The Deputy Grand Master welcomes Skelmersdale Lodge into the University Scheme
By W Bro Nick Garnish PSGD MetGInsp
On October 13th 2022, Skelmersdale Lodge No 1658 was honoured to welcome RW Bro Sir David Hugh Wootton DepGM – and he, in turn, welcomed the Lodge to UGLE’s University Scheme!
Skelmersdale Lodge derives its name from the Right Honourable and Right Worshipful Edward Bootle Wilbraham, Third Baron Skelmersdale, and Deputy Grand Master of English Freemasons. It has met continuously since 1877 and survived two World Wars, plus the Spanish flu pandemic which devastated the world in 1918. Originally many members were shopkeepers and meetings were arranged for Thursday afternoons, to coincide with early shop closing. However, approaching its 150th anniversary, Lodge membership was declining fast, with only ten members (two of whom were honorary). The brethren contemplated the seemingly inevitable – the surrender of its warrant.
With hard work, perseverance, and trust, a solution was found, thanks to support from the University Scheme (US). The Scheme was created in 2005 “to establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry.”
The Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, states: "A real benefit the Scheme confers is having young, intelligent men joining us who will, we hope, contribute greatly to the future of the Craft, as potential leaders and sources of inspiration."
In 2018 Skelmersdale was identified as a candidate Lodge for the US. With many hours of delicate and meaningful work conducted by the Lodge’s then Senior Visiting Officer, W Bro Scott Simpson (now PSGD, MetGInsp), the Lodge agreed that being “taken over” and converted to a US Lodge would help preserve the Lodge’s name and history for many years to come.
The Lodge’s Metropolitan Grand Inspector, W Bro Nick Garnish PSGD, assembled the initial take-over team, an enthusiastic and experienced group of 12 volunteers, mostly from his Inspectorate. This team included three future Inspectors – Bro Scott, W Bro Tony Shepherd PJGD MetGInsp, and W Bro Gary Moss SLGR MetGInsp – alongside W Bro Bill Cassidy SLGR, W Bro Paul Pereira SLGR, W Bro Larry Levine PAGDC, W Bro Howard Becker PAGDC, W Bro Ron Wainer SLGR, W Bro Gur Samuel LGR, W Bro Greg Brandon LGR, W Bro Alan Rigglesford, and Bro Spencer Bailey.
After voting to join the US at the Lodge’s installation and “take over” meeting on March 4th 2020 – just two weeks before the suspension of Masonic activities due to Covid-19 – Skelmersdale would initiate its first candidates introduced to the Lodge by the US on July 22nd 2021.
It would be in October 2022, however, that the President of the University Scheme, Sir David, along with the Chairman of the US at the time, W Bro Julian Soper PSGD, MetGInsp, would visit Skelmersdale and officially welcome the Lodge into the Scheme. The meeting, which featured the Passing of Bro Ishan Jaywant, showed the strength of the recent initiates of the Lodge, with the offices of Junior Warden and Senior Deacon, together with the presentation of the Working Tools and the Tracing Board, all being conducted by initiates who were introduced to the Lodge by the US.
The Deputy Grand Master then presented two recently Raised members, Bros Oliver Miller and Anton Uzunoff, with their Grand Lodge Certificates, after which he formally welcomed the Lodge to the US. The evening concluded with the Lodge’s many visitors joining the members at a highly enjoyable festive board, where the honorary members of the Lodge – those who had been subscribing at the time of “takeover”, remarked how happy they were to see the Lodge thriving, and many in attendance felt the future was bright for Skelmersdale.