Members of Jubilee Lodge No 5555 have celebrated the jubilee of another member of the lodge. On this occasion, the celebrant was Geoff Brown, making him the fifth member to celebrate 50 years as a member of the Craft in recent times. This includes Norman Hodgson who, having a 10 year start on the others, actually celebrated 60 years in the Craft. The occasion included an invitation to the ladies to hold a dining celebration in an adjacent room.
The lodge was honoured by the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder, who was accompanied by Provincial Deputy Director of Ceremonies Barry Fitzgerald. Others in attendance included the Preston Group Chairman Steve Bolton, grand officers, Ian Greenwood and Eric Picton and acting Provincial grand officer for 2016/17 Alan Howarth.
After the administrative business of the lodge was completed, Barry Fitzgerald entered the lodge to announce the presence of David Winder who duly entered to be warmly welcomed by the master of the lodge Huw Jones. David responded by thanking Huw and the lodge members for their generous welcome and concluded by accepting the gavel of the lodge.
On taking the master’s chair, David began by congratulating the evening’s celebrant Geoff Brown, on his celebration of the amazing milestone of 50 years as a Freemason. To set the scene of how long 50 years was, he reminded the brethren of some of the events that occurred those years ago. A year when the Torrey Canyon oil tanker ran aground off Land’s End, when Clint Eastwood made his debut in his first spaghetti western, ‘A Fistful of Dollars;’ North Sea gas was pumped ashore for the first time and Elvis Presley married Priscilla.
Turning to the evening’s celebration, David asked Barry to place the celebrant in a comfortable chair before him. He invited Geoff to relax and imagine himself sat by his fireside wearing a comfortable pair of Masonic slippers ready to enjoy the evening to the full.
Having set the scene, David began by recounting Geoff’s early life living in Parton in Cumbria, where his father was employed in the mining industry and his mother ran a confectionery business located in what was the parlour of their home. Geoff attended the local infant’s school before, having passed the 11 plus at the age of 10 years, continuing his education at Whitehaven Grammar School. The schools main sports interest centred on rugby. Geoff’s small physique and being a year younger than his classmates meant his interest in the sport was rather minimal to say the least. However, the academic side of his education was driven by an interest in mathematics, chemistry and particularly physics. ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels in his favourite subjects duly followed and university beckoned. However, living in God’s own county, Geoff chose to remain in Whitehaven and sought employment as a technical assistant at the Sellafield nuclear site.
Being a high security site, the bureaucracy and vetting process took quite some time, time that Geoff spent learning the skills of wallpaper hanging, painting and ironing under the expert tutelage of his mother. David did say that relief of sorts came when Geoff took a job as a postman where he gained a swift education in the ‘university of life.’ Having been assigned a round that covered the less salubrious areas of Whitehaven, he appeared to have the job of giro delivery boy acting as potential food for guard dogs with very sharp teeth. Fortunately, Geoff quickly realised that survival relied on timing to arrive when the dogs were asleep or on a leash.
David then turned to Geoff’s working life where, having finally gained acceptance at Sellafield, his career started in the Health Physics Department, initially with responsibility for the examination and monitoring of radiation film badges worn by workers operating in the active areas of the site. This work extended to an involvement in the research and development of a more efficient plastic film badge to replace the aging metal ones then in use.
Continuing, David mentioned Geoff’s work being recognised by being offered an opportunity to take a sandwich course to complete a physics degree at what is now London City University. Four years of academic study combined with six monthly periods back at Sellafield resulted in Geoff graduating with a degree in applied physics. Further study enabled Geoff to gain a post graduate certificate in education that led him to the world of teaching and a move to teaching physics and mathematics at Kirkham Grammar School.
Before continuing with Geoff’s working career, David returned to Cumbria and Geoff’s romantic exploits at the Nethertown ‘Tow Bar’ night spot, a very popular place for the local lotharios to hone their wooing skills. As per usual, hunting in pairs, Geoff and his colleague spotted a beautiful looking young lady on the dance floor. As both wanted first go with the patter, it was decided by a competition to see who could down a pint in the shortest time. David informed the brethren that Geoff’s drinking skills came to the fore and he duly asked Margaret to dance. Unfortunately, his dancing attributes were not up to the standard of his drinking expertise. However, Geoff had told David that his dashing good looks(!) saved the day by taking him to the winning post. Just over 12 months later they were married at St Michaels in Workington and honeymooned in Spain. 51 years of happy marriage not out, have seen the arrival of two children, Lyndsey and Mathew and five delightful grandchildren.
Drawing breath, David returned to Geoff’s time at Kirkham Grammar School where, not only teaching maths and physics, he became an officer of the combined cadet force engaging in tasks with pupils to develop their life skills and abilities, tasks that involved camping, canoeing and tramping across moors among other things. Geoff went on to gain promotion to Head of Physics at Balshaw Grammar School before being further promoted to Head of the Maths and Science Faculty at Broughton High with senior teacher status.
David referred to Geoff’s outside activities, of being a member of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation that involved collaboration in international exercises by radio and telephone as well as numerous desk top exercises regarding policing and emergency services control.
Turning to Geoff’s Masonic career, David invited the lodge secretary, Vic Parker, to read an extract from the minutes of the meeting at which Geoff was initiated.
David mentioned Geoff’s father, being a member of the Craft, had naturally assumed Geoff would follow in his footsteps as soon as he achieved the age of 21 years. At that time, despite being a Lewis, demand to join the lodge was such that it was a further three years before Geoff was initiated into Temperanati Lodge No 2854 meeting in Whitehaven. Working commitments, followed by a move to Fulwood, coupled with being newly married and the arrival of Lyndsey meant attendance at lodge became very difficult. Whilst Margaret was chatting to a work colleague, the subject of Freemasonry arose, resulting in Geoff being approached by Alan Airy. After attending a number of social events Geoff was proposed for membership of Jubilee Lodge by Alan and seconded by Joe Collier. Geoff duly completed all the offices leading to the master’s chair, finally attaining that position in 1999 only to make a return visit in 2005. His love of ritual saw him join the lodge lecture team that travelled far and wide. David disclosed that, on occasions, this could involve travel to the USA, more usually known as the ‘other side of Accrington!’
David continued by referring to Geoff’s commitment to Masonry that included duties as the lodge almoner for a period of six years, a commitment that was recognised with an appointment to the Provincial rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon. Following additional duties as social secretary and lodge treasurer that continue to the present time, his further contribution was recognised in 2016 with a promotion to the high and well deserved rank of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works. Completing his wander through Geoff’s Masonic career, David alluded to Geoff’s participation in the Royal Arch as a member of the Chapter of Concord No 343 and being a Mark Mason as a member of Leyland Mark Lodge.
David concluded his remarks by informing Geoff that the Provincial Grand Master Anthony Harrison, was aware of his celebration and though he could not be present in person he sent a personal greeting in the form of a certificate. He then invited the group chairman Steve Bolton to read the certificate.
David closed by reminding Geoff that, on the day his father started him on his Masonic journey as he was made a Mason, he was charged to be respectable in life, useful to mankind and an ornament to the society of which he was on that day made a member.
His final words were: “You have indeed met every test and task as you have travelled along your Masonic path. Here is wishing you, health, happiness and fulfilment in your Masonry and in all that you do. On a personal note, I thank you for telling me most of the truth for most of the time!” This was followed by well-deserved applause from all the brethren present.
It was suggested that membership of Jubilee Lodge may have something to do with longevity as, during the last 18 months, Geoff is the fifth member of the lodge to celebrate 50 years or more in the Craft.
Later in the evening, Huw Jones proposed the toast to Geoff’s health, congratulating him on his 50 years in Masonry and on behalf of the lodge, presented him with an engraved vase to record the occasion.
In response, Geoff thanked everyone for their support, particularly thanking David for, not only his work in the lodge but also the work he must have put in preparing what he was going to say. He concluded his response by saying how grateful he was to Freemasonry for the many good friends he had made during the years.
Huw, as the master of the lodge, had the pleasure of presenting David with a bouquet of flowers by way of a big thank you to his wife Sue for letting him out for the evening.
The celebration closed with Geoff making a visit to see the ladies in their dining room to present his wife, Margaret, with a big thank you bouquet of flowers for her support during their 51 years together.