Universities scheme visits Durham
Sir David Hugh Wootton in Stockton upon Tees
The 24th May 2018 was a special occasion for the Lodge of Fraternity in Stockton on Tees as their Worshipful Master Ken Hardy was pleased to receive The Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton. The Provincial Grand Master for Durham, Norman Eric Heaviside, accompanied by other distinguished officers, and numerous visitors from near and far, joined the usual members of Lodge of Fraternity in passing 3 men to the 2nd degree.
The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the United Grand Lodge of England Universities Scheme ventured North with Universities Scheme Chairman Mark Greenburgh and the North East Regional Coordinator of the Universities Scheme David Cavaye. This was the first in an ambitious day of duty for them that would end at the Duke of Connaught Lodge in Wallsend. Sir David Hugh Wootton was welcomed to Stockton by Durham’s Provincial Grand Master and they took time to meet the candidates for the day and as many members as they were able both ahead of the ceremony itself and at the proceedings thereafter.
As this was a celebration of the Universities Scheme Lodges in the Province, the ceremony of passing included candidates from Mowbray Lodge in Sunderland and Universities Lodge in Durham to accompany Fraternity’s own Entered Apprentice. It would be reasonable to expect a past master such as Ken to carry out the ritual for the Fellowcraft Degree without any feelings of trepidation but with such august company and with an additional two candidates to make due adjustments for it could have caused a certain quiver and a measure of self-doubt. Add to that, one of the biggest parts of the work was carried out for the first time by Senior Deacon, Lee Harrison, and this could have all gone gloriously wrong! But the Lodge of Fraternity stood up to the test and everyone gave of their best and showed what Durham has to offer to freemasonry.
Despite the gathering in the lodge room, it was only proper that the candidates were the focus of the afternoon and each of them was brought on to the next step in their Masonic journey with the aplomb one would usually see in a past masters’ lodge, Lee Harrison leading David Chapman, the candidate from his lodge, whilst Stephen Cullen of Mowbray Lodge and David Squirrell of Universities Lodge were conducted by their respective lodge Senior Deacons.
At the First Rising, Sir David said that he regretted not being able to remain in Stockton for the rest of the evening, explaining that his team would have to leave to beat the perils of peak time travel through the Tyne Tunnel to make his next Masonic appointment in Northumberland.
Sir David added that it was a pleasure to be in attendance and congratulated all who took part under the leadership of Ken Hardy. He praised Lee for his deacon work and Michael Shaw for his further explanations to the three candidates on this next step in their Masonic journey. He also thanked Eric for his welcome to Durham and the hospitality shown to him and his assistants in Stockton that day. Sir David concluded his remarks by noting the example set today that the Universities Scheme covers men who are not necessarily in or from a university education.
On the Second Rising Eric expressed his gratitude to a High Ruler in finding the time to come and visit a private Lodge in the Province, a very great honour indeed. He congratulated all who had taken part and said how proud he was with the standard of ritual that had been showcased.
Mark Greenburgh took his cue to address everyone with an update on the results of a recent audit carried out on the Universities Scheme and a number of strategies identified to aid progression. These strategies include how to engage with universities, explaining what freemasonry has to offer, and how to improve the assistance given to brethren to enable them to transfer to new lodges as graduates travel away from their place of study. Also what is involved and how to join the Chapter, help that is available to overseas districts and countries as graduates return to or travel to those countries to progress their careers and finally a note of associations that could be joined or visited that would enhance Masonic life.
Not content with his leading role in the ceremony, Lee took the opportunity to promote his forthcoming inclusion as part of the Province of Durham masonic team taking to the road and hills to complete the ‘three peaks challenge’ in aid of the Festival, with this being the first of two arduous weekends for Durham freemasons ending with the Coast to Castles cycle ride, two endeavours that will see the fund total climb towards or beyond the £2M mark.
This effectively ended the business upstairs and after procession out of the temple everyone retired downstairs for pleasant après-dinner association before the distinguished guests from outside Durham proffered their farewells and departed the Tees for the Tyne.
Definitely a day for the history books, and a great time was had by all.