Visiting one another’s lodges is a very enjoyable part of Freemasonry. Lever Park Lodge No 8144 were a prime example of this when they were visited by 11 members of St Catherine Lodge No 8577 and Pegasus Lodge No 9124 from the Province of North Wales who meet in Wrexham. They were at Lever Park at the invitation of Stan Wood, who said: ‘The connection with St Catherine Lodge is a very personal one to me. My friendship with the brethren of St Catherine Lodge began about a decade ago when my youngest son Matthew left Lever Park Lodge and settled in Wrexham. It was perhaps inevitable that Matthew soon became a joining member, and I, and his eldest brother John, supported him by becoming regular visitors to Wrexham.”
It was at one such visit that Stan met Nigel Richards of Pegasus Lodge. It transpired that Nigel, who has been a Mason for a couple of years, and is inner guard of his lodge, had learned and presented the explanation of the first degree tracing board to several lodges in and around Wrexham. Without more ado, Stan asked him to join a group of St Catherine Lodge members who wanted to visit Lever Park, to present the explanation. Stan said: “It is several years since this important piece of ritual has been presented in our lodge, and I can safely say it has never been presented by a junior Mason in our Lodge before.”
After the opening of the lodge, the director of ceremonies placed Nigel in front of the tracing board. The junior deacon placed Nicholas Roberts, an entered apprentice from Pegasus Lodge and Mark Hesford, a master Mason of Lever Park Lodge, on the centre facing the tracing board. At a signal from the junior deacon, the newly installed lights in the lodge room were reduced to the first degree spotlight, together with the chapter (centre) spotlight, providing a theatrical and almost atmospheric ambience in the lodge room.
It was commented on later that it was remarkable that the presentation was delivered by a junior Mason such was the confident and assured manner of his delivery, with pauses for emphasis, as well as his peripatetic explanation of the location of the various jewels and their import, by careful and deliberate movement around the lodge room. All this done without a single prompt. It was also commented by several senior members that the lecture was of the highest standard that they had ever witnessed.
The excellence of the work in the lodge room was continued into the festive board, when the lodge chose Ridgemont House’s take on some classic Welsh cuisine to make the visitors from Wales feel at home. For starter there was welsh goat cheese and leek tart, for main course, welsh cawl, and for dessert, pwin Eva apple dessert and custard. To a man, the welsh visitors praised the menu and the presentation of the dishes, and some of them actually said it was the best welsh cawl they had had outside of Wales. There was a great deal of friendly banter during the meal and the director of ceremonies controlled the proceedings in his unparalleled manner, with shafts of wit that were appreciated by members and visitors alike.
The members of Lever Park gave their traditional rendition of ‘Ging Gang Goolie’ followed by ‘Men of Harlech’ as a tribute to their Welsh visitors. After Peter Idle had given the toast to the visitors, the director of ceremonies approached Michael Winstanley, the WM of St Catherine Lodge, to invite him to respond to the toast to the visitors when a lone Welsh tuneful baritone voice began singing the opening words of ‘We’ll keep a welcome in the Hillside’, soon to be joined by the full ensemble of the visitors and members. This was followed by a full-throated rendition of the Welsh national anthem.
This just left time for the raffle to raise £190 for charities. During the draw for the raffle, the master of St Catherine Lodge was presented an old leather bag of Welsh jewels and regalia which had been acquired by the director of ceremonies John James Dawber. Lovingly called ‘the old bag’, it contained Masonic jewels and regalia relating to the Province of North Wales. John had felt very strongly that it really belonged within the Province of North Wales and that the conservators of that Province might welcome it, and properly arrange for its contents to be preserved for future generations. So, it was a happy coincidence, or perhaps a stealthy piece of director of ceremonies subterfuge, that an additional raffle prize of the ‘old bag and its contents’, was won by a raffle number held by Michael Winstanley. All present had little doubt that Michael would take good care to ensure that the ‘old bag and its contents’ would be carefully preserved and distributed appropriately in due course of time, even though there does not appear to be any of the items directly related to St Catherine Lodge.
All to soon the evening drew to a close and the welsh visitors headed home. Never have the words ‘Happy to meet, sorry to part’, had felt more appropriate.