At a meeting of the Lodge of Lights No 148 the brethren enjoyed a presentation of the John Tunnah manuscript This adapted by John Gregory the secretary of the lodge, from an original document prepared by E J T Acaster from the Province of East Lancashire.
Nearly 40 brethren witnessed an interesting and informative presentation by several lodge members. Gwilym Jones WM, opened the lodge and conducted the usual administration of the lodge. Upon a request by Gwilym, John Starkey JW, ‘called off’ the lodge and the presentation began. Gwilym introduced the process and enlightened everyone as to how the presentation would be delivered, he also acted as narrator.
John Gregory adapted the John Tunnah manuscript for use in a first degree Craft meeting. The manuscript was delivered in a catechetical manner which saw John asking the questions with five members of the lodge answering them. Each participating lodge member was dressed in costume to reinforce the period and was called to the table with the whole delivery being conducted by candlelight. Certain discrepancies from our modern ritual were explained by Gwilym.
Sarastro’s aria from ‘The Magic Flute’ by Mozart, a composer from music’s classical period was played by Keith Dickinson between part one and part two of the presentation thereby enhancing the atmosphere. The participating members were Stan Churm, David Goddard, Dennis Wilding, Ken Smith and Gordon Lyon.
Most comments made were of a similar nature which included, very interesting, I was surprised how meaningful the manuscript is for Masonry today, the presentation has answered a great deal of points in my mind, very enlightening and now I know where some of the points come from.
Others pointed out that even though the manuscript answers a lot of questions, it also leaves one needing to ask more, the manuscript has a great deal of relevance in today’s ceremonies. At the close the audience applauded for a sustained period. Gwilym thanked John Gregory and all the brethren who took part and said how enjoyable it had been. This sentiment was shared by the brethren present.
John pointed out that the form of a Lancashire manuscript, which came into the possession of John Tunnah, is now in the Grand Lodge Library. The manuscript bears his name because after his death his widow offered it to the Library and Museum in London. John Tunnah was an accountant by profession and had some vigorous Masons as his colleagues in Anchor and Hope Lodge No 37 in Bolton. He was the Provincial Grand Secretary of the Eastern Division of Lancashire from 1854 until 1879.
He was not responsible for the production of the manuscript since the document seems to date from around 1797, before he was born. It is not clear where the text originated, but Bury is a firm favourite because from other evidence within the manuscript it appears to be a ‘Moderns’ text. Where did Tunnah obtain the document? Nobody really knows, but as Tunnah belonged to Anchor and Hope Lodge, Bolton, it is generally thought that it was probably part of their archive.
It should not need to be emphasised that a powerful feeling of revelation must have been felt by those Masons who listened carefully to the fullness of this extensive presentation and wherever possible relating it to the symbolisms within Freemasonry.
Gwilym then requested that the junior warden ‘called on’ and lodge was resumed in the first degree. In conclusion, it was an enjoyable and very instructive presentation which allowed most, if not all those present, an ideal opportunity to make a very large daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
Article and pictures by John Starkey.