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Fred Thornback celebrates his 70 years
in the craft - with style


The St Andrew’s Lodge No. 1817 opened their meeting on Wednesday 28th March 2024 at the Southend Masonic Centre. Following a knock the Provincial Grand Master (PGM), Paul Tarrant, with a Provincial retinue was admitted. There then followed a brief transaction of lodge business and the lodge was promptly closed.

Over 60 guests were then invited into the temple to witness a rare and momentous occasion of Fred Thornback celebrating his 70 years in Freemasonry.


It commenced with Paul Tarrant taking a seat beside Fred and with silence in the temple they embarked on a 20-minute conversation detailing Fred’s long career in Freemasonry. Paul listened intently and asked questions that unravelled the fabric of Fred’s journey.

These are just a few of the salient points from their exchange:

From being initiated by his father into the St Andrew’s Lodge in 1954 at the Palace Hotel Southend, Fred’s career has been exceptional.

Having worked through the progressive offices of the Lodge he was installed in the chair as Master in 1966. Over the years he became master of three other lodges namely: West Essex No. 2561, Essex Masters No. 3256 and Bear and Ragged Staff No. 8527.

Fred was soon selected by the Province and received numerous active Provincial roles including Director of Ceremonies, Assistant Provincial Grand Master and in 1986 Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

He was also exalted into the Royal Arch and the St Andrew’s Chapter in 1960 and it wasn’t long before he became their First Principal in which followed, many active roles in the Provincial Grand Chapter of Essex achieving in 1986 Deputy Grand Superintendent.

In 1973 Fred became a committee member of the Southend Masonic Welfare Trust (today called Southend and Essex Masonic Welfare Trust (SEMWT)) and took over as Chairman in 1988. From those early years he was considered the driving force of the trust which resulted in so many freemasons and their families being helped by the original ‘simple’ concept of providing equipment to aid those in distressed circumstances. In the beginning Fred used to store wheelchairs at his home which he certainly couldn’t do today as they have over 600 currently on loan throughout Essex.

Following this informative, light-hearted and at times, amusing exchange the PGM graciously presented Fred with his ‘well earned’ 70-year meritorious certificate which received a rapacious round of applause. He was also given an engraved glass crystal paperweight from the Lodge of which, everyone attending would receive a smaller version as a gift to mark the occasion. The Secretary then presented him with a written biography of his very early years in the St Andrew’s Lodge.

Graham Halsey – the principal organiser of the event – announced that Barabara Chester, a dear friend of Fred and his family couldn’t be present at the meeting, but he read her heartfelt letter aloud. Fred found this particularly poignant as it touched on many stories and memories adding to the significance of the day.


Fred (front centre) with PGM (left) & Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Nicholas Franklin (right)
with Provincial executive and members of Fred's family


The Worshipful Master, Kevin Dupuy congratulating Fred.

Fred surrounded by the Current and Past Directors of Ceremonies 

The festive board that followed was certainly different with singer entertainer Paul Jerrom taking to the floor with his unique style of entertainment, singing a selection of Fred’s favourite ‘crooner’ songs together with some extracts from the ‘Phantom of the Opera.’

Paul is no stranger to Saxon Hall as he entertains at many of the widows’ lunches and soon had the Welfare Trust team including the PGM joining him for the Trust’s rendition of ‘That’s Amore.’ 

The staff at Saxon Hall are very close to Fred’s heart and Georgine beguiled all by singing ‘I Love Him’ from ‘Les Misérables’ following which all the staff formed a train behind Paul singing ‘Is this the way to Amarillo.’


The evening was an immense success and enjoyed by all and as it drew to a close Fred stood, his eyes glistening with emotion, as he expressed his heartfelt thanks to all who attended in making this a truly memorable day.


The SEMWT celebrated their 50 year anniversary last year 

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