Brethren and friends of Michael Cox attended Banks Lodge No 7213 in Southport to celebrate his 60 years of Craft Freemasonry with over 85 Masons gathering for this special occasion.
The presentation was conducted in a most sincere yet relaxed way by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright PAGDC. Robert was accompanied by 14 grand officers including John Moore who was Robert’s predecessor. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp was on hand to make sure the evening ran smoothly. Keith was assisted by the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton.
With the initial business of the lodge being conducted by the WM Michael Rimmer the lodge was then opened in the second degree and then the third degree to receive the celebrant and the distinguished guests. Michael Rimmer greeted Robert and the distinguished guests and offered the gavel of the lodge to Robert, which he said for the time being he would return but may be happy to receive it later in the proceedings.
The lodge was then closed by virtue and resumed in the first degree to allow junior brethren to be admitted. Andrew Pedder the lodge’s senior warden then stood and delivered an excellent account of the first degree charge to Michael Cox. Following which Keith suggested to Michael Rimmer that if he were to offer the gavel again to the Assistant Provincial Grand Master he may give a different answer.
With Robert Wright taking the chair Mark Barton collected Michael Cox and sat him in the centre of the room. Robert began by saying: “It’s always a pleasure to have a celebration in any part of our lives and for the most part it is these celebrations which make up our memories.” Robert said that he was sure that with the friends here tonight, some of which had travelled some distance to be here, shows the type of impact Michael has had on their lives that makes them want to share this evening with him. Having celebrated 50 years in the Craft, Royal Arch and other side degrees he added that Michael must be no stranger to these events.
Robert informed the brethren that Michael Cox was born on Monday 27 August 1935 and quoted the nursery rhyme: “Monday’s child is fair of face”, adding that it cannot always be accurate! Some notable events of 1934 included driving tests being introduced, the first ever full body X-ray was performed, Fred Perry won Wimbledon, Meccano released the first dinky toys and Liverpool’s Queensway Tunnel was opened by King George V. More importantly than all, Robert said: “William and Nellie Cox were blessed with a son and so the story begins and as Michael has achieved so much in his 81 years I will just have to give a potted history of his life.”
Michael was born in Farnworth, near Bolton. The family moved to Burnley in 1939 where his father worked as a manager for a local heating and ventilation firm. However the streets in Burnley are not flat and climbing hills was not good for his father’s angina so the family moved to Southport in 1945 and took over a confectioners shop and cafe on Southport Road in Kew.
Robert continued saying that Michael went to school as a day boy to University School Cambridge Road, Southport which has now long since been demolished. There he met many luminaries; amongst them was the past Southport Group Chairman Ray Hinchliffe. Michael left school in 1951 after attaining Captain of Norman House in his final year and joined the family business
During a cycling holiday with friends in France, Robert reported on a particularly traumatic time when Michael collapsed during the holiday with a perforated duodenal ulcer and having lost two thirds of his blood he was in desperate need of a transplant to survive.
Michael’s father and uncle flew over to France and as there was no such thing as the NHS in France, his father was told in no uncertain terms he had to pay for his son to receive a transfusion of French blood. “Brethren”, Robert added “you can now understand his appreciation for fine wines.” He then continued: “I understand you still can’t speak the language!” Returning to England by air ambulance it was a further four weeks of recovery in hospital. His only regret is that due to this accident his health then prevented him from doing National Service.
Turning to romance Robert said Michael met his bride to be Margaret, a bank employee, on a blind date and they were married on 29 April 1958, nearly 58 years ago. They had their reception at the Masonic Hall in Southport. Their daughter Angela was born in 1964 and ironically is a French teacher, so maybe that French blood was passed down the line after all!
Margaret and Michael have twin granddaughters Eleanor and Sophie born prematurely in September 1999 weighing only 1lb 15oz and 2lb 1oz which was very small. After nearly three months of care at Lancaster Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital Manchester they arrived home in time for a huge family Christmas celebration. Michael and Margaret were so grateful for that care that through the APrGM responsible for the Lancaster Group Colin Wright and DPrGM Kenneth Moxley a donation of £350 was given to the Special Baby Care Unit at Lancaster from West Lancashire Charity funds and a further £600 from fund raising by Michael and friends. This truly demonstrates the generosity of both Michael and Masonry.
After Michael married Margaret he took over the running of Cox’s Rio Restaurant in Kew from his father. For the next 35 years he ran the restaurant together with his wife. She was front of house and he was busy organising behind the scenes and in the kitchen. Within a short time he increased the seating to 100 covers. This was the first restaurant in West Lancashire to hold a table license and to specialise in catering for funerals; which was handy as they were so close to the Crematorium. Robert said that the restaurant regularly catered for coaches from Battersby’s in Morecambe, which for the information of brethren, was the family business run by our own PrGM – so it is indeed a small world.
The restaurant catered mostly for daytime trade and Saturday nights, so this left Michael free to pursue both his interests in Masonry and to perform his civic duties. Michael retired and sold the business in 1993 after it being in the family for 48 years
Expanding on Michael’s civic career, in 1971 he stood as an independent councillor for Scarisbrick, a post he served for 26 years. In 1973 he became a West Lancashire District Councillor, a post he served for 22 years. During 1984/85 Michael was the first citizen of the district serving as chairman of the council. During his years in office he served on many committees on the council. When he retired as a councillor in 1995, Robert said Michael he was honoured to be elected the first ever Honorary Alderman of West Lancashire.
Moving on to hobbies, Michael has a lifelong passion for Crown Green Bowling and he has won many competitions over the years and played for numerous clubs and local leagues and this remains his favourite pastime which he shares with Margaret.
Reporting on Michael’s Masonic career Robert drew attention to the fact that Michael’s great great grandfather, his uncle, his godfather and particularly his father were all active Masons. Michael was initiated as a Lewis Mason, into Banks Lodge on 22 February 1956 at Post Office Avenue, and we believe he is the only remaining Mason in Southport to have been initiated there. The current Masonic hall having been consecrated in 1956 meant that he was passed and raised at Duke Street.
Michael was WM in 1967 and having previously been assistant secretary he was appointed secretary and held that office from 1968 for a period of 16 years. He has always been active in the lodge being group representative, festival representative and compiled the 50 year history of the lodge in 2003.
In 1978 Michael was a founder member of Silver Jubilee Lodge of Installed Masters No 8818 in Southport and before this in 1976 he was appointed as a Director of Southport Masonic Hall Co Ltd and served as chairman of the catering committee for four years. Michael served as chairman of the Building Fund for 19 years raising funds for the hall with many special functions. Michael is now a past president of the Southport Group Bowling Section having been chairman for many years
In 1976 his support of Freemasonry was recognised by Province by his appointment to PrJGD, an acting office. Michael was further promoted to PPrJGW in 1983 and then appointed to grand rank as PAGDC in 1997 and he celebrated his 50 years in Freemasonry in 2006.
Michael was exalted in Southport Emulation Chapter No 3675, (no longer in existence) and became first principal in 1972 and was the founding first principal of Banks Chapter No 7213 in 1978 becoming the scribe Ezra for the next 15 years and is now a proud honorary member of that chapter.
Again, Robert said Michael was recognised by Province in 1985 by being appointed PrGStwd, after which he joined the Provincial Stewards’ of West Lancashire Chapter No 8516. He received promotion to PPrGSN in 1985 and is now the most senior of that rank in Southport. Michael celebrated his 50 years in Royal Arch in 2008. He has also been a member of many other orders and holds high rank.
Robert concluded by saying: ”Michael has filled his Masonic career with dedication and commitment and has enjoyed recognition for his valuable contribution to Freemasonry in general.” Robert then asked group chairman Colin Jenkins to read the 60 years celebration certificate from the Provincial Grand Master; following which Robert came down on to the floor and presented the certificate to Michael while the brethren present warmly acknowledged his achievements.
Michael, not being one to be lost for words, asked Robert if he would do him the pleasure of dining with him at the festive board which he happily agreed to do. The presentation being completed Robert handed back the gavel to WM Michael Rimmer who concluded the business of the meeting. Following this special meeting all of the brethren enjoyed a fantastic festive board.