It can often be daunting when asked to give or respond to a toast at the Festive Board, and can be useful when examples are to be found online. At our last meeting, the task of toasting our Worshipful Master was taken on by one of our more junior members, on the occasion of his Raising. With his kind permission, we reproduce it here in full:
Well this is certainly an honour. My first toast at a festive board and on night of my Raising so that I now stand before you as a Master Mason.
When I asked for advice on what to say I was told if in doubt keep it brief and Joke free. Which is a shame really because I will not be able to tell you about the armed hooded robber who bursts into the Bank of Ireland and forces the tellers to load a sack full of cash. On his way out the door with the loot one brave customer grabs the hood and pulls it off revealing the robber’s face. The robber shoots the man without hesitation. He then looks around the bank to see if anyone else has seen him only to see one of the tellers looking straight at him. The robber walks over and calmly shoots him dead. Everyone by now is very scared and looking down at the floor. “Did anyone else see my face?” screams the robber. There is a few moments of silence then one elderly guy, looking determinedly down at the floor, tentatively raises his hand and says, “I think my wife here may have caught a glimpse.”
In all seriousness however I am sure that for everyone in this room, even those of more mature years, will vividly remember their initiation and subsequent passing and raising ceremonies and will recall that sense of trepidation as you entered the lodge for the first time. How many of you went home that night thinking a little like me “What have I done? What on earth was all that about?” Then when you turned up for the next meeting a Ceremony of Raising was taking place so you were asked to leave after a few minutes only to be called in again for the final part of the evening after languishing outside the lodge for an hour. Surely there is more to Masonry than this? I am sure Brother Sinclair is going through that phase at the moment. The answer of course is yes there is more as I am now beginning to discover. Every single Mason irrespective of rank and privilege has participated in an identical transition. For my own part that first ceremony was perhaps a little more traumatic both because of the unknown and my hearing difficulties. It is very difficult to lip read when you are hoodwinked. ☺ But we got there.
So what is it that made me continue through those early meetings? Well I can tell you. It was a sense of genuine warmth from fellow Brethren, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of belonging, a sense of maintaining ancient traditions and a knowledge that if ever I needed help the Lodge would be behind me. When I look around the Lodge now and having left it so late I cannot help but feel envious of our younger Brethren who hopefully can look forward to 30 or even 40 more years in Freemasonry given good health.
When I mentioned earlier how I am sure that you all, no matter how long ago, will have remembered those first ceremonies you will also have remembered the name of the Worshipful Master at that time. For me I have had the good fortune to have Brother Bailey as Worshipful Master for my Raising. I can genuinely say good fortune because Maurice is an inspiration to us all. I remember only too well at his installation ceremony the very short and emotional speech that he gave where he indicated that he never thought he would achieve the rank he now justly enjoys and had so often wanted to give up his progression but it was the persuasion and backing of his fellow brethren which enabled him to carry on. There is so much to learn and it can be no easy task. The one thing that I have personally learnt from all of this is that Freemasonry is NOT all about perfection. It is more about commitment. It is about commitment to the traditions and history of Freemasonry, commitment to the many charitable causes that Freemasonry supports, commitment to the lodge and commitment to fellow Brethren.
I am sure that all those here tonight will agree with me when I say that there is no one more committed to Freemasonry in general and our lodge in particular than our current Worshipful Master and it is an honour as well as giving me great pleasure in raising this toast. Brethren – a toast to our Worshipful Master.