Travellers Lodge No 4679 celebrated a special milestone with two of its members celebrating 50 years in Freemasonry. The lodge was honoured to have a great turnout, 37 guests were in attendance for this special evening in the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master Barry Jameson, the Warrington Group Chairman Andy Barton, vice chairman John Tyrer and group secretary John McIntyre and other distinguished guests.
Once the WM Peter Hayes had conducted the initial lodge business it was time for him to hand over the gavel to Barry Jameson to continue with the evening. Barry started by calling up Kenneth Eilbeck to take the chair in front of the WM, where he proceeded to read his life story.
Ken, as he is known, was born in May 1949 in Whitehaven on the West Coast of Cumbria. His parents, Jim and Anne, were both demobbed from the Armed Services after WW2 (Jim served with the Scots Guards holding the rank of Warrant Sergeant whilst Anne was Sergeant in the Women’s Artillery). So, Ken and his younger brother Derek led very disciplined lives!
Following on from early school, Ken passed his ‘11 Plus’ and attended Whitehaven Grammar School where he enjoyed playing rugby for the school and county rather than school work. In those days, pupils misbehaving were given ‘order marks’ leading to Saturday morning detention, this meant that Saturday rugby was out. The order of the day for Ken, who was often in detention, was to skip it, play rugby and be prepared for a Monday morning summons to the headmaster for the cane. No contest, rugby won every time
After leaving school he went to work at British Steel, Workington as a chemist. On his daily bus ride, a girl took his eye, eventually they dated and Beth is now his wife of 54 years, she deserves a very large medal!!! They live in Egremont in the beautiful county of Cumbria. They have two children, Geoff who is 52 years old, who is married to Emma and they live nearby in Whitehaven and they have two children. Ken’s daughter Gillian who is 51 years old, has two children and is married to Neil Thomas who is a member of the lodge and they live in Warrington.
Ken and Beth, as their family was growing up, loved to travel and had numerous holidays abroad and visited many countries, in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Florida in the United States of America. Ken and Beth also have a holiday lodge near Balmoral in Royal Deeside, which they visit regularly.
When he was 19 years old, Ken joined the Cumberland and Westmorland Constabulary, which later became the Cumbria Police Force, doing his initial training for four months at Bruche Training Centre here in Warrington. He had a long and varied career in the police and during his service was involved in many criminal investigations, murders, suicides as well as numerous traffic incidents and accidents.
Because he served in the Lake District, it was not uncommon to be called out and assist with mountain rescues. On one occasion he was required to go up the hills in a Sea King Helicopter. Now Ken, had travelled quite a lot in aeroplanes but was not the most natural frequent flyer in a helicopter and his fear of flying got the better of him, he jumped out of the Sea King Rescue Helicopter just as it was taking off shouting to the astonished winchman: “Let me get the hell off this piece of scrap metal!!!”.
Ken was on the National Police Riot Squad; he was seconded to Liverpool during the Toxteth Riots for several weeks and was also involved in the national miners strikes, spending time away mainly in Yorkshire confronted by Arthur Scargill’s ‘Barmy Army’ of flying pickets!
After he retired from the police in 1998, he took up employment with the Cumbria Emergency Doctors Service where he worked for 18 years. This entailed driving a doctor to calls in emergency-equipped vehicles and assisting them as required.
In 1973, Ken became a member of Arlecdon Lodge No 1660, in Cumbria, which to all intents was the Eilbeck family lodge. Several uncles (some holding Provincial rank) and several cousins were all members. This lodge celebrated its centenary in 1977, at which time Ken’s father, Jim was WM. In those days, attendances of 40 or 50 at that lodge was not uncommon, but this was easily exceeded at the centenary! He held membership until 2008 when due to work commitments he resigned. In 2018, Ken’s son-in-law, Neil Thomas was initiated into Travellers Lodge. Ken was pleased to be invited to the ceremony as a visitor by Travellers Lodge members and his interest in Freemasonry was rekindled. Since Ken and Beth visit their daughter Gillian, Neil and grandchildren regularly, on 17 November 2022, Ken became a member of Travellers Lodge. Which gives them an extra reason to visit and stay.
Once Barry had finished his eulogy, the group chairman Andy Barton proceeded to read his certificate to the lodge before Barry presented him with his certificate.
After Ken had taken his seat, it was time for Brian Potter. Barry called up Brian Potter to take the chair in front of the WM, where he proceeded to read his life story.
Brian Potter was born in of August 1943 in Warrington General Hospital. He attended Sankey Primary School, Warrington before going to Penketh and Sankey Secondary Modern School, Warrington. On leaving school at 16, he enrolled as a trainee radio officer in the Merchant Navy taking various City and Guilds exams and qualified as a Radio Officer in the Merchant Navy.
On 21 March 1961, he sailed on MV Agapenor, an 8,000-ton cargo passenger ship belonging to the Blue Funnel Line for a four-month voyage to the Far East. He sailed on various cargo-passenger ships for the next seven years to most countries in the Far East and Australia before coming ashore and working at the BBC on the World Service short wave transmitters for two years. His duties involved cycling around a 100-acre aerial farm in the middle of the night, taking care to avoid the sheep who used to lie on the paths. After finding the correct aerial, Brian had to ensure that it was pointing at the correct country for transmission. For example, the Egyptian listeners would not appreciate a programme in Chinese! He also rented a flat attached to a sheep farm. The farmer who owned the flat had 3 rather plain daughters whom he was trying to marry off, these are some of the reasons he left the BBC’s employment rather quickly!!
In 1964, he joined Granada Television at their Manchester Studios as an engineer, it was the start of its transition to colour television. Engineers in commercial television were expected to be skilled in all areas of television. This might include working a camera or microphone on Coronation Street. Telecine, converting the film into television pictures. VTR recording programmes from one of the four studios and editing programmes. On one Saturday evening before the start of the edit for the Saturday night football highlights programme, the lady director rang in to say she was on her way back from Anfield to do the edit, but she had cut to the wrong camera (there were only four cameras in those days) and missed a Liverpool goal. “No problem” said Brian, ‘tell me the score you want and we will do the rest’. After hunting through the archives, a suitable goal was found from a different Liverpool match! No one noticed and everyone was happy!!
As a keen golfer, Brian became Secretary to the Granada Golf Society in the days when ITV was known as ‘a licence to print money’. Many actors on Coronation Street and celebrities were keen golfers, Johnny Briggs, Bill Roache, and Tom O’Connor among others. Granada’s Chairman David Plowright was keen to attract the big spending advertiser agencies to the northwest, and so Brian was given the job of setting up corporate golf events for them, no budget limits, spend what you like! Hence days at clubs like Royal Liverpool, Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham were arranged. With golf and hotels and dinners. On one occasion after Brian and Yvonne had done a recce to Southport, David Plowright sent a message to the hotel they were using to say: “If there were any problems or hiccups with the event, he would personally instruct our leading current affairs’ programme, ‘World in Action’ reporters to visit the hotel and do an expose on their kitchen and drains”. The event went like clockwork!
In 1970 he married Yvonne, whose father George Dutton was then the senior deacon of Travellers Lodge and was on the lookout for likely candidates! A deal was struck which enabled Brian to marry Yvonne and become George’s candidate for Travellers Lodge and as a bonus, George would propose Brian for membership of Warrington Golf Club where Yvonne was a member. A win-win situation!
Brian was initiated by George into Travellers Lodge on 4 January 1974, passed to the fellow craft degree on 1 March 1974 and the degree of a master Mason on 3 May 1974. At the time of his Initiation, the lodge secretary was Edgar Bretherton who was the father-in-law of Brian’s sister Susan. As Travellers Lodge was founded by commercial travellers, they always met on a Friday, as that was the only night of the week when travellers returned home.
Because of his job, Brian had to work a wide variety of hours and was not able to attend some of the lodge of instruction practises and rehearsals, this did not go down well with some of the senior past masters. However, he took the chair of the lodge on 19 December 1985 and again on 19 December 2002 the year after he had retired from Granada Television. Brian is also a member of another Masonic Order.
Brian and Yvonne have 2 children, Nicola and Mike and 3 gorgeous granddaughters; Libby, Eliza and Emily. All of whom can wind granddad around their little fingers! Nicola and her husband Chris, live In Ivybridge, Devon: Mike and his wife, Lucy live in Knutsford. Brian is a very hands-on grandparent.
Brian and Yvonne both share a love of travelling and have enjoyed some great holidays over the years. Long haul destinations include tours of Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, Peru, Africa and Namibia and Botswana have featured in their lives.
Yvonne’s sister lives in Montreal, so the Potter family has made several visits across ‘the pond’ to Canada and the United States both as a couple and when their children were young. In case you’re wondering, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Scandinavia haven’t been neglected, these have been done with shorter visits and cruises.
During his 50 years as a member of Travellers Lodge, Brian has fulfilled the offices of group representative, social secretary, group golf representative and since 2020, lodge secretary. Brian was appointed in Provincial Grand Lodge to acting Provincial Grand Steward in May 1994 and was subsequently promoted to Past Provincial Senior Grand Senior Deacon in October 1998 and then to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in October 2007.
In May of 2023, Brian was promoted to the very high rank of Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer. A position he undoubtedly deserves for all the hard work and commitment he has given to Freemasonry over the last 50 years
Brian has enjoyed and valued the friendships formed throughout Freemasonry. God willing, that he hopes to continue for many more years.
Barry Jameson ended by saying: “We congratulate both Ken and Brian on this landmark and thank them both for their friendship, dedication and hard work in the Craft. We wish them many more years in Freemasonry and look forward to celebrating their 60th.”
Once business had been conducted, all retired downstairs for the social board where we heard Neil Thomas raise a toast to his father-in-law Ken Eilbeck and John McIntyre give the toast to Brian Potter.