One celebration is good for a chapter to celebrate, but three celebrations at the same meeting are unusual. On this occasion, the recipients were the brethren of Egerton Chapter No 2216 at their meeting held at Elm Bank Masonic Hall.
Egerton Chapter was originally formed by members of Victoria Lodge No 1345 and Andrew Lodge No 3328 and consecrated in December 1917 and was now celebrating its centenary. The addition of Egerton Chapter No 2216 was announced at Provincial Grand Chapter on the 18 May 1918 totalling the number of chapters in the Province to 54.
The occasion was marked by the attendance of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison accompanied by Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton, Second Provincial Grand Principal Barry Jameson, Third Provincial Grand Principal Ian Higham and Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Peter Taylor. Also in attendance were, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Colin Rowling, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Paul Hesketh, grand officers Stuart Shea, Kevin Poynton, Dave Walmsley, Tony Edden, John Hutton, Alex Neilson, and Malcolm Bell, along with Eccles Group Chairman Stuart Boyd, Rev Godfrey Hirst and a plethora of Provincial acting officers.
Before the ceremony, Stuart Boyd presented the traditional Eccles cakes to the principal guests, Tony commenting that this was his second bag in a week following his attendance at Elm Bank.
Following his recent installation as first principal David Price, assisted by David Hill (second principal) and David Walmsley (third principle), opened the chapter and business on the summons was attended to. Following a report, John Hutton and the grand officers were admitted in processional order. The PrGDC Paul Hesketh reported that the Grand Superintendent and his officers demanded admission and they were duly welcomed into the chapter by the first principal David Price. Tony occupied the chair of the first principal, Barry the second principal’s chair and Ian the third principal’s chair and duly formed a Provincial Grand Chapter for the purpose of this special convocation.
Tony expressed his gratitude to the companions who had dedicated their services to the chapter over the last 100 years. He said: “It is a landmark that has occurred”.
Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Peter Taylor read the Provincial grand charter in open chapter and Tony presented it to David Price congratulating him and the companions on achieving this wonderful landmark.
Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev Godfrey Hirst then read a beautiful oration. Peter Taylor then read the paten on behalf of the Grand Superintendent who then duly presented it to the first principal. Godfrey Hirst then gave a rededication prayer and Tony closed the Provincial Grand Chapter and invited the three principals to take their rightful seats in the chapter.
David then presented Tony with a cheque made out to the FMC 2021 Festival in the sum of a magnificent £2,021 to which Tony duly received and thanked the companions for this most generous donation.
Tony then presented David with a Grand Patronage certificate which can be displayed on the chapter summons to mark their generosity. The third surprise came as a shock to the first principal David Price when Tony presented him with a jewel to mark his promotion in Royal Arch from PPrDGSwdB to that of PPrGSN.
The first meeting took place at 3pm on Saturday 15 December 1917 at the Masonic Rooms, Eccles Conservative Club. Records show that the regular convocations of the chapter were held at the Masonic Rooms, Granville Street Swinton until the late 40s. Prior to 1965, Egerton Chapter met at the Conservative Club in Walkden where the convocation was held on the top floor. As space was limited, short paces were required during the ceremony in order to arrive at the designated place. On the odd occasion, a ribald chorus from youths outside on the street below accompanied the music being played in the chapter. A vigilant janitor was most certainly essential.
In 1965 Egerton Chapter moved to Elm Bank in Eccles with the first meeting being held on Tuesday 26 January. Elm Bank provided much needed space and height enabling the chapter to impress with a dramatic layout of Royal Arch pageantry.
Egerton Chapter is renowned for its peculiar workings, especially during the opening and closing. Many an experienced companion has been well and truly tested. In 1997 Egerton Chapter became a Patron of the Festival for Boys and Girls.
Over the years Egerton Chapter has certainly been blessed with distinguished companions amongst its membership, especially three Eccles Group Chairmen, namely the late Raymond Beech and past Group Chairmen Stuart Shea and David Walmsley.
On conclusion of the convocation, all the companions retired to enjoy the festive board.
Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton proposed a toast the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison. Paul paid tribute to the work that Tony has performed during his office as Provincial Grand Superintendent and his endless energy to carry out his many tasks. He said that the numbers have risen significantly due to his enthusiasm and leadership. He said that long may he continue with the excellent work that he does for Freemasonry.
Tony, in response thanked Paul for his toast and expressed how much he had enjoyed the ceremony and the company of all the companions at the festive board amidst a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie.
Tony thanked his fellow grand officers and acting officers for their support during the evening and said that this was his second visit to Elm Bank within a few days and how much that he had enjoyed himself. Tony said that he was privileged to be able to share with the companions such a milestone for a chapter to achieve.
Tony then touched on subjects of the tercentenary and events associated with it, that we are well into the first year of the four-year festival. He had noted that the festival jewels were being worn and he encouraged that the brethren not wearing them to consider purchasing them using the facility of the direct debit scheme. He thanked all those brethren who were supporting the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival by wearing their jewel with pride
He mentioned some of the initiatives with reference to the blood bank that Freemasons have donated over £36,000 to a facility that is not funded by the NHS and relies on donations. He also announced that once again there will be an opportunity for Freemasons to take advantage of prostrate testing facility (PSA) which will be available at both the Provincial Grand Lodge in May and the Provincial Royal Arch meeting on Thursday 11 October.
In conclusion he congratulated those companions who had received honours or promotions especially the first principle David Price on his well-deserved promotion. He wished the chapter well in their second 100 years and hoped that it went from strength to strength.
Article and photographs by Tom Fredrickson.