The opening remarks of Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder, when he addressed the members and guests of Foxhall Lodge No 7484 who were celebrating the 50 years that stalwart member Clifford Proctor had contributed, ran as follows:
“You know, 50 years of commitment to anything in life shows a great deal of loyalty and a genuine love and affection for whatever that cause or vocation may be. When linked to Freemasonry however, with its core values of brotherly love, relief and truth, it undoubtedly contains that rarest of attributes so often lacking in today’s society; that of putting service before oneself!”
When leading a celebration of this nature, David Winder always gives a flavour of what was occurring 50 years ago. In this instance he recounted that the musical ‘Oliver’ was released; the Apollo Seven spaceflight mission was launched; the United States of America was at war in Vietnam; Jacqueline Kennedy married the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and Manchester United won the European Cup for the first time.
As Clifford (Cliff to his friends) had been a highly skilled electrician, David peppered his presentation with several charged comments like, ‘wired for sound’ and ‘current practice’. David also commented: “I certainly hope that you will be well earthed for this evening Cliff but you can relax, there will be no neutrals. Simply sit back and enjoy the live entertainment! I hope that you feel at ohm.”
Cliff was born to Archie and Isabelle or Bella, in his grandmother’s house in Kilsyth, Scotland on 12 June 1932. His education commenced at Kilsyth Academy aged five years. He stayed there until he was 10, when his life was totally uprooted due to his father leaving the Royal Navy at the end of WWII and moved to Blackpool. Initially Cliff’s father found it difficult to get a job (as a naval electrician he was used to working with 24 volt circuits and not 250!) but a job working for a coach body making company in Blackpool led in turn to a role on the council working on Blackpool’s illuminations.
On moving to Blackpool, Cliff attended Tyldsley School until he was 15, after which he obtained work as an apprentice electrician at R Derbyshire Ltd on Talbot Road. Part of Cliff’s apprenticeship involved attending technical college, resulting in a plethora of electrical certificate qualifications. At the age of 21 Cliff elected to carry out his National Service in the Royal Navy but as they did not take on recruits unless they signed up fully, Cliff changed his choice to the Royal Air Force. His first posting was to a bomb storage department at Buxton as an armoury mechanic – bombs! Cliff’s role was to test bombs, bullets and guns. If they were deemed unfit for service they were dumped at sea!
On completion of his National Service, Cliff returned to Derbyshire’s working in the television department for the princely sum of £5 per week. He then moved to British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) at Salwick as a trainee instrument mechanic. The unashamed reason for the move was doubling his pay to £10 per week – with a subsequent move to shift work he again doubled his wages to £20 per week.
After working at BNFL for eight years, Cliff joined his brother and went into partnership with him as a television repairer. The idea was that he would continue working to help fund the new business but after 18 months Cliff’s brother lost interest, causing Cliff to diversify into wider electrical repairs. Fate would, however, play its part when Cliff carried out a small electrical repair for the local Mayor – a new job with Blackpool Council ensued.
Cliff didn’t lean towards sport very much but to get days off he agreed to play rugby for the RAF during his time there, as well as cross country running. Increased fitness levels saw Cliff become a part of the four-man cross country team running up hill and down dale in the Buxton countryside to win the coveted regimental trophy.
Cliff met his wife to be, Diana May, at the dancing school in Hornby Road, prompting him to take up ballroom dancing. His further liaison was signalled when her radio stopped working and he was her dashing hero, being able to affect its repair. With this, Cliff had obviously tuned in to all the right frequencies because, before he knew it, he was wed!
Cliff and Diana have been blessed with two children, Wendy, a highly successful medical artist and Andrew who holds a high position in a large company dealing in polymers. They are proud that both have earned high honours degrees at University. Even better, they are both, although living distances away, in regular contact.
Aside from Freemasonry, Cliff had an allotment on the exclusive Halifax Street site for years. The site was later sold, against Cliff’s strong advice due to its terrain and subsoil, to a large house builder who, on building houses found that they simply descended into sink holes. For allotments it was perfect, for house building obviously not.
Cliff’s uncle Walter was the founding master of Foxhall Lodge and his father the founding inner guard. So it was that Cliff was initiated into Foxhall Lodge on 22 January 1968. Cliff readily recalls his scrutiny meeting at Adelaide Street with 25 people present. The room was dark with the combination of cigarette, pipe and cigar smoke. Cliff received a date for initiation and a letter also calling him for jury service on that same date. Thankfully the case was resolved early and he arrived on time for his initiation. On entering the lodge blindfolded Cliff was transported back to the courtroom as he recognised the booming voice asking “Whom have you there?” It was none other than the prosecuting police inspector from the court case.
Cliff had the delight of being initiated by his father in an exemplary fashion down in the basement at Adelaide Street. As there was a candidate ahead of him, he was passed in April and raised in September 1968. He found that even though Foxhall Lodge was a relatively young lodge, there were still five stewards ahead of him. However, he completed every office apart from secretary. His father was proud to see him reach the chair of junior warden in the lodge but sadly passed away and did not see Cliff installed into the masters chair.
Cliff’s appointment as director of ceremonies came out of the blue. On returning home Diana already knew as the bush telegraph had been working overtime! The guest of honour was to be Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Stuart Walker – no pressure there then! The grand officer in the lodge was Harry Carpenter and he gave up his Sunday golf to give Cliff instruction and assistance. The meeting went well and eight years on as director of ceremonies Cliff’s interest and desire to learn ritual saw him join the Fylde Group Lodge of Instruction No 65. This led to the happiest days of Cliff’s life due to the great teamwork and camaraderie. Cliff joined Kilgrimol Lodge No 6851 as it worked strict emulation but resigned when it amalgamated with Aemulantes Lodge No 8827 and became part of the prevailing Quadrant Lodge No 8044.
Cliff’s service to Freemasonry was initially recognised in May 1988 on his first appointment to Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon. His service as charity steward in Kilgrimol Lodge no doubt assisted in his promotion to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in 1999. In 2011 Cliff’s long and devoted service was rightly recognised with further promotion to the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
In the Royal Arch Cliff was exalted into Tithebarn Chapter No 8446 in September 1989, becoming its first principal in 1997. He has also attained high distinction in another Masonic Order.
At the conclusion of Cliff’s story, David Winder assured him that the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was aware of Cliff’s celebration and had sent his personal greetings in the form of a certificate, for the reading of which David called upon the group chairman Ian Ward. David concluded by saying: “Can I conclude now by wishing you, health, happiness and fulfilment in your Masonry and in all that you do.”
Shortly after, the lodge was closed having dealt with all remaining business and the brethren retired to the banqueting suite to enjoy a sumptuous feast which, when concluded, was followed by several toasts. There was also a nice surprise for Cliff in the form of a specially baked cake to celebrate the occasion.