Members of Bryn Lodge No 6553 were proud to host the celebration to commemorate the outstanding contribution to Masonry of one of its elder statesman, John Hilton, who was initiated 50 years ago. Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent was delighted to attend the meeting at Bryn Masonic Hall to celebrate with John his achievement of 50 years service in Masonry. Tony was accompanied at this very special event by fellow grand officer and Wigan Group Chairman Malcolm Taylor and supported by Malcolm Bell, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies and fellow acting officers Barry Dickinson (PrDGReg), Tony Simms (PrJGD), Eric Bailey (PrAGSuptWks) and Ken Wilson (PrGStwd).
The lodge was opened and the initial business conducted, following which the APrGM and distinguished guests were received into the lodge and warmly welcomed by worshipful master Geoff Whittle. Geoff, who under Tony Bent’s watchful eye, had only been installed at the last meeting and had no hesitation in offering him the gavel and was delighted when Tony retained it on this very special occasion to conduct the proceedings.
Tony stated that he was delighted to be in Bryn Lodge, for what was the third time in succession this year, to celebrate a very special occasion, the 50th jubilee of a very well respected Mason. 50 years of service in any capacity and in any walk of life is a living testament to a man’s commitment and is deserving of our recognition. He added that there have been doubtless many changes in the last 50 years, in the world in general and in Freemasonry in particular; but throughout that long period of time, John Hilton has remained a true Mason, holding on to those ideals of service and consideration for others which were inculcated into him 50 years ago and which still today form the abiding characteristics of our wonderful order. He then recounted a concise digest of what was happening in the world in 1936 when John was born and in 1965 when he joined the Craft, before talking about the career of a remarkable man and Mason.
John was born in March 1936 at Blackburn, Lancashire and due to his father’s work his early schooldays were spent in Blackburn, Lytham St Anne’s, St Helens, Eccleston and Rainford, before going to boarding school at Ellesmere College in Shropshire. On leaving school, John studied hard at Wigan Technical College and by a three year correspondence course, interrupted by two years National Service, before passing his examination for the Chartered Auctioneers and Estate Agents Institute. Once qualified, he began work at the Wigan firm of James Lowe and Sons, Estate Agents. He then moved to John Alker and Co of Manchester, where in due time he became a partner. In 1979 the partnership was split and John became a sole proprietor under the name of Alker and Hilton. In 1987 he sold the firm and worked on a five year contract running a professional office in Warrington before retiring at the age of 56.
After retirement John was appointed by the Lord Chancellor to the northern panel of the Residential Property Tribunal Service and adjudicated on landlord and tenant disputes. John married his wife Dorothy in 1967 at St Helens Parish Church and they have two children, Anne and Colin. Anne married an Australian, Wayne, and they live there with their two sons. Colin lives in St Helens. John has had a lifetime association with Orrell RUFC, which he joined in the 1954/55 season. Despite his playing career being cut short by injury he supported the club serving on the Executive Board from 1961 to 1994. Since his retirement he has been a keen crown green bowler and a valuable player for Bryn Lodge and the Masonic Hall team.
In Freemasonry, John was initiated into Lyndsay Lodge No 1335 at Tower Buildings in February 1965 and became worshipful master in 1975. In Provincial Grand Lodge John was appointed to the rank of PPrSGD in 1987 and was promoted to PPrJGW in 1995. He was lodge treasurer from 1984 until 2007 when Lyndsay Lodge and Bryn Lodge amalgamated. He also served as a director of Wigan Masonic Properties Ltd from 1986, being vice chairman from 1991 to 1999 and chairman from 1999 to 2007.
Tony then congratulated John and addressed him as follows:”As I said at the outset, 50 years of service in any aspect of our lives is a commendable achievement. Your membership of the Craft has seen the greatest changes in the way our order presents itself to the world and in the way in which we, as Masons, conduct ourselves in making the world at large much more aware of what we stand for and believe in. You may look back on those years of service with pride and no little satisfaction that the foundation stone placed in the north east part of Lyndsay Lodge all those years ago, was well and trulylaid.”
Following his address, Tony invited Malcolm Taylor to read out the certificate from the Provincial Grand Master, after which Tony presented the same to John. But there was a bigger surprise for John to come, as Tony announced that he had the authority of the Provincial Grand Master to promote him to the very high rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden and invested him with the collar and jewel of that rank, encouraging him to wear the badge with pride for many years to come. Tony invited John to retire with him after the first rising and they joined together in saluting the WM as they left the lodge.
A fine festive board followed the proceedings, with great food and wine. Sandy Mackay gave a toast to the health of his good friend and celebrant, explaining how John had been senior warden when he was initiated into Lindsay Lodge and thought at the time that he was a little stern. It did not take long for Sandy to realise how wrong he had been, John has become his friend and mentor to the present day. In responding, John talked with fond memories of his 50 years in Masonry and his happy days involved in the management of Tower Buildings. He finished a highly amusing response by relating the fact that the part he has always enjoyed in Masonry is sitting down at the festive board with friends, some of which have lasted for 50 years and others who remain lifelong friends. Both John and Tony were then presented with a huge bouquet of flowers, from the lodge members, for their respective wives before proceedings were ended.