Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Ian Cuerden was delighted to attend Arrowhead Chapter No 8500 at Bryn Masonic Hall to celebrate with Keith Lang his achievement of 50 years service in Royal Arch Masonry. Ian was accompanied at this very special event by four fellow Grand officers, including Past Provincial Second Grand Principals Peter Elmore and John Hutton, Malcolm Taylor and lodge member and DC John Roberts.
Further support came from acting Provincial officers Chris Reeman (PrAGSoj), Ron Belshaw (PrGStdB), Jonathan Heaton (PrGStwd) all under the control of Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell, together with Wigan Group Chairman Geoffrey Porter and vice chairman David Ogden.
Neil Keagan was conducting the business of the chapter, ably assisted by Phil Benson and Dennis Sket. The initial business of the chapter concluded, which included the presentation of Paul O’Brien and Keith Lang by DC John Roberts on their first attendance since preferment and promotion respectively at Provincial Grand Chapter, first principal Neil was delighted to receive the Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals. Neil was even more delighted when Ian replaced him to conduct the celebration which he did with style and sincerity. Ian has a gentle manner, and a voice that instantly commands the attention and respect that such a special event demands.
Ian commenced his tribute with the general observation that it is a considerable achievement for a society or even a business to survive for 50 years, stating that the companion to be honoured today is a dedicated and committed Mason in every sense of the word, a worker the like of which our order depends upon, a quiet, deep thinker who always seeks to get it right and he is undoubtedly a modest individual, indeed almost shy and retiring, never seeking to push himself forward.
Ian then requested that celebrant be placed in a suitable position on the floor of the chapter, and Malcolm Bell kindly obliged. Ian went on to give a precise history of Keith’s life and Masonic development, interspersed with recollections from world and British historical events, and at the appropriate point requesting John Tabern, assistant scribe Ezra, to read an extract from the minutes from the meeting 50 years ago.
Keith was born in November 1935 at Newburgh, Ormskirk and was educated at Newburgh C of E School and Ormskirk Grammar School before continuing his education at King William’s College in the Isle of Man. He gained his engineering qualifications at Wigan and District Mining and Technical College and St Helens Technical College and then pursued a career in engineering. He spent his professional life in coalmining (National Coal Board at Wigan and St Helens) and then in local government (Liverpool Corporation and Manchester City Council) before retiring in 1992 after working at Comet and AG Barr. Keith always valued education and worked hard gaining 10 ‘O’ levels, two ‘A’ levels, and a degree in Theology from Christ’s, Canterbury. His professional life followed a similar vein, including qualifications in mining, engineering, metallurgy, and membership of the Institute of Management Services.
As well as gardening, bread making and home brewing, Keith’s two main leisure activities are, and have been for many years, scouting and walking. He joined scouting as a cub scout in 1944 and became a Queens Scout in 1952. He was a warranted or commissioned leader from 1953 to 2001 and his involvement includes being an Assistant Scout Leader (I.O.M. and Orrell), Venture Scout Leader (Orrell), Group Scout Leader (Aspull and Haigh Scout Group, Wigan for 21 years until he retired under the age-limit), Leader Training Commissioner in SW Lancs, Greater Manchester West and at Gilwell Park International Training Centre from 1960 to 1979. He was presented with an award for 60 years’ service as an adult member in 2014, and the coveted Silver Wolf award more recently. The Silver Wolf is a very great and rare honour in scouting, an achievement in which Keith takes a great deal of pride. In addition, he is a confirmed practicing member of the Anglican church having always enjoyed a firm and committed involvement and is still a PCC member and Deanery Synod representative for St David’s Haigh and Aspull.
In his home life, Keith has been married to his wife Mary for 46 years and they have a daughter Katie (a professional French horn player) and twin sons Bob (a sixth form teacher at King Edward 6th School in Birmingham) and Tim (a Consultant Medical Scientist at Durham NHS Trust).
Keith’s Masonic career began when he was initiated into the King William’s Lodge No 3883 in the Province of the Isle of Man in January 1965. He holds the elevated rank of PPrSGW, having been given field promotion at his jubilee celebration in the Craft.
In the Royal Arch, Keith was exalted into Peace Chapter No 2269 in December 1967, becoming first principal in 1978 and serving as janitor on amalgamation with Pemberton Chapter No 4686. One claim to fame from this time was installing Danny Jones as first principal of Peace Chapter in 1978, who, as we all know, went on to become Deputy Grand Superintendent.
Keith was founding scribe Ezra of Arrowhead Chapter in 1981, serving as first principal in 1983 and then as scribe Ezra from 1984 to date. Keith has also been an active member of Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter of West Lancashire from 1981 to the present, and is currently almoner. Keith was always a good ritualist and has on numerous occasions delivered each of the lectures of the order, the Mystical Lecture being his party piece, which is still regularly shared with the companions. In Province, Keith was appointed to acting rank as Provincial Grand Steward in 1981, promoted to PPrPGSoj in 1984 and to PPrGSN in 1992. The culmination of Keith’s Masonic career thus far was to be promoted to the elevated rank of PPrGSE in Provincial Grand Chapter at Southport in October 2017. This is indeed an impressive Royal Arch CV.
In concluding, Ian paid tribute to Keith, saying: “Keith, this is a brief appraisal of the many facets of your life, a life which has enriched not only Freemasonry but more importantly the community in which you reside. Many of us will feel rather inadequate listening to these extracts, myself included. Throughout, you remain a self-effacing Freemason, happy to continue to exercise your considerable talents to the benefit of the organisations of which you are a member, you have attained great distinction albeit too modest to admit the fact and I‘m sure you will have given without counting the cost, fought without heeding the wounds and laboured without the hope of reward save that of knowing that you do God’s will.”
Ian then called on group chairman Geoffrey Porter who read the citation which had been prepared with the authority of the Grand Superintendent to mark this occasion, which he then formally presented to the celebrant. He then thanked the companions for their attention, and affording him the privilege of being allowed to conduct the very special proceedings, before Neil resumed his chair.
Following the ceremony, celebrations moved downstairs where all the assembled companions enjoyed a fine festive board. John Hutton made a heartfelt toast to the celebrant, sharing his memories of meeting Keith very early in his career as a Provincial Grand Steward. Other fitting tributes were made to a very worthy, and well respected, Royal Arch Mason. Keith responded in his own, understated style, and thanked everyone, particularly members of the chapter who had helped and encouraged him through some difficult times. Neil Keegan then presented Keith with his gift of choice from the chapter, a bread slicer to assist him with his fond pastime of bread making.