At the meeting of Provincial Grand Chapter that took place on Thursday 20th March 2014, EComp Norman Clarke PGStB, the APGP for the Southern Area of the Masonic Province of East Lancashire, retired. For the last five years, since 26th March 2009, Norman has been the highly regarded, hard working and conscientious leader of the Royal Arch Freemasons of the Southern Area. He is succeeded as APGP by EComp Edward W Barlow PGStB, (‘Eddie’, to his friends!)

Norman Clarke joined Freemasonry 29 years ago on the 9th October 1985 when he was initiated into Fairfield Lodge No 7224 meeting at Audenshaw Masonic Hall, and he became Worshipful Master in January 1991. Since then he has served as his Lodge’s DC for a total of 15 years with one year off to take the Chair for a second time, (amazingly even Norman cannot manage to be both Master and DC at the same time) and has been District Rep for 16 years. He was a member of Ashton District Lodge of Installed Masters for 21 years and is currently also a member of Provincial Grand Officers Lodge 3747 and Trinity Lodge 5651. He was appointed as a Provincial ADC in the Craft in 1996 rising to Provincial Junior Grand Warden over the next ten years. Norman was appointed to the Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2007.

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Norman Clarke PGStB, PAProvGP, shown at Provincial Grand Chapter with fellow officers of the Province and some of those who had just received Promotions and Appointments

However, there is something unique regarding his service that tells you that Norman’s heart and soul always belonged to the Royal Arch. He was exalted into Fairfield Chapter 7224 on October 2nd 1986, just one year after he joined the Craft. Since then he has been a Founder member of Three Shires Chapter 9397 at Mossley (1993), Aldwyn Chapter 5712 at Audenshaw (1998) and Waverley Chapter 1322 at Ashton (2001). In addition to that he is a joining member of Equity with Dignity 8304, Unanimity 4130, Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter 8408 and Provincial Grand Officers Chapter 3747.  He was appointed as a Provincial Grand Steward in the Royal Arch in March 1997 and on the same day was appointed as DORA in Audenshaw District. He was promoted three more times over the next twelve years before becoming Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals in March 2009 and he was appointed to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in Grand Chapter one month later.

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EComps Norman Clarke & Eddie Barlow, both PGStB, together with their team of DORAs, Tony Freemont, David Hoyle and William Wootton

But it is not the list of ranks and appointments that mark Norman out as a committed Freemason, but rather the work he has done, and continues to do, within his Lodges, his Chapters, the Southern Area, and the Province. Over his 29 years in Freemasonry he has occupied many of the offices in his Lodges and Chapters. He has occupied the Chair of King Solomon on three occasions and the office of Chapter Principal on 14 separate occasions, but somehow, it is his work as a DC that stands out, for in a Masonic career that has lasted 29 years he has been a DC for a total of 40 years – and that takes some doing. There is no doubt that we have all seen Norman take on a significant piece of work at the drop of a hat and perform it as though he had just ‘brushed up’ on it. It is this readiness to help out anyone that has endeared him to the whole of the Southern Area and indeed the Province. In the recent Joint Convocation that took place in Three Shires Chapter at the end of February, when Norman took the Chair of First Principal, it was possible to feel the genuine love and respect of all the Companions present for this man who has done so much for the Royal Arch in the Southern Area.

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EComps Norman Clarke & Eddie Barlow, together with EComp David H Thompson, Second Provincial Grand Principal, who is also a Southern Area Mason

EComp David Hoyle PProvGSwdB, who is the current DORA for Ashton and Mossley District, said of Norman, “As APGP Norman has constantly made himself available to Companions from all of the Chapters in the Southern Area.   He is undoubtedly an accomplished ritualist who knows most if not all of the Royal Arch ritual. However, it is not just Norman’s ability to learn and deliver ritual that has made him the respected Mason which he is.  More importantly it is the genuine manner in which he has given pastoral care to individuals as well as his Chapters.  In particular, he has led his DORA’s throughout his tenure with helpful and focused direction but also with the warmth and caring of a compassionate leader striving to bring out the best in those around him.”

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EComp Norman Clarke at the Social Board following the conclusion of Provincial Grand Chapter

Everyone has a story to tell about Norman, most of them scurrilous. EComp John Cavanagh ProvGSN, reminded me of an occasion when the MW Grand Master of Saskatchewan came to Stanley House and Norman was the DC. “Could he say Saskatchewan? He said a lot of places I’ve never heard of, but none of them was Saskatchewan. He gave up in the end.” There are also several stories that involve whisky, but all they really serve to do is to illustrate the fact that Norman enjoys his Freemasonry and his life in equal measure. He puts a great deal into both, but he enjoys himself immensely.

We should leave the last word in this article to our leader. I asked Sir David Trippier RD, JP, DL, our Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, for a comment about Norman on his retirement. He said, “I shall miss Norman in his capacity as AProvGP for the Southern Area. He has been outstanding in that capacity and I am grateful for his hard work and enthusiasm. I draw comfort from the fact that I shall continue to see him frequently in the future.” All that I can say is, “Me too.”

Thank you Norman!