Insight into a rare man

Members and visitors of Princess Park Lodge No 4769 assembled at Woolton Golf Club to celebrate 50 years in Freemasonry of Eric Samuel Hughes. The lodge was opened by the WM Andrew Mooney in timed form and with solemn prayer and the usual business of the lodge was conducted. The lodge was then opened in the second and third degrees.

Andrew Mooney (left) welcomes Eric Hughes.

Andrew Mooney (left) welcomes Eric Hughes.

Paul Hesketh (PrDGDC) was admitted and informed the brethren that Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton was outside the lodge and demanded admission. Kevin, accompanied group chairman Andrew Whittle, grand officers and acting Provincial officers processed into the lodge. Kevin was welcomed by the Andrew and offered the gavel. In accepting Kevin the gavel said that he would be pleased to accept it and he then closed the lodge to the first degree.

Kevin addressed the WM and brethren by saying: “Worshipful master, can I please thank you for allowing me to occupy your chair and for the opportunity to let me join in this evening’s celebrations. May I have your permission to have the outer guard tyle from the inside of the Lodge?” This was granted. Kevin continued: “Well brethren, can I wish you a very good evening; it’s wonderful to see the lodge room so full. It’s almost like being at St Johns Market with all the hustle and bustle and the toing and froing, fantastic.” Kevin requested Paul to place the celebrant before him and provided a short history of Eric’s life.

Eric was born on 9 December 1930, which now makes him the spritely 70 plus VAT. He was the second son of Hannah and Samuel Hughes of Wavertree. There were six children in Eric’s family, he had three brothers and two sisters and sadly Eric is the only surviving member. He was a pupil at Northway Primary School in Wavertree, which is still going strong, and from there went on to Highfield School, Broadgreen (now called Broadgreen International School) where you excelled at woodwork and it was his hope to be apprenticed in the trade when he left school at the age of 14.

Pictured from left to right, are: Phil Gambrill, Kevin Poynton, Eric Hughes, Andrew Mooney, Andrew Whittle and Paul Hesketh.

Pictured from left to right, are: Phil Gambrill, Kevin Poynton, Eric Hughes, Andrew Mooney, Andrew Whittle and Paul Hesketh.

However, at that time, men were leaving the armed forces after being demobbed at the end of the war and naturally returning to their trades, so it seemed that his dream to be an apprentice or a craftsman was not going to be possible. But from the age of 11, Eric always had an after-school and Saturday job as a messenger boy for businesses in the Picton Road area. He loved the outdoors, so cycling around doing his messaging was ideal. It also earned him some pocket money.

After leaving school, Eric started working for an independent greengrocer. It was hard work in those days, having to be at the wholesale fruit and vegetable market from 4:30am, six days a week. Lifting one hundredweight sacks of potatoes must have kept him very fit.

Sunday being his day off, Eric would still get up early and go cycling on the bike that he had saved so hard to purchase. He enjoyed cycling so much that he joined the Merseyside Wheelers Cycling Club in the racing section. Eric also joined Margaret Fry’s Dancing School to learn ballroom dancing and attained his bronze and silver medals by the time he was called up for National Service.

Eric was called up and joined the Royal Marines, as had his older brother Norman. RM 128242 Hughes duly reported to Chatham Barracks in January 1949 and after basic induction and training went on to the more rigorous duties of Commando Training at Lympstone in Devon. He was then posted to Eastney Barracks in Portsmouth for what was termed as ‘Big Ship Gunnery Course’, from there transferred to Fort Cumberland for landing craft training and was attached to the Special Boat Section. Next he was shipped out to the aircraft carrier HMS Implacable for warship manoeuvres docking at Malta, Gibraltar, North Africa and France, before reporting back to Fort Cumberland as his National Service had come to an end. Back in Civvy Street, Eric went back to work in the fruit trade and he also re-joined the Merseyside Wheelers.

Eric Hughes (third left) with grand lodge officers.

Eric Hughes (third left) with grand lodge officers.

Then, one Saturday in 1952, Eric and his friend were coming back from a dance at Signal Barracks and saw two girls waiting at the bus stop at the junction Queen’s Drive and Rocky Lane. Eric and his mate stopped and offered them a lift, which they accepted. That was a smart move on their part as the last bus had already gone! Anyway Eric got chatting and he asked the girl whose name was Kathleen if she would like to go with him to the Abbey Cinema the following Monday. That began two years of cycling back and forth between Wavertree and Woolton, for Eric was now courting Kath.

Being a keen cyclist, the biggest snag Eric encountered during his courting was that Kath’s idea of a bike ride was a couple of spins round Sefton Park. So when he asked her to go for a ride with the Merseyside Wheeler’s Social Section, she had no idea that they would all be cycling up north to the Trough of Bowland. Suffice to say, Eric’s membership of the Merseyside Wheelers came to an abrupt end.

In March 1954, Eric and Kath and were married at St Peter’s Church, Woolton. A couple of years later, Kath was at the Church Garden Fete when John Lennon and Paul McCartney met and played for the first time. Eric and Kath lived in Woolton for the next 25 years where their three daughters, Margaret, Erica and Norma were all born and grew up. When the girls had flown the nest, Eric moved to Hunts Cross, where he still lives.

Kevin went on to say: “Shortly after moving to Woolton you were invited to join the Elephant Hotel’s Bowling Club and you enjoyed many years as a member, until the green was turned into a car park. So you then became a member of Sefton Park Roundhouse Crown Green Bowling Club, where you spent several happy years before very reluctantly having to give in to an ageing back. Likewise with golf, which I understand you were only able to take up on your retirement. You were a member of Allerton Golf Club.”

In the early 1960’s Eric became a member of the Horticultural Committee for the Woolton Show, which was held each August Bank Holiday Monday on Camp Hill and he eventually became chairman of the horticultural section.

Work life kept Eric very busy, he had 3 shops; one in Ainsdale, one in Crosby and another in Ormskirk, and so after many years in the greengrocery trade, he decided to retire. He would have carried on for longer, but unfortunately Kath was very ill at the time. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it enabled Eric to take up the hobbies that he never had the time for during your working life. Eventually Eric was also able to realise his ambition to hone his skills at woodwork.

At 60 years of age, Eric enrolled at Liverpool Community College and during the following years he achieved many NVQ and City & Guilds qualifications. At 70, Eric achieved the ambition he had held when he was a 14 year old boy; he had completed his apprenticeship and for the second time became a craftsman, (the first time of course being figurative). All his skills are still regularly called for by his expanding family, which now includes a great-great-grandchild. Eric also likes to cook and his Christmas dinners are part of family folklore.

Kevin Poynton (left) presents the certificate to Eric.

Kevin Poynton (left) presents the certificate to Eric.

Kevin then outlined Eric’s Masonic career by saying,” Eric your introduction into Freemasonry started when two elderly gentlemen visited you at home in November 1964, to check your suitability to become a member of Allerton Lodge No 6653. They asked Kath if she had any objection to you becoming a Mason and said you would only be out two evenings a month. (How many times have we heard that?). Those two evenings very soon multiplied as time went by and were the start of a very long and fulfilling Masonic career.

Fortunately, Kath was a member of the Lady Freemasons and between them they had a mutual understanding of the time that they would be committing. Eric was eventually initiated into Allerton Lodge No 6653 on 20 February 1965 and became WM of the lodge in October 1975. This was the first of three times as WM of the lodge; the second on 17 October 1983 and the third on 7 October 1996. Eric has held every office in the lodge apart from secretary. He was director of ceremonies and group representative for several years up to the time that he became a member of Woolton Lodge of Unity No 1086 in November 2005. This was due to the fact that Allerton Lodge was part of an amalgamation of four lodges, from which he resigned in April 2006.

Eric was a founder of Garston Lodge of Installed Masters No 9403 in December 1991 and he became its WM in May 1994. He is now a member Princes Park Lodge No 4769, joining in October 2006. He took the office of senior warden for two years in 2009 and 2010 and became its WM in 2011, where he remained for two years.

After becoming interested in Royal Arch, Eric was exalted into Downshire Chapter No 594 on 13 March 1974 and attained the first principal’s chair in January 1979 and was charity steward from 1995 to 1999. Unusually though, Eric received his first Provincial honours in Royal Arch in 1984 when he was appointed Past Provincial Principal Grand Sojourner. (This was significant, because it was pretty unusual to receive RA honours before Craft). In 1992 he was promoted to the very high rank of PPrGSN.

Eric’s efforts in the Craft were recognised by the Province in 1987 when he was appointed to his first rank of PPrJGD and then in 1995 promoted to his current rank of PPrJGW. He has also been very active in other Masonic orders.
Eric and Kath have raised huge amounts of money for various organisations both inside and outside of Masonry, holding many functions to support such causes as the Girl Guides and Scouts movement, Maghull Parish Church (funding wheelchair access), Sight Line North West (for blind people and people with impaired sight). Kensington Community Club (providing chairs and tables for the locals), Kids Wheels Association and many more such causes such as Zoë’s Place, Leonard Cheshire Foundation and Merseyside Inshore Lifeboat, the list goes on.

For many years Eric was group charity steward for the 8th Liverpool Group as well a member of the 7th Liverpool Group Festival Committee and many other events. Eric and Kath have led a busy and fulfilling life and last year celebrated your diamond wedding anniversary, it is hoped that their happiness continues on for them both with good health.

Bringing Eric’s history to a close, Kevin said: “This evening is to celebrate Eric’s golden jubilee in Craft Masonry and to that end the Provincial Grand Master has caused a commemorative certificate to be produced to mark the occasion.” Kevin asked the group chairman Andrew Whittle to read it aloud. After Andy had read the certificate Kevin continued by saying: “Brethren, it is said that there are many pleasures in a man’s life, but the greatest pleasure of all is to know that you are loved and that is evident by the number of people that have taken the trouble to be here this evening to share in Eric’s celebrations.”

Stepping down from the chair, Kevin spoke to the celebrant: “Eric, it gives me much pleasure on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master and on my own behalf, but more importantly on behalf of each and every brother present this evening to humbly present this certificate and to say thank you for allowing us to share in the celebration of your golden jubilee in Freemasonry. Brethren, I present to you Eric Samuel Hughes, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden of the Province of West Lancashire”, which gave rise rapturous applause.

Eric asked Kevin if he might call the group chairman forward and in so doing presented him with a cheque for group purposes. Eric was not yet finished. He asked if he could call forward one of the grand lodge officers Dr David Withey. With deep emotion Eric presented him with a cheque also. David was astounded and asked if could reveal its contents. The cheque was for £1,000 to which Eric added that his daughter had become blind and the School for the Blind had provided exceptional services. David thanked Eric by saying: “You always have the ability to surprise us and thanks come from the bottom of my heart.”

Kevin requested the WM to re-occupy the chair and after the charities had been honoured the lodge was duly closed.

As recorded in the tyler’s book, 68 brethren retired to the festive board and in response to the toast to his health, which had been delivered by the group chairman, Kevin thanked the acting Provincial Grand Steward Phil Gambrill for attending and continued by thanking Paul Hesketh for adding lustre to the evening. He reminded brethren that the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison would be attending the Woolton Group Diner and urged as many WMs and wardens to attend. Kevin said that Tony was a very likeable person, different from his predecessors and liked to meet brethren. Also, Kevin reminded brethren of the forthcoming group carvery. In closing he thanked everyone for their friendship and hospitality saying he had had a truly wonderful evening.

Pictured top left: Andrew Mooney (right) drinks a toast with Eric with pictures of the brethren enjoying the festive board.

Pictured top left: Andrew Mooney (right) drinks a toast with Eric with pictures of the brethren enjoying the festive board.

 

David Newland proposed the toast to Eric, a long-standing friend who had also been a member of Allerton Lodge. He recounted times gone by and said: “Look around and see how well respected Eric is. Who would ever consider giving Eric a gun in his commando days?”

Eric responded in his usual imitable manner and closed, in the way he knew best, by telling another story. What a truly wonderful evening all in attendance were privileged to witness.