Alan Phythian celebrates 50 years in craft

Brethren from Victoria Lodge No 2360 together with friends from the Southport Liverpool and Ormskirk Groups gathered together to acknowledge and appreciate the achievement of Alan Phythian as he marked 50 years in Freemasonry at Southport Masonic Hall. Leading the celebrations was Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright together with grand officers Joe Brine, Trevor Rimmer, Bryan Henshaw and Roy Pyne.

Robert (left) congratulates Alan on 50 years in the craft.

Robert (left) congratulates Alan on 50 years in the craft.

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, John Doyle, Malcolm Sandywell and Gordon Sandford. Also in attendance was Southport Group Chairman Colin Jenkins.

Alan Phythian, the current serving WM, opened the lodge and dispensed with the general business of the lodge in preparation for his celebration. On welcoming Robert Wright into the lodge, Alan gladly surrendered the gavel secretly hoping that Robert would take it otherwise the evenings celebration wouldn’t be able to continue. Robert graciously accepted the gavel and took the master’s chair asking Alan to take a seat anywhere in the lodge for a short time.

Robert then addressed the brethren saying it was a pleasure to be at Victoria Lodge on this auspicious occasion as it is always a pleasure to have a celebration in any part of our lives. Our memories over the years are punctuated by celebrations, be they birthdays, marriage, children or anniversaries. It is a time to share our joy with others. “It is therefore very pleasing,” Robert said, “to see so many distinguished brethren here this evening. You are all very welcome especially as I know many of you have travelled a long way to be here and I thank you all most sincerely for your support of our celebrant.“ Robert continued that it was his honour to lead the celebration of 50 years in Freemasonry of a very distinguished brother who has given his time and energy in service not only to Freemasonry, but to family and the community. “This celebration brethren is a special one as indeed are any 50th celebrations and I hope that this will be a celebration which not only you will remember but will stay with our celebrant for many years to come.”

Robert then instructed Mark Barton to collect the celebrant and sit him in the centre of the lodge. Robert addressing Alan saying: “There are many brethren here tonight, so I have to ask, are you nervous? as one of us should be and I was secretly hoping it would be you!”

With Alan sitting comfortably, Robert then began with Alan’s personal history: Alan was born on Monday 17 May 1937 and as the children’s rhyme goes ‘Monday’s child is fair of face.’ He is only 79 years old and is still looking well; addressing the secretary Pat Sharples he added you had better start planning for the 60th. In 1937, the year Alan was born it was a truly eventful time as five days before Alan was born King George VI’s Coronation was held at Westminster Abbey.

Politically it was clear that the rise of the nationalists, Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany was causing tension throughout the world. Frank Whittle tested the first aircraft jet engine and the Hawker Hurricane was first introduced into service in the RAF. The emergency telephone No 999 was introduced. The Dandy comic was first published with cow pie eating, Desperate Dan. Also born that year was Shirley Bassey, Vanessa Redgrave, Barbara Windsor, Brian Blessed and Bobby Charlton. So, Alan shares the year with very distinguished company. Also, Trevor Bayliss, who was the inventor of the wind-up radio, first sold in 1994 and Robert said he can remember selling those radios; they had a three-minute wind up charge which gave about 30 minutes play time which was brilliant for where there was no electricity or replacement battery source. Finally, Walt Disney released the first fully animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

More importantly Robert continued, Ernest and Cassandra Pythian were blessed with a son in May and our story begins in earnest. Over the last 79 years Alan has achieved so much, it has been difficult to decide, not what can be talked about, but what unfortunately there isn’t time to include.

“Before we start however” Robert said, “I think we ought to explore the origins of Alan’s surname ‘Phythian.’ It will probably be a surprise to everyone that it is actually an ancient English surname, introduced by the Normans after 1066 and originally it appears to have been a Roman or Latin given name Vivianus, (pronounced FIVIARNUS) which various derivations have evolved to Phythian. (pronounced FIVIANN). The ancient meaning of the name was Alive, or Living, and as historically child death rates were so high, it was given to babies as a sign of hope for the future. Luckily, Alan has had a very bright and successful future living up to his name.”

Alan was born and raised in Norris Green, Liverpool where his father was never out of work as he could turn his hand to many things, as a fitter and even at one time as a driving instructor. Alan attended Stonebridge Lane Secondary Modern School and was captain of the Gym Club. Gymnastics were to play a big part in his early life.

Robert continued by saying Alan was also a talented swimmer and gained the Bronze Medallion, the Bronze Cross and ultimately his Advanced Life-saving award from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society. These were awarded to only the most proficient swimmers. Alan left school at 15 and went to work as an office boy at Meat Importers National Defence Association Limited.

As soon as he was able, Alan took his father’s advice and began an electrical apprenticeship at Campbell and Isherwood’s, Romford Place in Liverpool. Not surprising that his initials Alan Malcolm Pythian are AMP. Campbell and Isherwood’s were a large company serving the needs of shipping at the port of Liverpool with dynamos, motors, ship lighting systems and ship repairs. Whilst there Alan studied on day release at Old Swan Technical College for four years and being an apprentice he was exempt from National Service.

Alan wanted to further his career and on gaining his qualifications in 1958 he applied for, and joined, Cunard Shipping Company; which at that time was a very prestigious appointment. Alan sailed as 6th Electrical Officer on the North Atlantic routes and reached 3rd Electrical Officer on senior watch and was responsible for all the electrical equipment in the engine room. Alan sailed on the Royal Mail Ship, RMS Carinthia.

The RMS Carinthia was one of four Saxonia Class ships, built as passenger liners with cargo facilities, specifically for the Cunard Line, Trans-Atlantic Canadian route, where they had to navigate the St Lawrence river up to the port of Montreal. They carried 125 first class passengers and 800 tourist class many of them families on their journey of emigration to Canada. Sadly, as time went on, and the airline industry developed, the Trans-Atlantic routes were being superseded by air transport and meant the end of an era. Launched in 1956 the ship had a varied ownership in its life and was finally broken up in India in 2006. Robert quipped what a coincidence it is that the ship lasted 50 years in service!

Continuing Robert said that Alan left Cunard after four years and was married in 1962 and moved out to the Ormskirk area from Liverpool. He briefly worked at Kraft Foods Kirkby as an electrician before joining the Ford Motor Company Transmission Plant at Halewood in 1963. Over the next 29 years, Alan progressed from maintenance electrician to maintenance foreman, general foreman and was eventually promoted to management. In his new role, Alan took responsibility for the Ford transmission plant night shift, responsible for all the production and maintenance. There were two plants at Halewood, the transmission plant and the assembly plant and of course Alan still maintains the brains of the operation were all at the transmission plant.

After 29 years, following an offer he couldn’t refuse and at only 55 years old, he took early retirement with full benefits. As his wife Ann was still working Alan had to learn to cook. Robert went on to say that he was told Alan perfected his skills as he has in all projects in his life and we know Ann was grateful for his efforts.

Having been fascinated with, and wanting to see and learn about different cultures, Alan ‘embarked’ on a globe-trotting retirement, with visits to over 60 countries including The Arctic Circle, Antarctica, Honk Kong, Russia, USA, India and the Galapagos. So not only is he well-travelled, but has also trained his metabolism for all foods which I am sure has served him well over the years at various Masonic festive boards.

Alan met Ann in 1957 on a church youth holiday. She lived in Fazakerley. Courting was not easy with him being on the high seas but happily all went well and they were married at Emmanuel Church on the 1 August 1962. Ann trained and worked as a junior and infant school teacher. They have been married 54 years. Alan and Ann have three children, all of whom are successful. Jane is a school’s advisor for Lancashire Education Authority, Max is a self-employed consultant engineer and Sonia trained as a nurse and joined the RAF. She is now a Group Captain and during her service career, completed two tours of Afghanistan. As a result of her actions she was awarded the Royal Red Cross decoration, a military award established by Queen Victoria for exceptional services to military nursing. All of which Alan is very proud of. Alan also has three grandchildren William, Sophia and Freddie who he sees as often as he can and as is his right, probably spoils them rotten!

Turning to hobbies; when Alan was 12, he joined the Boys Brigade and became soloist bugler at the rank of sergeant. Aged 22, he gained the highest Boys Brigade honour, The Queens Badge and ultimately reached the rank of staff sergeant. That skill was used for 25 years as he played the Last Post at the Cenotaph and Christ Church in Aughton and also at Ormskirk.

Alan is also very proud of the fact that he coached the 31st Childwall Boys Brigade Company to such a standard to enable them to win the Liverpool Battalion Competition in 2010. Whilst in the Boys Brigade, he used his gymnastic talent and took part in many demonstrations on parallel bars at Blackpool Tower and Liverpool Stadium. Indeed, in his 30’s he gained his teaching diploma in Physical Education and Gymnastics. Alan also enjoyed playing football, motor cycling and rock climbing mostly in the Lake District. Even now Alan keeps busy and enjoys gardening, DIY, spending time with family, dining out and as WM of Victoria Lodge he certainly enjoys his Freemasonry.

Robert then moved on to Alan’s Masonic career. Alan was initiated into Adeste Fideles Lodge No 7425 on 8 September 1966 at Carlton Masonic Hall. Eberle Street, Liverpool. When the hall closed, the lodge moved to Woolton Hall and now meet at Woolton Golf club. He was WM in 1974 and again in 1995, although as time has passed he decided to join a lodge nearer home and as he knew Malcolm Townley, he visited Victoria Lodge and decided this was the right home for him and joined in 2002. Alan has always taken an active role and has greatly assisted the lodge in his role as mentor long before it was an office of the lodge and has been pleased to continue in that role until he took the chair in October.

Alan joined Silver Jubilee Lodge of Installed Masters No 8818 in 2009 and was also a member of Lathom Lodge No 2229 for 20 years in the Ormskirk and Bootle Group. He also continues to act as one of the co-ordinators for MAGIC; the Masonic Action Group in the Community. This is such a valuable service, giving advice or assistance to help those, who may not have friends or family that they can turn to, in times of need. Co-ordinators work on a rota system and are available to take calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is a commitment which Alan has given for the past 11 years.

Alan with distinguished guests.

Alan with distinguished guests.

The Province of West Lancashire recognised Alan’s contribution to Freemasonry and he was appointed to PPrJGD in October 1984 and further promoted in 1990 to the very high rank he now holds of PPrJGW

Robert then asked the group chairman to read out the certificate to Alan and on completion Robert left the master’s chair to present Alan with his certificate, adding that he has set an example to us all in his life, a life full of hard work, of service to the community, commitment to family, success in business and dedication to Freemasonry.

At the festive board following the toasts Alan was presented with a gift from the brethren of Victoria Lodge to remember this special occasion.

Back to Top