The Ceremony of the Empty Chair

On Saturday 16 November 2019, the Lodge of Uniformed Services No. 9911 held its regular meeting at the Masonic Hall, Gordon Street, Workington. This was no ordinary meeting however. All of our members have been members of a uniformed service, one in which we served our Sovereign. In attendance was the Provincial Senior Grand Warden, W. Bro. Peter Caunce, representing the Rt. Wor. Provincial Grand Master and Rt. Wor. Bro. Norman Thompson, PProvGM. Brethren attended from many parts of the Province and they were all in for a treat.

November, being the “Remembrance Season,” was the meeting for us to engage in remembrance in some form. A ceremony, previously unknown to the members, was found and the members unanimously agreed that we should adapt it for our use at the meeting.

The ceremony concerns the brethren who went off to war in various conflicts and who did not return. An empty chair, draped with the Union Flag is brought into the lodge by the deacons.

The Deacons carry the “Empty Chair” into the Lodge

At various parts of the ceremony, an entered apprentice’s apron, an officer’s collar, medals of honour, a sprig of evergreen foliage and finally, a wreath of poppies are placed on or next to the chair.

The Adorned Chair

The lodge was called off and ladies and non-masonic guests were welcomed into the lodge room.

The Worshipful Master, Bro. Jimmy Burgess BEM welcomed everyone to this part of our meeting. He spoke of Lt Col. John McCrea, a Canadian officer who was a poet, physician, author, artist and a soldier. He is best known for having written the well known war memorial poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Colonel McCrea became very ill with pneumonia and on the evening of his death, he was wheeled to the balcony of his room to look over the sea towards the cliffs of Dover. The final verse of his poem was clearly in his mind for he told the doctor who was in charge of his case, “Tell them this; if ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.” Later that night he died.

The Worshipful Master led the act of Remembrance with the immortal words from Laurence Binyon’s “The Fallen.”

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the Morning We will remember them.”

The sound of a lone piper was heard in the distance, getting ever nearer. W. Bro. Richard Cowie entered the lodge, piping a lament and perambulated around the lodge. He left and the sound of the pipes diminished into the distance. W. Bro. Iain Simpson, the bugler, played Reveille after which the Worshipful Master recited the Kohima Epitaph:

“When you go home,

Tell them of Us and say,

For Your tomorrow,

We gave Our Today.”



The successful team

Such was the success of this meeting, that the lodge has been asked to present this ceremony at other lodges.

The meeting was well attended and the festive board was attended by over seventy brethren, ladies and guests and the Lodge of Uniformed Services is indebted to Bros Spencer Doran and Matthew Craig, of Eden Lodge No. 2285, who acted as deacons for the meeting. They had attended all of the rehearsals and their performance on the day was carried out to perfection. The Stewards at the festive board were W. Bros Graeme Wilson, Alan Clague and Bro. Spencer Doran, all of Eden Lodge, W. Bro. John Thompson of Gospatric Lodge No. 5286 and W. Bro. Simon Brownlow of Solway Lodge No. 1220.

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