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Hiding behind the organ

It was going to be a busy Masonic weekend, following an eventful week, so on Friday morning I ensured I’d ironed sufficient white shirts, paired them with the appropriate ties and checked that the suits were ready on their hangers.
That afternoon we were setting off on a Provincial Team visit to Peace Lodge 3936 in Middlesbrough, which was quite a way from Hull, so an early start was in order. The next day I had an Athelstan meeting in Leeds, followed by a Daggards presentation back in Hull. I laid everything out, congratulating myself on being so well organised.
Today Dave was chauffeur – it’s always better to share transport, and it suited me as I don’t enjoy driving at all, especially long journeys in the dark. He arrived early. “Are you ready?” he said. “As we’re picking the Assistant Provincial Grand Master up as well, I thought it would be better to leave plenty of time. Oh, and Paul’s travelling too. He wants dropping off in Guisborough, for a presentation.”
“Of course I’m ready,” I said.
“You’ve remembered your tailcoat this time?”
“Don’t remind me.” I’d forgotten it on a team visit the week before and knew I’d be teased about it for the next few weeks. I picked up my regalia case, draped my tailcoat and my jacket over my arm and stepped smartly out, locking the door behind me.
“It’s best to be early,” confirmed Paul, who was in mufti, “especially as today is Poet’s day.”
“I know that one,” I said, but once Paul starts talking it’s impossible to stop him.
“It stands for ‘Push Off Early; Tomorrow’s Saturday,” he explained.
“I don’t think the word is ‘push,’” said David as he headed into the traffic.
“You’re right,” conceded Paul, “but I’m using the clean version in case Eddie writes it down, you know what he’s like.”
“That’s an unwarranted slur,” I said, “but I forgive you.”

I thought I’d gone suddenly deaf when we left Guisborough, until I realised that Paul was no longer beside me. We arrived in Middlesbrough in time to rehearse the team line-up for the entry of the Ruler.

I PGL yorklike wearing a tailcoat, or formal morning dress – the name derives from the eighteenth century practice of gentlemen riding their horses in the morning – the style gradually replaced the formal frock-coat. It was designed, I believe, to keep out draughts. At the end of the rehearsal, the Secretary approached me.
“You do know you’re playing the organ tonight,” he said, doubtfully.
“I didn’t,” I answered, “would you like me to?”
“Yes please.” A worried expression crossed his face. “I thought you knew.”
“I didn’t bring any music,” I said. “What is your opening hymn?”

I’ll tell you some other time about the different hymn tunes Lodges use. Contrary to popular belief, none of them is “the usual one.” I took a few minutes establishing what music was used in Peace Lodge (St. Bees for the Opening, St. Oswald for the closing, and St. Sylvester in the middle of the Third Degree ceremony, which took me by surprise; all three are by John Bacchus Dykes, who wrote the music Melita for the hymn “For those in peril on the sea.”) Having tried out the instrument to find the different sound combinations, I hurried to where my regalia case was hiding to put on my finery. When I located my case and opened it, instead of the expected blue and gold of my Grand Lodge apron, there was the maroon trim of the Order of Athelstan. Disaster!

I have known Brethren pick up the wrong case at the end of a meeting, blithely going home with another Brother’s mobile phone and car keys, and indeed, many Brethren adorn their cases with a distinctive key ring, or a twist of coloured wool to prevent such an eventuality. However, to pick up the wrong case from your own front room is particularly embarrassing.

I recall a distinguished visitor to a Hull Lodge once making a similar mistake: he proudly wore a borrowed Entered Apprentice’s apron as he sat on the dais, remarking that the lambskin was common to all Freemasons, and indeed, fundamental, being the badge of innocence and the bond of friendship. Peace Lodge kindly lent me a Master Mason’s pinnie, and the DC, Dave McCormack let me borrow his Provincial collar, so while I was hiding behind the organ, I looked more or less respectable. The Assistant Provincial Grand Master carefully failed to notice when he paraded past escorted by the Provincial team of Active Officers (all correctly dressed.) But Dave the driver gave me a wicked grin as he passed, and I knew I was going to be teased later.

I thought about it on the long drive home – how sometimes things work out for the best. Okay, I wasn’t correctly dressed for the processionals – but at least the team didn’t enter and leave in silence. And I’d been well impressed by Peace Lodge’s hospitality – so thank you, Brethren all!

Eddie Wildman
June 2016