As Neville Tate approaches his 90th birthday he also celebrates his 60 years as a Freemason. This period represents two thirds of his lifetime! Neville’s association with Freemasonry goes back to a time when Harold McMillan became Prime Minister, the Cavern Club in Liverpool opened its doors for the first time and Elvis was censured for those hip movements.
Neville was born in Bradford in Yorkshire on 8 October 1928. His father Harold Tate was a postman while his mother Norah was a housewife who would later work for the ministry of pensions. In 1935 the family, together with Neville’s younger brother Geoffrey, moved to Blackpool, then a year later to Rodney Ave, St. Anne’s. Neville was told that the family had moved to the seaside for his health but to this day he doesn’t know what that health issue was.
Attending Sydney Street School, ten year old Neville gained a county scholarship resulting in his attendance at Kirkham Grammar School. Whilst at school Neville played cricket as a spin bowler but by his own admission he was never going to be a Shane Warne! He also played rugby and remembers pushing for dear life at the rear of the scrum only avoiding injury due to his slight physique and his speed. Though he was never a great sportsman Neville always wanted to take part and be involved.
Kirkham School had an Army Cadet Corps but Neville’s interest was with the Air Training Corps (ATC) which met at Lowther Gardens, Lytham. Indeed it was there that he first met Alan Brotherton another veteran of Fairhaven Lodge. This Squadron was sadly disbanded after the war. It was there that Neville had learned Morse code. Neville recalled being trained in drill, attending church parades and learning the protocols of respect, discipline and putting service before one’s self.
On leaving school aged 15, Neville joined the County Treasurers Department at Lancashire County Council at Preston, starting as a post boy. During 40 years of commitment Neville rose to the high position of principal assistant in administration and personnel. His career had seen proficiency in auditing, computing, data processing and management development of people and systems. He eventually retired from office in 1987.
In 1946 Neville was called up for military service and his skills learned in the ATC came to the fore, particularly those associated with Morse code. Seven further months of training as a wireless and tele-printer operator at Defford in Worcestershire saw him posted to Badeilson, near to Hanover in Germany, for a further 18 months. Ironically he had applied for the Royal Navy but the wearing of spectacles prevented that.
On 23 February 1949 after being demobbed, Neville rekindled a relationship with a former childhood acquaintance, Joyce, to whom he has now been married to for a remarkable 64 years. Joyce’s take on this achievement was, “You don’t get that long for triple murder!” A signed photograph from the Queen adorns their living room wall and holds pride of place to signify 60 years of marriage. They are expecting another one next year when they achieve 65 years!
On their marriage, they moved to Penwortham and then due to Joyce qualifying as a pharmacist, to Blackburn where she bought a pharmacy. They honeymooned in Bournemouth, having travelled in style on the ‘Bournemouth Belle’, a special train from Manchester and a swish stop over in London at the Strand Palace Hotel. They have two sons, Stephen, now a property entrepreneur and Christopher a ‘whizz’ in scientific computing in the high technical arena of Cambridge. They are now the proud grand and great grandparents of eight grand and eight great grandchildren.
During his account of Neville’s life history David Winder asked Kevin Burns, the secretary of Fairhaven Lodge No 5076 to read a precis of the minutes from the meeting during which Neville was initiated. David went on to explain that Joyce had trained to become a pharmacist at Boots and her boss was Harold Kenyon, a past master of Landmark Lodge No 7273. Through questions, she became aware of ladies evenings and gained superficial knowledge of meetings and practices and eventually suggested that Neville ask his uncle, also called Neville, to explain more about Masonry.
So it was that Neville was proposed into Fairhaven Lodge by his uncle Neville Jackson who had been the master of the lodge during the previous year. His seconder was John Boyle. Neville was initiated soon after his application on 21 December 1956 and passed and raised in February and April 1957 respectively. Neville completed a year as steward and then undertook every office of the lodge, becoming its master on 21 November 1964. The installing master was Freddie Ball who was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy. The principal guest on that occasion was the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, later to become Provincial Grand Master, Sir Knowles Edge, Bart. During his master’s year Neville initiated Alan Brotherton and Ken Hughes and also carried out two second degree ceremonies. Joyce’s ladies evening at the delightfully elegant Clifton Arms Hotel was a great success with the well-known and acclaimed baritone and member of the lodge Colin Higginson singing. The ladies wore flowing ball gowns and long white gloves.
Neville undertook many offices and various duties within Fairhaven Lodge and Masonry in general, the most significant being the 18 years that he served as chairman of the Lytham and St Anne’s Masonic Club. His service as a Freemason was first recognised in 1977 by his appointment to the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon. Promotion to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden followed in 1990 and then to the grand rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1999. In all of this Neville has been supported by Joyce who is a lady Freemason holding the rank of Past Provincial Grand Chaplain.
Group chairman Ian Ward read the ‘60 year’ certificate issued by the Provincial Grand Master, James Anthony Harrison who sent his personal greetings on Neville’s Diamond Jubilee celebration as a Freemason.
After the meeting the brethren retired to enjoy an excellent four course dinner, followed by several speeches. Ian Ward’s amusing though complimentary remarks for David Winder received a hearty response in which David thanked those who had supported him and the lodge, including grand, Provincial and group officers.
Toasting Neville Tate’s health, Alan Brotherton said that it was an honour and privilege to deliver this once in a life time toast to someone who has enjoyed 60 years in Freemasonry. Alan added that Neville was a fine example for us all to emulate. Alan spoke of their long friendship which had endured for over 70 years and concluded by singing the ‘Hail worthy Mason, hail’ song, inviting others to join in as they would have done in the old days when Fairhaven was known as the ‘singing lodge.’
In his response Neville thanked David Winder for his hard work in compiling and delivering the historical record of the last 60 years. He thanked Fairhaven Lodge members for their support during those years and thanked all those in attendance for making the evening such a memorable occasion. He went on to thank Alan Brotherton for all the nice things he had said and concluded with some more anecdotes from past and happy years. The evening was closed by lodge tyler Barry Hage who delivered the extended ‘Robbie Burns” version of the tyler’s toast.