A Norwegian Visitor for Lodge of St John 191

A Norwegian Visitor for Lodge of St John 191

This is a fantastic example of how Freemasonry is enjoyed across the Globe, something so positive, something to read and embrace during these tough times.  
On Thursday 12th September 2019 The Lodge of St John No. 191 celebrated 250 years of Freemasonry. 
This wonderful evening was made even more special by the fact that WBro Jeremy Aston had invited a personal guest Bro Arvid Overgard from St Johns Lodge Stella Polaris located in Tromso in Norway. Bro Overgard had a fabulous experience and he has shared this experience with the Brethren of Norway by having his experience featured in the National Norwegian Freemasonry magazine (FRIMURERBLADET).    The 250 years Jubilee in St. John’s Lodge 191 by Arvid Øvergård.  This is a translation of the magazine feature:                                

The whole thing started with an email in English: – “Good morning Arvid and thank you for the last time we met. It seems a long time since then, but it isn’t such a long time compared to the time my Lodge has existed and we are now going to celebrate it’s 250 years Jubilee, and you are on the guest list.   Fraternal greetings from Jeremy Aston.”       It took a while before I managed to sort out what had happened such a long time ago. The only thing I remembered was that in 2014 I gave an English freemason (a relative of a friend) a guided tour of our lodge in Tromsø. I remembered the occasion but neither the name or the face of the person. It must be he who had sent the invitation, but we hadn’t had any contact since that visit. It was a great surprise that I, five years afterwards was invited to celebrate their 250 year Jubilee. The Lodge of St. John 191 is in Bury, a town of 77,000 inhabitants. Since Bury is very near Manchester, the logical solution was to fly to Manchester via Oslo and take the train to Bury on the 11th of September, take part in the Jubilee on the 12th and travel home on the 13th. Hectic, expensive but exciting. I considered it seriously and booked a hotel which could be cancelled without any cost. In the middle of August, the extremely elegant formal invitation arrived. Junior Grand Warden Guy D.A. Elgood will represent the United Grand Lodge of England and Sir David Trippier, The Provincial Master of the Province of East Lancaster, will take part accompanied by a formal delegation 16 persons. This looked exciting and I confirmed my invitation. Jeremy had given me information about St. John’s Lodge 191 earlier.  It is one of 8 Lodges who hold their meetings in Bury Masonic Hall. Bury is part of the Western Area which is one of 6 districts which consist of the Province of East Lancaster. The Province consists of approximately 200 Lodges in all. I departed from Tromsø at 06.30am and landed in Manchester at 10.30am. My host Jeremy had offered to pick me up at the airport, but the question was – how to recognise each other!   Instead of carrying a notice with my name I decided I would have a looking for a stranger attitude. No problem. We found each other. The day became very busy. Lunch with Jeremy and his wife, a tour of the Lodge, and check in at my hotel before a private dinner with my host Jeremy and the Lodges Worshipful Master, Stephen Allanson. The official invitation said, Lodge Tyles at 6pm.I couldn’t find a translation for Tyle but reckoned the meeting to begin at 6pm.I arrived at Bury Masonic Hall in good time wearing my usual Masonic suit with black tie and shoes.After all the members with decorations came in I was noticed, and stood out to be a stranger among the 90 brothers.  The waiting proceeded in the same way as in our lodges, brothers who know each other stood together and visitors were left standing alone.  My host Jeremy was busy with the arrangements, but after a while I began to talk to others. It awakened quite a special interest that I had travelled from ” north of the Polar Circle” to take part in their celebration. I’ll not say much about the lodge meeting. The procession into the Lodge room was more informal than the way we do it.   The brothers walked in and found their places without any special organization. Jeremy came and showed me in. He asked if I would like to sit at the head of the table to the North!  Modesty is one of our freemasons qualities and so I refuse politely. This resulted in me sitting next to the Brother Speaker. The prominent guests were accompanied in, in a fitting manner.   As earlier Chief Ceremony Master I watch the procedure with interest. There was no reception at the meeting, but nevertheless many similar activities which could be compared to our lodge.   As usual my experience is based on 3 meetings at Free Mason Hall in London, where there was an agenda on every chair. At that time the 15 points of the agenda included the opening and closing of the Lodge. There is particularly one point which has always aroused my interest. The Almoner’s Report. Almoner is obviously a word which goes back to olden times and isn’t usual in the English language today.  Even so it is a title of honour used in English Lodges. The Almoner has responsibility for keeping contact with needy brothers and their families. At this meeting the Almoner referred to visiting a Freemason family where their father had died. We have our caring committees but how often do our brothers hear about their work? A point to reflect on.  The last point on the agenda before we left the Lodge room was to sing the National Anthem. The Celebration Dinner – ceremonious and jovial. After the meeting, canapé refreshments were served. In England the tradition seems to be to take off all one’s decorations before eating. There was even one brother who wondered if I should take off my lodge decoration before eating.       Now the atmosphere was so relaxed that I had to state my options both about Brexit andBoris Johnson and what I thought about the English soldiers who trained in Northern Norway!  It also appeared that one brother and I had a mutual acquaintance in the Main House. Both Helge Horrisland, Fredrik Hildring and I were at the same Scientific Lodge I myself visited at the Freemason Hall in 2008. The dining hall was decorated for the festival occasion and tightly packed. I was allotted a place at the top table and a beautiful program presented the celebration menu. This consisted of 3 courses with appropriate wine, followed by coffee, desert cakes and finally the famous 191 Rusty Nail! Here is was necessary to extend one’s knowledge of English enormously. We were about to receive something which tasted bad (infamous) which apparently should consist of 191 rusty nails (Rusty Nail).   Well, as the number 191 represents the number of the lodge, I took it for granted that it wasn’t the number of nails we were about to be served since rusty nails is written with small letters. I concluded that we were about to be served something which didn’t taste good.  Wait and see! The meal proceeded In an excellent way and toasts were made to both sides. The ceremonious speeches were applauded and finally the Rusty Nail.It was served in a big silver bowl with three handles. A white serviette was knotted on each handle, the constituents , 2 parts whisky and one part Drambuie!   The bowl started with the worshipful master who drank, dried the bowl and sent it round the table . It went literally from mouth to mouth until everyone had had a drink. It wasn’t the best drink I have tasted but I drank when the bowl came round a second time. What a blood mixture! Maybe it was a custom from olden times when Vikings ravaged on the Island. The dinner proceeded in a more relaxed fashion than we are used to at home in Norway. I had prepared a greeting speech and had permission granted from the Toastmaster to convey greetings from Stella Polaris and present a wimple a gift for the lodge. In agreement with the Toastmaster I was the last one to hold a speech. He stood behind my chair to present me.  Exciting!I handed over the gift and introduced Tromsø as the city of Aurora Borealis, The Northern Lights, and invited Brothers to visit our lodge in Tromsø. I had decided to end my speech with three times three- and three-times V.V. After the first toast I heard quite a joviality among the Brothers, which grew after both the second and the third toasts. The ending went well, and I felt I registered just as much ovation as the other speeches. After Dinner we gathered in the bar, but the numbers rapidly diminished. It was now nearly midnight and a thoughtful Brother wandered through the deserted streets of Bury and back to my hotel after an experience I will remember for a long time.  Arvid Overgard
Please follow the link below to see the original report on this fabulous evening. 
https://www.pglel.co.uk/lodge-of-st-john-191-celebrates250-years-in-freemasonry/

You can view the original magazine article HERE

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