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Moving on after 112 years


May 2018

27th April 2018 was the day that Northbourne Lodge ended 112 years of existence by handing in their warrant.  The lodge had been persevering for many years with an ever decreasing membership until they finally had to face reality and call it in Province to officially end things.

Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Watts attended with Provincial Grand Secretary Tom Gittins to carry out the official duties on the night but first John did have one pleasing duty to perform as he was also there to hand over a certificate for 50 years membership to one of their members.  Although Jim Lamb was not well enough to attend himself, it was only right and respectful that John completed the duty as if he were there and then allowing Jim’s friends in the lodge to meet and recount the tale.

Jim was initiated into Northbourne Lodge in 1968 and took active roles within the lodge including Chaplain from 1994 until 2017 when ill-health caused him to take a step back.  Jim is married to Betty and has two married daughters.  His working career started with Marconi in Hebburn before becoming a lecturer at Hebburn technical College for 33 years.  Jim was also a lecturer on the masonic circuit.  Many of the members in Gateshead know Jim well from his masonic times but also from the Felling Male Voice Choir, where Jim and Derek Bell were particularly remembered for their alternate parts singing Good King Wenceslas.  John finished his tale by asking Ray Lee to read out the certificate and then handing it to Worshipful Master Trevor Baker who is to arrange to meet Jim and present to him.

John relinquished the Chair to allow Trevor to continue the business of the evening.  Trevor immediately asked the Secretary, George Tatters, to present the final ‘lecture’ of the lodge.  George read out a short history of Northbourne Lodge, noting highlights along the way.  The name was taken from prominent landlord, local benefactor and Liberal MP Lord Northbourne and was formed by 26 founder members.  The lodge had residence in four masonic halls in Gateshead, starting in Jackson Street before moving to Coatsworth Road in 1960 and Queens Terrace in 1962, before finally moving to Alexandra Road in 1983.  

Lodge fees started at 1 guinea rising to 2 1/2 guineas in 1922 whilst membership started with 26 founders, rising to 105 members in 1922 but have dipped to just 17 today, less than the original number of founders and the basic reason for having to hand in their warrant.

The brethren who have passed through the portals of Northbourne Lodge can be proud of the traditions and standards set by their illustrious predecessors and also must be glad in the knowledge that their individual contributions of time and talent made this a great lodge with a history that will not be forgotten as their names are recorded forever in the annals of freemasonry.

Trevor thanked George for his “ramblings”, using the term employed by George himself for his ‘lectures’.  Jim Stubbings then discussed the disbursement of lodge assets and finances, by way of a Trustees’ Report, which was duly proposed, seconded and passed.

Trevor then invited John to reclaim the Chair in order that he could ask Michael Dickinson to make good his Notice of Motion that “Northbourne Lodge has ceased to be viable … and to return the Warrant’s of the Lodge to the Grand Master”.  John outlined the process of voting and that a ballot would take place where his DC, Ray, would proceed around the lodge so that each member could place his vote of Yes to accept the motion or No to reject it.  The vote proved conclusive and the lodge was duly closed.

John noted that even on this sad occasion, tribute should still be paid to those who have passed in the last 112 years and to those that have endeavoured to keep the lodge open, including those who have joined of late.  It is the way of life that some things have to change so, with regret, Trevor passed the warrants to John who, together with Tom,  displayed the present and the centenary warrants as the members left the lodge.

This being a less than usual but still a masonic evening, and following a nice meal, for light relief Brian Littlefair, of Industry Lodge, finally achieved a particular ambition, previously denied by toasts and time constraints, by entertaining the assembly with a lovely display involving a full deck of cards.  The mental skill and dexterity required thus proving that Brian is still dealing with a full set himself!

Northbourne was the host to a special visitor from Bury, Lancashire, who had travelled up on the afternoon.  Lancashire Provincial ADC Leigh Rickets described the circumstances that led to his attendance.  Leigh’s grandfather Ernest Watkins was initiated into Northbourne in 1951 but moved to Grantham soon after.  Leigh’s Geordie mother married a Cockney but with Leigh moving to Lancashire for work and starting his family there is a nice mix of background and accents in his family.

Upon one if his visits to Grantham he found a masonic bible in the loft that was given to his grandfather in 1951 and decided that he would like to present it to the lodge and meet anyone who might remember Ernest.  The discovery that the lodge was closing tonight did not put Leigh off and he accelerated his plans to make the journey and enjoy the company of the Geordie side of the family before leaving the bible in the good hands of those disbursing their inventory towards the provincial museum or otherwise.

Neil Walker spoke on behalf of the other Gateshead lodges, remembering the fabulous fraternal visits between his own Gateshead Fell Lodge and Northbourne, and although the lodges themselves will no longer meet, the members will.  Neil hoped that all members of Northbourne find the right lodge to meet their needs and extended a warm welcome to anyone wishing to join Gateshead Fell.  The lodge may be in the past but the friendship is not.

Trevor took the opportunity to show the lodge the presentation engraved glass that they will be giving to Jim Lamb in due course before the evening was wrapped up. This was done following a presentation of a book of the years summons to Trevor from Michael Dickinson as Bob Sullivan attempted to lift sad hearts with a joke … not to be repeated here but it did the job!

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