An excellent attendance at Britannia Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 53 one of the founding Lodges of the Province, on Thursday, 21st June to witness the dedication of the new Provincial Banner, and the retirement of its predecessor. This all took place at Tapton Hall and the Lodge was opened in due form by the Worshipful Master, Worshipful Brother Richard Foster.
Opening formalities, including the reading of the Dispensation, out of the way, upon a report, the Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Worshipful Brother Andrew Brown, also now one of the Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, entered and began the process of bringing honoured guests to the party. First, Past Rulers comprising Past Provincial Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brethren Brian Batty and James Truswell. Past Deputy Provincial Grand Masters Very Worshipful Brethren Bob Corfield and Richard Puttrell and last, but by no means least, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Worshipful Brother Dr. Rod Taylor. Then the most important element in proceedings, the Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother James Steggles, G.M.R.A.C. accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Worshipful Brother Alan Oldfield, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Worshipful Brother Trevor Bolton and an escort of Provincial Grand Lodge Officers of the year.
W.Bro, Richard offered the gavel which, on this occasion, was accepted by R.W.Bro. Jim with the comment, ‘I think I thank you’. Officers of the year then took post and R.W.Bro. Jim confirmed that the purpose of the meeting was to retire the present Banner which during its time has seen fifteen Provincial Grand Masters and dedicate its successor. The original banner had been presented to the Province by our first Standard Bearer in February 1872, at the first Provincial meeting held after the Province was formed in August 1871. At one point it went missing, but it was eventually found in 1974, after being concealed under the rubbish for many years. To mark the centenary of the Province, it was framed and hung in Tapton Hall, where it remains today. The banner which was retired was not the original but one which was bought by the Province in 1957. This was not obviously apparent from the records at the time, and was only discovered after the present ceremony had taken place. We need to keep clearer records of important Provincial events!
The old banner was paraded around the Lodge for all to acknowledge and with due thanks, retired by the P.G.M. The Escorting Officers then brought forward the new banner for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of West Yorkshire, which was accepted by R.W.Bro. Jim. The Provincial Grand Chaplain Edward Patnick then delivered a stimulating oration, following which the new banner was paraded around the Lodge for all to witness before being Dedicated and received on behalf of the Province by the P.G.M. and placed in its proper position. The whole ceremony was conducted with dignity and style, under the guidance of Provincial Deputy D.C. Andy Brown.
An Oration was then delivered by one of the finest exponents of the art, the Provincial Grand Chaplain, Very Worshipful Brother Edward Patnick. He began by talking about a Rabbi, a regular opening gambit, who talked about Space Rockets travelling at 1800 miles an hour to reach outer space and then orbiting the Solar system for decades. Someone asked the rocket controller what was the most important part of the Rocket, could it be the engine? the controller replied, “No every screw or washer was just as important because if one small part failed the mission would end in disaster”. This applies to our wonderful Mark Province of West Yorkshire, every person from the Provincial Grand Master to the newest Mark Master Mason and all its equipment are equal. Thus our new Banner is an essential feature and helps our Mark family to have its assembly point under which every member can gather and identify with it when displayed. Yes, the Province is our parent body and just like mankind, no two parents are the same.
Mark Masons have to believe in a Divine Creator, most of us should, therefore keep the Ten Commandments. These Commandments were giving to the Jewish people by God through Moses on Mount Sinai and have been adopted by most religions. The first two Commandments were actually heard directly from God but the people were so overwhelmed that they asked Moses to hear the rest and relate them. However before the Jewish people received them they were offered to three other tribes who, having been given an example such as “Thou shalt not kill”, declined to have them. Finally he offered them to the Jewish people, who asked, “How much they would it cost”? To which the reply was nothing. So they said, “Fine we will have ten”!
Rabbi Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, gave an unusual interpretation of The Ten Commandments. They were given on two Tablets, the first tablet had Five Commandments which deal with our duty to our Maker and the second teaches our connection to our fellow human beings; if read horizontally instead of vertically they complement each other. The book of Ethics says “Who is a wealthy man? He who is happy with his lot”, we must strive to be happy and healthy family units, whether private or Masonic. It is Important to the Province, and your own Lodges, to bring in new candidates but they must be the right people, those who meet the high standards of Freemasonry.
The analogy of the Province being akin to a tree was then introduced, some people come into your life and they are like leaves on a tree, only there for a season, you can’t depend on them and like leaves, they take what they need and as soon as it gets cold or a wind blows they are gone. Some come into your life and are like branches on a tree. stronger than leaves, they will sck around but if you go through a storm or two you could lose them.
If you can find people in your life who are like the roots of a tree, then you then you have found something special because like the roots of a tree, they are hard to find because unless you dig deep they cannot be seen. A tree has many branches and even more leaves, but far fewer roots. THANK GOD FOR THE ROOTS!
Now look at your own life, what role do you play in other people’s lives or indeed the Mark Province of West Yorkshire?, which has been around for nearly 150 years and it needs support from you to keep going, the demands are greater now more than ever, so what will you be, a root, a branch, or a leaf. May our new Dedicated Banner be around for many years, as the focal point of this Province, until time with us shall be no more?
The remaining agenda items were then swiftly despatched but did include, most importantly, the election of Worship Brother Philip Haynes as Master Elect for the coming year. W. Bro Philip was previously the incumbent in 2012/13 and I am sure that he would be delighted to see similar numbers of visitors at his Installation on Thursday, 4th October. As Worshipful Brother James Newman said in his Toast to the visitors, ably acknowledged by Worshipful Brother James Ambler, Brethren have had 147 years to visit Britannia, why not try two visits in one year. Before the Lodge was closed, the Provincial Grand Master and his entourage withdrew for a well deserved libation.
The Festive Board was well received and in line with improved quality now enjoyed at Tapton Hall, both service and food. The Toasts involved the P.G.M. who responded to his own, capably delivered by the W.M., W.Bro. Richard and then proposed the toast to the Province where it was formally acknowledged by the D.P.G.M., W.Bro. Alan on behalf of the Province. Along the way he reminded those present that Britannia Lodge No 53 was one of the six which formed the Province He then drew attention to the Sheffield Lodges combined meeting to be held at Tapton Hall on the 25th July under the Escafeld Lodge No.1139 Banner, where both he and his Deputy, W.Bro. Alan will be taking part and will be joined by the Assistant Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Stephen Davison. He thanked those Brethren who are members of the 250 Club as it is through their generosity that the Banner was funded along with other Provincial regalia. He was proud of the Province as throughout its length and breadth, Mark Master Masons were consistently creating and demonstrating the harmony, friendship and brotherly love for which we are rightly famous. He wished this to continue thereby making better men of men and better Mark Masons of Mark Masons, with which we are all in total accord.
All of us present were proud of this day which has only happened twice in 147 years and we were there! Do not forget, smile, be happy, we are all Mark Master Masons.