How I became a Freemason
I was interviewed by the Lodge of Security F & G.P Committee and told that I would have to wait 18 months to be Initiated into the Lodge. Meanwhile they sent two PMs to see my wife to tell of the commitment I would duly enter. I was told that I and my Wife would be invited to attend the Social Functions of the Lodge so that I 'would get the feel' of the Lodge activities. The Lodge of Security was in the Province of Northumberland and met at a Newcastle Temple.
The Lodge of Security was a 'restricted' Membership Lodge - only civil servants of Ministry of National Insurance were accepted!!
I was duly Initiated in March, 1958. There was another Initiate with me and the WM was assisted by the IPM when 'instructing' us. Along side the SW and JW sat a Steward who assisted them when we were presented to their Chairs. We completed the whole Ceremony and then were able to retire and 'dress' and we had to stand at the Lodge door to be 'greeted ' by the Brethren as they left the Lodge. I recall that there were 120 present that night.
My Second Degree was in the April; and Third Degree in the May thus Bob Wilson and I were duly made Master Masons and we were expected to attend the LOI. At that Meeting we were told what we would be doing at the next Meeting and we had to learn that Ritual - no books were allowed! in the LOI Meetings! I attained the SW Chair and could 'Open and Close' the LOI!! The SW 'acted' as WM at all Lodge Meetings so he was well able to cope with the Lodge Meetings when he became WM.
My Proposer sat beside me for about six Meetings and explained what was happening.. He explained the Principles of Freemasonry and told me that 'Brethren care for one another and show that they care'!!! Something that nowadays seems to be lacking - the emphasis being on Charity collections!!
After two years Membership I was appointed a Steward and attendance at LOI became essential for failing to do so meant that you were removed from the Stewards' List!!
The first year as a Steward you were required to present to the Lodge assembled the First Degree Tracing Board - a bit of an ordeal as you can imagine. In one's second year it was the Second Degree Tracing Board presentation!! That ensured that all the Brethren saw you and were able to assess your ability to master the Ritual!! Thereafter a Steward assumed the Office of and absent 'holder's' that Office - so it was quite possible that a Steward acted as SW - in fairness you were usually given 'notice' of the job that you would cover so able to learn that 'role'.
A Steward was given a white coast and served the Festive Board - meat and two veg plus a 'little bit' of cheese and a biscuit. He also served the drinks - beer being the speciality in Northern Lodges. - Newcastle Light Ale was a 1/- (5p) and Newcastle Brown Ale was 1/6. The attendance at Lodge Meetings exceeded 100 - if there were less then there was an 'enquiry' by the PMs as to the reason!! It is worth stating that Initiation Fee was £30.00 and Dues £30.00 per year - the Dues entitled you and your Guests to the Festive Board meal!!! My Proposer and I were both very much involved in Amateur Athletics and so we had usually 10 -12 Guests!! and all we had to pay for was their beer!! After the Stewards cleared the tables they retired to a separate room for their meal. The main Toasts were held in their absence!! There was 'entertainment' after the Festive Board - usually a singer or the Lodge Choir entertained the assembly!! Lodge Meetings began at 7 p.m. and the Tyler's Toast was usually at 10.30 p.m.!! Twas a 'Good Night' out.
I visited many Lodges in Northumberland and County Durham as a Guest and always enjoyed that visit!!
I left Tyneside in November 1963 to take a Management post at the Ashford National Insurance. My wife and family joined me in the following July.