In the packed Egyptian Suite at Liverpool Masonic Hall, the companions of Everton Chapter No 823 gave an extremely warm welcome to all the guests at their annual installation ceremony. This venerable chapter conducts a ceremony laid down many years ago, as befits its beginnings in 1868 and has not changed to accommodate the whims of modernism. The chapter was opened by the first principal Bernard Ashley, ably assisted by his two fellow principals Tom McLaughlin and Jorge Perez. The chapter also welcomed Barry Townsend, a friend of Tom from Elwy Chapter 4721 in North Wales and who took his seat at the organ for the evening.
Once the initial business was concluded, the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton entered to announce that the Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton was in attendance and demanded admission. Paul entered in a large colourful procession, escorted by Provincial Deacons Roy Cowley and David Brighouse. Paul was accompanied by Assistant to the Grand Principals Sam Robinson, David Kemp, representing the Liverpool Group of chapters, Supreme Grand Chapter officers Clive Jefferies, Syd Ford, Mike Winterbottom and John Roberts, along with Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah David Case. Paul was warmly received by the three principals on behalf of the chapter, to which he replied he had been looking forward for so long to visit Everton Chapter. He also said how lovely it was to see the room so full, before taking his chair.
For the purpose of the installation ceremony, Dave Johnson was invited to temporarily occupy the second principal’s chair and Hughie O’Neill that of the third principal, while Steve Roberts took the position of Nehemiah. Prior to starting the ceremony, the chapter DC Roy Cowley noted that although he had no doubt there was at least 40 or so marvellous ritualist’s present, that used by Everton Chapter differed from many better known forms, so would appreciate that it be recognised, that for this evening’s ceremony, he alone would be the sole prompter if needed.
John Roberts and Roy Ashley presented the incoming principals, Tom McLaughlin as first principal, Jorge Perez as second principal and Barry Kilby as the third principal. Barry was obligated by Hugh O’Neil, Jorge by Tom McLaughlin and Tom by Bernard Ashley. Following this, Bernard Ashley took the opportunity to thank everyone for their assistance during his tenure as first principal. It had been an eventful and satisfying year, with exaltations, the 150th anniversary of the chapter, plus the celebration of Stan Sutch’s 50 years in the Royal Arch. To complete his year, he now had the pleasure of installing his great friend Tom McLaughlin into the chair.
The ceremony then began, with the three principals installed according to the ancient workings still used in Everton Chapter. Resplendent throughout, sitting on the pedestal of Nehemiah, was the famous Everton bowler hat, formerly worn by the chapter patriarch Albert Watson Ley, who still towers above in the history of the chapter. Tom McLaughlin was presented with the charter of the chapter, volume of sacred law, minute book, by-laws and the regulations of Supreme Grand Chapter by Bernard.
Paul Renton rose to convey the congratulations and best wishes of Tony Harrison to those attaining the principal chairs of this fine chapter, stating that he had witnessed an extremely fine and outstanding ceremony and everyone was to be congratulated on their dedication and hard work. Paul concluded by stating that it was Tony’s wish that all present should enjoy their Royal Arch Masonry. Tom thanked Paul for his kind words and presented him with three cheques in favour of Liverpool Masonic Hall Building Fund, the WLFC and the Whitechapel Centre. All were of the equal amount of £100, for which Paul expressed his thanks.
On conclusion of the ceremony, the companions retired to the banqueting suite to toast the incoming first principal, before partaking of a delightful festive board, with a good selection of accompanying liquid refreshment. In reply to the toast to the grand officers, Paul once again congratulated the chapter on the very high standard of the ceremony, which can only be achieved through hard work and dedication. Paul also took the opportunity to congratulate Steve Roberts, the almoner of the chapter, who will be appointed as Past Provincial Grand Sojourner at Provincial Grand Chapter. This was greeted with hearty applause.
At the toast to the three principals, those present had the added delight of hearing an exuberant rendition of the scarcely performed ‘Cyrus Song’, many for the first time. The outstanding vocalist was Roy Ashley, twin brother to Bernard, with the companions heartily joining in at the chorus, a memorable moment indeed. Throughout the evening, the three principals had the use of the silver goblets presented in 1993 on the 125th anniversary of Everton Chapter.
During the festive board, the chapter mascot ‘Bully’ made his way along the tables, gratefully collecting loose change from the generous individuals assembled. This collection is used by the chapter for any small incidentals that come along throughout the year. The proceedings of the evening were eventually brought to an end with the ‘toast of the janitor’, again done in unique style by John Hibbert.