George celebrates 50 years in Freemasonry

The officers, brethren and visitors of Toxteth Lodge No 1356 met at Woolton Golf Club to celebrate the 50 years in Freemasonry of George Alexander Quaile in the presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton.

George Quaile.

George Quaile.

Arthur Bartley, WM of Toxteth Lodge, opened the first meeting of 2016 by welcoming everyone and wishing them the compliments of the season. After the usual business he invested Alan McShane as SW, who unfortunately due to ill health, had been unable to attend the installation meeting. Arthur reminded the brethren that Alan had been unwell for a period and asked everyone to join with him in welcoming Alan back to the lodge. The lodge was opened in the second and third degrees and Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton announced that Kevin Poynton was outside and demanded admission. The WM responded that the lodge members would be pleased to receive him. Kevin, accompanied by Woolton Group Chairman Andrew Whittle with grand and Provincial grand officers entered in due form, were greeted by Arthur and took their seats.

Kevin was saluted and suitably replied and was then offered the gavel of the lodge by the WM. Kevin heartily accepted the gavel and closed the lodge to the first degree. All entered apprentices and fellowcrafts who had previously retired, along with the tyler were readmitted into the lodge. Kevin wished everyone a very happy New Year and went on to say: “Brethren, the exclusive Masonic 50s club has now increased its membership by one. Now you may think that’s not much of an increase, but from my point of view it’s quite a significant number. The number one is in fact the first pioneering number, it’s synonymous with being the best; it’s the smallest whole number needed to tip the balance of two equal numbers- it’s also a number, although small, that can make a difference between happiness and misery.

On a more serious note Brethren, I was delighted to be able to read through the notes relating to this evening’s celebrant and what particularly caught my attention was the fact had it not been for single individuals coming together to act as a collective this evening would never have happened. It’s true to say that Freemasonry is made up of lots single individuals, again the number one pops it head up, but when they act collectively all those individual make one powerful presence and usually for the good. So with your permission worshipful master and brethren I would now like to take you on a brief journey through the life and times of our most recent addition to the 50s club and I hope you will enjoy the celebration.” Kevin then asked Mark Barton to place the celebrant in a seat before him.

George was born in the Maze, Long Kesh, County Down on 28 December 1938. He was one of three children, Margaret the eldest, who was born in January of 1938; sadly she died at the early age of 21 after contracting scarlet fever. His other sister Laura was born in 1943 and still resides in Hillsborough County Down. His father George was a master plasterer and went on to run his own business and his mother was May Alexander and was one of a large family that ran a very successful market gardening business that went by the name of ‘Culcavey Nurseries’. This was a business that supplied local villages and what used to be Lisburn Town with green produce for the shops. George was often seen working hard in the greenhouses when he had any spare time to earn some extra pocket money to fund his other interests and activities. Both his sisters and George went to Newport Primary School, Culcavey Hillsborough, County Down, situated close to the large Long Kesh RAF Fighter Command and Logistics Base. This area was later to become infamous as the prison camp known as The ‘H’ Block which held 100s who were incarcerated during those long and troubled times.

All three Quaile children passed their 11 plus examination and graduated to further education, each of them travelling daily to Lisburn some six miles away. George and his sisters also took pianoforte lessons from the early age of five or six years old and George excelled in playing the piano and the church pipe organ as well. His teacher, a Mr Young was very strict and would whack him across the knuckles if a mistake was made. Nevertheless for George the challenge was won, by reaching a very high standard and qualifying with excellent music qualifications from Trinity College Dublin in both piano and pipe organ.

Arthur Bartley welcomes Kevin Poynton.

Arthur Bartley welcomes Kevin Poynton.

It was also was well known that George used to practise in the dark at All Saints Church about one mile away from his home and that his father would have to go and retrieve him and bring him home, sometimes at one in the morning so he could get some sleep before school the following day. George took up his first organist and choir masters paid post when only 14 years old, engaging in choral competitions and the like. By then George was also a trained boy soprano singer having trained in Belfast for some three to four years, gaining many trophies during that time. During his younger years, George spent some free time watching at the air base the goings and comings of the fighter planes and bombers. Some coming back again on fire and some with trailing smoke and George remembers the German bombers dropping their bombs on Belfast flying overhead to the docks. All Saints’ Eglantine Church is still a vibrant church and the place where fallen pilots and aircrew are buried. George recollects one of the most striking memories was that of seeing the very heavy lead coffins being carried by eight service personnel and seeing the veins standing out on their necks when carrying the coffins from the church to the cemetery behind the church. Then the rifle shots in salute over the grave. These memories are never forgotten even to this day.

On the lighter side, George was a very keen sportsman and engaged in almost every kind of sporting activity, football, table tennis and he dabbled more than a bit in road and track racing on motorbikes without damaging himself too much in such a dangerous sport. George also had service in the Scouts, The Boys Brigade, the Church Lads Brigade and 817 Squadron of the Air Training Core at the airfield; he even joined the Gliding Club and took to the skies for a bit.

After leaving further education George started work at the Lambeg Weaving Company in Dunmurry, Lisburn, as a trainee manager in the design and costing department which was not to last as all the weaving mills began to close in the 1950’s. He then joined the Caterpillar Tractor Company in Belfast, as the assistant manager in the parts department. Later moving on to join the Associated Feed Manufacturers, in York Road, Belfast as a production control planner and remained there for another five years.

At this point, George left the employment in Belfast and in 1966 joined the Liverpool City Police Force and there he met his future wife Joan whilst on three months training at Bruche Police College. They were married some two years later. They have a son Paul and a daughter Sharon. After retiring from the Liverpool Police (now the Merseyside Police Force) he moved away from the area to Lincolnshire on the east coast where he and Joan still reside.

As it turns out there is an important family need to assist and help his son who suffers from a serious heart condition and who recently was taken very ill and needing a lot of medical and hospital care and continued attention. Because of his family commitments visits to the lodge and chapter are now difficult but we are privileged that he still remains a full member of both lodge and chapter which we know he intends to maintain and support.

Kevin went on to say, “Worshipful master and brethren I know that both George and Joan extend to all the members of Toxteth Lodge their sincere thanks for the help and support recently given to them in respect of their son’s illness. George, on behalf of everyone present can I please ask you to take back our prayers and very best wishes for improvement of your son’s health and for the continued happiness of both yourself and Joan.”

Pictured from left to right, are: Andrew Whittle, George Quaile and Kevin Poynton.

Pictured from left to right, are: Andrew Whittle, George Quaile and Kevin Poynton.

During his time in Belfast, George became interested in Freemasonry and in due course was proposed and seconded and on 17 December 1965 and initiated into Adelaide Lodge No 650 in the Irish Constitution and later passed to the second degree there. Masonry became a little difficult because George, at this point, left the employment in Belfast and in 1966 joined the Liverpool City Police Force. Whilst in Ireland, George never managed to get to the third degree, so at the start of George’s police career he was about to encounter a suspicion that he was being viewed to be an outsider to Freemasonry. His fellow police officers who were Masons had somehow been mistakenly informed that he was a cowan and an outsider pretending to be a Freemason. However, George was always conscious of not having taken your third degree. The troubles in Belfast had begun and the lodge meeting place had been bombed so contact with former members was becoming difficult and little would be gained in travelling back there.

Whilst in Liverpool, George was giving charity donations to the only person whom he knew to be a Mason in his division a colleague and friend Jim Sergison (who is now retired). Jim Sergison asked George why he was giving to the Masonic charities and asked if you could or would divulge this information to him. Alas, the old ‘I was taught to be cautious’ bit was still impressed upon George’s mind and was unable to fully satisfy his friend Jim that he was a genuine, but unattached Mason. Jim told George that he would have to speak to someone who was more knowledgeable on this matter and it would be investigated further.

At that point, another police officer Reginald Binks came to see George at his home address accompanied by another Masonic colleague John Fitzpatrick, both of whom were members the Toxteth Lodge and they enquired further with regard to the information passed on to them by Jim Sergison. Reg Binks asked if he had anything at all that would shed any light on his being a genuine Mason. George went upstairs and brought down to them the few little bits of Masonic correspondence that he had and gave it to them and it became clear to his visitors George was neither a cowan or intruder to Freemasonry and just needed some assistance to continue with his Masonry. They immediately started the process to help.

With the collaboration of the then Provincial Grand Secretary Harry Fry at the office in Hope Street, Liverpool together with the secretary of Toxteth Lodge, (who is now the current WM), they set out to bring George’s Masonic career back on track. They did however have some difficulty and confusion with the lrish Constitution and ended up seeking guidance from the United Grand Lodge of England who were happy to help. UGLE gave instruction for Toxteth Lodge to raise George to the degree of a master Mason. His proposer was Reg Binks and seconder John Fitzpatrick. George joined Toxteth Lodge as a fellowcraft Freemason on the 12 May 1976 and was raised to the third degree on the 8 Sept 1976. The lodge that evening had many visitors and many of whom were colleagues yet to be introduced.

George Quaile (left) is congratulated by Arthur Bartley.

George Quaile (left) is congratulated by Arthur Bartley.

Shortly afterwards George was in the presence Alan Fletcher Ferris, who at the time was the Assistant Provincial Grand Master and was presented with his Grand Lodge certificate confirming that he was made a master Mason under the English constitution together a certificate from the Grand Lodge of lreland certifying his initiation and passing. Subsequently George went on the ladder of the lodge and worked hard in every position on the floor and through the junior warden and senior warden’s chairs and was installed into the chair of King Solomon in October 1983.

Living at that time in Tarleton, Lancashire, George would learn his ritual in the car on the foreshore of Southport some seven miles away and practise on his father-in-law, Charles Wallace and rehearse with him, as he was also a master Mason living with him at the time and who became a great friend and visitor of the lodge. (He was a member of the James Chambers Lodge No 318 in Belfast) and also a Royal Arch companion.

It was during his year in office as master that Alan Fletcher Ferris again visited the lodge to see a third degree ceremony conducted by George and all the officers of the lodge. A personal accolade was recorded to the WM and the officers of the lodge regarding the high and sincere quality of ritual he had observed that evening. George also joined the failing Wilma Lathom Lodge No 3243 together with Reg and John and George took on the role of organist playing their pipe organ in the main lodge room. He also joined the De Grey and Ripon Chapter No 1356 which is the chapter attached to the lodge and went through all the positions and chairs of the chapter to become first principal. After which he held the position of treasurer of the chapter for a number of years.

George was appointed to Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in October 1989 and in the Royal Arch was appointed to the rank of Past Provincial Principal Grand Sojourner in May 1992. He also assisted at Provincial Grand Lodge as a security supervising officer on one occasion.

Kevin ended his story with: “Tonight brethren we here to celebrate the golden jubilee of George Quaile in the Craft and you know brethren, a celebration isn’t a celebration unless you have someone to share it with. George, on everybody’s behalf, may I thank you for sharing your special night with us. To further mark this celebration our Provincial Grand Master has caused another certificate to be prepared, this time to mark your 50th year in Freemasonry which I shall now ask our group chairman Andrew Whittle to read.”

After Andy had read the certificate Kevin said; “George, on behalf of our Provincial Grand Master, it is with great pleasure that I now present to you your certificate to mark your golden jubilee in Freemasonry.” There was then rapturous acclaim from all assembled. George then presented to Kevin a cheque for £500 for WLMC which was gratefully received.

Grand, acting Provincial grand and Provincial grand officers.

Grand, acting Provincial grand and Provincial grand officers.

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