Not many lodges can boast that amongst their membership they have the second oldest subscribing Freemason in England. Lathom Abbey Lodge No 6286, meeting at the Ormskirk Masonic Hall in the Province of West Lancashire, is proud to say they have just such a member, at 105 years young Richie McKay is a regular attender.
Richie celebrated 75 years as a member of the Craft in 2014 when the then Assistant Provincial Grand Master, now Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning, presided over what was a very emotional night. Philip, who in his inimitable style, highlighted, what was a very full and rewarding life of a remarkable Freemason. At that meeting he had the privilege of bringing the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master in the form of an illuminated certificate.
Two years on from that eventful meeting Phil Stansbie, lodge secretary, received a communication from United Grand Lodge asking for confirmation of the date of birth for said Richie McKay. Phil having duly responded to the request confirming Richie’s date of birth as being 6 November 1910, some days later he received the incredible news that Richie was indeed the second oldest subscribing member in England and if the communication is to be believed Richie is a mere baby as the oldest member is an incredible 111. Nevertheless, Richie, who recently had a short stay in hospital, is now well on the way to recovery and was looking forward to the next lodge summons.
As the last meeting of the lodge was to be presided over by the immediate past master Bill Dutch, due to the WM being away on holiday, and as this meeting coincided with the 70th anniversary of the presentation of the warrant of the lodge, it was decided to ask Richie with Bill’s help to occupy the chair of King Solomon in what was to be a very informal meeting to show the great affection that the membership have for this remarkable man and to allow them to enjoy his company on this special occasion.
Phil duly approached Richie with the proposition only to receive the answer: “I would love to but can you please invite Philip Gunning.” Phil pondered this request replying that he would do his best but that Richie should not get his hopes up as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master was a very busy man. Having contacted Philip, Phil was greatly gratified to receive a heartfelt response saying that he would be delighted to attend on what was to be a private visit to celebrate and catch up with Richie once again.
On the night, the lodge was further honoured by the presence of Ormskirk Group Chairman Frank Umbers, deputy vice chairman Stephen Brereton and grand lodge officers Malcolm Alexander group secretary and Martin Walsh lodge member. There was some disappointment when the group chairman informed the lodge that Philip Gunning had been delayed and had indicated that the lodge should be duly opened and he would arrive as soon as possible. Bill opened the lodge and conducted the usual business following which there was an alarm. The usual protocols being adhered to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp was admitted to inform the assembled brethren than none other than the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning were without and demanded admission.
It was at this moment you could have heard a pin drop in the lodge room such was the shock of the revelation that the lodge was to receive not one but two exulted visitors. The lodge rose to receive the PrGM and his deputy who were warmly welcomed by the WM. Tony was offered the gavel of the lodge as is his right but thanking Bill for the welcome he had received he declined saying that it would be better placed in his hands as WM for the duration of the meeting.
Bill then invited Richie to occupy the master’s chair which he duly did, the lodge secretary Phil then instructed the deacons to distribute copies to all the brethren of the summons for 25 March 1939 for The Lodge of the Holy City No 1372 (Scottish Constitution) meeting in Jerusalem were a certain Mr Ernest Richard McKay was to be balloted and if accepted, initiated on that night and the rest as they say is history.
Philip Gunning rose to congratulate Richie recounting some of the memories that he held dear regarding their last meeting when he presided at Richie’s 75th celebration. His contribution brought a warm response from the brethren. Tony then took to the floor to bring his own greetings saying that he had not had the pleasure of meeting Richie previously but that he had read a great deal about him and his remarkable achievements over the many years that he had been a Mason. He then informed Richie that Philip had a communication that he would read out to the assembled brethren on his behalf.
Philip then had the pleasure of verbally presenting to the assembled brethren the patent of appointment signed by the PrGM promoting Richie from Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden to the exalted rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden of the Province of West Lancashire. A collaret of that rank was presented to Tony who with great warmth proceeded to invest Richie with his new rank. At the conclusion of this the brethren rose to give a standing ovation showing the high respect that Richie has amongst the membership of the lodge.
Later at the festive board suitably refreshed and having enjoyed a delightful meal of breaded mushrooms for starters followed by salmon with asparagus spears, broccoli, green beans and new potatoes, complete with crème brûlée for dessert. At the conclusion of the meal and following the usual toasts Philip had the honour of proposing the toast to the continued good health of the PrGM; this he did in his usual eloquent unscripted manner.
During his response Tony said that he had thoroughly enjoyed himself by just ‘dropping in’ on the occasion of Lathom Abbey Lodge celebrating 70 years and apologised by saying that he hoped his appearance hadn’t upset the apple cart. (Apart from Philip, Keith and Frank who was sworn to secrecy, no one was aware of this visit). Then with a broad grin on his face Tony said: “Brethren you should have seen your faces when we made our entrance.” Tony went on to congratulate the lodge and said that he hopes to live as long as Richie and if so he will come back for the lodge’s centenary. Tony concluded by wishing Richie good health for the future and to continue to enjoy his Freemasonry.
Bill then proposed the toast to the worshipful master and in his response Richie said: “I stand before you very humble for all the good wishes you have shown to me and I thank you all for being here.” He went on to say that he joined the Ormskirk Group as a member of Maghull Lodge No 7190, (no longer in existence), joining Lathom Abbey Lodge because his best friend was a member and he has enjoyed every minute.
This concluded a night of celebration with many pleasant surprises which will live long in the memories of the brethren and guests, especially Richie who is a shining example to us all.