A whole host of companions from several Provinces joined Deputy Grand Superintendent Chris Butterfield for the celebration of Peter Mason’s 50 years in the Royal Arch. Gathering at Peter’s mother chapter, Rowley Chapter No 1051, which meets at Lancaster. All were welcomed by Paul Mason (no relation), first principal of the chapter.
Among the significant guests were; Norman Thompson Past Grand Superintendent of Cumberland and Westmorland, Colin Johnstone Grand Superintendent of Dumfriesshire, Dave Barr Third Provincial Grand Principal, Gary Rogerson Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, grand officers John Robson and Ian Halsall, Chairman of Lancaster Group Scott Devine and Vice Chairman of the Furness and South Lakes Group Chris Gray and Provincial grand officers Stuart Bateson, David Tattersall, Philip Newby and Stewart Aimson.
Having instructed Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Ian Halsall to place the celebrant in a comfortable seat in the middle of the chapter, Chris began relating the story of Peter’s life thus far.
Peter was born in February 1941 at Kirkby Terrace (now High Street) in Halton. His father, Fred was born in Caton, Peters grandfather was the village blacksmith. Peters mother Ethel was also born in Halton and was a weaver at Halton Mill, which is where she met Fred. The terraced house they lived in had no running hot water, an outside toilet and all the cooking was done on the open fire.
There were some notable events in 1941, the Air Training Corps was founded, the first person was treated in hospital with penicillin, the Gloster, Britain’s first jet aircraft appears and the last person is executed at the Tower of London.
Peter’s schooling started at St Lukes at Skerton. He took the 11 plus to attend the grammar school but there was some disagreement at home on the route his parents wanted him to take. He ended up at Ripley Boys School but there was still some disagreement about his future. Ethel wanted him to be an accountant but having ‘blacksmith blood’ in his veins, there was no way he was going to end up wearing a collar and tie in an office. It looks like Fred got his way, as Peter went down the Higher National Certificate (HNC) route but ironically ended up in an office in a collar and tie!
Had Peter gone to grammar school it might have saved him a couple of years at night school, as he ended up spending three nights a week there, after a full day’s work. Peter also managed to fit in being a member of the church choir, scouts and a band. The band was to play a major part in his life, which he started when he was about 11 or 12 years old in the Morecambe and Heysham Junior Silver band on a baritone. Swimming was also one of his passions, where he swam for Lancaster and the Lancashire Schoolboys, also the Lancaster City and District Scouts.
One particular memory Peter has of his time in the scouts was when he attended the St Georges Day parade at Windsor Castle. He was also lucky as a scout to be able to visit Italy, Germany and Austria, journeys which hold some wonderful memories of his time in scouting.
Peter’s first job was with Storeys of Lancaster as a mail boy. This was arranged as a result of him playing cornet for the works band when he was 13. Peter is very proud that he has the rare distinction of playing in the cornet section of every division in the brass band world, including being a member of the National Champions on two occasions. He rose to the heights of being the Principal Cornet and Band Manager for Storeys for 10 years, only giving it up when he got to junior warden in Silverdale Lodge No 6926.
Having become one of the youngest staff engineers at Storeys, Peter was poached by Hornsea Pottery for a new venture opening in 1974, as their chief engineer, at the time he was only 33. It was a nightmare getting the new company up and running and on many occasions, there was a day and night to get the job done but in his words: “I loved every minute of it.” However, Peter still found time to be named as the inventor on four British Patents in the pottery Industry. Sadly, the receiver was called in during 1984 which not only meant Peter was out of work but no pay in lieu of notice, no holiday pay, or redundancy pay.
The next part of his working life was for Ajax as a Lift and Crane Surveyor, becoming the Engineering Manager for the North of England, Scotland and Ireland, travelling to Manchester every day. Eventually the company was sold off and he was made redundant for a second time, but this time with a remuneration package and a golden handshake at the age of 57. He then joins EMSS, a small inspection company covering all the inspections in the North of England and driving some 47,000 business miles a year. This was his last employment, retiring from Haughtons, the company which bought EMSS.
During his working life, Peter met a young lady in 1960, called Joyce. They had a long courtship but after six years they were married on 2 April 1966. They have been blessed with two children named Christopher and Sarah, now 50 and 47 respectively. Peter and Joyce were delighted that Christopher and his wife Lindsay subsequently had two children, named Alfie and Aimee.
Peter was initiated into Silverdale Lodge in 1970 and in 1973 was exalted into Rowley Chapter. He was proposed by his uncle, Sam Kershaw and in 2020 there was a celebration to mark that magnificent milestone of 50 years membership of the craft. It was mentioned at the time that Peter became WM of Silverdale Lodge in 1982 and four years later was appointed to the very distinctive rank of Provincial Grand Steward. After three years membership of the craft, Royal Arch beckoned and he was exalted into Rowley Chapter on 17 December 1973, becoming its first principal in 1986 and taking on the role of charity steward the following year.
His potential having been spotted, in 1988, Peter was offered the position of group secretary. He then took over as vice chairman, a position he held until 2004 and then succeeded Geoff Cousins as group chairman, a position Peter held until 2007.
Provincial promotion came as a result of all the hard work that Peter had put in and he was promoted to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in the Craft in 1990, then receiving appointment to grand rank, that of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1992. This was followed in 2006 by the very high and rare rank of Past Junior Grand Deacon, to the great delight of everyone in the group.
Peter has found the time to do so many things in Freemasonry including, founding junior warden of Plantagenet Lodge of Installed Masters No 9357 and a member of both Lathom Lodge No 2229 and Quingenti Lodge No 8516 and holds honorary membership of others. He was also honoured with the role of Vice President of the Manchester Association of Masonic Research in 2019. Peter has also been, and is, very active in other Masonic Orders, holding senior rank in them all.
Having served as first principal of Rowley Chapter in 1986 and immediately after becoming charity steward, saw him achieve Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 1989, a very high first appointment, followed by first appointment to Grand Rank in 1997 to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer, receiving a very special acting rank in Supreme Grand Chapter of Assistant Grand Sojourner in 2007. This might have been expected to be Peter’s last promotion but this wasn’t to be, for he was given the rank of Past Grand Sword Bearer, then the very high rank of Past Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 2019, there aren’t many companions to be given this rank, especially outside London!
Up to this point Peter could have been forgiven if he had taken a long rest, however, he then entered on a second wind in his Royal Arch career in 2013. It was at this time that the then Grand Superintendent of C&W Norman Thompson, invited Peter to become the first Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals for his Province. A position which Peter readily accepted.
This new role was almost a blank canvas at his disposal. Craft membership of the Royal Arch in C&W was a low percentage, around the 30% mark, and Peter was tasked with reviving the interest in the Royal Arch, encouraging Craft Masons to join, making it more interesting for those who were members and enlightening them as to what it was all about.
Peter introduced many innovations to the exultation ceremony which have been adopted by most other Provinces in Great Britain and abroad. He also went on to develop three booklets, presented to the candidates to help them better understand the Royal Arch. He further enhanced this by encouraging the Custodes Copiae Chapter of Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter No 9430 of C&W to undertake demonstrations of the ‘Rebuilding of the Temple,’ ‘The Veils’ and ‘The enhanced exaltation,’ all to help companions’ better understand the Royal Arch. Peter’s latest presentation being ‘From Darkness to Light’ aimed at those in the Craft who haven’t yet joined the Royal Arch.
While all of this was going on, the Grand Superintendent in 2014 invited Peter to become the Deputy Grand Superintendent of C&W, which Peter again readily agreed to and enabled him to continue his good work for the Royal Arch. This position he held for 7 years, relinquishing it in 2021. In this time and as a result of his endeavours the Royal Arch membership, as a percentage of Craft members in C&W went from 30% to 41%, a fantastic achievement.
There are many aspects of Peter’s Masonic life that are not possible to cover in this report, such as his prolific writing of talks, booklets, presentation and visiting other areas of the country delivering some of the afore mentioned talks. The celebration evening was enriched by a fine festive board at which the usual speeches were observed.