The members of Milton Lodge together with the APGM and their new Banner, following the ceremony

These days you are quite lucky if you see a Lodge Banner. A lot of these wonderful objects are now consigned to cases of glass or wood, or are effectively stored away in Museums. Occasionally you will come across a very old photograph showing a Masonic Procession, with the Brethren in full regalia, parading proudly behind their Lodge Banners. I have seen just such a photograph showing a group of Ashton Lodges parading from the centre of Ashton to St Peter’s Church, just opposite where, some 40 years later, Ashton Masonic Hall would open. For the photograph that I saw was taken in the 1880’s, during the second half of Queen Victoria’s reign, and before the Masonic community began to hide itself away. In those days, banners were widely used by many organisations to show their allegiance, and their pride in belonging. Trade Unions, Freemasons, Suffragettes, they all marched proudly behind their banners.

John Pearson APGM takes wine with WM, Alex Miller

So, the 11th of April, 2019, offered a very special opportunity to see a ceremony that you will not see very often in the modern age. Milton Lodge No 1144 simply didn’t have a banner and, having just celebrated their 150th Anniversary some 18 months before, decided that it was time they made good on that omission. A Banner Dedication Ceremony was duly  organised and, on the night, some 40 Brethren turned up to see an excellent example of how such a ceremony should be conducted. The APGM for the Southern Area, WBro A. John Pearson was accompanied by a sizeable team representing the District and the Province, including the District Chairman, Peter Douthwaite and all under the guiding hands of the Provincial DC, WBro Simon Archer and the Acting Deputy Provincial Grand Chaplain, WBro Russell Conn.

The District Officers of Ashton & Mossley District – From l to r – John King, Steve Ridgway, Stuart Tennant, Kevin Hall

Once the deputation had entered the Lodge, the Worshipful Master Bro Alex Miller, offered the gavel to John Pearson who, on this occasion, accepted it, after all, this was a Provincial ceremony. After introducing the Provincial and District Teams, John then introduced the ceremony, and the purpose of this special meeting. A Banner Delegation was then formed under the guidance of the Provincial Grand DC, and left the Lodge to collect the new Banner. They then re-entered the Lodge and paraded the new Banner while the rest of us sang a hymn. Russell Conn then said the words of the Dedication Prayer, following which two members of the Lodge, David Brown and Peter Finnigan handed the Banner over to the APGM who delivered it into the safe keeping of Alex Miller. Simon Archer then recited a short passage of scripture, Russell Conn dedicated the Banner and then gave his Oration.

Milton Lodge’s New Banner, proudly in place at the top table

I’ve heard Orations described as a sort of sermon, but the word really refers to a formal speech given on a ceremonial occasion. Russell delivered a very interesting talk which centred on the relationship between Milton Lodge and the Poet John Milton who wrote the epic “Paradise Lost”. It seems likely that Milton Lodge was consecrated on the Bicentenary of the death of the Poet, which is as good a reason as any for naming a Lodge. Russell also talked about the links with William Blake, who wrote another epic poem, “Milton” which has been described as “The Grandest Poem ever written”. This allowed Russell to segue into his final section which considered the Victorian society in which Blake lived, and in which Milton Lodge was founded. If you would like to read the oration, I will put a link lower on this page which you can use to download a copy. I can heartily recommend this thoughtful piece; it made a very enjoyable oration. Finally, we sang another wonderful old hymn, and received the Patriarchal Blessing from Russell Conn before the Provincial Deputation retired from the Lodge

Russell Conn (left), Peter Douthwaite & Simon Archer (right)

The text of this article and all photographs are by Kevin Hall, District Communications Officer for Ashton & Mossley District.

Russell Conn’s Oration is available as a PDF file by following this link 08 Oration to Milton lodge Apr 11th

These photographs are copyright. ©Kevin Hall. District Communications Officer for Ashton & Mossley Freemasons.
Their use, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes, without the express written permission of the copyright holder is strictly forbidden.

All of the photographs taken on the night can be viewed online on the Provincial Photo Gallery by following this link