Alan Byers 50 years in the Royal Arch

The members of Westhoughton Chapter No 4215 were honoured by the presence of the Second Grand Principal Paul Renton for the auspicious occasion of celebrating Alan Byers 50 years in the Holy Royal Arch. Paul brought with him a plethora of grand officers, including Third Grand Principal Ian Higham along with David Harrison, Chris Hamilton, John Robson, Brian Henshaw, Tom Jackson, Ken Shaw , Robin Morris, Neil Latham and Paul Hesketh. Also in attendance were Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Tony Hall, Chairman of the Chorley and District Group Peter Lockett and numerous Provincial and acting Provincial officers, all-in-all reflecting the very high regards in which Alan is held.

Robin Andrews-Morris proposes the toast to Alan's health.

Robin Andrews-Morris proposes the toast to Alan’s health.

Paul said that one of the great privileges he had was that of conducting such celebrations. He reminded those present that fifty years ago when Alan was exalted into Westhoughton Chapter we were living through some interesting times: Harold Wilson announced the United Kingdom’s application for EEC membership; the super tanker  SS Torrey Canyon ran aground between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles; the first north sea gas was being pumped ashore on the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire; the 1967 Grand National was won by 100-1 outsider Foinavon; ‘Puppet on a String’ was performed by Sandie Shaw to win the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK, becoming the first English language Eurovision winning song; Sir Francis Chichester arrived in Plymouth after completing his single-handed sailing voyage around the world in his yacht Gipsy Moth IV; and BBC Radio completely restructured its national programming: the light programme was split between new national pop station Radio 1 and Radio 2; the cultural third programme was rebranded as Radio 3; and the primarily talk home service became Radio 4.

Alan, was born on 14 June 1933, the first of three children of Richard and Hilda Byers. He came into this world at his family home in Westhoughton, which means that he is now in his 84th year.

Alan grew up with his two younger sisters in Hunger Hill on the Bolton Road. Alan’s first schools were the White Horse Church of England Infant School and then the Central Council School where he passed the 11 plus. This allowed him to attend Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School, mainly during the dark years of WWII. The grammar school is now Rivington and Blackrod High School but as a grammar school, Rivington Grammar dates back to its foundation by the Bishop of Durham in 1566. With such historic roots behind Alan, how could he fail to succeed? Indeed, in 1946 Alan passed his school certificate.

Whilst at grammar school Alan was selected to play football for the Lancashire Boys team. His team reached the final of the English Schools’ Football competition against Liverpool Boys. The game was played at Goodison Park, the home of Everton F C, hardly neutral territory though! Despite losing, however, he has never forgotten the occasion of playing at such a prestigious venue.

Alan Byers receiving his whisky tumbler from Stuart Wilson with John Dowsett looking on.

Alan Byers receiving his whisky tumbler from Stuart Wilson with John Dowsett looking on.

Leaving school, Alan’s first job was with the North Western Electricity Board at its offices in Manchester. With ambitions to become an accountant he was put in charge of ‘Wayleave Agreements’. Now Wayleave agreements are agreements under which a property owner gives a service provider, in this case the Electricity Board, the right to install pipes or cables passing through or over the owner’s property. In essence, landowners received a rent for the electricity pylons on their land.

Understandably, counting pylons and calculating their rent didn’t really stimulate Alan who grabbed the initiative (as one would expect of a Past Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals) and, at the tender age of 17½, he joined the firm of Mark Haslam & Co of Bolton.

It was there that Alan first came across Jim Morris, someone who he would strike up a long friendship with both professionally and as a Mason. Working hard at Haslam & Co he qualified as a chartered accountant at the age of 21. Studying for such qualifications allowed Alan to defer his National Service but on qualifying he was whisked away by the RAF for basic training

Following that training, Alan was posted to RAF Leeming near Northallerton and then, after returning to ‘Civvy Street’, Alan joined Jim Morris in a number of accountancy ventures; first at another Bolton accountancy practice called Edward Ryan & Co and then by taking over a practice in Wigan which dealt with clients who were mainly grocers, bakers and butchers. However, one such client was a butcher from Westhoughton, Albert Pilkington, who after many mentions of Freemasonry enticed Alan into joining Westhoughton Lodge No 4215 in January 1960.

Alan and Jim’s careers then took quite a seismic shift. Alan was approached by an inventor of a method of anchoring civil engineering structures into large excavation sites. In order to set up such a business and company a qualified financial director would be needed. This was Alan. Universal Anchorage, as the company became known, grew considerably, entering into a partnership with a company from Pittsburgh, USA to become Universal Piling Bermuda. Jim then joined the venture full time. Ultimately, after joining forces with a Australian Company, the business was sold to JFC Lilly in 1970.

Not content with this and before ultimately retiring in 2003, Alan started two other companies; one marketing industrial protective clothing imported from Hong Kong and another called Dynamic Plastics which was a heating and ventilation company.

With such an active working life, a supportive partner is essential. In Allan’s case this was Maye. In 1955 Alan was at a dance at St John’s Church in Lostock. Having sat on opposite sides of the room as boys and girls often did in those day, he finally summoned up the courage to ask Maye for a dance and the rest, as they say is history. Alan was married at the age of 22 and has lived happily together ever since. Needless to say, on the day of his marriage Jim Morris was his best man. Alan and Maye have been blessed with two sons who, not surprisingly given their father’s acumen, are both extremely successful in their own respective careers. They have in turn given him and Maye much delight and joy by bringing six grandchildren into their lives – although he did mention that Christmas time can be somewhat of an expensive occasion!

Having celebrated his 50 years in the Craft in 2010 in which he now holds the very high rank of Past Junior Grand Deacon in the United Grand Lodge of England.

Pictured from left to right, are; Neil Macsymons, Tom Jackson, Paul Hesketh, Paul Renton, Richard Frazer-Bastable, Alan Byers, Steve Holcroft, Tony Hall, Neil Latham and Peter Lockett.

Pictured from left to right, are; Neil Macsymons, Tom Jackson, Paul Hesketh, Paul Renton, Richard Frazer-Bastable, Alan Byers, Steve Holcroft, Tony Hall, Neil Latham and Peter Lockett.

Alan was the treasurer of the Westhoughton Masonic Hall for some twenty years and chairman of the management committee for two years. In 1993 he was persuaded to become the treasurer of Chorley Masonic Hall which he undertook for nine years. In 1997 he was appointed Group Charity Delegate, a post he held for five years and he also served for a number of years on the West Lancashire Masonic Relief Committee which was one of the major Provincial charities of the day.

However, it was to his involvement in the Royal Arch that Paul turned in order to fully recognise and appreciate his significant contribution to the Province of West Lancashire. Alan was exalted into Westhoughton Chapter No 4215 50 years ago, becoming its first principal in 1981. Provincial rank arrived as an acting steward in 1988, promoted to Past Provincial Principal Grand Sojourner in 1992 and then again to the high acting rank of Provincial Grand Registrar in 1999. During that period of Provincial promotion, Alan became a joining member, first of Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter No 8516, then Chapter of Perseverance No 155 and also two installed principals’ chapters, Setantia No 7755 and Silver Jubilee No 8818. Alan is also an honorary member of North Meols Chapter No 5828 in Southport.

Alan was appointed as an Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, with responsibility for the Chorley, Leyland, Ormskirk and Southport Group of Chapters. Alan’s contribution to the Royal Arch has been recognised by his appointment in Supreme Grand Chapter, first to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in 2003 and then in 2010 to Past Assistant Grand Sojourner.

Paul was keen to inform the gathering tht it had been a great honour and  privilege to have played a part in celebrating Alan’s life as a Freemason and on the occasion o recognising his 50 years of commitment to the Royal Arch. Rounding off his presentation Paul said, “Alan is a man of consummate integrity and a wonderful example of exactly what a Freemason should be; a good citizen, a fine family man and, in the context of this evening’s celebration, a splendid ambassador for our organisation. We wish Alan and his wife Maye continued good health in the years to come so that we may to continue to share in his company at our lodges and chapters.” Chorley group chairman Peter Lockett then read a certificate of recognition from the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison.

On retiring to the festive board Robin Andrews-Morris proposed the toast to Alan’s health to which Alan responded with both dignity and pride. The companions of the chapter presented Alan with an inscribed whisky tumbler and something very appropriate to put in it. It was a truly remarkable evening, for a truly remarkable man and Freemason.

Alan Byers with more of his guests.

Alan Byers with more of his guests.