There are lodge stalwarts and then there is Bill Williamson. Bill’s commitment to his lodge and to Masonry in general was thoroughly illustrated when he took the chair of King Solomon in Garstang Lodge No 6633 for the sixth time, the first being in 1991. It is demanding enough going through the chair the first time around, but to replicate that six times is tremendous.
Principal guest on this exceptional evening was the Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor, accompanied by a plethora of Lancaster and District Group officers, including group chairman Jim Wilson, vice chairman Neil McGill, group secretary Scott Devine and assistant group secretary Chris Larder, as well as grand officer Dave Thomas and acting Provincial grand officers Steve Plevey and Stewart Aimson.
A full lodge room witnessed a delightfully charming ceremony led by installing master Norman Rae. Bill was installed into the chair of Garstang Lodge in fine style by Norman and after taking the master’s chair he was presented with explanations of the working tools in each degree. Andrew Bartlett explained those of the third degree, Colin Richmond the second degree and Alan Ormston explained the first degree working tools. Bill Richmond took to the floor to present the address to the master and with very short notice, Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee gave the address to the wardens, following which the address to the brethren of the lodge was presented by the principal guest Peter Taylor.
On completion of the ceremony, Peter was pleased to bring fraternal greetings from the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. Peter was certain that had Tony been present he would have wished to congratulate the installing master, who had been a great ambassador for the lodge, as well as all the brethren who had taken part in the ceremony. It was with great pleasure that Peter received a number of charitable donations totalling the magnificent sum of £4,632.30. Amongst the beneficiaries were the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival £1398 (which included £398 in white envelope donations), Garstang Masonic Hall £1,000, Coppull and Standish Brass Band £250, Children Festivals in Garstang, Churchtown and Catterall £900, Parkinson’s Charity £250, Garstang School of Gymnastics £250, with further donations to the group sporting charities, lodge widows, Garstang Masonic Fellowship, NW Blood Bikes and the group ball.
At a very well attended festival of St John, held at Wyrebank, Garstang, the guests dined on an excellent three course meal. In his response to the toast to the grand officers, Peter brought his own congratulations to the new master, hoping he had a happy and successful sixth year and affirming his admiration for the professional and dignified manner in which he had been placed in the master’s chair, adding that installing master Norman ‘should sleep well this evening’.
Peter touched on a number of issues that were deserving of consideration including the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, the Royal Arch and the ongoing membership initiative, which has provided a big boost to membership numbers in the Province. The numbers of new Masons leaving has reduced and is reflected in the average age of membership now standing at 45. However, it is still extremely important that newer members are looked after by the lodge and not left to their own devices. Peter concluded by reminding the brethren that they are all custodians of their lodges and that new members are the future of Masonry.
Peter thanked Jim and the group officers for their work within the group as well as thanking the acting Provincial grand officers for their support.
The installing master Norman Rae gave a splendid toast to the new WM, following which the traditional master’s song was performed by Bob Tinsley, with accompaniment by David Tattersall. Responding to the toast to his health, Bill expressed gratitude to all those who had contributed to making the day so very special for him. Before the evening ended, the masters in office presented the WM with a collection for charity totalling £60, from what is nominally called the ‘master’s swindle. This figure was in addition to the £355 raised from the raffle and completed a very enjoyable evening for all.
One final presentation was made at the conclusion of the evening and that was to give Peter a bouquet of flowers for his wife, on behalf of the brethren of Garstang Lodge.
Article by Paul Thompson.
Photographs courtesy of Stewart Aimson.