It’s been a cold, wintery start to February, with snow in many parts of our Province but this has been truly offset by the warm and generous welcome I’ve received everywhere this month.
On the first of the month, I ventured over the border into East Lancashire; my destination was Bury. It’s a very busy town and hosts a very diverse market, attracting visitors who appreciate the famous ‘Bury Black Pudding’, speciality. I made this long and demanding journey in the company of David Winder. We were attending the Prince of Wales Lodge No 1012 for their installation meeting, at which John Griffin, a personal friend and an APrGM in East Lancashire, took the chair.
We were most royally welcomed by all the members and guests attending this special meeting, which was also attended by the PrGM Sir David Trippier and many of his APrGM`s, together with many grand and Provincial grand officers. Following an excellent ceremony of installation, conducted by Joseph Banks, we enjoyed a most delightful festival dinner which included the famous ‘Bury Black Pudding’. A wonderful experience to have witnessed such a marvellous meeting in our sister Province of East Lancashire.
On Saturday 3 February, Maureen and I set forth with a number of friends from Morecambe. We were attending the Liverpool Group Ladies Evening which was held at the Masonic hall in Hope Street. We were attending this dinner dance which was being held to support the Masonic hall. It proved to be a fabulous evening supported by some 150 brethren and their ladies. We were treat to good food and company for what was a most enjoyable and relaxing evening, prior to returning home on the Sunday morning.
A couple of days later, I returned to Liverpool, this time to the Adelphi Hotel for a special Mark degree meeting. It was attended by the PrGM of the Mark degree, Keith Beardmore and his full team of officers who were there to celebrate the 50th anniversary in the Mark degree of Peter Connolly. A really excellent meeting attended by many of Peter`s friends and colleagues from other Orders in Freemasonry, followed by a delightful festive banquet.
After staying overnight at the Liner Hotel in Liverpool, I spent the following morning visiting St George’s Hall and the Picton Library and its reading rooms before making my way over to Garston. There I attended the installation meeting of Trinity Lodge No 3257. Philip Hudson performed an excellent installation ceremony, placing Brian McNulty into the chair of the lodge. There was tremendous support from the local brethren and their guests for this meeting. I enjoyed a great dinner and then had to drive back home, only to find many delays on the M6.
On the afternoon of 8 February, I travelled to Blackpool with Keith Kemp and met up with our Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor and my deputy Phil Gunning. We were having a rehearsal for the consecration of Pro Patria Lodge and were joined for this by all the founding members, together with all the brethren assisting in the ceremony. Due to an early start the next day, we stayed overnight in Blackpool.
After breakfast we made our way to the Tower Ballroom for the morning rehearsals. All went well and after a long and fairly arduous morning, we enjoyed a sandwich lunch prior to the doors being opened for our brethren to arrive for this most spectacular of occasions. At 3pm I entered into the lodge, held within the ballroom attended by my acting Provincial grand officers. It was a wonderful experience, consecrating this new lodge and witnessed by some 350 brethren from all parts of our Province.
Following the consecration, I invited my deputy Philip Gunning to take the chair for the first installation ceremony of Pro Patria Lodge No 9952. Prior to our dining in the Tower Ballroom, we had the opportunity to meet with all the founders of the lodge and visiting brethren. We all sat down to an excellent Festival of St John banquet before it was time to make our way home after a very long and somewhat exhausting, but quite fantastic day.
All this excitement was followed by a relaxing weekend spent with Maureen. We enjoyed a brisk walk on the promenade, despite the cold and inclement weather.
Monday 13 February took me to Preston, Saul Street for the 50th anniversary celebration of Peter John Hosker as a Freemason, in the Lodge of Peace and Unity No 314. I was accompanied by almost all of my cabinet members for this very special occasion. It was wonderful to see Peter looking so well after his recent illness. The temple was full to capacity with Peter`s friends and past colleagues from around the Province, gathered to wish Peter good health and much happiness for the future. I think that all present were touched by the many delightful things which were said about our most esteemed Past Provincial Grand Master. There followed an excellent dinner and several speeches to which the celebrant responded. A wonderful and most memorable occasion for us all.
The next day, after a restful morning, Keith Kemp and I travelled to Bryn Masonic Hall for the installation meeting of Bryn Lodge No 6553. The proceedings commenced at 3:15pm with a meeting with newly initiated brethren in the group. There were some 18 new Masons present for a question and answer session. I felt that this was an excellent way of communicating with the many junior brethren of the group, as it gave them the opportunity to meet me and ask any questions which concerned them. Following this very useful session we attended the installation meeting and witnessed Philip Barr install his successor, Mark McLoughlin, in a most delightful and sincere ceremony. I was most pleased to be able to award a Grand Patron certificate to the lodge for their contributions to the MCF 2021 Festival. There then followed an excellent Festival of St John which is to be quite expected at this excellent Masonic Centre.
Thursday 15 February found me off once again to the far side of Lancashire and into Rochdale. I’d been invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Sir David Trippier, the PrGM for East Lancashire, of his being a Freemason. It was a rather spectacular evening, with Sir David Wootton, the Assistant Grand Master attending and leading this celebration. I was accompanied by PrGM`s from Cumberland and Westmorland, Cheshire and the Isle of Man. The temple was full of distinguished brethren from all around East Lancashire who had gathered for this rather special occasion. A wonderful evening of great enjoyment.
It was then time for another relaxing weekend after a very busy week.
Another Monday, another busy week and in the afternoon, Keith Kemp and I travelled to Woolton Golf Club where Woolton Lodge of Unity No 1086 were installing Chris Taplin as master of the lodge. We saw an excellent ceremony conducted by Alan Riley, aided by several other members present. I was joined by my APrGM Kevin Poynton and the Woolton Group officers. I must say the working tools were excellently presented by very junior brethren of the lodge. We all enjoyed a fine dinner and amusing speeches before having to drive home.
In the afternoon of Tuesday 20 February, I travelled to Garstang with Keith Kemp and several other brethren from Morecambe for the installation meeting of Wyreside Lodge No 2605 at the Wyrebank Masonic Centre. We enjoyed a terrific ceremony which was witnessed by a full lodge room. Alan Gardner installed Daniel Crossley in a most delightful manner and again the junior brethren of the lodge delivered the working tools in an exemplary fashion. Full marks must go to all who took part in the proceedings, which were topped off by the wonderful festive board, which we are all so accustomed to receiving at Wyrebank.
The next day, after a somewhat busy morning on the phone, I set forth for Liverpool in afternoon, with Keith Kemp and Barry Fitzgerald. Our destination was the Adelphi Hotel, where Adelphi Lodge No 6819 were holding their installation meeting. They are a small but very healthy lodge which was well supported by a number of guests. We witnessed the master Dave Douglas install his successor, Mike Fox in fine style. Following this first-class ceremony, we retired to enjoy pre-dinner drinks, which presented an opportunity to meet with the brethren and their guests, prior to enjoying an excellent Festival of St John.
Thursday 22 February, and it was an early start, arriving at Leyland for 8:30am to meet with Peter Taylor, Paul Renton and Chris Butterfield, for our journey to Sandbach in Cheshire. I was also accompanied by Ian Higham, Sam Robinson, Colin Rowling and Paul Hesketh. The Cheshire Provincial Royal Arch meeting was held at Sandbach Grammar School and was extremely well attended by companions of the Province of Cheshire and many guests from other Provinces. A most enjoyable day.
The following morning, I had a preview of one of the two Blood Bikes which have been provided by the WLFC for the benefit of the Lancashire Blood Bikes Scheme. Simon Hanson, the coordinator for the Blood Bikes kindly brought one round to my home. I was tempted to take it for a spin but felt that it was a bit out of my league!
Into the final week of the month and as the temperatures plummeted, I travelled on the Tuesday to Leyland, with Keith Kemp for a meeting with the Provincial Secretary Peter Taylor. Following this we travelled back to the Preston Masonic Centre, Saul Street for the Preston Group Dinner. It was attended by well over 100 brethren and companions. We all enjoyed the opportunity to meet with most of them over a welcome cup of tea, prior to enjoying pre-dinner drinks, followed by a very tasty chicken and ham pie for dinner. It was a great pleasure meeting so many new and old friends there, at Preston.
The last day of the month and as flurries of snow threatened, I set forth for Leyland for the Group Chairman`s meeting in the morning. It was well attended by all the group chairmen or their vice chairmen and we had the chance to discuss many matters of importance. After lunch I returned to Morecambe for the installation meeting of Poulton le Sands Lodge No 1051. This is my own mother lodge and I was delighted to see the temple at Derby Street so full. Chris Butterfield was the principle guest and it was so pleasing to see so many of my Masonic friends there to witness an excellent installation ceremony conducted by Mike Ashton, in placing Nigel Norris into the chair. It was a very relaxing evening for me, sitting back and enjoying others doing all the work! A wonderful evening on my own ‘patch’ and what a fantastic finish to this very busy month.
Provincial Grand Master.