Celebrations in Freemasonry don’t come around too often but when they do they certainly are special occasions. There was one such celebration over at Leyland when White Hills Lodge No 5209 hosted a jubilee celebration for Michael (Mike) Hughes.
The lodge was opened by WM John Sidgreaves and the members and visitors were set in anticipation of the jubilee celebration about to unfold. Following the usual lodge business John admitted Assistant Provincial Grand Master Stewart Seddon into the lodge room along with the accompanying Provincial and acting Provincial grand officers. John gave Stewart a very warm welcome on behalf of the lodge and its visitors. At this point John presented the lodge gavel and Stewart taking the gavel in hand, thanked the brethren for their very warm welcome and insisted that he took the master’s chair for the purposes of the celebration.
Stewart uttered those first words in announcing the next business of the meeting: “To celebrate 50 years in Freemasonry of Michael Douglas Hughes PPrDGSuptWks of the Province of West Lancashire.” At which point he invited Mike to be seated in front of the pedestal that he might address him.
The scene was set and Stewart took everyone back to September 1938: King George was on the throne, Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister of a National Coalition Government, the Church of England accepts the ‘Theory of Evolution’, Adolf Hitler seizes control of the German Army and puts Nazis in key posts, the first public demonstration of Baird’s colour television is shown in London and the FA Cup Final is televised for the first time – Preston North End v Huddersfield which ended 1 – 0. The Mauretania was launched at Birkenhead in July, followed a month later by the launch of the Queen Elizabeth at Clydebank, gas masks were issued to the civilian population as war loomed ever closer and the radio broadcast Orson Welles caused a mass panic when he narrated ‘War of the Worlds’ by H G Wells.
Meanwhile over at Chorley Hospital, Mrs Catherine (Kathleen) Hughes nee Mossop gives birth to a son to be named Michael Douglas. This meant that there were a host of contemporaries which included:- from stage and cinema, Susan Hampshire, Diana Rigg, Derek Jacobi and Oliver Reed; television personalities, Terry Wogan, Paul Daniels and Rodney Bewes; pop stars, Douane Eddy, Phil Everly, Kenny Lynch and P J Proby; from the sporting world, Rod Laver and Roger Hunt; author Frederick Forsyth and royal connections King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.
Mike’s father, Robert was a poultry farmer and he rented Birkacre Mill, filling it with battery hens. His mother was a hairdresser with a shop on Park Road in Chorley, with his father also owning hairdressing shops in Preston, Standish and Chorley. Mike attended Parochial Boys School on Astley Street from the age of five to 11 and then on to Balshaw’s Grammar School to age 16 coming away with nine GCE’s and winning the schools colours for cross country running. During this time, he was also in the choir of St Laurence’s Church, Chorley.
After leaving Balshaw’s school he went on to do a year as a student teacher around local schools before attending Didsbury College, Manchester on a two-year Teacher Training Course which he successfully passed gaining a Teachers Certificate with distinction in the principles and practice of education. Here he didn’t rest on his laurels and since that initial qualification, between 1960 and 1997, Mike went on to win a Diploma in the Advanced Study of Education from the University of Liverpool, a Bachelor of Education Degree with Honours from Lancaster University and a Section 23 accredited Inspector for Denominational Education from the National Society. He also qualified as an OFSTED Team Inspector from the Manchester Metropolitan University and has completed the Secondary to Primary Phase Conversion Course at OFSTED London.
In 1960, after obtaining his Teaching Certificate, Mike applied for and was appointed a science teacher at St Albans School in Chorley. In 1965 he also, and successfully, applied for the position of Head of Science at St Michael’s. From 1972 until 1984, Mike became Housemaster and then Head of the Lower School until his retirement from St Michael’s in 1993 when he became a self-employed Educational Consultant. Also from 1972 he was a part-time lecturer in the sciences at Runshaw College, Leyland becoming the part-time Head of the Adult Centre from 1982 to 1988.
Mike met his wife Jean at one of his dad’s hairdressing shops when their relationship blossomed, spending time together at ‘teenage socials’ at the old Masonic hall. They were married at St John’s Church, Preston and held their wedding reception at the Bull and Royal at a cost of £70. They have been blessed with two daughters, Janet and Margaret, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Moving on to Freemasonry and the Craft, Mike was introduced by Fred Pearson who was the headmaster of St James’ School but was proposed into White Hills Lodge by the then WM Tom Lowe. Mike was subsequently passed to the second degree on 18 December 1967 and raised to the sublime degree of master Mason on 20 May 1968. Mike became WM on 18 October 1982. Provincial honours followed with an appointment to PPrAGSuptWks in 1991. Promotion to PPrJGD followed in 2003 with a further promotion to his present rank of PPrGSuptWks. Mike was exalted into Earl of Lathom Chapter No 730 on 22 February 1971 becoming first principal in 1986. He received Provincial honours in 1991 and appointed PPrAGSoj.
At this point in the proceedings Stewart asked the Chairman of Leyland and District Group Chris Blackwell if he would read out the certificate. This certificate is an acknowledgement of the Province of West Lancashire’s great appreciation of half a century of membership of the Craft. Stewart then presented the certificate to Mike and congratulated him wholeheartedly on behalf of the Province.
The lodge closed and everyone present retired to the dining room. Here Mike said a few words in response to the toast to his health and everyone gave a good round of applause to such a deserving Mason on his night. The brethren left the evening pleased with the way proceedings had developed, each looking forward to the next meeting with a sense of pride at being witnesses on this special occasion.