When Alife, the 17-year-old son of a Suffolk Freemason, won a place on a course at the British School of Watch Making in Sale, Cheshire, there was a huge logistical problem
The course was full-time, 3,000 hours duration – the new student needed to put the weekly hours in – but living near Felixstowe some 225 miles away and needing accommodation his options were limited – and being a ‘minor’ of 17 compounded the problem.
That was when Mum, Bernadette and Dad, Nick Doncaster, of Gyppeswick Lodge No. 4254 in the Province of Suffolk, had the idea of contacting Cheshire Freemasons. A phone call was made in early 2018 to Provincial Office at Altrincham and answered by Graham Monaghan who was on duty at that time in the Almoners Office.
The predicament was explained to Graham who promised to see what he could do and enquire whether there were any members who might have a spare room to offer Alfie, the student watchmaker. Graham started to make enquiries using his local knowledge as a Sale Freemason himself.
Mike O’Brien, who lives in Sale and is a member of De Sala Lodge No. 5657, who lives in Sale, heard of the plight and went home to discuss it with his wife Liz and son Lewis, also 17. They got in touch and the two families met up in Sale. To quote Nick Doncaster ‘all the boxes were ticked’ and Alfie moved in with them on 2nd September 2018 and has thrived there ever since.
Alfie’s course is unique within the UK and there are students from Portugal and France also taking part, although Alfie is the youngest student that the school has ever had. He hopes to gain a work experience place with a leading Swiss watchmaker in early 2020.
An interest in watches and clocks and how they worked took him to visit the Birmingham Watch Fair a couple of years ago where he learnt about the British School of Watch Making. At Mike and Liz’s home in Sale, he has his own bedroom and the company of Lewis who is his own age, as elder daughters Danielle (26) and Lauren (28) no longer live at home.
Liz said: ‘Alfie has settled in very well. He uses his bike to get to and from the school and has recently joined a gym. He has been out with Mike and Lewis to some of the social functions of the Lodge and has met quite a few of the members.’
Alfie will be living with the O’Brien family until the end of his course in July 2020. In the meantime, the Sale family will be travelling to the Doncaster family home in July this year to visit Nick and Bernadette for a family social occasion.