Members of Pilling Lodge No 7879 were delighted to welcome Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger to Wyrebank Masonic Hall to celebrate Alex Stafford’s great achievement in attaining 50 years as a Freemason. David was accompanied by the Chairman of Lancaster and District Group Jim Wilson, group secretary Scott Devine and six acting Provincial grand officers; Stephen Plevey, David Cole, John Eccles, Stewart Aimson, Philip Burrow and Keith Halligan. This celebratory event was also honoured to have the presence of two Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in the persons of Mark Barton and Ian Halsall.
On David Grainger’s entry into the lodge room, master of the lodge Norman Guy greeted David, commenting: “Pilling Lodge is delighted to have your company on this special occasion”, then as is the custom, offered David the gavel of the lodge. David gratefully received the gavel in order to honour Alex’s 50 years as a Mason and asked for Alex to be placed before him. David called the attention of the brethren to a recollection of the life and times of Alex’s year of birth, before detailing the more personal history of the celebrant.
David informed the assembled brethren that Alex was born in 1929, an exceptional year in many respects. It was the year penicillin was discovered, the year the first Oscar ceremonies were held and also the year when work started on what was to become, at that time, the world’s tallest building, the Empire State Building in New York. In 1929 England witnessed the heaviest snowfall ever recorded, when over six feet of snow fell on Dartmoor in less than 15 hours. It was also the final year of a decade that would become known as the ‘Roaring 20s’. This decade saw new styles of dressing and dancing and a total rejection of what up till then had been the proper way to behave – a time of total self-indulgence. However, all that came to an end on the 29 October 1929 in what was to become known as ‘Black Tuesday’. It was the day of the Wall Street crash, when the American stock market collapsed and the world went into the ‘Great Depression’.
It was also the day William and Jane Stafford, residing at Curlew Farm, St Michaels, had their second son Alex. Alex was educated at Eagland Hill School and in the days before there were GCE’s, he left school at the age of 14 years with no qualifications. On leaving school Alex became an apprentice joiner in his father’s joinery business. After completing his apprenticeship, National Service called and Alex joined the Royal Air Force, becoming a ‘Snowdrop’, which is a popular euphemism for a Royal Air Force Policeman, due the white hats and belts they wear. Having completed National Service in 1953, Alex went on to attend Salford College, obtaining a Higher National Diploma in Building Structures and ultimately securing employment designing reinforced concrete structures. After a further five years of part-time study in civil engineering, Alex secured a role at Bolton and Hennessey, a civil engineering firm and during his time with them helped to design and build Carlisle Town hall.
During this time Alex met and married Jane on the 20 October 1962 and have been blessed with two sons and three grandchildren. Sadly, Jane has become ill and is now in residential care.
In 1964 Alex had a career change and became a lecturer at Stockport College, following which he undertook a further five years of part time study to obtain a Masters Degree. Alex eventually became a Chartered Engineer in three separate disciplines; Civil, Structural and Building Engineering. In 1977 Jane and Alex moved to Woodplumpton and bought a post office and general store which Jane ran whilst Alex worked at the college. On retirement, they moved to St Michaels.
Alex’s Masonic journey started in 1966 at the old Masonic Hall which originally stood here at Wyresdide and was proposed into Masonry by Alan Jenkinson. Alex went through the chair of Pilling Lodge in 1977 and has held the posts of both treasurer and charity steward. Alex received Provincial honours in 1988, ultimately achieving the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 2001. In Royal Arch Chapter Alex became first principal of Scorton Chapter No 5791 in 1995 and received Provincial honours in 2002, eventually gaining the high rank of Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 2013.
David ended his address by extending to Alex the very best wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, who had arranged for a special commemorative certificate to be produced as a token of his esteem. This was read to Alex by Jim Wilson, before being formally presented by David. On behalf of all the brethren present, David wished Alex continued health and happiness, adding: “I hope you Alex go from strength to strength – not long to go to your 60th celebration.”
At the festive board which followed the meeting, Alan Jenkinson, Alex’s proposer into Masonry, proposed the toast to the celebrant and in response Alex gave a brief but touching resume of his Masonic career ending with offering thanks to David Grainger and kind thoughts to the brethren for their gifts and best wishes.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson