Colin built a career on art and 007, but Freemasonry's craft gave him wonderful friends

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Freemasons are well accustomed to celebrating the bonds that unite us, but there’s one Bond in particular that stands out on Colin Beeston’s CV – 007 himself

The character of the spy with the licence to kill was yet to be created by Ian Fleming when Colin served with the RAF in occupied Germany after the war.  An East Ender, Colin had survived the London Blitz and won himself a place at university where his art studies were cut short when he was called up shortly after the war ended.

After three years RAF service, Colin put his love of art to commercial use working as a designer for stage and exhibitions. His reputation grew, and in 1951, after working with the Festival of Britain, he accepted a directorship with a small company sourcing and supplying art, furniture, and equipment for the TV and film industry. While working in the company’s depot in Putney in the early sixties, Colin recalls an approach from an American film producer called Cubby Broccoli.

'He was a very smart and polite man,' says Colin. 'He required a significant amount of scaffolding and work to create a mountain for a spy film being made at the time.'

That film was Dr No, and Colin was to see quite a bit more of Mr Broccoli and some of the stars of the film, including the man who was to become an international star. 'We had Sean Connery and some of the other actors come to the depot and look at certain items they would be using on set,' Colin recalls. 'I remember one item they liked was a desk from the Palace of Versailles. They were very particular about the quality of items and I had the knowledge to source and catalogue art works and furniture to suit the job.'

Work with more Bond films followed with items being shipped to sets in the Bahamas and other global locations.  The company also worked with hit TV shows Coronation Street and Dr Who, further cementing Colin’s reputation.

It was around this time that Colin became interested in Freemasonry. He knew about the craft from family members and business acquaintances, but says he was slow to take it up.

'I could have joined so many lodges,' he says. 'But I struggled to choose one for fear of offending members of other lodges. Finally, one night, I was at a dinner with friends I knew to be Freemasons and I asked: what was required to join?' He adds: 'It all went very quiet for a moment and I thought I’d made a terrible mistake …and then they all cheered and said ‘We thought you’d never ask!’ Back then, Freemasons waited until prospective members asked to join; they were much more cautious in the sixties.'

Colin joined the Lodge of Contentment No. 8050 in London in April 1968. Fast forward fifty-two years, and he’s enjoyed a busy masonic life, achieving grand rank in craft and Royal Arch. He’s belonged to no fewer than seventeen lodges and chapters, being a founder member in five. He speaks highly of all the lodges with which he’s been associated, but especially the Good Neighbour Lodge No. 8378 which he says does such great work.

'I’ve had a terrific life,' says Colin. 'And Freemasonry has paid a big part in that. It’s brought me a wonderful load of friends both in business and in my personal life.'

By far the biggest influence in Colin’s life has been his wife Maureen. The pair met in 1954 in a London pub frequented by West End actors and theatre staff who met up after productions. They married four years later, and recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary.

'While I didn’t meet any of the Bond stars myself, I did enjoy seeing the company’s furniture on the screen, as with many of the TV shows Colin had hired to down the years,' she says. 'I’ve always supported Colin’s involvement in Freemasonry and very much enjoyed the social side of the Craft in the many lodges he’s belonged to. The couple moved to Lincolnshire in 2006 and Colin chose Minster Lodge in Lincoln as his Craft home and Ermine Chapter, also in Lincoln, where he was recently recognised for his half century with Royal Arch Masonry.

Colin, who has just been presented with his certificate to mark 50 years in the Holy Royal Arch by Dave Wheeler, Lincolnshire’s Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, is immensely proud of his Freemasonry. 'I’ve met some amazing people doing amazing things …for each other and for their local community.' He adds: 'The standards are still there and the attitudes are still there and I’m especially pleased to see how more accessible Freemasonry has become. It could be a little bit elitist when I first joined but I’m so impressed now at the ease with which Freemasons at all levels are able to mix.'

Warm words, and perhaps a ‘Quantum of Solace’ in these troubled times...

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