The brethren and friends of Lathom Abbey Lodge No 6286 gathered to celebrate 60 years in Freemasonry for Gordon Wainwright. The celebration was led by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Derek Parkinson who was accompanied by grand officers Frank Umbers (Ormskirk and Bootle group chairman), Brian Fairhurst, John Wilcox, Martin Walsh (lodge member) and Malcolm Alexander. Also in attendance was acting Provincial grand officer John Doyle.
The lodge was opened in due form by WM John Mercer and the usual administration duties undertaken. Shortly afterwards, when the lodge was in the third degree, Malcolm Bell Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies was admitted and he announced that the Assistant Provincial Grand Master was without and demanded admission. Derek was then admitted in due ceremonial style and given a very warm welcome by the WM and following the usual salutations, John relinquished the gavel of the lodge to Derek.
The lodge being resumed in the first degree Derek said: “One of the benefits of holding a senior position in the Province is the opportunity to celebrate with a brother as he reaches a milestone in his Masonic career. It usually also gives me a wonderful opportunity to find out not only about the celebrant but about how things were 50, 60, or 70 years ago and it’s always been very interesting. We experience a number of celebrations for 50 years in the craft, a smaller number for 60 years and just occasionally we are privileged to remember greater periods of membership of Freemasonry. Tonight we are here to celebrate 60 years with Gordon, and so could I ask our Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies to place our celebrant before me.”
Continuing, Derek said that he wanted to turn the clock back to 1832 when Gordon’s great grandfather Andrew Thompson was born in the Shetlands on the Isle of Unst. The Shetland Isles are an archipelago just south of the Arctic Circle. Unst is the most northerly inhabited island of the British Isles. Many people think of it as part of Scotland but when this was suggested to Gordon that he had Scottish ancestors he made it quite clear, in a firm but friendly way, that Shetland Islanders are more akin to the Scandinavian people than the Scots, and the look on his face actually reminded Derek of a piece of ritual that some companions will be familiar with; where the words could be changed slightly to say “we would scorn to be descended from those Scottish clans.”
Gordon’s ancestors moved to Liverpool prior to 1881 and lived in Toxteth. In 1930 William Wainwright met Agnes Roberts and it was they who became the proud parents of young Gordon born on 17 February 1933. The family lived at 84 Stalmine Road in Walton along with Agnes’s father. William was a maintenance fitter at Ogden’s Tobacco Factory in Boundary Lane. Agnes is recorded in the ‘1939 Register’ as employed in unpaid domestic duties which Derek said translates today into a housewife. Gordon’s ancestors in the Wainwright family were heavily involved in the salt mines and salt works and they transported the salt from Northwich to Garston salt works on the canal barges.
Derek reverted back to Gordon’s early childhood. He attended Rice Lane Junior School and having passed his 11 plus exam he went on to Alsop Grammar School on Queen’s Drive until he took the School Certificate at 16 to take up an apprenticeship as a ‘Post Office Telephones Engineer’. Having completed his apprenticeship Gordon became a ‘Technical Officer’ and then an ‘Assistant Executive Engineer’. This was the first position where he was in charge of putting in new exchanges and adding extensions to established exchanges. Up until this time there had been a great reliance on manual connections between telephones and Derek said he was sure many of the brethren present will have seen films of the operators, usually women, plugging several wires into their sockets until the board looked like a jumble of wires
However science and technology had moved on and automated exchanges were being developed and replacing the old manual ones. Gordon was based in Liverpool but travelled across the north west fitting these new exchanges. This work continued for a remarkable 40 years apart from two short breaks, one for National Service and one when Gordon was seconded abroad for two years. One of the projects he was involved with. and given responsibility for was equipping and bringing on line the new telephone exchange in what was the new town of Skelmersdale. Derek went on to say that in 1951 Gordon was called for National Service and when asked what job the army gave him Derek fully expected it to be the catering corps or something equally remote from the occupation he was trained in; but surprisingly the Army actually put Gordon in the Royal Corps of Signals as a ‘Radio Mechanic’; posted initially to Catterick and then to Germany for 18 months. During National Service he represented the Army in the Inter Services freestyle swimming competitions; as from a very young age Gordon had been a very good swimmer.
Derek mentioned that Gordon had another break from the work he was doing at BT when he was seconded to Nigeria for two years. This was at a time of rapid development of the telecommunications industry and many new innovations both in the UK and throughout Europe. However when these systems were introduced, in the same way as some computer systems today, they didn’t talk to each other and couldn’t be linked to pass the signals on. Gordon worked with technicians from other countries to make their systems work together and ultimately it required a re-design of the circuits in some of the digital switches and transmission systems which he was well qualified and able to do.
Touching on romance Derek said that like many of the young people in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Gordon went to dances at Reece’s in Liverpool. The building wasn’t a licensed premises and so was ideal for young people. It was here that Gordon met Eileen Clare Woods, a young lady who worked at the Royal Liver Insurance, and after five years courting went on to become his wife; and they were married at St James’s Church, West Derby.
Living in Lydiate Eileen and Gordon were blessed with two daughters, Alison and Lynne; and have three granddaughters. Sadly Eileen died almost three years ago.
Derek said that Gordon is very proud of his granddaughters and how well they have done, one having gained a Master’s degree in journalism and works in London, one who has a degree in Fine Art and is now a solicitor in Oxford, and the last who is still at University in Hertfordshire studying chemistry.
Derek went on to remind all present that Gordon’s grandmother’s side came from the Shetland Isles and he has maintained contact with the family and once or twice a year makes the extremely long journey to visit his ancestors families. This arduous journey involves a drive to Aberdeen, a 12 hour ferry crossing to Lerwick; driving across Lerwick to take the next ferry to Yell and then on to Unst with a further drive to Norwick. Derek said: “Brethren, some of us might think it’s a long drive to the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales, but Gordon’s journey takes him an astonishing distance of 635 miles and takes 22 hours.”
After Gordon retired he found plenty of things to occupy his time. He was the founder of Maghull Community Association; he also enjoys playing bowls at the Meadows, near Maghull Town Hall and regularly attends St Thomas’ Church, Lydiate.
Turning to Gordon’s Masonic career Derek said: “Your connection with Freemasonry comes from your father, grandfather, four uncles and one cousin who were all Masons and were members of Liberty Lodge No 3888. It was therefore into that lodge that your father proposed you and you were initiated into it on 23 February 1957. At that time the lodge was meeting at Hope Street in Liverpool but in 1994 it moved to Woolton Hall and I’m sure you remember the wonderful splendour of that building. When you were initiated the lodge had 135 members including 12 stewards. It took rather a long time to get into the progressive offices but eventually, after 17 years, you were installed as worshipful master in January 1974 and again in 1993.”
Derek said that one bit of information had come to light during his research about one of the traditions of Liberty Lodge. When the lodge held the Ladies’ Evenings it was the custom to have a bit of fun with the WM and so when it was Gordon’s turn, just after dinner, all the brethren disappeared and returned dressed as telephone operators, some of them really getting into the spirit of things; complete with mini-skirts, blonde wigs and beards.
Gordon took on the lodge secretary’s job in 1979 and continued in that position until he went to work in Nigeria. In 1997 he was elected lodge treasurer, a position he held until the lodge closed in 2004.
Liberty Lodge having closed, Gordon needed to look around for a lodge to join. He didn’t need to look very far as at the time he lived in Westover Road Maghull; with Maurice Fry living next door and Eddie Durr living opposite, both members of Lathom Abbey Lodge, it was quite natural for him to join; which he did in 2004.
Gordon’s first Provincial rank was an appointment to Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon in 1986, with promotion to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of works eight years later and then further promotion to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 2003. Gordon also joined the Royal Arch, being exalted into De Grey and Ripon Chapter in 1980.
At the conclusion of the ceremony Derek asked Frank to read out the celebration certificate before he formally presented it to Gordon.
Derek’s final words were heartfelt: “WBro Gordon, you are a great example for the phrase that is often used that you get out of it what you put in. You have contributed to serving the community by your voluntary work and to Freemasonry in Liverpool and Ormskirk and have certainly got great pleasure and enjoyment from it, and so it is a great honour and a privilege to say to you, Gordon, thank you for all that you have done both for Freemasonry and the wider community, and congratulations on achieving 60 years as a Mason and we all look forward to seeing you enjoy many more years as a member of this great order.”
After a memorable diamond jubilee ceremony the brethren enjoyed a delicious three course meal at the festive board followed by further speeches and toasts; which concluded an excellent evening.
Article and photographs by Barry Hewitt.