John, a Merchant for 50 years

John Wickstead celebrated a very special moment when members of his lodge, Merchants’ Lodge No 241, along with Assistant Provincial Grand Master Derek Parkinson and the Liverpool Group Chairman Mark Matthews, visited his home to present him with his jubilee certificate for completing 50 years as a Freemason.

Derek Parkinson (left) and John Wickstead.

Due to ill-health, John is no longer able to visit his lodge and needs assistance when walking any distance. On calling to John’s house to present the 50th jubilee certificate, the party was warmly welcomed by John and his wife Beryl.

The couple were both looking well and after presenting Beryl with a bouquet of flowers, they all sat in the lounge chatting. Accompanying Derek and Mark was Ray Fitzsimmons, who updated John on all the members of the lodge. The normal formalities of such a gathering were put aside, as Derek gave a brief account of John’s achievements, both Masonic or otherwise, including his appointment and promotion in Provincial Grand Lodge.

Edgar John Wickstead, known as John, was born at Liverpool in 1925. As a youth he became a member of the scouting movement, an interest he shared with Ray Fitzsimmons and it emerged that John liked noting more than hitting the big bass drum with gusto on parade as part of the local scout band. A natural progression, due to having a love of the outdoor life nurtured by his scouting, John joined his local hiking club. His favourite area at that time being around the Peak District and the Derbyshire hills. Being only a seven-year-old boy in 1932, John was too young an age to have taken part in the mass trespass on Kinder Scout that year. However, he was eternally grateful to those who did take part, as it resulted in opening up the area, he loves so much, to all.

After leaving school, John secured employment with Metropolitan Vickers in Trafford Park in Salford. At this period the company was the biggest and most important heavy engineering facility in Britain and possibly the world, making transformers, switchgear and electronics and in the 1940’s they were making aircraft for the war effort. During that time, John lived in lodgings in Salford and came home to his parent’s house at weekends.

In 1943 he was called up and posted to RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire, on essential work as a wireless fitter. During the war a total of 122 bomber aircraft and their crews were lost on operations from Hemswell, including 38 Handley Page Hampdens, 62 Vickers Wellingtons and 22 Avro Lancasters. John would have undoubtedly known many of the crew members who never returned, but has always kept a quiet counsel on this area of his life. On the cessation of hostilities, John returned to Liverpool, securing employment with English Electric on the East Lancs Road.

John Wickstead (left) with Ray Fitzsimmons.

It is well known that John was a good mover and could do a marvellous turn around the dance floor for both the polka and Viennese waltz. It was at a dance in the church hall at Christ the King in Childwall, that John met Beryl. Unfortunately, although both liked each other tremendously, John had already decided to try his luck in Australia and so in 1951 he set sail on the Pacific and Orient ship, SS Orcades, bound for Sydney. John had gone to work on his uncle’s farm in Norfolk Island, but the attraction of getting back to the Derbyshire hills or meeting up with Beryl again, probably the latter, won the day.

He decided to return to Liverpool in 1953 and came back on another P & O ship, SS Otranto. His romance with Beryl blossomed and they married in 1954. The couple had two sons Neil and Robert, but sadly Neil died in a motor cycle accident at a young age, an all too familiar story for many families. The hurt of loving their son is still evident today, with John visibly upset when telling his visitors of this event. Happily, their other son Robert is married with two children, so John and Beryl have a granddaughter and a grandson who they absolutely adore and love to spend time with. John and Beryl also thoroughly enjoyed travelling and visited many European countries but they favoured Germany and Austria and not so long-ago John was attending classes in conversational German.

Derek then moved onto John’s Masonic career, which began when he was initiated into Merchant’s Lodge 50 years ago to the very day and progressed to be WM in 1977. In 1988 John was appointed to the acting Provincial rank of Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and eight years later promoted to Past Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendent of Works. The couple have fully supported the lodge over many years and have attended many of the social events held by Merchants’ Lodge, including ladies’ evenings, lunches and quiz evenings.

It was at this juncture that Derek requested Mark to read the jubilee certificate. Afterwards Mark added, “John you have always been a very well respected member of Merchants’ Lodge and became known as someone that could be relied on to help with the ceremonies and perform the ritual to a very high standard and so it is with the greatest pleasure that on behalf of us all I thank you for all you have done for Freemasonry in general and the Merchant’s Lodge in particular and congratulate you on celebrating 50 years as a Freemason.”

Besides the 50th jubilee certificate, John was also presented with a transcript of the Merchant’s Lodge minutes from the night of his initiation. This showed that his proposer was G H Barrett and he was seconded by G Payne, with L H Sharp as WM and W M Griffiths and H Smith as senior warden and junior warden respectively. Sadly, the time with John and Beryl flew past far too quickly and reluctantly Derek and the other brethren had to bid their fond farewell, but no doubt their time with the couple will live long in their memory.

Pictured from left to right, are: Derek Parkinson, John Wickstead and Mark Matthews.