The members of Lodge of Concord No 343 celebrated 50 years in the Craft of Vincent (Vin) Clarke; a very special occasion for the members and for him. The proceedings were led by Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder, accompanied by Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas and supported by grand officer Ian Greenwood, Preston Group Chairman Steve Bolton and group vice chairman Geoff Saul.
After transacting the initial business of the lodge, WM Ray Thompson welcomed David into the lodge thanking him for his attendance on this special occasion. On accepting the gavel and taking the master’s chair, David began by saying what a delight it was to oversee Vin’s 50th celebration, having been in the same master’s year group and having been pals for over 20 years.
David Winder then invited David Thomas to escort the celebrant to a seat on the floor of the lodge asking Vin to relax and enjoy the evening to the full. The brethren were then treated to a splendid résumé of the happenings in Vin’s life, both in and out of Freemasonry.
David began by going back to Backbarrow in the Lake District, which at that time was part of Lancashire, and the 18 May 1939 in particular when Maurice and Sarah Clarke were blessed with a son and later two daughters, Dorothy and Maureen. Vin’s father was one of eight children born in Backbarrow and was employed as a process supervisor in the now famous ‘Dolly Blue’ factory at Haverthwaite. His mother, originally from Barrow in Furness, assumed the role of a busy housewife.
Turning to Vin’s school days at St Andrews Boys’ School, David mentioned Vin’s interest in football and cricket. Football was played on the local Ashton Park where there were no changing rooms or other facilities and definitely the days of leather studs, ‘casey’ footballs and cold baths. Unfortunately, whilst doing his impression of Tarzan on a rope swing, the rope gave way and Vin sustained a fractured skull resulting in a month’s hospitalisation and convalescence and missing the exams for the grammar school. As a result, Vin continued his education at Fulwood High Secondary Modern School, where he became an active cross country runner. Vin went on to attain the position of librarian and most importantly, the position of School Prefect, a position that warranted a distinctive silver bead to the school uniform cap badge.
Moving on to Vin’s working life, David revealed that Vin had followed in his father’s footsteps and secured a five year apprenticeship at Springfields. He duly qualified as an electrical instruments technician dealing with radiation measuring instruments for safety and criticality monitoring systems, eventually moving into the Health and Safety department with generic responsibility for site safety. Vin took full part in playing for the works cricket team for five years as an all-rounder and always seemed to be in demand for the away games. His other sport was golf, having been a member of Ashton and Lea Golf Club for over 30 years with two ‘holes in one’ to his name, these being gained at the short but very difficult 6th hole at Ashton.
In 1964 Vin left the nuclear industry to join Preston District Water Board as a senior draughtsman. Following a year’s specialised training, he assumed the role of assistant distribution engineer that led in 1973 to promotion to distribution engineer with responsibility the Preston catchment area. In 1975 the local water authorities were nationalised and split into regions with Vin’s responsibilities expanding to include the Fylde, Blackburn and Burnley areas. In 1984 Vin was appointed District Manager for Blackburn. This was a period of many challenges and long hours that continued until 1989 when Vin was able to take well-earned redundancy to retire at the age of 52.
Moving on to Vin’s retirement, David mentioned Vin’s wife, Mary, who has a great interest in flower arranging and gardening resulting in them both joining the Preston Gardening Society and Vin acting as a flower delivery van driver for six years. Vin is currently the president of the society, a position he told David is obtained, ‘When you are too old to do anything good!’
Referring to romance, David turned the clock back to 1962 when Vin’s sister Dorothy brought her friend Mary round. She had apparently told Mary that her brother was in need of a good woman! Mary, on her own admission, made most of the running as Vin was so ‘shy and coy.’ But, as they say, the rest is history and four years later, on 20 March 1965, Vin and Mary were married at Emmanuel Church, Preston. The marriage has been blessed with two daughters, Helen, Alison and a son Andrew followed by four grandsons, Daniel, Sam, Josh and Max.
Vin is a member of St Christopher’s Church at Lea where Mary has been arranging flowers for over 30 years. He is also a member of the Parochial Parish Council and a regular ‘reader’ as well as maintenance man at the church, in Vin’s own words: “A sort of Captain Mainwaring.” Before moving on to Vin’s Masonic career, David then asked the lodge secretary Patrick Bracewell to read a précis of the minutes recorded at Vin’s initiation.
David continued by saying Vin’s introduction into Masonry was via his proposer Ken Johnson, who was a work colleague and his seconder Fred Mortimer, who was a neighbour. Although there was no history of Masonry in Vin’s family, he was encouraged to join the order by his father. Vin’s initiated was a double ceremony with Grahame Halliwell and this was immediately followed by a double second as brothers, Willey and Hawkes made further Masonic progress. Four people making an advancement in Masonry all within the one night and in the same lodge could be considered unusual, even for those times.
Describing Vin’s raising ceremony, David recounted that Vin had told him that the ceremony was performed by his seconder Fred Mortimer and at the appropriate moment as Fred bent over; his jewel fell off and dropped neatly into Vin’s hand. Being new to Masonry and not knowing if this was supposed to happen, Vin wondered how Fred had managed to be so accurate in his positioning to achieve such a feat.
Vin progress through all the offices on the ladder in consecutive years until reaching junior warden when working commitments forced a three year temporary halt. It was in 1979 when the gavel of the lodge was placed in Vin’s hands. His first ceremony as master was supported by the attendance of no fewer than 17 other masters. During his busy year in the chair, Vin delivered ceremonies of two firsts, two seconds and one third. This, of course excluded attendance at the many Masonic social events that was the norm in those days.
After holding the office of DC for nine years, Vin returned to the master’s chair in 2000. David remembered this being an excellent year, as he himself attained the chair of Ribble Lodge No 4558. He recounted that, in those days, the 2000/2001 masters group regularly turned out 10 visiting masters to events. Sadly numbers in Salwick Lodge had declined considerably and in 2002 the decision was taken to hand in its warrant. Along with Keith Mawdsley, Bernard Tagg, Neil Clarkson and Mike Billinge, Vin became a joining member of the mother lodge of Salwick, Lodge of Concord No 343.
Moving on to appointments, David was pleased to say that Vin’s contribution to the craft was recognised in 1988 when he was appointed to the acting rank of PrGStwd and promoted to the rank of PPrSGD in 1992 and further promoted to his current very high rank of PPrJGW in 2001. His interest in the charitable and care side of Masonry resulted in him joining Dona Conferentes Lodge No 9392 in 1994, a lodge in which he is still actively involved. Vin recently joined Lodge of Unanimity No 113 in its new ‘daylight’ guise. In the Royal Arch, Vin was exalted into Penwortham Chapter No 5874 in 1983 and became a founder member of Salwick Chapter No 9115 in 1985.
David then invited the group chairman, Steve Bolton, to read the 50th celebration certificate before formally presenting it to him, bringing the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, as well as his own. Concluding his remarks David reminded Vin that on the day he was made a Mason he was charged to be respectable in life, useful to mankind and an ornament to the society of which he was on that day made a member. His final words were, “Every brother present today is in no doubt that you, Vin, have fulfilled those obligations on every count and we congratulate you on a wonderful achievement, your jubilee celebration in Freemasonry.” This was followed by prolonged and well deserved applause from all the brethren present.
Later in the evening, Neil Clarkson had the pleasure of proposing the toast to Vin’s health saying he had known Vin for many years, both as a friend and as a Mason. He went on to say Vin epitomised the qualities of a Mason by way of friendship, family, honesty, and integrity, a real gentleman that it has been his honour to know. Ray Thompson then presented Vin with a 50 year service jewel from the members of the lodge as a token of appreciation for all he had done for Freemasonry.
In response Vin informed the brethren that this celebration marks to the day his initiation into Salwick Lodge. To survive 50 years needs support for which thanks go to his wife Mary. Especially, as this year he is celebrating not only 50 years in the craft but also his golden wedding anniversary. Vin went on to thank all those that had made the event possible and in particular, mentioning David Winder for his magnificent contribution in lodge and Patrick Bracewell as secretary for his research through the records of Salwick Lodge. Vin concluded by thanking all present for their support in attending this meeting on what had been a tremendous day.