James celebrates 60 years in Freemasonry

Brethren of Ormskirk and Bootle Group witnessed another special celebration when the members of Ormskirk Priory Lodge No 4007 gathered at Ormskirk Masonic Hall, with their many guests, to celebrate 60 years in Freemasonry for James Charnock. For the celebration the lodge was honoured by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright, who was accompanied by Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman Frank Umbers, group vice chairman Graham Chambers, with grand and acting Provincial grand officers.

Pictured from left to right, are: Robert Wright, James Charnock and Stuart Cunningham.

Pictured from left to right, are: Robert Wright, James Charnock and Stuart Cunningham.

The evening’s meeting commenced with the WM Stuart Cunningham, warmly welcoming everyone to the celebration before opening the lodge. Once the lodges business had been completed, the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies John Wilcock was admitted into the room.

John announced Robert Wright was without and demanded admission and he was duly admitted into the lodge room in a possession of grand officers, Frank Umbers, Roy Worthington (a former Chairman of the Ormskirk Group), Malcolm Alexander and the acting Provincial grand officers, David Scott, Michael Dutton and Russell Skidmore. Stuart warmly welcomed Robert to the lodge and offered him the gavel, which Robert graciously accepted.

James was then seated before the pedestal, where Robert proceeded to deliver his presentation on James’s life and Masonic career by saying: “Brethren, it is always a pleasure to have a celebration in any part of our lives, our memories over the years are punctuated by celebrations including birthdays, marriage, children or anniversaries. It is a time to share our joy and achievements with others; it is therefore very pleasing to see so many distinguished brethren here this evening. You are all very welcome and I thank you all most sincerely for your support of our celebrant. It is my honour to lead that celebration tonight of 60 years in Freemasonry, a truly marvellous achievement, for me it is always a revealing journey through time and I never fail to learn not only about the life of a celebrant but the social trends and historical events throughout the years which I hope to bring to life for you tonight. James Charnock, we are particularly delighted that with the assistance of your son, Steven, you have decided to hold this celebration here with us in lodge, we appreciate and thank you for the opportunity of celebrating this marvellous occasion with you. Brethren, I hope that this will be a celebration which not only you will remember but will stay with our celebrant, for many more years to come.”

James was born in 1933 to Elizabeth and Richard Charnock in Burscough. Richard was a chemist and had a shop in Burscough. James attended Hutton Grammar School near Preston, before going onto Rossall School in Fleetwood which had a renowned rugby team. From there James went to Liverpool School of Pharmacy for three years (now part of Liverpool John Moore’s University) and served one year as a locum before being called up for National Service. James served with the Army Medical Corps; it was at the time of the Suez crisis and James was thankfully not sent to Egypt, but it did mean however that his services were needed and he had to complete two and a half years’ service.

Robert (left) presenting James Charnock with his jubilee certificate

Robert (left) presenting James Charnock with his jubilee certificate

After being discharged from the Army Medical Corps, James began working with his father in his chemist shop before setting up his own business with a small chemist shop in Formby in 1956, formerly Charles Stephenson’s. Robert said: “This proved to be an inspired decision; at that time Formby had a population of around 7,500 and rapidly grew to over 20,000 in the next few decades. Young families moved in and babies followed, young mothers required baby formula and essentials which in the absence of supermarkets were, at that time, only available from chemists. Your business and your reputation grew along with Formby and you enjoyed your career until retirement in 1993 when you sold the business to Boots.”

James married Ann in 1958 and moved to Formby, James and Ann have two sons, Steven and Michael and six grandchildren.

When James was younger he use to play rugby, but his business required him working on a Saturday so that put paid to his active involvement. Robert said: “Indeed running a business makes it difficult to have a lot of spare time but you always enjoy watching sports. Luckily for you there was a television dealer next door, Talbots, who eventually sold out to Smiths TV in 1972 and for many years you enjoyed popping next door during quiet times to watch the sport on TV. It was in 1977, when I had my first summer holiday job working there in Formby that we met. Amazing to think that was 40 years ago. You struck up a friendship with my father and consequently I believe he never charged you for watching TV all those years for free. Indeed when I married and moved to Formby I remember my father asking you for guidance in respect of the suitability of me purchasing a property on the Park Road estate. Your approval given, I was told I could go ahead. I wonder what would have happened if not, either way, Tina and I thank you.” James enjoys all sports and has been a long standing member of Formby Golf Club.

Robert then went on to recount James’s Masonic history. James was initiated into Ormskirk Priory Lodge on 27 November 1957, where his grandfather Richard Charnock was a founder member, becoming WM in 1970 and served the lodge in the role as treasurer from 1971 to 1984. James was appointed to PrSGW of the Province of West Lancashire in 1978. Proud of this appointment James travelled widely around what at the time was the largest Province under the English Constitution with over 600 lodges.

James joined Lathom Lodge No 2229 and subsequently Setantia Lodge of Installed Masters No 7755 and has served the office of senior warden in both of them. In 1982 James’s service was recognised by receiving an appointment to Grand Rank as Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, with a further promotion to Past Junior Grand Deacon in 1992.

James was exalted into Chapter of Perseverance No 155 in 1979 attaining the chair of first principal in 1984. James was appointed Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 1988 and once again his service to the Royal Arch was recognised in 1989 by appointment by Supreme Grand Chapter to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer with further promotion in 1997 to Past Assistant Grand Sojourner. James is also a well-respected Mason in a number of other Masonic Orders and he has achieved similar high ranks in them.

James served the Ormskirk Group as vice chairman under Harry Caunce from 1989 to 1995; was appointed group chairman in 1995 and served until 2003. Robert said: “14 years of service to the group for which we thank you most sincerely, this is not a large lodge and it is to your credit that you have continued to contribute to Ormskirk Priory Lodge and are currently treasurer and have been since 2015, I very much look forward to being back with you all at your centenary in 2019. You have certainly been an active and committed Freemason, your 50th celebration was held in 2007 and was led by Brian Gillbanks, father-in-law to your son. I am sure that must have been a memorable night for you.”

Seated centre from left to right, are: Robert Wight, James Charnock, Stuart Cunningham with the grand and acting Provincial grand officers.

Seated centre from left to right, are: Robert Wight, James Charnock, Stuart Cunningham with the grand and acting Provincial grand officers.

After the detailed account of James’s life and Masonic career so far, Robert asked the Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman Frank Umbers to read out the jubilee certificate before Robert presented the certificate to James saying: “James Sutton Charnock PJGD of the United Grand Lodge of England, you have had a life full of hard work and dedication, commitment to family, success in your career and service to Freemasonry, it gives me great pleasure to present to you this certificate recording your achievement of 60 years in Freemasonry and to wish you on behalf of all the brethren here the best of health to enjoy many more years in Freemasonry in our company. Brethren once again please join with me in your warmest congratulations.”

With the presentation being over Robert handed the gavel back to Stuart, who closed the lodge and the brethren made their way to the dining hall for an excellent festive board, where the menus had placed within them a copy of the original summons from James initiation in 1957 and the copy of the original minutes from that meeting.

During the continued celebrations at the festive board, the lodge had the privilege to present to James six rose bushes, two called ‘Congratulations,’ two called ‘Anniversary’ and two called ‘Thank You.’ Each rose bush represented 10 years in Masonry.