The preparations, orchestration and performance of an installation ceremony are a rummy time for a lodge, even for the most experienced of Masons, but can be far more traumatic for the majority of newer members. Their nerves may tingle; their spines may turn to spaghetti and their knees to jelly. And that can be when all the arrangements run without complications. How Hesketh Lodge No 950 would have welcomed an uncomplicated run-up to its installation meeting at Fleetwood Masonic Hall! But it was not to be so straightforward.
Dramatically, in the run-up to the day, the secretary’s home was struck by lightning, with the resultant inevitable malfunction of his computer and all other electrical appliances; leading performers were taken ill and the master elect was urgently admitted into hospital only a few days before the event. It might have been disastrous but the stoic nerves of the members were not going to fold. Rallying round, they were determined that the show would go on. And it did. Understudies were recruited for important roles; secretary Tony Hind pulled the administration together with his damaged computer and printer and the master elect Joseph Gordon discharged himself from hospital, relying on strong medication to see him through. Joe was not going to miss his big day.
Nerves had settled somewhat by the time the installation date came round but, unbeknown to them, another major surprise awaited them on the day. This point will be returned to later.
Principal guest and representative of the Provincial Grand Master on the day was Neil MacSymons, one of the more recent grand officers on the circuit, yet with the demeanour and presence of an old pro. Supporting Neil were fellow grand officers Peter Greathead, Brian Mayoh and North Fylde Group Chairman Duncan Smith, along with acting Provincial grand officer Alex Tomlinson.
Master of the lodge Alan Maxfield, a genial man with a kindly and pleasant expression, opened the lodge in fine style and the master elect Joe, while fighting his pain, demonstrated powerful strength of will and determination, as well as receiving strong support from his colleagues. The ceremony was proceeding delightfully when, just before the master elect was to be presented, a knock on the lodge door brought actions to a temporary halt. All anticipated that a rather embarrassed late-comer would humbly seek admission and trundle in. But it was no such thing. Instead, it was the unexpected arrival of a prominent personage in the form of the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp. As might be expected, his entrance sent a buzz of amazement round the inhabitants of the lodge. It was, however, but a mere trickle in comparison to that which accompanied his announcement that the Provincial Grand Master stood without and demanded admission. The master of the lodge glanced at the director of ceremonies with raised eyebrows. The director of ceremonies glanced at the inner guard. The inner guard glanced at the master. In a nutshell, there was a good deal of glancing at each other and raising of eyebrows going on.
Apparently, the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and Keith had been spectating at a rather disappointing football match and had decided that their time would be more productively spent visiting the lodge and meeting up with the brethren. Unsurprisingly, that is Tony’s nature; spontaneous in his actions and sincere in his enjoyment of Freemasonry. Having been warmly greeted by Alan, Tony immediately put the members at ease and joined in the day’s proceedings as if just another of the visitors. After recovering from the shock, Alan Maxfield’s delight was clearly evident and Joe Gordon adopted the expression of a Cheshire cat on being presented with a gigantic tin of tuna.
The lodge had chosen its understudies wisely. Calmly and with business-like efficiency, Duncan Smith presented the master elect to Alan and the ceremony continued in a relaxed, yet in a greatly uplifted spirit. Smiles reigned throughout and a general tranquillity descended on the scene. It was a measure of the character of the brethren of Hesketh Lodge that, after the surprise of the Provincial Grand Master’s arrival, they retained their nerve and performed with composure and passion.
Alan gave a delightful performance in installing Joe into the chair of King Solomon and subsequent addresses were similarly superb. Tony Hind, the long-suffering secretary of the lodge, despite the pressures that he had been under prior to the meeting, was word-perfect in his delivery of the working tools of a master Mason and probably the highlight of the day’s performances, were the recitals of the second and first degree working tools by newer members Peter Dunn and Conor Lahiff respectively. Giving of their best, they were a joy to witness.
The faultless quality continued throughout the ceremony with Duncan Smith, again at very short notice, delivering the address to the newly installed master with clarity and oomph. Steve Heginbotham was equally impressive with his address to the senior warden and Robert Stringer rolled out a magnificent address to the junior warden. There followed two further outstanding demonstrations of ritual with Mike Lamerton addressing the wardens and Neil MacSymons’ address to the brethren.
At the announcement that the ceremony had concluded, an amusing scenario unfolded. Neil MacSymons, acting as the representative of the Provincial Grand Master, was obliged to convey the best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master, despite the fact that Tony Harrison had been sat next to him during the ceremony and remained in his seat with a broad grin on his face while Neil carried out his official duty. Later, Neil confided with the brethren that the experience was akin to being a ventriloquist’s dummy. Tony, on the other hand, was quick to point out that the art of leadership is delegation.
The spirit of the whole evening had been one of support, encouragement, enjoyment and a generous dollop of true grit. An example of the support and caring ethos of the lodge came when Alan presented Neil with charitable disbursements to the value of £1,600; £300 going to Donna’s Dream House and £1,300 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, a donation that Neil was particularly pleased to receive. The meeting was further informed that the Hesketh Lodge social committee had also raised in excess of £2,450 for local charities, a point which was greeted with smiles of approval.
All in all, despite the complications that had arisen prior to the meeting and the shock of unexpected visitors, the brethren had held their nerve and produced a superb installation. It went to show that whatever is thrown at Hesketh Lodge, its brethren handles it with calmness and decorum. There was no panic, only good humoured efficiency.
And so it was that the gathering retired to the festive banquet in uplifted spirit to get on the outside of a sumptuous dinner and revel in a wonderful atmosphere of genial camaraderie. It was a time for the brethren to completely relax and enjoy a first class bill of fare in the knowledge that they had well and truly earned it.
Neil MacSymons, in his response to the toast to the grand officers, reinforced the mood of the evening with a stimulating and entertaining speech, earning the respect and admiration of the throng. The revelry continued in high spirits for the duration of the evening with a boisterous toast to the new master, following a most impressive rendition of the master’s song by courtesy of Hugh Mett, with David Brown accompanying at the piano. It was a fitting conclusion to a most enjoyable and gratifying occasion. Whatever concerns the members of Hesketh Lodge may have had during the preparations for the day, their character, personalities and determination made the occasion one to be remembered. They can be rightly proud of themselves.