East Kent Freemason celebrates his 100th Birthday

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Douglas William Moutrie was born on 19th June 1920 in Woodgreen, North London and lived in Hornsey. Until 1932, he attended local schools and at the age of eight joined the choir of St Mary, Hornsey; starting him off on his life-time journey with church music and the organ.

In 1932, his father was moved from the London office of Worthington-Simpson Ltd to the Works at Newark-on-Trent.

Doug attended the Magnus Grammar School; had some piano lessons and started to get familiar with the organ.

At the end of the school year, he started an engineering apprenticeship with Worthington-Simpson Ltd, manufacturers of pumps and power station heat exchangers. He started an engineering education at Newark Technical College – one full day and two evening classes per week. In 1938, Doug transferred to Lincoln Technical College to work for a BSc degree. However, in 1939 the war started and travel became difficult and he had to revert to the Newark College where he resumed studies for the HNC.

By 1941 the war had hotted up; London and major cities were suffering intense bombing, Newark had only one serious raid.

Throughout this period, Doug had been working six or seven days a week (plus overtime) attending College and as a member of the Home Guard, spending two nights per week on guard at the Works – life was fraught.

Up to 1943, Doug had not been conscripted into the armed forces because he had a reserved occupation, However, that year he received an invitation from the War Office, to join the Army as a ‘Potential Officer’.

Doug started his initial training in Hull and at Christmas, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant.

In March 1944, he got a posting to a REME workshop in Croydon. Whilst he was there, he discovered that his HNC certificate entitled him to another pip, so he became a Lieutenant.

Doug was sent on a course, the 51st FAE course (Field artillery Equipment). It embraced every aspect of big guns, for which he was sent all over the country, each place covering a different aspect– Croydon (again), Stoke-on-Trent, Burscough, Arborfield and REME HQ.

Immediately after his leave he was posted to the Middle East, sailing to Alexandria on a French ship, the Felix Rousselle. Shortly after arrival he was transferred to a holding camp at Tel-el-Kabir on the Suez Canal near the Great Bitter Lakes. The next move was to 4 Base Workshop in Cairo. The Base Workshop consisted of a dozen or so separate workshops, each making a different range of products for Army use. Bedsteads, cooking stoves, piston for engines, canvas goods, all sorts of woodwork, ship propellers, vehicle modifications, refurbishing engines, medical instruments, cranes – you name it, they made it.

During this time, the major theatres of war were coming to an end. There were celebrations for both VE and VJ nights.

It was whilst Doug was stationed in Abbassia, Cairo, that he had the good fortune to join the Garrison Church which not only had a two-manual organ but had as its organist and choirmaster Harry Gabb, who subsequently became sub-organist at St Paul’s Cathedral and organist of the Chapels Royal.

In the latter part of his stay in Cairo, he had charge of the drawing office and was also transport officer with a total of 153 vehicles. Transport was easy and Doug was able to see a lot of Cairo, the Pyramids and other sites.

Then after two years, he got home on leave. At the end of his leave, Doug returned to the Middle East where he was posted to Palestine. He was stationed in Gaza which isn’t too far from Jerusalem.

Doug had an enjoyable year in Gaza at the end of which he was posted home for demobilisation.

So, in March 1947 saw Doug a civilian again.

Doug returned to his old job as a draftsman at Worthington Simpson Ltd employed on power station heat exchangers. He was appointed organist of a small church at Winthorpe.

Doug needed a more rewarding job; the prospects at W-S were limited. He applied for and was accepted as a Research Engineer at Vickers Armstrong Ltd at Newcastle upon Tyne on the manufacture of large naval gun mountings and the research department was mostly devoted to their remote control.

In 1962, Doug’s next appointment was with a company designing and marketing Mechanical Handling Equipment and in late 1965 he came to Kent for an interview with Blaw Knox and was offered the job of Chief Engineer Designate. The following year Doug became Chief Engineer. The company made road making machinery, mostly pavers, and some other construction equipment, the pavers being built under licence from an American company of the same name.

World trade suffered a slump and Doug was made redundant in December 1982.

During this period, he again had the opportunity to take some organ lessons with Barry Fergusson, then the organist at Rochester Cathedral. Shortly before his redundancy, Doug had again been appointed organist and choirmaster at St Matthew, Wigmore, about half a mile from home. So Doug settled down to a different life.

Shortly after he retired, he was invited to join REMAP, a charity whose members are retired engineers and members of the medical profession (occupational therapists and the like). They provide aids for disabled people on an individual personal basis. Doug ran the Medway and Swale Panel for about thirty years and was recommended for, and subsequently awarded, an MBE which he received from Prince Charles.

Doug became a Freemason later in life and was initiated into Hexagon Lodge No. 5380 in September 1976 when he was 56; passing to a Fellowcraft and being raised to a Master Mason in three consecutive meetings on the 8th December.

After serving on several committees he was appointed Treasurer where he remained for nineteen years before moving into his happiest role of organist. Hexagon amalgamated with their daughter Lodge Dickens No. 8047 in 2019 where Doug still plays the organ in his 100th year.

Doug has never taken on the role of Master of a Lodge and says: "It always seemed more important to keep the job I had.”

But his attendance and service to his Lodge has been exemplary. He has been one of the rare brothers who have not been through the chair but gained Provincial Honours, first appointed Past Provincial Grand Standard Bearer and then promoted Past Provincial Grand Organist and wears his Provincial apron with rosettes with pride.

His masonic career cumulated last year with the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent presenting Doug with his personal citation of merit for his service to the Craft at the Provincial meeting in Margate.

Unfortunately, Doug’s Chapter career was very short; exalted into Pentangle Chapter No. 1174, he only stayed a few years and resigned when he became choirmaster and the meetings clashed.

Doug still has an active masonic life and has played the organ for many Lodges including Pentangle, Manor of Gillingham, Loyal and True, Artifex and Fraternitas.

Doug continues a very active life in general. He still plays the organ for his local church, has been a member of Gillingham Rotary Club for over 50 years and is a prominent member of his local community.

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