Monday 30th July saw an event unique in the history of the Supreme Council 33° for England and Wales – the centenary celebration of 5 Rose Croix Chapters at one meeting.
The background to the event was unique and still leaves us with some unknowns. Warrants for five new Chapters were issued on the same day, 18th April 1918, all the Chapters to meet in the same District, the North Western District, which then comprised Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmorland. Those five Chapters are still extant and meeting in 3 of the 4 current Lancashire Districts:
Manchester Chapter No. 193 (Middleton, SE Lancashire)
Mark Wilkinson Chapter No.194 (Darwen, NE Lancashire)
Walter M Hamilton Chapter No.195 (Eccles, SE Lancashire)
Col. JD Murray Chapter No.196 (Pemberton, SW Lancashire)
James D Murray Chapter No.197 (Padiham, NE Lancashire)
So far as anyone is aware, there have never been as many as 5 Chapters warranted on the same day, either before or since this particular case, and certainly not in one District.
And what circumstances prevailed that 5 Chapters could be erected in one District at a time when the country was still at war, with the outcome uncertain? It is also somewhat unusual to have 2 Chapters named after the same (living) individual, especially when there was already a Murray Chapter No.177 in the Manchester area named after him.
Fast forward 98 years and the Inspectors General with responsibility for the 5 centenary Chapters got together to discuss options. 5 separate celebrations seemed a big imposition on Supreme Council and would lack the impact and scale that a single celebratory event would achieve. In the end, the Grand Secretary General of Supreme Council came up with the solution; the Supreme Council’s ‘private’ Chapter, Morning Star Chapter No.33 would hold its Enthronement meeting, by dispensation, in Lancashire (we had already designated Brookfield Masonic Hall in Westhoughton as the ideal venue) and bring together the members of all 5 centenary Chapters plus as many Princes from the Lancashire and neighbouring Districts as could be accommodated at one ‘stellar’ event.
And so it proved. There were present: Five members of Supreme Council, supported by the Grand DC, a Deputy Grand DC and the Grand Tyler, other members of Morning Star Chapter including the Most Wise Sovereign, E&P Bro Sir David Wooton (better known in other circles as the Assistant Grand Master in the Craft), the Sovereign-elect, E&P Bro Professor George Boys-Stones, 9 Inspectors General, 3 Past Inspectors General and 9 District Recorders. The Sovereigns of all 5 centenary Chapters were present and were well supported by members of their own and other Chapters in each of the 3 Districts.
Following a superb Enthronement ceremony, V∴Ill∴Bro David Hawkins 33°, Past Inspector General for the North East Lancashire District, gave a brief history on the subject of life and Freemasonry in 1918.
The Sovereign Grand Commander, M∴P∴Bro Alan Englefield 33° then took the floor and presented each of the centenary Chapter Sovereigns with their Chapter’s Centenary Warrant, authorising the wearing of a Centenary jewel.
The festive board comprised an excellent 3-course dinner with the customary toasts, plus an additional toast to the health of V∴Ill∴Bro Nick Bosanquet 33° the Grand Director of Ceremonies who was retiring after this evening’s special event after 10 years in office.
Months of planning and preparation resulted in a fantastic – and unique – event, which will be fondly remembered by all those who took part for many years to come.