MEMBERS of a Furness Freemason group were honoured at an annual gathering.

19 members of the Furness group were honoured for their services to the organisation in front of 1,200 masons at the world famous Opera House theatre in Blackpool.

Masons from throughout the masonic province of West Lancashire from Liverpool, Stockport, Hawkshead and all places in between were at the meeting.

They were joined by distinguished guests from other areas including the head of Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons Bill Bewley.

Furness and South Lakeland group chairman Peter Schofield said: “It was a delight to see members from the 14 lodges in the Furness area acknowledged for the part they play in helping our organisation and our halls function so well."

It was also acknowledged at the event that Barrow's David Grainger, senior figure responsible for the Furness and Lancaster groups, will be stepping down with Keith Kemp from Morecambe coming in as his replacement.

Mr Kemp was installed in his new role by the head of West Lancashire freemasons Tony Harrison.

Mr Harrison said: “David has been my representative in the Furness and Lancaster areas for five years and has given unstinting service. In Keith I have an experienced replacement who will continue his good work.”

For several years Mr Kemp has been the director of ceremonies for West Lancashire and overseen the formalities at the annual meeting and on other important occasions.

“The ceremonial aspect of masonry plays a big part in distinguishing our order from other philanthropic organisations,” added Tony, “that pomp and ceremony plays a major role in our annual assembly at Blackpool.”

The meeting was also addressed by Paul Crockett who is the national fund raising officer for the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The Foundation offers support to Masons and their families who may be in need as well as being one of the major donors to national and international good causes.

In 2018 £8.5 million was distributed to non-masonic causes. This included donations to each hospice and air ambulance service in the country.

The latest international donation was one of £47,000 for the purchase of jerry cans and water purification tablets for those suffering following the terrible cyclone in south east Africa.

Mr Schofield said: "As the funds we raise for charity come principally from the pockets of our members, the presentation about the Foundation was of great interest and I am sure it will encourage the continued generosity of masons who prove ever willing to dig deep into their pockets to help others.”

Following the formalities of the Opera House it was time to discard Masonic regalia and enter the Winter Gardens were some 650 masons enjoyed a celebratory meal.

Somewhat appropriately, as both Tony Harrison and Keith Kemp reside in Morecambe, the starter was potted Morecambe Bay shrimps.

A collection for charity raised £4,667.