The exact date when the Lodge annually served fish at meetings cannot be ascertained although from enquiries we think it was during the late 1940’s. The fish in the most part was provided by W Bro. Arthur Cotgrove who owned with his brother W Bro. Reginald Cotgrove, the then famous fish restaurant 'Cotgroves’ in the High Street, Southend.
W. Bro Arthur Cotgrove
W. Bro Reg Cotgrove
In those days the Lodge used to meet at the Masonic Club and had the festive board in the Rose room at Garons Centre House, also in the High Street. The LOI started having regular fish suppers at this restaurant – 1950’s price 7/6d (35p) (£26 approx. at today's rates).
W. Bro Arthur with his puritanical nature performed sterling work in the lodge and was secretary for some 50 years!!! - that in itself was a tremendous feat. Following his death the lodge in commemoration to him started what was to become known as a ‘theme’ evening. This was a completely new concept to Lodge festive boards and we are justly proud that in our history we were one of the first lodges that introduced this type of evening we called our Fish Night…
We are assuming from those early years that there was just a fish starter and fish main course making up the meal but from these humble beginnings it built up to a 5 or 6 course extravaganza commencing with the obligatory Fish Stall. The content of the menu has of course definitely changed over the years with Oysters then being the norm together with Jellied and Stewed Eels; it was noted that some brethren refused to go unless Oysters were on the menu!
We are unaware of when musical accompaniment began although anticipated perhaps the then lodge organist may have accompanied occasional Steward sing along’s. Our current accordion player W. Bro Tony Compton although not a member of the lodge was engaged during 1983 (to date) to give background musical accompaniment during the whole evening again with occasional sing along's from the Stewards.
It continued in this vein for many years until 1999 when song sheets where introduced and during 2001 W. Bro Stuart James took over as compare for the evening and several years later introduced the song booklets we use today -
some early song sheets are shown here…
Stuart introduced a lot more singing accompanied by some seriously embarrassing sketches and an abundance of corny beyond belief jokes - he has been boo’ed and jeered but continued regardless. Over many of those years he was accompanied with his ‘old mate & ‘oppo from Norfolk,’ W. Bro Jon Hyam; he’s supposedly also Stuart’s scriptwriter!!
During his latter years Stuart has endevoured to stand down by at first simply suggesting that someone else should now take over but as this didn’t work he resorted to threats of "this definitely is my last year!" - or threatening one year that the evening would be a complete disaster in order to get him the sack! - Needless to say none of this worked and so he resolved in continuing until he had another “cunning plan for his departure!” - He finally performed his last Fish Night during 2017.