The members and guests of Monton Progress Lodge No 6361 were honoured by the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Hutton. John was accompanied by Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton and the Eccles Group Chairman Dave Walmsley.
On opening the lodge the worshipful master Bill Walker made way for John Hutton to occupy the chair of King Solomon for the purpose of this celebration meeting. On attaining the chair of the lodge John said “brethren the next business on the summons is to celebrate 50 years in Freemasonry of WBro Arthur Cedric Riley, Past Provincial Assistant Grand Sword Bearer of the Province of West Lancashire.”
John asked that Arthur be seated comfortably so that he could take him on a journey over the last fifty years in Freemasonry. John commented on how nice it was to see so many brethren here to share this special occasion with Arthur, including colleagues from Arthur’s mother lodge, Stability Lodge No 4293.This included Philip Conn, Allan Baldwin and Roger Dickin, who is also Arthur’s son in law and whom was initiated into Freemasonry by Arthur himself.
John took the brethren back in time to the year 1938. Arthur was born at Stratford Memorial Hospital on the 10 October which was rumored to be a lucky date in the Chinese calendar. Arthur was named after his father who was the Chief Accountant at Boddingtons Brewery. His mother Catherine was a seamstress by profession and had great organisational skills beyond many and served on countless church and social committees.
Arthur had one brother, John a lithographic printer and as a young boy Arthur envied his talent as a right wing player for Manchester City and a professional. Arthur attended Seymour Park Infant School where he excelled in Art. He also had a somewhat talent playing football for the school first team two years before his age, as a goalkeeper, then switching to a marauding attacker. A certain talent must have shown through for he was selected for Stretford Boys and finally Lancashire schoolboys. Arthur then attended St Margaret’s Central School in Whalley Range and found he had a certain gift as he was a member of the school choir and was auditioned at the age of 12 and passed to become a chorister in Manchester Cathedral Choir. Arthur remained in the choir until his voice broke at the age of 15.
At the age of 15, he left school and commenced his working life as an apprentice printer at Norbury Printers in Elsinore Road, Old Trafford. He studied at Manchester College of Science and Technology on day release attending 2 nights per week until he was 21. During this time he passed all his years’ work with Credit and received a distinction degree, in achieving the City and Guilds of London Certificate in Lithographic Printing. Arthur worked hard and played hard and despite his study, he still enjoyed his football. He played for many clubs including South Liverpool, Stockport County, Altrincham, Droylsden, Buxton and Blackburn Rovers, to name but a few. During this time he managed find time to join the Church lads Brigade in Old Trafford and worked his way up to become a Captain in the Brigade.
During this busy schedule, Arthur met Norma his future wife at 17 years of age and went dancing with her at Longford Hall in Longford Park Stretford, where they rubbed shoulders and became friends with many of the Busby Babes no less. Arthur married Norma at St Mathews Church on 25 March 1961 and set up their first home in Old Trafford and will shortly be celebrating 56 years of marriage. They had their first child, Angela in 1963 followed two years later by Elaine in 1965. Angela studied to be a nurse and progresses from being a ward sister to being a Senior Nurse Practitioner; Elaine went the secretarial route in her profession and is now a PA to a solicitor.
Moving back to Arthur’s career, he left Norbury Printers in 1963 to join the 3M Company as a technical sales man. A step up from the printing presses, he had to travel up and down the country selling printing plates and chemicals. Arthur had a quick acceleration within the Company being selected to manage the government accounts which involved the Post office and their stamps, De la Rue with bank Notes and foreign currency along with Ordinance Survey with their maps and the House of Commons Printing Department.
In1970 he was promoted to General Manager of the printing division and in 1976 he was head-hunted by a large American company who were opening up in this country to sell Chemicals into the printing industry. He took a huge gamble from being in a safe and secure job and working in an air conditioned office with a secretary, 15 salesmen and a marketing team all reporting to him. He now had to set up an office in his home, with his wife as secretary and accepted the Sales Directors Job.
Norma did not expect her front room to be taken over by office equipment, for in 1976 telex machines prior to fax machines were approximately four foot long and five foot wide! And when telexes arrived from the USA at unearthly hours of the day and night the little room would shake, and the Riley family would be awake. Arthur eventually moved out to a purpose built factory in Irlam in 1983 and no less than Winston Churchill Jnr opened the building and Arthur started employing people. In 1983 the factory had doubled in size and His Royal Highness Prince Edward opened the extension. Success continued and he was promoted to Managing Director Europe.
Arthur travelled far and wide to grow the business. He was promoting his products all through Europe and Scandinavia, building warehouses in Dusseldorf, Paris, Italy, Norway and Sweden to name but a few. Growth continued and his aim was to manufacture in overseas territories, instead of shipping finished goods abroad. By this time Arthur was promoted to Managing Director Europe and Asia Pacific. So the first adventure was in Melbourne Australia, followed by Malaysia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, and finally China.
The turnover had grown from his front room for his first years trading of 18 thousand pounds to 182 million pounds on his retirement in 2002. Employment had grown from 2 to 425 personnel including the subsidiaries. Under his leadership the company was awarded 3 Queens Awards for Export, and 1 Queens Award for Environment which he was very proud of. As many know, a Salesman never sleeps, he only Rests between sales. In spite of his constant travelling and creating growth, Arthur also found the energy to become a Freemason. Despite his busy schedule he almost always got home from a trip to go to his lodge.
He became National Chairman of the Institute of Printing and was honoured with a Fellowship. He also was honoured with a Fellowship from the Royal Society of Arts He was given an Honorary Doctorship from the University of Tokyo, for environmental advancement in the Printing Industry. He also was a Director of Trafford Park Development Association helping in some small way to bring companies and growth to the North west – an example being the Trafford Centre, Hotels, factories from outside the U.K. and the re development of companies in the defunct British Steel site in Irlam and Caddishead.
Arthur heavily supported the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme giving his time and money to support the younger generation. His final accolade was to be made a Chevalier – a Knighthood (Sir) by the Portuguese government in 1997. England is the oldest ally of Portugal and each year the U.K. government in the honours list- honour’s a Portuguese business person and this is reciprocated by Portugal honouring a British business person. Again promotion came his way and he was made International Vice President Worldwide. During his many travels, Arthur visited Mumbai in India to oversee a joint venture and become Chairman of the Company. Arriving at the Oberoi Hotel he was met by the hotel manager a garland around his neck and anointed him with a red dot on his forehead.
Arthur was given VIP treatment and was told not to check in at reception because his room was ready and the Manager would personally check him in, in his room. He was shown to a magnificent suite and it was only when he produced his credit card, which the manager looked at and scratched his head. Arthur said anything wrong? Oh! No sir “The Oberol Hotel never makes a mistake and checked him in. Half an hour later a gentleman in a well-tailored suit and flaxen hair flew in on Concord with the British Trade Delegation but by this time Arthur was ensconced in Michael Heseltine’s suite.
Moving on to Arthur’s Masonic career. Arthur joined Stability Lodge No 4293 in the Province of East Lancashire. He was initiated on the 7 April 1966 and was passed to the second degree in January 1967. He was raised to the third degree on 5 October 1967.He progressed through Stability Lodge filling each office from inner guard to senior warden. He was installed in the chair of King Solomon in October 1976 by Phillip Conn. As Master, he fulfilled his duties during his year in office by initiating a candidate, passing two brothers and raising one brother. He also took on the role of Charity Steward and Social Secretary. During his year in the chair he oversaw 2 charity events — a semi ladies evening at the Cresta Court Hotel Altrincham and a full ladies evening at the Portland Hotel Manchester hosting 325 members and guests.
In 1980, Arthur received his first Provincial honours of PPrAGDC in The Province of East Lancashire and promoted in 1995 to PPrSGD. In 1998, Stability Lodge moved from Bridge Street in Manchester because of rising costs and moved to Audenshaw and Arthur found it difficult to attend. After contemplation, he approached a neighbour, Malcolm Ridgeway, who introduced him to Progress Lodge No 4016 which he joined on 8 May 2002.
He became Worshipful Master of Progress Lodge 4016 in 2004 and again in 2006. In 2005, Progress lodge found that together with their mother lodge Monton, they were both suffering a similar fall in membership and decided that amalgamation was the best way forward. Because of the strong relationship between the two lodges, an approach was made via Monton lodge.
After much discussion in which Arthur chaired the meetings, permission was sought and granted to amalgamate the two lodges. The amalgamation took place officially on 14 December 2005 when
the lodge became Monton Progress Lodge No 6361.A ceremony took place on the 8 March 2006 performed by Thomas Blackburn PGSwdB, Deputy Provincial Grand Master. This was the first amalgamation in the Eccles and District Group and has produced the lodge as it is today.
In 2005 Arthur became the master of Monton Progress lodge and had a very successful year. Unfortunately there were no candidates that year but various lectures took place which made for interesting and varied meetings.
Arthur left the lodge in June 2008 to join The Earl of Chester Lodge No 1565 in the Province of Cheshire meeting in Lymm, his home village because travelling had taken up the majority of his time flying constantly to the Far East, Asia, America, Japan, China, Australia, South Africa and all points in-between on a daily basis.
On one occasion Arthur took his wife to Hong Kong on a business trip and as he had enough Air Miles he upgraded the tickets to first class. He was in the British Airways lounge waiting for his departure to London when an official approached him and asked to look at his boarding pass? Arthur and his wife had reserved seats Al and A2 in the nose of the aircraft. “The steward said, “there is a mistake and you are in E2 and your wife is in 7A”. Arthur said, “No way! These are the seats I have booked and that’s where we will be sitting”. Another official came and said; ‘Look we have a very important person on board tonight and they always sit in Al and A2’. Arthur thinking it was some pop star or Victoria Beckham, said, “I’ve paid for these seats and that’s it”.
So reluctantly the steward left and Arthur and his wife boarded the aircraft and took their seats. Just before take-off a stern looking man approached Arthur and told him he was unreasonable and took his seat immediately at the back of him. Next he was approached by another gentleman who apologised to Arthur and said I’m sorry to cause such a fuss but my detective needed to be near me? Arthur looked up and there was The Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. Arthur shook his hand in a Masonic grip and said ‘I think I paid for your seat also’ this followed by laughter all round…but oh dear he thought, perhaps no more Masonic promotions for me.
Arthur has retired from his hectic business schedule and now enjoys spending time with his family, he still travels but at a more leisurely pace on vacations. However, just prior to his retirement in February 2010 he rejoined Monton Progress lodge to be back with his Masonic colleagues.
Arthur enjoys a game of bowls now and again and he supports his personal charities privately and still enjoys his Masonry. So despite being a man of high integrity, conscientious, truthful and loyal he is quite modest. His family now becomes his first priority and despite difficulties with health issues with his wife and youngest daughter he always tries to find time for others.
At this stage in the meeting, an extract from minutes of the meeting when Arthur was initiated into Stability Lodge No 4293 were read out by the lodge secretary Jeff Livesey.
John said that, “Masonry is an active organisation where we are encouraged to contribute in many different ways. It is often said that the more you put into Masonry the more benefits you receive. Many Masons contribute to our organisation but worshipful brother Arthur your contributions have been great.” “In Masonry we are asked to be a good man and true, support the younger generation, work with the community and play your part in society Bro Arthur you have done all of these “ “You have an extensive Masonic knowledge and have contributed enormously to Monton and Progress lodges, The Eccles and District Group of Lodges and Chapters, this building, Elm Bank Masonic Hall, to the Province and to Masonry in general for which we your friends here tonight and many others not present this evening, thank you most sincerely.”
John conveyed added his congratulations and good wishes to that of The Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and thanked him personally for his friendship and all that he has done to advance and encourage Freemasonry in the Eccles and District Group of Lodges and Chapters. John then called upon Dave Walmsley (chairman of the Eccles and District Group of Lodges and Chapters) to assist him by reading the certificate from the PGM. John concluded by saying, “Arthur you have had a very long and distinguished Masonic career. Thank you for allowing us all to share your evening and on behalf of our Provincial Grand Master, myself, all the members of this lodge and your many friends here tonight, I would like to congratulate you, wish you continued good health and lots of happiness.”
John thanked Jeff Livesey secretary of Monton Progress Lodge and Dave Walmsley, for their help in researching the records and to all of Arthur’s many friends who contributed to the evening. John then returned the lodge to control of the worshipful master Bill Walker and thanked him for allowing him to occupy his chair on this special occasion. The lodge was closed in peace and harmony for the brethren to retire to the festive board.
The festive board was relaxed and full of conversation having heard of the remarkable story that they had been privileged to hear. Dave Walmsley presented Arthur with his celebratory 50 year Pin to which he responded saying that he would wear it with pride. Jeff Livesey gave the toast to Arthur, of whom he said was a generous man not only of his time but with his spirit and was always the first to offer help and assistance. But there was an added surprise to the toast when Roger Dickin also gave the brethren an insight to Arthur not just him as a Mason but the man. He read a heartfelt speech to Arthur which included cards from friends, family including Arthur’s wife, daughters and grandchildren.
In response to his toast, Arthur thanked John and David for being there and being part of his 50th celebration. He said he was privileged to be here and to be a Mason. He thanked Philip Conn for his support not only for the evening but throughout his Masonic career. Arthur said he was very touched by Roger’s speech and thanked him very much and told him he was still in the will (for now) – an in joke!
He also thanked David Naylor the treasurer of the lodge and Jeff Livesey for his attention to detail and for everything he had done for the evening and everything he does for the lodge.
Arthur thanked everyone for their support for him for the evening.
On behalf of the lodge, Bill Walker presented Arthur with silver engraved platter.
There was one last presentation that was from Arthur’s friend and colleague Allan Baldwin who presented Arthur with gift of a favourite tipple of Arthur’s.
Article written by Tom Fredrickson and photographs by Craig Sutton.