The brethren had gathered with a sense of absolute peace stealing over them; all dressed up and looking fit to go to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. A most impressive ensemble they presented. The air was cool and sweet, full of peace and amity. The sea was in placid mood while the shimmering cerulean sky embraced the panorama with gentle affection.
From the bay windows of the Savoy Hotel, the view of Blackpool promenade took on the presence of a Mediterranean resort. Lazy strollers absorbed the freshness of the air and relished in the sun’s warming rays. It was an evening that would lift the hearts of the most despondent of impoverished souls.
Almost 100 Freemasons were in attendance for the installation meeting of Senatores Lodge of Installed Masters No 8966 which saw Ken Buckley vacate the treasurer’s seat and relocate to the master’s chair. Ken is a highly respected and much admired Freemason. Modest, cheery and impeccably mannered, he exemplifies what is great about the fraternity. This occasion marked his third experience of becoming master of a lodge, having previously been master of Emblem Lodge No 6727 in 1998 and Peace and Unity Lodge No 3966 in 2013. He was webmaster for the Blackpool Group for 17 years before retiring in February 2016.
Stuart Sager, master of Senatores Lodge of Installed Masters and the one charged with leading the installation ceremony, opened and conducted the general business of the lodge with efficiency and celerity. One of the early items on the agenda was to ballot for eight joining members, all proving favourable. Following these preliminaries, director of ceremonies James Rashid retired from the room to assemble the pantheon of dignitaries. And what an assembly it was.
Principal guest, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright, processed in with due reverence, accompanied by fellow Assistant Provincial Grand Masters David Winder and Harry Cox and supported by 11 fellow grand officers and a number of Provincial grand lodge dignitaries and acting Provincial grand officers. As regards the general atmosphere of a lodge room housing such an immensity of distinguished Masons, the word ‘sensational’ about sums the situation up.
Having settled and dispensed with the customary cordial greetings it was, at this juncture, that the ceremony of installation was announced and Giles Berkley rose. His mind, as he moved to collect the master elect Ken Buckley and convey him to the stipulated spot from which to present him was entirely focussed on the job in hand. He made his announcement with the firm and dignified note expected of a man of his stamp.
It was then down to Stuart Sager to fulfil his role as installing master. No doubt feeling under pressure from such an array of high-ranking dignitaries and the fact that it had been 28 years since he last performed an installation ceremony, Stuart made a reserved start, feeling his way and hesitantly progressing through the proceedings little by little. He then got into the swing of things. By the time he had installed Ken into the chair of King Solomon, he was brimming with assertiveness. The ceremony was going along swimmingly. Stuart was on to a good thing and he pushed it along.
Ken, comfortably settled into the chair, took charge of the lodge with confidence and alacrity. Down through the degrees he led the lodge. At each stage the working tools of the degree were presented – master Mason, fellow craft, and entered apprentice – courtesy of Alan Davies, Dave Barr and Martyn Jones; and all without any glitches.
It is at this point and in sunny mood that we re-introduce Giles Berkley to the reader of this chronicle. In quite the proper spirit of reverential compliance, Giles, having been positioned in a north-north-westerly location by the director of ceremonies James Rashid, prepared to deliver the address to the newly-installed master. His brain, functioning like a dynamo, ensured a perfect performance. Happiness, as solid thinkers have often pointed out, comes from giving pleasure to others; and the recital which Giles had just performed would, he knew, give immense pleasure to the new master and a considerable number of his fellow Masons. Ken, on his part, was as pleased as Punch. His face was wreathed in smiles.
It was then onto the investiture of the officers of the lodge. In customary order, the various officers were appointed. The senior and junior wardens were naturally the first ones to be invested and when installed at their posts, received a splendid address from Alan Whitehouse. Alan is a man in whose lexicon there is no such thing as mediocrity. He is a perfectionist at heart and verified this ethos in a superb recital of his allocated piece, gaining warmly admiration from the populace.
The remaining officers of the lodge were accordingly invested in the manner of a military manoeuvre that was executed with such precision that had a great campaign strategist like Napoleon or Field Marshall Montgomery been present, he would have nodded approval.
All that remained was for Robert Wright to perform his address to the brethren of the lodge. Having been positioned for an uninterrupted view of the lodge room, Robert addressed the brethren in an effortless delivery with perfect pace. You know the sort of performance; a delivery that amplifies the message of the narrative and raises the hairs on the back of the neck. It was a superb conclusion to a super ceremony.
The installation having been completed, Stuart finally pronounced those memorable – and as far as Ken was concerned, epoch-making – words: “That concludes the ceremony of your installation.” Stuart sighed with relief. Ken beamed with delight. Stuart had completed his task of installing Ken and had performed it with dignity and sincerity, terminating his success with a series of broad smiles. Any nerves that he may have felt had passed. His uneasiness was at rest.
That moment of Stuart’s relief at his announcement was naturally also a cue for Robert to rise once more, now to convey greetings and congratulations from the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. Praising those who had so delightfully contributed to the success of the ceremony, Robert was lavish in his approbation of the quality and enjoyment of it all.
Responding joyously and proudly, Ken was eager to carry out his first official duty as master of the lodge – presenting charitable disbursements to Robert who, on disclosing the contents of the envelope that had been handed to him, was delighted to announce that £500 was donated to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and a further £500 to Prostate Cancer. Clearly impressed, Robert thanked the brethren for their generosity on behalf of the final recipients.
The success of the ceremony nestled comfortably on the minds of the masses as they retired to the festive banquet that was served in the ballroom of the Savoy Hotel. Additional to the excellent culinary delights, there is a distinctive ambience at the festive banquet of Senatores Lodge of Installed Masters. Integrating grand officers, high ranking Provincial grand officers and master Masons, intimately arranged around circular tables, encourages lively and diverse conversations. It is the embodiment of wholesome relaxation and cordial camaraderie.
The sumptuous repast completed and all grateful diners settled in contented mood, there only remained the traditional toasts and responses. Responding to the toast to grand officers proposed by Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee, Robert Wright, with his usual understated eloquence, proceeded to apprise the brethren of the issues currently of primary importance to the Provincial Grand Master and spoke with generous warmth of the manner in which Stuart had installed Ken into the chair of King Solomon. Making reference to the recent meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at the Winter Gardens, he congratulated all who had received acting Provincial ranks, first appointments or promotions saying: “All are thoroughly deserved and should be considered with pride and distinction.”
Stuart, who was by now his calm, keen self again, proposed a glowing toast to Ken, offering his audience an insight into Ken’s distinguished Masonic career. Stuart, whose nature is essentially reserved and unobtrusive, on conclusion of his toast was followed, in marked contrast, by the Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst’s flamboyant and zestful rendition of the master’s song. Full of oomph and enthusiasm, Godfrey’s performance instilled a passion amongst his audience to join in the celebrations to the full. Toasting the health of colleagues continued for some time before being called to order to pay attention to the newly installed master.
Ken was magnanimous in his response, noticeably moved by the occasion whilst unable to mask his pleasure at becoming the master of a lodge for a third time. He sincerely thanked the lodge and all those who had been involved in the ceremony, his inner joy clearly oozing from his modest demeanour.
Ken may well have willingly relinquished the treasurer’s chair to occupy the master’s, but judging from the comfortable and confident manner in which he has settled into his new position, persuading him to vacate it will pose a greater challenge to the lodge. But then, the lodge will certainly find it difficult to find anyone better.