A ruby celebration for Derek

The brethren of Lodge of Allegiance No 7352 and their guests gathered to join with Assistant Provincial Grand Master Derek John Parkinson to celebrate 60 years in Freemasonry of John Derek Houghton.

Master of the lodge Brian Begg (left) with Derek Houghton (seated) and Derek Parkinson.

Master of the lodge Brian Begg (left) with Derek Houghton (seated) and Derek Parkinson.

The lodge was opened by the master of the lodge Brian Begg and his officers and the routine business of the evening was conducted. Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton was admitted into the lodge and announced that Derek Parkinson was without and demanded admission. Derek, accompanied by Garston Group Chairman Howard Griffith and fellow grand officer Andrew Whittle, was duly admitted. Brian warmly welcomed Derek and all the other guests to the special evening and offered the gavel of the lodge to Derek, who was pleased to retain it and duly occupied the chair.

Derek began the evening celebrations by saying that one of the benefits of holding a senior position in the Province is the opportunity to celebrate with a brother as he reaches a milestone in his Masonic career. He then went on to give a wonderful eulogy of Derek’s life saying, “Tonight we are here to celebrate 60 years with brother Derek Houghton, and so could I ask our Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies to place our celebrant before me.”

John Derek Houghton (but known to all as Derek) was born on 27 June 1933 and initiated into Freemasonry on 1 February 1957. During those intervening 24 years there were several events that played a significant part in his life and development, and others that had a great bearing on the world as we see it today. In recent years there has been a period of poor economic outlook but around the 1930’s things were much worse with the stock market crash, the start of the great worldwide depression and up to 30% of the workforce unemployed.

In 1936 King Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson which allowed our current Queen’s father to ascend to the throne. The most important event that happened during that period and changed the lives of so many was of course the Second World War and the later development of the atomic bomb, which continued after the war as what became known as the cold war between the East and the West.

In the 1950s things improved and there were many reasons for celebration: petrol rationing ended; followed by sugar rationing in 1953 and eventually all rationing ended. Around the same time there was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest, and Watson and Crick announced the discovery of the structure of DNA, a great breakthrough in understanding what makes us who we are. Lastly, Roger Bannister ran the first sub four minute mile.

Derek Houghton was born in 1933 in Whiston Hospital and christened John Derek. His father Joseph Houghton had married a young lady Mary Davies in 1921 at St Nicholas Church, Sutton. His father went on to become a colliery under-manager working at Sutton Manor Colliery and his mum went to Skerry’s College to study shorthand and typing which she later taught. Skerry’s College in Rodney Street was started in Edinburgh in the 1880’s by George Skerry as a training school to prepare people for the new Civil Service examinations and a college was opened in Liverpool around 1910.

Derek was the second son of Joseph and Mary as they had had his elder brother Tom eleven years earlier. Sadly Tom had passed away 34 years ago. Derek attended Robins Lane Primary School in St Helens and then went on to Cowley Boys Grammar School until he took the School Certificate at 16. Once he left school he went as a trainee optician with Dollond and Aitchison and attended Byrom Street College to further his studies and was there for two years from 1949.

Pictured from left to right, are; Howard Griffiths, Derek Houghton, Derek Parkinson and Brian Begg.

Pictured from left to right, are; Howard Griffiths, Derek Houghton, Derek Parkinson and Brian Begg.

His training was interrupted when he was called for National Service in 1951 and was posted to Catterick as a wireless instructor in the Royal Armoured Corps.  As his National Service was ending he decided that being an optician was not for him but had developed a keen interest in cameras and lenses at the opticians and so applied for a position at Pilkington’s Glass. Pilkington’s began life in 1826 as a partnership between the Pilkington and Greenall families and was called the St Helens Crown Glass Company. When the Greenall family left the partnership in 1845 the name changed to Pilkington Brothers.

The job Derek applied for and obtained was taking still photographs and cine films of the many projects that were going on in the laboratories. Pilkingtons were conducting a lot of research into the many different aspects of glass and glass production and wanted every aspect of the work and every stage of the processes recording for future use. During that period Derek saw many interesting developments in the glass industry. During his career as an industrial and scientific photographer Derek worked in the Pilkington Laboratories at Queensbury, Isle of Sheppy and Lathom near Ormskirk, which is one of the foremost establishments researching for new ways of producing and utilising glass.

Pilkingtons are leaders in glass technology and each year spend over £30,000,000 on research and development, split between two main sectors, automotive products and building products. Many of the photographs Derek took were using micro or macro techniques and it was during one of these projects that he met Brenda – and took quite a fancy to her.  She was working in the laboratory as an analytical chemist using a flame photometer which analyses the sodium and potassium content of a particular substance. As part of this work, he and Brenda both attended a conference at the Faculty of Glass Technology in Sheffield and sat together on the coach, talking all the way there and back. They discovered that they both lived in Sutton and after going out for a while, they were married on 30 March 1961 at St Nicholas’s Church, Sutton. They were married by the Reverend John Reginald Smith known as ‘Reg’ to his parishioners. He was vicar there from 1959 until 1966 and during that time it was obvious that the Parish Halls were not big enough and so he worked with others in the parish to build a new hall, even to the extent of digging out the foundations himself.  When the vicar left Sutton he went to take over the Parish of Bury and in 1997 he was awarded the MBE for services to the community there.

Just before Derek married Brenda, he bought a plot of land in The Meadows, Rainhill and built his own house with the help of a bricklayer and plasterer, but digging out the foundations and putting in all the plumbing and electrics yourself.  It has certainly stood the test of time as he and Brenda still live there. They have been married for nearly 56 years and have two children, Joanna and Christine and two grandchildren (Rebecca in her second year at Exeter University and Christopher at Liverpool College in his A Level year).

During his earlier years Derek joined the scouts and became deputy camp warden at Bispham Hall near Billinge. This carried with it the position of Scouting Commissioner. Bispham Hall itself is a Grade II listed building built in 1573. The estate grounds were acquired by the Scouting Association in 1948 and have an activity centre with a climbing wall and a large number of inside and outdoor activities available on site. It’s even supposed to have its own resident ghost, Nellie Bispham!

Derek has also been a member of Prescot Rotary since 1978 and was President in 1992. One of his main interests is as Chairman of the Railway and Heritage Society, which is part of the Civic Society of which he is an Honorary Vice Chairman. He is well known for giving talks on his great love of steam trains and was heavily involved in 1979 in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Rainhill Trials when Stephenson’s Rocket first took to the tracks in 1829. Those trials were organised by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company to find the best locomotive for the service between the two cities. The prize for the winner was £500 and the Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ won. The following year the line from Liverpool to Manchester officially opened. During the twelve months from 1979 to 1980 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the trials and the opening of the railway Derek made a film of the events that were held and the film is now held in the National Film archives.

In 2011, in recognition of all the work Derek had done for the community, he was nominated by the people of Rainhill for a Good Citizenship Award, an award that was presented to him by the Chairman of the Council in February 2013. As well as his major involvement in the organisation of the celebrations in 1979 and 1980 he helped with community projects through his membership of Rotary and helped with regular transport of disabled people to the local community centre. As well as helping a blind lady with her weekly shopping, Derek used to drive her to the Century Hotel in Blackpool that was run by the Royal National Institute for the Blind where she went three times a year for holidays.

Derek is an active member of St Ann’s Church in Rainhill and has organised their annual Brass Band Concert, raising money for charity, for more than 20 years.

In Freemasonry, Derek was initiated into the Lodge of Allegiance on 1 February 1957, sixty years and two days before his celebratory meeting. He became master of the lodge in May 1968 and steered the lodge through a difficult time when the lodge suffered the loss of several of its members within the space of just a few months. George Holme the director of ceremonies at the time passed away just before Derek’s installation and then soon afterwards the senior warden Bill Tyrer and the social secretary George Edwards died. When the lodge meetings resumed in October, unbeknown to Derek on that night it was the last time the lodge was to meet at Hope Street because nine days later on 13 October there was a devastating fire at Hope Street and as a result of that the lodge now meets at Garston.

The lodge obviously didn’t blame Derek for any of the misfortunes that year and elected him as master again in 2004 and 2008, two years which passed off relatively uneventfully.

In Provincial Grand Lodge Derek was appointed to acting Provincial Junior Grand Deacon in 1974 and promoted to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 1980. He also holds the office of chaplain in the lodge.

In the Royal Arch he was exalted into Alliance Chapter No 667 in 1967 and was first principal in 1976 but had to leave the chapter when he went to work in Lathom as he couldn’t get to the meetings in Hope Street. In 1995 he joined Chapter of Lebanon No 86 and was installed as first principal six years later. He holds the rank of Past Provincial Grand Sojourner.  He is also a Past Sovereign of Gethsemene Chapter in Rose Croix.

The Assistant Provincial Grand Master called on Garston group vice chairman John Murphy to read the Jubilee certificate. In presenting Derek with his certificate, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master said, “Brother Derek, you are a great example of the phrase that is often used that ‘you get out of it what you put in’. You have contributed to serving the community by your voluntary work and to Freemasonry in Liverpool and Garston and have certainly got great pleasure and enjoyment from it, and so it is a great honour and a privilege to say to you, Derek, thank you for all that you have done both for Freemasonry and the wider community and congratulations on achieving 60 years as a Mason and we all look forward to seeing you enjoy many more years as a member of this great order.”

After concluding the remaining business of the evening the brethren joined with Derek to enjoy a convivial festive board ensuring that the very special occasion will be long remembered.

Derek responds to the toast to his health.

Derek responds to the toast to his health.