The brethren of Jubilee Lodge No 5555 celebrated 50 years in the Craft of Gordon Clarke, the third member of the lodge to achieve this distinction during the current year. On this occasion, the lodge was honoured by the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder who was accompanied by Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas. Also in attendance was the Preston Group Chairman Steve Bolton, the group vice chairman Geoff Saul and grand officer Ian Greenwood.
After transacting the administrative business of the lodge, David Winder entered to be welcomed by the WM Rick Whelan. David responded by accepting the gavel of the lodge and thanking Rick and the lodge members for their generous welcome. On taking the master’s chair, David began by enquiring if Jubilee Lodge was the epicentre of 50th’s, this being the third within the lodge this year, Joe Collier and Philip Laker both celebrating earlier in the season; with a forthcoming 60th celebration in the offing.
Turning to the evening’s celebration of Gordon’s jubilee, David asked the PrDGDC to place the celebrant in a comfortable chair before him. David began by reminding the brethren of some of the events that occurred 50 years ago. A year when the Post Office Tower first came on line in London, Alex Leonov became the first person to walk in space and Sir Stanley Mathews played his last first division game at the record age of 50 years and five days. The first Tom and Jerry cartoon was shown and the No 1 record of the day was, ‘I’ve got you babe.’
Having set the scene, David continued by recounting Gordon’s early life, when his mother was the bread winner of the family due to his father being unable to work as a result of illness that had severely damaged his heart; a situation that would have future consequences for Gordon’s education. His education began by attending Emmanuel C of E Primary School during the wartime years, a period of which Gordon had fond memories. Wearing ‘Mickey Mouse’ gas masks during air raid practices and frightening the girls when sheltering in the pitch black air raid shelters were events that particularly came to mind. He also recalled the visits of the dentist, who used a yellow caravan for dental inspections and treatment during lunchtime. On many occasions treatment began before the anaesthetic had had time to take effect. Health and safety was not an issue in those days.
Turning to further education, David informed the brethren that Gordon went on to pass the 11 plus examination. He attended Preston Grammar School, becoming a prefect and was photographed at the time with a full head of black wavy hair; looking quite dashing in his gown.
Academically, Gordon’s strengths were in the sciences, achieving ‘A’ levels in chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics. Not, one could say, subjects for the light hearted. However, Gordon’s school time was not all head down and study. His skills with the football earned him a place on the right wing in the school football team wearing the famous light blue and white horizontally striped shirt. He also played for the rugby team as centre three quarter where he demonstrated equal skill with the oval ball. When asked if he has a school nickname Gordon replied in the affirmative adding that it was not one he could repeat. On leaving the sixth form, Gordon won a borough scholarship to university but, due to circumstances at home, he was not able to take advantage of the award.
Moving on to working life, David continued with Gordon’s thirst for the sciences and further education that resulted in him obtaining employment as an analytical chemist at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy, (UKAEA), site at Springfields. The work initially involved analysis of impurity levels in uranium leading on to development chemistry in the areas of uranium, stainless steel reactor components and magnox fuel containment materials. Employment at the UKAEA enabled Gordon to, in parallel with this work, continue his education. It was a journey that concluded with the successful completion of three, three hour theory papers and four seven hour practical examinations, graduating in 1961 as an associate of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.
Gordon moved back to academia taking a post at Blackburn Technical Grammar School, initially as science master then, three years later, became head of chemistry before being further promoted to head of the science faculty; a position that involved overseeing the mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics departments. He went on to lecture at Blackburn College and the Harris Institute before finally retiring in 1997, after spending over 30 years in the teaching role.
Turning to romance, David informed the brethren that whilst attending a local dance Gordon had the good fortune to see a young lady across the room. A lady he had been ‘observing’ for some time, as they frequently cycled past each other when he was on his way to the Grammar School. Fortunately, the lady in question had also been ‘observing’ him and realising he was rather shy, took the first move and asked him on to the floor. Her name was Patricia, who commented to David that, after all that, he couldn’t dance and later, inviting Gordon to play tennis, she found out he couldn’t do that either. However, Gordon plucked up the courage and applied the charm offensive with walks through Bluebell Wood and around the ‘hills and hollows.’ His offensive proved successful and they were married in Emmanuel Church in 1960. They honeymooned in Edinburgh with snow on the ground, perfect weather for a ‘wee dram.’ David commented that, apparently at that time Gordon didn’t drink and added how times have changed brethren! The marriage was blessed with two children, Alison Ruth, now working as a podiatrist and Roger William, currently a manager with Scottish Power and five grandchildren.
Continuing, David recounted the tale of Gordon, as an enthusiastic gardener pruning the local church trees down to almost oblivion, much to the initial dismay of the vicar. However, his duties as a church sidesman and a trained authorised reader kept him in the vicar’s good books.
After calling on the lodge secretary, Vic Parker to read a précis of the minutes of the meeting at which Gordon was initiated into Freemasonry, David continued with a résumé of Gordon’s subsequent Masonic career. He began by informing the brethren that Gordon’s proposer was his half cousin Norman Hodgson, who will himself shortly be celebrating 60 years in Freemasonry. His seconder was Norman’s father, Billy and the WM was Jimmy Milne, the Preston North End Manager. Gordon went on to complete all the offices of the lodge attaining the WM’s chair in 1978. This proved a most vibrant year, both Masonically and socially, with 204 people attending Patricia’s ladies evening. Gordon went on to take on the role of treasurer for over 20 years before retiring to the back benches. However, he is still available to fill any position at a meeting should the need arise.
His commitment to Freemasonry was recognised in 1988 with a first appointment to the Provincial rank of PPrSGD. This was followed in 1996 with promotion to the very high rank of PPrJGW. As Gordon indicated, he has thoroughly enjoyed his Freemasonry and continues to do so. It has provided so many good friends and wonderful occasions both for him and Patricia.
David then invited the group chairman, Steve Bolton, to read the 50th celebration certificate before formally presenting it to him, bringing the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master as well as his own. This was followed by prolonged and well deserved applause from all the brethren present.
Concluding his remarks David thanked Gordon for revealing most of the truth most of the time and reminding him that on the day 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: “Every brother present today is in no doubt that you, Gordon, have fulfilled those obligations on every count and we join in congratulating you on a wonderful achievement, your jubilee celebration in Freemasonry.”
Later in the evening Norman Hodgson proposed the toast to Gordon’s health, congratulating him on his 50 years in Masonry, remarking that although he and Gordon were half cousins, they were both very much members of the same family.
In response, Gordon thanked everyone for their support, particularly mentioning the masters of 1978 with whom strong friendships continue. He went on to thank all the members of the lodge, past and present for their support and the 50 years of Masonry he had enjoyed. He concluded with a special thank you to David for all the work he had obviously put in preparing what he was going to say in lodge.
The evening celebrations concluded with Rick Whelan presenting Gordon with an engraved vase and a bouquet of flowers for Patricia from the lodge members as a memento of this special occasion.