By Graham Ives, PastProvGM PastMEGS
Being in lockdown for months has been an experience none of us could have anticipated. I suspect it has resulted in many of us negative emotions of worry, anxiety, insecurity, and even fear. To some extent that may not have changed.
However, I don’t for a moment imagine I’m the only one who has experienced a positive emotion arising out of such adversity – the slowing down of the pace of life.
Lockdown has helped me to realise that for as long as I could remember my life has been proceeding at breakneck speed. That’s been true of my family life with my dear wife Jan, of my legal career, and also of course of my freemasonry. That’s not to say my life has not been fulfilling , rewarding and very happy; it has. But I’ve learned that I have generally concentrated on living for the present and the immediate future. Since lockdown I have reflected on previous events, with the advantage of such reflection being that one can select the good things and set aside the others.
Whilst the future membership of freemasonry is getting a lot of attention – and rightly so – we mustn’t forget those who have gone before, laying the foundation and building the superstructure of our Institution over several hundred years.
In Freemasonry it’s the shared experiences with friends which provide my happiest memories. I’m sure we all have those memories, and could name at this moment particular individuals who are as dear to us now as they were before they passed on. For me the first to come to mind from amongst so many is Colin Wells of Spalding, who passed away as recently as 25thApril this year during Lockdown. He was my Deputy Grand Superintendent when I was installed as Grand Superintendent. He was 76 at the time, and intended to serve for just two years. In the end he stayed in the role for the first six years of my term of Office. Colin was a family man. He had lost his dear wife Mary several years ago, and was very close to his son, daughters, and grandchildren.
I had got to know him when we served the Province under Derek Scarborough, the then Grand Superintendent. Colin was Third Provincial Grand Principal and I was Second.
I remember with great affection not only him, but also the conversations we had and the times we spent together. Events that stood out were when Colin and I, along with John Warwick and Richard Garn, together attended the Annual Investitures in Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
John was able to secure for us the use of a spacious penthouse apartment on New Caledonian Wharf at Rotherhithe with a spectacular view over the Thames. He also arranged for meals out on the first evening before the Ceremonies; the first year at a gastropub, the next at Rules Restaurant, open since 1798 near Covent Garden, and for the last year Smiths of Smithfield. It was there, on a balmy evening, where we dined on the balcony of the uppermost of four floors, watched lorries coming for the following day’s market, and finished our meal with champagne and Grand Marnier soufflé! We also went to a wine bar in Covent Garden, and I recall Colin sitting relaxing with glass of vintage port – we all had one, and Richard had paid!
Colin’s appearance was always immaculate. On the morning of Supreme Grand Chapter, when he was to receive a promotion, he was up by six to press his trousers and polish his shoes to their customary mirror-like finish. You could see your face reflected in them.
Although we were four very different people, our shared love of Freemasonry provided the platform on which we formed a bond which will last throughout our lives. We laughed all the time, and I smile now as I think of it. I haven’t the slightest doubt that John and Richard feel exactly the same, and without Freemasonry it could never have happened.
I’m certain it’s those personal bonds which have kept Freemasonry strong through the centuries, and that you have your own similar memories of particular friends. I’m equally certain that similar new friendships will continue to be formed as Freemasonry is steered through these turbulent times. In Lincolnshire we are indeed fortunate to have Dave Wheeler as ProvGM and MEGrand Superintendent to navigate our course, helped by so many very capable and friendly Freemasons. I know he enjoys the support of all the brethren and companions in the Province in this challenging task – the shape and scale of which he can have had no idea of at his Installation, but whose demands he continues to meet so impressively.
The chequered pavement reminds us of the dark and light times in our journey through life. The current pandemic and its consequences are indeed one of the darkest squares, but we must allow the brightness from precious memories of our friendships within Freemasonry to spread from the lighter ones to help sustain us for the journey. And even though Colin has passed, he is still doing that for John, Richard, and I.