Brethren of Lodge of Hope No 2679 met at their regular meeting to celebrate 50 years’ service to Freemasonry of Brian Crossley PPrJGW. The event was held at Elm Bank Masonic Hall in the presence of fellow brethren and visiting friends. For the celebration, the brethren were honoured by the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master Dave Walmsley accompanied by APrGM George Mann from the Province of Cheshire, grand lodge officers, Brian Jackson, John Hutton, Gordon Yates and Malcolm Bell, also Eccles Group Chairman Stuart Boyd and acting officer Fred Dickinson.
The master Harold Smith welcomed Dave Walmsley and offered him the gavel of office, which was accepted and Dave took the master’s chair. He introduced the main business of the meeting which was to honour Brian’s 50 years in Freemasonry. For this purpose, Brian was seated directly in front of the master’s chair. As he does so well, Dave set the scene for the year of Brian’s birth, 1935.
Dave began his address by stating: “When joining Freemasonry, it is expected of us that we maintain the highest standards, give aid and succour to those less fortunate than ourselves and strive to achieve the highest morality in all our actions. To have lived by and practiced those principals for 50 years is a remarkable achievement and it is only right and proper that this evening we are gathered here to celebrate and congratulate Brian Crossley on this very auspicious occasion of his golden jubilee.”
Brian was born in Altrincham on the 23 December 1935 to proud parents Norman and Myra. Norman was a shop manager and Myra was a chair caner later to become a shirt maker for the renowned Banner Shirts. Dave commented: “I must admit brethren initially I thought Brian’s mother and I had something in common until I realised my experience at school of canes and chairs was entirely different than the intricate specialised manufacture of furniture.”
Following primary school education in Irlam, Brian’s father’s rather Victorian ways felt he should attend an all-boys school, Brian duly obeyed and won a scholarship to Stretford Grammar school which is no mean achievement. He left some five years later in possession of five O Levels. Sadly, these weren’t Brian’s happiest years, understandably so because the daily journey to school was two hours each way consisting of a walk, bus, train and further walking. In addition, the four hours daily commute prevented him from being involved in after school activities and weekend events. Two enjoyable memories from school were trips to St Malo in Brittainy and the Festival of Britain, which thanks to a fellow pupil’s father, incorporated a tour of Fords of Dagenham and a free sail on the ‘Ford Consul’ on the Thames which included a luxury lunch and dinner.
It was Brian’s choice to leave full time education at this stage to begin an apprenticeship as a designer in Trafford Park; however, he was rightly encouraged to enrol at Salford Technical College (now Salford University) on a part time basis where between 1952 and 1959 he gained an ONC in Structural Engineering and latterly HNC in Civil Engineering. He became a Member of the Institution of Structural Engineers and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Brian’s involvement with further education continued for many years, he began teaching civil engineering in the evenings at Bolton Technical College as far back as 1960 and in 2006 was awarded an honorary Doctorate for his work in assisting the college in becoming a university. Later he was awarded Fellowship of both Institutions (F I Struct E, F I C E) and also Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Building (F C I O B) and Chartered Engineer of the Engineering Council (C Eng). He resigned these memberships on retirement but still retains his Fellowship of the Institution of Civil Engineers where he is still active on committees.
Clearly it wasn’t all work and study because during this period he met and subsequently on 18 August 1958 married Janet. They have two daughters Lucy and Laura and five grandchildren.
When the nuclear programme at Calder Hall and elsewhere was complete he joined a small team at Risley to assess the structural integrity of Nuclear pressure vessels to be used in the civil nuclear power station programme, which are now being de-commissioned. Being a creative and practical person he resigned to take a total change of direction.
After leaving UKAEA in 1964 he joined Token Construction Co Ltd, Croydon – a Building Contractor who specialised in shopping centres, factories and similar structures which they owned and leased to tenants. He was employed as their Chief Engineer in Northern England, Scotland and Ireland to manage the design and supervise the construction of shopping centres in Preston, Eccles, Glasgow and Keighley, flood defences to a housing development in Limerick and other similar projects.
In 1966 he spent six weeks in Kuwait with a colleague and they obtained contracts to build 13 village settlements for Bedouin tribes, but the contract was cancelled shortly afterwards when the Arab – Israeli war broke out, for the owners of Token Construction (Cotton and Clore, Property Developers in London) were Jewish. The company closed its building operation in 1969 to concentrate on the letting and management of the shopping centres they had built.
Brian then joined Tersons Ltd, London. a major building contractor who specialised in the construction of large government offices and similar establishments. He was employed as a Contracts Manager responsible for completion of the GIRO building in Bootle and new projects at Everton Football Club new stand, an innovative Market Hall structure in Huddersfield and other projects in the north west, but after six months the Company went into liquidation.
It was following this short spell that he joined Sir Alfred McAlpine Building Contractors. The Quantity Surveyor normally occupies the senior management positions, but in a civil engineering contracting company it is the engineer who takes these positions and he quickly progressed through various management positions and contracts. Early contracts were the M62 across Chat Moss (going through fields he worked in as a boy), M55 Preston –Blackpool and M66 north of Bury.
While agent (manager) of the M66 contract he was asked to go to Dubai to manage a company and in 1976 became General Manager of Emirates McAlpine. He was there with his wife, Janet and younger daughter Laura. At the time there was no education for children over 11, so their eldest daughter Lucy stayed at their home in Bolton (with his mother-in-law) and she visited Dubai at the end of each term.
Contracts included construction of fishing harbours, a dam, housing and major building structures, with a resident UK staff of 50 on a bachelor basis and a labour force of over 2,000 from India and Pakistan who were accommodated in a new camp built 25 miles out into the desert. He initially had to set up contracts for labour supply in Karachi, Lahore and Bombay. As General Manager of the company he was required by law to meet and sign each person into the country as they arrived at the airport as well as managing the company, a job which was truly 24/7. The workmen were transported to sites from their camp in double decker buses, the first to be seen in the Persian Gulf area.
After almost three very intense years, he decided to return to the UK and was promoted to Contracts Manager and then Director, responsible for the company’s major building contacts including the head office of British Nuclear Fuels at Risley, Warrington and the shipbuilding facility at Barrow for building the Trident submarine fleet, the largest shipbuilding shed in the world and the largest ship lift in the world. Because of the political importance of this project he had to report progress to Downing Street every month. The project was completed on time and within budget.
Very early in his employment at the UKAEA he was encouraged to participate in the local activities of the Institution of Civil Engineers and became a junior committee member for the North West of England in 1961. Institution committee activity locally and in London developed with him becoming Chair of the Chester and North Wales Branch, then Chair of the North West of England Association and in 1998 was elected a Vice President of the Institution in London. Initially this was with responsibility for the standard of Civil Engineering education in UK Universities and then later, responsibility for all overseas members of the institution. This entailed extensive visits to most European countries, Russia, USA and Canada. He has been a member of and chaired many institution committees in London continually from 1961 to today.
Brian retired in 1996 from McAlpines and shortly afterwards was employed by the UK Government to manage an aid project in Bangladesh to assist their professional engineers to develop their competence to western levels. The unwritten objective was to minimise corruption amongst professional engineers. This entailed regular visits to Bangladesh over a five year period, liaising with the British Consulate and the Prime Minister in Dhaka, and travelling around the country to meet engineers in various locations. The project was extremely successful.
In 1961 he was awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers Miller Prize, a prize for junior members delivering a lecture (on the design of the supporting structure for the advanced gas cooled nuclear reactor at Windscale) and in 2001 was awarded the Garth Watson Medal 2001 (the highest award for service to the Institution of Civil Engineers).
Brian has many memories of his career and is the first to admit that he has been very fortunate to enjoy many areas of employment and professional experience in the civil engineering profession. When in Dubai, he had to sit each month in the Ruler’s office, sometimes for days, waiting for the Ruler to sign a cheque (for £1,000,000) for works done, only to watch Arabs walking around carrying hunting Falcons which the Ruler and his entourage used for enjoyment. This often meant coming back day after day until the monthly cheque was signed. Notable memories include lecturing at the Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey, a number of visits to Moscow to interview very eminent civil engineers for potential membership of the Institution and visiting major construction sites around the world.
Brian’s hobbies and interests cover a wide spectrum. He was always practical as a teenager and he enjoyed woodwork, making and flying model airplanes, then building a canoe that he used on rivers and at sea off the coast of North Wales.
When he married Janet and without much money, his mother taught him how to re-cane dining chairs for their new home. His skills in this craft developed over a period of 50 years, initially alongside his career and then full time on retirement. He has been teaching the craft of chair caning for a full day every two weeks over the last 20 years in Chester plus at other locations in the UK. He taught mature students at a Traditional Crafts College in Turku, Finland during four, week long courses. He is a member of the Basketmakers’ Association and regularly writes papers for their newsletter, giving talks on the craft to various groups.
In 2008, he was a founder of the Heritage Crafts Association, an umbrella organisation which promotes all traditional crafts at government level and was their secretary for the first four years, during which period HRH Prince of Wales became the association’s president. In 2010 he was invited to become a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers in London. He is also an active member of a Probus Club in the village where he lives and was their president in 2016.
With such a busy life, one would ask, how on earth did he have time for Freemasonry? Brian’s Masonic career began on 28 February 1968 when he was initiated into the Lodge of Hope by Frank Cooper. He was proposed by Alec Donaldson and seconded by Bob Broomhead. He was passed on 24 April 1968 and raised on 23 October 1968. Brian progressed through the offices to junior warden when he left the country to work overseas for a year returning to continue his progress in the lodge as senior warden and finally installed as the master in January 1980 by his proposer Alec Donaldson. In January 1984 he became the lodge group representative and in 1993 the lodge almoner an office he held for 14 years. Brian received his first Provincial appointment in June 1985 as PPrAGDC followed by promotion to PPrGSuptWks in 1998 and finally in 2005 he was promoted to PPrJGW.
He was exalted in Chapter of Hope No 2679 on 9 October 1970 and was installed as first principal in 1985. In 1990 he was appointed as a Provincial Grand Steward, promoted to PrGStdB in 2001 and again in 2006 he was promoted to PrGScribeN. In 1991 Brian joined Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter of West Lancashire No 8516 and is still a member. He is also a member of the Francis Columbine Lodge No 5849 in the Province of Cheshire and he was appointed to PPrJGW in the Province of Chester. He is also a member of Charing Cross Chapter No 4913 in the Province of Cheshire.
The minutes of Brian’s initiation meeting were read out by the secretary Tony Pickering and the certificate in recognition of 50 years in Freemasonry was then read out by the group chairman Stuart Boyd and presented to Brian by Dave Walmsley. In conclusion, Dave wished Brian health, happiness and fulfilment in his Masonry. The brethren showed their appreciation in the traditional way.
The lodge meeting was followed by a wonderful festive board at which further praise was bestowed upon Brian by Stuart Boyd who presented Brian with his 50 year lapel badge. Brian was then presented with a bouquet for his good lady Janet and an exclusive pen set from the lodge. The special evening was concluded with the tyler’s toast from Alan Perks.
Article and pictures by Tom Fredrickson.