Every year, in August, when things are usually quiet, we have a District Officers Meeting when we talk about the year just gone and the year to come. So, it was about this time last year that our District Chairman, Peter Douthwaite, first made the suggestion that we should hold a Community Fun Day and an Open Day to mark the Tercentenary of English Freemasonry. Originally, we were going to hold it over two days, in July when the weather ought to be good enough to do things out of doors. We talked about the format it might take, who we could invite, what we might do. Most of all we talked about whether or not we could get the public to come. After all, we’ve all heard stories about Masonic Open Days where nobody came, there had been one of those several years before at Ashton and we hoped against hope that we would succeed.
So our Family Fun Day and Masonic Open Day took place on the 16th July. It rained all morning and we were due to start at 1.00 pm, then, about 12.30 it started to clear and by 1.00 pm the sun was shining out of a clear sky. We are pretty sure that we had about 450 people attending. The whole of our site was packed, I’ve never seen so many people wandering about, asking questions, having a great time and just having fun. There can be no denying the fact that we had a real success on our hands. We even made a bit of money, and we never set out to do that, but, for instance, when we were asked how much it was to throw sponges at the Brother in the Aunt Sally, we said it was free. So a member of the public went into the bar and borrowed a glass to put on the floor and people just started giving money. That’s the sort of atmosphere we had all afternoon. By the way, all of the money that we raised on the day from the Cake Stall, The Tombola and the Aunt Sally will be going back to the Community groups who supported us on the day.
It really got going at 2.00 pm when our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, John Pearson, took the microphone at the top of the stairs and, after welcoming everyone to Ashton Masonic Hall, declared the event open. The Brass Band started up with a swing, the children gravitated almost universally to the two Bouncy Castles while the adults investigated the Classic Car Show and the Hand bell Ringing tent. A queue started outside the Grand Tombola stand that was so long that within 40 minutes all the prizes had gone and they were forced to shut up shop. Inside the Hall we had the Conservatory where all the stands representing our local Charities were placed. The Bar did a roaring trade selling drinks, burgers, sausage butties and even cream teas. The Banqueting Suite was set aside for the big indoor displays. We had two separate Dancing Schools putting on displays, Reforma Dance Theatre going first and followed by the Aladdin Dance Team from Latin Steps Dance Studio. In between we had a display from Marshall’s Fencing Club, so there was something for everyone. Rushing back and forwards with my camera, trying desperately to record everything that was going on I managed to catch the Tameside Sea Cadets and the Marching Band from St Peters’ Church Lads and Girls Brigade.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Frank Stansfield and Don Folwell from Lodge of Union had set up an excellent Museum showing artefacts from a number of Lodges. In the Lodge Room a team from Waverley Lodge, the only brethren in regalia, performed a simplified Opening Ceremony for two packed audiences of very interested people. Alan D P Smith was in overall charge wearing his Grand Lodge Regalia and very ably answering any questions that were asked from the audience. Other brethren of the Lodge took the principal offices and gave excellent explanations of what their purpose was in the Lodge. They most definitely succeeded, for on leaving the room there was a lot of very animated discussion from the visitors regarding what they had seen.
I was just at the point of rushing round in the Banqueting Suite, trying to get a picture of Peter Cole selling the very last cake from Milton Lodge’s Cake Stall, and getting a picture of the Aladdin Team when I got a message to get outside to the Aunt Sally. Not a moment too soon, for I was just in time to catch Councillor Brian Wild and our own Peter Douthwaite, both stripped to the waist, being pelted by wet sponges, mainly by members of the band, or so it seemed. And just as suddenly as it had started it was 4.00 pm and it was all over, people started to drift off, the ice cream van was selling his last cornets. The members of Kershaw Lodge who had operated the Victorian Games for the amusement of the children, were packing away. The face painters were packing up and the bouncy castles were merrily deflating. The Provincial Trailer had been parked by the entrance to our grounds and had been manned non-stop throughout. I stopped by them as they started to pack away to ask if there had been any interest shown in joining Freemasonry. I was told that there had been a steady stream of visitors, asking questions and, it seemed, at least four definite applications to join one Lodge or another.
Our APGM has summed up the success of the day very well in a personal letter that he wrote to Peter Douthwaite, who has permitted me to quote a little bit of that letter. John said, “It was a magnificent occasion with so many organisations and charities attending and I was truly moved to see our Freemasons bringing all the Tameside Community together.” That was our aim from the very beginning, so many months before. Not to make this a Masonic Open Day with nothing else going on, but to hold an Open Day that was fun from beginning to end, that brought together some of the many groups that we have been so happy to work with and support over the last year. We are, after all, one community. I really rather think that we succeeded!
Our District Chairman, Peter Douthwaite, has particularly asked me to thank the following people and groups who made the day so memorable for all who were present. The District Team who were instrumental in organising the event, most especially Ian Screen who coordinated the day as well as Steve Boyle, David Dredge, Peter Cole, Alan Jones, Kevin Hall, Tony Freemont and Harry Kearney. Many thanks also go to Alex Miller who provided all of the posters and booklets for the day.
The Lodges who supported the event and who ran many of the stalls. If I was to name all of the individual Freemasons who assisted us both on the day and before, it would be a very long list indeed, but you know who you are and we thank you all by name! Duke of Athol Lodge looked after the Grand Tombola and Vintage Cars, Lodge of Fidelity ran the Whiskey Sweepstake, Lodge of Minerva ran some of the Victorian Games, Milton Lodge ran the Cake Stall, and Leo pushed, poked and prodded all of the prizes for the Tombola, Lodge of Union organised one of the Bouncy Castles, the Provincial Trailer, the Aunt Sally, the Museum and the Vintage Cars, Kershaw Lodge looked after most of the Victorian Games and the First Aid and Waverley Lodge performed the Lodge Room Demonstrations. All of the Lodges were ably supported by Faith, Perseverance, Hartshead and Union Chapters. Alphin Lodge and Prince Alfred Chapter acted as Car Parking Stewards, Westholme Lodge manned the Sideshows and Prince Alfred Lodge provided us with First Aid. If I’ve forgotten anyone, then I’m deeply sorry.
Finally, our deepest and most sincere thanks go to all of the Charities and Community Groups who came along and supported us in many different ways. We really could not have done this without you all. Thank you to The Aladdin Dance Team from Latin Steps Dance Studio, the East Manchester Community Boat Project, Help for Heroes, Marshall Fencing Club, North Tameside Scouts, The Reforma Dance Theatre, The Ashton under Lyne Branch of Soroptimist International, St John’s Castle Brass Band, St Peter’s Church Lads and Church Girls Brigade, Tameside Sea Cadets, Tameside, Oldham & Glossop Mind and Willow Wood Hospice. We promise you all that we will continue to support you when you need us.
There are many more photographs, taken on the day, than can be shown on this web page.
Please feel free to look at any of the photographs in our Photo Gallery, which you will find by following this link Community Day Photo Gallery