Brian celebrates 50 years of Empire

On a beautiful sunny evening the members of Empire Chapter No 3257 together with their guests were delighted to celebrate the golden jubilee of Brian Gillbanks. Brian has been a steadfast contributor of both his time and skill to the chapter in the execution of his many offices over the last 50 years. The principal guest was Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Sam Robinson for this celebratory occasion, accompanied by many grand and Provincial grand officers, which at the request of Brian, was meant to be planned as a quiet low-key event.

Sam Robinson (right) presents the certificate to Brian Gillbanks.

The entourage was led by Geoffrey Bell and John Jackson from the chapter acting as Provincial deacon’s, John Scott Jackson PrGStwd, Ian Walton PrAGSoj, Vic Albin PrDGReg with Freddie Wright PPrGSE as senior Provincial officer. Following on where grand officers including Bill Culshaw, Mark Dimelow, Syd Ford, Dave Hilliard, John James, Paul Shepherd, Ian Walton and Past Deputy Grand Superintendent for West Lancashire Brian Jackson with Brian Gillbanks. Representing the Liverpool Group was chairman Mark Mathews and vice chairman for the Royal Arch David Kemp ensuring the smooth running of the festivities and conducting this grand array of officers into the room was Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Neil MacSymons.

The first principal, Graham Benson, welcomed Sam Robinson to the meeting of Empire Chapter, held in the magnificent Egyptian Suite of Liverpool Masonic Hall, remarking that the chapter was very honoured to receive him this evening for such an exceptional occasion. However, prior to the celebration, the chapter had standard business to conclude, including the installation of the third principal, Terence Forsyth, who was unable to be present at the installation ceremony. The chapter was opened in due form by first principal Graham Benson ably assisted by Joe Comerford and Ken Jones. As a first-time principal, the full ceremony of an installation for a third principal was observed, with Terry being presented by the chapter director of ceremonies Geoffrey Bell. Ken Jones was superb as the installing third principal, while the Royal Arch Vice Chairman of the Liverpool Group performed the readings for the ceremony. On being installed into the chair the blue robe address was recited in a dignified and affable manner by Ken Jones.

It was at this point that Sam Robinson was invited to take the chair of the chapter by the first principal, to which he replied: “Thank you for allowing me to occupy the chair of Empire Chapter for what is a very special occasion for me, as it’s the first time I have delivered a 50th anniversary, which is now part of my role on being made an Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principal, and what an occasion to do it. One of the benefits of holding a senior position in the Province is the opportunity to celebrate with a companion as he reaches a milestone in his Royal Arch career and it’s an honour and a privilege to be able to do so.”

Pictured from left to right, are: Brian Jackson, Mark Mathews, the celebrant Brian Gillbanks, Sam Robinson and Mark Dimelow.

Sam continued by reminding everyone present of the significance of the evening, not just that Brian Gillbanks had 50 years continuing membership of Royal Arch but also the fact that those 50 years had been spent with Empire Chapter No 3257. He added that the number of companions here this evening was a good number and is a reflection of the love, esteem, respect and admiration that all share for the celebrant, Brian Gillbanks, PAGSoj. Sam light-heartedly quipped that Brian has specifically requested a low-key celebration, hence having me here, but we all know that was never going to happen. Sam further explained that as a former Deputy Director of Ceremonies in the Province he had attended upon Brian on countless 50th anniversary celebrations, all of which Brian delivered without notes, something he himself could not emulate, and that amongst many other attributes Brian had won the admiration of all the members of the Deputy DC’s Mess, not bad for a warden.

The evening was about enjoyment, being in the company of Brian and his many Masonic friends present, and being the modest gentleman that is Brian he had insisted that attention was not drawn to his many achievements, both in his private and Masonic life. As he himself intimated, that had all been done in 2010, when his half century in Craft Masonry had been fully recognised and celebrated. What should be mentioned though was that at the time of Brian being exalted into Empire Chapter, the world would also witness another event just two days later, maybe one just as memorable for 1967, the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, two events that changed history.

Sam also added that there were also another two events deserving of mention regarding Brian. Having bought his first car for £10, a split screen Morris Minor, fitting a starter motor to save hand cranking, he sold it for £80, making a magnificent profit. The £80 paid for an engagement ring which is now worth considerably more, but not as much as the Morris Minor had he kept it, but don’t tell Julie that.

For some present, these last few remarks brought memories flooding back, days as teenagers in the swinging 60s, Mersey Beat, Bob Dylan, Bill Shankly, and for some, memories of Brian’s father, Joe Gillbanks. Indeed, it was Joe who had the pleasure of exalting Brian into Empire Chapter, a fond remembered pleasure for Brian also. From that beginning Brian progressed through the offices of the chapter to eventually become first principal in 1979, and receiving his first Provincial appointment in 1982 as Provincial Grand Registrar. In 1986, he was appointed to grand rank as Past Grand Standard Bearer and promoted to his current rank of Past Assistant Grand Sojourner in 1996.

At this point in the procedure, Sam requested the Liverpool Group Chairman Mark Mathews to read the golden jubilee certificate issued by command of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison. Sam then concluded by presenting the certificate to Brian and saying directly to him: “Brian, you have done a lot in your life and contributed to society and Freemasonry in many ways serving the community and contributing to the business life of this area and it is a fitting tribute to you and indeed a pleasure for me personally and for all your friends and colleagues here this evening to be able to celebrate with you the significant milestone of achieving 50 years as a member of Royal Arch Masonry.”

The formal element of the evening having come to a close, the gathering retired to the main banqueting suite to continue the celebrations. Tribute after tribute to Brian floated around the room during the course of the evening festivity. In response, Brian entertained with humorous anecdotes and tributes of his own. Brian was presented with a selection of wine by the chapter and a wonderful bouquet. The occasion had been a wonderful golden jubilee for Brian and a memorable occasion for all who had been privileged to be in attendance.

Pictured from left to right, are: Brian Jackson, Neil MacSymons, Ian Walton, Mark Mathews, Bill Culshaw, David Hilliard, Brian Gillbanks, Syd Ford, John James, Sam Robinson, Paul Shepherd, Vic Albin, Mark Dimelow and Freddie Wright.