a fine initiation ceremony. Bryn Lodge can quite rightly be proud of their junior brethren who took part in the work, something that not many get a chance to do. The lodge room was significantly smaller than they were used to and John Tabern adapted quickly to manage the perambulations with skill and performed his task efficiently with a relaxed manner and infusion of appropriate humour that helped the candidate feel comfortable. Garry Rowland, for his part, delivered a word-perfect address from the NE corner.
The business of the evening being ended, the Bryn brethren joined their hosts at a fine festive board. The building accommodated several lodge rooms and several meetings were going on at the same time. There were also a number of dining rooms and the festive board was held in one of the larger ones. The brethren were treated to traditional French cuisine and fine wine, and the company of a great bunch of guys.
Mark Seddon was delighted to respond to a toast to the visitors and did so in his own inimitable style, enthusiastic, thanking the lodge and brethren, interspersed with ‘Scouse wit’, before presenting the lodge with an inscribed gavel and stand to commemorate the visit. He had been presented with a gift from St George’s Lodge, an inscribed tankard, in the meeting earlier. Following the response, as is the tradition at Bryn and to the delight of the assembled company, the visiting brethren stood and sang ‘Let us have harmony’, joined by the rest to complete the final verse. The evening was completed by a visit to the Masonic Museum filled with interesting artefacts and stories and historic anecdotes. After that it was back to Montmartre and a few nightcaps.
Saturday was a typical tourist’s day, with a boat trip on the River Seine, an ascent of the Eiffel Tower and a stroll down the Champs D’Elise and the Christmas markets, followed by dinner and drinks back in Montmartre. The journey from Paris to Calais on Sunday was a little fraught as news of storm Angus was filtering through. It was raging in the channel and crossings were delayed, a ship having gone down in the adverse conditions just off the English coast.
Fortunately, there was nothing to worry about, as, after a three-and-a-half-hour delay in Calais, the seas calmed smiling on the faithful brethren allowing them a safe return to their native shore, as was so desired. It was a tired and motley crew that arrived back at Bryn after midnight, but reflecting on a very successful and enjoyable trip. Freemasonry is truly universal, but surely, after 16 years, Bryn Lodge must be running out of options for future trips? Can they find another foreign clime and jurisdiction next year, that is home to a lodge that works in the English language and meets on or near to the weekend, to make it 17? We’ll just have to wait and see.
At a very special evening, over 80 members and guests of St Paul’s Lodge No. 5459 assembled in the McCausland Suite at Widnes Masonic Hall where they were honoured by the presence of the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton at the initiation ceremony of Christopher (Chris) George Farley
Also present was Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Kevin Poynton and Robert Wright.
The lodge was opened by the WM David Berrington and the usual administration undertaken. A ballot was then taken to admit the candidate, Mr Chris Fairley into Freemasonry, the ballot proved favourable to the candidate. The secretary and treasurer confirmed that the candidate had paid his dues and signed the necessary declaration.
There was then a report and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp entered the lodge to announce that the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison stood without and demanded admission. David said that he and the brethren would be pleased to receive him.
Tony processed into the lodge accompanied by Philip Gunning, Kevin Poynton, Robert Wright, Neil Pedder (Widnes Group Chairman) and other acting Provincial grand officers. David warmly welcomed Tony to the lodge and offered him the gavel of the lodge trusting that he would have an enjoyable evening. Tony returned the gavel thanking David for the warm welcome and was looking forward to the ceremony and the festive board.
DC Joe Stanners retired from the lodge and on his return, he announced that the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton stood without and demanded admission. The WM said he and the brethren would be extremely pleased to receive him. Sir David processed into the lodge led by AGDC Barry McCormack with Ian Grindley and David Clews acting as Provincial deacons. Sir David was accompanied by grand officers Alan Locke, David Redhead, Derek Williams, Sam Robinson, Dennis Rudd and Andy Whittle.
David Berrington gave a very warm welcome to Sir David and thanked him for accepting his invitation. He was offered the gavel of the lodge which he returned saying that he would prefer to see the ceremony done the ‘Widnes way’.
At the appropriate time, Mr Chris Farley was admitted in due form and regularly initiated into Freemasonry by the WM David Berrington in an exemplary manner. Chris was guided on his journey through the ceremony by the junior deacon Ian Morris assisted by the senior deacon George Yarwood. David directed Chris to the senior warden Les Williams who gave a fine explanation of the working tools of the first degree. Excellent musical accompaniment throughout the ceremony was provided by the Provincial Grand Organist Stephen Derringer.
Following the explanation of the working tools, Chris retired from the lodge and on his return the charge after initiation was delivered by David Clews in a manner any thespian would have been proud of and gained him loud acclamation.
Sir David rose to congratulate the WM and the officers who participated in what was a memorable ceremony. He made special mention of David Clews, saying that he had never heard a better rendition of the charge of initiation.
The lodge was closed in due form by the WM and the brethren processed out of the lodge and assembled in the Alan Locke Suite for a superb festive board supplied by the hall catering staff Sugar and Spice.
After receiving the principal guest Sir David Wootton and other distinguished guest to the festive board the brethren sat to enjoy a three course meal of fish cakes with seasonal salad, chicken breast in white wine and mushroom sauce and homemade sherry trifle accompanied with wine and followed by tea or coffee.
Once the brethren had been wined and dined they stood to sing the national anthem and raised their glasses to the Queen. Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison proposed the toast to the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton thanking him for his attendance and making it a very special evening for St Paul’s Lodge and specially the candidate Chris.
Sir David responded to the toast to his health by again congratulated the WM David Berrington for an excellent ceremony and that he had now experienced the ‘Widnes way’, he would ensure that when he returned to Grand Lodge he would pass on that experience. He was pleased to see that Widnes Group was embracing the Tercentenary celebrations and was impressed by the plaque which had been commissioned for the event.
David Berrington, who proposed Chris into Freemasonry, proposed the toast to the initiate Chris and welcomed him as a member of St Paul’s Lodge. David said that by the way he had conducted himself in the ceremony he had no doubt he would make it as a Mason. He informed the brethren that Chris had two or three friends who wish to join, which is good news for the lodge and Widnes masonry in general. Chris responded by thanking everybody for making it a night to remember.
Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee responded to the toast to the guest with humour and sincerity. He complimented the WM on a faultless ceremony and also the senior warden Les Williams for the explanation of the working tools. John also agreed with the AGM Sir David that the charge by David Clews to the initiate was outstanding.
Unfortunately, the time came for the principal guests to retire, at which the AGM Sir David Wootton was presented with a bottle of whisky and the PrGM Tony Harrison presented with a bouquet of flowers for his wife Maureen. It was a delightful and memorable evening which was enjoyed by all present.
2016 British Transplant Games
For 300 years Freemasons have been helping their local communities in many ways. The most commonly known has been by making donations to support the charity, organisation or individual. However, one of the most effective over the years has been by giving up their time to support the charity, organisation or individual.
The 2016 British Transplant Games which were held in Liverpool at the end of July are an example of Freemasons in West Lancashire continuing to support their community and the people from across the country taking part in the games.
The British Transplant Games are the flagship project of the charity ‘Transplant Sport’ and have been in existence for over 30 years when the first Transplant Olympics took place in Portsmouth in 1978. At that time, these games were an international event and included teams from France, Greece and the USA.
Since these early beginnings the games have grown and are held every year in different cities throughout the UK, including Portsmouth, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast, Medway, Sheffield, Bolton and Newcastle Gateshead.
The games aim to demonstrate the benefits of transplantation, encouraging transplant patients to regain fitness, whilst increasing public awareness of the need for more people to join the NHS Organ Donation Register and discuss their wishes with their families. They also seek to thank and celebrate donor families and the gift of life.
The West Lancashire Freemasons Charity was pleased to coordinate the selection of some 30 Masons from West Lancashire who volunteered to act as games ambassadors.
Jim Fallow, a West and East Lancashire Mason is a member and trustee of the Donor Families Support Group and he writes: 'Following the conclusion of the very successful Transplant Games, can I on behalf of the Donor Family Network, thank all the volunteer Freemasons and their partners for the assistance that they gave to the smooth running of the games. At the Gala Dinner it was mentioned on several occasions that, without the volunteers, it would be impossible to run such an event. Favourable comments were also made about the cheerfulness, helpfulness and friendliness of them all.
After the games I spoke to Les Newman (St Helens and Prescot Group Charity Steward) who told me that all of the volunteers enjoyed the games and found them inspiring. I gave Les a number of Donor Family Network pin badges and for them to be distributed amongst the Masonic volunteers. I’m sure that those who assisted now have a better understanding of organ donation.
As a trustee of the charity, along with my daughter Andrea, if any group or lodge would like a talk about the Network and Transplant Sport at a meeting, please contact me and if I can’t do it, somebody will.'
A few days after the games the WLFC also received a letter of thanks from the Assistant Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Wendy Simon, she wrote:
This weekend has seen the City of Liverpool host the largest ever British Transplant Games with over 900 athletes and a further 1,400 accredited family network members participate in 23 different sports.
The event organisers and participants have been full of praise for the event describing it as not only the biggest but also the best they have been involved in.
Liverpool is now fully established physically as an event city, but it fills me with tremendous pride to hear the underlying feedback to the success of this year, it was the friendly nature and welcome from the people of Liverpool.
It has been drawn to my attention that you and your team of volunteers made a massive contribution towards this in not only giving up your time but really fully supporting the athletes, officials and organisers in delivering an outstanding games.
As the chair of the Liverpool Organising Committee please accept my heartfelt thanks.
Councillor Wendy Simon,
Assistant Mayor of Liverpool
Six day diary of the games, as written by Les Newman in his own words.
Monday 25 July
1 pm, arrive at Wavertree Sports Ground for registration
Meet up with Barry Jameson (Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals) and look at the tasks in hand which included 2,500 T-shirts that need sorting into sizes, water bottles to be laid out, 20,000 leaflets, 8,000 bus timetables and 3,600 safety pins for pinning the competitors numbers on T-shirts and an accreditation pass specific to each competitor, supporter and hospital to be put into the day sacks.
We split into two teams of four and started work!
Tuesday 26 July
9 am continue yesterday’s sorting.
The supporting hospitals have cardboard boxes which need completing: Guy’s, Barts, Alder Hey, Addenbrooke’s, and St Helier all have teams in the games. There is even a team of two from France!
Wednesday 27 July Competitor team registration day
The volunteers managed the registration process throughout the day
Thursday 28 July
4 pm, preparing for 6.30pm parade to the opening ceremony at the Arena and Convention Centre in Liverpool.
The volunteers acted as marshals on the parade route, directing competitors and guests to the muster point.
Barry Jameson distributed each hospital’s name banner at the parade muster point.
6:30 pm, the parade starts. Transplant patients proudly march from the Maritime Museum, past a Royal Navy Vessel and the Pump House where the Concertina Band was in full swing. The parade travels over a bridge towards the ACC, where there are 2,000 people!
The master of ceremonies does the introductions and brings on the Liverpool Signing Choir, which was followed by a stunning display by a young gymnastic troupe.
Finally, the teams enter the hall to standing ovations from all present. It was a tear-jerking half an hour!
Beth Tweddle, the renowned gymnast, was introduced to the audience and The British Transplant Games was declared officially open after Andrea Fallow lit the flame of the games. Andrea’s dad Jim, a member and trustee of the Donor Families Support Group, may have been the proudest man in the room!
As I looked at the flame with a lump in my throat thinking about all the young children who need transplants.
Friday 29 July
9:30 am. My job for today was to man the information and help desk in the Wavertree Sports Centre with Gemma Nichols from Liverpool City Council.
Gemma listened to the charitable work Freemasons do and is given a copy of Charitable Giving. We were both kept busy with inquiries all day.
My heart goes out to two little girls, one no older than five who is on a tube feed but still a competitor! She stood proudly with mum and her sister as her photograph is taken.
A young girl who has her face painted was so happy she has won a medal. She proudly showed me her medal – it was clear to me that it means a great deal to her.
Saturday 30 July
9:30 am. At the Indoor Tennis Centre with Barry, where we help set up the table tennis. We were asked to referee some of the matches and thankfully Barry remembers all the rules! The more important games thankfully have a professional referee, so we then supervise supplying new balls and bottles of water!
As the day wears on, the litter and empty water bottles pile up, so we get bin bags and walk around picking up the litter and generally give advice and help.
Sunday 31 July.
9:30 am, Field and Track Events Day, at the scoreboard Barry is on the long jump.
The Liverpool Harriers laser finish line with linked photo-finish camera was very impressive. The scores and pictures were sent to an observation platform above the stand.
We got two copies of the results - one was put on a noticeboard, the second was taken to the official who presented the winners’ medals.
Jim Fallow appears and kindly gives me 30 Donor Family Network lapel badges for all the Masonic volunteers.
The day is drawing to a close and I think of the patients and volunteers.
Volunteer Kathy was fighting cancer; another volunteer’s son was in remission from cancer having been given a successful bone marrow transplant. The message of the games is clear – donate your organs and let others survive!
All the volunteers agree that they really enjoyed the games and found them inspiring and they plan to meet again soon for a Liverpool reunion.
At the vanguard
When Ezra McGowan started handing out crisis packs to the homeless from a burger van, he knew he had found his calling. Imogen Beecroft discovers how it complements his Freemasonry
At 10pm on a cold February evening, a biting wind is rattling the windows of Ezra McGowan’s house. But while most of us would keep warm inside on a night like this, Ezra zips up his fleece and heads out to work.
By day, Ezra runs a waste disposal company, but he spends his free time handing out food and other necessities to homeless people in London, Peterborough and Manchester.
Ezra, who is a member of Hand and Heart Lodge, No. 4109, started The Forget Me Not Trust two years ago with his brother Nathan because, ‘We were seeing homeless people everywhere we went in these major cities. We realised this was an epidemic problem, so we thought we should try to do something about it. We’ve been blessed in our own way with business, so we’re in a fortunate position and wanted to give something back.’
The brothers acquired an old burger van, pitched up in Manchester city centre, and started giving out food and hot drinks to the local homeless population. Ezra and Nathan are both self-employed, which gives them a certain degree of flexibility with their working hours. However, Ezra explains, ‘If we finish work at 3pm, then we’ll go out for a few hours, but usually we like to go out late in the evening. Those are the hours when we’re really needed.’
Ezra is modest about what they can provide. ‘It’s not à la carte. We try to serve food that we can make go a long way – soup, coffee, tea, biscuits, sandwiches. If we can, we serve hot food, but it’s really about how far we can make it go.’ A meal or hot drink isn’t the only necessity on the menu, however. To those in particularly desperate circumstances, the brothers also provide vital crisis packs, which contain hats, gloves, socks, toothpaste, a toothbrush, toilet paper and sanitary products for women.
‘We’ve been blessed in business, so we’re in a fortunate position and wanted to give something back.’ Ezra McGowan
Nowhere to turn
The Forget Me Not Trust mainly operates in Manchester, where Ezra lives, and Peterborough, where he owns property, but the brothers also travel down to London for weekends when they’ve raised enough money to do so.
In London the van pitches up at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, just a stone’s throw from Freemasons’ Hall.
Revisiting the same areas means Ezra has a few regulars who he gets to know over time, and he’s even met some people who have masonic connections in their families.
He stresses that the homeless people he meets come from all walks of life. ‘Some people have been very successful businessmen and have just fallen on hard times. Maybe they’ve missed mortgage payments and things have got on top of them so they’ve been reduced to homelessness. It could be anyone. It could happen to each and every one of us.’
Just last month Ezra met a boy from Ireland who was living on the streets of Manchester with his dog. When Ezra spoke to him, the boy explained that he’d had an argument with his parents and, with no money and nowhere to turn, ended up homeless.
‘We gave him some hot food and a crisis pack, but he had no one to turn to. I’m not an angel; I fell out with my parents as a child, but we always had family members I could have turned to,’ explains Ezra. ‘Some of the people we work with have no family at all. Others might have mental health problems, which makes it so much harder to get help.’
Luckily, he says, some people do get rehoused, but all too often these stories don’t have happy endings. ‘A few months ago a man was killed. He was beaten up by some youths because he was homeless and they burned him to death. The people we try to help are often neglected, abused and forgotten. That’s how we chose the name for the charity: we wanted to show them that they haven’t been forgotten by everyone.’
Ezra finds it particularly difficult when he encounters young women living on the street. ‘While the homeless population is mainly male, there are usually about three or four women for every 25 men coming to us for help. Women on the street are in a very vulnerable position and it’s heartbreaking to see. I have daughters myself and I’d like to think that if anything like this ever happened to them, there would be someone looking out for them.’
Ezra sees his work with the homeless as his calling, explaining: ‘Some people are blessed to be doctors or psychiatrists. My brother and I haven’t been able to do that, but we’ve always been hard workers and can help people by offering them food and support. We’re everyday lads, not multimillionaires, but this is what we were meant to do. It’s very satisfying and is a breath of fresh air.’
While helping people in this way is undoubtedly rewarding, it isn’t an easy ride. He says: ‘We do get some abuse, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night, when it’s busy in town. Some people call us “do-gooders” and “churchgoers” or swear at us. It’s not all rosy on the street.’
Despite these challenges, Ezra estimates that they can help 60-70 people every night. However, providing everyday essentials, food and drinks to this many people is a costly business, and he can only do so much of it on his own.
Initially, Ezra and Nathan funded the project themselves, buying supplies in bulk from wholesalers. When it started to grow in scale and ambition, however, Ezra turned to his lodge for extra support.
Tony Harrison, the Provincial Grand Master for West Lancashire, emphasises that the ideals behind The Forget Me Not Trust coincide wholly with those of Freemasonry. ‘Ezra told me of the work they do to support these individuals in need by providing warm food and clothing. This is a wonderful example of members of our fraternity working in the community to support others less fortunate than themselves.’
‘We’re everyday lads, not multimillionaires, but this is what we were meant to do.’ Ezra McGowan
Spreading the word
Since reaching out to other Freemasons, the response has been excellent. ‘The feedback we’re getting from brethren has been fantastic,’ says Ezra. ‘Hand on Heart Lodge has been wonderful – the brethren have given donations and arranged a raffle to raise money for The Forget Me Not Trust. I don’t think anything like this has really been heard of in Freemasonry before and now other lodges have started donating, which is great.’
In return, Ezra proudly displays the square and compasses wherever he can. He explains that he’d been a mason for 15 years when he had an accident and was offered help through the fraternity. ‘It was a wonderful, unexpected thing to have people knocking on your door offering to help you. I thought it would be nice to give something back, so now we try to promote Freemasonry in the community.’
Ezra is hoping to increase his fellow masons’ involvement with the charity, and has big plans for the future. ‘We’ve started small, but once we’ve got everything running perfectly in Manchester we’d like to branch out to other major cities. It’s our ambition to reach a point where we can advise other Provinces how best to run these events. Ultimately, we’d like to have one event a week run by Freemasons in every major city in the UK.’
Ezra enjoys engaging people in lively discussions about Freemasonry and challenging their existing preconceptions about the fraternity. ‘Lots of members of the public come over and talk to us when they see the badge displayed. Sometimes they might have a negative impression of Freemasonry, but we’re finding that we can open their eyes and change their perspective. Often we have people saying, “Oh, that’s fantastic – I never knew that about Freemasonry.” ’
Find out more about the charity’s work and how to lend your support at www.theforgetmenottrust.org.uk
Shining example to us all
Not many lodges can boast that amongst their membership they have the second oldest subscribing Freemason in England
Lathom Abbey Lodge No. 6286, meeting at the Ormskirk Masonic Hall in the Province of West Lancashire, is proud to say they have just such a member, at 105 years young Richie McKay is a regular attender.
Richie celebrated 75 years as a member of the Craft in 2014 when the then Assistant Provincial Grand Master, now Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning, presided over what was a very emotional night. Philip, who in his inimitable style, highlighted, what was a very full and rewarding life of a remarkable Freemason. At that meeting he had the privilege of bringing the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master in the form of an illuminated certificate.
Two years on from that eventful meeting Phil Stansbie, lodge Secretary, received a communication from Grand Lodge asking for confirmation of the date of birth for said Richie McKay. Phil having duly responded to the request confirming Richie’s date of birth as being 6 November 1910, some days later he received the incredible news that Richie was indeed the second oldest subscribing member in England and if the communication is to be believed Richie is a mere baby as the oldest member is an incredible 111. Nevertheless, Richie, who recently had a short stay in hospital, is now well on the way to recovery and was looking forward to the next lodge summons.
As the last meeting of the lodge was to be presided over by the immediate past master Bill Dutch, due to the WM being away on holiday, and as this meeting coincided with the 70th anniversary of the presentation of the warrant of the lodge, it was decided to ask Richie with Bill’s help to occupy the chair of King Solomon in what was to be a very informal meeting to show the great affection that the membership have for this remarkable man and to allow them to enjoy his company on this special occasion.
Phil duly approached Richie with the proposition only to receive the answer: 'I would love to but can you please invite Philip Gunning.' Phil pondered this request replying that he would do his best but that Richie should not get his hopes up as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master was a very busy man. Having contacted Philip, Phil was greatly gratified to receive a heartfelt response saying that he would be delighted to attend on what was to be a private visit to celebrate and catch up with Richie once again.
On the night, the lodge was further honoured by the presence of Ormskirk Group Chairman Frank Umbers, deputy vice chairman Stephen Brereton and Grand Lodge officers Malcolm Alexander Group Secretary and Martin Walsh lodge member. There was some disappointment when the group chairman informed the lodge that Philip Gunning had been delayed and had indicated that the lodge should be duly opened and he would arrive as soon as possible. Bill opened the lodge and conducted the usual business following which there was an alarm. The usual protocols being adhered to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp was admitted to inform the assembled brethren than none other than the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning were without and demanded admission.
It was at this moment you could have heard a pin drop in the lodge room such was the shock of the revelation that the lodge was to receive not one but two exalted visitors. The lodge rose to receive the PGM and his deputy who were warmly welcomed by the WM. Tony was offered the gavel of the lodge as is his right but thanking Bill for the welcome he had received he declined saying that it would be better placed in his hands as WM for the duration of the meeting.
Bill then invited Richie to occupy the Master’s chair which he duly did, the lodge Secretary Phil then instructed the deacons to distribute copies to all the brethren of the summons for 25 March 1939 for the Lodge of the Holy City No. 1372 (Scottish Constitution) meeting in Jerusalem were a certain Mr Ernest Richard McKay was to be balloted and if accepted, initiated on that night and the rest as they say is history.
Philip Gunning rose to congratulate Richie recounting some of the memories that he held dear regarding their last meeting when he presided at Richie’s 75th celebration. His contribution brought a warm response from the brethren. Tony then took to the floor to bring his own greetings saying that he had not had the pleasure of meeting Richie previously but that he had read a great deal about him and his remarkable achievements over the many years that he had been a mason. He then informed Richie that Philip had a communication that he would read out to the assembled brethren on his behalf.
Philip then had the pleasure of verbally presenting to the assembled brethren the patent of appointment signed by the PGM promoting Richie from Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden to the exalted rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden of the Province of West Lancashire. A collarette of that rank was presented to Tony who with great warmth proceeded to invest Richie with his new rank. At the conclusion of this the brethren rose to give a standing ovation showing the high respect that Richie has amongst the membership of the lodge.
Later at the festive board suitably refreshed and having enjoyed a delightful meal of breaded mushrooms for starters followed by salmon with asparagus spears, broccoli, green beans and new potatoes, complete with crème brûlée for dessert. At the conclusion of the meal and following the usual toasts Philip had the honour of proposing the toast to the continued good health of the PGM; this he did in his usual eloquent unscripted manner.
During his response Tony said that he had thoroughly enjoyed himself by just ‘dropping in’ on the occasion of Lathom Abbey Lodge celebrating 70 years and apologised by saying that he hoped his appearance hadn’t upset the apple cart. (Apart from Philip, Keith and Frank who was sworn to secrecy, no one was aware of this visit). Then with a broad grin on his face Tony said: 'Brethren you should have seen your faces when we made our entrance.' Tony went on to congratulate the lodge and said that he hopes to live as long as Richie and if so he will come back for the lodge’s centenary. Tony concluded by wishing Richie good health for the future and to continue to enjoy his Freemasonry.
Bill then proposed the toast to the worshipful master and in his response Richie said: 'I stand before you very humble for all the good wishes you have shown to me and I thank you all for being here.' He went on to say that he joined the Ormskirk Group as a member of Maghull Lodge No. 7190, (no longer in existence), joining Lathom Abbey Lodge because his best friend was a member and he has enjoyed every minute.
This concluded a night of celebration with many pleasant surprises which will live long in the memories of the brethren and guests, especially Richie who is a shining example to us all.