WBro. John Pearson APGM takes wine with WBro Fleet while the WM, WBro Peter Smith looks on

Our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro John Pearson, attended the October Meeting of the Lodge of Union No 268 to lead the celebration of WBro Bill Fleet’s 50 years in Freemasonry. He was accompanied by WBro Peter Douthwaite, Ashton & Mossley District’s Chairman and four District Officers as well as two Officers of the Year. One of those was WBro Chris Cunliffe, the Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, and WBro Pearson’s Officer in Attendance.
The Worshipful Master, WBro Peter Smith, offered the gavel of the Lodge to our APGM, who accepted it and took the Chair. The Secretary then read a portion of the Minutes from the Lodge meeting that had been held precisely fifty years ago, to the day. Then the Secretary, and WBro Pearson, gave a tribute to Bill Fleet which I have summarised below.

Just about everyone who attended, including the photographer, got on this picture

Bill Fleet was born on Thursday the 15th March. He grew up in Failsworth and lives no more than five miles from where he was born, to this day. He attended Failsworth Boys School, was a member of the Boy Scouts and went to Sunday School. That bit is fact, for we were informed by a usually reliable source that he locked the Sunday School teacher in the Toilet because he didn’t get on with her. That rather ruins his reputation for being a little angel. Bill left School at the age of 15, before the new Education Act could have any real effect on him.
He joined the world of work as an Apprentice before becoming a Dental Technician. At the age of 17, Mr Atlee’s grateful Government conscripted Bill into the Armed Forces under the National Service Act. After some essential training in important life skills such as teaching him how to march around a Parade Ground at Aldershot, Bill was shipped out to join the British 8th Army, the “Desert Rats” ….. in Austria! He served for two years in total, as part of a Mobile Dental Unit that travelled around all the British Army Camps in Occupied Austria. He returned to Failsworth and, over the next five years, he retrained as an Electronics Engineer, but something else was taking up his attention over those same five years.

Members of the Lodge and a few friends

He first met up with a young lady called Joan in 1954. He was 20 years old at the time. I’m told that they regularly went dancing at the King Street Stores in Oldham. My abiding memory of Bill and Joan is watching with awe and wonder as they jive at our Ladies Evening. The dancing led, step by step, to marriage, and probably just as inevitably, and in due time, to the birth of their two sons.
In 1967, precisely 50 years ago to the day, Mr William Fleet was initiated into Freemasonry. He was passed to the Second Degree and then Raised in 1968. In one sense that represents Bill’s Masonic history. He is, first and foremost, a member of the Lodge of Union. He never joined another Lodge. But that doesn’t really matter. In many ways Bill is the heart of the Lodge of Union. Another member of the Lodge said, “Bill was Lodge Almoner for twenty years, but in a way he has always been an Almoner, he has always has been deeply concerned for the Lodge of Union and its members.” Bill pretty much created our Lodge Weekend. Alan said, “When Bill went into the Chair for the second time, in 1998, he came to me and suggested that we have a longer trip, to a Beer Festival in Germany. He organised the whole thing, two coaches of us went. In some ways it was a bit of a disaster. The coach broke down and the Rhine flooded but it was the best trip you can imagine.”

WBro Pearson presents Bill with his illuminated certificate. The WM and District Chairman are also shown

He was appointed as PProvSGD in 1986, promoted in 1997 and reached his current rank, as PProvGSwdB in 2006. He was exalted into Chapter of Union no 268 on 19th October 1967.
Outside Freemasonry, Bill worked for Ferranti, staying for 35 years until he was 59. He has since spent his time enjoying life. He walks a lot, ask him about it sometime. He has now been married to the ex Miss Tina Turner for 59 years (don’t worry, it’s an in-joke). He has three Grand Children and one Great Grand Child. He still attends monthly meetings of the Failsworth School Old Boys. He continues to be a hard and fast fan of Manchester City, though he may not attend as many matches as he once did. He visits people, if you ever decide to go and visit a brother who is ill or in need, you’ll often find that Bill was there before you. I asked Joan what he was like at relaxing at home in front of the Television. She said “That man is never still. He just doesn’t know what his bottom’s for!” Good on you, Bill, and long may you continue.

The Text of this article, and all the photographs associated with it, whether part of this article or forming part of the online photo album, are the work and copyright of ©WBro Kevin Hall, District Communications Officer for Ashton & Mossley District.An online gallery of all the photographs taken at this event can be found on Google Photos at https://photos.app.goo.gl/wK38XXILDjwXjfbF2 Please feel free to download and use any of the photographs for personal or non commercial use.