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50 Years!

On the 15th February 1972, a young Paul Watkins joined Freemasonry, 

A journey that has taken him to many places, met some great people and 

represented, our lodge with honour and respect. The excellent evening was made extra special by the invitation of Friends and family to see Paul presented with his certificate. It is not something that we do as a rule, but on special occasions like this, we invite Non Masons and Ladies to the lodge. 

They all find it extremely interesting, and are welcomed by the members. 

The lodge was also honoured to have a United Grand Lodge Officer this evening, in one, WBro Nick Alder, Paul and lodge would like to thank him for his excellent presentation, (which is below) and the time he took out from his very busy schedule. 

 

Photo of Paul in the lodge

WORSHIPFUL BROTHER PAUL WATKINS

INITIATED 15th FEBRUARY 1972

LORD WARDEN LODGE No 1096

 

This Lodge is the 20th oldest in East Kent and being based in Deal is intrinsically linked with the Cinque Ports, of which Deal is one of the Founder members. The first recorded Lord Warden was Sir Stephen de Pencester in 1267, who was also Constable of Dover Castle, but when the Lodge came into existence in 1866, the Lord Warden was the 2nd Earl Granville, Lord Leveson-Gover, but at that time the most famous recent Lord Warden was probably Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington who was Lord Warden between 1829 and 1852 and many of his artefacts are on display just down the road at Walmer Castle.

I believe that it is important for us to have a little bit of understanding of the history of the Lodge into which you were initiated into in 1972, as whilst Paul has not been around as long as the Lodge, elements of the local area and its history do tend to flow through Lodges and its members, and over the years become intertwined, as hopefully I may demonstrate very clearly in Paul’s commitment to this Lodge, and his desire to improve the area for his fellow citizens and those who will follow.

Paul was initiated into Freemasonry in February 1972 at the young age of 24, and I’m sure that Paul may well remember some aspects of that evening which would have been conducted here in Deal in this very building. Again, that is one of the things that also links Freemasonry with history, in that many of our Masonic Temples have been used for many years – often over 100 years in many cases(some sadly did not survive German bombing), but this lovely building did.

Paul is a Lewis – a Lewis is a son of a Mason and would normally gain precedence over a non-Lewis when admitted into a Lodge on the same day. However, that does not mean that you jump the queue so to speak, and whilst his Father was a member of Military Jubilee Lodge based in Dover, there was a three-year waiting list so two close friends of his father who were members of this Lodge proposed him to join Lord Warden’s Lodge which he did on 15th February 1972. His proposer was WBro Sid Southey, and his seconder was WBro George Woolett, and on that February evening some 50 years ago, the Worshipful Master was one WBro Gerald Thrupp. Each of these brethren served the Lodge for many years, and you can be certain that his Proposer & Seconder would not have supported his wish to become a Freemason unless they were certain “he would be a credit to them as well as himself”.

It took you only 9 years to reach the Chair of King Solomon, when for many of us in those days it would be well into double figures, so it is clear that you were looked on with approbation as they say. But let me go back to 1972, the year you entered Freemasonry:-

  • The Prime Minister of the day, Ted Heath originated from just down the coast.
  • Ted Heath signed the Treaty of Brussels for the Uk to join the EEC.
  • Kurt Waldheim was the new United Nations General Secretary.
  • The liner Queen Elizabeth was engulfed in flames in Honk Kong harbour.
  • The Miner’s strike resulted in a state of Emergency being declared by the Government. There were 4 mines in East Kent in those days.
  • The Winter Olympics began in Tokyo.
  • Sir Robert Menzies was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

During your year as Master you proposed as a candidate for Freemasonry one Thomas Anthony Lewis, better known to us all as Tony, and performed Tony’s ceremony of Initiation. You can feel reassured that Tony has brought credit on your choice, as clearly can be seen by the fact he was made Provincial Senior Grand Warden in 2015.

During your early years in masonry you were training to become a registered Nurse, rising through the ranks to become a Senior Nurse Manager, and over time became involved within the Royal College of Nursing, becoming a member of the national Pay bargaining team, and also were the RCN’s chairman of Stewards(I’m sure that is probably far more important than being the W.M of a Stewards Lodge).

In 1979 using your professional experience, you and your wife, Christine, started up a local Nursing & Residential Home, and at one stage had two homes locally. Running your own business is never easy, as I can testify to, and caring for so many people requires considerable skills of dedication, kindness and perseverance, and I have no doubt many local families are grateful to you for looking after their relatives so well. Shortly after you vacated the chair of the Lodge, you became involved in local politics and in 1983 you won the Lower Walmer ward in 1983, which was the start of a 34-year commitment to the public as a local and County Councillor. Sadly, Masonry had to then take something of a back seat, as you were running your own business, involved in local politics and had a young family, but you always ensured that you attended the meetings in December and April which was the Installation meeting. After selling one of the homes, you and Christine, with friends and family went into retail, and ran a jeweller’s shop and a lingerie shop. Sadly, whilst the properties are still there the business’s aren’t, otherwise your search for what to give Christine yesterday for St Valentine’s day might have been a lot easier.

Having moved to represent the ward of St Margaret’s at Cliffe (clearly a better class of Constituent) in 2003 you became Leader of Dover District Council, which position you held for 14 years before you stood down from politics. Again, another very difficult and challenging role, and what Paul, you might not know, is that I was one of those who were responsible for determining what your remuneration should have been as Leader of the Council, being part of an independent team who looked at this for Thanet & Dover, and I can assure everyone here, that if you compared the number of hours undertaken in the role, the remuneration was well below the National Minimum Wage.

Paul has spread his masonic wings a little bit, as in 1993 he was a Founder of the Cornwallis Lodge of Installed Masters No 9515, based in Dover, and is also a member of Granville Chapter (the name being that of a former Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports you will remember). Despite all his involvement with business & the local Council, in 2003 he once again become Worshipful Master of the Lodge, when it is clear that a bit of re-cycling was required. Paul clearly has something of an independent streak in him (some might even say “rebellious”) as he and Christine decided to change the format of the Ladies Night and arranged that the event would be held across the Channel at Le Touquet. What made the day and evening so memorable, was that on the Saturday morning of the event, the hotel set up a big screen (well it was in those days) to see some funny sporting event in Sydney between Australia & England, which apparently England won in extra time – the celebrations for the Ladies night started at lunchtime and never actually stopped, and a thoroughly happy Ladies night was enjoyed by all those present.

Paul has been Charity Steward for the Lodge on occasions, and he is today happy to support the Lodge by returning to one of his first roles as Steward, which testifies to his commitment to continue serving others. I therefore look forward to him pouring the wine out at the Festive Board later!

Paul was telling me that in his role in local politics he has met most members of the Royal family including the Queen, Prince Philip and all 4 children, but one story that I have been given, re-inforces Paul’s belief and love of Masonry in that whilst the Queen Mother was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, when she was staying at Walmer Castle, Paul was introduced to her, and not only did he mention that he was a member of the Lord Warden’s Lodge in Deal, but causally invited the Queen Mother to take tea with the then-current Worshipful Master of the Lodge who was her neighbour, one Tony Lewis – this then led into an interesting conversation with the Queen Mother in which she referred to her support of our organisation and that her late husband, King George VI had enjoyed being a Freemason.

He has attended a number of Garden parties at Buckingham Palace, and having been fortunate to attend one myself, it is an occasion that will stay long in the memory for Paul & Christine, even if in my case the heavens opened, and my wife got drenched. One of Paul’s proudest moments was when he, along with one other individual were made the inaugural Honorary Aldermen for the Civil Authority of Dover and surrounding districts, shortly after standing down from local politics. I am sure that in a few moments he will regale us with many other memorable anecdotes of the last 50 years, but I am sure that W. Bro Sid Southey, and W. Bro George Woolett would be well pleased with their candidate some 50 years ago, as you have lived up to the ideals and tenants of the Craft, not just with your Brothers in Freemasonry over the last 50 years, but within the wider community of Deal & Dover espousing those principles we hold dear, Brotherly Love, Relief & Truth.

WBro Paul, on behalf of the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Neil Johnstone, I have much pleasure in presenting you with a certificate to mark your 50 years in Freemasonry and may you have many more years to enjoy not only Masonry, but many more years also with your wife, Christine, your two daughters and their families, including your grandchildren.

WBro Nick Alder
PAGDC
Past Provincial Grand Treasurer
15th February 2022