50 years in Freemasonry is a fantastic achievement, and Harry Hulse, of Corinthian Lodge No.2350, who meet at Hindley Masonic Hall, passed that honourable milestone last autumn. Because the health of both Harry and his wife Beatrice, unfortunately deteriorated dramatically in the past few years, Harry was not able to attend his lodge to celebrate his achievement or receive his well-earned certificate. Harry had been in hospital and then in a care home being confined to bed, and requiring 24-hour care. Lodge almoner, Alan Johnston, had been making regular visits to see him, and had discussed his jubilee. Feeling that he would never be well enough to attend lodge to accept his certificate, Harry wanted to wait until he was home hoping to be in better shape. Had he been able to attend a lodge celebration, the brethren would have been told a fine story, and he would have been well honoured.
Harry Hulse was born in June 1926, in Poolstock, Wigan. His family moved to Ince-in-Makerfield while he was still a child, where he attended Belle Green Lane Mission School. Leaving school when 14 years old, he commenced his working life as a moulder at “Woods & Gees” Barley Brook Foundry, Wigan. However, he recalls his mother insisting he leave that job as it was ‘too dirty’ and so he started work on the railway at the age of 16 and became a locomotive fireman at 17. The outbreak of war in 1939 saw him transferred to Willesden, London, and later to Camden Town.
During the war, he was bombed twice. He had many anecdotes with which to entertain from this time, recollecting doodlebugs being chased by Spitfires and of V2 rockets overhead. He once had to take over the train driver’s role after an attack, when the driver had collapsed. When war ceased in 1945 Harry went to the railway depot in Patricroft, Manchester to train as a driver – a dream job for many a young boy in those days. He would recall his passion, saying that the steam engines were living machines with a beating heart, a life of their own and each with its own idiosyncrasies.
Harry first met his future wife Beatrice, when they were 13 years old and attending the same school. His family knew Beatrice’s family from the time they were children. However, it was at the Empress Ballroom, Wigan (known locally as the “Emp”) that he saw Beatrice and tapped her on the shoulder for a dance. She accepted the invitation and in time they began ‘walking-out’, as it was then described. That led to their marriage over 67 years ago. A well-travelled couple, they have visited Italy, Spain, Jersey, Guernsey and Majorca, with Rhodes being a firm favourite.
In 1959 whilst based at British Rail Springs Branch Depot in Wigan, he became a driver instructor. He trained drivers for both steam locomotives and the then “new” diesel engines. He later had the role of educating schoolchildren, visiting every school in Wigan to give safety talks on electrification, and the dangers it brought.
During his interesting career, Harry had the honour of being the driver of the Royal train on no less than four occasions, once during an IRA threat. He also drove the “Rocket 150” passing crowds of cheering spectators sitting in packed, portable, tiered stands, in a tribute event to commemorate the ‘Rainhill trials’. He has also experienced the downside of the job in his later years as a driver; with children playing “chicken”, running across the line in front of train, throwing objects off bridges and other unacceptable behaviour at the side of the track. Harry also enjoyed fishing as one of his hobbies.
In Masonry, Harry joined Lodge of Faith No 851 in the Province of East Lancashire, in September 1966, aged 39, whilst working at the depot in Patricroft,. He joined Corinthian Lodge No 2350, in May 1970 and was installed as master in April 1987. Harry received preferment in Provincial Grand Lodge in 1996, being appointed to the rank of PPrAGSuptWks and was promoted to the rank of PPrJGD in 2008. In 2011, the lodge conferred a great honour on Harry when he was elected as an Honorary Member.
Recently, Harry and his wife Beatrice have been cared for at the home of their son, David and his wife Carla following extensive alterations to the property to accommodate their needs. With such dedicated care, Harry was very comfortable and well enough to receive visitors. Harry’s wish to receive his certificate at home was fulfilled and he was really happy when Geoffrey Porter, Chairman of the Wigan and District Group, and Alan Johnston, lodge almoner, attended his bedside to oblige. It was poignant that it should be the group chairman’s duty to present the certificate because almost 30 years ago, both Harry and Geoffrey were serving as master of their respective lodges. It was Harry and Beatrice’s pleasure to host Corinthian Lodge’s ladies evening at Westhoughton Masonic Hall in 1987, celebrated with the then master of Borsdane Lodge, Geoffrey, and his wife Linda and they enjoyed a wonderful evening together. Geoffrey and Alan left, leaving Harry and Beatrice talking over old times and re-living some very happy memories.
However, it must be reported with sadness and deep sorrow that Harry passed away peacefully, just two days later, with his wife and family around him. He felt so proud to receive his certificate. The end of the line for a wonderful, gentle, man, or should it be “a wonderful gentleman” and a proud Mason. He lived respected, and his passing is regretted.