The brethren of Brotherhood Lodge No 3967 were pleased to welcome Duncan Smith, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, to lead them in the celebration of Tony Ansell’s 50th year as a Freemason, at Blackpool Masonic Hall.
Tony was born in December 1943 at the Glenroyd Hospital in Blackpool. Tony’s father was an engineer in the RAF based in India and his mother was in a local group of volunteers in Blackpool and to them a son was born.
Education began for Tony at St John’s Primary School in Blackpool, followed by a transfer to what was, in those days, called St Columba’s in Bispham. As a 10-year-old, the school was part of the Blackpool schools demonstration of skills held annually within the Blackpool Tower Circus.
Tony was a member of the choir at Bispham Parish Church, giving solo performances as a soprano until nature took its course and his voice broke. Not long afterwards Tony passed the 11 plus exam and he joined Palatine Grammar School where, although obtaining decent results, he was not an academic. Sport is what he lived for, being a team member in football, athletics, gymnastics and swimming.
On joining the Blackpool Swimming Club, he competed in town and Lancashire championships, water polo, and 10-metre-high board diving. His outstanding achievement was qualification for the All England Championships, held at the Derby Baths Blackpool. His event was the 110-metre backstroke where Tony achieved his personal best time and finished 32nd out of 148 contestants.
Tony’s other passions were motor cycles and rock and roll, however, the downside was being demoted as head prefect for entering the school in motorcycle gear. The upside was that during this period he met his future wife Jenny at a swimming competition. One evening on returning from night school he was invited to meet her parents. After removing his motor cycle gear, it would be fair to say, that drain pipe trousers, lime green socks and brothel creepers did not impress his future father-in-law.
On leaving school, Tony applied to the Land Registry for a position as a land surveyor. A post in Southampton was offered, but having met Jenny he refused it and feels this was the best decision he has ever made. Jenny and Tony were married in 1963 and were blessed with two sons Nicholas and David. In 1966 David was born at home on the same day that England won the world cup which they watched on a 12 inch black and white TV in the bedroom.
Like most families, the following years took the usual pattern of children’s clubs, social occasions, badminton club, St Annes Old Links Golf Club and holidays with the Caravan Club. Their first trip abroad was a two week camping trip to the Costa Brava, by road in an Austin A35, towing a small trailer with two kids under two, a boot full of nappies and tinned food.
Jenny and Tony celebrated their silver wedding with a holiday to Hong Kong, Bangkok and St Lucia. They also spent a number of years holidaying at a camp site on Pampelonne Beach outside Saint Tropez.
At the age of 42, Tony was persuaded to learn to ride a horse, which on the passing of his wife at the age of 48, proved to be his saving grace. Together with his niece as the rider, they successfully competed in local, regional and county competitions, eventually winning the working cob class at the National Championships. Tony continued to ride his horse until he reached 78 years of age, quite an achievement.
He has remained active throughout his life, having spent several years as a volunteer and committee member of the local branch of the Riding Club for the Disabled, and he is Chairman of The Thornton Cleveleys Horse Club, and past president of the Hambleton Bowling Club.
Tony’s professional life took off at the age of 20 when he became a junior quantity surveyor, eventually qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor and becoming a partner in a local firm. Later in his career he relocated to a young company to act as a consultant to expand the business. His first clients were Dutton’s Brewery in Blackburn working on local and country pubs and restaurants. This was followed by several years involvement in schools and hospitals including Arnold, Queen Mary and King Edward Schools and Fylde, Lancaster and Barrow hospitals.
A change of direction came at Whitbread’s, where he became part of a new team rolling out projects such as Beefeater, Roast Inns, TGI Fridays and Pizza Huts. This then expanded into major new projects such as Marriot Hotels, and golf and country clubs across the country.
But Blackpool is where Tony started and provided many memories of our town. Projects included the 3 piers, amusement arcades, night clubs, bowling alleys and the famous Yates Wine Lodge. In later years, as a project manager, he was appointed to oversee three multi-£1,000,000 developments. The first was the upgrading of the Winter Gardens and Opera House to raise standards to compete with the likes of Brighton and to allow party conferences to return to Blackpool.
The second was the complete remodelling of the Blackpool Tower complex, which was a difficult task due to the time scale for completion and the added pressure of it being a personal interest of the then chairman, Lord Delfont. On one occasion Tony received a message from Lord Delfont that he would visit the site and Tony should meet him that evening at 11:00 pm to accompany him on his walkabout finishing about one o’clock in the morning.
The third was the contract to build the new attraction known as the Sea Life Centre. A unique opportunity and the one most memorable. In a typical Blackpool approach, architects, engineers, marine experts, set designers, builders and quantity surveyors all met at the Savoy Hotel on a Monday in November, given a brief and tasked with producing a scheme and costings in five days, and if approved, to complete the works by the spring bank holiday. Suffice it to say that Tony, as project manager, assisted by the full cooperation of all parties and a big stroke of luck, completed the task a week ahead of schedule.
Tony was introduced into Freemasonry by his father-in-law Francis Harrison, and after attending Ladies Evenings and social events he was initiated into Brotherhood Lodge on 10 January 1974 by the WM Rev Cannon Geoffrey Moore, who was himself initiated into Brotherhood Lodge almost exactly 13 years earlier, on 12 January 1961, in the very same lodge room, by the then WM, Tony’s father-in-law and proposer.
Tony made steady progress through the various offices before being installed as master of the lodge in 1984 and he received his first Provincial honour in 1992 to the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, followed in 1998 with promotion to the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
He served as lodge secretary for a total of 14 years, in addition to charity, group and festival representatives and as a director of the Masonic Hall. Tony also researched and produced booklets on the history of the lodge at the 75th and 90th anniversary celebrations in the presence of Jack Humphrey, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
During his 50 years in the Craft, Tony has many memories, but two in particular stand out. The pride felt when his two sons Nicholas and David joined the lodge, both eventually becoming WM. Three generations of Masons in the lodge at the same time. Secondly, to cap his 50 years, he felt there was no bigger honour than to be invited by the brethren of the lodge to occupy the master’s chair during it’s centenary year, a truly memorable occasion.
Tony was also exalted into Saturnian Royal Arch Chapter No 7563 in 1982, and in 1984 he became a founding member of North Shore Chapter No. 7916. He served as secretary for a total of 13 years besides several other offices. He served as first principal in1989. In 1993, Tony received the acting rank of Provincial Grand Steward and in 1997 was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah. Tony was also a member of the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter of Werst Lancashire No 8516 and Senatores Chapter of Installed First Principals No 8966.