On 27 October 2021, Stewart McVernon celebrated 50 years as a Freemason since his initiation on 26 October 1971 as a member of Poulton Hall Lodge No 6647, which has since amalgamated with Poulton le Sands Lodge No 1051. Stewart’s initiation ceremony was conducted on behalf of the WM John Windle by Stewart’s father Albert McVernon.
The jubilee ceremony was attended by Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, accompanied by the following members of his Provincial team: Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Schofield, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Philip Gardner and Keith Kemp, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Malcolm Bell, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Alexander, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Rob Fitzsimmonds. Provincial Grand Standard Bearer Jim Scott, Provincial Grand Almoner Paul Broadley; Past Provincial Grand Pursuivant Joe Crabtree; Lancaster Group Chairman Neil McGill and Lancaster Deputy Group Chairman Scott Devine.
Tony Harrison was conducted to his seat by the acting Provincial deacons Geoff Bury and Frank Heath where he was introduced to acting WM Stewart McVernon who offered him the gavel, which was duly accepted. Stewart was then seated in the body of the lodge in front of Tony who commented that he had known Stewart since when they were at school together.
At the start, Tony commented that 1971 was a memorable year. The Prime Minister was Ted Heath and US President was Richard Nixon. This was the year when decimal currency was introduced; Rolls Royce went bust; European Economic Community membership was proposed; Chay Blythe succeeded in sailing single-handedly around the world from east to west and Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham opened.
Prior to becoming a Freemason, Stewart McVernon had been an accomplished swimmer at school. He was a skilled athlete who was later captain of both football and rugby at Balmoral Road School, now known as Heysham High School.
In 1962 Stewart left school and joined Story Brothers before joining the Royal Marines a year later. At the same time Stewart’s elder sister emigrated to Canada. Stewart was initially posted to 45 Commando in Aden and on returning to the UK was posted to 43 Commando in Plymouth. He joined the rugby club and played for Devonport Services for the Royal Marines. On being posted to 42 Commando in Singapore, Stewart played rugby for the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Combined Services. His Royal Marines career appears to have been focused on playing rugby wherever he was posted.
On leaving the Royal Marines, Stewart married his wife Kath in 1973 and joined the family firm Alex Willis, a firm of undertakers founded by his great grandfather in 1881. Stewart and his wife Kath, have two sons and five grandchildren. He became a director in 1975. Stewart’s love of rugby continued with his appointment as club secretary of Vale of Lune Rugby Football Club in 1974, a position he held for 19 years.
Stewart was WM of Poulton Hall Lodge in 1983 and again in 1991. He was secretary for 16 years from 1992 until the amalgamation of that lodge with Rowley Lodge No 1051 and Sandylands Lodge No 5702. Stewart received his first Provincial appointment as Provincial Grand Steward in 1993 and has subsequently been promoted to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. He was a founder member of Lancaster Loyne Rotary Club in 1980 and has been active in Royal Arch at Sandylands Chapter No 5702 where he was first principal in 1987, 1998 and 1999 and is currently Scribe Ezra.
On completion of Tony’s presentation, group chairman Neil McGill was asked to present Stewart with the certificate issued by United Grand Lodge of England for his 50 years’ service to Freemasonry and read the dedication to the brethren. Tony described Stewart’s service as exemplary with 50 years of good, committed service to Freemasonry which continues today in his current role of acting master.
Tony then invited David Shaw to take the master’s chair and was escorted to his seat by the Provincial Director of Ceremonies.