The Bible describes a period of time most people have never heard of – the Jubilee or Jubile year. It occurs after seven sets of seven yearly intervals, 49 in total, are finished. A year long period to be observed once every 50 years, during which slaves were to be freed, alienated lands were to be restored to the original owner or an heir, the fields were to be left untilled, and all agricultural labours were to be suspended. (Leviticus 25) The start of the Jubile or Jubilee year was announced by a blast on a ‘shofar’, a wind instrument made from the horn of a ram.
A Masonic jubilee celebration of 50 years’ service allows us to reflect, celebrate and inspire.
So, it was that the brethren of Lilford Lodge No 3022 assembled to reflect on and celebrate 50 years in Masonry of Derek Wood Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden, with little doubt that it would also inspire younger Masons. The recently installed master Tony Roe opened the lodge in due form and then offered the gavel to Assistant Provincial Grand Master Anthony Bent, which on this happy and joyous occasion he was delighted to retain. Tony Bent pointed out that 50 years’ service in any walk of life is a living testament to a man’s commitment and that it is commendable in its own right. Tony then proceeded to give a resume of Derek’s life and recalled for the benefit of the assembled brethren, national events that were occurring in the years of his birth and initiation.
Derek was born at Firs maternity home in Leigh on the 2 September 1935 to Thomas and Ellen Wood. Also, born in that year were; Julie Andrews the famous film actress, Elvis Presley, Mary Berry of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ fame, Woody Allen, the Dali Lama and David Prouse, the body builder who many may not recall as he was usually hidden behind the mask of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. The year 1935 also saw the invention of the motorist’s friend ‘the cat’s eye’; the world land speed record was broken by Sir Donald Campbell at just short of 302 miles per hour; the average house cost £500, the average car was £300 and the average yearly wage trickled into pockets at just £129.
Derek lived on Holden Road in Leigh, was educated at Butts C of E School and then at Leigh Boys Grammar. Upon leaving grammar school his first job was as a clerk at Leigh Friendly Cooperative Society in the very building where the lodge meeting was taking place.
In 1954 Derek was called up for his National Service which he completed as a signalman in 7 TR Royal Corps of Signals and there he began refereeing football matches and also played cricket for the regiment.
Derek’s considerable musical talents had been demonstrated some years earlier when from an early age he had played the piano: being taught by Thomas Hurdus and Jane Bentham: regularly playing at the Sunday school at All Saints Church in Leigh. Music was in Derek’s blood, his father having played the tenor horn in Glazebury Church brass band, and it was not long before he was playing the cornet and tenor horn in Leigh Silver Brass Band. He has played many times at various lodges at Bryn and Leigh Masonic halls. His most favourite pieces are Belmont and Isaiah 40.
Furthering his sporting exploits he obtained his refereeing badge and officiated in both Leigh and Warrington District leagues. He eventually took up golf and joined Haydock Park Golf club, becoming their club captain in 1989.
On his ‘demob’ in 1956 Derek returned to the Co-op and was surprised to find that he had been promoted. Three months later he was promoted again and put in charge of the small savings bank. It was whilst at the Co-op that he met Joan Prescott, the Leigh Harriers track champion. He eventually caught Joan when she worked at the Atomic Energy, Risley. Some chase that! They soon became engaged and were married on Midsummers day 1958 and moved to live in Lowton where they still live to this day. Derek described Joan as “his rock” who has supported and encouraged him in all his activities throughout life. In 1960 he left the Co-op and started work at the TSB in Leigh, where he remained for 29 years, eventually ending up as Culcheth branch manager until he was made redundant along with 5000 others!
Derek’s Masonic career began in 1967; he was proposed by Norman Smith, seconded by Fred Hindley and initiated into Lilford Lodge No 3022. He was raised in March that year by his proposer. His talents were quickly identified and he became the lodge treasurer that very same year. How’s that for a first office! He served as master of the lodge on two occasions, in 1974 and again in 2003. He served as director of ceremonies for eight years and has been the lodge mentor for the last 10 years. Derek also serves as the lodge auditor, a role he has held for 20 years. Derek is also a founder member of the Mersey Valley Lodge of Installed Masters and also held the role of treasurer there for a considerable time. He is also an active member of other Orders in Masonry.
Tony congratulated him on his active service over many decades, his continuing service to the order and as an enduring role model to the brethren of the lodge. Following the address, a certificate signed by the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was read out by Tony and then presented to Derek by the group chairman Len Hart.
At the conclusion of the celebration Tony Roe resumed his place in the master’s chair and presented Derek with a pocket watch on behalf of the brethren of the lodge.
The formal part of the celebration being ended, the brethren retired to the festive board. The food was excellent and bolstered Leigh’s reputation for good food. The wine flowed freely and the company was in a celebratory mood. It does not get much better than this. In Derek’s own words: “One of the happiest days of my life”.
Article and photographs by Wayne Barnes.