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Chapter idiosyncrasies within Liverpool

A celebratory meeting was hosted by Chapter of Friendship No 241 to mark the progress of the Liverpool Group of Royal Arch Chapter’s over the last five years since the formation of the group. Held within the magnificent Corinthian Suite at Liverpool Masonic Hall, it turned out to be a splendid and unique occasion thoroughly enjoyed by all present.

Liverpool-Chapter-idiosyncrasies-within-Liverpool-Pic-1The chapter was opened in the usual manner with Andrew Whittle as first principal, Dave Dutton as second principal with Cliff Hughes third principal and Steve Lyon as IPZ. The companions were pleased to warmly welcome the representatives of the other Liverpool chapters for the joint convocation. The companions then stood to welcome the Provincial Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, accompanied by his deputy Danny Jones, Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Paul Shepherd and many other distinguished companions.

Andrew offered the sceptre of the chapter to Tony, which was graciously accepted and Tony proceeded in placing John Hutton into the chair of second principal and Stanley Oldfield into that of third principal. Peter Taylor was placed into his position as Scribe Ezra.

Ian Higham (left) and Tony Harrison.

Ian Higham (left) and Tony Harrison.

The other acting officers then took their designated places, all under the careful direction of long serving Director of Ceremonies Ian Higham, ably assisted by Neil MacSymons. It was a day of mixed emotion for Ian, for after 10 years, this was his swan song as he was being elevated to the esteemed position of Third Provincial Grand Principal, a position well deserved and earned through many years of hard work.

Paul Shepherd gave an introduction to the evening on how it was meant to celebrate the five years since the ‘Liverpool Group’ was formed. Although there are many lodges and chapters meeting within Liverpool and the environs, it is only those meeting at Liverpool Masonic Hall on Hope Street that forms the Liverpool Group. The last five years has seen a growing together of Royal Arch Masons in this new and vibrant group, but each chapter able to keep its unique identity and history. In the group belong chapters whose history reaches back beyond ‘the union’, both Ancients and Moderns. This meeting is to unite in our common aim, but also to shine a light on some of the unique variations and celebrate our idiosyncrasies.

Paul then invited Andrew Whittle to give an account of the host chapter, Chapter of Friendship, which was founded in 1861 by members of St John of Jerusalem No 203. Today the chapter exists as an amalgamation of three chapters in 2007, Friendship Chapter No 241, Alliance Chapter No 667 which was founded in 1943 and Prince Arthur Chapter No 2631 founded in 1948. It was, by all standards a seamless change having regard to the fact there were three separate entities each with their own style, but it was to the credit of those who worked on the steering committee in each chapter that they ironed out their respective differences in order that there were no contentious issues which may have resulted in stumbling at the first hurdle. Andrew continued by saying how they are a merry lot by nature and although they take their ritual seriously they still find time to inject a degree of humour into their meetings. There is no doubt that this easy going attitude has helped in ensuring the amalgamation has enabled the chapter to flourish. Although the chapter has no specific uniqueness in either ritual or festive board, the greatest strength of the chapter is the hospitality it shows to its guests. As Shakespeare’s King Henry V said in his St Crispin’s Day speech: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Long may it be so.

Neil Francis with the Chapter of Friendship collar showing the three PZ jewels.

Neil Francis with the Chapter of Friendship collar showing the three PZ jewels.

Paul thanked Andy for his contribution and next invited Bernard Ashley of Everton Chapter No 823 to take the floor. Everton Chapter, like Chapter of Friendship owes its beginnings to St John of Jerusalem Chapter. With the charter granted to it in 1868, Everton Chapter has had many distinguished characters throughout its existence and still acknowledges ancient ritual within its ritual. The first change is noted in 1878 where it is recorded that the companions, it would seem, were not enthusiastic to hear the three lectures, as the principals were to render them and it was proposed, seconded and approved that the preamble to the installation and the commitment of the duties of the three principals be given by the installing principal and that the installing principals then conduct the remainder of the ceremony of their respective principal. This practice continues to this day, with the precise details of ceremony becoming common knowledge to the members in 1959 thanks to Albert Watson Ley who recorded them along with other details of the chapter in anticipation of the centenary of 1968. These notes and the ritual were put into order by Roy Ashley in 1999 and in 1912 a complete ritual book was produced and fittingly dedicated to the memory of Albert Watson Ley, Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah.

Royal Arch masonry, in particular Everton Chapter and Liverpool Masonic Hall, have much to be thankful for due to the generosity of Albert Ley and his lovely wife Rita for their substantial donation to the hall directors in 1999, which enabled the refurbishment of the magnificent Egyptian Suite. Indeed it is affectionately known to the companions of the chapter as the Everton Suite, or indeed as Albert’s Room. A shrewd player of the stock market, insurance agent Albert was a man of small stature, standing just over five feet tall, but who walked head and shoulders above other mortals, always impeccably turned out and never without his trademark bowler hat. A master of ritual, a long standing treasurer, Albert was always willing to take centre stage to give a lecture on many topics due to his wealth of knowledge regarding Freemasonry.

Albert and Rita looked on the younger companions of the chapter as if they were their own and the chapter itself as their family. It was not unusual for Albert to announce at the festive board that Rita had covered the cost for the evening. On the occasion of their ruby wedding the companions organised a special anniversary party in their honour, a function the pair greatly appreciated.

Albert still lives on within the chapter, as one evening during the 1990’s whilst organising a raffle the stewards were stuck for a receptacle into which to place the tickets. A rather younger Bernie Ashley approached Albert and requested a loan of his fabled headwear to which Albert delightfully agreed with a huge grin. This became the norm from that moment and on the sad passing of Albert the bowler hat was handed over to Bernie and it is hoped that forever in the future the winning ticket is always drawn from Albert’s hat.

With the passing of Albert to greater service above, a quantity of pin badges in the shape of the famous hat, struck with ‘Everton 823’ upon them were manufactured and these are now presented to all chapter members. Any member not wearing his at convocation will find himself issued with a charitable fine for non-compliance. It is also now a chapter custom to say a few words about Albert and Rita’s kindness and love for the chapter and Royal Arch Masonry, and long may they and many other worthy and dedicated companions remain in our thoughts and prayers. Bernard resumed his seat within the room.

Paul next invited Tim Burgess to talk about Temple Chapter No 1094 which was consecrated on 26 January 1869, having being granted its charter on 4 November 1868. The chapter celebrated 125 years on 20 April 1994, in the presence of the then Deputy Grand Superintendent, B A Jackson, when the Rev H E Ross, then PGStB and Chairman of the 6 Liverpool Group, led the companions in a prayer of thanks and the rededication of the chapter to the honour of the Most High. The companions are looking forward towards 2019, to celebrate the 150 anniversary.

William Henry Quilliam.

William Henry Quilliam.

Obviously, a chapter which has been in existence for that length of time has had many memorable moments, and likewise a large number of interesting people within its ranks. One however is quite an enigma, William Henry Quilliam, a Liverpool solicitor of Manx ancestry and an enthusiastic Freemason. William was initiated into Alliance Lodge No 667 in Liverpool in 1879 and over a period of time joined the following: United Northern Counties Lodge No 2128 at London in 1885, West Kirby Lodge No 2690 Cheshire in 1889, Temperance Lodge No 2876 in Birkenhead in 1901, Liverpool Lodge No 1547 in 1901 and Lillley Ellis Lodge No 3236 in 1907. He was exalted into Temple Chapter, becoming first principal in 1908 and then disappears, now known to have gone to stay in the Ottoman Empire.

William came from a very strong Methodist family and background and did attend many temperance meetings alongside his mother. However, due to his ill health as a teenager, it was recommended he be sent to warmer climes and for this purpose Morocco looked an ideal place. It was while here that it is believed his inversion to Islam first took hold. Claiming to be the first English convert he established the Liverpool Muslim Institute at 8 Brougham Terrace, reputed to be the first mosque in Great Britain, and using the name of Abdullah. An accomplished writer and essayist he produced the Islamic paper The Crescent from 1893 to 1908, and saw three editions of his book The Faith of Islam printed and translated into 13 languages.

The Shah of Iran made him the Persian Vice-Consul in Liverpool, while the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II gave him the title of Sheik-ul-Islam of the British Isles. His fame had spread far and wide and the Emir of Afghanistan helped to fund William’s Islamic Institute. It was recounted how on occasion William, as Sheikh-ul-Islam, dressed in his long robes and turban, accompanied the Lord Mayor to greet foreign dignitaries arriving in England through the port at Liverpool, which included maharajas, royalty and world leaders. After 1908, in controversial circumstances, William left Liverpool and spent the rest of his life living under the pseudonym, Henri Marcel Leon or sometimes as Haroun Mustapha Leon, returning to Britain in 1914 he figured as a major contributor to British Islam in London and was also involved with the Woking Mosque, finally dying in 1932 at Bloomsbury, London.

Paul next invited Geoffrey Cuthill to give an account of St John of Jerusalem Chapter No 203, of which he is first principal. This chapter, the oldest now meeting at Liverpool Masonic Hall, formerly operated under sanction of an Atholl (antient) Lodge warrant issued in 1792 and numbered 276. The first recorded minutes for an exclusively Royal Arch meeting within this lodge date from 25 March 1796, when a lodge of emergency was called at Lewis’s, Richmond Street, Liverpool by the worshipful master for the purpose of the Royal Arch Mason members of this lodge to form themselves into a chapter. This was following an edict sent to the lodge from the Atholl Grand Lodge.

After the union of the two Grand Lodges on 27 December 1813 and the subsequent renumbering exercise in 1814, Lodge No 276 became No 348 and was known as Mariners Lodge No 348 until the meeting of 19 September 1816 when it was unanimously agreed that the name of the Mariners Lodge thus be expunged and the Union Lodge was adopted in its stead.

The jewel from St John of Jerusalem used by Liverpool Epworth Chapter.

The jewel from St John of Jerusalem used by Liverpool Epworth Chapter.

At this time Royal Arch Masonry was regularly carried out by the lodge as it saw no need to change, after all it still held the original warrant issued in 1792 entitling it to perform all Masonic degrees. During the early 1820s, the lodge, at this time known as Ancient Union, became embroiled in the ‘Liverpool rebellion’, resulting in the expulsion of a number of brethren. Those lodge members remaining considered the advice given that if they wanted to carry on with their Royal Arch Masonry and to help maintain concord with United Grand Lodge, then a Royal Arch Charter should be applied for. Contact was made by the lodge with Supreme Grand Chapter resulting in the granting of a charter to Ancient Union Lodge for the formation of a Royal Arch chapter to be known as St John’s of Jerusalem, which was subsequently issued on 11 November 1824. (The lodge and chapter both renumbered 245 in 1832 and again as 203 in 1863)

Sometime during the period when it operated Royal Arch Masonry under the Atholl warrant a set of sojourners jewels were in use, being in the form of a crow, a pick and a shovel and bear the identification Lodge 276, therefore dating their first use sometime between 1792 to 1813. With the fairly recent loss of one of the original jewels, the pick, John Hutton, (Past Second Grand Principal), on hearing of this offered to make a replica to replace it, and thanks to his tremendous good will, he also made another complete replica set so that the two remaining original jewels can now be kept securely without the risk of damage or further loss.

So in 2015, over 200 years after their first use, John Hutton presented the chapter with a new set of sojourners jewels replicating those originals, and accompanied the presentation with a lecture entitled ‘The working tools of a Royal Arch Mason’ which he had previously written and presented a number of years ago when he was first principal of the Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter of West Lancashire No 8516.

Following this Paul next invited Jack Parker to give an account of Chapter of Liverpool No 292 which was given its charter in 1842 as Chapter of Liverpool attached to Lodge of Sincerity No 292, but by 1852 any reference to Lodge of Sincerity was deleted. At the time of consecration Queen Victoria was on the throne and so in the intervening years the chapter has offered the loyal toast to six reigning monarchs, to the health of 10 Grand Masters and 17 Provincial Grand Masters. The chapter is still in possession the suitably inscribed sword that was presented by the first, first principal of the chapter J Molineux to his successor J Walmsley in 1845. Also in the chapter’s possession is what is believed to be the original banner, a silvered blue glass handled trowel dated from 1907, a set of sojourners wooden tools from 1911 and the loan of a chapter ritual book from 1894.

In 1858 the first committee met with the intention that the ‘House in the garden’, (the original Liverpool Masonic Hall building), on Hope Street should be demolished and a new Masonic hall built. Among the members of that committee was Thomas Wylie of this chapter and that support still continues today with a member of the chapter on the Board of Directors of the hall. The companions of the chapter have always supported those truly Masonic ornaments of benevolence and charity. Former companions include J Hamer and H S Alpass, founders of the two West Lancashire Benevolent Institutions which carried their name. Education has been high on the agenda in the past with two members, Joseph Walmsley and George Gill instrumental in initiating the West Lancashire Benevolent Institutions. A sure sign that Liverpool has always been at the forefront and the heart of Masonry within Lancashire and beyond, with today’s companions still fully involved in the true principle of the Craft.

Replica St John of Jerusalem jewels made by John Hutton.

Replica St John of Jerusalem jewels made by John Hutton.

Next onto the floor was again, Geoffrey Cuthill, who at a few minutes notice was requested to give an account of his ‘mother chapter’, Liverpool Epworth No 5381. Liverpool Epworth Chapter is a comparatively young chapter, having been consecrated on 19 February 1979. Amongst the founders were a number of eminent Royal Arch Mason’s such as Norman Watson, Brian Jackson, Paul Peter Paull and Rev Kenneth Cox. An unusual tradition within the chapter was established, either unwittingly or rather cleverly, by Tom Davies in 1996, who on completion of two years as first principal, presented the three newly installed principals with an ornamental elephant as a permanent reminder of their installation into one of the chairs. This presentation, made to each of the principals at the festive board has been maintained ever since and has now become an established tradition. Of course an elephant never forgets. In recent years this has been expanded to include small gold elephant pendants which were presented by James (Adoniram) Kontzle and are passed from the retiring principal to the newly installed principal, to be worn at each festive board. Failure to do so meets with a polite request for a charitable donation.

The chapter is also one of select few to have a Royal Arch tracing board, which was commissioned by the Rev Kenneth Cox and John Doig in 2000 and presented on the 21st anniversary. It is based on the one belonging to Sincerity Chapter No 261 in Taunton, Somerset, which is over 200 years old and has a very interesting lecture to go with it. The 25th anniversary was marked with the presentation by the surviving founders of an embroidered chapter banner depicting St Andrew’s Church in Epworth, the birthplace of the Wesley brothers.

Another part of the chapter furnishing is a set of platonic bodies, presented by Geoff Cuthill in 2010 during his year as first principal, and a delightful explanation of the meaning and usage was composed by Rev Kenneth Cox. This is a rarely seen but thoughtful presentation in the form of a catechism which can be shared between a number of companions.

Liverpool Epworth Chapter Tracing Board.

Liverpool Epworth Chapter Tracing Board.

Finally, the chapter’s IPZ jewel which was originally presented to Norman Watson and later to Brian Jackson, during their time as first principal of St John of Jerusalem chapter. On becoming founders of Liverpool Epworth Chapter, Brian with the permission of Norman, presented the jewel in 1986 to Liverpool Epworth Chapter to be worn by each IPZ’.

For the time being this brought to an end the accounts of the idiosyncrasies of a number of chapter’s, which would be resumed at the festive board. At this juncture Paul gave his conclusion to the evening within the chapter room saying: “The Liverpool Group has existed for five years but its roots stretch back at least 200 years. Differences in ritual, in social arrangements and in every other aspect of life but each chapter sharing our common aims and transmitting them from one generation to another without deviation. Each companion and chapter supporting our Grand Superintendent and the Order, to the best of their ability. Each giving their time, their talents, their money and committing themselves to ensuring that the Royal Arch in this great mercantile and maritime city of Liverpool will continue to progress. Thus we will offer to generations yet unborn the opportunity to explore our relationship with God in this beautiful and thought provoking Order.

Those who built our Masonic halls had to struggle to raise the money to do so. Those who established our Provincial charities had to call on companions to give more to enable the work of the charities to be possible. Nothing worth doing was ever easy and the challenges we face now are just as great as those faced by our predecessors. All the initiatives in the past were only possible because of the vision and steadfast determination of our predecessors. All of our efforts need steady, competent, sensitive direction and following, as he does, the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, in the footsteps of his distinguished predecessors he continues to lead the Province with all those attributes.

Whatever challenges arise the Liverpool Group companions will be here, ready to rise to the challenges that present themselves and encouraged by the lessons that we are taught in our chapters, continue to demonstrate to the world at large the beneficial effects of Freemasonry. United by our common aims and celebrating and enjoying our idiosyncrasies let each of us look to the future with renewed hope and vigour.”

Paul continued with adding his thanks to the companions of Chapter of Friendship for hosting the evening and to all the companions present that they enjoyed a glimpse through this window onto some of the peculiarities both interesting and informative and take away happy memories of the evening.

This was followed by Stan Oldfield giving a full rendition and explanation regarding the presentation of the Supreme Grand Chapter certificate, in an exemplary and flawless manner, after which the chapter was closed in due form and all made their way to the main banqueting suite for a magnificent festive board. It was while at the festive board that two more of the Liverpool chapters gave examples of what they do in their chapter. Sacred Delta Chapter No 216 gave the ‘silent toast’, which is still widely practised in a number of chapters, but not all, and was a great point of interest to those not accustomed to its use. In former times it was part of the ceremony inside the chapter.

The evening was closed by members of the Sure and Stedfast Chapter of Temperance and Felicity No 9326. The chapter celebrates its 100th Anniversary on 5 April 2019 and is the last numbered chapter in the 2015-16 Provincial Year Book. How this has happened is another story in itself.  ‘Sure and stedfast’ is the motto of the Boys’ Brigade. It is a long standing tradition that at the end of the festive board the companions of the chapter sing ‘vespers’ (evening hymn) in memory of current and past members of the Boys’ Brigade.

The Provincial Team.

The Provincial Team.

During the festive board, Tony Harrison was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the companions of Chapter of Friendship for his wife Maureen. To this were added two gifts for Tony himself, a delightful pair of cuff-links and a nice scale model of an omnibus, in recognition of his enthusiasm for this mode of transport. Tony thanked everyone for their hospitality, adding he had thoroughly enjoyed his evening, and thought it had been a tremendous success all round.


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