At their regular meeting, two brethren of City Lodge No 2514 celebrated achieving 50 years in Freemasonry. A double celebration because the two brethren are twins Peter and Geoffrey Johnston. Peter is slightly older than Geoff by 20 minutes!
With 49 brethren and visitors attending, the lodge was opened by the worshipful master Andrew Prowse who was only installed at the previous meeting. After concluding some general business, Andrew opened the lodge to the second and third degrees. The Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton was admitted into the lodge and announced that Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton was outside and demanded admission. Andrew informed Mark that the lodge members would be honoured to receive him.
Kevin, accompanied by Woolton Group Chairman Andrew Whittle and other grand and acting Provincial grand officers entered the lodge and the WM offered him the gavel. On this occasion Kevin was pleased to accept the gavel and he was then saluted in due form. After all the salutations had been completed Kevin closed the lodge to the first degree and asked the tyler to join the meeting. Mark was then asked by Kevin to place the two celebrants in front of him on the floor of the lodge and to ensure that they were extremely comfortable. Kevin said that he was really delighted and indeed honoured to be in company of City Lodge again, adding: “One of the highlights of my position in Masonry is to be able to lead the celebrations of a brother’s anniversary in Freemasonry. I have in the past presided over a double 50th in this very room when two brethren, both good friends celebrated their 50 years on the same evening, much the same as tonight, but the difference is that this evening our two brethren are indeed brothers in every sense of the word.”
Kevin started by saying that David Johnston, father of the twins, was a commercial traveller but had trained as an industrial chemist. His wife, Betty was a nurse until 12 June 1941 when along came Peter Graham Johnston followed 20 minutes later by Geoffrey Harold Johnston. At this stage the family lived in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. This was a dangerous place to live during the war, so during the latter stages the family moved to Bishop’s Castle on the English/Welsh border until the end of the war when they returned briefly to Sutton Coldfield, before moving to Nantwich in Cheshire.
Peter and Geoff both attended a primary school in Nantwich before attending Nantwich and Acton County Grammar School until the age of 16, from there they both left school to become Police Cadets in Liverpool in 1958. Whilst in training Peter and Geoffrey became Cadets of the Year in 1959, from there both went on to join Liverpool City Police in June 1960.
As a constable Peter served in ‘C’ Division which was around Essex Street and Lark Lane. In December 1965 he transferred to the CID at Speke and then promoted to detective sergeant in 1967 and attended many Criminal Investigation Courses such as ANACAP where the police were taught ways of piecing information together and eventually you became a Surveillance Instructor, teaching the art to Special Branch, Drug Squad and Detective Officers in the Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria areas as well as those in Merseyside.
During his career Peter was commended no less than 8 times, for the detection of serious crimes, including one from the judge at the Old Bailey in London for the detection of a series of motor vehicle thefts throughout the UK which had involved a countrywide investigation ending up with multiple arrests with retrieval of a huge number of extremely high value luxury cars. He also played a significant role in a large forgery caper that was called the ‘American dollar job’. This was probably his largest and most involved case, working with high level barristers to bring those who were involved to book. Peter worked in many areas of Liverpool and was a member of the Regional Crime Squad before finally ending his career in Wallasey as a Criminal Intelligence Officer.
Turning to Geoff, Kevin said: “We will now look at your police records!” Like Peter, Geoffrey joined the regular force in June 1960. He recalled an amusing incident involving his time in uniform. This was at the same time as Peter and they were both on the ‘beat’ in and around the docks when part of the Liverpool Police force’s duties were to look after the dock area. One evening Geoff was on covert duty at the dock gates and Peter was patrolling the dock itself when he arrested a prostitute trying to board one of the ships. So it came to trial and as the lady in the dock was pleading her innocence witnesses had to be called.
The prosecution called their first witness: “Call constable Johnston” who duly went forth and gave his evidence, when he had finished the judge called for the second witness: “Call constable Johnston” To which Geoff duly came forth to give his evidence. Upon seeing Geoff the lady of the night said: “Oh no, it’s the same feller” and changed her plea to guilty!
After several years in uniform Geoff was promoted into the CID in June 1965. In 1973 he was further promoted to the rank of sergeant, then inspector in 1976 and chief inspector in 1982. At this point he was transferred to Interpol London as Deputy Head of the Bureau at New Scotland Yard returning to Liverpool in 1984 where, after a brief spell as Traffic Group Commander on the Wirral and then Liverpool, he was put in charge of all police training as Chief Instructor at Mather Avenue.
In 1986 he was again promoted this time to the rank of superintendent and took charge of Lower Lane Sub Division, remaining there for two years. From there he moved to Police HQ into what is now called Professional Standards Department as a senior investigator. In 1992 he moved to Bootle as Deputy Head of the Southport and Bootle Division. After a brief spell at Lower Lane Division, Geoff was requested to undertake a complex enquiry in Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk on behalf of the then Chief Constable, Sir James Sharples. On the completion of the enquiry he retired in March 1996.
Peter met his wife to be at the home of a friend of his. Her name was Margaret they were married in 1965 at St Anne’s Church in Aigburth, Liverpool have two children. Sarah who lives just down the road from them, presented them with two grandchildren, Katie aged 27 who is an English teacher and lives with her husband in Hong Kong, and Ben 25 who is a pre-school carer working in Bebbington. Their son Philip has produced two children, Lucy 19 who is currently studying Forensic Science at Liverpool John Moores University and Owen 17, who is studying regional government at Reaseheath College in Cheshire.
After leaving the police in 1991, Peter took up a post as Security Manager for TNT, the transport company and was then promoted and he became responsible for setting up a new department in Ramsbottom, Lancashire and eventually retired in 2001 at the age of 60 and decided to concentrate on his main hobby, golf. He became Captain of Leasowe Golf Club in 2002 and that year played over 300 games on courses up and down the country
Geoffrey met his future wife, Joyce, at police training college at Bruche in Warrington in July 1960 and was married in 1963. Geoff and Joyce have two children, Helen who is a Marine Biologist living and working in Milford Haven with her husband Antony, who is present on this occasion with 5 guests from Old Priory Lodge No 4331 in Milford Haven, they have a three year old daughter Sienna. Geoff’s son Andrew works in media sales in London and has a son, young Arthur who has just turned two. Having taken a year out after retirement from the police, Geoff re-trained and took a post with Canada Life as a Financial Advisor finally retiring in November 2000. (Obviously preparing himself for the treasurer’s role in City Lodge!)
Prior to retiring, in May 1993 Geoff became Church Warden of St Matthew and St James, Mossley Hill and continued as such until 1996. Whilst remaining on the Parochial Church Council he took the position of Lay Secretary to the Liverpool South Childwall Deanery Synod and also became a member of Liverpool Diocesan Synod. After nine years as Lay Secretary Geoffrey became Lay Chair of that Synod for five years until 2010 and was then appointed by the Bishop of Liverpool as a member of the Clergy Discipline Measure Provincial Panel for the Province of York. Whilst church warden he started the ‘Big church appeal’ for the church and raised £20,000 in the first six months. (Kevin said: ”You may well come in handy for the next festival!”)
Both brothers Masonic careers started on 19 January 1966, age 24, when they were proposed by their father David and Bill Trott, however as Bill Trott was unable to be present Ronnie Dolphin seconded the proposition according to the minute book. They were balloted for and initiated 16 February 1966 at the Exchange Hotel when there were 36 members present together with 13 visitors. The subscriptions at that time were an outrageous 10 guineas! The WM was Herbert Wilson and the first degree tools were presented by Len Bannister; both were passed to the second degree on the 16 March 1966 and raised to the third degree on 19 October 1966 and on this occasion the lodge was joined by brethren from their daughter lodge, Liverpool Exchange Lodge No 4545 with 38 members and 21 visitors present. Both received their Grand Lodge Certificate on 16 November 1966. Peter became Master of City Lodge in 1979 and installed Geoffrey the following year.
Peter was appointed assistant secretary in 1983 and secretary in 1991. He was recognised by the Province in 1989 with his first appointment Past Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, promoted to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in 1997 and in 2010 to the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Since 2002 he has been Almoner of the Lodge.
Geoffrey became WM of the Lodge in 1980 and since 2001 has been treasurer. He has also held the position of director of ceremonies, charity steward from 1992 to 2000 and assistant secretary. In 2014 he became Preceptor of the Lodge of Instruction. In May 1991 he received his first Provincial appointment to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon and in 1998 to to the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Beside his Craft work Geoffrey is also a member of another Masonic order.
Kevin went on to say: ”Brethren, brothers Peter and Geoffrey Johnston have shown unrivalled commitment to Freemasonry and it is without doubt testimony to their loyalty for the Craft, the group and its members that we are all here today. I have said it many times, that a valued lesson I learned early in my career is that a celebration is no good unless you have someone to share it with and the number of people here this evening confirms my lesson learned and on behalf of everyone present can I thank you both for allowing us to be part of your special evening. In recognition of both your commitment to our fraternity the Provincial Grand Master has caused commemorative certificates to be produced which I shall now ask our group chairman to read.”
After the certificates had been read out by Andrew, Kevin presented the certificates to Peter and Geoffrey and said: “Brethren I now present to you Peter and Geoffrey Johnston, Past Provincial Junior Grand Wardens of the Province of West Lancashire, who this evening are celebrating 50 continuous years in freemasonry.”
After the first rising Mark Barton formed the procession to retire and the lodge was closed in due form so that the brethren could retire to the dining room. During the meal a raffle was held for lodge widows and raised the sum of £176. Andrew Whittle proposed the toast to Kevin and in response Kevin thanked the acting officers for being present and thanked Mark Barton for his excellent services throughout the evening. Kevin also informed the brethren that after the evening the publicity officers would go home and continue with another couple of hours work in order to get the events downloaded and gave particular thanks to Doug Lace for providing publicity for the Royal Arch and Colin Roberts for the Craft publicity within the Woolton group.
The celebrants then responded to the toast to their health which had been proposed by Albert Kirby. Peter recalled an event in Merseyside Police when he was undertaking some driving tuition. Driving at 130mph on the M53, approaching the Wallasey tunnel in the outside lane the instructor asked he what he was doing. Peter replied: “About 130 sir.” “That’s not what I meant, why are you not in the middle lane in case someone wants to overtake you?” replied the instructor. Geoffrey recalled an incident shortly after joining the CID. There was a knock on the door and a young uniformed constable asked him for two bob. “Why?” said Geoff. “You’re on the square aren’t you?” said the constable. Geoff not sure how to respond stuttered: “Well yes.” “I know” said the constable, “one of the officers has died and left a widow, so give me your two bob! That’s what Masonry is about!”