I took up my seat in the rafters with Godfrey, a fellow Senior Warden I had met just a few minutes earlier while checking in my bag and coat. That is one of the things I like most about Freemasonry; the instant bond of disinterested friendship between Masons. In Masonic company we are never alone and we are never strangers. I had expected there to be very few ‘Light Blues’ in the Grand Temple and while we were outnumbered by Brethren of Grand and Provincial rank there were a lot of Light Blues dotted around the place.
From my vantage point I had a great view of Worshipful Brothers Dennis Frazer and Bill Thornton who were to receive their Grand Lodge honours. I (apparently) missed the sign coming in to Grand Temple which instructed us to leave our mobile phones outside but fortunately our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro Brian Denton, was close by and he cheerfully divested me of my plan to nab some photographs before the meeting started. Good job too, on my way out after the meeting I spotted the aforementioned signs (which were actually plastered all over the place). I am pretty sure Brian’s guiding hand saved me from an embarrassing encounter with a Grand Steward.
WBro Oliver Lodge – our Grand Director of Ceremonies – ran us through the dos and don’ts of the meeting in a style that I can best describe as a masterclass in how to make a room full of men sit up and listen. British Airways should look him up. If WBro Oliver recorded their pre-flight safety briefing I would bet every passenger would be able to point to the emergency exits, understand the arrangements for oxygen and fathom out how best to use that orange whistle on their lifejacket. He was great!
The meeting started with the Pro Grand Master followed by the Deputy and then Assistant Grand Masters processing in. They received a very warm welcome and took up their seats. Our own Provincial Grand Master – and other Provincial Grand Masters and Senior Brethren – formed the Grand Masters Procession and the Grand Master processed in led by the Grand Sword Bearer and followed by the Grand Standard Bearers. It was a fine display of Masonic pomp and to be part of it (albeit my contribution was limited to clapping him in) was a memorable experience.
Our Grand Master re-appointed the Pro Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and Assistant Grand Master. Then followed the appointments of senior acting Grand Lodge Officers including our new Grand Secretary, WBro Dr David Stables, who led on the #EnoughIsEnough campaign in his other role as Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England.
The Grand Stewards then organised the newly appointed Grand Lodge Officers to line up to receive their collar from the Grand Master. It was an impressive display of logistics – making sure the names being read out by the Grand Secretary matched the next Grand Lodge Officer to receive their collar. It ran like clockwork and about midway through the investiture our own newly appointed Grand Lodge Officers - WBro Dennis Frazer and WBro Bill Thornton - received their preferment from the Grand Master. I must admit, I did momentarily consider taking a sneaky picture on my camera phone but sitting just a few seats along from our Provincial Grand Secretary, Assistant Provincial Grand Master and surrounded by Grand Stewards I heeded my earlier warning and thought better of it - consider that my daily advancement in Masonic knowledge!
WBro Bill Thornton and WBro Dennis Frazer
The Grand Master was stood for over an hour investing new Grand Lodge Officers with their collars and exchanging a friendly word with each of them. There was no break and he allowed himself only the occasional sip of water. It was a stoic display of endurance. He ended the meeting with a short address and we closed with a rousing rendition of two (or in my case one and a lot of moving my mouth like a fish gasping for air) verses of the National Anthem (note to self, learn the second verse of the National Anthem).
The Grand Festival Banquet was held at Guildhall but I attended the Parallel Dinner at the Connaught Rooms next to Freemasons Hall. I didn’t know anyone attending the Parallel Dinner but within a few minutes I had struck up a conversation with a great bunch of lads from Yorkshire. Each table was hosted by a Grand Steward and I ended the night with 9 new friends some of whom are planning to visit Oriental Lodge during my current year as Worshipful Master.
Sadly, I could not stay for the Annual Convocation of Grand Chapter the following day where EComp Fred Dye and EComp Trevor Fish received their first appointment to Grand Chapter as Past Grand Standard Bearers and EComp Michael McHale was promoted to Past Grand Sword Bearer.
If you get the chance to attend the Annual Investiture or Annual Convocation I recommend you do so. It was a fantastic experience and definitely one of the highlights of my 10 years as a Freemason.
WBro David Stockdale
Congratulations to the newly appointed and promoted Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter Officers from Northumberland Province and thank you to my friend WBro Dennis Frazer for giving me the opportunity to attend.