It all started in 1969 with a gentleman walking into a bank, an insurance policy tucked under his arm and with a request for an overdraft.
It transpired he was the JW of a masonic Lodge and was to be fast tracked to WM as the current SW had decided not to proceed. That had thrown his financial planning into disarray as his policy, taken out to provide funds for his ‘year’, was not due to mature until 1971 and cashing it in early would have meant the loss of significant bonuses due on maturity. That, it was explained, was a normal way of funding ones term back in the day. The application was considered and approved and so began a long association with his eventual proposer into Scarborough Lodge No 1214 on 21 July 1970.
W Bro Jim says he had no prior knowledge of the craft, Scarborough Lodge or Blenheim House. Only visiting the latter once before his initiation and that was to attend his enquiry meeting. He does recall his mother, when he was 12 years old, pointing to a gable end wall and saying ‘If you want to get on in life you need to join them’ – the advert was for a monumental mason so not quite what she had in mind but it did show even back in 1952 public opinions of the order might have been somewhat misguided.
Cometh the day some 50 brethren attended his initiation, including W Bro Frank Harrison who was then an APGM (which meant nothing to Jim at the time). His two overriding memories are of the sea of dark and light blue that suddenly sprung before him as he was returned to the light and the dawning, half way through the Ancient Charge delivered by his proposer (who was then the WM), that he was delivering it from memory!
Early memories as he progressed were almost a fear and awe of the senior brethren and their almost autocratic nature. Most were brilliant, prepared to talk and encourage but some much less so. Many were the times when he wondered what he had got into but here he is 50 years on with many, many good experiences to reflect on, many wonderful friendships made, and that goes for his wife Judith too, and an absolute truth that his life has been enriched in so many ways. The camaraderie, particularly amongst the junior brethren in the early years, was a joy to experience and as he keeps repeating formed lasting friendships which still endure.
Progress through the formative years were in the main uneventful and he found himself as Master Elect in December 1981 when the meeting was quorate by the skin of its teeth due to severe snow.
A very enjoyable year in the chair was encountered. Ceremonies each month and with a still fairly strong social calendar. In the mid/late 70’s the Lodge had dropped, over time, the dinner dances held in September, October and November but still had very well supported events on New Year’s Eve and Mothering Sunday plus the annual Ladies Evening, together with the annual Children’s Christmas party and a Lodge Weekend, usually to the east coast. The first two are no more and although the Children’s Party is still active the Ladies Night and Lodge Weekend are spasmodically held at best.
After the obligatory year as IPM W Bro Jim acted as ADC for a couple of years and then took on the role of Secretary for a number of years. The most challenging task arose when it was decreed that the penalties should be removed from the obligations and rituals changed accordingly. Computer and spreadsheet use were in their infancy and 1214 had only recently invested in new bespoke ritual books, prior to which manual amendments by the hundred had to be made to Emulation ritual books in circulation. It was a difficult exercise to produce ritual which satisfied both the hierarchy and the brethren and also the get the same reduced and printed on to about 12 gummed pages for insertion into the ritual book stock.
At the Lodge Installation in 1990 it was W Bro Jim’s privilege to propose the ‘Crawlers Toast’ when one W Bro J Trevor Broadley was in attendance as Provincial Registrar. Jim did refer to the Provincial Grand Officers, jocularly using a sweetshop analogy, as ‘the old humbugs on the top shelf’. Fortunately, whilst threatening that any forthcoming provincial appointment had just been jeopardised, JTB did take it in the spirit in which it was intended and the rank of Acting Steward was offered and accepted a few weeks later.
Prior to the Provincial meeting commencing the brother seated to W Bro Jim’s left ‘advised’ him that the Steward from the oldest Lodge was usually ‘requested’ to organise the dining arrangements for the Provincial functions throughout the year. But he happened to know that the absent brother to W Bro Jim’s right would not be taking up that offer so it would fall to him! Thankfully it did not. Of course, and sadly, Stewards did not act throughout their term of office at that time so it transpired to be a quiet first year as a Provincial Officer.
As was the custom he took the rank of PPDGReg when his term as an acting Steward came to an end. He then became involved as a co-opted member of the Charity Committee which involved visiting lodges on scroll night and delivering an address to the Lodge on all aspects of Masonic Charity. To mark this appointment he was promoted to the rank PPGSwdB in 1992. This somewhat curbed attendance at 1214 meetings as, with a wife and young family he always tried to balance fairly his evenings away from home. It was a most enjoyable and satisfying time and role within the Province.
It was around this time that he was called on to make his biggest decision to date. He was asked if he would consider taking on the role of an elected member of the WRMCL team. In simple terms it meant an extended commitment of anything up to 12 years culminating with election as the Chairman for the last two years. He spent day after day pondering on this but when Judith his wife said ‘I don’t know what’s bugging you but whatever it is sort it out, you’re upsetting everyone’. He knew what was right for him, his family and his career and he very reluctantly turned the position down. He says had he been asked annually to do another year he probably would have done so but to commit to such a long term he felt would be unfair to his family.
Again, as was custom, when he retired from his role within WRMCL in 1994 he was promoted to the rank of PPJGW and also, much to his surprise, he was appointed to the rank of PAGDC within UGLE. Only the second Grand Officer from the ranks of 1214 in 135 years.
His only other involvement outside the craft has been with the Royal Arch. He was exalted into Scarborough Chapter in 1974, taking the three chairs in 1988-90. He was appointed to the rank of PPGScribeN in 1996 and then PGStB in 2001 following which he acted as a Personal Representative to the Grand Superintendent for a number of years.
Despite the desire to extend his masonic involvement he always felt that too much pressure would be placed on his family time so expansion of his memberships was never progressed.
In the mid 90’s he acted for the PGM as one of his Personal Representatives for a number of years and on occasion acted as part of an investigating team when problems within Lodges arose. He also assisted the editorial staff with the production of the Newsletter for four years and took over the Lodge Liaison officer duties for Wakefield 495, Sincerity 1542 and Rectitude 4393, which roles he held until his appointment as an APGM in July 2004. It was in 2000 that he agreed to take the office of JW in the lodge, having bypassed this office the first time round, in the firm belief that would be able to convince/coerce one of a few past SW’s to come back on to the ladder. He failed and as a result took the Masters chair for a second time in January 2002. Having another enjoyable and successful year although he feels Judith might baulk if a third term was ever proposed!
He considered it a real honour and privilege to be appointed an APGM and was installed by the PGM, W Bro J Trevor Broadley, at the regular meeting of Scarborough Lodge on 20 July 2004. There followed a delightful period of over five years, firstly supporting W Bro Trevor Broadley and subsequently W Bro John Clayton in the ruling and governing of the Province and where he was given the responsibility for the ongoing development and operation of the Education and Training programme. Thankfully ably supported by W Bro’s David Jackson and Alan Hurdley.
There was a memorable visit to Scarborough Lodge by W Bro Clayton and his team in November 2009 to witness W Bro Jim initiate his son Nicholas into the Lodge and who was master of the Lodge in 2018 when the Sesquicentennial celebrations were held. As he retired as an APGM he was appointed a Steward in 1214, a position he held for 5 years before being ‘promoted’ to Purveyor.
He has witnessed many changes within the order, less formality, and expresses concern over the future of the order as social and working practices, which have changed massively, continue to impact on many groups and organisations. Individuals seem to be less and less prepared to participate and accept roles requiring commitment and responsibility.
That said he says he has long and happy memories of his time as a member and will continue to actively support Scarborough Lodge particularly and Freemasonry generally as required.
He said that this milestone has seemed to take an age to arrive and now it has, all he wanted was a nice meal with as many of his Masonic friends as possible, no fuss. Well the coronavirus pandemic has sorted that out for him he fully expects to take the toast to absent with the 1214 zoom team on the actual anniversary date, in isolation in his study, with just his old mate Elvis’s picture watching over him!
On the 17th July, when the original Masonic Suspension ruling expired, it was not extended. This meant that the regular meeting of Scarborough Lodge due on the 21st July had to be held, unless certain criteria could not be met. Fortunately, due to the hard work of a few, the masonic hall at Blenheim House was deemed Covid secure and it was agreed that we could be quorate so the meeting went ahead. This was very fortuitous as within a matter of days Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council area was placed into lockdown due to rising new cases of the virus. This of course meant that any local masonic activities were again suspended. The Lodge meeting was held, 50 years to the day that W Bro Jim was initiated. Seventeen brethren were in attendance, including three visiting brethren. Not what was planned but a goodly number under the circumstances prevailing. The normal business of the Lodge was conducted plus on this special occasion, the minutes for the meeting held on Tuesday 21st July 1970 were read by the Secretary, WBro Steven Kimber PPDepGReg this being the day of the Initiation of W Bro James Kevin Batty into Scarborough Lodge No 1214, 50 years ago to the day. He was initiated this day, 50 years ago, in this very room, on the 21st July 1970. The Secretary, WBro Steven Kimber PPDepGReg, stood and read the history of how W Bro Batty had first become involved with the Lodge. W Bro Nicholas Batty IPM, W Bro Jim’s son, then invited his dad to come onto the floor, where he had the unique pleasure of presenting him with his 50th Jubilee Certificate, with an accompanying letter on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Bro. David Stephen Pratt. WBro Nick, spoke with great love and affection of his dad, providing a memorable and very touching tribute to him, on this special occasion. The brethren present were all noticeably affected by the sincerity of W Bro Nick’s presentation and gave them both a well-deserved heartfelt round of applause at the conclusion. WBro Jim then answered a few questions from the brethren present and he also explained some of the aspects of his masonic history, read out earlier by the secretary. At the close of business the brethren repaired to the bar of a glass or two together with a tasty cake that was suitably adorned with masonic emblems to mark the occasion. Sadly no Festive Board but hopefully that will be righted in the not too distant future.
We are about to enterthe 150th year of the existence of our Province. A comprehensive History of the Province is in preparation, and thesenotes give a flavour of our first century and a half.
THE LIFE OF THE PROVINCE
At Grand Mark Lodge in June 1857, it was resolved that the Grand Master should have the power to constitute Provinces and appoint over them a Grand Master who would be welcome to the Brethren he would have to superintend. In April 1871, Grand Master the Rev George Portal constituted the Mark Lodges in West Yorkshire into a Province, and appointed as Provincial Grand Master Thomas Perkinton, of Fearnley Lodge, who became Surveyor of the Halifax Permanent Building Society, later the biggest in the world.
Our Province was formed on Wednesday 2 August 1871, at the Masonic Hall, St John’s Place, Halifax. Thomas Perkinton, clearly moved by the toast to his health, said it should be his every study to govern the Province, and to foster that union between the Lodges for which it was established. The Provincial Grand Master Overseer confirmed the Provincial Officers were all determined to work heartily for the prosperity of the Mark degree, and the newly-formed Province. It is clear that the character, unity, and aims of our Province were both established and expressed from the very moment it was formed, as was the aim that the PGM should be welcome to the Brethren under his rule. It is a pleasure to record that nothing has changed since.
Thomas Perkinton, our first Prov.G.M.
Our Province was formed with fewer than 120 members and six Lodges, four of whom have since moved: Prince Edward No 14, Hebden Bridge; Britannia No 53, Sheffield; Fearnley No 58, Halifax; Integrity No 110, Morley; Copley No 111, Leeds; and Portal No 127, Dewsbury. We now have 44 Lodges, soon to be 45, and around 1,100 members. Membership peaked at 2,500 in 1962, and the highest average membership of 65 per Lodge was in 1959 and 1960.
Royal Ark Mariner Masonry took much longer to be established in West Yorkshire. There were only four Lodges on the roll in 1900, and it took 47 years to double this number; there are now 22. Membership did not exceed 500 for over a century, reached a peak of 585 in 1981, and the Royal Ark Mariner Degree remains popular and well supported today. Including the present holders, we have had 15 PGMs, 31 Deputies, 12 Assistants, and 21 Provincial Grand Secretaries. Our Province has only lost one Lodge in its 150 year history: Welcome Lodge No 661, Sheffield.
WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED
When you join the Mark in West Yorkshire, you’re not just joining an Order, you’re joining an organisation; a happy, active, and well-run organisation. We do much more than hold Lodge meetings, as the following, by no means exhaustive - list shows:
1895 - Provincial Charity Committee is established
1928 - Cleeves Memorial Fund is founded; named after PGM Fred Cleeves
1964 - The first of our four Installed Masters’ Associations is formed, to promote friendship, harmony and inter-Lodge visiting. Our Province is the only one which has them
1982 - West Yorkshire Mark Benevolent Fund is formed
2004 - The two Funds are amalgamated to form our Provincial charity, the Cleeves & Whitehead Trust, named after Fred Cleeves and Carl Whitehead, who was PGM for nearly 30 years.
1973 - First annual Provincial golf competition is held, a highly successful fundraiser over the years.
1977 - West Yorkshire becomes the only Double Keystone Province in the world, raising funds for the new Mark Masons’ Hall.
1988 - The Province becomes a Patron of the Mark Benevolent Fund, the West Yorkshire
1988 Festival raising £446,461, the second highest amount of any Province to that time.
1995 - First of the Cleeves & Whitehead Trust summer holidays for widows and infirm brethren. Now an annual event.
1997 - The first of the twice-yearly Almoners’ Lunches was held, for widows and infirm brethren.
2008 - The 250 Club is set up, initially to fund the Province’s 150th Anniversary Keystone button and a new Provincial Banner, and later towards our Sesquicentenary and Festival celebrations
2012 - The Province qualifies as a 150th Anniversary Keystone Province
2016 - The West Yorkshire 2023 Mark Benevolent Fund Festival is launched
2019 - The Province becomes a Grand Patron of the Mark Benevolent Fund
We hold popular social events throughout the year, because we recognise how important it is to involve our families and friends. Our Province could not have enjoyed the success it has without them. “Among Mark Master Masons, you will ever find friends” – and those friends will come and find you.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER ORDERS
Our Province has excellent relationships with the other Orders, and we regard ourselves as enthusiastic members of a happy, Masonic family. This culture was established long ago. In May 1905, PGM Fred Cleeves urged Mark Masons to cultivate friendly relations with the Craft. There must be no suggestion of rivalry. We are still mindful today that we all started as Craft Masons, and that the success of our Mark Province depends on our support for the Craft. In November 1899, PGM Charles Letch Mason stated that the average membership of the Royal Arch was 67% in Mark Masons, but only 37% in the Craft. Mark Masons continue to support the Royal Arch. We recognise that the Mark does not compete with other Orders, but complements them.
It is the intention of our Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro. James Steggles, G.M.R.A.C. to mark the occasion of the Sesquicentenary (sesqui means one and a half) of our Province with an Especial Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at Bradford Grammar School on 7th August 2021 when some exciting things will happen.
An incredibly special Sesquicentenary Jewel has been designed tocommemorate the occasion. This Jewel has been warmly endorsed byMark Grand Lodge who have given permission for every member of this province, fromnewly advanced members through to Grand Lodge Officers to wear this Jewel during ourMark Meetings in perpetuity, within the boundaries of our Province.The Prov.G.M. willannounce further details regarding the sesquicentenary celebrations in due course and nowformallyrequests that every member of the Province who wishes so to do should wear theSesquicentenary Jewel. It costs £26which includes postage costs. You can now order onlinejustCLICK HERE
The Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro. Jim Steggles, is proud to serve such a happy and successful Province and all the brethren who are dedicated to supporting it today. On behalf of the current members of the Province he wishes to thank all those West Yorkshire Mark Master Masons who have gone before and who, over the last 150 years, have contributed so much to that success. May Mark Masonry continue to prosper in West Yorkshire, as the Province now begins its onward journey towards its Bi-Centenary and beyond, Marking Well in all its undertakings on the way.