Brethren from Freshfield Lodge No 8165 and the Southport Group gathered together to acknowledge and appreciate the achievement of Roger Stanforth as he marked his 50 years in Freemasonry at Southport Masonic Hall. Leading the celebrations was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright together with grand officers John Moore, Derek Hughson, Peter Connolly and Chris Hamilton
Also joining in the festivities and ensuring the smooth running of proceedings was Mark Barton, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, accompanied by fellow acting Provincial grand officers Neil Latham, Liam Mawdsley, Paul Hardman, Peter Martin; also present was Colin Jenkins the Southport Group Chairman.
On opening the lodge, the WM Dave Phillips, quickly ensured that the main item of the evening’s business was reached without undue delay which included the ballot for a joining member and a new candidate for initiation. After welcoming Robert Wright into the lodge, Dave gladly surrendered the gavel with a huge smile on his face which didn’t go unnoticed by Robert, and thus ‘set the stage’ for an interesting and illuminating address by Robert, in preparation for which Roger was comfortably seated before him by Mark Barton.
After asking if Roger was sitting comfortably Robert said he would begin and explained that he would be firing off salvos in his attempt to give some credibility to a remarkable career. Roger was born on Wednesday 11 February 1931 in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. 1931 was the time of the Great Depression, following the Wall Street crash, of 1929. The effects reverberated around the world and trade came to a standstill. There was mass unemployment, poverty and deprivation around the world.
In the UK, there was political instability as our outdated industry and employment practices caused considerable unrest and demand for reform, and the average house price in the UK was £600. The Empire State Building, at 102 storeys, was the tallest building completed in New York. Gambling was legalized in Las Vegas and Al Capone was successfully convicted for tax evasion. Also, born that year was Les Dawson, Diana Dors and Lonnie Donegan all of whom have now passed away, Robert remarked that Roger was doing rather well.
Roger’s father Harry was a clothing buyer and his mother Edith a housewife. After the usual infant and junior school education, Roger passed the matriculation examination and went to King Edward VII Grammar School. In 1947 aged 16, he passed the Oxbridge Exam, but as neither of his parents or their family had ever been to university, and because of the expense, he was not able to pursue that opportunity.
So 1947, straight from school, Roger started work at West Norfolk Chemical and Artificial Fertilizers in the laboratory where he kept checks on the many foul substances then used in the early practices of fertiliser production. So much so, that it was known by all, as the ‘muck works.’
In 1949, he was called up for National Service and in view of his interest in radio he was assigned as a Radio Mechanic and was posted to the Royal Signals Corps stationed at York Garrison. Because of his grammar school education, Roger was singled out as potential officer material, and after the interview at The War Office Selection Board he fully expected to be sent on officer training. However, it was not to be, “Officers are two a penny”, declared the Sergeant, “we need radio mechanics.” So there he stayed and he was involved in many projects for which he had to sign the Official Secrets Act. Robert added: “Is there anything you want to tell us about that?”
Roger was demobbed in 1951 but remained a reservist for three years in the Norfolk Yeomanry Territorial Army, so it was back to the muck works. However, Roger realised after a number of years that he was coughing and suffering from skin complaints because of the dust in the factory and decided it was time to leave. There was not much health and safety protection back then! Roger used his chemical knowledge and obtained employment with the Milk Marketing Board, testing for bacteria and working to maintain high food safety standards.
At the time, there were many canning factories in Norfolk and he decided to further his career at Smedleys in Wisbeach and subsequently he then moved on to the American company, Campbell Soups, where he was heavily involved in quality control. It was there, as money seemed to be no object for them in pursuit of the best, that he learnt most from the modern production practices and strict hygiene controls used. Even Roger’s father got involved, in supplying shirts with pockets to the workforce. Robert added that he didn’t realise that shirts with pockets was an American trend as most worked in shirtsleeves and needed a place for a pen.
Roger left in 1961 to join Food Manufacturers Limited, to source equipment and set up a new factory, in British Guyana; where he lived with his three children for a year. However, during that time the political unrest meant there were riots, houses were burnt down and it became very dangerous to be there. Roger’s rifle was his best friend. Roger carried on work in setting up the factory, often improvising with equipment needed. Eventually, even though the Anglian Regiment had been sent to protect British citizens, they could not guarantee his safety, so Roger and his family boarded a Dutch ship for the very long voyage home.
He arrived back in the UK in time for the worst winter for years in 1963 and apparently, customs were most concerned on his arrival back in the UK due to the fact he was carrying firearms, which he duly had to surrender. Back in the UK, Roger started working for Associated British Foods in management and quality control and in 1965 he went to work for Littlewoods at head office in Old Hall Street, Liverpool overseeing quality control for the food division. He was requested as part of his role to return to Kings Lynn for a new store opening on behalf of the company, as a translator, as he was the only one who could understand the Norfolk traditions and way of life.
After an eventful and successful career in the canning industry Roger took early retirement at 52 in 1983, however he did continue consultancy work for some years. With regard to Roger’s hobbies, it is understood that he has a dislike for ball games but enjoyed athletics and swimming at school. He also developed an early interest in history and geography following time in the Army. Roger has had a lifetime passion for all things military and has spent considerable time and effort collecting militaria and any brethren having visited ‘Rogers den’ can personally vouch for that. Roger has also enjoyed rallying and car clubs and has an extensive library associated with all these interests.
In 1979 he moved to Southport and joined the Royal Signals Association where he served for 17 years with 11 as their secretary. He was on the Southport and District Council of Ex-Service Associations from the 1980’s, also becoming their secretary, and was on the committee tracing the names of Southport servicemen who had paid the ultimate sacrifice where he helped raise nearly £36,000 to have their names placed on the War Memorial.
Roger was also on the Polish Combatants Association. After the Second World War, there were many Polish families left in Kings Lynn, and because he had that connection he served as their secretary for 22 years. Until recently he was also involved with the Anglo Polish Society and helped organise the national conference in Southport.
It was during this time that he recounted a proud moment in 1993 when he was part of the mayoral party visiting the shipyards at the twinning ceremony between Southport and Gdansk. There is a visitors’ book at the Gdansk shipyards, where of course, Lech Walesa started the anti-communist, Solidarity movement. The first entry in that book is the signature of the USA ex-president Bill Clinton. Immediately underneath is the proud declaration from the secretary of the Anglo Polish Society Southport, “pleased to be here at the twinning” signed by D Roger Stanforth.
In 1993, Roger was a founder member of the West Lancashire Military Vehicle Trust, and guess what, he became their secretary. Roger has owned a number of military vehicles. In the past, he has owned a 1938/9 Austin 8 staff car, a 20mm Hispano-Swizza AA Gun and a 1944 Standard Utility Vehicle. He currently owns a very rare Morris Staff Car, which is still in demand at shows. For seven years, he has held office as treasurer of the Sefton Morris Owners Club. He is a long-standing member of the Royal British Legion and has indeed received recognition by them as a mark of esteem and appreciation for his services to the Formby branch. Roger has given assistance to the Army Benevolent Fund and in 2007 was appointed by The Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside as Centurion of the Merseyside area.
Early in the 1970’s, Roger joined the Liverpool Motor Club. Of course, he also became their secretary. He also at the time resumed his hobby of rallying and in need of a navigator it was there he met his current partner Sue, and they have now been together for nearly 30 years. Roger not only enjoys the sport but was also an official RAC timekeeper and has been in the lead car at the prestigious Lombard Rally of Great Britain. Roger had been warned to give up motor sport on medical advice when he was 40 years old and he reluctantly finally took that advice 25 years later.
Roger attends St Luke’s Church and has been sideman and deputy church warden as well as also acting as banner bearer at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
Roger has four children, all have attended to university, and all are successful in their chosen fields, and a great credit to him as his marriage had not turned out well and he was left to bring them up largely on his own. Stephen, currently a chemistry professor at Newcastle University; Jeremy, a mathematician who has been working in Germany for BA Systems and for NATO projects about which he cannot discuss as he also has had to sign the official secrets act. Timothy, who is the sportsman, is in the teaching profession. Christopher, also a mathematician working in IT. Roger is a very proud family man who also has seven grandchildren who are also going to University.
Moving on to Roger’s Masonic career, Robert said that Roger’s father was a member of Philanthropic Lodge No107 in Kings Lynn near to the Royal Family’s Sandringham Castle Estate. In 1977 he remembered his father saying that the Grand Master HRH the Duke of Kent was due to visit his lodge and he eagerly asked to be invited. Sadly, he was told ‘No’ as the summons he keeps to this day clearly shows the item on the agenda that no visitors were to be allowed.
Roger is a Lewis Mason, being the son of a Mason who has the right to be made a Mason ahead of all others. He was initiated into Bootle Lodge No 1473 on 1 December 1966 being proposed by John Moore. He joined Old Hall Lodge No 4601 in 1999 and became WM in 2001. In 2004 he joined Silver Jubilee Lodge of Installed Masters No 8818 in Southport and joined Freshfield Lodge in March 2009. In 1999 he received his first appointment to Provincial rank of PPrAGPurs.
Because of family and work commitments Roger’s achievements in Freemasonry has been, for varying periods of time, as a tyler or equivalent. Over the years from 1984 to date, with a total of 16 lodges, chapters and other Masonic Orders for which he has been, or currently is, tyler or equivalent.
In Royal Arch, Roger was exalted into Fermor Hesketh Chapter No 1350 in 1969 and became first principal in 2007, in 2008 he joined St John’s Chapter No 673.
Robert went on to mention that Roger has been a member of a remarkable list of other Masonic Orders, holding office in many. Robert added that although he is not currently a member of all of these lodges and chapters, he certainly has had a wide experience of Freemasonry in general, which is to his credit towards showing commitment to making a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
On completion of this personal history, Robert asked Colin Jenkins to read out the celebratory certificate to Roger and on completion Robert left the master’s chair to present Roger with the certificate and a decree from the Provincial Grand Master that he be awarded an in-field promotion of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works. Together with his own heartiest congratulations and expressed the hope that he would enjoy many more years of happy and productive fellowship in Freemasonry.
At the festive board that followed, the assembled brethren dined on carrot and coriander soup, braised steak with seasonal vegetables, hot cherries and ice cream with an ample supply of wine. The meal was rounded off with a cheese board and Port, coffee and mints all of which added to this very special occasion.
The toast to Roger’s health was proposed by John Moore who paid a very personal tribute to him and recalled the many occasions on which Roger had given unstintingly of his friendship, time and skills to the benefit of the lodge.