A double gold for Hal Eccles and Tom Fairley

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The King’s Lodge No. 3101 had good cause to be in a celebratory mood, as two of its members, Haldane Raymond Eccles and Thomas Paton Fairley both celebrated their 50 years in Freemasonry on the same night

This was enhanced even more by the fact the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Howard Jones, who is also a member of King’s Lodge, was to deliver the celebration.

Lodge formalities over, Howard was offered the gavel by the WM Colin Robinson which he accepted, remarking that it had been in his care on several occasions before.

Howard set the scene with a short introduction.

'Fifty years ago 1963 was a year with a number of metaphorical clouds. The winter had been long and cold with the snow remaining until April and for three months there was no amateur football in Liverpool because of frozen, snow covered pitches.

'The railways had a bad year. First Dr Beeching issued his report and latterly Ronnie Biggs and others carried out the Great Train Robbery. There were political problems with the Profumo affair. To cap it all Manchester United had won the cup! However. every cloud has a silver lining. Everton won the League, the Beatles were sweeping all before them in Pop music but most importantly a lifelong friendship was formed.'

Howard continued: '41 years ago in October 1972 I was initiated into this lodge in a double ceremony alongside Peter Hough. We completed our three degrees together. Peter was three years younger than me and sadly he died three years later. Worshipful Brother Fred Darbyshire had proposed Peter into the lodge. Nine years earlier he had proposed another gentleman and that is where we shall begin.'

Howard then asked Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Neil McSymons to place Hal and Tom in seats in front of him before proceeding as thus:

'Picture the scene brethren in the offices of St John Ambulance in Rodney Street two young men met for the first time as they arrived to face the inquisition for that is how they perceived being interviewed by the Past Masters at the time.

'C.S. Lewis said friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘What! you too?’

'How right he was and as a consequence today we have a double ceremony to celebrate Hal and Tom achieving 50 years in Freemasonry.

'Hal became Bro Hal on 22 October 1963 and Tom followed one month later, 50 years ago today on 26 November 1963. So first I will introduce you to Bro Hal.

'Charles and May Eccles lived in Allerton and by 1925 they had three children, Audrey, Hilary and Cyril. In the following year on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March, they were blessed with a fourth who was christened Haldane Raymond.

'Hal’s early schooling was at Springwood, then Northway and finally at Highfield High. At school he enjoyed his athletics, particularly sprinting. He was choirboy at St John’s Church in Knotty Ash, which was where he first met Doris in the Village Hall.

'On leaving school he began as a paper ruler apprentice but he realised it was not really for him. However, it was wartime and Hal was drafted into the infantry and eventually the Cameronians. After initial training in Omagh and Dalton-in-Furness, Hal served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany as front line infantry and as a nominated stretcher-bearer. Whilst in Holland the regiment was taken out of the front line for a rest and Hal was billeted with a baker in De Haan. Rest over it was back to the front line.

'However, Hal’s elder brother Hilary, who was a regular and had been out in the Far East, was then billeted with the same bakers, Yvonne and Edmund, who made the connection. Hilary wrote to Hal, who got a twelve-hour pass and hitchhiked back to see his brother but missed him as he had been returned to England the previous day. It resulted in a friendship with Yvonne and Edmund, which continued after the war, was over.

'Whilst in Germany Hal was selected to go on a course about feet at the 77th British Hospital in Wuppertal, known as Bethesda. This was his first introduction to Chiropody. He was now a Corporal and the regiment’s chiropodist so he volunteered to go on the advance course.  With the war over Hal, now in the Royal Army Medical Corp, found himself being transferred round various Regiments and finished with the distinction of having been an Englishman in an Irish, Welsh and Scottish Regiment.

'Having spent three and a half years in the army Hal returned home and in 1948 completed his training and examinations to enable him to practice as a chiropodist and finally in 1951 he completed his Higher Chiropody Diploma. He had begun his own business the year before working from his mother’s house but he was now able to open his own surgery in Prescot Road.

'1951 was a big year for Hal as on 8 September he married Doris at St John’s Church in Knotty Ash. As I said before he had met Doris at a Village Hall dance when, saying how nice she was to his brother Cyril, received the reply that she was the councillor’s daughter and wouldn’t be interested in you. However, on another occasion at Dovecot Hall, entrance 1s 6d, Hal won the raffle and Doris gave him the prize. It was his opportunity and he grabbed it and asked her out. They have now been married for 62 years and counting - quite a raffle prize.

'They lived above the surgery for two years until they were able to buy their house in Court Hey. The timing was right as their first daughter, Susan, arrived in 1953 and she was followed by three more girls; Janet in 1955, Christine in 1959 and Marian in 1963. If I were to tell you much more about the family we would be here a long time brethren as Hal and Doris now have 10 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

'As a chiropodist Hal has been a member of the Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists for 64 years and was called upon to answer the toast to the Institute on a number of occasions. He has only retired from practice this year. Brethren that is a remarkable achievement.

'In planning my presentation I asked him if there were any particular memories of a lifetime with feet but as you are all expecting to eat shortly I will forgo the graphic descriptions of ingrowing toenails septic toes and ulcerated feet! However, at one time Hal was having difficulty retaining the young receptionists so he elected for a more mature lady. As there were three of them practicing then he gave her instructions to spread the work between the three of them. Imagine his reaction when he heard her say on the telephone ‘We have three practitioners but I can’t recommend any of them.’

'A regular lady client who was now 94 had a septic toe and all the usual treatments hadn’t worked so Hal decided to try one of the old remedies, a hot poultice, and told the receptionist to show her into the back room as he was preparing the poultice in the steriliser. The client saw the steam rising and asked her what it was. The receptionist told her it was okay Mr Eccles is just getting it ready he’s going to sterilise you today!

'Hal was proposed by his Brother-in-Law, Fred Darbyshire and initiated into this lodge on 22 October 1963. He became WM on 22 April 1975 and again in 1994. He has occupied many of the lodge offices making particular contributions as both director of ceremonies and secretary. He is currently the lodge mentor. He was appointed Provincial Grand Steward in 1982 and promoted to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 1986. For 14 years Hal served the Eighth Liverpool Group; first as group secretary and then as vice chairman. As a consequence of his time as a group official Hal was elected an honorary member of six lodges and he was promoted to Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1990. The Grand and Provincial Grand Officers Luncheon Club has had the benefit of his organising ability for the last 14 years and he has been the chairman since 2001.

'Now brethren a few words about Tom.

'John and Isabella Fairley had three children, John, Nan and Tom and all three became Masons. John, a Scotsman, had been a regular soldier who after leaving the army settled in Liverpool.

'The youngest, Thomas Paton Fairley, was born at home on 26 July 1933. His school days were spent at Florence Melly School, which opened in 1927 and still exists today as a Community Primary School but in a new building. Whilst at school Tom contracted Rheumatic Fever and was banned from playing all sport so he exercised at home and obviously recovered well as he won the Liverpool Schools Neat High Dive Competition held at Norris Green Baths. I don’t think he’d fancy diving from a five-metre board now. Also when playing for Florence Melly Old Boys he played at Goodison Park in a local Cup Final. For an Evertonian a day to remember.

'Leaving school Tom began working at a Radio and Battery Services firm in Kirkdale Road but after six months the owners nephew, Fred Hughes, took him on as an apprentice cabinetmaker.

'In 1953 National Service intervened and because of his Scottish ancestry Tom asked for a Scottish Regiment and was posted to The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. After his 10 weeks basic training he had one stripe followed three months later by a second and became a full-established corporal, which was rare for a National Serviceman. Tom was a PTI and on nine occasions was listed for posting overseas, every one of which was cancelled at the last minute. The farthest he managed from Inverness was Aldershot. Boxing was very much in evidence in the army and on one occasion Tom found himself in the ring with the six foot six Regimental Champion.

'Later in the day he was found in the changing rooms still in his vest and shorts not too sure of why he was there. It was probably concussion and consequently no more boxing. Obeying commands and training is essential in soldiers and drilling National Serviceman to jump into water in full kit and swim to the other side of the river was a routine exercise. Fortunately this was carried out in a swimming pool. One young lad from the Gorbals, who for the first time in his life had his own bed and clothes, was ordered in. He then stood to attention on the bottom of the pool until they realised he couldn’t swim and Tom had to drag him out.

'Tom had met a young lady called Beatrice at the Florence Melly Old Boys Club before he was called up, so it came as no surprise that on 7 May 1955 they were married. You might say that it was a quiet affair as there were only four at the ceremony. On the other hand it was a grand occasion as it was in Inverness Cathedral with Tom in his full dress uniform of Kilt, Glengarry and spats.

'Just four months later Tom returned to civvy street and returned to work for Fred Hughes. That led to Tom working for Frank Marsh, a member of this lodge and Gilly Fisher of Aigburth Lodge No 4103. When they split the business it led to Tom travelling to Wrexham to work for seven years for Frank Marsh. When the business closed he began to work for Hanson’s, which became Unigate and then Express Dairies initially as a Spray Painter and Sign-Writer then over the years Tom became proficient in welding, vehicle maintenance and HGV recovery. One of the spin offs from this employment was the supply of cream at our lodge’s social events to accompany George Willis’s apple pies.

'After their marriage Tom and Beatrice lived with Bea’s parents until eventually they were able to buy their own house in 1963. They are still there today. Their son Duncan was born in December 1964 and they have two grandsons, Thomas and Alexander. Duncan went to Glasgow to take a degree in Art and Design and to assist with the cost took a job in a bakery, which he enjoyed. The course now completed Duncan still continues to knead the dough.

'Tom and Bea enjoy their holidays and the opera. Those of you who remember Ron Charles will know he was not too mobile. On holiday in Florida the two couples were visiting a snake farm and watching snakes being milked for venom when one was dropped on the floor. Tom reckons the other three would have beaten Usain Bolt. He didn’t move. When the snake had been captured the farmer said you were brave to stay there. Tom did not tell him he had been rooted to the spot. Visiting the opera Tom was sent to get Lesley Garrett to sign her autograph on the programme. On explaining it was for Bea he was asked what do you want? Tom replied he would settle for a kiss and he remembers it well.

'Tom was initiated on 26 November 1963 becoming WM on 27 April 1976 and for a second time in April 1997. Since his year as Immediate Past Master in 1977 he has carried out a number of the lodge offices including 10 years as treasurer and has been our chaplain for a number of years. Some of his contributions to Masonry are in use in this lodge room. On the secretary’s desk you can see the lectern made by Tom with the three tracing boards behind the relevant doors. The various wands are standing in the blue holders made by Tom. In Hope Street there is a set of pedestals he constructed and in Tenerife a Chapter has the benefit of a set of Arch Stones made by him. All this commitment resulted in Tom becoming Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon in 1988 and he was promoted to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 1996.

'Worshipful Brother Hal and Worshipful Brother Tom I know over the years you and your wives have had numerous holidays together in many places both near and far. To China, New Zealand and of course Tenerife for a ladies' night that lasted a week! You have had many happy times and a few laughs along the way. Thrown out of your rooms, no breakfast as the hotel had run out of bread, butter etc., even though the supermarket was only down the road.

'Brethren, during the past 50 years their friendship has been a constant source of pleasure to both of them and they have a number of common interests. One of them being the pleasure they get from their gardens.

'I feel sure Tennyson must have had such a friendship in mind when he wrote ‘If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...I could walk through my garden forever.’

'To both of you: Worshipful Brother Haldane Raymond Eccles Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies of the United Grand Lodge of England and Worshipful Brother Thomas Paton Fairley Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden of the Province of West Lancashire, I’m sure all the brethren join me in wishing you good health to continue enjoying your masonry secure in your friendship for each other and for us all to have the continued pleasure of your company.'

The group secretary, Ray Barrow read the certificate from the Provincial Grand Master which was duly presented to Hal by Howard.

The group vice chairman, John Marsden, read the certificate from the Provincial Grand Master which was also duly presented to Tom by Howard.

At the festive board, the toast to the health of Hal and Tom was given by Ron Davies, which was followed up by him presenting them with a gift on behalf of the lodge.

It was a delightful evening enjoyed by all the brethren that attended.

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