The Lodge of Unanimity No 113 had a double celebration when blood brothers, John and Peter Watson jointly celebrated their golden jubilees in Freemasonry, an event that is possibly unique in the Preston Group and maybe further in the Masonic community.
The proceedings were led by the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, David Winder, accompanied by Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Mark Barton, acting officer, Alan Howarth and the group chairman, Steve Bolton. They were supported by grand officers, Bill Seddon, Tom Jackson, Ron Weatherill, Ian Greenwood and the group vice chairman, Geoff Saul.
After transacting the normal business of the lodge David Winder was formally welcomed into the lodge by the worshipful master, Vic Parker, who then invited David to occupy the master’s chair.
To set the scene, David began by recounting some of the events of 50 years ago, when Clint Eastwood made his debut in the first spaghetti western, ‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ the Torrey Canyon super tanker ran aground, North Sea gas was pumped ashore for the first time and Muhammed Ali was stripped of his heavyweight world boxing title for refusing to go into military service. It was also the year that John and Peter Watson were initiated into Freemasonry.
David then invited Mark Barton, to escort the celebrants to seats on the floor of the lodge asking both to relax and enjoy the evening to the full. The brethren were then treated to a splendid résumé of the happenings in John and Peter’s lives, both in and out of Freemasonry.
David commenced his disclosure by directing his attention to John, the senior of the two brothers by five years.
He related the early period of John’s life referring to his time living in a two-bedroomed tenanted property and holiday adventures in Ambleside.
Turning to John’s school days, David informed the brethren that 1945 was an important year for him as he started school at Kennington Road Primary and brother Peter arrived on the scene. When Peter was due, John was dispatched to relatives in Blackpool. It was an experience he did not enjoy due to his uncle being rather old school and domineering. Naively, John was looking forward to returning home to a brother with whom he could play football. However, on arrival at home, he was rather put out by the tiny bundle that made so much noise. However, on the bright side, 1945 did see a move to a larger house in Fulwood, a house where parents Arnold and Margaret would remain for the rest of their lives.
Returning to John’s schooling, David referred to the headmistress of Kennington Road, a lady John was convinced had been thrown out of the Hitler Youth for cruelty. As a result, John soon left the school to complete his primary education at Holme Slack Primary.
Transferring his gaze to brother Peter, David remarked that, in due time Peter followed brother John to Holme Slack Primary. His journey to school was eased by thoroughly knowing the route, a route he had taken when, as a three year old, he had followed John on his way to school on many occasions, resulting in a return trip home for John. John did admit that, as a streetwise eight year old, he had similarly tried to ‘lose’ Peter whilst playing with his friends. It was a matter of Peter cramping his style or possibly ‘street cred’ may have had something to do with it.
As a pupil of Holme Slack Primary, Peter first met fellow pupils, Doug Atkinson and Ray Taylor. They became lifelong friends and eventually all members of the Lodge of Unanimity. The headmaster at the time was Jim Wilson who, in turn, was to join the lodge. David reminded Peter of the occasion when his mother received a call from the school that he was missing and, despite extensive searches, could not be found. Fortunately, he was eventually located, fast asleep behind the school piano.
Following the move to the newly opened Fulwood County Secondary School, where competitive sport was very high on the curriculum, Peter admitted to only dabbling in the activities. His excuse was, being short sighted, right handed and left footed rather compromised his abilities in the field of sport. However, he did excel in other directions by gaining five GCE’s and the ultimate accolade of never being caught not wearing his school cap.
Returning to John, David mentioned his interest in rugby, football and cricket, activities he enjoyed in his time at Preston Grammar School. He reminded John of the foggy day, when playing in goal for the old boy’s football team. Unbeknown to John, the match was cancelled with both teams leaving the pitch, leaving him a lonely figure staring into the fog.
David moved on to the brothers’ working lives mentioning John gaining employment at Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation where he was office junior to Don Stephenson, another member of the lodge. Five years down the line a new boy arrived in the office. It was none other than Peter who had applied on his own without mentioning brother John. Both careers blossomed with Peter given responsibility as an “Outside Man” looking after a couple of hundred agents including solicitors and accountants’ offices. John, in the meantime, moved to Burnley as office manager before being asked to become the manager of a new branch in St Annes. This was followed by positions in Blackpool and Lancaster. In 1990 following a company reorganisation, John decided to retire after 33 years’ service. However, working life did not end as John spent a further five years working with Peter in Cleveleys. In turn Peter changed his career path in 1977 by setting up an insurance brokerage in association with two other colleagues. The business was eventually sold with Peter taking up employment with another insurance broker before finally retiring in 2010 after 45 years in the business.
Moving on to romance, David recalled John attending the very popular Worsley’s dance hall where he was to meet his future wife, Sandra. After relating a few romantic adventures, David said John’s charm must have worked as they are still together after almost 58 years with sons Graham and Simon duly arriving to bless their marriage. Peter was ‘Best Man’ at John’s wedding, a favour John returned some 45 years later when Peter finally walked down the aisle to marry Silvia, a lady he met through his enthusiasm for bowling.
David continued by turning to the subject of Masonic careers. He began by inviting the lodge secretary, Gordon Pilkington, to read the minutes of the meeting at which John and Peter were initiated. It was an occasion when their father, Arnold, being master of the lodge, had the proud pleasure of initiating both sons in a double ceremony.
John went on to be master of the lodge in 1978, having been installed in the master’s chair by his close friend and former school chum, Douglas Atkinson. During his year, John completed back to back first, second and third degree ceremonies, learning the ritual as part of his daily drives to work in Lancaster. His year concluded with him having the pleasure of installing brother Peter as his successor in the master’s chair and John’s father being present to proudly witness the occasion. He went on to serve the lodge as ADC for four years and then DC for a further four. His work in the lodge was recognised in 1988 with an appointment to Provincial Grand Lodge holding the rank of PPrJGD. In 1990 John was further recognised with promotion to the very high rank of PPrJGW. In 1983, John was exalted in the Royal Arch as a companion of Royal Preston Chapter No 333, becoming first principal in 1997. His work in the Royal Arch was recognised in 2000 with an appointment to Provincial Grand Chapter with the rank of PPrAGSoj.
Turning his attention to Peter, David continued by reminding him of his 20 years’ total service as lodge secretary that followed his year in the master’s chair. Peter continues to serve the lodge, now as treasurer. His work in the lodge was also recognised in 1988 with an appointment to Provincial Grand Lodge holding the same rank as John. In 1997 he was further recognised with promotion to PPrJGW, yet again following in his brother’s footsteps.
Like John, Peter was exalted in the Royal Arch as a companion of Royal Preston Chapter No 333. He later joined North Shore Chapter No 7916, attaining the first principal’s chair in1992. His work in the Royal Arch was recognised in 2000 with an appointment to Provincial Grand Chapter with the rank of PPrGStdB. Peter is also a member of Senatores Chapter of Installed First Principals.
Diversifying his Masonic interests, in addition to the Craft and the Royal Arch, Peter is also a member of three other Masonic orders.
David closed his résumé by saying that the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison, was aware of both John and Peter’s celebrations and, although he was not able to be present in person, he sent his personal greetings in the form of certificates. He then invited the group chairman, Steve Bolton, to read the 50th celebration certificates before formally presenting them and adding his own congratulations to those of the Provincial Grand Master. The proceedings closed to the sound of resounding applause from all the brethren present.
Later in the evening, after the celebratory banquet attended by over 90 brethren, Douglas Atkinson had the pleasure of proposing the toast to the celebrants, a toast that concluded with the presentation of individual engraved trophies to John and Peter. As a further surprise, they were collectively presented with four bottles of wine as a memento of what had been a wonderful day.
Concluding the occasion John presented David with a bouquet of flowers for his wife Sue and a suitable libation for himself as a thank you for all the hard work he had contributed to making the event such a memorable occasion, not only for John and Peter, but also for all the members of the lodge and the supporting visitors in attendance.