Where eagles dare
Falcon Lodge No. 1416, based at Thirsk
in North Yorkshire, was consecrated in 1872, the first Master being Frederick Bell, Provincial Senior Grand Warden, and here starts the long association with the “Bell
The crest of the town of Thirsk, situated between the Yorkshire Dales and Moors,
is a falcon poised on a bell, and so it was adopted as the distinguishing characteristic of the new Lodge. The symbolism is seen
in the Lodge room on the honours boards, but in particular on the Lodge banner.
The banner was donated in 1874 by Mrs George Ayre, whose husband became Master in 1878. The banner is in gold thread on a light to dark grey background and displays Masonic symbols, but its central theme is a Peregrine falcon poised on a bell.
As the Lodge did not have a candidate
for its meeting this May, it was decided
to hold an open meeting, with ladies and
other guests invited to hear a talk from Ben Potter, head falconer of the Birds of Prey and Conservation Centre, Sion Hill Hall, near Thirsk.
He did not come alone – but brought with him a selection of birds – to educate everyone about the heritage displayed in
the Lodge name. Boxes containing the
birds were lifted up the stairs and into the Lodge room.
At the same time, the first bird to enter the Lodge was on the gloved hand of the Senior Deacon – a Peregrine falcon – the hooded bird sitting quietly and attentively
in the unfamiliar surroundings. It was not
as nervous as the Senior Deacon. Ben knew how to capture an audience and told us that men liked eagles and ladies liked owls.
Then, out of the box came Boris the Golden Eagle, weight 10lb 7ozs, wing span eight feet, no hood. Boris scrutinised the audience with an imperial dignity as Ben spoke of the wild origin and future prospects for birds of prey in captive breeding and release programmes.
Next out of a box came Bomber, a European Eagle Owl, whom Ben had reared from three days old. Bomber had an affinity with his handler that was clear to see, as
he responded loudly every time his name was mentioned.
The demonstration continued with Poacher, an African Tawny Eagle; Willy,
a Grey Eagle Buzzard; Kia, a Red Tail Buzzard; and finally – and to the relief of the Senior Deacon – Peri, the Peregrine Falcon.
Ben, who gives flying displays three times a day at the Conservation Centre, provided a most interesting evening, and for those of us who were there a memorable one in the Lodge’s history. Many of us now wish to see the birds not just demonstrated but flying.
For further information regarding birds of prey conservation and release programmes, visit www.falconrycentre.co.uk
Falcon Lodge Master Stephen Nicholson holds Boris the Eagle alongside his wife Di, while Peri,
the Peregrine falcon, sits quietly
in the foreground and left
Web site created by Mark Griffin