The members of Fairhaven Lodge No 5076 gathered for their first meeting of the new Masonic season with a splendid celebration of the 50th year in Freemasonry of Alan Brotherton. An attendance exceeding 35 Fairhaven Lodge members and guests were treated to an emotionally charged occasion that will live in the memory of those who witnessed it.
With the lodge business expedited with alacrity by the WM Philip Low, it was time to receive the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas. David announced the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder who processed into the lodge accompanied by the Chairman of South Fylde Group Ian Ward, grand officer Neville Tate and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp. In support were two acting Provincial grand officers and other distinguished brethren.
The master of the lodge welcomed David Winder and offered him the gavel of office, which was accepted and David assumed control of the lodge. After salutations from the brethren he introduced the main business of the meeting which was to honour Alan’s 50 years in Masonry. He assured all present that it was always a privilege and a pleasure to preside over a 50th anniversary, in this case for a brother who is less than 15 years away from his Queen’s telegram, but still a stalwart of the lodge.
David then gave a feel for what was happening in 1965, the year of Alan’s initiation. Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative opposition party. Stanley Mathews, who Alan had met previously, played his last top-flight football match at the record age of 50 years and five days. Had you mentioned the need for bottled water, a blank uncomprehending look would have been your reward. Fast food would have been a meal eaten at speed, whilst computers, lap-tops, tablets and mobile phones had not been thought of.
Alan was then seated comfortably in the centre of the lodge by David Thomas and encouraged to relax and enjoy the proceedings, David Winder then commenced the story of Alan’s life.
William Alan Brotherton was born on 22 July 1930. The first name of William isn’t widely known and very rarely used. Only the Government and the National Health Service use it. The rest of the world knew him as Alan, which is the name shown on his driving licence. Alan considers that he had the best combination of parents as dad was a Lancastrian and mum was from a farming family in Wensleydale in Yorkshire. They were called Arthur and Nora Brotherton, who were gainfully employed. Although Arthur had been a mill worker and then an electric meter inspector, Alan’s lasting memory was of both parents owning and running a newspaper shop in Burnley. Alan has fond memories of holidays spent on the farm, helping with haymaking and threshing, where the thresher was driven by an old steam engine. His memories of life at the shop, which sold a wide variety of merchandise, was akin to the television programme ‘Open all hours’. He and his sister Vera, who was five years his senior, used to be up at 6am to assist with the millworkers travelling to work for early shifts.
Alan’s early schooldays were spent at Rose Grove Primary and Intermediate School, where he enjoyed woodwork and all manner of sports; cricket and football being his favourites. Indeed Alan had the honour of playing outside-right for his school team on the hallowed turf at Burnley’s Turf Moor ground and has been a life long Burnley supporter since those early days. Alan was also a keen cyclist and rode a Dawes bicycle, on which he won the slow cycle race at school. This event was all about slow manoeuvring, balance and patience. The latter two attributes have served him well for the rest of his life.
During the war years Alan’s family moved to Lytham St Anne’s as his father had taken up a position at the Ministry of Pensions and eventually settled in Rodney Avenue, St Anne’s. Alan attended Sydney Street School where he met his life-long friend Neville Tate, a friendship which has lasted for 73 years. Inevitably, Neville was in attendance at Alan’s celebration meeting. Alan left school in 1944 and went to work for Holt Jackson, a book company that supplied wholesale books to libraries. While working there Alan was pleased to meet Sir Stanley Mathews and obtained a signed copy of Sir Stan’s second book entitled ‘Feet First Again’,
During the mid-1940s, Alan was attending St Anne’s Methodist Youth Club where he met his future wife Beryl Powney. He was later to take her to see the film ‘Gone with the Wind’ at the Palace Cinema, (the same premises that have now become the Masonic hall in which his 50th celebration was taking part). Alan still has the ticket, which cost him 1s 9d, (equivalent to 8p nowadays). On the reverse of this ticket Alan wrote, ‘I am very glad that I asked Beryl to go with me tonight. She was really beautiful and I really enjoyed her company’.
Alan and Beryl were married at Church Road Methodist Church on 12 September 1953. Their reception was held at the Princes Hotel from whence they departed on their honeymoon to Torquay in a Ford 8 motorcar owned by Alan’s father. No more than a mile down the road, however, the car began to backfire. Alan stopped the car and with the confidence acquired from 18 months National Service driving and maintaining heavy vehicles, proceeded to open the bonnet. Here he found two kippers draped over the carburettors. He removed the offending fishes and cured the problem, having nearly cured the kippers at the same time! Alan also used this stop to remove several cans from the rear bumper and they continued their happy journey
Since 1953 Alan has experienced a variety of career moves which have included selling furniture, groceries and being in telesales and servicing. His hobbies have included cars, boating, water skiing and travelling. On one occasion he spent some months building a trailer tent which he then took on holiday to France. The only problem he experienced was a puncture on the trailer as they returned home which he overcame by obtaining an ‘ad hoc’ replacement to get him home. On another occasion he overhauled a 1360 Triumph Herald to good effect.
Alan was initiated into Fairhaven Lodge on 17 September 1965, having been proposed by the immediate past master, Neville Tate, his friend of so many years and seconded by Jack Beech who was the senior warden of the lodge at that time. Other initiates during a busy time of recruitment were Ken Hughes, Vic Middleton and Bill Cowburn. All four of them became firm friends and Bill Cowburn was to have the pleasure of confirming this during his speech at the banquet that followed the meeting.
David Winder continued by regaling the assembled brethren with a description of Alan’s work for the lodge over the years. In this he included the offices of director of ceremonies and assistant director of ceremonies, treasurer, charity representative, chaplain and almoner. Alan had also delivered many difficult passages of ritual on numerous occasions, including the address to the master of the lodge and the charge after initiation. Alan has received Provincial honours for his work on three occasions. In 1985 he received Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon, in 1999 he was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and in 2013 he received the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
Alan received his certificate in recognition of his 50 years in Freemasonry towards the end of the ceremony; this being read and presented by Ian Ward.
At the banquet which followed the formal ceremony, Bill Cowburn recounted many amusing anecdotes. He also praised Alan for all the work he had done for the lodge, particularly as lodge almoner, a role that Alan had carried out for over five years. Bill concluded a very personable description of Alan’s work and nature by saying: “His hand is always guided by justice and his heart is expanded by benevolence.”
Commencing his reply to Bill’s toast, Alan confessed that he had nothing written down. He recounted that on his initiation day he had sat at the top table but that it had then taken him years to get back there. He recollected that he had enjoyed a wonderful year in the chair and that the empathy from members of the lodge at that time was superb. He added that he always enjoyed wearing the Hall Stone Jewel and remembered travelling to Whitehaven on one occasion where the director of ceremonies had challenged him for wearing the jewel at the banquet. Alan, however, then put everybody right when replying for the visitors, by giving a history of the Hall Stone Jewel and the peculiarities and traditions of the wearing of one.
Alan thanked everyone for making it such a memorable evening, particularly thanking David Winder for the wonderful job in retelling his life story. On completion of his reply Alan sat down and was honoured by a warm and prolonged standing ovation.
The evening was concluded by the long, Robbie Burns version of the tyler’s toast. This was delivered by Barry Hage in his own inimitable style before the brethren departed, having enjoyed a memorable evening.