The life blood of any successful lodge in raising substantial amounts of money for the charities is the effort put in to the social events undertaken during a Masonic year. Some lodges have small committees specialising in organising the calendar of events for the year and others look to the WM to put together the programme.
Of course when undertaking this task it is important to include and cater for all the members of the lodge and their friends. This is even more difficult when you add in the pressures of modern life; balancing work and commitment, especially whilst looking after a young family. Very often and understandably the reply to an invitation to a social gathering will come back: ‘We would love to come but unfortunately we can’t get a baby sitter.’ This was very much on the mind of John Mercer WM of Lathom Abbey Lodge No 6286 when planning his year in office. The lodge has been very successful in recent years in gaining younger brethren, and John was determined to include in his planning, events that would accommodate as many members and their families as he could.
Having already successfully arranged a trip for the members of the lodge to Ulverston to take in the delights of the Dickensian Christmas Festival and market; John also organised with the assistance of Mark Holloway a joint Christmas party with the members of Lathom Abbey and The Lodge of Chivalry No 3974; bringing together over 80 members and friends and utilising the Ormskirk Masonic Hall as the venue; a great night enjoyed by all.
Recently John with the assistance of his wife Sheila and children Katie and Andrew took everyone to the races. Well not literally, but the next best thing. Once again the Ormskirk Masonic Hall was the venue for an exciting night of horse and dog racing suitably displayed on a large screen. The evening was successfully advertised as a real family affair with children especially welcome. Those attending paid a modest amount towards the buffet with the children eating free. The hall was filled with laughter and the sound of families both young and old having a great time. A stake of twenty pence was placed with Katie, Andrew and their friends on the preferred name of horse or dog in each of the eight races; with the winners receiving in the region of one pound pay-out for a successful bet. Sheila was responsible for signing up owners and jockeys charging one pound for either option with the successful owner and jockey receiving a bottle of wine (adults only), box of biscuits or chocolates.
The first four races had classic names such as ‘Panto Stakes’ won by ‘Twanky’s Widow’ race number two ‘Fruit Bowl Platter’ won by ‘Clockwork Melon’ race number three ‘Vile Villain Chase’ winner horse number two ‘Lord Voldermort’ and dog race ‘Veggie Challenge’ won by ‘Crazy Carrot.’ Following the excitement of the chase one of O’Brien’s speciality hotpot suppers was served with beetroot and red cabbage accompanied with freshly baked rolls and butter. A vegetarian lasagne was an alternative with hot dogs and chips for the children. If anyone had room for a dessert home-made apple pie with pouring cream or cheesecake was available.
Before the second half of the evening commenced John and Sheila drew the bumper raffle raising £107 which received much applause. A further four races got underway with the ‘Mister and Misses Handicap’, the ‘Memorial Chase’, the ‘Pasta Plate’ and finally race number eight ‘Losers Stakes.’ To complete the race card John brought out four hand-made wooden horses attached to a long line and invited the younger race goers to participate in the ‘O’Brien Steaks.’ Under starters orders the jockeys reeled in their individual mounts with the eventual winner of the first race being 11 year old Sloan Tanner. Big kid Harry Jones (lodge member) was the lucky winner of the second race the ‘Draper and Rainford Tree Stakes.’
John concluded this fun filled family evening by thanking everyone present for their support and providing the raffle prizes; with special thanks to his wife Sheila, to Katie, Andrew and their friends for their valued help; Gary O’Brien and his staff for the delicious buffet; and to R Draper Ltd and Rainford’s Christmas Trees for their generous sponsorship. John announced that all the money raised on the evening would be donated to various charities later in the year.
This was a case of a lodge going to the dogs and the charities becoming classic winners!!
Article and photographs by Barry Hewitt.