This year will go down as a very special year in the life of John Brian Collins and in the history of Ansdell Lodge No 3607. Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder stood without and was ready to lead another celebration of 50 years in Freemasonry for a popular brother at St Anne’s. Brian, as he is known to friends and family, sat within with some trepidation.
The Assistant Provincial Grand Master was announced by Malcolm Bell, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies and in proceeding into the lodge, David was accompanied by Terry Hudson Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Stuart Thornber and several grand officers, along with Ian Ward Chairman of South Fylde Group. They were supported by three acting Provincial officers and several other distinguished brethren. Master of the lodge, Ray Pinkstone, welcomed the distinguished brethren and as is appropriate, offered the gavel to David who received it with pleasure.
David always enjoys officiating at golden jubilee celebrations and this was no exception. He stated that this was actually Brian celebrating 53 years in Freemasonry, as he had joined in 1962. David proceeded to recount some of the events of 1962. The Beatles unsuccessfully auditioned for Decca; Acker Bilk was Britain’s first musician to reach No 1 in the USA with ‘Stranger on the Shore’. It was the year of Marilyn Monroe’s death and the execution of James Hanratty. While dealing with the Cuban missile crisis, John F Kennedy also predicted that America would put a man on the moon in that decade. Norwich beat Rochdale to win the League Cup and Sonny Liston remained World Heavyweight boxing champion by overcoming Floyd Patterson. Jack Nicklaus played his first professional golf tournament and Telstar was the first communications satellite to be launched successfully.
With a Magnus Magnusson quote: “Your time starts now!” David then proceeded to tell Brian’s story. On 17 August 1933 a son was born to Isaac Collins, an electric linesman working for the London Midland and Scottish Railway and his wife Marion. After two months living at his grandparents house in Wigan, he moved to the family home in Litherland, Liverpool. Brian attended Beach Road Primary School throughout the Blitz, until it was bombed shortly before the bombardment ended. As a result the pupils were evacuated to Wales. His family was active in to the Salvation Army where his father was in the band. Brian attended Sunday School where his own love of music blossomed. This led to his playing every kind of instrument, except the trombone which requires different skills.
At secondary school Brian loved woodwork and he played right back for the school soccer team. When asked if he was a blue or a red, Brian answered ‘blue’ for Everton but as most of his mates followed Liverpool he went with the flow rather than becoming ‘marooned.’ Collective groans were stifled at this point!
Brian’s school life was curtailed six months earlier than expected due to his family moving to Fleetwood. The local authority deemed it unnecessary for him to continue his education so he started work as a telegram boy on Wyre Dock at Fleetwood, earning 7s 6d, (seven shillings and six pence) in ‘old’ currency per week, the equivalent of 37 new pence! Being the newest boy he had to work the oddest hours and didn’t finish until after eight in the evening. Brian progressed at 18 years to junior postman, then to senior postman at 20. Having passed his driving test he drove a van around locations north of the River Wyre, or did box collections in Fleetwood, or carrying letters off the Knott End ferry, the latter on a bone-shaker of a bike with no gears. He remained in this post until 1967 when he passed the clerical officers examination and ironically returned to Old Hall Street, Liverpool where, after 18 months he was given the role of “trouble shooter” for the Camel Laird’s account, which required 20 members of staff to administer it.
During this time Brian had met his wife Pamela at a Salvation Army youth club meeting in Blackpool. They had three daughters, Wendy, Janet and Susan but alas, in 1971 Pamela was admitted into hospital with appendicitis. Complications set in and she sadly passed away as a result of a coronary embolism. The family were naturally devastated and Brian had his three daughters, then aged 16, 13 and 12, to care for.
A period of 15 years was to pass by before Cupid (well, Brian’s daughter Wendy actually) was to arrange for Brian to meet his second and much loved wife Rose. David recounted how Brian and Rose had been brought together in true Mills and Boon style and have enjoyed nearly 30 years of marriage. They share many mutual interests, one of which is Freemasonry as Rose is a member of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, that is lady Freemasons.
Brian joined Mount Lodge No 6654 on 17 April 1962 and was raised on 15 March 1963. Several of Brian’s family were Freemasons including his uncles Ockwell and Gordon. Due to his move back to Liverpool he was unable to attend his lodge but continued to pay his dues. Having returned to the Fylde, Brian was invited to join Ansdell Lodge by colleague, friend and neighbour David Gregson. He remembers Dennis Partington with great fondness from this same period. He became almoner of the lodge in the year 2000 while at the same time working his way through to being installed as master in 2007.
In 1977 Brian was appointed as Justice of the Peace, initially at Lytham Court, followed by 20 years at Blackpool. During this time he served as chairman of several court departments including the youth panel, adult court, licencing, and the family court. Not all at the same time, of course.
One of the more significant roles that he filled during this time was as a member of the 24 hour warrant team. In this role he could be called upon at any time of day or night by up to three police cars bearing the necessary personnel required to convince him that a warrant was necessary. Brian’s neighbours would often ask him, “What have they arrested you for this time?”
After recounting this tale David Winder called upon Ian Ward to read the 50 Year certificate, issued by the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, following which David then presented it to Brian.
Following the presentation of the certificate, an event unfolded to moisten the eye of any spectator. It had been recently announced that Brian was to receive Provincial honours at the upcoming meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on 7 May 2015. However, David Winder was seen to produce a scroll, also from Tony Harrison, declaring that Brian’s promotion was effective from the day of his jubilee celebration. He was therefore divested of the sky blue regalia that he had worn for so many years with pride and distinction and invested with the dark blue regalia of a Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon of the Province of West Lancashire. This was received with rapturous applause from the brethren.
A sumptuous feast board followed, enjoyed by over 60 members and guests. John Robbie Porter, Vice Chairman of South Fylde Group, proposed the toast to Brian’s health. In his speech John described the great admiration that he and other Masons had for Brian, recognising his many good works as almoner of Ansdell Lodge. John then proposed the tyler’s toast and the brethren departed having witnessed a unique Masonic occasion.