Members of Jubilee Lodge No 5555 celebrated the 50 years in the Craft of Philip Laker, a very special occasion for the members and for Philip who has been the lodge organist for many years. The proceedings were led by Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder, accompanied by John Shute PrDGDC and supported by the group chairman Steve Bolton, group vice chairman Geoff Saul, group secretary Peter Littlehales and David Rhodes.
After transacting the initial business of the lodge, the WM Malcolm Cooley welcomed David Winder into the lodge, thanking him for his attendance on this special occasion. On accepting the master’s chair, David set the scene by informing the brethren present that he had known Philip for many years as they both served in the police force, David in Preston and Philip in Manchester. He reminisced about those times 50 years ago when, among other things, petrol was 17.5 pence a gallon, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and the Forth road bridge had just opened.
He then invited the John Shute to escort Philip to a seat on the floor of the lodge, asking Philip to relax and enjoy the evening to the full. The brethren were then treated to a splendid résumé of the happenings in Philip’s life, both in and out of Freemasonry.
David began by recounting Philip’s early family life living in Longridge, commenting that longevity appears to run in Philip’s family with his father living to the age of 97, his sister is currently 92 and his brother Bert, now age 80. Philip is also blessed with two grandchildren, Christopher and Mark who are both mad on cricket.
From an early age, Philip was involved with the school choir where the inheritance of his mother’s fine singing skills were put to the test that extended to the local church and through the scout movement, to jamborees and gang shows. David revealed that it was his singing at these various locations and events that would lead to Philip meeting his future wife Kath, who was a gifted organist and pianist.
Continuing with Philip’s early life, David noted that Philip had a happy childhood playing out with pals, having adventures and fun. He was encouraged to be friends with three local farm boys which presented lots of work but most importantly, resulted in plenty of compensatory food. It was at this point that one of the farm boy’s sisters took it upon herself to teach Philip the foxtrot. Unfortunately the practice was in an ‘L’ shaped room, which to this day means Philip can only dance the foxtrot in an ‘L’ shape.
David continued by mentioning the two memories that stand out in Philip’s mind. The first was at the age of four trotting down to the local foundry, armed with a ‘Billy can’ and on tip toes seeing the office man walk to the sink and turn on the tap and always return with it full of orange juice – what a magician! It was some 21 years later having entered Masonry, that Philip’s proposer, Kath’s father, handed Philip a small leather pouch and apron, claiming that ex member Teddie Howarth, had left it for the purpose, (Teddie being the ‘magician’ with the orange juice). The second memory was at the age of five, when standing in front of a grandfather clock at his aunties he declared, that when he grew up he wanted to be a policeman.
Turning to sporting achievements, David informed the brethren of Philip’s interest in both cricket and football. In the summer playing for Longridge Cricket Club and in the winter playing football that led to a trial for Preston North End in his favoured position of left back. The coach said he would ring Philip if he was wanted, to which in the euphoria of the moment, Philip readily agreed. It was only later that he realised he did not have a phone at home.
Academically, Philip attended Hutton Grammar School and having taken his mock examinations, crossed the road at Hutton to the Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters asking whether he could become a police officer. Philip was told he was too young but was asked to complete an examination there and then and attend a medical.
Moving on, David turned to Philip’s working life when, as a result of success in the police exams, Philip was taken on as a Police Cadet initially being posted to the police vehicle maintenance depot in Preston. Apart from brewing up skills, Philip also learnt a lot about engines under the guidance of his ex-Rolls Royce mentor. It was at this time that Philip’s relationship with Kath developed further as she then worked at the District Bank in Fishergate and meeting after work, they would go for a meal at a United Cattle Products restaurant before trotting off to the cinema. The evening would end just before midnight with Philip kissing Kath in the porch way of her home, much to the annoyance of her father who was always on guard on the other side of the door. This also meant that on his way home, Philip could call in at the local chippy for the last and cheaper orders.
It was at the age of 19 that Philip received his call up papers and elected to join the REME but, due to form, he was allocated to the Guards. Whilst waiting at the train station a police officer in uniform appeared with forms offering a release from military service providing Philip would sign up for police service until he was 24. The rest, as David intimated, was history.
David continued with Philip’s career in the police force saying he was first posted to Chorley, but only spent a week on foot before being allocated a pedal cycle area to patrol. It was whilst riding from his digs on the A6 to work one day that he was flagged down by a woman who stated that the frying pan in her chip shop was on fire. Philip leapt off his bicycle and grabbing the shop extinguisher was able to extinguish the conflagration. Those actions saved the day and gave Philip a lifelong ‘freedom of the chippy’ award which, for a man with such a love of food and particularly fish and chips, felt like a promotion. Arriving at work somewhat late and covered in extinguisher powder the sergeant announced Philip would have to return later for the niht shift.
Temporarily returning to romance, David noted that Philip and Kath were married on 8 October 1960 and honeymooned at the aptly named Honeymoon Hotel in Babbacombe, where the manager proudly closed the doors at 10:00 pm, stating that all his guests seemed to prefer an early night.
Returning to Philip’s employment, David recounted the time when Philip, having passed his motorcycle course, turned up at the traffic section complete with his motorcycle apparel to be told he would be driving cars, the first of which was an open top MGA. He went on to pilot MGB’s, MGC’s and MGF’s, all of which he found enjoyable. Being in the traffic department inevitably led to Philip having to attend and deal with serious and sometimes fatal roadside accidents that included talking to the families who had just lost loved ones. However often experienced officers are in such situations it can still be very stressful, particularly dealing with incidents involving young children.
On a brighter note, David moved on to Philip’s transfer to Stretford following promotion to Sergeant and having responsibility for the Manchester United football games traffic control. Philip was further promoted to Inspector and then Chief Inspector before finally retiring as Superintendent of the Salford Division. His decision to become a police officer at the age of five had proved a good one.
Outside work, Philip continued his enjoyment of singing and was a member of the Manchester Police Male Voice Choir for over 40 years and was actively involved in the 1952, 1972 and 1992 Preston Guild events. However, his participation in the 2012 guild year was as an avid spectator.
David then invited the lodge secretary Vic Parker to read the minutes of the meeting at which Philip was initiated.
Continuing with Philip’s Masonic career, David referred to Philip’s introduction to the Craft by his father-in-law, Bob Walmsley. Having been invited to a number of Masonic social events, Philip finally got the message and asked if he could join the fraternity. He was initiated into Jubilee Lodge No 5555 with Bob as his proposer, who went on to take the chair for all three degree ceremonies as Philip advanced to the position of master Mason.
Philip went on to complete all the offices of the lodge with the exception of tyler and became master of the lodge in 1977. At that time he also attended many meetings to accompany his father-in-law singing duets at the various ceremonies. Philip continues to demonstrate his musical skills by providing the music in his role as the lodge organist.
David commented that Philip’s active participation at the lodge meetings involves an 80 mile round trip from his home in Manchester that must have racked up many ‘air miles’ over the past 50 years.
Expanding on Philip’s Masonic career, David drew attention to Philip becoming a founder member of the East Lancashire Rotary Lodge No 9345 and after taking the chair as WM, spent ten years as the lodge DC. He also informed the brethren that Philip holds Provincial rank in both East and West Lancashire and went on to detail some of Philip’s further afield Masonic visits including lodges in what was then Southern Rhodesia. This was whilst Philip was leading a team of 75 officers and 500 others supervising the ballots when Robert Mugabe took office.
He then invited Steve Bolton to read the 50th celebration certificate before formally presenting it to Philip, bringing the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master as well as his own. This was followed by prolonged and well deserved applause from all the brethren present.
David concluded his remarks by thanking Philip for revealing most of the truth most of the time and reminding him that on the day he was made a Mason he was charged to be respectable in life, useful to mankind and an ornament to the society of which he was on that day made a member. His final words were, “Every brother present today is in no doubt that you Philip, have fulfilled those obligations on every count and we join in congratulating you on a wonderful achievement, your jubilee celebration in Freemasonry.”
Later in the evening, Joe Collier proposed the toast to Philip’s health, congratulating him on his 50 years in Masonry and saying he was pleased to note Philip had now been officially “certified.” In response, Philip thanked everyone for their support, particularly mentioning his personal guests who had travelled from Manchester. He concluded with a special thank-you to David for all the work he had obviously put in preparing what he was going to say in lodge.
The evening celebrations concluded with the WM presenting Philip with an engraved vase from the lodge members as a memento of this special occasion.