Nearly 70 brethren were present to witness the installation of Francis (Frank) Laird into the chair of Willows Lodge No 5343 which meets at Bryn Masonic Hall. Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning was the principal guest, accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent, group chairman Malcolm Taylor and fellow grand officers Graeme Hughes and David Ogden. They were supported by acting Provincial grand officer Lucas Kelly and Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell, together with group vice chairman Geoffrey Porter.
The WM and installing master Trevor Jones offered the gavel to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master. In response, Philip stated that he was really pleased to be at Bryn, and as he had been informed by the secretary that it was the wish of Willows Lodge that he should come and enjoy himself, that objective would be best achieved by quickly returning it. Everyone who has witnessed Trevor’s enthusiasm during the past year will know that he was delighted to receive the gavel back. From his manner, body language, obvious enthusiasm and confident delivery, Trevor appeared to be well prepared for the task that faced him.
The preparation paid off. Philip Gunning and all assembled were treated to a delightful ceremony of installation, and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master was greatly impressed, lavishing praise on the installing master and all the officers who took part. How pleasing it was to see the working tools delivered by junior Masons; Mark Anders, Jeff Burns and Darryl Millman in such fine fashion. So polished was the delivery that each was received to much acclaim and spontaneous applause.
Graeme Hughes, a grand officer and lodge member, delivered the warrant of the lodge into the care of the new WM and there then followed the presentation of the Hallstone Jewel to Frank, a very special tradition in Willows Lodge. The significance of it was explained to him, representing those four years of extreme sacrifice between 1914 and 1918 and the generosity of former members of the lodge. It was explained to him that it had since that time always been worn by masters of the lodge as part of their Masonic clothing. Graeme also delivered the address to the wardens, Jim Browning to the new master and of course, Philip Gunning to the brethren.
Once the officers were installed with the assistance of hard working director of ceremonies Arthur Robinson, Philip brought the greetings and congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master and congratulated Frank on taking the chair in such a fine ceremony, commenting that the installing master Trevor Jones had done very well and deserved acclamation.
Philip was delighted to receive charitable donations totalling a magnificent £2,800, consisting of: £700 to West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and a further £300 to the tercentenary appeal, £300 to the Masonic hall, £350 to the Wigan and Leigh Hospice, £200 to the Newton Community Hospital, £200 to the Newton-le-Willows branch of Age Concern and £750 to Guide Dogs for the Blind. Philip was extremely impressed by this wonderful charitable effort, in fact, on reading the amounts on the envelope, his first response was: “Goodness gracious!” It is an achievement that all the members of Willows Lodge can feel proud of their achievement.
Frank lives in Newton-le-Willows and has a daughter Natalie. He is employed within the family business, a photographic shop in St Helens. He is a keen supporter of St Helens Rugby League Club and also enjoys his second favourite sport of horse racing.