Reece’s 75th anniversary of his initiation

The brethren of St David’s Lodge No 2950 were delighted to have Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent join them in celebrating the 75th anniversary of Reece Evans’ initiation into the lodge. The lodge was opened by WM Graham Lewtas and the regular business of the evening was conducted, which included the ballot for honorary membership for Reece, which was universally accepted by the brethren. PrDGDC Neil MacSymons then announced that the Assistant Provincial Grand Master was without and demanded admission. Tony, accompanied by Garston Group Chairman Howard Griffiths was then duly admitted. In welcoming Tony to St David’s Lodge, Graham offered him the gavel which on this happy evening he was pleased to accept.

Reece Evans.

Reece Evans.

Tony then asked for Reece to be seated before him and gave a wonderful presentation of a very full life of a man of quiet dignity and humility saying: “Brethren, to reach the age of 96 is an achievement. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of one’s initiation into Freemasonry is an even greater achievement. When these two are combined in the same person, it is even more remarkable. This evening we are acknowledging and celebrating such an exceptional occurrence. Brethren, 75 years of service in any capacity in any walk of life is a living testament to a man’s commitment and is deserving of our recognition.”

All things change – this is a universal truth and is no less true of men as it is of lodges, chapters and all human institutions; yet, though things change, in many ways they all remain the same. Neither we nor St David’s Lodge are the same, but neither are we altogether different. Throughout his long life, Reece Evans has excelled in all his undertakings and has fulfilled his obligations to himself, his family and his country; his 75 years in Freemasonry are ample testimony to his loyalty and commitment to our order.

Reece’s father, Thomas was a member of this St David’s Lodge, his younger brother Tom became a member of Bootle Lodge No 1473 and he had a sister Joan; sadly both are now deceased. He attended Salisbury Road Junior School in Bootle and then Bootle Grammar School. He left in 1936 with Matriculation and Higher School Certificate, but instead of going to university, for which he would have been granted a scholarship, he took the Civil Service examination. At that time, graduates were finding it difficult to get employment. He was posted for training at Liverpool Seamen’s Employment Exchange and then to St Helens Employment Exchange. War was imminent and from here on 15 July 1939 Reece was called up under the Military Training Act of 1939 and posted to Lancaster for his basic training and then to the King’s Own Royal Regiment. He was to serve his country until 15 July 1946 after the end of hostilities.

Despite his being away from home in Bootle, Reece was proposed for membership of St David’s Lodge by his father and his uncle HJ Williams in January 1940. An emergency meeting of the lodge was arranged for 23 March 1940 especially to initiate him whilst he was home on leave; he was not passed to the second degree until January 1941, since he was part of the British Expeditionary Force to France. Older brethren will recall that this was not a success and Reece, a member of the 5th Battalion, was one of the last to be taken off from Dunkirk by the Walton-on-Haze and Frinton lifeboat, which delivered him safely to Ramsgate. He was raised to the third degree on 12 April 1941 by the IPM Howell Evans.

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Reece wanted to take an external degree, but the Army had already concluded that he was officer material and promoted him. He was now in the Royal Artillery operating Bofors light ack-ack guns and their field regiment consisted of Black Watch and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. In North Africa he learned of another brother from the lodge who was stationed nearby. Transport was arranged and they met up and shared some local Algerian wine before Private Brindley Lettsome had to return to his camp. Reece was eventually promoted to Captain, mentioned in dispatches and saw further service in Sicily and France, which he re-entered in the Normandy landings and Germany. It was the tracer ammunition, fired from his guns, which assisted the Black Watch when they crossed the Rhine. As mentioned earlier, his military service to his country ended on 15 July 1946.

Pictured from left to right, are: Tony Bent, Reece Evans and Howard Griffiths.

Shortly before he was discharged from the army, Reece married Betty Brooks on 21 January 1946. This in itself was astonishing in that it could be claimed that the courtship had lasted 25 years as Reece had first met Betty when they were both babies and had shared the same pram whilst their parents were working in Belgium. From their union there were four children and four grandchildren. Reece and Betty lived in Greenwich, then West Norward, in another part of London and then to Canterbury in the late 1950’s. Their final move was to Derbyshire in 1975 and Reece now lives in a retirement flat in Ashbourne. Sadly, Betty passed away on 6 November 2011.

After war service Reece returned to the Ministry of Labour and immediately became involved in the training of officers who were being demobbed. His career progressed and by the time he left the Department for Employment in 1970, he was the Conciliation Officer and Personnel Management Advisor for Kent and the greater part of London. In 1970, the brewers Bass and Charrington were about to merge and he joined them as an Industrial Relations Advisor, a position he held until his retirement in 1980. When living in London after the war, Reece attended a number of lodges; his father in law was a member of Greenwich Lodge No 2332 and a founder of Westcombe Park Lodge No 4241. Reece also attended Helio Lodge No 3900 as a guest of his best man and Brixton Ramblers Lodge No 3347 with another friend. When he lived in Canterbury he attended a number of lodges. Indeed, at his wedding in London, all but three of the male guests were Freemasons.

There are however, two other aspects of Reece’s curriculum vitae, which must be included if this tribute is to be a true reflection of a man and his life. Throughout his life, Reece has been an active member of the Church of England. He began his religious education at a City Mission, Bankhall Mission and then Blundellsands Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Council as well as other committees within the church. When he moved to Derbyshire, he became Chairman of the Board of Mission and Unity Committee for the Derby Diocese. He is still an active member of the church in Ashbourne and it is only recently that he has had to retire from taking communion to the sick and elderly within his parish.

The second aspect is the Council for the Protection of Rural England. All his life Reece has been an avid reader and a great walker. He became chairman, first of the CPRE for the Derbyshire region and then for the whole of the East Midlands.

Reece Evans has already had his life and Masonic career acknowledged on four previous occasions:- 20 April 1990; Brian Jackson presided at his 50th, 15 September 2000; David McCormick, PSGD, APGM presided over his 60th jubilee celebration. 15 April 2005; David McCormick again presided at his 65th anniversary, a ceremony shared with Robert Thornton, who sadly passed to the Grand Lodge above in July 2009. March 2010. Howard Jones, PSGD, APGM presided over his 70th anniversary of his initiation into Freemasonry.

Pictured standing from left to right, are: Neil MacSymons, Tony Bent, Ken Bradley, Howard Griffiths, John Murphy (Garston Group Secretary) and Gary Jones (Provincial Grand Steward) with Reece Evans.

Pictured standing from left to right, are: Neil MacSymons, Tony Bent, Ken Bradley, Howard Griffiths, John Murphy (Garston Group Secretary) and Gary Jones (Provincial Grand Steward) with Reece Evans.

Concluding Tony said: “Reece, your membership of the craft has seen the greatest changes in the way our order presents itself to the world and in the way, in which we, as Freemasons, conduct ourselves in making the world at large much more aware of what we stand for and believe in. Throughout your life, you have been a shining example of all that is best in man and it is right and proper that you may look back on your life and Masonic career with the full satisfaction that the foundation stone laid in St David’s Lodge those 75 years ago was well and truly laid. Brethren, I conclude this tribute with a quotation from Hamlet: He is a man. Take him for all in all; we shall not look upon his like again.”

Tony then asked Garston Group Chairman Ken Bradley to read out the certificate from the Province of West Lancashire which was then presented to Reece. On receiving the certificate Reece expressed, in his native Welsh, his thanks to Tony for his wonderful rendition saying he looked forward to his 80th.

Due to his age and the fact that he now resides in Derbyshire, Reece was accompanied on the night by his daughter and so it was decided to hold a ladies to dine festive board. This proved to be a wonderful decision as the ladies helped in making the event a total success and a most memorable evening not just for Reece but for all who attended.