The brethren of Merchants’ Lodge No 241 have held their annual installation meeting at Liverpool Masonic Hall, where they were honoured to receive Joe Hall as their principal guest. Joe was accompanied by the Chairman of the Liverpool Group Mark Matthews. Also present were fellow grand officers Clive Jefferies, Stan Sutch, Mike Winterbottom and Provincial Assistant Grand Standard Bearer George Christie.
Interestingly it was back in 2013 that Joe Hall was junior warden to the Province and Mark Matthews was senior warden. Also, in attendance was the Salford District of East Lancashire Chairman Peter Hegarty, who was accompanied by Peter Rees, both of Old Salfordians Lodge No 7968. Adding a splash of colour with his tartan regalia was Valentine Bura of Lodge Royal Stuart No 893 (Scottish Constitution), meeting in Perth, Australia and formerly of Herbert Teagle Lodge No 300, New Zealand. Peter Hegarty was in attendance to present, or more correctly, re-present a silver plate previously belonging to Merchants’ Lodge, which would be completed at the festive board.
After the lodge was opened in the usual fashion and the normal business of the lodge had been conducted, Joe Hall was, along with group officials and acting Provincial grand officers, admitted. Following the formal salutations, the 238th ceremony of installation was then conducted, using the Bottomley form of working, by the outgoing master Raymond Fitzsimmons, who carried it out in a most sincere and heartfelt manner, much to the delight of all the brethren who were in attendance.
Master elect Bill Shucker was presented, obligated and installed as WM in a flawless procedure. The working tools were presented and explained by Neil Francis for the master Mason and Ray Fitzsimmons for the fellow craft and entered apprentice. As Bill invested his officers for the year, the appropriate addresses where given. That to the new senior warden Glyn Pine, was presented by Les Chadwick, to the deacons by Ray Fitzsimmons; he would later also give the address to the tyler David Jones. The address to the new master was given by Clive Jefferies, to the wardens by Bob Povall, while that to the brethren of the lodge was performed in fine style by Joe Hall.
At the close of the formalities, Joe congratulated all the brethren who had assisted in producing a most sincere and dignified ceremony and he wished the WM and brethren of the lodge good health for the forthcoming year. As Merchants’ Lodge was one of the foremost lodges in Liverpool in establishing a permanent Masonic Hall in Liverpool, the brethren have continued with that tradition to this day and on behalf of the lodge, Bill Shuker presented Joe with a cheque for £241 for the Liverpool Masonic Hall Building Fund. He also presented another cheque of an equal amount for the MCF 2021 Festival. Joe thanked the brethren of the lodge for their generous bestowment to the Liverpool Masonic Hall and the Festival and he added that the bequests will be gratefully appreciated by the recipients.
With the conclusion of the ceremony, all present moved to the adjoining banquet room to toast the health of the master and to partake of a delightful festive board. Later in the evening, in response to the toast to the grand officers, Joe Hall gave a most eloquent response. He began by saying what a delight it was for him to be in Liverpool and what a pleasure and privilege to be in particular at Merchants’ Lodge. Earlier he brought the greetings and best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, but now he had the opportunity to add his own congratulations to Bill on being proclaimed as WM of such an old and distinguished lodge.
Joe talked of the lodge founders, who met at the Golden Lion in Dale Street, all those years ago and who could not have comprehended that 238 years later, Merchants’ Lodge would still be gathered together to celebrate their annual installation ceremony. Addressing the WM, Joe said: “That with such a magnificent history, it now once again falls to you to carry on the legacy started by the first master William Thomas Golightly back in 1780, whose portrait is on the wall in this very room.”
After extending congratulations to the invested officers, Joe added that he had a number of topics of which the PrGM wanted bringing to notice, including the MCF 2021 Festival. Liverpool has always had a reputation for its generosity and Merchants’ Lodge had today once again demonstrated that by the donations made in the lodge room earlier in the evening. In looking around the room, the number of festival jewels worn by the brethren was most noticeable and pleasing, but for those who have yet to take up the opportunity, please contact your group charity steward later, who has pledge forms and jewels available.
On the issue of recruitment, Joe said that we need to ask ourselves if we are making ourselves good enough to attract the right sort of candidates? Are our lodges friendly and welcoming to new initiates, do we make them feel wanted and a vital part of our organisation? Once we have initiated someone do we nurture him and ensure he feels an important part of the team? Let us therefore ensure we involve all our brethren in our meetings wherever possible.
He next spoke on Royal Arch Masonry, of which the PrGM attached great importance, adding that it is essential to complete the journey through ancient Freemasonry and it is and should be the next step after the Craft. On completion Joe thanked the hard-working secretary Neil Francis for keeping him so well informed and also to the lodge DC Kevin Dempster for the excellent way he looked after everything, both in the lodge room and at the festive board. Lastly, to the group chairman Mark Matthews and his officers, who work so hard in ensuring that this group continues going forward.
During the festive board Peter Hegarty returned a silver dish which had previously been presented to the lodge by Joseph Walmsley in 1853 and was gratefully accepted by WM Bill Shuker. The brethren thoroughly enjoyed the delightful festive board at which the toast to the health of the new master was given by the immediate past master Ray Fitzsimmons. All the brethren joined in heartily with the master’s song, which was led by David Jones. At the end of the festivities, the tyler’s toast was given – ‘Happy to meet, sorry to part and happy to meet again.’