We set out for Cairncastle on the evening of the 10th December and enroute we were confronted with hail showers, high winds, snow falls and dropping temperatures. As always, the road over the Collin was quite busy, but very slippery in places. But it wasn’t long until we arrived at 1st Cairncastle Church, where we were met with a warm welcome from the Rev Fiona Forbes and members of the Larne and District Charity Committee. The Church was well filled with Masons, families and friends and service started promptly at 7.30pm
We were delighted to see one of our Provincial Organists Rt Wor Bro Norman Carmichael in attendance and providing some of the music as the evening proceeded.
Our main guests of the evening were The Harlandic Male Voice Choir. This is a choir which came into being in the latter days of November 1944 when the statement “Let’s form a choir” was made to a group of men singing round a coke fire in the Victoria Works of the famous Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff during a lunch time break. The sing songs of these men sounded good to the listeners and were a daily feature to help break the monotony of men working long hours during the war years. At the first meeting called for those interested in the formation of a choir the response was so encouraging that rehearsal began the next week. They encountered problems immediately – Where would rehearsals take place? And when? as the men were working twelve hour shifts. Agreement was soon reached, and an outside air-raid shelter was placed at the disposal of the men during lunch-breaks for the first choir rehearsals.
One member, Norman Fitzsimmons, agreed to act as conductor and so rehearsals commenced. Progress was good, so good in fact that a room in Belfast city centre was hired and the first full time Director of Music, Adam Donaghy was appointed in 1945. Under Adam’s guidance the choir grew rapidly in competence. The membership became larger and more dedicated, the scene of men coming directly from work in boiler suits and overalls was a common one such was the enthusiasm, which pertains to this day. The decisive moment had arrived, the choir entered for Larne Competitive music festival, which they won with an average of 92 marks. They have won many competitions since those early days, and we were delighted to welcome them to Cairncastle, where we were able to enjoy their contribution to an interesting and entertaining musical evening. We were also delighted to welcome a group of young performers from Uplift, a locally based theatre and dance group, under the guidance of Ryan Moffett, one of their joint founders and the current creative and production director. They too added their voices to add to our enjoyment of the evening.
The evening began with a few words of welcome followed by an Opening Prayer and The Lord’s prayer. Then we sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, the first of a series of well known Christmas Carols interspersed with nine readings from the Holy Bible. Amongst our readers were representatives of some of the bodies making up the Larne Charity Committee including :-Wor Bro Gary McAllister, Wor Master of Cairncastle Masonic Lodge No 788 I.C.
Wor Bro Sam Ayre , Secretary of Cairncastle Masonic Lodge No 788 I.C.
Wor Bro Graham Todd from Larne and District Charity Committee.
Brother Roland Spottiswoode representing the Management Committee of The Irish Lodge of Research No 200 I.C.
Excellent Companion Alan Tweed Glenarm Royal Arch Chapter No 45.
Sir Knight Robert Arnold representing Glencloy Council of Knight Masons No 47.
Very Eminent Sir Knight Basil Elliott representing Latharna Preceptory.
Very Wor Bro Ted Geery representing The Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim.
and Right Wor Bro Sam Brennan Representative of The Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Over £ 800 was collected in the Church collection and the evening was brought to a close with a Closing Prayer and The Benediction. We all then retired to the adjacent Lecture Hall, attached to the Church where we enjoyed a warm cup of tea, mince pies and biscuits. The Rev Fiona Forbes was presented with 50% of the overall collection for the use of the Church and the other 50% will be forwarded on the one of our Masonic charities.
Then Wor Bro Graham Todd, on behalf of The Larne and District Charity Committee presented the Rev Forbes with a large hamper, donated for the occasion by The Ballygally Spar.
Special thanks was expressed to Ann’s Pantry in Main Street, Larne and Ballygally Spar for their support to this carol service. The evening was brought to a close with a couple of impromptu numbers by the members of the Harlandic Choir, who finished their rendition with a verse of Jingle Bells.