Len celebrates 50 years in Freemasonry

The brethren and their many visiting guests gathered at the Litherland Masonic Hall for the very special meeting of St Luke’s Lodge No 6006. It was to celebrate the unique and important milestone in Len Hudson’s Masonic career, that marking his 50 years in Freemasonry. For the celebration the lodge was honoured by the attendance of Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright, who was accompanied by Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman Frank Umbers, group vice chairman Graham Chambers, together with grand and acting Provincial grand officers.

Robert Wright (left) presenting Len Hudson with his jubilee certificate.

The meeting commenced with the WM Ian Gee, opening the lodge and once the lodges business had been completed, the visitors were invited into the temple by the lodge’s DC Ray Barrow. Once all were seated Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton was admitted into the room. Mark announced that Robert Wright was without and demanded admission and he was then duly admitted into the lodge room, accompanied by a procession of grand officers including Frank Umbers, Peter Levick, Freddie Wright, Arend van Duyvenbode, Roy Pyne, Malcolm Alexander and the acting Provincial grand officers, Thomas Bradfield-Kay, David Scott and Russell Skidmore, with David Sullivan and Joe Williams acting as Provincial Deacons.

Ian warmly welcomed Robert to the lodge and offered him the gavel, which Robert graciously accepted. Len was then seated before the pedestal, where Robert proceeded to deliver his presentation on Len’s life and Masonic career. He began 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’s births or anniversaries. Many things, which allow us 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 especially as I know many of you have travelled a long way to be here and I thank you all most sincerely for your support of our celebrant, it is my honour to lead this celebration tonight of 50 years in Freemasonry of a very distinguished brother who has given his time and energy in service to Freemasonry, to family and the community. This celebration brethren, is a special one indeed as are any 50th celebrations, stories of Liverpool, of sport and history. I hope that this will be a celebration which not only you will remember but will stay with our celebrant for many years to come.”

Robert then proceeded to give a detailed account of Len’s life. Len was born in 1946 to Alfred and Edna Hudson and attended Roby School, before moving onto Malvern Primary School and finishing at Huyton Secondary Modern. Robert said: “Freddie Starr whose real name was Freddie Fowell also attended Huyton Secondary Modern, but he was a couple of years ahead of you.”

In 1961, Len left school at the tender age of 15 and half, to start work at a ship’s store merchants called Burnycats, South Castle St, Liverpool as an office/post boy. He then moved over to work in the customs department, where Len’s first wage was £4.10 shillings a week (£4.50). He worked for several shipping and forwarding companies, moving each time for a raise in pay. His role was making sure the customs entry forms were correctly completed at Liverpool Docks, eventually Len was ‘head hunted’ to become the Import Manager for C Claridge Air Freight at Liverpool Airport.

Many of the shipping lines, when changing their crew, would fly them in and out of Liverpool Airport with their luggage often going separately. This was a familiar pattern but one day Len was approached by two men who asked him to clear their luggage for them, through customs. As stated, this was not a totally unusual request, so he completed the necessary clearance. However, when asked on a second occasion to do the same, Len’s suspicions were aroused and as a result, he contacted HM Customs and Excise and a ‘sting exercise’ was set up. Len had to confront the men to establish ownership of the bags, following which the team swept in to make the arrests.

As a result of that, a large haul of cannabis resin was seized and further arrests followed, which broke up a major drugs ring. In the subsequent court case they were defended by Dame Rose Heilbron, who became Britain’s first woman judge. At the trial, Judge Christmas Humphreys commended Len’s actions and awarded him a £50 reward from the court.

Len moved on to work for A E Taylor and Company as General Manager. Here, two brothers ran the business; one ran the shipping side and the other managed a road transport company in North Wales. They had the contract for Singer sewing machines distribution in the UK. As shipping was declining in Liverpool the business became unviable and was taken over by Peter Brook, whose business practices Len rapidly realised did not match his own standards. After the brothers and Len had extricated themselves from their relationship with the new owner, they formed their own company, Trinitas Freight Services Ltd, taking with them the Singer contract. They opened a bonded warehouse and distributed wines and spirits throughout the UK for LiquorSave, which had an outlet in every Kwik-Save store, prior to them entering into administration in 2007. Len became a Fellow of the Institute of Freight Forwarders in 1978 and sold his interest in the Trinitas company in the early 1980’s but remained a consultant.

The ‘St. Luke’s Mug’ donated by Harold Scott.

Having not much to do, Len then took on SportsLife, a sports shop in Heswall on the Wirral for some 10 years. Robert reminded him of this time by saying: “You recall selling a tennis racquet to Paul McCartney for his brother Malcolm, who lived in Heswall. I believe that one of your customers was Terry Sylvester from the group ‘The Hollies’ and you played squash on a regular basis with Lionel Morton who developed the hit ‘Juliet’ for the band ‘The Four Pennies’.”

It transpired that, after Len retired from the sports shop John Marsden, the past Bootle Group Vice Chairman, asked if Len would like to help out at the Halifax Business Centre at the Pier Head offices in Liverpool. So Len became manager in the post room service management department, for what was supposed to be a couple of weeks; he stayed for eight years! Also, during this time Everton Football Club were in need of a turnstile manager and for three years on each Friday before match days, Len attended meetings with the police and security firm organising the safety of fans entering into the ground. Len finally retired in 2010 after a long and varied career.

Len met his wife Dot, at the local Methodist Church Youth Club, whilst he was in the Boys Brigade and it was on a youth club trip to Austria that they first got together, and as they say, the rest was history.

Whilst courting in the early 60’s they both worked in the centre of Liverpool and met at venues like the Cavern Club. Len remembers Cilla Black when she was the cloak room and hat check girl and he also remembers one day talking to Ringo Starr, who whilst watching The Beatles one evening, confided to Len that he was going to be replacing Pete Best.

Dot’s father worked for Higsons Brewery and they supplied The Grapes pub, which was just over the road from the Cavern Club. Her dad was asked to build the stage at the Cavern, which he did from old barrels. When the club ‘warmed up’, despite no alcohol being sold at The Cavern, it often smelt of beer as a result! Len also attended a venue called ‘Downbeat’ and as a result of even more name dropping involving ‘The Swinging Blue Jeans’ and ‘Manfred Mann’, Len ended up in the audience of ‘Top of The Pops’, dancing away in the background.

Dot and Len were married in 1968 and have they have two children Catherine and Jill. They also have two grandchildren.

Robert then informed the brethren about Len’s hobbies, highlighting Len’s support for Everton FC. When he was younger, he was a keen runner and indeed competed in the Chester half marathon in 1993 and the London marathon in 1994 at the age of 48, on both occasions raising money on behalf of Masonic charities. At the time it was part of an initiative to raise £6,006, that being the number of Len’s lodge.

The London marathon was the toughest. Len found out later that he had suffered a stress fracture in his right foot, but he ran on to complete the course in four and half hours which was very commendable. He has also enjoyed taking flying lessons; one in a classic World War II, Tiger Moth bi-plane which he says was very interesting. Len has also flown supersonic on Concorde on a special flight out of Speke Airport.

Len also enjoys reading, walking, dining out and has an interest in the history surrounding the two World Wars which he shares with his friend, John Marsden. Both Len and John have visited cemeteries and battlefields from both wars, including visits to Normandy. Len’s interest has been inspired by knowing that his two great uncles had lost their lives in the First World War. There is no known grave for either of them, but Len has found their names recorded on the memorials at Arras in France. Len was the first in his family to visit the site and indeed found it to be a very poignant and moving occasion.

On another visit, Len and John went to the Indian Cemetery at Neuve-Chapelle and met a war graves commissioner who was showing round the Maharaja of the Punjab, Amarinder Singh. Both of them were introduced to the dignitary and met him again at the Menin Gate service at Ypres the next day.

Len has travelled extensively and in particular has enjoyed cruising and on one occasion he travelled through the Panama Canal. Robert noted that: “On one of those cruises in 2001 you met David Hudson, no relation but who you inspired to join Masonry and he is here today. David will be honoured with grand rank later this and we offer him congratulations and thank him for being here today.”

Robert then gave a detailed account of Len’s Masonic career, relating that he was initiated into St Luke’s Lodge on 19 February 1968 at Eberle Street, Liverpool. His proposer was Percy Credidio and seconder Ken Brook. He was installed as WM in 1976 when he was only 29 years old. Len was informed that he was the youngest WM in the Province at that time. Len served the lodge as treasurer after his year as IPM and has been in an office ever since. He took the chair again in 2006. His service to Masonry was recognised by his appointment to the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon in 1988 and he was subsequently promoted to the very high rank he now holds of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 1996.

Len joined Alliance Chapter No 667 in 1986 and was its first principal in 1992. However, in 1995 the chapter amalgamated and remained in Liverpool, so he moved to join Thornton Chapter No. 8008. He received honours in Provincial Grand Chapter as Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1999.

Len is also a well-respected Mason in a number of other Masonic Orders and he has achieved similar high ranks in them.

After the detailed account of Len’s life and Masonic career to date, Robert asked the Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman Frank Umbers to read out the jubilee certificate, before Robert presented the certificate to Len saying: “You have set an example to us all in your life, a life full of hard work, of service to the church, commitment to family, success in your career and dedication to Freemasonry. It gives me great pleasure to present to you this certificate recording your achievement of 50 years in Freemasonry and to wish you on behalf of all the brethren here, the best of health to enjoy many more years in our company; brethren once again please join with me in extending your warmest congratulations.” Robert then, on behalf of the lodge, presented Len with a set of jubilee Masonic cufflinks and a tiepin.

With the presentation being over, Robert handed the gavel back to Ian who closed the lodge and the brethren then made their way to the dining hall for an excellent festive board. The menu consisted of pate with onion jam and granary toast, followed by roast lamb, chef’s choice vegetables and gravy followed by apple pie and custard for dessert. During the festive board a raffle was held which raised £201 with the proceeds shared between the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and the Walton Centre, both of which were Len’s choices.

During the speech to Len’s health given by John Marsden, he informed the brethren that it was rare for a celebrant to be celebrating a 50th jubilee with one of his proposers, as Ken Brook, his seconder and also one of the people involved during Len’s initiation ceremony, was in attendance.

At the festive board, every diner received a very kind gift of a special ‘St Luke’s mug’, which were donated by Harold Scott, the lodge’s chaplain. The mug features Harold’s painting and drawing of St Luke’s Church.

Robert Wright and Len Hudson (centre), with the grand and acting Provincial grand officers.