It is often said that ‘the cream always rises to the top’, which is certainly the case for Maxwell Norman Rae who has just become master of a lodge for a fifth time. Having already been master of Fraternity Lodge No 4072 in 1990 and 2002 and Pilling Lodge No 7879 in 1995 and 2010, Norman has now become master of Garstang Lodge No 6633. The principal guest and representative of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison on this august occasion was the Provincial Senior Grand Warden John David Lee. John was accompanied by Lancaster group chairman Jim Wilson and fellow grand officer Christopher Butterfield, together with group vice chairman Neil McGill and acting Provincial officers Gordon Sandford and Bernard Snape.
On entering the lodge room John Lee was warmly welcomed by the installing master Michael Fleet, who it has to be said performed admirably throughout the ceremony, even though he had just lost a very close family relative. In acknowledging Michael’s situation, John praised him for his stoicism and ‘wished him well for the rest of the ceremony.’ In his valedictory address, Michael thanked the brethren of Garstang Lodge both for their support throughout the year, which “he had enjoyed very much” and during his recent tribulations.
In an impressive ceremony, the master elect Norman Rae was presented by the lodge junior warden Bill Williamson and then well and truly placed in the master’s chair with great dignity by Michael. After assuming the chair of King Solomon new master Norman was presented with impressive explanations of the working tools by Alan Ormston (master Mason), Colin Richmond (fellowcraft) and Allan Gardner (entered apprentice) respectively. Following the appointment of the lodge officers the address to the master was delivered in a particularly pleasing style by William Richmond, followed by an address to the wardens by Graham Davies that was equally praiseworthy. John Lee gave the address to the brethren with absolute expertise and grace.
At the close of the ceremony it presented the opportunity for John Lee to convey the greetings and congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. John said that Tony would have been delighted by the excellence of the ceremony and would have certainly wished Norman, his officers and brethren of the lodge a very enjoyable, healthy and busy year. Before resuming his chair, John paid particular tribute to the immediate past master Michaele Fleet on conducting a sincere ceremony under difficult circumstances, adding that Michael had been ‘a wonderful ambassador’ for the lodge during his year of office. Special mention was also made of the three members who had delivered the explanations of the working tools in such an exemplary manner. At this juncture, John was presented with notification of charitable disbursements totalling the magnificent sum of £1,703.50, for which he thanked the lodge on behalf of all the recipients.
At the Festival of St John held in the superb Wyrebank Banqueting Suite, John was fulsome in his praise for the unending dedication shown by the grand, group and acting officers who were present on the day and for their year-round commitment in supporting both lodges and chapters in the group. Particular mention was made of the Lancaster group chairman Jim Wilson who leads with tremendous ‘passion, pride and dignity’ and whose very name, John said, is connected with the words ‘Lancaster Group’.
At this juncture, John brought his own congratulations on a most excellent ceremony and wished Norman and his officers a very healthy, busy, but above all a happy year in office. The ceremony, John remarked, had been a joy to witness but particularly wanted to thank the lodge secretary Frank Horn and the lodge director of ceremonies Allan Gardner for all their work in making it such a success and also the three brethren who had performed the working tools.
Moving on John also wished the lodge, after having been through some difficult times, a long and successful future, adding that the newly installed master “possesses a vast amount of experience and from his performance this afternoon the lodge is in very safe hands”. Praise was also given to Michael Fleet for “the quality of today’s installation ceremony” and to his contribution to Freemasonry during his tenure of office, saying that he had truly earned the respect of Garstang Lodge members.
John then updated the brethren on some of the issues close to the Provincial Grand Masters heart. The topics included an update on the Tercentenary celebrations which he hoped as many brethren as possible would support; the care structure, which John said was working well, but still required all of us to be vigilant and to “look out for brethren, their dependants and their families who may be in need of our assistance”; the Masonic Charitable Foundation which was now the overarching charity for all other charities held under the Grand Charity. It was important we all supported the 2021 Festival as a way of funding the MCF, and John was particularly pleased to see that many of the brethren were already wearing the new festival jewel. John finished by asking all present to “continue to support each other, be thankful for what you have, but be ever mindful of the needs of others”.
The toast to the new master Norman Rae was a personalised and warm tribute by Michael Fleet, which outlined Norman’s personal and Masonic career and which concluded by Michael offering Norman his “heartfelt thanks for his help today”. This touching tribute to the new master was then underscored by a stirring performance of the master’s song by Bob Tinsley accompanied by David Tattersall. In Norman’s reply, he thanked both Garstang Lodge for “allowing him to become master” and Michael, for the way in which he was installed in the master’s chair. The announcement that the raffle had raised £330, which together with the £25 from the master’s swindle realised a fine figure of £355 towards good causes, was greeted with a round of applause.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.