As Mount Lodge No 6654 celebrated 70 years since its consecration in 1948, Peter Rumney reflected on its chequered history.
Mount Lodge was consecrated on 8 October 1948 in the main ballroom of the North Euston Hotel. Food rationing was still in place and a visit to the butchers shop still required a coupon. Men between the ages of 16 and 41 were still being conscripted into the forces and the National Health Service which had just been born, provided free health care at point of delivery for life.
The lodge was consecrated by the Provincial Grand Master Arthur Foster with his deputy W S S Hannay acting as installing master. In addition to the 23 founding members 121 visiting brethren signed the attendance register.
During the years 1949 – 1955 there were regular initiations, passings and raisings often with two different ceremonies being held within one regular meeting. Mount Lodge was evolving in an era when the nation was coming out of austerity and new ideals abounded. During the first few years of existence, the lodge committee was solely made up of founders who steered the lodge in its infancy. This meant that unlike today, new brethren did not get a say in how the lodge might move forward.
Crucial decisions on the lodge’s future were made not by those who would take the lodge into its future but by those traditionalists who some felt were still living in the past. November 1949 saw the lodge meeting time changed to 6:30pm making it easier for working brethren to attend lodge meetings and in 1950 Grand Lodge advised lodges that with the removal of clothes rationing it was not unreasonable to expect brethren to dress in dark suit, white shirt, black shoes and tie.
In 1955 came the purchase of 32 The Esplanade, Fleetwood which is the lodge’s current home. Each lodge member was asked to donate £10 (£200 in today’s money) toward the purchase of the hall. Mount Lodge decided to pay the grand sum of £500 (£10,000 in today’s money) from lodge funds.
In 1981 Mount Lodge sponsored it’s one and only daughter lodge, Broadwater Lodge No 9027. Interestingly it was initially intended to be called Mountbatten Lodge but Broadwater was preferred in order to continue the tradition of lodges meeting at Fleetwood being named with a Fleetwood link.
1992 saw the lodge’s membership decline. The lodge, with falling membership managed to limp along to its 50th anniversary but, as the new millennium dawned, lodge membership began to grow again with new initiates joining the lodge between 1998 and 2010. The lodge welcomed no fewer than 16 new brethren into its number. From 2011 membership unfortunately declined again with the death of two stalwarts of the lodge, David Swarbrick and Alastair Dunlop. There were also a number of junior brethren who resigned from the Craft.
This brought some of the darkest days for the lodge. Over two years the lodge committee discussed on numerous occasions about handing back the lodge warrant. Opinion was divided but what everyone agreed on was that any final decision had to wait until the last surviving light blue, Mark Allen, had had the opportunity to occupy the chair which he did in 2016.
2017 dawned and the darkest period in history was upon the lodge. Every meeting was subdued with discussion focused on what was surely to be the surrender of the warrant. Mike Gaynor took the chair in February knowing that he was unlikely to see his year out and it would be his job to lead the lodge into what was thought to be the abyss. But… at the 11th hour came salvation!
Damon Tait, a regular attendee at the lodge, approached DC Jim Gregson with an idea. On his travels Damon had seen that lodges who were struggling sometimes managed to survive if they became what is known as a themed lodge. What if Mount became a themed lodge? More precisely, what if Mount Lodge became a motorcycle lodge? The idea was put to the members and it must be said the initial reaction was not one of great enthusiasm from the majority. Will the lodge members have to wear leather jackets? What happens to our ritual? Will they want to change the meeting day and time? Will social activities be motorbike riding? What sort of visitor will the lodge attract? These were all questions or comments which were asked time and time again. Ultimately things seemed to stagnate with no movement forward so the September 2017 meeting saw the secretary commence the formal process of surrendering the warrant. This suddenly seemed to bring home to members that the lodge was going to close.
The December meeting was upon the lodge. Everything came to a head at this meeting; the summons contained the entry for a ballot to surrender the warrant. In order for the lodge to continue, the majority of members had to black ball the proposition, never had the members been on such tenterhooks. Emails and phone calls bounced back and forth reminding brethren that at the ballot they had to black ball the proposal – something so rare the secretary was convinced that they would end up surrendering the warrant and all would have been in vain.
Thankfully, the rest is history as they say. Let’s hope that brethren can reach a 100th celebration and get the centenary jewel on at least some of the members’ breasts!
After the lodge closed in peace and harmony, the brethren made their way to a jolly and thoroughly enjoyable festive board grateful that the lodge has found a new lease of life.