It is perhaps very apt that the oldest Chapter in the Province should meet in the suitably aged surroundings and refined atmosphere of Severn Street. The Chapter was consecrated back in 1783 and, after a few ‘gaps’ in operation, received a Charter of Confirmation in 1821 but it is only since 1862 that the Chapter can boast continuous meeting! Just imagine how things have changed over the years, from its inception in the 18th Century with all that those times had to offer to the current day with our labour-saving devices and the many benefits of modern living which we take for granted.
The Provincial Team, headed by EComp John Emms and ably assisted by EComps Stephen Fowler and Mark Phillips acting as the Second and Third Provincial Grand Principals respectively, opened the Chapter in the accomplished manner that one would expect from such an experienced and well-drilled trio. Having dealt with the minutes of the previous meeting, we were taken back in time to 1885 and heard what happened at the meeting held in the Great Western Hotel in Birmingham on 9th June of that year. One name that jumped out of those attending was the Janitor – a companion by the name of Arthur Daley!!! Hopefully he was a more upright and trustworthy character that his TV namesake. The minutes proudly reported the completion and dispatch of the annual returns ….. from 1875!! How things have changed! The IPZ, EComp Rev Swinburn, was thanked both for contributing £5 towards the Chapter’s debts and for presenting 100 copies of the Chapter’s new by-laws – a man of the cloth back in the 18th Century was perhaps a little better off that today’s clergy. It may be of note that the Chapter has had a number of clergymen amongst their membership – 10 in total – over the years.
Back in the 21st Century, we moved to the important matter of the Principals. Fortitude may be a Chapter full of history but it is currently somewhat small in number. This means that the various offices must be shared and, in addition to both H & J being proclaimed to serve for a further year in office, we saw a tag team in action. The MEZ, EComp John Baynton, inducted the DC, EComp Ron Parker, into the First Principal’s Chair in a most sincere manner. To show his gratitude, one of the new MEZ’s first acts was to appoint EComp John as DC!!
As part of the risings, the SE was pleased to report that the annual returns had been received and assured the meeting that they will be completed and dispatched in a much more timely fashion than in years gone by. The future for this small Chapter is looking a little brighter as the SE was also pleased to announce a joining member, after which a candidate for exaltation was proposed. EComp Mark Phillips was pleased to offer the assistance of the Provincial Support Team, one that certainly did not fall on deaf ears.
One of the benefits of a smaller meeting is a more intimate Festive Board. With 13 staying to eat, we enjoyed sitting round one table with the resulting conversations enjoyed by everyone. The senior PZ present was EComp Bob Russell who was MEZ back in 1974. Dear reader, in case this makes you feel somewhat old, I was 2 at the time!! With a companion of Bob’s vast experience, when he speaks it pays to listen. He was particularly keen to tell everyone that the candelabra were very special as they are the only gold-plated ones in the Province! It was certainly a delight to have a couple of them out and in use.
Despite being very small in number, the Chapter of Fortitude is in good heart, especially in light of the forthcoming influx. If you are looking for an enjoyable evening out and are free on Friday 20th September, head towards Severn Street and you will be guaranteed a very warm welcome. If you are still around in 2062, their bicentenary celebrations will be unmissable!!!