Bill celebrates 60 years in Freemasonry

A special celebration within the Ormskirk and Bootle Group recently occurred, when St Luke’s Lodge No 6006 gathered at the Litherland Masonic Hall with their many guests, to celebrate 60 years in Freemasonry for William (Bill) Dumbell. The lodge was honoured to have as their principal guest, and to preside over the evening’s celebration, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright, who was accompanied by Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman, Frank Umbers, with grand and acting Provincial grand officers.

Robert Wright (left) being welcomed by Ian Gee WM.

Robert Wright (left) being welcomed by Ian Gee WM.

The evening’s meeting commenced with the WM, Ian Gee, warmly welcoming everyone to the celebration, before opening the lodge. Once the lodge business had been completed, Ian proceeded to open up to the second and third degrees, where the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton was admitted into the room.

Mark announced Robert Wright was without and demanded admission and he was duly admitted into the lodge room in a possession of distinguished guests. Ian warmly welcomed Robert to the lodge and offered him the gavel, which Robert graciously accepted.

Bill was then seated before the pedestal, where Robert enquired if he was comfortable. Robert then proceeded to deliver his presentation on Bill’s life and Masonic career by saying:

“Brethren, It is always a pleasure to have a celebration in any part of our lives. Our memories over the years are punctuated by celebrations birthdays, marriage, children or anniversaries; an award of the Legion d’honneur, indeed many things too numerous to mention. It is a time to share our joy with others. It is therefore very pleasing to see so many brethren here this evening. You are all very welcome, and on Bill Dumbell’s behalf, I thank you all most sincerely for your support for our celebrant tonight. It is my honour to lead that celebration of 60 years in Freemasonry of a very distinguished brother who has freely given his time and energy to the welfare of his family, to his business and to Freemasonry. This celebration brethren is a special one as indeed are any 60th celebrations and I hope that this will be a celebration which not only you will remember but will stay with our celebrant for many years to come.”

Robert then mentioned some of the events and notable births from the year Bill was born in 1923, including the FA Cup final which is commonly known as ‘The White Horse Final’ where Bolton Wonderers beat West Ham Utd two – nil, some of the notable births from that year included, Patrick Moore, Eric Sykes, Sir Richard Attenborough, Sir Robin Day, Gordon Jackson and Nicholas Parsons.

Robert said: “Brethren, over the last 94 years Bill has been a busy man, a man with nine lives and he freely admits he has lived a charmed life, with some narrow escapes but has always seemed to come through and even now is fully expecting and looking forward to the telegram from the Queen on his 100th. That is Bill, and I am sure you all agree with me in saying that we are sure he will once again come through.”

Bill was born in 1923 to Ellen and William Dumbell who worked for the Liverpool Corporation as a road worker, and grew up in Everton. Sadly Bill’s mother passed away a year after his birth, and Bill and his sister were then brought up by his father’s mother. Bill attended St Charystomes Primary and Infant School, Everton Road, before going to Steers Street Secondary School. On leaving school at the age of 14, Bill joined a Pawnbrokers, George M Biggar, located at 35 Prescott Street, Everton as a shop boy, earning £2 a week. The shop was the centre of the community as people struggled to survive and Bill remembers a man’s suit coming in on Monday, being redeemed on Friday before it was needed on the Saturday to go to the pub, often without the husband knowing.

In 1942 at only 19 years old Bill was called up and joined the 5th Liverpool King’s Regiment, with his training being held in Formby, Yorkshire and at Ayr, not knowing that he was being rehearsed for the biggest invasion of all, and Bill was in the first wave at 06.30 to land on Sword Beach, Normandy on D Day 6th June 1944. For which Bill was later awarded the Legion d’honneur. Bill tells the story of the landing craft, commanded by a navy Lieutenant, who didn’t get close enough to the beach. He ordered Bill to disembark, but he knew they were too far out and the water was too deep. The navy lieutenant ordered the marine to show the army how it was done; he jumped off and was never seen again. The landing craft was brought closer to shore where Bill and his men were safely embarked due to his action. The losses incurred on that beach meant that the regiment had to amalgamate forces with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and it is with a sense of pride that at their battalion headquarters Bill’s name is recorded. Bill distinguished himself in the progress of the liberation of Europe as he went through France, Holland and Belgium. It was there in the Ardennes forest in returning from patrol that Bill unexpectedly encountered two German soldiers. His first thought was to save his colleagues and so after making sure they were safely returning to their lines Bill tackled them himself and for his bravery received a mention in despatches. In 1945, whilst advancing under cover of artillery protection, Bill was wounded as the shells fell short, in what we now know as friendly fire, being flown back to England for life saving treatment and convalescence.  Happily that was successful and whilst there Bill learned of the birth of his daughter, Pauline.

Robert Wright (left) presenting Bill Dumbell with his jubilee certificate.

Robert Wright (left) presenting Bill Dumbell with his jubilee certificate.

Bill eventually reached the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant (having refused a commission on the grounds that officers had to serve five more years after the war).

Bill received his Legion d’honneur award by the French government at a ceremony in Liverpool last year. Robert said: “I was delighted to be here when you recounted your story to this lodge. Brethren it is remarkable to our society today what was borne by so many for our continued freedom and for that we can only say thank you to brethren like Bill and indeed to all those who not only served but may indeed have made that ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. I remember you saying, those who have returned consider themselves lucky whilst it is those who have made the ultimate sacrifice who are the brave.”

After the war Bill wanted to be nearer to his family and returned home in 1946 and went back to work for George M Biggar. But by that time Bill had a wife and child to support and although the wages had doubled to £4 a week (plus £1 a week war pension) it was nowhere near the £9 week he had been on when leaving the army. Bill decided to leave and a row ensued between George Biggar and his wife, who not only wanted Bill to stay but she was forever grateful and wanted to recognise what he had done to serve his country. Another £1 week was offered and Bill stayed. Bill worked hard he even had a credit round on his bike collecting monies due.

In 1959 Bill and the shop manager Mr Parry, were given the opportunity to buy the shop as George Biggar was ill, which they did and made it a Limited Company. In 1968 Bill’s fellow director, Mr Parry, without any warning said he was leaving. Subsequently Bill found out Mr Parry had won the pools, Bill was forced to buy him out, which he did, but over the longest possible time as he had not really played fair with Bill.

The shop had moved to Whitechapel in Liverpool City Centre and enjoyed a reputation for quality and personal service. By that time the business of pawnbroking had moved from humble beginnings in clothing to the more recognisable trade in jewellery. Bill became President of the Liverpool Pawnbrokers Association in 1970 to 1972  which coincided with Bill being worshipful master of the lodge, Bill’s pawnbroking business was bought out by the London based Harvey Thomson Group  in 1988 and Bill has enjoyed his gardening and family ever since.

Robert then informed the brethren on Bill’s family life, saying: “You met the love of your life, Eve, a young local attractive widow. She also had many attractive sisters. With your friend you decided to court two of the sisters, but when you called round with 20 Capstan, full strength for her father and a box of chocolates for her mother you were quietly advised that the fancied sister was taken. It was suggested you might go out with Eve instead, who, you recall replied, that she was looking for the ship not the wreck. Not a good start, but although you were younger and maybe less worldly wise, your romance blossomed.  You were married in the February 1943. Eve was a talented dressmaker and a bit of an entrepreneur. She took a lease on a shop and the flat above, and on your return from army service you had a home and she had a business. You enjoyed family holidays in Torquay, North Wales and Scotland. Before you became WM in 1970 you were told you had to learn to dance, so that you did, earning many trophies on the way.”

Eve and Bill remained a devoted couple until she passed away in 1979 and have a daughter Pauline, a son Robert, two grandchildren, Grace and Matthew and one great grandchild born only a few weeks ago, called Penelope.

Robert then went on to recount Bill’s Masonic history. Bill was initiated into St Luke’s Lodge No 6006 on 15 April 1957 and became WM in 1970, Bill received his first appointment that of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, subsequently promoted to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and then further promotion in 2007 to the very high rank he now holds of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Robert said: ”Although your life, family and work have taken much of your time, you have always supported the socials when you can and indeed have served St Luke’s Lodge as charity steward for the 2010 Festival. You celebrated your 50th anniversary in Freemasonry in 2007. You have certainly committed to and enjoyed your involvement with Freemasonry over the years and we are all here to also recognise that and to celebrate your achievement of being a brother amongst us now for an amazing 60 years.”

Robert then asked the Group Chairman, Frank Umbers to read out the jubilee certificate, before Robert presented the certificate to Bill saying: “WBro Bill Dumbell, PPrJGW of the Province of West Lancashire, you have set an example to us all in your life, a life full of hard work, honourable service, commitment to family, success in business and dedication to Freemasonry. It gives me great pleasure to present to you this certificate recording your achievement of 60 years in Freemasonry and to wish you on behalf of all the brethren here the best of health to enjoy many more years in our company, Brethren once again please join with me in your warmest congratulations.”

Once the lodge was closed, the brethren made their way to the dining hall for an excellent festive board, where a raffle was held which raised £131 which will be donated to the Litherland Masonic Hall. At the end of the evening there was a presentation of flowers, one bouquet was presented to Robert for his wife Tina on behalf of the lodge, and another was presented to Bill for his daughter Pauline from the lodge. With the evening ending everyone left to go home, after having enjoyed a special night with friendly company and lots of jovial fun.

Pictured centre are: Robert Wight, Bill Dumbell and Ian Gee with grand and acting Provincial grand officers.

Pictured centre are: Robert Wight, Bill Dumbell and Ian Gee with grand and acting Provincial grand officers.