Exemplar Lodge No 5075 were granted a dispensation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Maxwell Keith Bruce, (known as Keith), in Freemasonry at Swinton Masonic Hall. Due to the Masonic season closed, the lodge held a special meeting to mark this important step in Masonry for Keith.
The lodge was opened in due form by WM Keith assisted by the officers of the lodge. A report requested the entrance of Malcolm Bell Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, who announced that APrGM Dave Walmsley was without and demanded admission, to which Keith replied that he would be pleased to admit him.
Dave was accompanied by Eccles Group Vice Chairman Patrick Walsh and a plethora of grand officers. Keith welcomed Dave and thanked him for his attendance and then offered him the gavel of the lodge, which allowed Dave to officiate over the celebration. After salutations from the brethren, Dave introduced the main business of the meeting, which was to honour Maxwell Keith Bruce’s 50 years in Masonry. Keith was then was suitably seated in front of Dave.
Dave began by saying how he was quickly finding out there are quite a number of duties and responsibilities allotted to the office of APrGM, but few if any, are more enjoyable than sharing the very special anniversary of a brother’s membership of Freemasonry and that this evening was to mark 50 years membership of Maxwell Keith Bruce PPrDGSuptWks.
Keith was born on 11 September 1939. Other noteworthy people born that year were, Susannah York, Ali McGraw, playwright Alan Ayckbourn, Ron Atkinson, Sir David Frost, Sir Ian McKellan, to name a few, the notorious Lee Harvey Oswald was also born that year. 1939 also saw the debut of Superman and the renowned film Gone with the Wind. It also saw the deaths of Sigmund Freud and Amelia Earhart. Perhaps the most remembered historic event was, the very month Keith was born, Hitler’s Germany began the Second World War by invading Poland. Dave commented: “I am assured brethren there is absolutely no connection!”
Keith was born in Nottingham and amongst his early memories were the wartime bombers droning above. He was the only child of James and Ruby Bruce. James served in the army during the war whilst Keith and his mother relocated to Yorkshire to live with her parents. Following the war James joined his family in Yorkshire and pursued a career in sales ultimately becoming Sales Manager. York was also the place where Keith began his education.
Amongst some of his early achievements and clearly a star pupil, at the age of 13 years, Keith won a scholarship to the prestigious Gordonstoun School which was later attended by HRH Prince Charles. A further achievement was climbing Ben Nevis at the young age of 14 years.
Keith gained an impressive number of O levels but unfortunately at the age of 16 years the conditions of his scholarship changed, requiring a subsidy which his parents regretfully could not afford, so Keith sadly left and joined the Merchant Navy as a Marine Engineer. Dave said: “Keith has many memories of his first five years with the Merchant Navy, perhaps he may wish to inform you of his first trip to Singapore, but on second thoughts there may be some present not old enough to hear about it, or how one of the ships he was on, had to dispose of 10,000 tons of molten wax that had somehow solidified.”
During his early years Keith realised that his true vocation was developing control systems gaining employment at a number of companies including, International Computers Ltd Newcastle, Tillotson Group Bolton, Mount St Bernard Group Preston, Alcrafield Ltd Manchester and Yorkshire Evening Press, securing senior management positions at each of them. From 1997 Keith became a self-employed Project Manager but finally decided to retire just two years ago.
It was during one of the many projects managed by Keith, when in Central Dumbarton excavations were required close to a large DIY store. It appeared the facilities plans Keith had didn’t quite clearly indicate where the main power cables were located, but the digger found them, resulting in a blackout in the whole of Central Dumbarton.
In 1964 Keith married Wendy with whom he had three daughters, the eldest Kate 47 years is now a physiotherapist in California, Jane 45 an accountant and Sara 42 a marketing consultant. He also has six grandchildren; five girls and one boy. Unfortunately, the marriage to Wendy ended but sometime later he met Margaret to whom he has been very happily married for some 18 years.
Fitness clearly seems to have played a very important role in Keith’s life, playing hockey to the age of 45, squash to the age of 50 followed by golf and orienteering, of which, he is still an enthusiastic walker. He is also a keen Rotarian currently serving as Assistant Governor.
Keith’s Masonic career has been as varied and interesting as his professional life. He was initiated into Lofthouse Lodge No 6357 in the Province of Yorkshire North and East Riding on 13 July 1967, having been proposed by two of his neighbours who lived in the same small road as Keith, Bert Davey and Norman Dodds, both of whom were grand officers. At this point, the secretary, Edwin Schofield read out the minutes relating to Keith’s initiation.
Dave continued, perhaps just to give some prospective about life in 1967, it was the year the first heart transplant took place, the average house cost the princely sum of £2,530, the average car was £760, petrol was 5s 5d a gallon (27p) or just 6p per litre. All sounds very good, but the average wage was a net £700 per annum. Supermarkets had just begun to pop up throughout the country and interesting for some but perhaps not others a MUFC season ticket cost £8.10 shillings.
Keith’s commitment to Masonry was further evidenced by becoming a member of Lodge of St John No 191 in East Lancashire in 1975, Prince of Wales’ Lodge No 1012 again in East Lancashire and becoming a founder member of Pythagoras Lodge of Installed Masters No 9248, yet again in East Lancashire. He also became Chairman of Bury Masonic Association which equates in West Lancashire to a Hall Manager.
Clearly, his devoted service was recognised in 1986 when he received his first Provincial appointment to the very high rank of PPrDGSuptWks by the then PrGM Frederick William Townes. Circumstances changed and Keith left East Lancashire, in fact he described himself as an ‘itinerant Masonic vagrant’. One fortunate day he met the lodge secretary John Jones, a strong friendship soon grew as did the Masonic connection, resulting in John introducing Keith to the lodge in January 1995.
Within a short period of time Keith became an integral and indeed vital part of the lodge, currently occupying the chair for the third occasion, he served as secretary for a total of no less than seven years and for a further seven years he has occupied one or other of the warden’s chairs. Keith received his first appointment to Provincial Grand Rank in West Lancashire, in May 2007 he again received the very high rank of PPrDGSuptWks by our then PrGM Colin Penty Wright.
For a number of years Keith was a member of Border Lodge of installed Masters No 9274, but resigned due to his locating to Falkirk in 1997. He relocated again to Kirkcudbright in 2003 and during that time has not just regularly attended Exemplar Lodge which is approximately 340 miles round trip; he has continued to be a vital and integral member of the lodge.
To commemorate this special occasion, a celebratory certificate has been produced and signed by the PrGM Tony Harrison. The certificate was read out by Patrick Walsh, the group vice chairman. Dave, then presented the certificate to Keith on behalf of the PrGM and said: “I’m sure the brethren join me in wishing you the very best of health that you may continue to enjoy your Masonry for many years to come. I’m also delighted to present you with this lapel badge on behalf of the group which marks your membership of that select number of brethren who have achieved this memorable milestone.”
Dave then invited Keith to take his rightful place in the chair to close the lodge. Following this the brethren then retired to enjoy the festive board and complimentary speeches for the commitment that Keith has given to Freemasonry.
Keith was presented with a lovely decanter and a suitable single malt to fill it. He was overwhelmed with the occasion and thanked everyone for their kind words and support over the years, especially John Jones who had introduced him to Exemplar Lodge.
Patrick Walsh proposed the toast to Dave, who responded and thanked Keith for allowing him to play a part in his celebration. He also thanked Edwin Schofield for the organisation of the event and Malcolm Bell PrDGDC for adding that touch of finesse and guidance to the proceedings.
Article and photographs by Tom Fredrickson.