At a meeting of Starkie Lodge No 1070 held in Southport over 50 brethren including Phil Stock the Southport Group Vice Chairman witnessed the golden celebration of Jim Grant PDepDistGDC (Hong Kong and Far East). Jim proudly wears his Hong Kong Provincial honours, (having declined in the past the West Lancashire Provincial honours).
Following the opening of the lodge by the worshipful master Steven Cropper and the usual business being conducted, Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder was invited to take the master’s chair. Once seated David asked Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Mark Barton to place the celebrant Jim Grant in the centre of the lodge; following which an account of Jim’s history was given to the brethren present.
Jim was born in Hong Kong in October 1932, where he remembers attending Quarry Bank Primary School. He and his parents suffered during the Japanese occupation in World War Two, but leaving his father in a POW camp the family managed to stow away on board a Dutch freighter bound for Australia. They spent only a brief time in Australia in 1944 before being declared illegal immigrants and put on board a ship, HMS Sterling Castle, bound for the UK via the Panama Canal. Despite the convoy being escorted by American Corsairs they were still attacked in the Atlantic. The family made it to Liverpool, only to be sent by train to London, staying with Jim’s aunty, as his mother had sadly passed away in 1942 shortly after giving birth to his sister Alice.
After the war Jim’s father was ironically sent back to Hong Kong to deal with the Japanese prisoners of war. Being very close to conscription age Jim found no one would employ him, so he signed up with the Fleet Air Arm for seven years. Jim was based initially in Scotland and Northern Ireland, eventually a total of 17 different air bases and two aircraft carriers. Jim also saw action with the 897 Squadron during the Suez Crisis.
David said that the highlight of Jim’s career was taking part as a member of the forces personnel lining the route for the Queen’s Coronation, and he recalls standing for hours in the pouring rain!
After being demobbed Jim stayed in the aircraft industry before taking up a position like his father before him in the Hong Kong Prison Service. Jim retired in 1988 to settle in Southport.
David went on to say that Jim met his wife Virginia, also born in Hong Kong, at a friend’s wedding in 1961, despite her being engaged to a pilot at that time, Jim married her in November 1963 using his accumulated nine months leave to honeymoon in Rome and also to take the opportunity to visit his father back in England.
Through his sporting activities, Jim became a Freemason on 7 January 1966 joining Cathay Lodge No 4373 in Hong Kong. Interestingly when Jim and his wife Virginia were interviewed it transpired that Virginia knew more about Freemasonry than Jim. Virginia was secretary to the manager of ICI who was himself secretary to the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong. She was well versed in typing summons and memos and well versed in Masonic etiquette. It was 1978 before Jim was WM, there being five stewards of the then 62 members. Whilst in Hong Kong Jim also joined Royal Arch Chapter and other Masonic orders.
On retirement in 1989 Jim joined Starkie Lodge and became master in 1997 and then again in 2004. Jim also thereafter joined other orders to continue his involvement in Freemasonry in his adopted home.
Later, prior to the festive board, Jim asked for a photograph to be taken with the distinguished guests and entered apprentice David Ginger (lodge banner bearer) and David Ellis, a fellow craft. An excellent meal was enjoyed by all, which concluded a memorable evening.