The Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ LP was released on 1 June 1967 and on the same day a young Norman speed was initiated into Lodge of Equity 1384. 50 years on, over 50 brethren assembled in the McCausland Suite at Widnes Masonic Hall to celebrate Norman’s golden anniversary in Freemasonry.
The WM Ian Edge asked the secretary to read the dispensation. He then opened the lodge up to the third degree and PrDGDC Mark Barton entered the lodge to announce that Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton, stood without and demanded admission. The WM said he would be honoured to receive him.
Kevin was processed in by PrDGDC’s Mark Barton and Ian Halsall, PrGStwd David Rigby and acting Provincial deacons Trevor Prince and Bill Cank. He was accompanied by grand officers Alan Locke, Tony Tallon, David Redhead, Colin Rowling and Derek Williams and the Widnes Group Vice Chairman John Gibbon.
Ian Welcomed Kevin to the lodge and offered him the gavel which on this occasion he gladly accepted. Kevin said he was pleased to see so many brethren in the lodge and he then asked PrDGDC Mark Barton to place Norman Speed PPrSGD on the floor of the lodge and to ensure that he was seated comfortably.
Giving details about Norman’s life, Kevin started by saying that Norman was born on 1 August 1943, the second son of James and Edith Speed, the birth of his sister 2 years later completed the family unit. His father worked as an engineer for nearly 50 years. Norman spent his early years in the Halton View area of Widnes, which was then mainly open fields and farm land which gave him plenty of scope to play all day with children from the adjoining houses.
Norman started school at Warrington Road Infants and Primary School where the ‘fearsome’ headmaster was Hector Ireland, whom Norman later came across at the start of his Masonic career. It was here that he studied diligently and managed to fail the Eleven Plus examination and so went on to attend Fairfield Secondary Modern School. Eventually his secondary education turned out really well. By the end of his third year he was top of the class. Subsequently he and 15 other students were selected to study intensely for the next two years in order to sit the General Certificate of Education, which was unheard of outside grammar schools. Excellent tuition and hard study over two years, culminated in him sitting and passing six subjects at GCE, combining this achievement in passing the Local Government Entrance Examination opened the door to the world of work at the age of 16 years.
A professional career for Norman commenced in August 1959 when he was appointed a Student Public Health Inspector in the Borough of Widnes. After taking on various tasks he soon learned that protecting public health was a very complex subject which would require further education. He therefore embarked on studying City and Guilds Building Construction at night school. After completing that course, he went on to a four-year part time degree at Salford University where he graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Health.
On 18th April 1964 Norman married his childhood sweetheart, Brenda. During the ensuing four years the family grew when Andrea and then Paul were born and has subsequently been blessed with six grandchildren.
After several posts, he was appointed Assistant Chief Environmental Health Officer with Warrington Borough Council where he continued until his retirement in 1999 after 40 years’ service in local government.
Norman’s Masonic career started in Lodge of Equity on 1 June 1967. He was proposed by his father who was the WM and seconded by Clarrie Edmondson. Kevin then asked the secretary Chris Douglas to read a portion of the minutes that had been made available of that evening. Norman was passed to the second degree January 1968 and raised to master Mason in December 1968. Both ceremonies were conducted by his father, which proved very emotional for them both.
He served his first 10 years in Masonry as a steward, after which he was appointed tyler of the lodge and then went on to serve in every office on the ladder and eventually, after 20 years, being installed as WM on 7 February 1985. Since vacating the chair Norman has been a steward of the lodge and has always been willing to fill any vacancy that arose. He eventually took the role as director of ceremonies in 2010. In May 1995, he was appointed to the rank of PPrAGDC and in October 2013 he was promoted to the rank of PPrSGD.
Due to changes in the group executive in the summer of 2016, Norman was appointed group vice chairman, on a temporary basis for one season, for which Kevin thanked him for all his efforts which were much appreciated.
Norman’s Royal Arch career commenced on 16 October 1973 when he was exalted into Chapter of Equity No 1384 by his father, who was the first principal, his proposition being seconded by Len Tomlinson. He was appointed assistant sojourner in 1976 for a 3 year period and then principal sojourner for a further 2 years before being installed as first principal in February 1988.
As he was still some years away from attaining the chair of his Lodge, and at that time there was no provision for taking any of the principal chairs whilst still a master Mason the chapter appointed him scribe Ezra in February 1981 and he remained in that office for an almost continuous period of 32 years, except for the three years when he occupied the principal’s chairs. He was elected to the first principal’s chair at the convocation in December 1987. He was appointed as PPrPGSoj in 1994 and promoted to the high Rank of PPrGSN in 2000. His tenure as scribe Ezra terminated in 2013.
To celebrate his 50th year in the Craft and to mark the special occasion, the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison had caused a commemorative certificate to be produced in recognition of his efforts and was read by past group chairman Derek Williams. Kevin then presented the certificate to Norman who hoped he would have many more years of health and happiness in Freemasonry and also extended the good wishes of the Provincial Grand Master and especially with good wishes from the members of the Widnes Group.
Norman thanked the brethren of the Widnes Group for their support over the last 50 years. He then presented donations to the lodge, chapter and Widnes Masonic Hall development fund.
Before the lodge was closed, an alms plate collection was held that raised the sum of £160. The lodge was then duly closed with the brethren then assembling in the Alan Locke Suite for the festive board. The menu consisted of black pudding of with grilled cheese, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast and new potatoes with a selection of vegetables and a choice of cheese cakes, followed by coffee/tea and mints.
The toast to the celebrant, Norman, was proposed by Trevor Price a brother and companion for over 30 years. Norman responded to the toast to his health saying how much he had enjoyed the evening and thanked Kevin, the grand officers and the brethren for attending on this his special occasion in attaining 50 years in Freemasonry and especially to Trevor for proposing the toast.
A raffle at the festive board raised £132 for non-Masonic charities. Presentation gifts to Norman at the festive board were given by the WM Ian Edge of a token on behalf of the lodge, Widnes Group Vice Chairman John Gibbon presented a commemorative whisky tumbler and a Masonic 50 years, lapel badge from the Widnes Group and a personnel gift was presented by St Helens and Prescot Group Chairman Colin Rowling of a bottle of Penderyn Welsh Whisky on behalf of Harry Brooks from St Helens and Prescot Group.
As the evening came to a close the Ian Edge presented a bouquet of flowers to both Norman and Kevin as a thank you to their wives, Brenda and Sue, for allowing their presence on this special occasion.