More than 90 brethren were present in Warrington Masonic Hall to help Charlie Appleton celebrate the golden anniversary of his initiation into Freemasonry. Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton said the very large attendance showed the love and admiration of the brethren for Charlie.
Kevin was escorted into the Lodge of Charity No 2651 by five grand officers: Dennis Rudd, Jack Forsyth, Stan Churm, Derek Hunt and Chris Eyres. They were accompanied by Andrew Barton the Warrington Group Chairman, Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Paul Rigby along with acting deacons Paul Bullock and Brian Hargreaves, under the direction of Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton.
The WM Mal Myers welcomed Kevin into the lodge and said the lodge was ‘truly privileged’ to have Kevin as its principal guest. He offered the gavel to Kevin who accepted and occupied the WM’s chair. Kevin said: “Before I begin the golden anniversary celebration of Charles Appleton, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the worshipful master and the brethren of the Lodge of Charity for allowing me to take part in the celebrations this evening.”
Kevin started his address by saying that Freemasonry in his part of the world over the past 12 months has been privileged to witness quite a number of brethren who have joined the exclusive ‘Fifties’ club and he said we are proud also to have a ‘sixties’ club, and if the great architect spares us soon we will have a ‘seventies’ club too! Kevin said it is without doubt one of the privileges of an Assistant Provincial Grand Master to be invited to take part in the celebrations and he never cease to be amazed at the some of the history that he has looked through and it really is testimony to the strength of character of all of those brethren who have reached that milestone.
Continuing Kevin said: “Brethren it is said that the greatest of all happiness is to you know that you are loved – the very fact that there are so many brethren here this evening who have made the journey to take part in this evening’s celebration only serves to reinforce that statement and shows the high regard that we all have for our celebrant.
I would now like to offer you a short history that I have prepared in the hope that you will, in some small way, share with me the absolute delight that I have enjoyed in preparing it. But in order to do that I must first tell you who that person is, and I am going to use his Sunday name.” Kevin then asked Mark Barton, to place Charles Edward Appleton, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden of the Province of West Lancashire on the floor of the lodge and ensure he was comfortable.
Kevin then started his address: “Charles you were born in Fitzherbert Street in the Orford area of Warrington on 6 February 1943, a date brethren which he incidentally shares with the Manchester United air crash of 1958, the death of King George the VI and in 1978 the worst blizzard we had ever known in this country with 80 mile per hour winds and four inches of snow falling every hour.
Charlie was educated at Beamont Infant and Junior Schools and after passing his 11 plus, he went to Boteler Grammar School. Charlie loved all sport, so much so, that by his third year in Boteler he was playing football and cricket for the school 2nd 11’s. Although it has to be said that the only reason Charlie played football (in goal) was due to the fact he was dismayed that the goalkeepers were letting in so many stupid shots! In cricket, Charlie was a bowler and in his fourth year he was opening the bowling for the first 11 and it was playing against Helsby Grammar that he achieved his best ever figures of seven wickets for six runs! Charlie also played badminton and squash! With all these sporting activities Charlie may not have had time for academic studies, however, when he left Boteler he came away with 10 ‘O’ Levels and 1 ‘A’ level.”
At this point Kevin said he understood that Charlie’s dad was a well-known and much respected Rugby League referee, with three Wembley finals, the first World Cup final and more than 30 internationals under his belt. Charlie was very proud of him as a father. Indeed Charlie was brought up with sport and enjoyed travelling around the grounds watching his dad referee, though he didn’t like to hear the spectators around him shouting abuse at his dad! Kevin pointed out that Charlie’s dad had perfect vision and that his grandparents were married.
In 1957 he went to watch him referee the Challenge Cup final at Wembley. As a boy he regularly went to Wilderspool to watch the Wires and has memories of going into the changing room and being amazed by the sight of the great Brian Bevan being held together by Elastoplast!
Apart from his dad’s refereeing he did have a full time job as a sales representative for Bowman’s Chemicals in Widnes and it was on one of his trips to Ireland that he took Charlie with him and introduced him to fishing. Kevin said: “From my notes I understand that whilst you were there a friend of your fathers took you on a fishing trip and he taught you how to skin an eel.
On your return to England you asked a neighbour to teach you how to fish and off you went to Fearnhead Pools where in true fishermen’s terms you caught the biggest one ounce gudgeon you’ve ever seen! From then on, if you’ll pardon the pun, ‘you were hooked’ and fishing has become one of your passions and you say that last year has been your best ever season for carp.”
When Charlie finished school his father wanted him to train as an accountant, but in his heart, Charlie knew that he wanted to teach and so secured a place at Derby Diocesan Training College, studying biology. Charlie also took an extended course in PE, which involved teaching in the college junior school and he participated in the FA and the MCC coaching courses and the Bronze Medallion Life-saving course. Charlie also represented the college at football and cricket.
It was at the college that Charlie met Pam, whom he would eventually marry six years later in 1967. The ‘best man’ was his lifelong friend Derek Bird.
Sport continued to play an important part in Charlie’s life and after graduating from college in 1964, he obtained his first teaching post at Oakwood Avenue Junior School and he went on to play for Moore United Football team and the Crossfield 2nd XI Badminton team. He also coached the under-11 town football team.
For a number of years, Charlie was a member of a group of 12 teachers, who adopted the TV idea of ‘Sporting Superstars’ and over 10 weekends during the summer, competed in a different sport each week. Charlie admitted to Kevin that one of his sporting injuries was a very bad sprain caused by playing snooker. He tried to get round the table too quickly, slipped and had to use crutches for 10 days.
The teachers were awarded with points ranging from 12 down to one according to the position that they finished in. Charlie, during every year of his teaching life, assisted with or took charge of the annual week’s holiday, visiting such diverse places as Bournemouth, Isle of Man, Hawkeshead and the Isle of Wight.
During his career Charlie moved schools a number of times and each move brought promotion. Eventually he returned to Oakwood Junior School as deputy head. In 1975 at the tender age of 32 he became the youngest head teacher in Warrington at Park Road Primary School, Great Sankey and he remained there for 19 years until ill health forced early retirement.
When Charlie’s dad retired he took over a pub called the ‘Squirrel’ in Horwich and as there was a bowling green, it was here that Charlie became fairly proficient in crown green bowls.
Charlie recalled that there was an annual Rivington Pike race where the runners all arrived back at the Squirrel and would wash off the mud in large tin baths in the yard at the back of the pub. In 1965 the players of Wigan Rugby League Cub called at the Squirrel so that they could have their last night of freedom before the Wembley final the following Saturday. After closing time the players were larking about and had Billy Boston in one of the tin baths in front of the fire! Charlie’s dad eventually moved back to Warrington to take over the corner shop in Longford Street and also a launderette in Hale Street.
At this point Kevin said: “Brethren apart from teaching, Charlie has experienced working behind a bar, venting and tapping barrels and filtering the beer, running a shop and helping his dad wash the kit of the Warrington Rugby League team in the launderette attached to the corner shop, armed with a dolly tub and dolly peg! I understand that you thought that was a bit of a come down after watching them play”.
Charlie’s Rugby League background has not stopped him from being a life-long Manchester United fan and he had the pleasure of watching the famous three from the 1960’s ‘Best, Law and Charlton’.
In 1966 the Rugby Football League Referees’ Society held a special centenary celebration dinner at the Alfred McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield to honour all those referees who had officiated at Wembley. As his father was too ill to attend, Charlie was asked to represent him. Kevin said: “I know Charlie you were immensely proud to receive on his behalf a specially struck medal to mark your dad’s appearances in 1952, 1957 and 1959.”
Kevin continued: “I mentioned earlier that Charlie and Pam were married in 1967, their first daughter Denise was born in 1970 and their second daughter Marion came along on 1976. They have four grandchildren Marla and Flynn who live in France, whilst the other two, Elliot and Oliver, live a little closer in Newton-le-Willows.
Apart from sport, which Charlie now enjoys mainly from his armchair, his favourite hobby is angling and he tries to go out fishing once or twice a week during the summer months and still goes on an annual fishing holiday with friends. Charlie also enjoys gardening, cooking, the theatre, holidaying and music from the 1960’s. He is also involved in voluntary work; being a member of the Warrington Talking Newspaper for the Blind.
Charlie was proposed into Masonry by his father and seconded by Sydney Parr and was initiated on 6 January 1966. Once on the ‘ladder,’ he took every office except inner guard and he was installed into the chair of King Solomon in March 1982.
Charlie’s year of office started with his dad delivering the master’s address. Charlie conducted a ceremony every meeting throughout his year (except for the Christmas social evening). He also had the pleasure of initiating, passing and raising his best friend from childhood, Derek Bird. He also initiated and passed another friend John Simpson, who is now the lodge treasurer and in his last ceremony he initiated his cousin Ray Appleton.
Kevin said Charlie was known for the excellence of his ritual and on one occasion was asked by the lodge if he would take the chair for an initiation. He only discovered later that the principal guest that night was to be the Provincial Grand Master Peter Hosker. After the ceremony Peter congratulated Charlie on the perfection of the ceremony he had performed.
Charlie became assistant director of ceremonies in March 1987 and when the DC, Peter Walton, unexpectedly passed away in December 1991, he acted as lodge DC until being officially appointed to the post at the installation meeting in March 1992. Charlie held this post until March 2002, when he handed over to Derek Bird. In 2005, Charlie was appointed chaplain of the lodge.
In 2012 Charlie volunteered to occupy the chair of King Solomon again. This being only the second time in 115 years that a brother had had the honour of being WM in the lodge for a second time. In 2014, after being invested as IPM, Charlie resumed the role of chaplain and in 2015 he also took on the role of group representative for the second time.”
Kevin concluded by saying: “Charlie you have been a strong supporter of the Warrington and District Group and have helped the group on many occasions at meetings of Provincial Grand Lodge, the group service of rededication, group carol service and the Masonic open days held in the Hall.
Your efforts were recognised by the Province in May 1992 with an appointment to the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon and in 2000 you were promoted to the very high rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden and to mark this important occasion our Provincial Grand Master has caused a commemorative certificate to be produced to record his best wishes which I shall now ask the Warrington Group Chairman, Andrew Barton to read.”
Kevin then presented Charlie, on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master with his celebration certificate. He then said: “More particularly on behalf of the WM, wardens and brethren of the Lodge of Charity to congratulate you on the celebration of your 50 continuous years in Freemasonry.”
At the festive board Andy Barton proposed the toast to the health of Kevin Poynton saying: “We are very fortunate to have an Assistant Provincial Grand Master who is so dedicated to our group.”
The main toast of the evening to Charlie’s health was proposed by his life-long friend Derek Bird. Derek said that in his teaching career Charlie had not only cared for the academic side of being a headmaster but also embraced parents and organised many social events.
He told of the time he and Charlie spent when youngsters and then when he was best man at Charlie’s marriage to Pam. He then told of the day he overheard Charlie talking to someone about Freemasonry. Derek said: “I turned to Charlie and said, what about me? Charlie told me I had never asked, so I told him, ‘I’m asking now’.”
Everything went through quickly so that Charlie would be able to initiate, pass and raise Derek during his year as WM in 1982.
Derek said that Charlie was a wonderful ambassador for the lodge during that year when he met and became friends with the other masters in the chair that year. Derek said that the 1982 masters were now ‘notorious’ for the way they have continued in their friendship and support to the present day with three other 82 masters being present on the evening.
He said that Charlie will be best remembered by lodge members for the 10 years he served as DC. Derek said: “You had a huge influence in setting the standards which we still have today. This lodge is grateful and thankful for everything you have done. It is a privilege and a pleasure to have you as a brother but it is a much bigger pleasure to say that you are my best friend.”
Derek then presented Charlie with an inscribed large cut glass candle holder which Charlie said this ‘wonderful gift’ would bring back memories of his special night every time he lit a candle in it.
In his response Charlie said that he had been taken by Masonic ritual right from the days when he just sat on the back benches as a new member.
He said he felt there was a ‘special bond’ among Masons which he certainly felt tonight. Charlie said he was ‘stunned’ by the number of brethren attending the meeting.
Charlie described his year as WM in 1982 as ‘a very special year’ and that unfortunately there were now only five active members of the 82 masters but that they continued to support each other as they had done since 1982.
He said he was very happy that Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Paul Rigby had been on duty as he was one of Charlie’s pupils.
Charlie ended his response by saying “I will go home with a warm glow.” He received a standing ovation.