50 Years For Two Freemasons, Man And Boy, And An Installation All In One Night At St John’s Lodge

06th February 2023

St John’s Lodge No.1712, which meets at Maple Terrace Masonic Hall, witnessed a very enjoyable evening at its January meeting, which saw two Brethren, WBros Bryan Lewis and Derek Bell, presented with their 50 year certificates by WBro Dr Greg Smith with both well supported by visitors from across the Northumberland Province.

In addition the evening witnessed WBro Michael Keller occupy the office of Master for a second time. and a superb festive board.  

Bryan is originally from Scotland, however his family emigrated to England when he was 15, requiring him to complete his schooling at Rutherford Grammar School. On his initiation into Freemasonry, in 1972, he was working in Newcastle as an Investigation Officer in HM Customs & Excise.

Just before he took the Masters Chair, in 1983, he was transferred from Newcastle to Northampton, however, the Masters’ Team, of which he was a member, all agreed they would continue to support him despite the fact he could no longer make reciprocal visits. It was fortuitous that St John’s Lodge met on a Friday night as he could speed up the M1 and A1 with the ritual on the car seat beside him, literally learning on the run, then attend Ladies Nights or other socials on a Saturday night, returning South on a Sunday. During his time in Newcastle, he joined the Royal Arch Chapter and the Mark, however, due to his travels he could not continue to devote the time to these two degrees.

After a few years in Northampton, where he was a visitor to various lodges, he began to move further North, this time to the Northwest. No sooner had he and his wife found a house near Manchester then he was seconded to the Foreign Office and set off for West Africa. During his four years there, he spent many convivial evenings in various Lodges in the Province of Sierra Leone and Gambia. This was also the start of him visiting lodges called St John’s, of which he has now visited quite a number.

From there he moved to Eastern Europe and the Balkans, seconded to the European Commission or United States Aid for a number of years. Unfortunately, there were no English Constitution lodges in Eastern Europe, nor was there golf either! If he and his wife wanted a round or two, they had to spend the weekend in Greece.

After enduring the hardships of former communist countries, Bryan returned to Africa where he managed to mix working in most of the ex-colonial countries south of the Sahara, with visiting Lodges in the English, Scottish, and Irish Constitutions. His longest time was spent in what was then Swaziland, now called Eswatini, where Lodges there, and in neighbouring South Africa, were very welcoming and interested in how someone with an obvious Scottish accent had been made a Freemason in England, and was now wandering around Africa, visiting lodges, many named “St. John’s”. Co-incidentally, one of the Provincial Reps at an installation in Swaziland had been taught by Bryan’s Dad at Heaton Grammar School. Bryan’s Dad had been Past Provincial Grand Organist. Like all good things, his wanderings in Africa had to come to an end and Bryan and his wife settled back in the Northwest of England where they could watch their granddaughters growing up. 

He now lives in Congleton, near Stoke-on-Trent, from where he travels to attend his lodge in Newcastle. He has just visited Gibraltar where he attended The Lodge of St John to hear the ritual conducted in Spanish, which involved obtaining a unique dispensation for a lodge in the English Constitution. When at home, he regularly attends a local Lodge in Congleton but says he is still trying to come to terms with the Emulation ritual.

Bryan was acknowledged in Provincial Grand Lodge, when he was Appointed to the rank of Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1992, receiving Promotion to Past Provincial Grand Registrar in 2008

Derek started his working life as an apprentice radio and TV engineer at the wireless shop on Northumberland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1962. He remained there until 1968 when he moved on to a company called Telebank as a field service engineer, receiving a wage of £20 pound a week and driving a clapped out Morris 1000 van. He subsequently moved on to  a great job working for Mastercare the service provider for the Currys Dixons group where he remained, in that position, for 28 years covering from the West End of Newcastle out west to Haltwhistle, Otterburn, Alston and all points in between. He was a shop steward for the last 10 years of his time there, however, the job began to change, and redundancies started to raise their ugly head, so he decided to apply for it and was successful, at the age of 54.

The idea was not to work again, however, after about 3 months he got bored and was offered a job working for Gateshead Social Services, supplying shopping for the elderly and infirm. This was a complete change of career however he really enjoyed it and found it very satisfying. After 10 years, thanks to cuts, the service closed and he took redundancy once again at the age of 64. 

He now keeps his time busy, growing produce on his allotment, which he has had almost as long as he has been a member of the Craft.

Derek was initiated into Blackfriars Lodge No.7556, which meets at Byker Masonic Hall, in 1973, joining St John’s Lodge in 2022. He has held the office of Master on an incredible seven occasions. He was acknowledged in Provincial Grand Lodge when he was Appointed to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon in 1991, receiving Promotion, in 2001, to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.

He joined Blackfriars Royal Arc Chapter No7556, which also meets at Byker Masonic Hall, in 1993 and received Appointment in Provincial Grand Chapter, in 2013, to Provincial Grand Steward.

Congratulations to Bryan, Derek and Michael on a fantastic celebratory evening.

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