Having been a Craft or Royal Arch Freemason for 50 years, although an increasingly common occurrence, is an incredible achievement. To have been 50 years in the same Lodge or Chapter is an additional level of achievement again.
We regard a Lodge or Chapter being 100 years old as something rather special, and 150 or 200 years even more so. In 2017 we celebrated 300 years of Freemasonry. A mason who has been in a Lodge or Chapter for 50 years has been part of its history for perhaps half or more of the life of the Lodge or Chapter. He will have been a Freemason for one sixth of the time modern Freemasonry, as we recognise it, has existed! It is inevitable that such a man will have a wealth of memories, anecdotes and stories and Fred was no different.
At 50thcelebrations we tend to look back at the meeting to events that happened the year of initiation or exultation. Fred Chorlton was initiated on 18thApril 1969. April 1969 was such a momentous month, there was no need to stray into any other part of 1969.
The Raleigh Chopper was launched; the RAF took delivery of its 1stHarrier jump jet; Sikh busmen in Wolverhampton won the right to wear their turbans whilst on duty; The Representation of the People Act became law lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 and removing the right of convicted prisoners to vote in Parliamentary elections; Bernadette Devlin won the Mid Ulster by-election and became the youngest ever female MP at 21 years old; Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to make a solo non-stop global circumnavigation under sail; British Leyland launched Britain’s first production hatchback – the Austin Maxi; Mrs Dale’s Diary ended; and Manchester City won the FA Cup.
Not only was Fred exulted in the middle of this special month but he went on to some remarkable masonic achievements. For instance to name but two, for 20 years he was an active mason in both Surrey and East Lancs, commuting to meetings, and in 1983 became a founder member of Stoneleigh Oak Chapter in Surrey.
He was very pleased to receive his certificate and letter from Sir David, and very impressed that so many acting Provincial Officers (there were 12, steered, motivated and arranged by Jim Hilton the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies).
More than any of this, the whole evening was one of memories, some for Fred alone and others that he shared with those of us present.
Fred is now a little infirm, but his response at the social board was powerful, thoughtful and to the point. It is a reflection of the way he is regarded by his companions that the Chapter, which is very small, paid for him to have a taxi between the Manchester Hall and his home in Crewe.
All in all, a splendid evening to celebrate a dedicated mason reaching a remarkable milestone.
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