Friday 28th April 2017 was a very happy night for St James Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners No.318 in general and for W.Bro. WJ (Bill) Whittall in particular. Well over sixty Royal Ark Mariners packed in to the recently re-decorated Temple at Wretham Road in Handsworth to witness the splendid Centenary Celebrations of the Lodge.
Royal Ark Mariner Masonry came fairly late to the Midlands with, it would appear only six other Mariner Lodges (mainly in Worcestershire) having an existence prior to 1900. Only the Shropshire Lodge No 444 in Shrewsbury (1906) and Wolverhampton Lodge No 186 (1912) are older Royal Ark Mariner Lodges in our Province. The advent of the First World War on 4th August 1914 preceded the issuing of the Warrant for St James Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners by one week and is dated Aug 11th 1914 , the birth of St James Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners however seems to have been delayed as the Consecration did not happen until 1917 with RW.Bro George Walton Walker being Installed as its first Worshipful Commander.
A Full Provincial Visit had been requested by the Provincial Grand Master, RW. Bro Michael Richard Heenan and he was accompanied into the Lodge by a large procession. The Pro. Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Richard Victor Wallis was also in attendance and presented the Lodge with its Centenary Warrant which was read by W.Bro John Vause the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies. Centenary Jewels were presented to all the members and Honorary Members. The Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro Ian C.M. Smith also gave a short presentation on the life of RW Bro George Walton Walker, a towering figure in Staffordshire Freemasonry and the Mark Provincial Grand Master at the time, who had been a founder member of all three of the Province’s oldest Royal Ark Marnier Lodges.
What really stole the show however, was something that none of us had witnessed before and are unlikely to see again, when The Pro. Grand Master made an “in Field” promotion in Mark Grand Lodge to W.Bro Bill Whittall, promoting him from Past Grand Master Overseer to Past Grand Junior Warden, thus making him a Right Worshipful Brother with instant effect. What a way to finish an historical and happy meeting.