Bob Skelly, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden, celebrated 60 years as a Freemason since his initiation in 1963. Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Schofield was joined by Past Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, Past Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson (Cumberland and Westmorland), Assistant Provincial Grand Master Malcolm Bell and Past Junior Grand Deacon Chris Butterfield together with grand officers John Lee, John Robson, Stephen Bolton and Neil McGill to congratulate Bob who was delighted to be presented with his 60 year certificate on behalf of Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews by Peter Schofield.
Lancaster and District Group Chairman Scott Devine and group vice chairman Chris Larder together with Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Peter Littlehales led the team of acting Provincial grand officers, Provincial Senior Grand Deacon Tony Jackson; Provincial Assistant Grand Directors of Ceremonies Morton Richardson and Larry Branyan; Provincial Grand Stewards Andy McClements and Phil Renney.
On entering the lodge Peter Schofield was offered the gavel by WM Dr Michael Clark which was accepted. Peter requested that the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies place Bob Skelly in a chair before him.
Bob was born on 14 February 1941 (St. Valentine’s Day) at Parton near Whitehaven in Cumbria. He lived with his father William, mother Jane, older brother Fred and younger brother Ernest in the village of Parton until the early 1950’s. William was a miner working as a Deputy Shot Firer at the local William Pit. Mum Jane was a busy housewife bringing up and caring for her family.
Bob was educated at the Parton Williamson Boys School and at Whitehaven County Grammar School. In the early 1950’s Bob’s parents moved to the Ginns area at the top of Whitehaven marketplace where his father, who was still working as a miner, also became the tenant landlord of the Dusty Miller Public House, running it with his mother.
Bob’s local church was St James in Whitehaven which played a huge role in his younger years where he was a choir boy and alter server, which he enjoyed immensely and continued in this role until he was married in 1962.
In his teens Bob became a very active member of the Whitehaven Sea Cadets and was lead drummer in the Drum and Bugel Corps, or Spit and Slaver Band, becoming the Drum Major. On one particular occasion marching down the main street in Whitehaven, showing off his prowess, he threw his Drum Major’s mace into the air and looking up in horror saw it rolling itself around the television cables which where slung everywhere across the street in those days. As a quick-thinking lad he took two very quick paces forward and rescued the errant mace on its downward journey and spared his blushes.
Bob was a member of the guard of honour when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Philip visited the Civic Hall in Whitehaven in 1956 on the occasion of the opening of the nuclear power station at Calder Hall.
On leaving Whitehaven Grammar School in 1957 Bob commenced his working career by joining GPO Telephones as a ‘youth in training’ at Whitehaven before progressing in 1959 to become a maintenance engineer working on customer operations and communication line networks in the Western Lakes, serving three years at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Plant at Seascale and Calder Hall.
In 1965 Bob was promoted to Maintenance Project Manager responsible for the management of all mechanical and digital telephone systems in the Lancaster area, based at the City of Lancaster Exchange Centre. This promotion required him to relocate to the Lancaster area where he took up residence in Bolton-le-Sands. Bob remained in this post for over 31 years before retiring from BT after 40 years dedicated service.
It was during his employment at the Whitehaven Telephone Exchange that a certain young lady caught his eye. This was Miss Glennis Conkey who was a manual switchboard operator who lived in Egremont. After plucking up the courage he invited Glennis out for a date and so commenced a relationship which was to last a lifetime. Following a suitable courtship, they were married on the 31 March 1962 at Castle Methodist Church, Egremont which later became Egremont Masonic Hall.
The wedding was originally scheduled to be held at Main Street Methodist Church but due to a major fire in the church organ the venue was changed at very short notice, which meant that Bob had to pay £3 10 shillings instead of seven shillings and sixpence, but Glennis was worth every penny. The honeymoon was on the Island of Jersey flying from Manchester Ringway Airport costing £13 10 shillings return, which was then two weeks wages.
Their first marital home was in East Road, Egremont before moving in 1965 to Wordsworth Avenue in Bolton-le-Sands. They later moved to Brantwood Avenue in Bare, Morecambe, before finally moving to Meldon Road, Heysham where Bob still resides.
Bob and Glennis have been blessed with two children Paul and Kay, four grandchildren Paula, Joel, Hayley and Joanna and two great grandchildren Frankie Paul and Harry James.
Their daughter Kay’s eldest son Joel now 31 years of age had a burning ambition to become an actor and director graduating from Edge Hill University with a First-Class Honours Degree in Drama. Interestingly, Joel started his acting career aged just 10 being in many amateur productions before being professionally managed by Melody Thresher Entertainments in Manchester. Bob and Glennis were his official chaperones as he was under 16 years of age travelling around the UK for auditions usually at very short notice.
Bob remembers spending 2 days at Pizza Hut near Heathrow Airport while Joel was being filmed for a Pizza Hut advert, being chauffeured back and forth in a luxury limousine eating as much pizza and ice-cream as they wanted. That advert starring Joel appearing on primetime TV during episodes of Coronation Street. Joel also appeared in Waterloo Road, Heartbeat, Jane Hall and Jinks with Bob and Glennis brushing shoulders with stars from Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Dr Who, Foyles War and the full cast of Heartbeat to name but a few.
After moving to Bolton-le-Sands Bob and Glennis soon settled in and very quickly became highly active and respected members of the local community. They were both Sunday school teachers at Egremont Methodist Church and it didn’t take long for Bolton-le-Sands parish church to invite them to join. Bob served at the Sunday school as a teacher superintendent and parochial church councillor for nearly 15 years.
Bob also served as a Bolton-le-Sands Parish Councillor for 15 years during which time he also served as a Governor of Bolton-le-Sands Church of England School. Bob was the Founding Treasurer of the Bolton-le-Sands Firework Committee in addition to his role as Treasurer and Trustee of the Building Committee which built the local Community Centre.
Following Bob’s retirement from BT in 1966 after 40 years of dedicated service, he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace serving the Lancaster Bench as Youth Chairman, Adult Chairman, Chair of the Appraisal and Mentor Panel and a member of the Sentencing Review Panel. Bob was the last magistrate to be appointed to the Independent Monitoring Board of Visitors at Her Majesty’s Prison Lancaster Castle before the Parliament abolished the 600-year-old rule that required Prison Boards to have a serving Justice of the Peace as a member of the Board. Bob was appointed to this position by Home Secretary Jack Straw and was the last Chairman to serve the Board until the Prison closed on 31March 2011.
During the early days of his retirement, Bob achieved a Whitley Council Teaching Certificate with a view to teaching adults with reading, learning and mathematical difficulties. The lecturer suggested that he should use his skills with children, and he registered with Lancashire County Council as a Primary School Teaching Assistant in the Morecambe area.
Bob was contacted by Our Lady’s Catholic College who realised his potential stating that they had a problem in their Reprographics Department as the lady in charge was on sick leave. He agreed to take on the role thinking it couldn’t be hard doing a bit of photocopying. Bob joined them for a 3-month contract and stayed for 14 years in which time he was responsible for IT, Health and Safety, Fire Risk Assessment, Exam Invigilation and just about anything else they could find for him.
During the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester Bob and Glennis volunteered to assist. Bob became a Communications Manager in the Athletes Village working 12-hour shifts during the games and managing a team of 15 other volunteers whilst Glennis had the great pleasure of working in the VIP section giving out special gifts to all VIPs attending the games and ensuring they were met and suitably catered for.
Bob’s hobbies are photography, videography, computing, cross-stitch, caravanning with Glennis, touring in the UK and Europe. They both also enjoy cruising and holidays worldwide. Their last cruise was February 2020 in the South Asian Sea when COVID-19 was becoming a worldwide pandemic. They were kept overnight in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam before being disembarked in Hong Kong for their flight to Manchester. They also enjoy rail journeys with their last trip in June 2022 where they visited Roses in North Spain and various locations in France. More cruises and train trips are planned later this year.
Bob’s father William was a member of Ennerdale Lodge No 4216, as was his younger brother Ernest. His older brother Fred was initiated into St John the Baptist Lodge No 39 in Exeter in the Province of Devon and Cornwall. A week before Bob’s celebration, Fred also celebrated his diamond jubilee at the Hands of Friendship Lodge No 9758 in Tewkesbury with the Provincial Grand Master of Gloucestershire, Tim Henderson-Ross, in attendance. Bob was also there with Ernest. Sadly, Fred was unable to attend Bob’s celebration, although Ernest was present.
Bob’s Masonic journey began on 19 June 1963 when poor and penniless, he was initiated together with Tom Bains into Ennerdale Lodge, meeting at the Masonic Hall in Cleator Moor in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland. The Provincial Grand Master was George Morley who was also a member of the same lodge.
Following his Initiation, Bob progressed up the steward’s bench of the lodge but had to step down before moving onto the floor of the lodge due to relocation to Lancaster which entailed a 160-mile round trip to visit the lodge.
On relocation to Lancaster Bob became a regular visitor to John O’Gaunt Lodge No 3815 and the Lodge of Fortitude No 281 in Lancaster. There were also many evenings spent in Cumberland and Westmorland where brethren including Tom Rowley from Lancaster accompanied him to installation meetings at Ennerdale Lodge. Tom became Bob’s Masonic mentor within the Lancaster group and steered him in the direction of Warton Lodge No 8411 in Carnforth which was being formed. Sadly, the warrant was granted before Bob joined and he was unable to become a founder member but was proposed as a joining member on the day of consecration at the first regular meeting in May 1972.
Bob was proposed by the Senior Warden, Major Tom Hulme and seconded by WM Stewart Hawken. Bob later discovered that it was his vicar, Rev Tom Cooper from Bolton-le-Sands Parish Church where he served as Sunday school teacher and Superintendent who had recommended him to the rounder members of the lodge as a highly desirable prospect. Rev Cooper was the Consecrating Provincial Grand Chaplain for Warton Lodge.
Bob progressed through the offices of the lodge and was WM in 1980 where he had a very successful and enjoyable year in the chair. He installed his successor Hadwin Shooter in 1981 in the presence of new Provincial Grand Master Alan Ferris on his first visit into the Lancaster Group.
Bob’s service to Warton Lodge has been exemplary. He held the office of secretary in 1983 and 1984, Assistant Director of Ceremonies in 1985 to 1986, 1992 to 1994 and 2008 to 2009. He was then director of ceremonies from 1987 to 1990 and lodge treasurer since 2016. His long and devoted service to Warton Lodge has gained the respect not only of the lodge members but the whole group and Province of West Lancashire. Bob was the 1998 Festival Representative and was also Group Representative for six years.
He was the founding secretary of the West Lancashire Masonic Clay Pigeon Shooting Society and a founder member of the West Lancashire Masonic Caravan Club. Both societies owe him a great debt of gratitude for his hard work and commitment.
In May 1987 Bob was appointed acting Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies by the ProvGM Alan Ferris. He was promoted in October 1992 to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works by ProvGM Kenneth Moxley and further promoted to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 2000 by ProvGM Colin Penty Wright.
In the Royal Arch Bob was exalted into the Chapter of Fortitude No 281 on 5 April 1988. He progressed through the offices becoming first principal in 1993 and again for a second time in 2008. Bob was chapter almoner from 1995 to 2001, 2011 to 2015 and 2018 to 2019, a total on 11 years of dedicated service. He was scribe Ezra from 1995 to 2007 a further magnificent 12 years of service to the chapter. In 2001 Bob was appointed Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer and later promoted to Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah.
Bob is also a grand officer in another Masonic Order. Bob has truly had a magnificent and outstanding professional and Masonic career and is to be congratulated on the exemplary manner he has discharged civil, moral and Masonic duties throughout his life.