The installation meeting of Lancaster Castle Lodge No 5952 saw master elect James (Jim) Sexton Hamilton take the chair of this fine lodge for a second time, having already been master in 2001.
The principal guest and representative of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, was a familiar and much respected Mason John William Robson, who was accompanied by Lancaster and District Group Chairman Neil McGill, group vice chairman Scott Devine, group secretary Chris Larder and grand officers Phil Gardner, Jim Wilson, Chris Butterfield and Malcolm Dewhurst. Further distinguished support was provided by acting Provincial grand officers Reg Wilkinson, Les Newlands and Graham Dowling.
On being introduced to the principal guest by the lodge director of ceremonies Peter Whaley, who after many years of great service to the lodge was standing down at this installation, the WM John Clare welcomed John and his distinguished colleagues into the lodge and wished them a happy and enjoyable afternoon. John suitably responded by expressing his delight at being at Lancaster Castle Lodge and ‘yes, he was determined to enjoy himself, but hoped that the WM and all the brethren would as well’.
The Master elect was presented by Alan Fleming, upon which installing master John Clare conducted the ceremony in fine style, together with his team of installing officers.
After assuming the chair of King Solomon, new master Jim was presented with faultless explanations of the working tools by three ‘light blues’. Andrew Capocci presented the third degree tools, those of the second degree were explained by Thomas Wilkinson and those of the first degree were given by Daniel Millican.
In delivering the address to the master, Alan Fleming gave a very powerful performance, which was mirrored in the address to the wardens by Philip Howden and the address to the brethren by John Robson. The acting Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Reg Wilkinson, was asked to give the address to the deacons, which he gave in superb fashion.
As the ceremony drew to a close, John was delighted to bring to the newly installed master and the lodge, the greetings and congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master. John felt sure that had Tony been present in person, he would have been very impressed with the proceedings, as it had been one of the finest ceremonies he had seen for a long time; everyone had excelled. Tony would also have wished to thank Jim for taking the chair of the lodge again and to wish him the very best of health to enjoy his year in office.
After being presented with a number of cheques and a list of disbursements by John Clare, on behalf of the lodge, John was fulsome in his praise, commenting that these were wonderful donations. The beneficiaries of the lodge’s generosity included the MCF 2021 Festival £2855 (including £1355 from the white envelope scheme), Lancaster Masonic Hall £1200, lodge widows £100, Masonic sporting charities £140, Sunbeam Childrens Charity £400, Positive Futures North West £250, North West Ambulance £400, North West Blood Bikes £465. Together with various other Masonic donations of £420, this gave a combined total of £6230, an unbelievable amount of money and one which John described as a ‘wonderful achievement’.
On account of the money raised towards the MCF 2021 Festival, it entitled the lodge to be awarded ‘Patron’ status of the festival. A certificate acknowledging their achievement was passed by the group charity steward Simon Hanson to the principal guest, who then had the pleasant duty of presenting the certificate to Jim.
The Festival of St John held in the dining suite at Rowley Court was well attended, with well over 90 guests. In response to the toast to the grand officers, John Robson began by bringing his own personal congratulations and those of his grand lodge colleagues, to everyone who had played a part in the ceremony and affirmed his admiration for the fine standard of work he had witnessed earlier in the lodge room. John made particular mention of the young brethren who had presented the working tools as well as the DC Peter Whalley for arranging and choreographing such a magnificent ceremony. As this was his last ceremony as DC, John wished Peter much success in the future and passed on his best wishes to the new DC Richard Holdstock.
In drawing the attention of his audience to current Masonic issues, John elaborated on, amongst other topics, the MCF 2021 Festival and the Royal Arch.
In conclusion, John expressed his sincere wish that all the brethren would continue to enjoy their Freemasonry and that ‘today he had been made to feel amongst friends’.
In proposing the toast to the newly installed master, Alan Fleming was well placed to provide some potentially embarrassing stories, being a close friend of Jim’s, however he restricted his speech to an interesting but often humorous summarisation of Jim’s personal life and Masonic career. Particular mention was made of the WM commitment to Lancaster Castle Lodge.
The master’s song was performed by the consummate Gary Rogerson, with musical support by David Tattersall, following which the newly installed master made his response. Jim thanked all the brethren of Lancaster Castle Lodge for their encouragement, with particular praise for John Clare, who will be a hard act to follow.
One final detail of the evening was to present John Robson, on behalf of the lodge, with a bouquet of flowers for his wife.
A bonus, on top of what had already been an excellent afternoon and evening, was the announcement that the raffle had raised £624 for good causes and that with the additional ‘donation’ of £40 from the ‘master’s swindle’, the grand total stood at £664.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.