With a firm grasp of the essentials required to organise a successful 50 years in Freemasonry celebration, the officers of Semper Fidelis Lodge No 4428 dispatched the lodge business with finesse. This allowed master of the lodge Bob Chesters an early opportunity to welcome Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder to officiate at his seventh celebration during the current Masonic meeting season. David was supported on this occasion by Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Steven Reid, Chairman of South Fylde Group Ian Ward and other distinguished grand and Provincial grand officers including three previous celebrants Derek Evans, Nigel Bradshaw and George Coulter.
Having accepted the master’s gavel, David introduced the main business of the meeting; to honour Bert Waddington’s 50 years in Freemasonry. David began by referring to Semper Fidelis Lodge as the epicentre for 50 and 60 year celebrations, there having been four within the lodge during the current season alone.
David told of his trepidation at visiting Bert’s home, as being a Manchester United fan he wondered whether he would be immediately ejected from the premises as Bert is a staunch Manchester City supporter! Thankfully, this proved not to be so.
Bert had suffered major injuries following a fall from a ladder at home and had required extensive surgery to his hip, femur, ankle and heel. Despite Bert’s recent vicissitudes he had received David with optimism and determination and David observed ‘that it was quite remarkable that Bert was present in the lodge to celebrate his great achievement of 50 years in Freemasonry given his recent history.’
David gave an insight into events of 1965, the year of Bert’s initiation. The year saw the passing of Sir Winston Churchill as well as the last top-flight football match played by Sir Stanley Matthews at the tender age of 50 years and 5 days, both of whom were Masons. The Post Office Tower came on line and Alex Leonov became the first person to walk in space. On a lighter note, the Pillsbury Boy was created, the first Tom and Jerry cartoon was shown and the number one hit of the day was, ‘I’ve got you babe’ by Sonny and Cher. Such things as home PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and email had not been invented and the idea of bottled water would have been deemed ridiculous.
Bert was born Herbert Waddington in 1935 at Longsight, Manchester, within roaring distance of Manchester City’s stadium. His father, also called Herbert, worked for the London Midland and Scottish Railway as Chief Inspector at Manchester Piccadilly Station, responsible for ensuring the availability and correct marshalling of rolling stock and seeing that trains ran on time. This endeared Bert to railways, as well as the memory of eating egg and bacon on a shovel while sitting on the footplate of a locomotive that had stopped over the Stockport viaduct. “No health and safety issues here then brethren!” David quipped.
Bert’s mum Ellen was very much a housewife and mother as she had two sons to look after. Sadly however, Bert’s brother Alan passed away at the early age of 12 years, suffering from meningitis. Living in Stockport at the time due to his father’s early situation on the railway, Bert went to Stockport Grammar School on passing his 11 plus but hated it, largely disgusted at having his face frequently in the mud playing rugby. Bert preferred the round ball game!
Bert’s father discouraged him from joining the railways on leaving school, this was a major disappointment and reluctantly, he began work with North Western Road Car, a major competitor to the Ribble Motor Company. In five years he rose to Head of Charter Service, which put him in charge of the company’s private hire section, responsible for arranging coach trips all over the north of England and beyond, including Blackpool and Southport.
Bert met his wife Liz on a blind date, having spoken to her when he phoned the local telephone directory, a favourite dating manoeuvre of his it seems! Nevertheless, they met and were married 18 months later on a Saturday when ‘City’ were playing away. Bert couldn’t possibly miss a home match!
They were blessed with a son Andrew who is now 50 years old and who was present at the celebration. The family moved to Blackpool where Bert had found a job with a removals company and he soon detected a niche opportunity in packaging and shipping the personal effects of emigrants travelling to South Africa, Australia and Canada, adopting the catchy advertising slogan, ‘Emigrating? Take your personal effects with you for less than £10.’
Bert’s next venture was a move to the brass foundry division of the Delta Group. Sales were down and a major challenge was in getting appointments with potential customers. Bert decided that the feminine touch was required and employed attractive young ladies as technical sales representatives. Suddenly, obstacles disappeared and sales increased dramatically. Bert was later offered the position of Head of Sales for the Delta Group Birmingham.
After this, Bert’s professional life moved closer to home, largely at the wish of his wife Liz. He had been offered ownership of two local removal firms; Stubb’s of St. Anne’s and Shaw’s of Blackpool and gained many government and military contracts involving removals to and from British establishments overseas, including Hong Kong where Britain was preparing to hand the protectorate back to China.
Bert’s success in this field resulted in his becoming the National President of the ‘Moving Industry.’ This led to him and Liz meeting the Princess Royal and Margaret Thatcher at Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, this period of success was tinged with sadness due to the failing health of Liz and Bert chose to retire, handing over control of the business to his son, Andrew. Alas, shortly after, Liz passed away and Bert was left a retired widower.
However, Bert’s idea of retirement included working with the Lancashire Education Authority encouraging teachers to manage budgets; working with the National Health Service and becoming chairman of the Fylde Primary Care Trust. He is a Governor of St Anne’s College, Trading Director for Age UK and President of Rotary International. Finally, he introduced the ’Zest for Life project,’ an innovation for healthy living for the retired that elicited the quip from David Winder: “What a misnomer! What does Bert know about being retired?”
Two years after Liz’s passing, Bert met Corrin who has been particularly wonderful during his recent rehabilitation, following his fall.
Initiated into Wayfarers Lodge No 7544 in 1965, Bert enjoyed many happy years in the lodge. It met at the Imperial Hotel but when the hotel ceased to accommodate Masonic lodges Bert moved to Semper Fidelis Lodge where he worked his way through the offices to be installed into the chair of King Solomon in 1989. He continued working for the lodge as assistant secretary for four years and secretary for a further 11 years. Bert is also the current treasurer of Semper Fidelis Chapter No 4428. In recognition of his endeavours, Bert holds the very high rank of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works.
Toasting Bert’s health at the festive board, Steven Reid modified a quote from Shakespeare’s Othello, “He has done the lodge some service and its right that we should know it.” This was well received by all present with warm applause. Steven continued by referring to Bert’s arrival in the lodge as a “breath of fresh air, as Bert brought with him ideas, vitality and great energy.” He further alluded to the offices filled and the many good works that Bert had done for the lodge, concluding by said that he had followed an old maxim in all his Masonic activities, “Ask not what Semper can do for you but what you can do for Semper.”
In his very entertaining response, Bert told of the many happy memories he had both in his business career and his Masonic vocation. He urged his audience to think about the need for change in order to ensure the future of Masonry, referring to a recent copy of the magazine ‘Freemasonry Today’ where there was an article about how some young members from Somerset were making changes which shortened meetings and allowed them more quality time with their families.