Quadrant Lodge No 8044 celebrated the golden jubilee in Freemasonry of Ken Cotton, under the guidance of its master Ben Gorry and in the presence of five other brethren who have all completed either 50 or 60 years in Freemasonry. These were Terry Hudson, Zeke Goodwin, John Sharples, George Coulter and Tom Westhall.
Before the main event of the evening commenced, an important item of business was conducted – to declare John Bainbridge as master elect for the ensuing year. This was followed by Tony Hankinson’s election as treasurer and Gary Edwards’ election as tyler.
Following these preliminaries, the lodge was opened in the second and third degrees and Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder was admitted, along with the other grand and acting Provincial grand officers. Ben Gorry welcomed David and offered him the gavel of the lodge which David accepted and proceeded to set the scene. He described the era of the 1960’s which saw the cold war years, the space race and the arms race, pointing out that it was against this background that Ken began his working life and entry into Freemasonry. Ken was then placed on a chair in front of David for the presentation, which David delivered in his usual relaxed style with just the right blend of humour and gravitas.
Ken was born on 8 October 1938 in what was at that time quite a rural idyll of Blackburn, with nothing but open fields to front and rear. His father Herbert was a design engineer employed by Cherry Tree Mangle Works. His specialism was in the design and build of boilers. In 1939 he was head hunted for the war effort, necessitating a move to Barrow in Furness. Herbert’s reserved occupation facilitated employment on the marine engine and the design team at Vickers as chief design engineer and he was later to be responsible for the design of the single funnel, speed boiler for the cruise ship Oriana, launched in 1959.
Ken’s mother Elizabeth looked after family matters, namely Ken and his brother Jim who was 11 years older. Ken played rugby and cricket while attending infant and junior schools and it was here that he met Brian Davey who has been a lifelong friend. Having passed his school certificate, Ken commenced work at Vickers as an engineering apprentice, a five year commitment which necessitated attendance at night school and college. On entering national service and completing all of the usual assessments, Ken’s engineering background was recognised and, in the true tradition of the British Army at that time, he was assigned to – the Army Catering Corps!
Ken met his wife Pam in a coffee shop in Barrow one Sunday evening and apart from one crisis point when he didn’t get her home by 10.30pm, thus incurring the wrath of her father; and the rest as they say, is history. Ken and Pam have now been married for 55 years and have a daughter named Helen and a son Christopher.
Following further details of Ken’s various roles in working life David asked lodge secretary Leon Gaskell to read a precis of the minutes recorded for the meeting when Ken was initiated, which he did, although he claimed it was difficult to read as it was printed on parchment. Ken had shown an interest in Freemasonry in his mid 20s, which was pursued by Pam, a hairdresser by trade, who knew of contacts. This led to Archi Fletcher proposing and Lewis Trevor Bonney, ironically a stone mason by trade, seconding Ken into Dalton in Furness Lodge No 6828 on 23 March 1967 at the age of 28.
On reaching senior steward, work was preventing Ken’s regular attendance and so he decided to join Semper Sursum Lodge No 5672 at Barrow which, being nearer to the railway station, gave him a better chance to do so. Fortunately, Pam’s uncle was a lodge member and he proposed Ken into the lodge. Ken remained a member of Semper Sursum Lodge until long after the family moved to Lytham.
Ken become a sides man at St. Cuthbert’s Church at Lytham and became friends with John Rawnsley who, after several years, invited Ken to become a Mason. Ken cautiously questioned John before declaring that he already was a Mason. Discovering this, John invited Ken to join Friendship Lodge No 4199 and after many visits Ken joined. Work commitments had always hindered Ken’s progress to the master’s chair but finally he was able to take office. He proceeded from senior deacon through to the masters chair and stayed as master of the lodge for two years, installing Tony Berry as his successor. Following this, Ken immediately took over as director of ceremonies due to necessity.
On the closure of Friendship Lodge, fate would intervene once again. Ken and Pam were downsizing and had thumbed through the yellow pages and picked out at random a furniture delivery company. Liam Bird duly arrived and unbeknown to Ken had a quiet word with one of his neighbours, Jack Blackburn, who made contact and the dye was cast. Jack proposed and Terry Hudson seconded Ken into Quadrant Lodge.
The Provincial Grand Master James Anthony Harrison was pleased to send his personal greetings to Ken in the form of a certificate which was read out by chairman of the South Fylde Group Ian Ward. This was followed by the presentation of a 50 year pin badge, carried out by Ken’s long standing friend Brian Davey. On completion of the presentation, David Winder invited Ben Gorry to resume his rightful place in the chair. Ben duly did so and completed the business of the evening, following which a collection for Masonic charities raised the sum of £121.
At the first rising, Ian Ward thanked David for his presentation, offered Ken his warmest congratulations on achieving his golden jubilee in Freemasonry and expressed his admiration for the many brethren who had travelled considerable distances to be at the meeting.
Following departure of the grand and Provincial officers, the lodge was closed and brethren repaired to the bar for a short interlude before going into the dining suite where 59 members and guests sat down to a delightful meal comprising black pudding Benedict, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and jam sponge pudding, all of which was served in grand style by the Square and Compasses catering staff.
While the tables were being cleared, the raffle, which had raised the sum of £262 for Masonic charities, was drawn. The winners (apparently no fix involved) were South Fylde group secretary David Barr and his chairman Ian Ward.
While responding to the toast to his health, David Winder took the opportunity to present Ken Cotton with a copy of the golden jubilee presentation and once again offered his congratulations. The toast to the celebrant was proposed by Peter Meakin who offered a number of amusing anecdotes about Ken’s Masonic career, including a story to do with a missing gavel and flying (you really had to be there).
In his response Ken outlined some of the Masonic activities he had been involved with and which had a particular place in his memory. These included helping to form the Northern Group Lodge of Instruction with the legendary Peter Walker. He said that he was overwhelmed by the support shown to him on the evening and was amazed at the representation from the great and good. To round up the evening, Jack Blackburn was called on to say a few words. Jack reiterated congratulations to Ken, said what a splendid evening it had been, that Ken Cotton was a really nice guy and that “everybody had had a good do!”
Bringing the evening to a close, the tyler’s toast was delivered by Kevin Frost, after which there was much animated discussion as members set off home.