Thursday, 9th March 2017, saw us meet at the slightly earlier time of 18:30, this being to allow us to comfortably accommodate the business of the evening.
The main business of the night was the celebration of W. Bro. Joseph Edward Laidler's 50 years in the Craft, and Joe being a well-regarded member of the Province, we had a Provincial Deputation consisting of the Provincial Grand Master, Rt. W. Bro. Norman Eric Heaviside, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, V. W. Bro. John Arthur, two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters', W. Bro. David Sanders Haye and W. Bro. Simon Craig Steele, the Provincial Wardens, Directors' of Ceremonies, Deacons, and other members of the Acting Provincial Team.
Who wasn't there for the occasion? (Joe far left, seated)
Before we got to the main event, we had the enjoyable task of passing our newest member to the Second Degree, Bro. Paul Wallace, who was initiated at our January meeting. Paul got the ball rolling nicely by being well prepared for the ceremony and completing the first part admirably. The officers then continued with the ceremony and, as Master of the Lodge, I feel proud of the work that the officers put in, as each member of the team performed their role to their utmost.
On completion of the ceremony, the Provincial Grand Master invited W. Bro Joe to take a seat in the centre of the lodge room for the second part of the night's business, his 50th anniversary.
Joe was initiated into Palatine Lodge on the 9th March 1967, was passed on the 11th May 1967, and was raised on the 12th October 1967. He became Worshipful Master of the lodge on the 9th December 1976 and took the Chair for a second time on the 9th December 1999. Joe is still a very active member of the Lodge and has been the Almoner since 2008. He is also the Lodge Charity Steward, a position he has held since 2014.
The PGM, Eric, regaled the lodge room about Joe's Masonic career, and included one or two notable anecdotes along the way.
Eric told us that he had visited Joe in the past week to discuss how they might go about their discussion, and had only planned on being there for a short while. Joe, being as we know him, kept Eric there for quite a while! Eric advised us that he had need to use the facilities whilst he was there, and told the brethren that he noted Joe's picture was mounted on the WC wall, in all his regalia! We were told by Joe that this was due to the dining room being decorated, but, I can now reveal that, I too, have seen that picture, and it's stuck to the wall - it must be a permanent fixture!
'Pride' of place..?
A successful businessman and active member of the community, Joe served for over 32 years as Justice of the Peace, a senior magistrate, and was Chairman of the bench. He also served on the board of prisons and the Northumbria Police committee. He told us of one story when he was due to visit a prison in his role as a member of the board. This usually involved an inspection of the prison and he would then often eat lunch in the prison canteen, to ensure standards, and so forth. It was on one particular occasion that he was sitting having lunch when in walks one of the guests of her Majesty that Joe and his fellow magistrates had sent there that morning! He decided there and then that being a magistrate and on the board of the prisons probably wasn't compatible...
Having suffered a couple of disturbances at his house, Joe had CCTV fitted. One night, at around 3 am, he heard some unusual noises coming from outside. Joe went to investigate and spotted someone on a bicycle cycling away. Joe gave chase! As you would expect, he was unable to catch the cyclist. In the meantime, Dorothy, Joe's wife, had called the police. When they came out they reviewed the CCTV footage, and lo-and-behold, there is Joe giving chase to the cyclist with not a stitch on! This explained the complaint that the police had received from an innocent cyclist, on his way home from his job at the bakery, being chased down the road by an angry naked man! On the plus side, they've never had any trouble at the house since...
Eric closed by congratulating Joe on his life and achievements both in and out of Freemasonry, and after having it read out by the Provincial Director of Ceremonies, Andrew Dixon, presented Joe with his 50 year certificate before leading the, very full, lodge room in well deserved applause.
This was not yet the close of the business. Palatine Lodge have been very fortunate in having three brethren achieve 50 years in Freemasonry in the past months. Bro. Jim Hopper in January, Bro. Ron Crossley in February (to be celebrated at our April meeting), and W. Bro. Joe this month. The Lodge felt it appropriate that we should mark these landmark achievements, and to do so we presented the PGM with a cheque for £2600 to go towards the 2021 festival. £2600 being chosen as the amount to represent the 260 years the lodge has been meeting.
Palatine also has its own traditions, and one of these is to present the Lodge's very own 50 year certificate. The current certificate was designed by W. Bro. Randall Oliver, now in his 90s', and it was a great pleasure to see him in the lodge room for the occasion.
Joe receiving his two certificates, from the PGM and from the WM
A close-up of the certificates
The formal business of the evening being over, the lodge was closed and we all retired to the celebratory Festive Banquet.
Testament to Joe's popularity, over 100 brethren dined, and the banqueting hall looked splendid for the occasion.
An excellent meal followed, and in response to the toast to the Provincial Grand Master, Eric rose and thanked the Lodge for their generosity towards the festival so far, and in doing so advised that the Lodge had now achieved its gold target. He presented the lodge with a certificate to mark this achievement, and presented Joe, as the Charity Steward, with the accompanying gold pin.
Joe and the Eric with the Gold certificate
Eric presenting Joe with the Gold pin
More tributes were paid to Joe for all of his efforts and the support he continues to give all of the brethren of Palatine Lodge, and indeed many other Lodges in the province in his role as a Visiting Grand Lodge Officer. In his response, he paid tribute to everyone present, thanking them for their friendship over the years, in touching remarks. We all hope to be able to help celebrate his 60th anniversary!
Joe responding to his toast
The Lodge mentor, W. Bro. Norman Williamson, then presented the second mentoring pack to our new Fellowcraft, Bro. Paul.
Norman presenting Paul with the mentoring pack
After the remaining toasts, the night's formalities were drawn to a close, and a good number of us retired to the bar.
Biased as I may be, it's undoubtedly one of the best Masonic nights I have had the pleasure of attending, and we have an awful lot to live up to if we ever try and repeat the feat.
Here's to the next one!
Thanks go to W. Bro. Rod Scott, of Quest Lodge No. 7102, for the pictures.
At the Festive Board, Joe and Eric, the PGM
At the Festive Board, the WM, Wayne Rumley, and the DPGM, John Arthur
At the Festive Board, the Past DPGM and Lodge DC, Denny Wilson, and one of the APGMs' Craig Steele
At the Festive Board, the ADC, Jack Thompson, and the Treasurer Norman Williamson
At the Festive Board, Bro. Paul Wallace in the centre, distinguished guests either side
At the Festive Board, just about squeezing everyone on this shot!
The Toast list signed by the top table