Pictured, from left to right at Tommy golden anniversary celebrations are: Terry Hudson, Tommy and Terry Bullen, WM Paul Gamble and Harry Cox.
Cleveleys Masonic Hall saw a capacity audience of brethren from every group on the Fylde coast gathered to celebrate the 50 years of service to Freemasonry in South Shore Lodge No 4672 completed by Thomas (Tommy) Bullen PPrJGW.
Tommy’s golden anniversary celebrations were led by APrGM Terry Hudson in his usual inimitable style of raconteur extraordinaire - though the occasion was tinged with a little sadness as it will be Terry’s last in the North Fylde Group before his retirement from high office at Provincial Grand Lodge in May. Acknowledging this fact Terry, tongue in cheek, advertised that he could be seen in action for his finale performance at another 50 years celebrations Blackpool Lodge No 1476 later this month...
But none of this detracted from the glowing tributes which he paid to Tommy, about whom he said his geniality, gentle disposition and generosity of spirit had endeared him to every Mason who had ever met him.
Terry had for company many grand, Provincial and acting Provincial grand officers who added a colourful presence to the very special meeting to honour the loyal and faithful service which Tommy has dedicated to the Craft and South Shore Lodge for 50 years.
Terry gave a précis of Tommy’s life and times which began almost 89 years ago in Blackburn on August 10 1924; in a place, Terry quipped, where many great Masonic concepts are born, in a pub. Tommy’s parents were then the licensees of the Albion Hotel, his father being also the chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Association.
Tommy and the two Terrys pose with an honour guard of acting officers.
Following Tommy’s early education in Blackburn his family moved in 1938 to Blackpool when he was aged 14. His first school, St Bartholomew’s was situated near Blackburn FC’s Ewood Park before young Tommy moved to the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Grammar where he developed a considerable talent for football which was to prove significant in later years. Tommy completed his education at Palatine School, Blackpool, leaving at age 16 to seek employment.
Being wartime, finding a job was far from easy as returning servicemen had a right to their former employment and employers were mindful of that prospect. As a stop-gap Tommy took a job as an office boy at a Chartered Accountant’s firm working from 8.00 am till 6.00 pm - which found him daily lighting six fires, refilling coal buckets and making 14 cups of tea mornings and afternoons - all for a weekly wage of 10/- less NI contributions (c.45p in today’s coinage).
Fortuitously there came a call from the National Provincial Bank, the forerunner of Nat West, where having taken up the offer Tommy thought he had gone to Heaven with no fires and no teas to make and a salary of £1 per week. Moreover the move began a career which was to span the next 42 years; WW2 and the Royal Navy notwithstanding.
In 1941 at age 17 having fibbed about his age Tommy joined the RN and spent two and a half years in the Mediterranean on mine-sweepers dodging German dive bombers. Based in Gibraltar he spent some of the time playing football against other branches of the service before being posted back to Chatham.
Whilst serving in Gibraltar a particularly memorable moment came when he personally decoded the message from the Admiralty breaking the news of D Day whilst surrounded by a bunch of very senior and cheering officers. He spent the remainder of the war on the C in C staff, for the most part playing football once his prowess in the beautiful game had been discovered, before being demobbed in 1944.
Being an ex-serviceman his position at the bank was waiting for him on his return in the National Provincial Bank’s Fleetwood branch. Following this he embarked on a series of career improving postings being sent to Blackpool, Northampton (one of the largest branches outside of London), Preston, South Shore and Neston then to Layton in 1971 where in 1978 he was finally promoted to branch manager.
Unfortunately in 1981 ill health saw Tommy offered early retirement with a two year enhancement which he accepted. Tommy now contents himself, Terry joked that, with luck and a following wind, he is likely to receive more in pension from the now National Westminster Bank than he ever received in salary throughout his whole working life. Tommy is persuaded that retirement is the best job he ever had!
As a young man Tommy frequented the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool and it was there that he met a young lady named Eileen Wilson from Burnley. At age 22, she 21, they eventually wed at the Church of all Saints at Havergham – having secured the necessary permissions from the bank! The couple lived happily together for over 64 years till, sadly Eileen died in January 2010; since which time Masonry has proved an invaluable life-line to Tommy.
After settling in Blackpool, over the years Eileen and Tommy were blessed with three children Terry, Janet and Sandra, who collectively presented their parents with eight grandchildren.
The inspiration behind Tommy’s Masonic career came from his father who, whilst not being a Freemason himself, was always supportive of Tommy joining the Craft. He was proposed by Stanley Cave, a junior partner in a local solicitor’s office and a member of South Shore Lodge and was seconded by Frank Roberts.
DC Tony Farrer presents Tommy with a cut glass decanter and silver tray from South Shore Lodge to mark the occasion.
Tommy had to wait for three years to be interviewed such was the clamour to join Masonry then. He was finally initiated on 25 April 1963 by then WM Chris Hopewell at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool, which was where the lodge formerly met before moving first to Poulton-le-Fylde and then to Cleveleys where the lodge is now happily settled.
Terry next asked lodge secretary Howard Emmett to read the minutes of the 1963 meeting when Tommy was initiated.
Terry continued that Tommy worked his way through the various lodge offices till he reached that of JD at which time he was proud and delighted to propose his son Terry into South Shore Lodge. Particularly pleasing to him was that as JD he was able to conduct him round the lodge and, with encouragement from the brethren, to deliver to him the charge after initiation.
Regretfully Tommy’s son Terry was moved to Nottingham where, with his work commitments as a regional manager with B&Q, he was no longer able to attend the lodge on a regular basis. Terry said that that it must be with much joy for Tommy that his son was present to support him on the evening of his Masonic golden anniversary.
Tommy, Terry added, became WM in 1975 after which he obliged the lodge by undertaking the mastership for a second time in 1976. On each occasion he was installed by John Butterworth after being presented by his seconder Frank Roberts who delivered the address to the WM on both occasions.
When Tommy was in the chair it was expected that the WM would conduct one each of the three ceremonies which he duly did. Also in those days, Terry reminded brethren, the master of South Shore Lodge was obliged to make himself responsible for the total funding of the ladies’ presents, table prizes, spot prizes, table plan and flowers for his Ladies Evening. So Eileen was less than impressed when Tommy shared with her his intention to serve the lodge for a second term!
The brethren were delighted Terry said, but hardly surprised, when Tommy’s dedication, loyalty and commitment as a much respected Mason was rewarded by his appointment to PPrJGD in May 1986. This was followed by a well deserved promotion in 1992 to the rank of PPrJGW.
Terry asked Harry Cox, Chairman of the North Fylde Group to read the scroll which had come from the PrGM Peter Hosker to commemorate the milestone occasion. After which Terry offered Tommy his own personal congratulations on attaining his milestone achievement and wished him the best of good health and happiness for many years to come.
At festive board the speeches of congratulations continued from many quarters and there was entertainment from Blackpool Town Crier and comedian Barry McQueen.
The lodge presented Tommy with a cut glass decanter on a silver tray as a memento of his special day.
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