It was a very special occasion for the brethren and the many visiting guests of Mersey Lodge No 5199, who gathered at Ormskirk Masonic Hall to celebrate the special and important milestone in the Masonic career of Raynford Rawsthorne in achieving 60 magnificent years as a Freemason. Leading the celebration was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright, who was accompanied by Ormskirk and Bootle Group Vice Chairman Graham Chambers, together with grand and acting Provincial grand officers.
The evening’s meeting commenced with the WM William Knibb, warmly welcoming everyone to the celebration before opening the lodge. Once the lodge’s business had been completed, acting DC Peter Littlehales was admitted into the room. Peter announced that Robert Wright was without and demanded admission. Therefore, he was duly admitted preceded by grand officers and the acting Provincial grand officers who were Michael Dutton, Thomas Bradfield-Kay and Russell Skidmore. William warmly welcomed Robert to the lodge and offered him the gavel, which Robert graciously accepted.
Raynford was then placed and seated before the pedestal, as Robert proceeded to deliver his presentation on Raynford’s life and Masonic career. He opened his remarks by saying: “It is always a pleasure to have a celebration in any part of our lives. It is a time to share our joy, our achievements and our memories with others, it is therefore very pleasing to see so many distinguished brethren here this evening. You are all very welcome and I thank you all most sincerely for your support of our celebrant. It is my honour to lead that celebration tonight of 60 years in Freemasonry, a truly marvellous achievement. For me it is always a revealing journey through time and I never fail to learn, not only about the life of a celebrant but the social trends and historical events throughout the years which I hope to bring to life for you tonight. Brethren, I hope that this will be a celebration which not only you will remember but will stay with our celebrant, for many more years to come.”
Robert then continued to give a detailed account of Raynford’s life. He was born in 1936 to James and Elsie Rawsthorne and at only 12 months of age, was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy. As a result of this, he had to have part of his lung removed when he was 17 years old.
He attended Ranworth Square Infants School and Stonebridge Lane Secondary Modern School which later became known as Croxteth Comprehensive but has now sadly closed. When he left school Raynford started work at Lewis’s department store head office in Ranleigh Street, Liverpool in the publicity department. His wages were only £1 week and he also studied commercial art, part time, at the Liverpool College of Art in Hope Street. Robert observed: “Now this was a bit of an eye opener for you, in many ways, because part of the course included life study classes with live models, which you admit certainly helped to broaden your mind as a young man!” Robert continued: “A famous former pupil, apart from yourself of course, was John Lennon who attended in the late 1950’s, a bit after your time I believe. Interestingly, the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, who are sponsored by Sir Paul McCartney, have now taken over the building.”
Raynford left Lewis’s after a year to take up an apprenticeship in poster writing and signwriting at ArtKraft Publicity, Renshaw Street. Liverpool and after his five-year apprenticeship had ended, he worked at several companies, including Taylors Advertising, T J Hughes, and the Co-op. ln 1964 he finally joined the General Post Office (GPO) where his job was to do the signwriting for the car parks, for equipment and supply notices on and around the buildings.
It was also one of his responsibilities to decorate the GPO float for the Liverpool Lord Mayors Show which he successfully did for some eight years. The show was started in 1971 to raise funds for local charities and Ranford’s float design was not only a prize winner but also copied by other GPO districts.
As changes occurred in signwriting requirements, Raynford became more involved on the maintenance side of the company and was eventually promoted as a senior technician in charge of the building maintenance workshops.
In 1992, the company which had now become British Telecom (BT), were looking to reduce staff numbers and the offers of retirement with a full pension, re-training and a lump sum were too tempting to miss. So Raynford retired, at 55 years of age. Robert observed: “Even better than that, your wife Norah was also offered the same deal a few months later and so you both have been able to enjoy your retirement together ever since.” He also remarked: “There are a lot of jealous brethren here wishing they could do the same! You still find your skills are in demand for posters and table plans and as a result you are quite a popular man to know!”
Turning to Raynford’s family life and hobbies, it transpired that, as a result of his illness when he was young, he was recommended to improve his health and to take up cycling, so he joined the Mersey Roads Cycling Club. Their strength seemed to be in time trials and Raynford took part in 25 and 50 miles distance time events and proved talented enough to gain the club bronze standard. They still hold one of the country’s oldest and most gruelling 24-hour bike races. Up to 100 competitors attempt the route starting near Farndon, Chester and currently the record is some 537 miles in 24 hours.
Raynford has also played crown green bowls, enjoys gardening and genealogy as well as being an active member of Probus, where he has served as Chairman of the Childwall Branch. He has also served as a sidesman at Mossley Hill Church.
He first met Norah, his wife, at Emmanuel Church Youth Club, which held events at Norris Green and Fazakerley. Both of them were in their ‘teens’. It was only when Raynford was in his early 20s, that as social secretary of the cycling club, he organised a dance at which Norah attended and they were married in 1960. They have two sons, Ian and Neil and three grandchildren.
Expanding on his Masonic career, Robert revealed that Raynford was initiated into Liberty Lodge No 3888 on 22 March 1958. His father was a member of the lodge, so as a ‘Lewis’ he was encouraged to join from an early age. He served the lodge well and was WM in 1973 and served as almoner for five years. Sadly, Liberty Lodge surrendered its warrant in 2003/4. His best friend and colleague of many years Peter Blazey, persuaded him to join Mersey Lodge, a decision which he has never regretted.
His service to Masonry was acknowledged by his appointment to the rank of Past Provincial Assistant Grand Superintendent of Works in 1986 and he was subsequently promoted in 1996 to Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works. He is a member of the Royal Arch in De Grey and Ripon Chapter No 1356 as well as being a well-respected Mason in a number of other Masonic Orders, having achieved similar high ranks in all of them.
Robert reflected: “You celebrated your 50th year in Freemasonry in 2008 and we are all here to recognise your continued and tremendous achievement of 60 years in Freemasonry. We are both thankful and grateful to you for your contribution; we are delighted to be here with you today, to show our appreciation.”
After completing the detailed account of Raynford’s life and Masonic career to date, Robert asked the Ormskirk and Bootle Group Vice Chairman Graham Chambers to read out the jubilee certificate, before Robert presented this to him and saying: “You have had a life full of hard work and dedication, commitment to family, success in your career and service to Freemasonry. It gives me great pleasure to present to you this certificate in recognition of your achievement of 60 years in Freemasonry and to wish you on behalf of all the brethren here, the best of health to enjoy many more years with us both in Freemasonry and in our company. Brethren once again please join with me to give your warmest congratulations.”
With the presentation being over, Robert handed the gavel back to the WM. Raynford then stood and presented Robert with a cheque for £300 to the West Lancashire MCF 2021 Festival. In response, Robert then had the privilege to present the lodge with a certificate of Vice Patronage. Following the closure of the meeting, the brethren made their way to the dining hall for an excellent festive board and where the celebrations continued.