On a chilly evening, brethren from around the Fylde Coast gathered at the Blackpool Masonic Hall to celebrate a very special brother, Bill Woods, achieving 50 years in Freemasonry, hosted by Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool No 4122. The evening was certainly a night to remember, with the lodge room being full of brethren from many other lodges in attendance.
Following a few nerve calming drinks in the bar, the lodge was opened by the WM, Michael Sjollema. Following a report, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Ryan Modlin entered the lodge and announced that Duncan Smith, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, demanded admission. Michael subsequently offered the gavel of the lodge to Duncan who, on this occasion cheerfully accepted the offer and took his place in the chair of King Solomon.
Duncan requested for the celebrant to be seated on a chair in front of him on the lodge floor. Once everyone was comfortably settled, he proceeded to relate the life and exploits of Bill, thanking him for the opportunity to present his life story. Welcoming all the guests and Bill’s fellow brethren in Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool to this special occasion, Duncan continued to outline what a special occasion it is to recognise and celebrate someone’s service and dedication to 50 years of Freemasonry.
Born in 1940 with rationing still in place and his mother working in domestic service around Southport, Bill, as a young man, had to help to look after a large family as his father had died when Bill was only 18 months old. Bill left school at the age of 15 years, as most children did during those times, starting work as an engineering apprentice and eventually becoming and serving his time as a motor mechanic.
Events caused him to start his own business at the age of 26 years, when he bought a second hand 16-ton wagon for the purpose of transporting building materials. This venture being so successful, he bought a brand-new wagon 12 months later. In 1969 Bill sold his transport business to start his next entrepreneurial endeavour.
Bill and his wife Frances, whom he met in 1960, was offered the opportunity to run the Red Lion Hotel near Wigan, which he successfully ran for 10 years. Whilst running the Red Lion Hotel, Bill was approached to join Freemasonry and he was eventually initiated into Paton Lodge No 3738 which met at Duke Street, Southport, on 5 November 1973.
Sadly, Paton Lodge handed in its warrant on 14 February 2011. In 1979 Bill and Frances left the pub trade and bought an 11-bedroom boarding house in Blackpool. Then in 1986 they bought a larger hotel, subsequently doubling their bedroom occupancy. They finally retired in 2004.
Retired and enjoying his golf, Bill’s neighbour and Freemason, Stuart Crichton proposed him into his lodge, the Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool, becoming a joining member on 21 September 2011 where he has been a dedicated member ever since. Regularly attending lodge meetings and supporting the lodge social events.
Sadly, Bill suffered a stroke in April 2021 and again in June of the same year causing him to lose some mobility. With typical perseverance and hard work, he recovered enough to play his golf and attend lodge meetings with the assistance of Bill Rigby who collects him from home and safely returns him home to Frances afterwards.
At the conclusion of the presentation, the Blackpool Group Chairman Stephen Jelly read the 50th anniversary certificate from the Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews. Duncan then presented Bill with the framed and illuminated certificate, acknowledging his service and dedication as a Freemason for over 50 years. Stephen Jelly then proceeded to present Bill with a 50th pin badge on behalf of the Blackpool Group
The festive board was a very happy and joyous affair, with some sad emotive interludes but a happy atmosphere was evident throughout the evening. The formal toast to Bill’s health was given by Bill Rigby who extolled the virtues of his friend and colleague which was received with sincere gratitude by the celebrant.