Silverdale Masonic Hall was almost full to capacity when members of Silverdale Lodge No 6926, together with a whole host of visitors, gathered to celebrate John George Scurr’s 50 golden years as a Freemason. Leading the tributes was Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger who was accompanied by distinguished guests, not just from the Province of West Lancashire but also from the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland and the Province of East Lancashire, a tribute to John’s popularity within Freemasonry.
Amongst their number were the Chairman of Lancaster and District Group Jim Wilson, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Cumberland and Westmorland Keith Young and a further eight grand officers, which included Thomas Jackson, Paul Thornton, William Douthwaite, Charles Floodgate, Peter Mason, William Philips, John Robson and Edward Crosby. Also in attendance were the group vice chairman Neil McGill and secretary Scott Devine, together with six acting Provincial grand officers; Stephen Plevey, David Cole, John Eccles, Stewart Aimson, Philip Burrow and Keith Halligan. This grand array of eminent guests was skilfully directed by the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald.
On David Grainger’s entry into the lodge room, the master Andrew Wood greeted David, commenting: “It is an honour to welcome you to Silverdale on this very special occasion.” Andrew then ceremoniously offered David the gavel of the lodge. David responded by commenting: “I normally cannot wait to hand the gavel back but as you said, it is a special occasion, so I will retain it for a while.” On assuming the master’s chair, David asked Barry Fitzgerald to place the celebrant before him and once John was comfortably seated, David embarked on an absorbing account of John’s life history.
He began by musing upon the remarkable circumstance that again the brethren had gathered at Silverdale Masonic Hall to celebrate a golden jubilee, adding that it must be something in the air of this rather special and beautiful area that promotes longevity in the members of Silverdale Lodge, as it is the fourth time he has been here to celebrate a jubilee.
David opened the body of his address by informing the assembled brethren that John was born on 15 February 1933 in Longtown, Carlisle, Cumbria and shared his birth year with David Bellamy, Sir Michael Caine, Duchess of Kent and the Kray Twins, humorously adding that we had better forget those last named. In that year George V was on the throne, Ramsey MacDonald was Prime Minister, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, Gandhi went on hunger strike, England won the ashes and the original King Kong film was premiered.
John was the only child of Harry and Wilhelmina Scurr and went to his first school, Kilncroft Primary School in Carlisle, at the age of four. John shone at school straight away and at the age of eight was enrolled into Carlisle Grammar Preparatory School, where he stayed until joining the grammar school proper at the age of 11. On leaving school in 1949, John started his career in banking at Martins Bank in Millom, Cumbria. At the age of 18 John was called up for National Service and joined the Royal Air Force, training as a navigator. Initially stationed at RAF Kirton in Lindsey in Lincolnshire, John was subsequently re-located to various air bases throughout the United Kingdom.
In 1953, having completed his National Service, John returned to continue his career with Martins Bank. During this time John met his future wife Anne, who at that time worked for the Home Office. John and Anne married in 1962 and have been blessed with two children and five grandchildren. Sadly, John’s wife Anne passed away after a long illness, during which time he devoted much of his time to caring for her.
In 1965 John was promoted to assistant manager and re-located to South Shields, Tyne and Wear. It was whist working at South Shields that John’s manager Peter Stracey, introduced him to Masonry and was eventually initiated into St Lawrence Lodge No 6042 in 1967. When it reached that moment in the ceremony when the blindfold is removed, John was taken aback to see a large number of colleagues with whom he had worked with from the various branches of the bank and who he had absolutely no idea that they were Freemasons.
At that point in the ceremony David would normally ask the lodge secretary to read an extract from the minutes detailing John’s initiation into St Lawrence Lodge. However during a refurbishment of the lodge the records were lost. The secretary of Silverdale Lodge, Chris Brown did though receive some details of John’s initiation ceremony from both the secretary and a past member of St Lawrence Lodge, which David subsequently read out.
In 1969, Barclays bank took over Martins Bank and in the ensuing reshuffle of posts, John was relocated to Kendal as assistant manager. After moving his family to Kendal, John visited various lodges in the area on a regular basis but declined from joining any of them, until in 1971 he became a founding member of Heversham Lodge No 8396 in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, eventually becoming its master in 1978. In 1991 John joined Carnforth Lodge No 4951 where he remained until his resignation in 2014, having served as treasurer for over 20 years. In that same year John joined Silverdale Lodge and has been a regular attendee ever since.
John holds Provincial rank in two Provinces. In Cumberland and Westmorland, he holds the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon and in West Lancashire the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. In the Royal Arch John was exalted into Caer Urfa Chapter No 4345 in 1967 and is still a member to date. John is also a high-ranking member of other Masonic Orders.
With John having had a very active Masonic life and in David’s words, being a credit to every lodge or degree that he has been associated with, it was David’s belief that those lodges must be extremely thankful that John had been willing to put his expertise into practice by becoming treasurer. Adding all his years as treasurer for these various lodges and degrees, David estimated John had a combined total of 88 years in that vital role.
David completed his address by formally conveying the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison before asking Jim Wilson to read the commemorative certificate that the Provincial Grand Master had caused to be issued. On receiving the scroll from David, John expressed his gratitude for the very king gesture, adding he was overwhelmed to see so many brethren present.
At a well-attended festive board at Silverdale Golf Course, David Grainger, in response to the toast to his health, thanked both Chris Brown, the lodge secretary, for all his hard work behind the scenes and the acting Provincial grand officers for their company. Special mention was also made of both the lodge’s director of ceremonies Alan Procter and the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald for their efforts over the course of the evening.
The toast to John’s health was proposed by Tony Jackson, following which he presented John with a cheque, as a gift on behalf of the members of Silverdale Lodge. In response John thanked the members of Carnforth and Silverdale Lodges for all their support, as well as the support of all the visitors who had attended on the evening. One final nice touch was the presentation of a bottle of whisky by William Douthwaite to the celebrant. A member of Heversham Lodge, William commented he was delighted to honour John on the evening and that it was richly deserved.
A fitting finale to this very special celebration was the announcement that the raffle at the festive board had raised the fantastic sum of £361.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson