The Masonic Hall at Widnes was the venue for the celebration of Norman Speed’s 50th year in chapter. Chapter of Equity No 1384 was opened in due form by first principal Norman Speed and the other principles in due form. When the domestic business had been completed, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Ian Halsall announced Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principles John Murphy, Mersey Valley Chairman David Atkinson and other distinguished brethren.
Norman welcomed John to the chapter and wished him a pleasant evening. John proceeded to ask Norman to be seated on a chair on the floor of the chapter before him to proceed with an explanation of Norman’s history and his 50 years in the chapter. John began by saying: “Companions, it is said that the greatest happiness a man can have is to you know that he is loved, and the very fact that there are so many companions here who have made the journey to take part in this evening’s celebration only serves to reinforce that statement and shows the high regard that our celebrant is held in. Some very famous people were born in 1943 in the persons of musicians Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King and of course maybe the most famous of them all, Norman Speed born in August 1943 here in Widnes in what was then Lancashire.”
Talking to Norman, John continued: “You arrived into the world as the second son born to James Edward and Edith Emily Speed, the birth of your sister two years later completed the family unit. You lived at 3 Crow Wood Lane, Halton View, Widnes and your dad (Jim) worked as an engineer for Turners Asbestos Cement Company at the Everite Works on Derby Road, Widnes for almost 50 years.
You school life started at Warrington Road Infants and Primary School where the headmaster was Hector Ireland, a fearsome man, whom you later came across at the start of your Masonic career. One of his many traits was classifying boys during assemblies and singing lessons as either songbirds or crows. At lunchtime on your first day at school you decided enough was enough and you wended your way back home up Castle Street and through the fields, whereupon your mum, thinking she had got rid of you for the day, marched you straight back to school. That was the start of 17 years of formal education. You also told the teacher one year where she could stick the Maypole where she wanted as there was ‘no way’ you were going to dance round it.
You studied so diligently at primary school that you managed to fail the 11+ examination and went on to attend Fairfield Secondary Modern School on Peelhouse Lane. The headmaster was Robert Roberts and there you met another fearsome man, Leslie Collier, whom you later came across at the start of your Royal Arch career. Academically your secondary education was good for you as by the time you got to the end of your third year you had excelled academically.
Subsequently you, and an elite group of 15 other boys, including such luminaries as Les Dobson, Bill Cank and Phil Le Broq, all of whom became both Craft and Royal Arch colleagues, were selected to study intensively for two years to sit the General Certificate of Education, which apparently was virtually unheard-of outside grammar schools at the time.
In your early teenage years, you were in a skiffle group at the Wesley Methodist Church Youth Club playing the double base on a tea chest, you were also handy with the piano accordion belting out various country and western songs. You also joined the 3rd Widnes (Wesley Church) Company of the Boys Brigade. There you heard about, and later met, a notable member of the Boys Brigade in the Widnes area at the time, namely Alan Locke, who you subsequently revered during your Masonic career, you now sit alongside his son Ian, another distinguished Mason.
On 18 April 1964 you married your childhood sweetheart Brenda at Wesley Methodist Church and set up home in Park Road Widnes. During the ensuing four years the family grew when Andrea and then Paul were born. By this time, you had acquired a reliable car and you were appointed as a Public Health Inspector by Golborne Urban District Council, a small Local Authority area south of Wigan and Leigh consisting of the three distinct communities namely Golborne, Lowton and Culcheth. Your career at Golborne progressed when in 1971 you were appointed as Chief Public Health Inspector and assumed additional responsibilities, in particular the management of the Refuse Collection Service.
This period of your career was very challenging and an extremely rewarding time. As a result of your promotion the family was re-located to Lowton where your second daughter Nicola was born, a much more difficult time for family lifetime as you were away from both your, and Brenda’s, families and therefore had little support locally. Another significant upheaval in your career occurred in April 1974 when the National Structure of Local Government changed radically, and you were appointed Assistant Chief Environmental Health Officer by the Warrington Borough Council.
You then became part of a large department of some 50 staff and your responsibilities were to manage a group of 22 professional, technical, and administrative officers. You had wide ranging duties including overseeing the inspection of over 1,600 food premises for safety and hygiene control, some 3,500 workplaces for health and safety compliance, an extensive pest and dog control service and supervising the hygienic slaughter and inspection of food animals in two large slaughterhouses dealing in beef and lamb, and one was a bacon factory that processed some 620 pigs a day; 3,600 pigs per week.
Your employment with Warrington Borough Council terminated when you took early retirement in March 1999 at the culmination of 40 years local government service. You felt the need to fill the void left from your previous employment and subsequently established your own consultancy business. Having completed a further 10-year period of self-employment, you eventually retired completely in March 2009. You then promptly joined Widnes Golf Club, this presented another of life’s challenges for you that involves a four hour walk whilst hitting a little white ball with a big stick, a skill you have yet to master. You were privileged during the 2016 golfing season to be elected as Captain of the Senior’s Section of the club.
Your Masonic career in the Lodge of Equity No 1384 commenced on 1 June 1967, following the proposition by your rather, who was the WM, seconded by Clarrie Edmundson. Your initiation was attended by a considerable number of brethren, the principal guest was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Rev Richard Leigh. You were passed to the second degree in January 1968 and raised to the degree of master Mason on 5 December 1968. Both these ceremonies were conducted by your father which proved to be very emotional for you both. In February 1977 you were appointed tyler of the lodge, which was then a progressive office at that time; you went on to serve in every office on the ladder eventually being installed as WM on 7 February 1985.
Your Royal Arch career commenced on 16 October 1973 when you were exalted into this chapter by your father who was first principal, his proposition being seconded by Len Tomlinson. You were appointed assistant sojourner in 1976 for a 3-year period and then principal sojourner for a further 2 years. Both these positions were qualifying offices for progression to the principals’ chairs at that time.
As you were still some years away from attaining the chair of your lodge, you were appointed as scribe Ezra in February 1981 and remained in that office for a continuous period of 32 years. The duties of Scribe Ezra for the three years in which you occupied the principals’ chairs were undertaken by John Wright. You were elected to the first principals chair at the convocation in December 1987, regrettably your father passed away 3 days later on 20 December 1987.
The ceremony of installation into the first principals chair was held on 16th February 1988. The ceremony was conducted in exemplary fashion by Arthur Howard Ford-Giltrap in the presence of the then Grand Superintendent Alan Fletcher Ferris and Leslie Bullen Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals together with 86 Companions.
Norman such is the importance of your own golden jubilee that our Grand Superintendent Companion Mark Matthews has caused a certificate to be struck to mark this wonderful achievement. The group chairman David Atkinson will now read the contents of the certificate to complete the celebration.” John’s full script can be read by clicking here.