Brethren of Ashmole Lodge No 5128, Old Denstonian Lodge No 5490 (Staffordshire) their guests and friends gathered to celebrate Mike Caldwell’s 50 years in Freemasonry at Warrington Masonic Hall. WM Nick Delaney efficiently opened the lodge, setting a relaxed, cheerful tone for the evening.
Principal Guest was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton, accompanied into the lodge by grand officers Jack Forsyth, Neville Powell, Tony Bone and grand officer designate Andy Barton (Warrington Group Chairman). These were supported by acting Provincial grand officer Gary Smith.
Nick conducted lodge business, then offered the gavel to Kevin, who accepted and asked for the tyler to be admitted so that he could share in the occasion. As this was Mike’s jubilee, Kevin first delivered an explanation of the origin of ‘jubilee’, which is from biblical times, when after 49 years of slavery, the 50th year was for emancipation of slaves and restoration of lands. This charity is apt for our Masonic ideals, and the celebrant embodies these.
Mike was seated comfortably in the centre of the lodge and Kevin told his story. Mike was born in Grappenhall during 1939 (the first year of the Second World War), Mike, his parents William and Frances and older brother David were living at 32 Warren Drive, Appleton; Mike was to stay in the family home for 47 years.
Early schooling started in Stockton Lodge School and progressed to Altrincham Preparatory School, gaining six GCEs, but his father was not impressed by his ‘messing about’ so moved him to Denstone College near Uttoxeter. He did better there and even joined the Combined Cadet Force which was precursor to officer training in preparation for National Service. With his sights beyond that, Mike started to pursue a career as an accountant, deferring the military while he completed his articles. Before that could happen, National Service ended.
With college came sports and Mike participated in rugby union, cricket, fives, cross country running and swimming. In his own words, not excelling at any but always mildly enthusiastic. After leaving Denstone in 1956 he played rugby for Warrington Rugby Union Club until 1967. He became a full member of the Warrington Golf Club in the summer of 1968 and played regularly until 2010. The highlight of his time there was winning the ‘Roberts Bowl’ in 2001. Recently, Mike has cultivated a mild interest in horse racing, but only in the realm, it seems, of losing money.
St Johns College of Further Education in Quay Street Manchester started Mike’s preparation to follow his father as an accountant. After this he became a clerk in accountancy being articled to M/s J B Boyd–Wrigley of Brown Street, Manchester in 1958 and then to Messrs H D Leete, also in Manchester. He qualified as a chartered accountant in May 1965. A few short-term roles followed, most notably with his father’s company W G Caldwell & Co in Museum Street, Warrington, where he returned after a while away to become senior clerk then partner in 1968.
In 1972, Mike took the leap to self-employment as Messrs W G Caldwell & Co, trading as such until 1998, when it merged with Messrs A H Davidson & Co and Mike became a partner of the new company. He semi-retired in 2007 and fully retired in 2010. He became a member of the National Federation of Self Employed and was a founder member when it became The Federation of Small Businesses. Between the two, he was involved from 1975 right through until 2013. Mike was also a member of the Warrington Round Table No 74 and ‘Area 8 Lancs & Manx’ from 1967 to 1980.
Following his father into local politics, Mike became a volunteer in the Warrington Conservative Association, then chairman and treasurer in part of the Warrington South Constituency which included various wards of the Old Runcorn Parliamentary Constituency. He was treasurer there for five years and also held various officers in in other branches.
One of Mike’s passions is oration and 1961 saw him joining the Warrington Speakers Club, an organisation which was set up to improve oral communication skills in personal and public situations. This continuing into the late 1970’s. The roles here were appointed according to experience and talent. A speaker would be expected to talk on a given subject for about for two minutes. It was formally done, with a timekeeper and an evaluator to oversee and note any errors. The hugely popular ‘Radio 4’ show ‘Just a Minute’ is based on a similar format, but the speaking time on radio is only half that in the speaker’s club. Additionally, he became a member of the Toast Masters International (in 1962 this was an American organisation). In 1969 he became the UK president and also its treasurer. In 1970 the UK part broke away from the American organisation and became the Association of Speakers Clubs.
Masonically, Mike’s father was a member of Old Denstonian Lodge in the Province of Staffordshire and he initiated him into that lodge on Friday 8 March 1968. His brother acted as junior deacon. Mike was passed to the degree of a fellow craft on Saturday 30 November 1968, raised to the sublime degree of a master Mason on Friday 7 March 1969 and installed into the chair of King Solomon in September 1979. Presently, he is its senior member.
The rank of PPrJGD in the Province of Staffordshire was bestowed in May 1985 and then later promoted to PPrGSB and in April 2015 he was promoted again in the Province of Staffordshire to the very high rank of PPrJGW. In West Lancashire he became a joining member of Ashmole Lodge on the 28 April 1981 and became master of Ashmole Lodge in 1997. In May 1991, his efforts were recognised by the West Lancashire when he was appointed to the rank of PPrSGD.
In West Lancashire Royal Arch, he was exalted into Chapter of Friendship No 2963 on 14 April 1980 and was installed into the first principal’s chair in September 1984. This chapter closed in 2006, so Mike joined Old Masonians West Lancashire Chapter No 7702 in 2007. His Staffordshire Royal Arch Masonry is just as strong, being a founder member of Old Denstonian Chapter No 5490, its first principal on consecration in January 1996 and its ADC until 2016. Provincial chapter honours have followed in both Provinces. He also holds high rank in two other Masonic Orders.
During his normal life and in Masonry, Mike has almost made a separate career of being treasurer in Warrington Round Table, in Warrington Conservative Association, in Old Runcorn Parliamentary Constituency, Toastmasters International, of Warrington Old Friends’ Association, of Old Denstonian Lodge, of Ashmole Lodge and of Chapter of Friendship. This is in addition to an unspecified number of other roles such as secretary, governor, UK president and others.
The Provincial Grand Master caused a celebratory certificate to be made which was read out by Andy Barton, following which it was presented to Mike Caldwell by Kevin Poynton. Having delivered Mike’s story, Kevin relinquished the gavel back to Nick, who closed the lodge.
At the festive board, after a lovely meal, Kevin spoke briefly (much to the disappointment of most of the brethren, who had longer times in a sweep). He thanked the publicity team, Andy Barton (also on being appointed to Grand Lodge), acting Provincial grand officer Andy Smith and especially Eric Drinkwater, for having persuaded Joanne Hayes to come back to Warrington Masonic Hall as ‘Front of House Manager’, a sentiment echoed by all who know or have met her.
The charitable collection in lodge gained £70 and the WM’s Chorley raffle at the festive board raised £130 for the lodge widows.
Tony Bone toasted Mike, recounting their meetings through lodges and associations, how he had once been forced to travel to a meeting in the boot of a car and how, finally, Mike has recently turned down the role of treasurer in a lodge. Tony led the assembled brethren in a rousing chorus of ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’.
Mike responded with tales of how his family performed most of his initiation, how the public’s view of Freemasonry has changed for the worse, how he was ambushed into joining chapter, how he once joined a lodge to find it had the grand sum of £4.07 in its coffers and his long-standing friendship with partners-in-Masonry, Tony Bone and Tony Sanders. As someone who has had the pleasure of being in the company of the three ‘partners-in-Masonry’, I hope their association lasts for many, many years yet.
Story and pictures by Eric Miller.