Ashton and Mossley District Latest News
About two years ago Denton Lodge No 5234 came very close to handing in its Warrant. At almost the last minute they came to an agreement with a group of Masons, mostly based in Mossley, which saw Denton Lodge continue, albeit moved from Ashton to Mossley and with a reduced pattern of meetings. Most of the original members of the Lodge continue to attend the reborn Denton Lodge as Honorary Members of the Lodge though their regular attendance would suggest that they do not regret the continuance of their Lodge. One of the biggest changes in the Lodge is that it no longer seeks new initiates, though it is more than welcoming to Joining Members. The other major change is that the Lodge has set out to offer significant talks of Masonic Interest at its regular meetings. The meeting that took place on Friday 20th June was a perfect example of that aim.
The meeting was attended by our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro John Pearson PSGD and our District Chairman, WBro Ken Hampson PAGDC, together with most of the District Team and two of the Area’s Acting Officers of the Year. However, it was not a formal meeting, but rather a very happy occasion marking one of the last Masonic Meetings of the season as well as an interesting and diverting talk, and all on a Friday evening. What is more the talk, which was entitled “Roslyn Chapel and the real origins of Freemasonry – Floorcloths to Tracing Boards – The Kirkwall Scroll and 600 Years of Masonic meaning” looked as if it would be of great interest, especially as the speaker was to be Brother Dr Robert Lomas, the author of “The Hiram Key” and other international bestsellers.
Bro Dr Robert Lomas
Brother Dr Robert Lomas is an internationally renowned, best selling author. He gained a first-class honours degree in electronics from Salford University before earning a Ph.D in solid-state physics. He went on to work on cruise missiles and Fire Service Command and Control software. In 1986, he became a Freemason and quickly established himself as a popular lecturer on Masonic history before co-authoring a series of international best-sellers beginning with “The Hiram Key.” He currently lectures in Information Systems at Bradford University. It has been suggested that his ideas may have inspired Dan Brown, author of the “DaVinci Code” and it was suggested in an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post that the central character of that book, Robert Langdon, is based on Dr Lomas. He is certainly an author who inspires strong feelings about his work and he presented an excellent, and extremely thought provoking, illustrated talk.
(From L to R) WBros Bryan Bancroft, Robert Lomas, John Pearson APGM, Ian Stone (WM),
WBro Ian Stone PProvGStwd, the Worshipful Master of Denton Lodge, personally invited Dr Lomas to come to Denton Lodge with his talk which illustrated aspects of the history of the Craft. Though the talk was entitled “Rosslyn Chapel and the real origins of Freemasonry”, it actually concentrated far more on the Kirkwall Scroll and the development of the Masonic tradition”. Here I must be careful, as not everyone who has read the works of Dr Lomas necessarily agrees with him and his theories. Certainly, his contention that modern Craft Freemasonry began in Scotland, well before the creation of United Grand Lodge in England, does not go down too well with United Grand Lodge itself, though it is easy to follow the arguments that Dr Lomas puts forward regarding the early development of Freemasonry in Scotland and England. Dr Lomas regards himself as a symbologist, another close connection with Dan Brown’s hero, though he admits that he theorises while Dan Brown’s character discovers. Much of the talk was centred on the insights we can gain by interpreting the symbols in an artefact like the Kirkwall Scroll. Nevertheless, this carefully argued talk was unquestionably a real step in masonic knowledge.
If you wish to see all of the photographs taken on the evening and have the option of downloading them,
Additionally, during the ceremony WBro Pearson had the very pleasing duty of presenting a Certificate to WBro Walvin marking the fact that every brother in Milton Lodge has made a donation to the East Lancs 2015 Festival. WBro Pearson said that it gave him great pleasure to make this presentation, the first one he has been able to make at Ashton. He noted that the donations made by the members of Milton Lodge average out to £370.00 per member and that this level of giving makes them the biggest donors, on a person by person basis, of any Lodge in Ashton & Mossley District.
John Pearson with the WM of
WBro Martin Roche PSGD APGM
Later, at the Social Board, WBro Pearson spoke about his evening in glowing terms. “I expected a very happy and fraternal evening. We have all enjoyed your friendship in the Lodge and I thank you, and all the brethren of Milton Lodge for your kind and generous welcome. I first met you, Worshipful Master, when we walked the Province together, a year or two back. I must also comment on WBro Martin Roche, who cannot be beaten for eloquence. He is at his best when he is talking about Recruitment and Retention, a subject that he has made his own. It is good to see that he has achieved a good deal of success with his own Lodge.”
WBro Pearson then continued by congratulating WBro Ken Hampson, our District Chairman, who had just received notice of his own appointment to the rank of PAGDC. “This, Ken, is a reward for all the work that you have done in this District over many years. We all have a great deal to be proud of as Freemasons. Inside your copy of Freemasonry Today, which you will have received by post, is a small pamphlet which lists all of the donations that have been made by Grand Charity. No one should be at all unsure about the real value of the work that we do in terms of Charity.”WBro Pearson then closed by saying, “The Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VWBro Derek Thornhill, recently said that “We take good men and make them better.” I’m sure we can all identify in ourselves, (even if it isn’t always immediately apparent to others) ways in which we have as individuals improved as a result of our learning through Freemasonry. But I have to say that looking at the photographs from past Masters & First Principals Dinners that are hung in the Lodge anteroom, and after the excellent dinner we have enjoyed tonight, perhaps we should also say, “We take thin men and make them fatter.” Worshipful Master, thank you very much for your hospitality and thank you for the cheque you have presented on behalf of your Lodge, for the 2015 Festival
If you wish to see all of the photographs taken on the night, and have the option of downloading them, please follow this link to the online photo gallery
WBro Martin Roche PSGD, APGM has sent the following Open Letter to all of the brethren of the Northern Area. I believe that this is an excellent letter and puts forward a very important issue, and so I have asked permission to reproduce this article for you. I commend this article to your attention – I believe that the points it makes are very worthy of your consideration.
WBro John Pearson PAGReg, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Southern Area.
"We are now some 19 months away from the end of our RMBI 2015 Festival and it is worth just pausing to remember who we are trying to assist and why.
There still seems to be some confusing messages about our Festival and who we are helping. The simple thing we all need to focus on is that the beneficiaries of your kindness are our own Brethren and their families. They are not strangers. They are not a group of people who all live in the south of England. They are members of our own Province. They live in our own Ecclesholme as well as living in any one of the other 16 RMBI homes. They are members of our own extended family whom we have never had the pleasure of meeting. More importantly, never had the joy of appreciating how our kindness, how our generosity, how our commitment to them has done more than help them. And we need to be very, very clear on this. For all of them it has changed their lives. But changed them in a very fundamental way. I am not speaking about giving them something extra, a benefit. It is something far more profound. We are giving them something that you and I take for granted: quality of life and above all else, something that has no price, that we all expect for ourselves and our loved ones – dignity.
The RMBI may have provided the services, the infrastructure to make that happen, but you have done it. You have made it happen. You have changed and improved the lives of people you will never know with your money in a way which may have a monetary value, but possess a worth in human terms which is priceless. On a daily basis you are changing peoples’ lives.
As Freemasons through our Festival we are given the amazing opportunity to change peoples’ lives. The lives of a unique extended family which only a fraternity such as ours can be privileged to affect.
Every day and with every pound you are touching and improving a life. That means that every pound counts. And for every pound we divert away from this vital work, we diminish the benefit we are imparting.
I therefore implore you. We have 19 months left and in that time, you may only have one installation left to make a difference through your charitable giving. So simply reflect on what I have written and consider in this last, final push to make all your giving count towards our extended family within the RMBI. Just for one year. Yes, we all have our favourite charities, me included. I would gladly give every penny I will ever possess to The Stroke Association if I thought it would help prevent another loss like the one I experienced. And you all have the same stories. But as a Freemason, I balance that against a greater responsibility. I simply ask you to make the same consideration as I have. By all means, personally support those good causes which are close to your heart through your own personal charitable giving. But when it comes to Masonic giving by your Lodge, remember where that specific money can make the greatest difference and where our priorities really need to sit.
And that has got to be first and foremost with the RMBI.
So. When your Lodge next sit down to consider who you are giving your Masonic charitable monies to, remember the beneficiaries of the RMBI. They have no voice but ours, no money but ours, no help but ours, no one else to rely on but us.
I am immensely grateful and humbled for what you are all doing and you all have my unreserved thanks, gratitude and respect."
WBro Martin P Roche PSGD
Assistant Provincial Grand Master
Mossley Lodge No 6577 is now 66 years old, having been consecrated in 1948. Unlike many Lodges in these straightened times it has seen a good deal of growth in the last few years and seems to continue to attract new members. Perhaps it has lessons to teach all of us that we would do well to learn. Certainly, during the meeting that took place on Tuesday 11th March, besides the regular business of the evening, there was a joining member coming in and notice of three Raisings that will no doubt take place in the near future. However they are growing, though, I have no doubt that they would welcome visitors to any of their forthcoming meetings.
There was a splendid turnout for the Installation Meeting of Mossley Lodge
The business of this evening, though, was the Installation of Bro Duncan Byers, the leader of Mossley Band, as the sixty seventh Worshipful Master of the Lodge. Since Duncan comes, originally, from the west coast of Cumbria, we had the delight of being joined by a number of Freemasons from the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland. Indeed, had not other business prevented it, we might well have had the company of the Provincial Grand Master of that Province as a guest on the night, but sadly that was not to be.
We did, however, have the always delightful presence of our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro John Pearson PAGReg, who was making an official visit to the Lodge, accompanied by a delegation of Provincial and District Officers. John entered the Lodge under the direction of WBro Mark Reader AProvGDC, and accompanied by WBro Ken Hampson PProvGJW, the District Chairman and others. As soon as he was settled, WBro Pearson introduced his team to the well filled Lodge Room and the ceremony began.
We were privileged to see an excellent demonstration of an Installation Ceremony, splendidly performed by the Installing Master, WBro Andrew Palmer PProvSGD, most ably assisted by a number of officers of the Lodge. There was no doubt, by the end, that Bro Byers had been well and truly installed into the Chair of his Lodge, something which really is the pinnacle of a Mason’s career. Bro Byers then ably demonstrated his own capabilities by carrying out his duties, appointing and investing his officers and finally closing his Lodge in a manner that brought great satisfaction to all those who saw it.
At the Social Board, WBro Pearson, responding to several toasts, spoke extremely well, as he always does. He started by thanking the Lodge for the kind hospitality and warm reception he had received, a sentiment which was surely echoed by all the visitors. He commented that it had been a wonderful ceremony and was only sorry that RWBro Norman J Thompson DL, the Provincial Grand Master for Cumberland and Westmorland, had not been able to come and hoped that he would be able to make a visit at some time during Duncan’s year in office. “Never mind,” he said, “I’m sure that we’ve all had a happy evening”, and how right he was.
WBro Pearson continued by speaking of the visit by RWBro Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master, to Lodge of Union in January, commenting that this had shown that when we toast the rulers of the Craft, they are not just names on a Toast List, “rather, they are people who actually care about East Lancs Freemasons.” He went on to comment on our own Provincial Grand Master, Sir David Trippier, saying, “he is a great leader for the Freemasons of East Lancashire, he is very much involved and far from being some kind of figurehead. I know that we will achieve great things under his leadership.” Carrying on to comment on the progress of the 2015 RMBI Festival, John noted the fact that Mossley Lodge was already a Grand Patron of this important Charity, but said that there was still the opportunity for individual members to give a little more in order to boost the overall total. “Just the price of one pint of beer a month for four years would make such a difference to the final total, and make it into a sum of which we could all be proud.”
Finally, at the end of the evening we were regaled by WBro Parker Wilkinson PAGDC, a Past Master of Alauna Lodge No 8808, in Maryport. Cumbria, who, in his reply from visiting brethren told us stories of how the new Worshipful Master had first learned the craft of being in a Brass Band. He assured us all that Bro Duncan Byers would be a credit to his Lodge, his Province and Freemasonry in general. It really was the perfect end to a splendid evening, and one that none of us who were present will soon forget.
If you wish to see all of the photographs taken on the night, and have the option of downloading them, please follow this link to the online photo gallery
WBros John Pearson and Ken Hampson at a recent meeting
It is with great pleasure that I can announce a first appointment to Grand Rank, and a promotion within Grand Rank, for two of the leaders of our Masonic community here in the Southern Area. At the Investiture Meeting of United Grand Lodge, which will be held on April 30th, our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro John Pearson PAGReg will be promoted to the rank of Past Senior Grand Deacon. At the same meeting, the District Chairman of Ashton & Mossley District, WBro Ken Hampson PProvJGW, will be appointed to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. Both John and Ken are extremely well known and highly regarded Freemasons. They both put an enormous amount of time into Masonry and have many friends within our fraternity. I know that there will be many brethren who will wish to offer them congratulations and best wishes for this signal honour both for themselves and for our area.
WBro John Pearson was initiated into Westholme Lodge 9101 on 9th November 1988, so is currently in his 26th year in Freemasonry. He was installed in the Chair of Westholme Lodge in 1995. He was exalted into Pennine Chapter 8798 in 1992 and was installed as 1st Principal in 1998. He is a founder member of Waverley Chapter No 1322 and has served that Chapter in the office of 1st Principal. He is a member of several Mark Lodges and is a member of University of Manchester RAM 1001. He tells me that his 2 claims to fame are, “first that I was President of the Board of Grand Stewards and proposed the toast to the Pro Grand Master in the Connaught rooms in London following the Investiture meeting; and secondly that I won the Mark Golfing Society wooden spoon for 3 years on the trot before I gave up to let someone else win it.” John is also a member of both the Rose Croix and the Allied Degrees.
Outside Freemasonry, John was a member of Saddleworth Round Table 558 from 1978 until he was obliged to leave at the age of 40. Whilst he was in the Round Table he served as Area Chairman for South East Lancashire before becoming a member of the National Executive of the Round Table of Great Britain and Ireland.
John served as District Chairman of Audenshaw District from March 2009 until 21st November 2013 when he was Invested as the Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Southern Area. I asked him what he did before becoming District Chairman, to which he replied, with customary modesty, “I behaved disgracefully.” John is “blissfully married” to Denise and together they have three, “gorgeous daughters.” In his spare time John enjoys fell walking, bird watching and gardening. “When I was younger I enjoyed playing all kinds of sport – football, rugby, cricket, tennis, squash but my sporting activity now is confined to lending much needed support to Oldham Athletic.” Finally, John was, and still is, a very successful solicitor, becoming, in 1975, the third generation of his family to become a Partner in his family firm.
WBro Ken Hampson is not so very different in many ways. In June of this year he will celebrate 25 years in Freemasonry, so he joined a Mossley Lodge just seven months after John Pearson did, and of course both had very successful careers in the Law. Ken Hampson was initiated into Mossley Lodge 6577 in June 1989, being installed in the Chair in March 1999. He was exalted into Three Shires Chapter 9397 in December 1993, being the joint first candidate to join the Chapter after its consecration. He has served as 1st Principal of his chapter on two occasions in 2002 and 2006. He is also a member of Three Shires Lodge 9397, Prince Alfred Chapter and Denton Lodge which he was instrumental in saving from closure. Ken became Secretary of Mossley Lodge in March 1991 and is still going strong. He has been Scribe E of Prince Alfred Chapter since joining and was Scribe E of Three Shires Chapter for 12 years, only retiring this year.
Ken is a member of three Provincial Lodges and is also a member of the Mark, RAM, Rose Croix, Red Cross of Constantine and the Allied Degrees. He is currently serving on the ELMC Young Persons Committee and has been a member of the Westholme Scottish Association for 20 years. He has served on the Hall Committee of Westholme for 16 years, 4 as Deputy Chairman and three as Chair. He was appointed District Secretary in 2003 and served in that role for three and a half years before becoming Deputy Chairman for five years and Chairman for the last three.
Outside of Freemasonry (though I remain far from convinced that there is any such place for Ken) he has been very happily married to Karen for the last 29 years. Together they have two daughters who are both in their twenties and are delighted to have a grandson and a granddaughter who Ken informs me are “GREAT!” He makes no secret of the fact that he is the devoted follower of a certain local football club, the one that plays in blue and is somewhat larger than Oldham Athletic. Ken was a serving policeman for a number of years, rising to the rank of Inspector.
The W Master of Stamford and Assheton Lodge surrenders the Warrant to
WBro John Pearson, the APGM for the Southern Area
Some thirty Masons attended the 595th, and final, Regular Meeting of Stamford and Assheton Lodge No 6427 on 3rd March. I would like to say that those who attended “enjoyed” the meeting and the truly excellent Social Board that followed it, but somehow it does not feel right to say that you enjoyed seeing one of our Lodges close its doors for the last time. However, these things do happen and, while several of the members present looked ready to shed a tear from time to time, they were all eager to go out with a bang.
The meeting went well. The Lodge was opened by the Worshipful Master, WBro Philip Thompson PProvJGW, then a deputation entered, led by our APGM, WBro John Pearson PAGReg. He spoke briefly and introduced the members of the Deputation, which included almost the whole District Team from Ashton & Mossley, as well as the Chairman of Audenshaw District, WBro Gerry Hodson PProvSGD, and WBro Ian Screen PProvGSuptWks, the Area Coordinator, plus two Acting Officers of the Province WBro Mark Reader ProvAGDC and WBro Roy Tindall ProvAGStB.
The Provincial Deputation
The business of the meeting then resumed. WBro Bryan Bancroft PProvJGD, the Secretary of the Lodge read a brief but very interesting history of the Lodge. (You can find a link at the end of this article that will allow you to download a copy of Brian’s History.) It was fascinating to discover that the two Lodges which amalgamated to form this Lodge were consecrated just 65 days apart in 1947, making the combined Lodge 66 years old. WBro Pearson then addressed the members of the Lodge, reminding them that for many years the average Lodge only managed to exist for 25 years, whereas they had lasted for much longer. Then the Worshipful Master handed over the Warrants and Amalgamation Certificate to WBro Pearson and just like that, the Lodge was closed. If you have never attended the closure of a Lodge you might be surprised at how quickly it happens, for once the Warrant has been handed over, there simply is no further business.
The Members and Visitors at this last meeting of the Lodge
At the Social Board, after a wonderful meal, WBro Pearson thanked the members of the Lodge for their hospitality and said that it had been a sad but memorable occasion and reminded the members of the very enjoyable visit by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master just two months ago when he spoke very movingly about the changes that were occurring in the Lodge. He thanked WBro Ian Screen, the Area Coordinator, for all the work that he had done in helping the Lodge to reach this point. He ended by saying, “There are some really lovely people in this Lodge. I hope that you get the opportunity to meet together at some time in the future, then you can reminisce about all the good times that you had in this Lodge.
The members of Stamford and Assheton Lodge No 6427
The IPM, WBro Ward, PProvAGDC, in proposing the toast to the WMaster, said to WBro Thompson that, “It is wholly appropriate, given your long service in the Lodge, that it is you who should “turn out the lights.” It is a testament to you that, although you have not enjoyed the best of health recently, you have continued to turn up to our meetings.”
Finally, the Worshipful Master, WBro Philip Thompson PProvJGW, spoke. “On my way here this evening I was pretty sure that there would be no toast to the WMaster, because by this point there really is no WMaster, so I didn’t prepare anything. When we amalgamated the two Lodges we did think that there was a chance that we could keep things going. It is due to health and geographical issues that it has not been possible to do so. I am very happy to have been in the chair for the final year of the amalgamated Lodge’s life. I hope that you all continue to enjoy your journey in Freemasonry, and I wish you all the best for the future.”
To download a copy of WBro Bryan Bancroft’s Brief History of Stamford and Assheton Lodge – click here
WBro John Pearson PAGReg, the APGM for the Southern Area, with WBro Barry Dickson PProvDepGDC,
the newly installed Master of Alphin Lodge.
Tuesday, 4th February 2014 saw WBro Barry Dickson PProvDepGDC, installed as Worshipful Master of Alphin Lodge No 8461for the fourth time. Some 55 Freemasons from a number of different jurisdictions gathered to see this ceremony. Seven of the visitors came from Lodge Leven St John no 170 from Renton in Dunbartonshire (Grand Lodge of Scotland), but there were also two or three other Scottish Masons present. We were also joined by 3 German brethren from Zur Weltbruderkette Im Vest Lodge No 973 from Recklinghausen in the District of North Rhine Westphalia under the Grand Lodge of Germany and even one Brother who represented Lodge Puldin No 26 from Plovdiv in the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
Starting 4th from Left: WBro Ken Hampson, District Chairman, WBro John Pearson, Bro Richard McKenzie,
WBro Barry Dickson together with the visitors from other jurisdictions
WBro Dickson was well and truly installed by the Immediate Past Master, WBro Brian Smith PProvSGD, in a sparkling ceremony. It was watched by our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro John Pearson PAGReg, who commented that it was wonderful to see the Lodge Room so full for such an excellent ceremony.
Later, at the Social Board, after enjoying a splendid meal, it was time for the toasts. In answering the first three toasts, WBro Pearson began by thanking the Lodge for their very kind hospitality. He again commented on how nice it was to see so many brethren joining together to celebrate such an occasion, commenting that it was especially nice to see visitors who had come from so far away, even in one or two cases from Cheshire. He went on to say that the pleasure was, this evening, compounded for him by the fact that his father had been one of the founders of Alphin Lodge.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Southern Area, WBro John Pearson PAGReg
WBro Pearson went on to talk at some length about the RMBI 2015 Festival which, as he said, was very close to our Provincial Grand Master’s heart. He reminded us that, “Sir David has worked at the highest ranks of government and industry. He is really very committed and I know that we will have great success under his leadership.” He commented on, “the exceptional work being done by Ecclesholme, our nearest RMBI property. They have just received a gold star for the quality of their care. They use coloured carpets to help residents to find their way back to their own rooms, memory boards alongside the doors to remind residents about what they will find in each room and pictures on the wall that are selected to reflect the changing seasons and help residents to stay in touch with the world around them. About 40% of Masons in our Province have not yet made a personal donation. All it will take is for everyone to give the price of one pint of beer a month, or about £25.00 a year, for four years, to enable us to reach a total of which we can all be proud.”
The Social Board
Finally, in a twist on the usual visitor’s toast, there were gifts. First, Bro Richard McKenzie, the Master of Lodge Leven St John presented WBro Barry Dickson with a Quaich. Now, just on the off chance that you don’t know what this is, it is a special kind of shallow two-handled drinking cup or bowl used in Scotland. They are often made of wood, but this one was metal. Fortunately for Barry, Bro McKenzie also gave him a bottle of Scottish firewater to drink from it. Not to be outdone, the German brethren demonstrated the German way of honoring a toast, which was distinctly different, and then proceeded to hand out small gifts of alcohol, chocolate or sausages to every brother who was present. It certainly made for a memorable end to a wonderful meeting.
If you wish to see all of the photographs taken on the night, and have the option of downloading them, please follow this link to the online photo gallery.
Sometimes, what could be described as impertinence, or just as plain cheek, can really get you into deep water. Sometimes it can reap rich rewards. This is a story in which both of those statements are true.
In June 2012, just a bit more than 18 months ago, three members of the Lodge of Union No 268 were among the 25 brethren who took part in the Southern Area’s annual trip to Grand Lodge, organised by WBro Pearson, the then Audenshaw Chairman. As part of that visit the group enjoyed lunch in the Grand Connaught Rooms where they were most surprised to receive a short visit from RWBros Jonathan Spence and David Williamson, the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters.
One of the brethren from Lodge of Union was the then Junior Warden of the Lodge, Steven Stanley, making his first visit to Grand Lodge. Here comes the impertinence, or the cheek. When he was introduced to RWBro Spence, Steven blithely invited The Deputy Grand Master to come to his Installation. “When is that?” asked the DGM. “Oh, in January, 2014” said Steven. And normally, that would have been that. The rulers of the Craft must be invited to many events, and a polite comment will usually indicate that it’s just not possible. In this case, though, something must have intrigued the Deputy Grand Master, for he said “Well. We’ll just have to see what can be arranged.”
Most of us thought nothing about it, and although Steven did keep dreaming about his special visitor, we worked hard to convince him that nothing would happen. Then in late October of 2013 we were informed that the Provincial Grand Master, Sir David Trippier, would be making an official visit to our Lodge on the occasion of Steven’s Installation, which also happened to be our 225th Anniversary. That was surely a most magnificent piece of good news for Steven, but the fact that Sir David would be accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, as well as our APGM and a long list of other Provincial Visitors led me to ask a question of our District Chairman, Ken Hampson. I was sworn to secrecy and inducted into a very small group of people who knew “the Truth”.
So it came to pass that on the 16th January, a crisp winter’s day at Ashton Masonic Hall, we made a start on the Installation of Bro Steven Stanley. All went well, the Minutes were read, the report was made, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies was admitted, he announced the fact that the Provincial Grand Master attended without and demanded admission. Just what you would expect! We all enjoyed the entrance of Sir David and the Provincial Team, and nobody was surprised when our Worshipful Master offered the gavel to him, nor when Sir David politely refused it. Steven was replaced by the Installing Senior Warden and was brought to sit in the North East Corner, just next to my table, just where I could see him.
All was in readiness for the Installation to begin when our DC paused and said, “Brother Inner Guard, just check that there is nobody waiting outside will you, we don’t want anyone to miss the ceremony.” I heard the Inner Guard open the door, and a short muttered conversation, then he closed the door, turned to the Worshipful Master, and in a slightly less than normal voice said, “Worshipful Master, WBro Philip Hall, Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies seeks admission.” I watched Steven Stanley as he took in what was happening and his head started to turn. “Oh, admit him” said Walter, the WM, (for he was in on the secret).
WBro Philip Hall entered the Lodge Room as only a Grand DC can do it. “Worshipful Master, outside the door of the Lodge stands RWBro Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master.” I saw Steven Stanley’s lips saying “Oh, My God.” And I realised that the surprise was complete, we had kept it a secret and it was all just perfect. I swear that as RWBro Spence advanced to the East, he turned and winked at Steven, but I would never tell anyone.
From then on we enjoyed an unbelievably good Installation Ceremony. Having said that the Deputy Grand Master was attending your Installation, would you expect that he would take the ceremony, because that is what he did. He accepted the gavel and took the Master’s Chair. He was brisk, word perfect and did just about everything except the heart of the Installation. It was easy to see that he had been a very effective Grand DC in his day. Nor must I fail to mention that, as the cherry on top of the cake, our Provincial Grand Master gave the address to the brethren. What more could you want?
Afterwards there was a very relaxed and easy Social Board. Needless to say, the Deputy Grand Master replied to the toast to the Grand Officers, and it is important to report a little of what he said. “Worshipful Master, you must by now realise that that although cheeky chappiness will get you so far, it really can also land you in a mess. It is really good to know that, as I saw your face on entering the Lodge, there are still some secrets in Freemasonry. I must tell you that, up here in East Lancashire, you don’t do anything the way that it’s done in London. I think that means that you have given me the next six months’ worth of Daily Advancements. I cannot fail to comment on the undoubted ceremonial strengths of this Province. I must say that I am very grateful to Sir David for making it possible for me to come here today. He has always been a diligent and faithful Mason in his own Lodge, it is quite clear that you are happy to have him as your leader and I can tell you that the view from London is that East Lancashire is in very safe hands.”
As Sir David Trippier, the RW Provincial Grand Master said, a little later, “It was a wonderful evening.” No one could disagree with that.
On Monday 6th January 2014 more than 40 Masons from across Southern Area came together to celebrate the 60 years of Craft Masonry that have been enjoyed by WBro Philip A Thompson PProvJGW, the Worshipful Master of Stamford and Assheton Lodge No 6427. The Principal Guest for the meeting was the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VWBro Derek Thornhill PGSwdB, who took the Chair and conducted the celebration. He was ably supported by WBro John Pearson PAGReg, our own APGM, WBro Martin Roche PSGD, the APGM for the Northern Area, WBro Norman Clark PAGDC, who is our APGP in the Royal Arch together with the full District Team and a number of other officers of the Province.
The regular business of the Lodge was followed by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VWBro Thornhill entering the Lodge in procession. After he took the Chair of the Lodge, VWBro Thornhill caused WBro Thompson to be brought to the centre of the Lodge for the celebration of his 60 years in the Craft. The Secretary of the Lodge read extracts from the Minutes of the Lodge for December 1953, when WBro Thompson was initiated, and from February 1965 when he was installed as Master. It is worth recording that, at the former meeting there were 50 masons present and at the latter 54.
WBro Thompson was, then, initiated into Assheton Lodge No 6467 on 7th December 1953 by his father, WBro Sydney Thompson, who subsequently Passed him on 5th April 1954 and Raised him on 5th April 1955. He was Installed as Master of the Lodge in 1965, and then again in 1992 and 2003. He was appointed to the rank of Junior Grand Deacon in Provincial Grand Lodge in 1979 and was promoted to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in July 1993, the rank that he holds today. He has held every office in his Lodge, except that of Secretary and he is currently the final Worshipful Master of the amalgamated Stamford and Assheton Lodge No 6427, for he will still be in the Chair of the Lodge when in closes in March 2014.
After the meeting had closed and the brethren had all moved downstairs for an excellent meal at the Social Board, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master addressed the gathered brethren. He spoke, as everyone expected, about the events that were taking place in Grand Lodge, and about the progress of the 2015 Festival, but he spoke most pertinently about Philip Thompson and his sixty years in Freemasonry. He said, “Of course you know that you are sharing this event with the Duke of Edinburgh, who celebrated sixty years in Freemasonry last year, and with our Grand Master, the Duke of Kent, who celebrated fifty years in December, so that is not at all bad company to be in. Your Lodge simply could not have chosen a better Worshipful Master at this time, just two months before the Lodge will close. You’ll be joining another Lodge, no doubt, and that will simply spread your qualities to other Lodges. That is what Freemasonry is all about.”
Finally, in answering the toast to the Worshipful Master, WBro Thompson got his chance to speak to the brethren. He said, “I’m sorry that the Lodge has to hand in its Warrant in two months time, and I want to thank all the brethren of the Lodge for keeping the Lodge going for an extra year so that this celebration could take place in this Lodge. I would like to thank VWBro Thornhill, along with all of the officers of Provincial Grand Lodge, WBro Hampson and the Officers of Ashton & Mossley District for coming along and making this such a wonderful evening. I shall remember this evening for the rest of my life.”
On Saturday 14th December 2013 many of the past and present officers of the Southern Area, who have served with Stephen Blank over the last five and a half years, came together to celebrate his moving on. When Martin Caller decided to step down as the APGM for the Manchester Area, our Provincial Grand Master, Sir David Trippier RD, JP, DL, asked Stephen to make the sideways move from Southern Area to Manchester Area. Stephen later commented that there were two main reasons for his accepting, “You just don’t say “No” to the Provincial Grand Master, and his suggestion that my replacement would be John Pearson made perfect sense.”
Once the change in personnel had taken place at Provincial Grand Lodge last November, the only remaining question was when, and where, to have the party. In the end a considerable number of those who have served as District Officers during Stephen’s stewardship of the Southern Area, together with their wives or partners, came together to celebrate his leaving. The venue was the Phoenix City Restaurant in Stalybridge. Since it was so close to Christmas the restaurant was packed with groups of people who were determined to have a good time, which ensured that it was an interesting evening.
The evening was a celebration of what has proved to be an exciting time of change in both Ashton & Mossley and Audenshaw Districts. Later in the evening Stephen spoke quite movingly about his time in Southern Area, and wished John Pearson all possible success in the coming years. Paul Waring, the Deputy Chairman of Audenshaw District, who had organised the evening, presented Stephen with a suitably inscribed Whisky Decanter, and a bottle of something to put into it. It is even fair to say that Stephen was pleased to accept the gift.
I am sure that all of the Masons of the Southern Area will join us in wishing VWBro Stephen M. Blank, PGSwdB, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, the greatest success in his future Masonic career.
On Monday 9th December a group consisting of a dozen Secretaries and Scribes E from Ashton & Mossley Lodges and Chapters, together with a couple of interlopers from further north, gathered together at Ashton Masonic Hall. On this occasion the purpose of this meeting together was to take part in the Secretaries Workshop. To this end they were met by the Provincial Secretariat’s “A” Team comprising of Duncan Ferguson, who is Chair of the Provincial Education and Development Committee, together with John Farrington and Andrew Holland, the Provincial Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries, and Susan O’Neill from the Secretariat team.
In the introduction to the evening it was explained that the original purpose had been to roll out the new Secretaries Handbook, but that the process, of which this was the third workshop, had now gone well beyond that. It was also explained that the workshops were being done on a District basis to allow the meeting together of smaller groups which would allow a better exchange of opinions.
Andrew Holland took the meeting through the various tools that were available to Secretaries, including all the different tools that were now freely available from the Secretariat’s website. That in itself represented a real change from past trainings, for we were not handed copies of the Handbook, nor were we taken through the contents page by page, but we were informed as to where these materials could be obtained.
Next, John Farrington took us through the Provincial Honours Process, explaining how it worked and the timeline that orders the process. Finally, Susan O’Neill explained about the relocation of the Provincial Secretariat to Ashdale Lea in Rawtenstall, and about all of the people who work there, and the very specific functions that they each have.
Finally there was a general discussion where our views were sought, and there was a ready willingness to listen to a very different range of questions and opinions. If I can just add a personal point of view, in a past life as a teacher I have attended more than my share of trainings. I ca genuinely say that this was probably the best training session that I have ever attended. It was not over long, it did not go over and over the same points, and there was a ready willingness to listen to the questions and concerns of the audience. So a very big, electronic, vote of thanks to the team from the Secretariat. Well done, all of you.
On Sunday 8th December, at 3.00 pm on a cold but pleasant Sunday afternoon, More than 50 brethren, and their families, representing both Districts of the Southern Area came together to celebrate Christmas. This year the Masonic Festival of Lessons and Carols was held at St Michael and all Angels Church in the centre of Ashton under Lyne.
The service began with the parading of a number of Lodge Banners which were placed by the Church’s Altar. Then the Rev’d Roger Reece, who presided over the service, took his place in the very unusual raised desk that dominates this wonderful Georgian Church.
The service proceeded with the congregation joining in with some old favourites that are always sung at this time of year. The four lessons were read by WBros Ken Hampson, Gerry Hodson, Kevin Hall and John Pearson. Two extra special Carols were sung solo by Peter Lee, who is himself an inactive Mason and previously a member of King George V Lodge, and Rev’d Reece gave an interesting and appropriate sermon.
All in all it was an excellent service that everyone present enjoyed. Afterwards, many of those who had taken part moved on to the Broadoak Pub for an enjoyable meal together.
(By the way, if you are looking for the many photographs that were taken at the Service, the photographer managed to take all of the photographs without a memory card in the camera.)
The annual reception for all those who have received either a first appointment or a promotion in the Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire during 2013, took place on Sunday 1st December. Altogether, more than 60 recipients of Honours in either the Craft or the Royal Arch came together to celebrate at Mossley Masonic Hall. There they enjoyed a buffet lunch, together with most of the Officers from the District Teams of Audenshaw and Ashton & Mossley. You will see from the photographs which are either attached to this report, or are shown in the photo gallery, that they enjoyed themselves tremendously. The Principal guest for this event was WBro John Pearson PAGReg, who attended with his wife Denise.
The high point of the event was, without doubt, the address to the assembled group that was given by WBro Pearson who is the newly promoted, invested and appointed Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Southern Area. He began by welcoming the assembled company to this meeting in Mossley, “the Costa del Sol of the Southern Area.” He thanked everyone present for all the work that they had done and reminded them that appointments and promotions were essentially a mark of appreciation from the Province for all of that hard work. He also thanked the Ladies, who were present, for without their support none of the brethren present would be in a position to enjoy freemasonry.
John then introduced WBro Gerry Hodson PProvSGD who, together with his wife Carol, was present. Gerry has now taken over as the new District Chairman of Audenshaw and John said that he looked forward to a long and successful working relationship with him. He also introduced Ken Hampson, the District Chairman of Ashton & Mossley District, though, as he pointed out, he did not need to introduce a man who everyone in his District knows so well. He also thanked Chris Byrom, who has just retired as the Area Coordinator, for all the work he has done in connection with the amalgamation and closure of Lodges.
John then spoke about Recruitment and Retention which, as he reminded us, was one of the two central themes of the RW Provincial Grand Master’s speech at the recent meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge. He reminded the gathering that, as Sir David put it so eloquently, “Doing nothing is not an option.” So he encouraged everyone present to go back to their Lodges and Chapters and make sure that every member feels that they can, and should, talk freely about their freemasonry. That was the best way of bringing new people into this Craft that we all love so much.
John ended by thanking WBros David Dredge and Michael Porter, respectively the Secretaries of Ashton & Mossley and Audenshaw Districts, for all their hard work in organising such a wonderful celebration.
If you have any new stories you would like to see published here, please contact
WBro Kevin Hall, District Communications Officer for Ashton/Mossley District