The companions of Chapter of Unity and Perseverance No 580, meeting at Ormskirk Masonic Hall, came together here in West Lancashire to celebrate 50 golden years in the Royal Arch of Thomas Geoffrey Archer PPrDGSwdB of the Province of Cheshire.
The chapter companions were honoured on the evening by distinguished guest Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Paul Renton. Paul was accompanied by Christopher Hamilton, Past Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals and supported by Brian Fairhurst, Stephen Brereton (group vice chairman) and acting Provincial Grand Stewards Philip Powell and Mike Wallis. Paul was warmly welcomed into the chapter by first principal Michael Rimmer before being offered the first principal’s chair which he readily accepted.
Paul started by saying how much he had looked forward to recognising a further 50 years of service in the Royal Arch, and indeed in this the Chapter of Unity and Perseverance. Continuing Paul informed the companions that Geoffrey (as he is known) celebrated his 50 years in the craft some 10 years ago in Lodge of Harmony No 4390 meeting in Sale, Cheshire and in November this year will be celebrating 60 years in the Craft at that same lodge. Paul said: “This evening therefore companions is truly a mid-celebratory Royal Arch Masonic sandwich.”
Paul then asked DC Trevor Tomlinson to place the celebrant before him in order that he might address him. Once assured that Geoffrey was comfortably seated, he began to detail a story of both personal and Masonic achievement.
Paul commenced by saying: “It is my normal practice to visit each celebrant to introduce myself. In this case, as we will hear later, our esteemed companion lives in Gloucestershire so such a visit was ruled out. However, we have spoken on the phone and I’m delighted to say that there exists a lot of common ground between us. First, Geoffrey has a teaching background and so do I. We both have a common interest of rugby union, in particularly involvement with Durham University. And lastly, we have both been involved in different forms of academic research.”
Our celebrant’s story begins with Geoffrey’s birth on 24 September 1930 in south Manchester and that means Geoffrey is now in his 85th year. Looking back to the time of his birth, trams, cars and horse drawn vehicles could be seen in Manchester city centre. The 30s opened with struggling economic depression. On a brighter note, Manchester, or Lancashire to be precise, produced two of the biggest superstars during this pre-war period, George Formby and Gracie Fields who became the highest paid artists in the world.
Paul recounted that Geoffrey spent his early years living around Flixton and Heaton Mersey. His father, Thomas Archer, ran a firm connected with the cotton trade and it was via him that Geoffrey was introduced to Masonry; both his father and his seconder, Alf Green, were Old Boys of Manchester Grammar School, both of them having survived the First Word War.
In terms of education, Geoffrey attended Ellesmere College, Shropshire where he was a border. It was here that his academic interests were fostered in mathematics, history and his sporting interests in cricket and rugby. Geoffrey captained his school cricket team for two years during the late 1940s and his claim to fame was bowling out Cyril Washbrook, the famous England and Lancashire cricketer.
Moving on, Paul said that after completing his National Service, Geoffrey went to Durham University where he gained a 2:1 in mathematics. Continuing the sporting interest he played for a very strong and successful University First XV, playing against many leading club sides in the country. Positioned in the front row, he played against two England hookers, Sam Hodgson and Eric Evans who won 30 caps for England between 1948 and 1958. Paul went on to say that his own personal connection with the university is that he lived in County Durham for a number of years and refereed for the Durham Referees’ Society, often at the university and his claim to fame was refereeing Will Carling, who went on to become England captain.
Paul recounted that on leaving university Geoffrey entered the teaching profession and taught mathematics in two Grammar Schools: Bourne Grammar School in Lincolnshire and Alleyne’s Grammar School in Stone, Staffordshire. Paul added that he himself was originally trained as a woodwork and metalwork teacher, a subject that developed into design and technology with the introduction of the national curriculum. Geoffrey’s interest in mathematics ultimately took him to a career in lecturing in 1962 which began and ended in Ormskirk at Edge Hill College of Education, now Edge Hill University. As a colleague of education, its focus was on the initial training of teachers. Paul said: “When you began your career at Edge Hill Geoffrey, there were about 660 students and 59 staff. Now as a University it has over 16,000 full or part-time students and employs over 3,000 staff – how times have changed in the world of education!”
Geoffrey retired from Edge Hill as the Head of the Mathematics Department in 1987 after 25 years of wonderful service and moved to Gloucestershire to be with his two daughters, Hilary and Penny, an area of the country where he still resides in the historic wool town of Painswick.
Paul said: “I mentioned earlier that Geoffrey and I had a common interest in research. I undertook mine whilst working for the RFU in the Referee Department when I studied the relationship that develops between referees and their coaches. Geoffrey’s however appears far exacting and indeed diverse than mine. Whilst working at Edge Hill he was allowed a year off to study at Lancaster University for a Master of Science Degree. This clearly had a mathematic bent and focused on the problems associated with the orbit of missiles.”
Paul then moved on to Geoffrey’s Masonic career. Geoffrey was initiated as a Lewis Mason into Lodge of Harmony on 15 November 1955, this being a lodge in the Province of Cheshire that meets at the Masonic Hall, Sale, becoming master of that lodge some 12 years later. Geoffrey was awarded his first appointment in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cheshire in 1989 as a PPrJGD and promoted to PPrJGW in 2005. In terms of the craft, he is also a joining member of Old Ellesmerian Lodge No 5368, meeting in the Province of Shropshire. In 2005 he joined St Lawrence Lodge No 5928, meeting in Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Turning the companion’s attention to the Royal Arch, Paul asked Stephen Brereton Scribe Ezra to read an extract from the minutes of the meeting when Geoffrey was exalted into Chapter of Unity and Perseverance on 14 October 1965.
Following this Paul said: “Geoffrey whilst you were a member of a lodge in Cheshire it was via your interest in Round Table in Ormskirk that your journey in the Royal Arch began. At Round Table you met Jim Freeman and Bert Skaife. Jim was a past first principal of Unity and Perseverance and Bert was a steward at that time and they enticed you to join.”
Geoffrey’s first progress in the Royal Arch was marked by becoming a joining member in 1989 in the Chapter of Harmony No 4390, associated with his lodge in Sale. Continuing Paul said that by this time Geoffrey had retired from work and had moved to Gloucestershire and in February 1996 became first principal. From 1994 to 2013 Geoffrey was the treasurer of his lodge and if that wasn’t enough he was also the treasurer of his chapter for 13 years from 2000 onwards. Clearly, the Province of Cheshire recognised Geoffrey’s service, first by appointing him to the rank of PPrAGSoj in 2003 and then promoting him in 2012 to PPrDGSwdB. Geoffrey also holds high ranks in other orders.
Paul said that in terms of Chapter of Unity and Perseverance, Geoffrey had told him that he had lost touch somewhat until returning for the 150th celebrations in 2007 when he renewed old acquaintances and made many new ones. Paul concluded by saying: “Thomas Geoffrey Archer, PPrDGSwdB of the Province of Cheshire, you are a wonderful ambassador for our order and indeed Freemasonry in general and it now gives me the greatest of pleasure to call upon the group vice chairman to read the certificate from the Province of West Lancashire that recognises your 50 years’ service as a Royal Arch Mason.” Following this Paul had the great pleasure of presenting Geoffrey with the framed certificate.
First principal Michael Rimmer then presented Geoffrey with a cheque for £100 for Macmillan Cancer Support on behalf of the co-principals and companions of the chapter. After a very emotional ceremony the evening celebrations concluded with a splendid meal at the festive board.