A large queue formed at the entrance to the Sefton Suite, in the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool where over 80 Masons queued for their entered apprentice aprons which were given out by members of the Lodge of Perseverance No 155. The lodge has a long-established tradition that every member or visitor regardless of rank is only allowed to wear an entered apprentice apron and no other regalia.
The reason for the large attendance and use of the Sefton Suite as a lodge room, was for the golden jubilee of Sydney David Ford, who on this occasion, was celebrating 60 continuous years as a Mason having been initiated in 1963.
Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews is senior warden of the lodge, and was joined by three assistants, Frank Umbers, Andrew Whittle and John James. There were also four group chairmen in attendance, Graham Chambers of the Ormskirk and Bootle Group, David Atkinson of the Mersey Valley Group, David Johnson of the Liverpool Group and Paul Storrar of the Gladstone Group. With many past group chairmen, grand and Provincial grand officers also in attendance amongst the many brethren gathered, the room was filled with conversation and an expectant air for the meeting that was about to begin.
WM Clive Hamilton brought the proceedings to a start by welcoming all of the many members and guests to the lodge, who were arranged in a two-row circular seating arrangement, so that no matter where everyone was seated a good view of the lodge room could be observed. Welcoming the Provincial Grand Master to the lodge, Clive instructed that Mark be offered the gavel of the lodge, however, on this occasion Mark said that he was happy to observe the proceedings and would remain as senior warden. Without further ado, Clive proceeded to open the lodge in fine form, assisted by senior warden Mark Matthews and junior warden, Mark Holloway all in good voice.
The first order of business was to ballot for and if successful, admit a joining member, the ballot was successful, and Robert Povall, who is a former Liverpool Group Chairman was admitted to the lodge and took his rightful place. Master Clive, then requested would John James Assistant Provincial Grand Master, honour the lodge and occupy the chair of King Solomon.
John requested that two chairs be brought forward and invited Syd Ford to occupy the chair and make himself comfortable. John explained to all present, that we are all gathered to celebrate the landmark achievement of a 60-year anniversary as a Freemason.
John commented that it was an honour to be able to lead the celebration, having personally known Syd for the best part of 30 years, and that he was extremely pleased but not surprised to see so many brethren gathered, as it reflected the high esteem, affection, and fraternal regards of everyone who knows Syd.
Syd was born in 1936 in the Prince Alfred Public House, Chester to parents, Charles and Edith, with two older sisters, Dorothy and Lillian. The very next day, King Edward VIII abdicated, whether this had any relation John joked, remained to be seen, but Syd immediately began to make his mark on the world.
Educated at the local primary school over the road, Syd then entered Grosvener St John Junior school, moving to Chester College, where he passed his ‘transfer exam’ and began secondary education at Chester City Grammar School. Syd excelled and passed his General Certificate of Education Ordinary Levels and achieved further success at advanced level, in physics, chemistry and biology, the latter of which was apparently studied in the girls’ part of the school. John did ask Syd which subject he enjoyed the most, Syd being a gentleman demurred to furnish an answer.
Having completed his school studies, Syd was offered an apprenticeship at Boots the chemist, and went on to study pharmacy at Liverpool College of Technology, which later became Liverpool Polytechnic, and today is Liverpool John Moore’s University. In 1958 Syd qualified as a pharmacist. Initially working in Boots as a relief pharmacist covering a huge area of North Wales and Cheshire, he then became branch manager in West Kirby. This was the springboard for further ambitions and Syd opened his first chemist shop in Stoneycroft, Liverpool.
Following a whirlwind romance, Syd had by this time married Sylvia and moved to Heswall, following the tragic death of his son Andrew shortly after birth, in 1967, a daughter Deborah was born. Deborah followed her father’s academic aspirations, studying at Kings College, Oxford, and subsequently became a lecturer at Queens University, Belfast. Having spent four years as a missionary in Kenya, she is now involved in missionary work in Ireland, and lives in Belfast.
The achievements of Deborah are even more remarkable explained John, as during her final year at Oxford, sadly Syd’s wife Sylvia passed away, and despite this Deborah passed her final exams, no doubt with the support and encouragement of Syd.
On the business front, Syd had now opened a second chemist shop in Lodge Lane, and then expanded opening a wholesale business distributing pharmaceuticals to the UK and Eire. John explained by this time Syd was rapidly becoming the largest drug dealer in the North West! A third chemist shop was purchased, this time in Rice Lane, however perhaps the pressures of running a large enterprise took its toll and Syd unfortunately suffered a heart attack, from which thankfully he made a full recovery, the decision was made to scale back and the businesses divested over the ensuing years.
Moving on to Syd’s Masonic journey, brethren learned that Syd’s father, uncle, and grandfather were all Cheshire Masons, and Syd was initiated in Loyal City Lodge No 4839 in the Province of Cheshire, in December 1963. As lodges were much larger in terms of membership in those days, it was 13 years later that Syd became master of Loyal City Lodge, which in 1976 also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the lodge. In a few more years it will be the centenary of the lodge and Syd is looking forward to being a part of those centenary celebrations.
After coming out of the chair, Syd became secretary of the lodge, remaining in that position for the next 13 years. This was to be fertile ground, for the honing of organisational expertise, people management and of great benefit to the lodge and Freemasonry in general. After meeting with Kenneth Moxley, Past Provincial Grand Master, as a result of Syd’s association with Caldy Church, he was persuaded to join a lodge in West Lancashire and in 1985 joined Lodge of Perseverance No 155 and just five years later became master of the lodge.
Around the same time, again through Syd’s association with Caldy Church, that he met Bill Bruxby who was secretary of the Second Liverpool Group, and Syd was invited to join Coronation Lodge No 2923 in 1990. This was to be a fortuitous decision as a few years later at a Ladies to Dine evening at Coronation Lodge, that Syd met Val. They were married in 1998 and have recently celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.
Whilst at Coronation Lodge, Syd was interviewed by Bill Bruxby and John’s father, Cyril James, Second Liverpool Group Chairman, and invited to become the secretary of the Second Liverpool Group. Over time Syd, became vice-chairman and ultimately chairman of the group. Following the re-organisation of the Liverpool groups in 2001, Syd was invited to be Chairman of the Garston Group, consisting of 19 lodges and 6 chapters. Whilst chairman, Syd was supported by a young and upcoming Mason as Group Secretary, Howard Griffiths.
Syd has and continues to have an impressive Masonic career, since becoming master of Loyal City lodge, and then Lodge of Perseverance, he has been secretary in both lodges, joined Cheshire Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge No 3449, a member of Liverpool Exchange Lodge No 4545 (erased), Lathom Lodge No 2229, and Coronation Lodge No 2923, serving as master three times. Syd is also a founding Admiral of the Dee Board of Corks No 5.
Promoted to Provincial Grand Steward in Cheshire, he was elevated to Provincial Junior Grand Warden in West Lancashire (1992) and Cheshire (1993). Appointed a grand officer as Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995, and further promoted to Provincial Junior Grand Deacon in 2003.
Whilst as a Craft Mason, this would be a very impressive history, however the brethren then learned that Syd is also secretary of two luncheon clubs, and a member of other Masonic Orders. Syd has also been church warden at Caldy Church for over 30 years, which although he has recently stepped down, is still heavily involved.
John rounded off this incredible celebration with a dedication to Syd, stating: “Everything you have ever done in life has been to the best of your ability. West Lancashire Freemasons owe you a great debt, and even after 60 years of Freemasonry you are still a stalwart supporter of your lodges and the church, continuing to offer assistance and take on offices whenever required. The reputation you have earned by being honest, reliable and trustworthy goes a long way to explain why you are so liked and respected.”
John then invited the Chairman of Gladstone Group, Paul Storrar, to read out a celebratory certificate which had been raised to mark his 60th anniversary as a Mason. Mark Matthews crossing the floor, then presented the certificate to Syd and congratulated him on such a wonderful celebration.
With such a large gathering, the festive board was arranged with many circular tables spread around the room, with Syd sat at the top table with his distinguished guests. After pre-dinner drinks had been taken, dinner was served and the conversation turned to the event that had just taken place, with many offering their congratulations to Syd, in the form of a toast to the health of Syd and in recognition of a wonderful achievement. Syd in return thanked all of those present for their participation and gave a heartfelt speech of thanks. The last words should be left to Howard Griffiths, who in recognition of their friendship and journey through Freemasonry gave a lovely speech in tribute to Syd, which was loudly applauded by all present.