The Ormskirk Masonic Hall was filled to capacity to celebrate the 75th anniversary in Freemasonry of Ernest Richard McKay (Richie) who has reached the wonderful age of 103 years and is the oldest mason in the Province of West Lancashire
Maghull Lodge No. 7190 welcomed 67 members and guests to this auspicious occasion. The regular meeting was opened by WM Peter Yearsley with a very warm welcome to all attending. After the usual lodge business was completed, Malcolm Bell, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, entered and informed the brethren that the Assistant Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning was without and demanded admission.
Philip then entered in a colourful procession led by Malcolm. Philip was accompanied by Frank Umbers Ormskirk and District Group Chairman, Grand Officers Roy Worthington and Jim Charnock, along with other Provincial and acting Provincial Grand Officers.
Having accepted the gavel Philip asked Malcolm to place Richie before him. It was with great enthusiasm that Philip said how much he had been looking forward to the evening and having the privilege of celebrating with, and telling, Richie’s story.
Richie was born on 6 November 1910 in the military town of Aldershot, where the family lived in the barracks. His father was in the army and served in the South African war where he was promoted to the rank of captain in the Royal Field Artillery. Philip said that looking back to the beginning of this decade, George V became King of England, and other famous people born in the same year included Jacques Cousteau, Mother Teresa and David Niven.
On the outbreak of the first world war Philip said Richie’s family moved to Hillsborough in Sheffield and then a further move to Aintree when his father was posted to the Royal Army Ordinance Corps in Bootle.
It was here that Richie experienced every boy’s dream of riding in a first world war tank. Richie attended Longmoor Lane Secondary school.
On leaving school Richie gained employment at a colliery and shipping agents, on the magnificent wage of five shillings a week, until the business closed following the general strike. By this time Richie had joined the territorial army and decided as a job to join the regular Army.
Having joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders he found himself in Jordan, a short time later at the start of the second world war he was posted to Alexandria with the rank of warrant officer II. Richie also saw action in Tobruk which was under siege by Rommel, before returning to Cairo. Whilst there, Richie having joined Freemasonry in 1939 spent time visiting many lodges.
Philip continued saying that on receiving a commission to lieutenant, Richie was posted back to England. In 1943 he was promoted to captain in the royal army service corp. In 1944 together with his company Richie arrived in Normandy just after the D-Day landings where in the port of Dieppe he and his men assisted in the unloading of supplies for the front.
In 1945 Richie returned to the UK and on the 9 May married Betty Nuttall who was the daughter of one of the founders of Maghull Lodge. Betty and Richie were blessed with two daughters, Allison and Lindsay.
After the war Richie remained with the NAAFI working from the head office in York as the head of supplies for the north.
In 1958 Richie started his own business the Lancashire Embroidery Company with a factory in Kirkby and a work force of 30, being a major supplier of embroidery work to all the armed forces. Richie’s daughters both joined the business and retired in their 60s. Richie continued working and only retired at the age of 97 when the firm was sold!
Richie enjoyed many caravanning holidays with Betty, particularly in the south of France. Sadly Betty passed away just a few years ago but he said that he is still well looked after by his daughters.
Richie enjoys a very active life which includes walking and his greatest love playing golf. He is a member of Ormskirk Golf Club which he has enjoyed for 58 years and has the honour of a challenge cup named after him. Philip said that Richie described his life in these terms: 'If I am not working, I am playing golf'. On his 100 birthday not only did he receive a telegram from the Queen, he also received letters from two of the greatest golfers of all time, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (who incidentally is a mason).
Richie was initiated on 12 March 1939 into Lodge of the Holy City – Jerusalem No. 1372, Scottish Constitution, and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on 19 October. He was also exalted into United Services Royal Arch Chapter No. 631 on 15 October 1942 Cairo, being made a life member in 1946.
Richie attended the consecration meeting of Maghull Lodge No. 7190 at the Adelphi Hotel on 25 November 1952, as a guest of his father-in-law and a month later Richie was proposed and admitted as the first joining member of the lodge.
In 1965 Richie became WM and during his year in office he performed multiple ceremonies. At this time the meeting room closed down and the members made the decision to move to the Ormskirk Group. Richie said that it was the best move they ever made. Whilst working Richie had the honour of designing and presenting a magnificent 50 year anniversary banner to the lodge.
Being a frequent visitor to Lathom Abbey Lodge No. 6286 Richie joined on 1 April 1979 and has been a loyal and regular attendee ever since. Richie was promoted in 1989 to PPrGSupWks in recognition of 50 years in Freemasonry. On the 19 October 1999 Richie received further promotion to the rank of PPrJGW. Richie also holds high ranks in other masonic orders and Philip read out a letter of congratulations from Peter Connolly a PrGM in one of those Orders as Ritchie has been a member for 74 years in that Order.
During the evening Philip read out several letters of congratulations including one from the present WM of the Lodge of the Holy City – Jerusalem, also one from Steven Reid, Philip Gardner and Peter Hosker the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of West Lancashire.
Philip then asked Frank to read out the celebration certificate before he formally presented it to Richie. Philip concluded by saying that he hopes to be in office long enough to see Richie celebrate his 80th anniversary.
At the exceptional age of 103 years Richie stands proud in a lodge that can only admire his fortitude and longevity. He retains a remarkable recollection for ritual, often playing a very active role in the proceedings.
Richie has met every challenge presented to him and remains very committed to Freemasonry. Every mason in the Ormskirk Group wish Richie the very best for his continued masonic career and hope he has many more years of active service in the Craft.
Further celebrations continued at the festive board when Richie had the opportunity of warmly thanking everyone for their support and good wishes. He was then presented with a bottle of his favourite tipple and a 75 year lapel pin from the members of Maghull Lodge. This presentation concluded a most memorable and emotional evening.