Busking in Babylon

Friday, 31st March 2023 was the Date of the Michael Edward Herbert Council (MEH) No. 160 meeting, on this occasion at Middleton Masonic Hall. The MEH Council meets under the jurisdiction of the District of East Lancashire, but, as you may be aware, this is a Council for Grand Officers from both the East and West Lancashire Districts. As an aside, this mirrors the Timothy John Lewis Council No. 190 for District Officers of both East and West Lancashire, which meets under the jurisdiction of the District of West Lancashire. I think that this arrangement demonstrates the close working relationship between the two Districts.

For those with a geographical inclination, Middleton, although now part of the Greater Manchester conurbation, is historically a Lancashire Township, its name being derived from being the centre of a number of early settlements. It was originally an ecclesiastical parish of the Salford Hundred – also known as Salfordshire. Salford being one of the sub divisions of the historic County of Lancashire.

And so, I made my way to Middleton MH, which was a first for me, having never attended any meetings at this location. Lighter evenings made the journey reasonably pleasant, if you can ever think of driving up the M6 and M62 etc at workers going home time pleasant! No hold ups however, (but see comments below about my return journey) meant that I arrived at Middleton MH in good time. Good car parking meant that there was no driving around to look for a suitable parking spot.

DGP’s of East and West Lancashire, their Deputies and Ceremony Team

The Hall is a relatively modern and attractive facility, with an upstairs Lodge Room and downstairs dining room. A very comfortable, roomy premises for a Masonic meeting and for meeting up with old and new friends.

DGP’s and Candidates

RW Bro Mervyn Frank Wilson, DGP for East Lancashire, has given an extra purpose to this particular meeting of MEH Council in the annual calendar, by arranging for Grand Officer members to perform the ceremony of Knights of the Red Cross of Babylon; and on this occasion there was the excellent number of 13 Candidates attending to receive the accolade.

DGP’s at Rest

The WM, Very Worshipful Brother Geoffrey Catterall, opened the Council, and then welcomed Right Worshipful Brother Wilson, and offered him the gavel. The DGP, thanked the WM for the honour, but then paused to consider the amount of work to be undertaken later in the evening, and, deciding that discretion is the better form of valour, tactfully returned the gavel to the WM.                                                                                         

  Salutations were then given, first to the DGP for East Lancashire and then to the DGP of West Lancashire.

The preliminary business being concluded, the WM adjourned the Degree of St Lawrence the Martyr, and the Candidates were asked to leave the Council for a short time. The DC for the evening, W. Bro. Shaun Higson, then busied himself, setting up the Council for the Red Cross of Babylon Ceremony. It is fair to say that the Candidates were well and truly invested into the Degree, the whole of the team playing its part in the ceremony, but it is worth recording that W. Bro Fraser McCord, as Thrice Illustrious Sovereign, gave an excellent and very animated performance in the Persian Court, in a true lilting Scottish accent (pity the candidates couldn’t understand his brogue – I jest Fraser!!!!). However, the candidates fully understood his next gesture when, on completion of the ceremony, he offered each of them a miniature bottle of the Highlands’ finest, each miniature being edged with a purple ribbon. What a wonderful gesture from an excellent Mason.

The WM then resumed the Council in the Degree of St Lawrence the Martyr. Important items of business remained to be conducted, including to elect a WM and Treasurer for the ensuing year. Unfortunately, the current Senior Warden, W. Bro Trevor Jewitt, is unwell and unable to be Installed as Master at the next meeting; but cometh the hour and cometh the man, as English cricketer Cliff Gladwin once uttered, and RW Brother Mervyn stepped up to the crease and agreed to be nominated. There being no other nominations (would anyone dare?) he was declared Master for the ensuing year to great acclamation. W. Bro Jeff Huddart was then nominated and subsequently declared Treasurer, again to acclamation.

From Labour to Refreshment

The Council being closed, the WM and both DGP’s retired, and Brethren made their way to the dining hall to enjoy a social drink and dinner. A goodly crowd of Mason’s delighted in exchanging pleasantries and honouring the formal toasts. It is true to say that Mervyn should be proud of the efforts of his team in ensuring that the Candidates were well and truly invested on this occasion, and we look forward to a similar occasion next year when the Brethren of MEH can again strut their stuff.

DGP, From Refreshment to Labour

To close, I said earlier in the piece that I had a pleasant journey to Middleton MH, but the same cannot be said of my return home. Unfortunately, a large section of the M6 had been closed at 9pm and this caused me to get home somewhat later than intended. The upside is that I visited many areas of Greater Manchester and its surrounds that I hadn’t seen for some time – always look on the bright side of life I say!

PS, one of the Brethren present at the meeting played in a professional rugby league match in the 1980’s between Wigan and Huddersfield, which entered into folk lore as ‘The Battle of Fartown’. No kidding, and you can view it on YouTube if you’re interested (other social media outlets available etc. etc.). You need to be warned of scenes of violence if you are of a sensitive disposition, and you might need subtitles to understand the Lancashire and Yorkshire dialects. The Brother concerned acted as a Persian Guard on the occasion of the afore mentioned ceremony, and you can be sure he had no problem with his prisoner!!!

Words by Wigan Warrior

Photographs by the Rochdale Hornet.