The friends and members of Townley Parker Lodge No 1032 gathered to celebrate the 50 years membership of the craft by Richard Higson.
Peter Leigh the master of the lodge, after opening the lodge and conducted the necessary business, welcomed Stewart Seddon, Assistant Provincial Grand Master into the lodge. Stewart was accompanied by Tom Jackson, Paul Renton, Chorley Group Chairman Peter Lockett, group secretary Don Hesketh, group treasurer Mike Silver with acting officers Mark Howard, John Anderson, Mike Pinckard, John Riley supported by Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Ian Halsall.
Stewart occupied the chair of the lodge and asked for Richard to be placed in a prominent position.
Stewart said: brethren our next business is to celebrate 50 years in Freemasonry by Richard Higson, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden of the Province of West Lancashire.
Stewart continued; this evening we are summoned to a very special meeting to honour and pay tribute to one who has served the Craft, loyally and faithfully for 50 years and it is so nice to see so many brethren here this evening sharing in Richard’s special occasion, this wonderful milestone on his Masonic journey and he can now add “Golden Jubilee” into his portfolio.
Brethren, let us go back in time to the year 1946, a very important year in history for a number of reasons not least the world slowly but surely recovering from the war.
King George V1th is on the Throne, Clement Atlee is Prime Minister of the first ruling Labour Government with a majority, a comfortable 146 seats, the United Nations is born on the 10th January with the first General Assembly convened at Methodist Central Hall Westminster followed a week later by the first Security Council meeting at Church House in London, the Bank of England is nationalised and Winston Churchill delivers his “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on the 9th March at Burnden Park there was a disaster when a crowd estimated at 85,000 were watching an FA Cup third round match between Bolton and Stoke City. Shortly after the game started there was a massive crush at the railway end and the crowd began spilling onto the pitch. The game was temporarily stopped as the pitch was cleared.
The game was restarted but was quickly halted again when a Bolton Borough Police officer came onto the pitch to speak to the referee, George Dutton, to inform him that two barriers had collapsed resulting in another crush and that there had been a fatality.
He, in turn, called the two captains, Bolton’s Harry Hubbick and Stoke’s Neil Franklin, together to inform them and the players left the pitch.
The dead and injured were taken from the railway end terrace, with those who had died lain along the touchline and covered in coats.
A little under half an hour after leaving the pitch, the game was restarted, with a new sawdust lined touchline separating the players from the corpses. The match ended 0 – 0. Thank God we don’t still do it like that!
The House of Commons voted to nationalise coal mines and Heathrow Airport opened fully for civilian use.
Television broadcasting was resumed by the BBC, it had been suspended during the war and the television licence was introduced. The Government imposed bread rationing but free milk (⅓ pint daily) began to be provided in state schools to all pupils under the age of 18.
Fred Pontin opened the first Pontins holiday camp, at Brean Sands, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. And on 20th September – Churchill argues for a ‘United States of Europe’
Elsewhere the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, announced he was not a God, Juan Peron becomes the first President of Argentina, the first bikini bathing suit was displayed (Paris) and in America the Warner Bros cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn makes his debut in “Walky Talky Hawky”
But breaking news at Portsmouth on the 22nd August Mrs. Alice Higson (nee McWhinney) gave birth to a son to be named Richard Harry.
Richards contemporaries include:- from the world of stage and screen:- Joanna Lumley, Ian Lavender, Maureen Lipman, Charles Dance, Felicity Kendal and Sylvester Stallone.
Politicians:- Robin Cook, Jack Straw, Edwina Currie, and no less than three American Presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
From the music industry:- Dolly Parton, Barry Gibb, Marianne Faithfull, Noddy Holder and Cher.
From the sporting world:- John Watson (F1) and George Best.
But Richard is also linked to some less savoury characters – Peter Sutcliffe (the Yorkshire Ripper) and Doctor Harold Shipman.
But enough of that, Richards father, James Harry Higson DSC (Feb 1942) and Bar (Apr 1943) (Distinguished Service Cross), was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy and Richard’s mother a solicitors secretary.
At that time the family home was at St Helen’s Parade, Portsmouth and Richards earliest claim to fame was being christened aboard HMS Victory which at the time his father was the ships Commander.
However, when Richard was five the family left Portsmouth and moved to Leyland and soon after Richard’s father bought Brinscall Hall, and his current home is the coach house adjoining the property.
Richard attended Laurence House Prep School at St Anne’s and then it was off to Rugby School followed by Bolton Institute of Technology coming away from there with a Diploma in Civil Engineering. Richard is a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
In 1969 Richard began his working life with the Lancashire County Council at Preston and remained with that authority all his working life. Richard spent time at Ulverston then it was on to the M58. Richard designed bridges for the M65.
Richard also inspected every bridge from Charnock Richard to Kendal and one of Richard’s last jobs was the widening of the Gathurst Viaduct. He retired in 2013 after a career spanning 44 years.
In 1969 Richard joined the Sea Cadets as a petty officer and over the years Richard was promoted to Sub – Lieutenant, Lieutenant and finally emulated his father with promotion to Lieutenant Commander, One of Richard proudest moments was being invited to the launching of HMS Invincible by Her Majesty The Queen in 1977.
Richard stood down as Lt Commander in 1983 but immediately went on the management committee becoming chairman in 2002 a position he held until last year when he retired and was made Honorary President.
In 1971 the local Conservative Association held a garden party at Brinscall Hall and Richard’s eagle eye latched on to a young lady called Margaret Jones. They started going out together, the relationship blossomed and they were married at St Mary’s Parish Church, Euxton on the 18th March 1972. The honeymoon was a week in Towyn, Wales.
At that time Margaret was employed at the ROF where she was engaged in what Richard describe as ‘something hush hush’. When it was time to start a family Margaret retired and Richard and Margaret were blessed with three daughters Elizabeth, Victoria and Sarah.
When all the children were settled in school Margaret wanted something to do and was one of the earliest volunteers at the Derian House Charity shop in Chorley. She was a volunteer with the Meals on Wheels service and also looked after a friends child to enable her to return to work.
Sadly Margaret passed away in August 2004 not living to see her five grandchildren Harry, James, Olivia, Thomas and Joseph.
Let us now visit Richard’s Masonic History
Richard was proposed into this lodge by his father James who also had the privilege of initiating Richard on the 2nd January 1969 at the then Masonic Rooms in Fellery Street. Richard’s uncle Bill, a member of Rectitude Lodge at Bolton was at the ceremony.
Richards was passed on the 3rd April and raised on the 4th September. Richard wasn’t at Fellery Street long before a decision was made to leave those premises not least because the owners of Fellery Street cut off the heating.
It was Consecrated in 1971 by the then Provincial Grand Master Sir Knowles Edge who, following the ceremony, promoted Richard’s father to Past Provincial Grand Deacon.
Richard having progressed through all the floor offices was Installed as master for the first time on 3rd November 1983. He was also master of the lodge in 2004 which must have been a great strain on him just two months after Margaret’s passing.
Richard was honoured by the Province in 1994 when he was appointed Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon.
Further promotions came along in 2002 when he was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and then in 2011 he was promoted to the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
Since his last promotion he has continued to do work in the lodge as almoner, junior warden, senior deacon and he has been charity steward since 2017.
Richard was exalted into Chorley Chapter No 6287 on 26th November 1985 becoming first principal in 1997.
He received his first Provincial Honour in 2004 when he was appointed Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies.
In 2011 he was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Sojourner and in 2017 he was further promoted to Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer.
Richard has been almoner of the chapter since 2005 and are also the current scribe nehemiah
Richard is also a member of a number of other orders.
A very comprehensive Masonic CV.
There is no doubt at all that Richard’s entire life has also been an example of what makes a good Freemason, as well as a good citizen, a good husband, a good parent, and, in every way, a contributor to society as a whole.
And there is also no doubt, that, during the last fifty years, anyone who happened to learn that Richard was a Freemason, could not fail to see Richard as anything other than a good ambassador for our order.
Peter Lockett then read a certificate, which is an acknowledgement of the Province of West Lancashire’s great appreciation of Richard’s half a century of membership of the Craft.
The ceremony being over the brethren retired to the festive board in a happy and celebratory mood.