Chapter of Hope No 2679 had some special business to attend to at its regular convocation held at Elm Bank Masonic Hall. The main item on the summons was ‘The dedication of the Chapter of Hope banner’. These ceremonies are very rare and for many Masons will only come once in their lifetime, hence the attendance of so many distinguished Royal Arch Masons.
These were notably Paul Renton Deputy Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch Province of West Lancashire assisted by Barry Jameson Second Provincial Grand Principal of the Royal Arch province of West Lancashire and Colin Rowling Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals responsible for the Eccles and District, South Eastern, St Helens and Prescot, Widnes and Warrington Groups. Also accompanied by Malcolm Bell Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, acting Provincial grand officers and a plethora of grand and Provincial grand officers. Paul was also accompanied by the Eccles Group Chairman Stuart Boyd and Eccles Group Vice-Chairman Patrick Walsh who are both Companions of Chapter of Hope.
Paul was welcomed by Eccles Group Chairman Stuart Boyd who presented him with the traditional Eccles cakes to which Paul suitably accepted.
The consecration of the Chapter of Hope took place at The Masonic Rooms, Barton Road, Patricroft, at 3:30 pm on Saturday 28 September, 1918. The consecrating principal was the Grand Superintendent Sir Arthur Stanley, GBE, CB, MVO, MP. The Founders being from Victoria Chapter No 1345 and Urmston Chapter No 1730. The chapter met in The Masonic Rooms at the Conservative Club, Barton Road until 8 December 1939, when the 20th installation after consecration was held at Elm Bank, Half Edge Lane, Eccles and meetings have been held there four times a year ever since.
Over the past 99 years the chapter has had members exalted into the chapter from 60 lodges and had joining members from nine chapters. Six members have been promoted to grand rank and one became the Second Provincial Grand Principal. There have been 72 Provincial appointments.
The chapter is honoured to have the present group chairman and vice chairman as members. In past years as well as at this moment in time chapter members have been active on the Elm Bank management team. The chapter will celebrate its centenary of its consecration on Friday 28 September 2018.
The chapter was opened by the first principal Paul Heathcote; the minutes were presented, approved and signed. All other chapter business was completed. Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell then entered the chapter and announced that the Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton stood without and demanded admission. The members and visitors were pleased to receive Paul. Paul entered in procession accompanied by other grand and acting Provincial grand officers, and was offered the sceptre by the First Principal to which he duly accepted and occupied the chair.
Paul then appointed Provincial grand officers to assist him to which they duly accepted. Paul then invited Barry Jameson to take over for the ceremony of dedication, assuming his rightful seat in the chapter. Barry then addressed the companions by extending a very warm welcome to all on this special occasion to dedicate a banner for the Chapter of Hope. He then went on to explain the origin of banners.
“The origin of Banners, although a part of heraldry, is a custom lost in the mists of time. There are personal banners such as those of our Monarch the Queen, Peers and Knights of the Realm, indeed one for a late Grand Superintendent, Sir Knowles Edge, was carried into Provincial Grand Chapter on each occasion when he was present.
More pertinently I notice from the useful summary of your chapter’s history, kindly provided by your diligent scribe Ezra Brian Lawrence, that the consecrating principal in September 1918 was Sir Arthur Stanley, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Companion of the Most Noble Order of Bath and a member of the Most Honourable Royal Victorian Order, now he most certainly would have had a Banner.
I am indebted this evening to our Deputy Grand Superintendent for allowing me the privilege of conducting this ceremony of dedication and he modestly has left his personal banner at home in Whittle-le-Woods.
In feudal times, the banner, flag or standard was a rallying point for the soldiers of a Knight, in the heat of battle, and this led to the custom followed by British regiments throughout the ages.
Masonic historians relate that in the 18th and 19th centuries Freemasons, often clothed in regalia and badges of the Order, carried their banners in public processions when celebrating special national or civic occasions. Similarly, in the not too distant past, it was common practice in our lodges for the banner to be carried into the lodge, often by a very junior member, as part of the entry procession of the WM and his wardens.
In Freemasonry therefore, our banners are rallying points, not for the heat of battle, but for companions to meet under their banners in true Masonic harmony and friendship. This banner has been quite sometime in the making; indeed, it is a particular pleasure to see Kevin Poynton here this evening. In his handover to me in 2014, he included a letter in respect of your banner. I have it here, dated 15 June 2014 from your then DC, Harry Cropper. Your first principal at the time was Stephen Rhodes, PPrGReg.
It has been quite a journey but with excellent good timing, the banner can be proudly displayed when you celebrate your centenary in September next year. I should commend particularly three individuals who have worked so hard to bring the banner to the successful conclusion we are celebrating this evening;
Brian Lawrence – Original artwork and dealing with the banner Provincial logistics (drawings and politics). Harry Cropper – Resistant materials design and fit (wood and metal bits) and Stuart Sutherland Boyd, your Group Chairman – Textiles (yarns, threads and colour matching).
The chapter is also grateful to the Hope Ladies Committee, who worked hard to help provide funding for this banner, so a genuine and inclusive team effort. Companions, as we commence this ceremony of dedication, let us hope that the banner we dedicate this evening will be admired with respect and affection by the members of the Chapter of Hope for generations to come.”
The Provincial Choir, (John Wallace Hindle, Chris Knowles, Amos Millington and Godfrey Hirst) then sang an anthem.
Barry Jameson then called upon the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies to form up a deputation to carry the banner into the conclave. The processional hymn was sung by the choir and the companions as the deputation passed round the chapter and displayed the banner to the companions. Barry then called upon Godfrey Hirst for the dedication prayer.
After the prayer Barry called upon the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies to cause the banner to be carried to the east. The Second Provincial Grand Principal then delivered the chapter banner into the keeping of the first principal on behalf of the chapter.
The first principal accepted the banner and requested the Second Provincial Grand Principal’s permission for it to be placed in its stand in the east. The banner deputation then resumed their seats. A passage of scripture was read by the Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Colin Rowling. The choir then sang the anthem, Praise the Lord. Barry then directed Godfrey Hirst to deliver an oration. Godfrey duly obliged with his usual gusto, expression and feeling. A closing hymn was then sung followed by the patriarchal benediction by Godfrey.
Barry then invited the first principal Paul Heathcote to reoccupy his chair. Paul Heathcote then presented Paul Renton with a cheque to the value of £100 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity to which Paul thanked the Companions for their generosity.
On conclusion of the ceremony, Paul Renton and his entourage retired from the chapter. The meeting concluded, the companions retired from the chapter to enjoy a wonderful festive board. Colin Rowling proposed the toast to the Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton. Colin recited Paul’s CV with an extensive and impressive career in Masonry which extends over many Provinces and degree’s.
Paul thanked Colin for his toast and for reminding him of the many years that he has dedicated to Masonry and for his research on his CV. He thanked all those who had taken part in the ceremony and also for the hospitality shown to him on his visit to Chapter of Hope. Paul thanked Malcolm Bell PrDGDC and his assistant for the ceremony Gary Smith for ensuring that the evening ran smoothly.