When earlier this year W.Bro. Geoffrey Wilson, P.P.G.S.W., of St. Chad Lodge No.374 and Ainsty Lodge No.1739, mentioned that he would be celebrating his 96th birthday in May, it proved, to everyone’s surprise, to be a very contentious issue! He also mentioned that he had joined the Mark Degree about 40 years ago, so minute books of both Lodges were consulted to confirm the date of his Advancement, when it came to light, from details in the summonses, that Geoff would be 94, having been born on the 21st May 1926. When this was mentioned to Geoff, he boldly refuted the suggestion, stating he had joined the RAF in 1941 when he was 17yrs of age, having been born in 1924!
Could Masonic records be wrong? Was it possible that Mark Masons’ Hall had recorded incorrect information? How could this be resolved? What was to be done? We should have worried not, as Geoff resolved the problem himself by producing his birth certificate, which clearly showed he was born on the 21st May 1924. All was well.
Since being 90yrs old, Geoff has celebrated his birthday with a group of Mark Brethren taking him out for a meal. Initially, to an Indian restaurant, but latterly to the Skyliner Fish & Chip restaurant in Leeds where the staff would bake him a cake and where he has become a bit of a celebrity!
Over the years, this celebration has been attended by the Provincial Grand Master, the Past Provincial Grand Master and the Assistant Provincial Grand Master. But what was to be done this year under lockdown? St. Chad Lodge, like many others, has been holding weekly ‘zoom’ video sessions and, by coincidence, the Lodge was to hold such a meeting on Geoff’s birthday. So, word went out for Brethren to gather at their computers at 7.00pm and to celebrate Geoff’s birthday over the internet face-to-face!
Fortunately, Geoff, who had been suffering the serious pangs of Masonic deprivation, had decided to take his computer back in to use, so he could attend ‘zoom’ meetings. Unfortunately, 3 years had passed since he had last logged-on and he found he had 1600 emails in his inbox! Some of them requiring prompt attention!! So, it came about that at 7.00pm on Thursday 21st May 2020, 16 Brethren logged-on to their computers to join Geoff’s video birthday meeting, including R.W.Bro. Jim Steggles. Everyone had been forewarned to have a drink at hand to toast Geoff, which was duly quaffed with much gusto! When asked, how he had managed to live so long, he replied that it was all down to whisky and tobacco! At the age of 96yrs, Geoff is now the 5th oldest Mark Mason in the Province of West Yorkshire.
An interesting aside to this celebration was that a quiz was organised for the next ‘zoom’ meeting, in the following week, comprising of questions, which was distributed by email. Accompanying the quiz was a photograph of all the brethren attending the ‘zoom’ meeting (see attached). In his excitement, Geoff confused the two and, at the following meeting announced that he could name 15 of the 16 members in the photograph!
I am sure you will be pleased to know that plans are in hand for his 97th birthday!
W.Bro. Gerry Barker, P.G.S.D.