Assistant Provincial Grand Master Stewart Seddon was warmly welcomed as the principal guest when he attended Lancaster Castle Lodge No 5952 at Rowley Court, Lancaster. Stewart was accompanied and supported by Lancaster and District Group Vice Chairman Neil McGill, group secretary Scott Devine, grand officer Philip Gardner and a whole host of acting Provincial grand officers, almost too many to mention – but they will be; David Kenworthy, Andrew Ridal, Steve Plevey, Ian Smith, Derek Robinson, Gordon McKay, Alfred Dickinson, Stewart Aimson, Philip Burrow, Anthony Slater, Andrew Sumner and David Rigby.
Master of the lodge Lawrence Branyan got the proceedings off to an efficient start and on the conclusion of routine business was pleased to welcome Stewart into the lodge room, and as is the tradition, offered him the gavel. In response Stewart remarked: “I’m sure that I’m going to have an excellent afternoon and evening, but have always wondered what the reaction would be if I decided to retain the gavel, however, sadly for Lawrence it will not be happening today”, and promptly took his rightful place in the lodge. In an overall impressive ceremony Jim Hamilton had the privilege of presenting John Clare as master elect for the ensuing year before the installing master Lawrence, placed John in to the master’s chair, with equal measures of warmth, veracity and humour. This is the second time John has been master of a lodge having already occupied the chair of King Solomon in the Fleet Air Arm Lodge No 8867 in the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight in 1994.
After assuming the master’s chair, John was presented with first-rate explanations of the working tools by Andy Capocci (third degree), Tom Wilkinson (second degree), and John Stanley (first degree). The additional addresses were also executed with style; John’s presenter Jim Hamilton gave a fine rendition of the address to the master, Phil Howden performed the address to the wardens in an equally impressive manner, whilst the address to the brethren was performed splendidly by Stewart Seddon. The traditional address to the deacons was given appropriately by Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Steve Plevey, whilst that to the stewards was presented by Provincial Grand Steward Stewart Aimson.
Following the appointment and investment of lodge officers for the ensuing year and the announcement that the ceremony was complete, Stewart rose to communicate the greetings of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. Stewart informed the brethren that he was sure Tony would want to congratulate all who had taken part in the ceremony, none more so than the immediate past master Lawrence, who had done an absolutely splendid job and with just the right amount of humour. Stewart was delighted to receive notice of donations made by the lodge to charity and good causes totalling some £4,820. Amongst the beneficiaries where the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival to the tune of £3,325, which included money collected from the white envelope scheme and a donation of £1500 from the lodge, which allowed the group charity steward Simon Hanson, together with Stewart to present the lodge with a vice patron’s certificate acknowledging the tremendous donation they had made to the MCF 2021 Festival. Other recipients were Lancaster Masonic Hall receiving £825, the group ball, raffle and walk of £465, lodge widows of £150 and Masonic sporting charities of £55. On behalf of the eventual recipients, Stewart thanked the brethren of Lancaster Castle Lodge for their generosity.
At the festival of St John, held at Rowley Court, Lancaster, Stewart was able to convey his own greetings and in particular marked out the standard of ritual evidenced during the ceremony, none more so than the brethren who had presented the working tools so well. In conveying the thoughts and wishes of the Provincial Grand Master, Stewart began by discussing the MCF 2021 Festival, which should, the Provincial Grand Master hopes, be at the forefront of our minds over the next four years. The Provincial Grand Master was delighted that the Province of West Lancashire was the first to support the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the charity which overarches the previous four central Masonic charities. £1,500,000 has already entered then festival chest and on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master, Stewart congratulated the brethren of Lancaster Castle Lodge on attaining vice patron of the MCF 2021 Festival as well as all the other brethren present who had taken out pledges and were wearing their festival jewel with pride. Whilst the Provincial Grand Master hopes the majority of our giving will be directed to the festival, he is conscious that many members will still wish to give assistance to their favourite causes, as evidenced by the tremendous sum of £825 donated to Lancaster Masonic Hall.
The next topic on the agenda was the Royal Arch and being an integral part of Freemasonry, the Provincial Grand Master hopes its interests will be forwarded by those who are Royal Arch Masons, making sure in the process that they highlight how important the degree, once described as the root, heart and marrow of Freemasonry, is in completing one’s journey through pure antient Freemasonry. Stewart also mentioned the tercentenary and thanked everyone for their support, adding that as we move towards the end of this celebratory year please continue to support the events still yet to be held, when you can. Concluding, Stewart thanked all the acting Provincial grand officers, the group officers, the lodge director of ceremonies and the lodge secretary for their support and hard work in making the day and evening such a successful occasion.
Jim Hamilton, in his toast to the new master, shared with the brethren some brief extracts from John’s remarkable career in the Fleet Air Arm and later at JP Morgan, following which an impressive rendition of the master’s song was accorded by John Atkinson with accompaniment by David Tattersall. John responded to the toast to his health with gratitude, humour and sincerity. With 104 brethren attending the festivities, it can be said that the evening had been a great success; made only more so by the announcement that the raffle had raised a further £619, with an additional sum of £35 being raised through the masters’ swindle.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.