Almost a 100 Freemasons attended the installation meeting of Christopher (Chris) Lydon Betts as WM of the Lodge of Charity No 2651 at the Warrington Masonic Hall. The installing master Malcolm Myers carried out a faultless ceremony under the direction of the lodge DC and Warrington Group Vice Chairman Chris Gleave.
The lodge was opened by Malcolm and the normal administration duties undertaken. Chris Gleave entered the lodge and reported that the principal guest John Hutton, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Past Senior Grand Deacon was without and demanded admission. Malcolm said we would be very pleased to receive him. John, along with grand and Provincial grand officers were admitted. Grand officers present included Jack Forsyth, Stan Churm, Derek Hunt, Chris Eyres, Colin Rowling Chairman of St Helens Group and Geoff Bean, accompanied by Paul Rigby, John Harrop, Jerry Lawes and Andy Barton Warrington Group Chairman.
Malcolm offered a very warm welcome to John and all the grand officers, Provincial grand officers and visiting brethren and hoped everyone would have an enjoyable evening. Malcolm, as a matter of procedure and as a mark of respect, offered John the gavel, which on this occasion he was delighted to accept and then handed it back saying he felt confident that it was in the best hands.
Malcolm requested the assistance of Charles Carr by occupying the SW chair, Derek Houghton the JW chair and John Geering by acting as IG. All the brethren agreed saying they would be honoured.
Chris Eyres then asked everyone to stand in silence as a mark of respect to departed merit, his best friend Phil Gartside, who had sadly passed away following a short illness. Chris described Phil as being an outstandingly dynamic character and may best be remembered for his Chairmanship of Bolton Wanderers Football Club. A true Mason, a member of Lodge of Charity, a Provincial grand officer, but above all he was a devoted family man.
The master elect Chris Betts, was then presented to Malcolm the installing master, as a candidate to receive at his hand the benefit of installation and the presenting officers were Tom Owen, (Chris’ seconder) and Alan Bristow. Chris was then installed into the chair of King Solomon according to ancient custom with all reverence and humility.
The presentation and explanation of the working tools were excellently carried out by Louis Warburton third degree, Leon Neill second degree and Tim Plumpton first degree. The address to the WM was delivered by Tom Owen and the address to the wardens by Andy Barton. John delivered the address to the brethren in an exemplary manner which concluded the installation ceremony.
John congratulated Chris on being installed in the chair of such a wonderful lodge. He said he had witnessed a feast of Masonic ritual. He continued by thanking Malcolm for all the hard work he had done over the last 12 months. John continued by saying he was also delighted to bring the congratulations and good wishes of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison. John passed on his personal good wishes to Chris, his officers and all the brethren, for a happy and successful year. He congratulated Malcolm and Chris Gleave for their work undertaken during the ceremony. He also made special reference to how well the junior brethren had presented and explained the working tools of each degree.
Chris then conducted his first duty and presented cheques to John which included, £250 to Winwick Church, £250 to the local YMCA, £100 to Warrington Masonic Museum, £200 to St Luke’s Hospice Winsford, £200 to Warrington Young Carers, £200 to CanTreat, £200 to West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, £200 to St Roccos Hospice, £200 to Walton Lea Project and £200 to Diabetes UK. The total of cheques presented was £2,000. In addition, donations have been made during the year of £40 to Eccleshome and £510 to the widows of the lodge. Also, the redemption of £250 in loan notes to the Warrington Masonic Hall which was donated back to the hall.
The total giving for the year to March 2016 was £2,800. On behalf of the recipients John thanked the brethren for their magnificent donations, commenting on the tremendous amount of money being spread across so many important beneficiaries.
93 guests and members enjoyed an excellent four course festive board and the normal hospitality of the Masonic hall. The gastronomic delights included chicken liver pate, warm smoked fish tart, lamb shank served with rosemary and redcurrant jus and seasonal vegetables and cream caramel. Red and white wine complemented the meal which was followed by tea or coffee. The master’s song was sung by Peter Whalley, accompanied by Ray Illingworth.
John responded to the toast to grand lodge saying that there was a galaxy of grand officers present including Jack Forsyth, who has for many years received the Provincial Grand Master at Provincial Grand Lodge. He welcomed Stan Churm who is a very active Mason and a past Chairman of Warrington Group, Derek Hunt a forerunner in publicity and thanked him for pointing the Province in the correct direction for publicity and thanked Andrew Young for a beautiful website. He continued by thanking Chris Eyres, (past group chairman), for accepting the office of almoner. He welcomed Colin Rowling, Chairman of St Helens Group and Geoff Bean, a visitor to the Province. He continued on the subject of charity, thanking the lodge for the wonderful donations received and referred to the tercentenary celebrations yet to follow. He concluded by thanking John Harrop and Jerry Lawes for supporting him this evening.
Chris Betts was born in 1947 in Stoke-on-Trent and spent his early childhood in a semi-rural parish on the edge of the city. Chris gained eight ‘O’ levels and excelled in sciences. He was a keen member of the after school science club, where he really enjoyed making things which went ‘BANG’. He frequently experimented with the making of fireworks (health and safety rules were not so stringent then). He went on to study for his Ordinary and Higher National Certificates in Chemistry at Stoke-on-Trent Polytechnic and later at the Royal Society of Chemistry at the Polytechnic and Keele University.
Chris and Pam were married in 1970. Their son Stephen was born in 1976 and spent his first and very hot summer on the beach and in the dive boats in Oban, Scotland, because Chris was also a fully qualified scuba diving instructor. He also qualified as a boat handler, deep rescue diver and underwater explosives expert. Chris carried out many diving jobs for the police, being better qualified and more experienced than any of the police divers.
Chris had been trained in the use of underwater explosives and managed to obtain a 10 pound immediate licence for submarine explosives, which with others, he used to salvage a wreck (the SS Lady Meath) which is located about two miles off Holyhead harbour and which was sunk by a German mine in 1940. The wreck had been purchased from the insurance company for £240. One of the ships propellers was salvaged by packing the boss with 10 pounds of explosive, which blew the propeller into three pieces comprising of each of the three blades, which were raised by means of a rented trawler. It was sold for £1,000 scrap value. Portholes were also collected, cleaned and sold for £100 each. All the proceeds of the salvage operations and sales went to the North Staffs Branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club.
Since retirement and joining Freemasonry, Chris divides his time between the Methodist Church and Freemasonry. He learned how to build websites (thanks to Andrew Young for pointing him in the right direction) and now builds and runs websites for the Church and other charities. He has just completed his largest website to date for the Sankey Valley Methodist Circuit which went live in January 2016 and is currently involved in designing and building a website for the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry. Chris is also a member of the Gilbert Greenall Chapter No 1250, Loyalty Chapter No 897 and a further side degree.
A raffle was conducted which produced a magnificent sum of £424 which when added to £165 from the collection plate totalled £589 collected for charity.
John and Andy were presented with bouquets of flowers on behalf of the lodge. They both thanked the WM and brethren for the flowers and a most enjoyable evening, saying they hoped the lodge would have an enjoyable and productive year. The evening was brought to a close by the tyler’s toast.