The companions of King’s Chapter No 3101 gathered with the friends of Haldane Eccles to celebrate his 50 years in Royal Arch Masonry. Peter Williams opened the chapter ably assisted by his second and third principals Gary and Bob Jones and immediately proceeded with a very special ballot. The ballot was to confer honorary membership of the chapter to Haldane Raymond Eccles, the result proving more than favourable.
The members of the chapter were honoured by the presence of Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Paul Shepherd, accompanied by Haldane Eccles, Liverpool Group Chairman Sam Robinson, Robert Wright Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies and Phil Pattullo Provincial Grand Steward. Peter welcomed all the visitors and congratulated Haldane on his honorary membership and presented him with an illuminated address from the chapter recognising this and his service to King’s Chapter since his exaltation in 1965. Haldane replied in a dignified emotional and erudite manner, thanking the companions for their support over all of his time within the chapter.
Peter then offered Paul Shepherd the sceptre of the chapter which on this very special occasion he accepted. Paul said that the office of Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals carries a number of responsibilities and duties, but it also has a number of privileges and the prospect of being able to officiate at such wonderful golden jubilee celebrations as tonight, is without doubt the best. He continued by saying: “Companions this evening we are summoned to a very special meeting to honour and pay tribute to one who has served King’s Chapter here in Liverpool loyally and faithfully for 50 years. I refer of course to our distinguished celebrant this evening Haldane Raymond Eccles, Past Grand Standard Bearer of Supreme Grand Chapter. Companions the word celebrate means to do something enjoyable because of a feeling of pleasure at some event or achievement. Haldane is today celebrating his golden jubilee as a Royal Arch Mason, which it seems to me is most certainly an achievement well worth celebrating and companions, your presence here in the Egyptian Suite this evening in such splendid numbers would appear to indicate that you share that view.”
Robert Wright then escorted Haldane to a prominent position in the centre of the chapter and Paul then commenced his address to Haldane saying: ‘I will now take us back in time to the start of the previous century, Queen Victoria had died and a new King ascended the throne, the country lived through the horrors of the Great War, then entered into a period that is now known as, ‘The Roaring Twenties’ and in March of 1926, in the Liverpool suburb of Allerton a certain Haldane Raymond Eccles came roaring into this world.”
Haldane shares his birth year with many other people who also became prominent in their own fields in later life. We have a young Elizabeth born just five weeks after Haldane, who is now better known as Queen Elizabeth II, the Reverend Ian Paisley would become a prominent politician, George Martin who recorded and produced the first Beatles records, jazz singer George Melly was born in Liverpool as was the actor Leonard Rossiter. 1926 also gave us two famous comedians Eric Morecambe and Frank Carson, broadcasters David Attenborough and David Coleman and Danny Blanchflower from the world of football.
Although 1926 included a general strike it also gave us Winnie the Pooh, the first British Grand Prix race at Brooklands near Weybridge and the introduction of the now iconic red telephone box. And if Haldane was taken in his pram along by St James’s Mount he would see that Liverpool Cathedral was only about a fifth of the way towards completion. Honours were even at the local footballing derby with a stunning 3 – 3 result at home for Everton after their 5 – 1 thrashing earlier in the season at Anfield.
On attaining school age, Haldane attended Northway and later Broadgreen and on leaving obtained a seven year apprenticeship in the city centre at the Liverpool Paper and Printing Company situated at Redcross Street. However, as for all his generation war intervened with normal life and Haldane found himself in Northern Ireland with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, before a transfer to the Royal Scots Fusiliers as reinforcement for the Normandy landing. Another transfer beckoned and Haldane ended up with the Royal Army Medical Corps after serving as a stretcher bearer and became based in northern Germany, firstly at Lubeck then Wuppertal.
It was at this point that Haldane’s life took an unexpected turn for he enrolled on a chiropody course with the RAMC, which on leaving the army; he extended his knowledge on the subject enabling him to eventually qualify and open his own business. He later became secretary of the north-west region of the Institute of Chiropodists, a position which put him in good stead many years later when he became secretary and later vice chairman of the Masonic Liverpool No 8 Group.
In 1950 Haldane met his future wife Doris and they were married the following year, making it a 65th wedding anniversary in 2016. Blessed with four daughters, they now have eight granddaughters, two grandsons and a number of ever growing great grandchildren.
Haldane was exalted into King’s Chapter on 8 February 1965, with the cathedral at this time about 75% complete. At this time King’s was a ‘closed chapter’ meaning it only accepted candidates who were members of King’s Lodge No 3101. In later years the chapter was opened to include acceptable brethren from other lodges, the first of these to be exalted being Ron Charles of Princes Park Lodge No 4769. Haldane attained the first principal’s chair in 1981 and again in 2011. His first appointment in Provincial Grand Chapter was to Provincial Grand Steward in 1985, which entitled him to join the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter of West Lancashire No 8516 on 29 October 1985, becoming its first principal in 2005. He was further promoted in 1990 to Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah and then he obtained the high rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in Supreme Grand Chapter in 1993. Haldane has also been for many years the Chairman of the Grand and Provincial Grand Officers’ Luncheon Club which meets during the day at Liverpool Masonic Hall on the last Thursday of the month, October to May excepting December. He also holds or has held office in many other Masonic orders, to which he has approached all in the same enthusiastic manner.
Haldane still has great pleasure in telling of how on his exaltation, for various reasons, no festive board was available, so he and a fellow companion Ron Davies took themselves off to the Abbey Cinema in Wavertree to watch Mutiny on the Bounty, leading to an abiding friendship with Ron.
Completing his address to Haldane, Paul said: “Companions, throughout the 50 years of his membership of this fine chapter, Haldane has proved himself to be a man of great integrity, dignity and commitment and this evening he celebrates his golden jubilee in Royal Arch Masonry. I am sure that we all wish him the very best of good health and happiness for many years to come.”
Paul then invited Sam Robinson to read the certificate of appreciation which came from the Provincial Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison. Paul then presented Haldane with the certificate and on a personal note thanked him for his kindness, friendship and support. Haldane thanked Paul and said how much a delight it had been to sit there and listen to his melodious voice during the evening and it was indeed a pleasure to be the recipient of so much kindness. This concluded the official business for the evening, but the happiness and friendship at the festive board was a very convivial affair long into the evening.