With nerves jangling just a tad, the key participants prepared to install Ray Boardman as first principal of the Chapter of Fidelity No 1256. It was to be Ray’s second stint in charge of the chapter, having first held the office in 1996. The apprehension on this occasion was created by the attendance of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison visiting the chapter in the company of several grand and Provincial grand officers.
On the visit, Tony Harrison was accompanied by Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson, grand officer Stuart Thornber, Chairman of South Fylde Group Ian Ward, Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah David Barr, along with Provincial Grand Stewards Phil Bolton, Juan Topping, Martin Dennison and Brian Griffiths. The procession of visiting dignitaries was announced and conducted into the chapter by Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Neil MacSymons.
The Grand Superintendent was welcomed by the retiring first principal Stephen Wadsworth, who in traditional manner, offered the first principal’s sceptre to Tony. Tony received the sceptre with aplomb and after some encouraging words returned it to Stephen who then proceeded to invest and install the new first and second principals. The third principal elect Peter Walker was unable to attend due to hospitalisation. His place for the sake of the meeting was taken by past first principal Philip Cunningham. Good wishes for Peter’s speedy recovery were voiced by many throughout the evening.
Assisting Stephen Wadsworth during the ceremony were Stuart Sager and Tom Prue as installing second and third principals and George Clitheroe as installing Scribe Nehemiah. Stuart also assisted with the scripture readings along with Glyn Lloyd. Explanations of the significance of the principal’s robes were given by chapter director of ceremonies Martin Dennison and South Fylde Group Mentor Nigel Walker.
George Roper gave a splendid explanation of the past first principal’s jewel to Stephen Wadsworth, followed by addresses to the principals by Glyn Lloyd and to the chapter officers by South Fylde Group Vice Chairman John-Robbie Porter. The address to the companions of the chapter was given by David Randerson. A further address, being that to the chapter charity steward, was delivered to Philip Cunningham by group charity steward Dave McKee.
At the conclusion of an excellent ceremony Tony Harrison described the proceedings as having been carried out in a delightful manner. He congratulated all of the companions who had taken office and all of those who had taken part, adding that it had been obvious that an awful lot of practise had gone into the final result. Cheques for £250 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, £124 for the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and £100 for the Poulton-le-Fylde Masonic Hall Fund were then presented to the Grand Superintendent, for which he thanked the chapter on behalf of the eventual recipients.
Ian Ward, speaking on behalf of the grand officers, observed that the excellence of delivery and gesture displayed by John-Robbie Porter and David Randerson showed that their lodge, Ansdell Lodge No 3607, must be a fine academy for actors. He wished the principals good health to enjoy their year and hoped that the chapter would have some candidates during their year in office.
During the after dinner speeches David Randerson responded to the toast to the grand officers. He assured those present that the grand officers had thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and the festive board, knowing just how much work had gone into ensuring the success of the evening. He went on to thank Tony Harrison for the tremendous backing he has given to Royal Arch Masonry in the Province of West Lancashire and for the great advances made in this order. He told of the great respect brethren and companions had for Tony’s unbounded work ethic and approachability. David also offered thanks to Tony’s wife Maureen for her wholehearted support. David concluded by pointing out that Tony led by example in his desire that everyone should be enjoying their Masonry.
Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison began by thanking David for his introduction. Tony continued by saying what a really great evening had been enjoyed by all, adding that it was nice to go to a chapter and have a relaxing evening, even though it may not have been relaxing for those taking part. He praised the Chapter of Fidelity for performing an excellent ceremony, particularly Ray Boardman who, on his second time around, was leading the way.
Tony thanked the acting Provincial grand officers for their attendance, particularly Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah David Barr and the very hard working Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Neil MacSymons. Tony also thanked Ian Ward for his invite into the group and thanked Ian and his group officers for the vital work that they put into the running of the group and the Province of West Lancashire.
Tony felt sure that everyone had enjoyed the evening, which showed the importance of the Royal Arch. He informed the audience that only 42 per cent of the membership of the Craft were chapter members and hoped that all present would act as membership officers and encourage Craft members to join. He assured everyone that the work done in West Lancashire was greatly admired by the high rulers in London and urged the companions to show Grand Chapter what we can do with regard to recruitment.
Tony continued by congratulating the members of the Chapter of Fidelity on their designated Provincial honours. He also thanked everyone for their support for the tercentenary events. He was glad to announce that the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test that assists in early detection of prostate cancer held last year would be repeated at Provincial Grand Lodge at Blackpool on 9 May 2018. He also announced that the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity would be presenting two specialised motorcycles to the Blood Bikes Charity, each of which would cost £18,500.
He also spoke of his pleasure at receiving many letters of appreciation from people who had benefitted from the Blood Bikes riders.
Tony concluded by expressing his thanks for the continued support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival and noticed that many companions were wearing their Festival Jewels. He particularly thanked the Festival representatives and charity stewards for their work in promoting this worthy cause. He explained that at least £1,000,000 a year was returned to recipients in West Lancashire in various types of grants.
Dave Barr responded to the toast to the Provincial grand officers and while doing so he congratulated Martin Dennison and Antony Hill for their work in choreographing a fine ceremony. He also gave thanks to John Moss for his secretarial finesse in keeping everyone informed of the details of the event, the catering and table plan, and administrative work that nobody else sees. Dave also congratulated Stephen Wadsworth, Tom Prue and Ray Boardman on their forthcoming Provincial appointments.
Stephen Wadsworth in his short toast to the new principals expressed his own hope and that of others that third principal elect Peter Walker and makes a speedy recovery following his operation, thus enabling him to be installed at the May meeting. Stephen also looked forward to a successful year which would be led by a strong and experienced team.
In his response Ray Boardman expressed a series of thank yous, particularly to singer Hugh Mett for singing the principals’ song, accompanied by Malcolm Burrell on the piano. Ray explained that in over 70 years of the chapter’s history, this was the first time that this song had been performed at an installation festive board.
Before closing, charity steward Philip Cunningham thanked all the companions for their generosity as £219 had been raised for Masonic and non-Masonic charities. He also thanked Tony Harrison for his detailed information concerning all of the charity work being carried out in the Province.
The meeting was brought to a close by Tom Sloane, a visitor from Tithebarn Chapter No 8446, who had acted as janitor throughout the evening. Tom proposed the janitor’s toast, to all poor and distressed companions.