Following a hearty repast of locally sourced Lancashire Hot Pot, Apple Pie and Custard the Study Circle dispatches the necessary minimum of administrative tasks and begins its friendly deliberations. These might take the form of a paper of Masonic (or other) interest, consideration of future activities or a general forum and it was from the latter that a decision was made at the beginning of last year that serious research should be made to record the history and development of the Royal Arch in this area in the hope of producing an informative book.
This topic had not been as well trodden as some other Masonic subjects and it was realised that being underwritten by the Study Circle any profits accruing might appropriately be donated to the 2013 Royal Arch Bicentenary Appeal to benefit the Research Fund of the Royal College of Surgeons.
The dreaded phrase so beloved of freemasons “we’ll form a subcommittee” was uttered and duly came to pass and it is to the credit of all that it never physically met, all the deliberations being conducted “down the electric wires” in best William McGonagall fashion. Many Chapters had already addressed their histories previously and these were a valuable source of material together with the contributions of the current Scribes Ezra and senior members of various chapters who could remember events and personalities some of whom were in some danger of receding into the mists of time.
Two forms of the history were produced, a hardback subscribers copy at £12.00 and a glossy copy which also contained a list of subscribers but at a reduced price.
The project set itself an ambitious deadline for the end of the 2012-13 Masonic season and achieved its deadline .The books, in best literary fashion, ”flew off the shelves” necessitating a reprint to satisfy demand. Such was the interest that at the start of this season only six
books remain. However, since then, even the last six copies have found owners and cost considerations mean a further print run is unlikely.
This publication has been donated to various local reference points including The Harris Community Library (late The Harris Reference Library), Lancashire Records Office and various Masonic Libraries most notably Grand Lodge, The Provincial Archives of West Lancashire and Saul Street Library. In fact the Second Grand Principal Comp. George Francis on a recent visit to Preston was sufficiently impressed that he insisted on taking not one but two copies with him to Grand Chapter. The last copy was in fact presented to the 2013 Prestonian Lecturer, Dr Paul Calderwood, Assistant to the Grand Superintendent in S Wales.
Anyone familiar with the Harris will have seen that many original volumes reside on the shelves and record historical events occurring in at least the last two centuries. It might be that someone researching our affairs could select this book at some time in the future and be surprised at the length and depth of our history and the many local and well known personalities who became involved at various times.
The project has been a self-financing exercise for the Study Circle because as well as funding the various complimentary copies and covering printing costs it has realised a commendable donation of £700 to the Royal Arch 2013 Appeal mentioned above and who knows whether you, your family or indeed anyone within your circle will benefit or indeed has benefitted in the past from such research financed by the appeal. The RA appeal on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons resulted in a cheque of £2.5m being presented at the bicentenary convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter on 16th October, a commendable total which, it is understood, may be subject to an upwards revision.
Companions may rest assured that the latest publication of 200 pages from the study circle has recorded in some depth the effects of this important part of freemasonry for posterity and might generate interest even beyond the Royal Arch.
Do you have an interest in discovering more about freemasonry both locally and internationally? Do you have any knowledge you wish to impart or probing criticisms which you might wish to explore with others? There is always a forum at the study circle which only meets four times annually and has a subscription of a modest £4.00.(see the Preston Group Diary for contact details.)
The last event of considerable general interest sponsored by the Study Circle occurred under the auspices of Setantia Lodge of Installed Masters No.7755 on Wednesday 23rd October when the Prestonian Lecturer for 2013 V.W. Bro. Dr. Paul Richard Calderwood presented a reading (unnofficial) of the 2013 Prestonian Lecture entitled:
”As we are seen: the Press and Freemasonry”.
This fascinating talk explored the changing attitudes of Freemasonry towards the press and the effects of those attitudes on our profile as perceived by the public. The lecture whilst imparting knowledge is also used as a vehicle to raise funds in support of the Royal College of Surgeons and other charities. The October lecture collected over £450 in support of the chosen charities.
The Study Circle records its appreciation of those contributors to “The History of The Royal Arch in Preston 1803 – 2012” in particular Companions, Blackwell, Bracewell, Cuerden, Hamer, Linaker and Walker.
Ian Cuerden, Vice Chairman Preston Masonic Study Circle