Peculiar Lodge habits

With Brethren coming from different regions, it was perhaps inevitable that light-hearted banter would soon pervade in the convivial and fraternal atmosphere of the Lodge and its after-proceedings.

Soon after the year of the consecration, one of the Founder Members was installed as Worshipful Master – a Yorkshireman. As he came from “oop t’North”, it is said that he had not quite been used to the Masonic “quick fire” used in London lodges, after toasts at their Festive Boards. Consequently, he allegedly got the rhythm quite wrong on several occasions – much to the merriment of the Brethren present.

However, when he finally delivered it to perfection, a hearty cheer resounded around the Festive Board, led by Bro. Alan Colton. As the evening progressed, each time the Master successfully presented Masonic Fire, a cheer of “Oy!” resounded in appreciation.

Thus, “British Sub Aqua fire” was born, and has been enthusiastically delivered ever since – often to the alarm and consternation of any new and unsuspecting visitor.

The meetings at Uppermill gave the opportunity for the northern Brethren to demonstrate to those from “dahn Souf” how to let their hair down a little at the ensuing dinner. On these occasions, the Festive Board was held in the form of an “Old English Night”.

When it was still (just) socially acceptable, table-places would be laid with a traditional clay pipe and supply of tobacco, as well as a souvenir engraved mug, and a receptacle for the surrender of cash fines (more of this later).

The Head Table!At the commencement of proceedings, a decorated pig’s head, complete with apple in mouth, would be ceremonially marched in from the kitchen. The platter would be placed on the head table, in front of the Master, for the remainder of the evening. Perhaps as a warning to him as to what can happen when things go wrong.

A first (and last) attempt to eat tripeAs if this was not daunting enough, each place would be also laid with a first course – something closely resembling a white, folded, wet hand-towel. This was the plain, boiled, near-inedible stomach lining of a farm animal – otherwise known as tripe.

The Fines Master at workThis would be an early chance for the “Fines Master” to warm to his role. Some would soon learn that there was a price to pay for not eating this dubious delicacy (and unsurprisingly would often be quite willing to pay it). Those who made a best attempt to eat it could just as easily find themselves penalised simply from the manner in which it was consumed. And so the authority of the Fines Master, and the pattern for the evening, would quickly become understood.

To the inexperienced and uninitiated, the next course might be mistaken for a dirty, over-full vacuum-cleaner bag that has been boiled. It was in fact black pudding – similarly plain, boiled and near-inedible - but with a little more flavour, provided by the bag of pig’s blood, with bits of fat lurking inside. The clinking of cash might now reflect fines for declining to eat this dish, or eating the content but leaving the outer skin, or even eating more than his fair share when a Brother offered to help his weak-stomached neighbour.

The evening would continue in a similar vein, but perhaps with less-challenging options, such as traditional roast-beef and apple-pie courses. Nevertheless, the omnipresent Fines Master would continue to rigidly enforce rules and regulations as to the protocols of eating, drinking and dress - rules and regulations which of course were largely known only to him.

At some later stage, the pig’s head would be auctioned or raffled. The Brethren would of course give freely in buying raffle tickets in the cause of charity, but it has been suggested that some would then actually hide them away, in fear of being openly identified as the winner of the prize. For them, the thought of the journey home with the pig’s head in the car was worrying enough, but the presentation of same to an innocent partner, waiting unsuspectingly at home, was too much to contemplate. Yet, the more-experienced in culinary opportunities would relish the prospect of a few helpings of brawn being prepared in their own kitchens.

The final event of the evening would involve nothing less than live entertainment, usually in the form of a brass band. As the atmosphere became more and more convivial, the finale would invariably be reached with Brethren standing on chairs, with glasses and mugs raised, singing along to the band’s renditions of “Land of Hope and Glory” or other similar anthems.

Thus, there concluded an evening of the warmest camaraderie, with a respectable sum raised for charity from raffles, auctions and fines.



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