Amongst the plethora of Masonic speakers on the Fylde there can be none that excites feelings to a superlative degree of gratification than a speaker who doesn’t need notes. Step up the curator of the recently refurbished Blackpool Museum of Freemasonry, Martyn Jones. The occasion was doubled by an invitation of Ted Eaves, master of Melita Lodge No 6783, to members of the Fylde Sky Blues, to attend a meeting of his lodge at St Annes Palace, home of several South Fylde lodges and chapters.
The visit of the Fylde Sky Blues was organised by David Edwards, a very keen Mason and member of both Blackpool Temperance Lodge No 5303 and Baines Lodge No 7844, in both of which he has been installed as the master. Being joined by several other masters and sky blue brethren of local lodges, (including one entered apprentice), David helped to boost the attendance at this unique and interesting meeting. As the Masonic year progresses David will be arranging events and further visits to lodges across the Fylde coast. Information concerning the Sky Blues programme will appear in the ‘What’s on’ section of the South Fylde Group website.
Everyone attending the meeting enjoyed Martyn’s delivery style, which is easy on the ear whilst acute to the concentration. Being unconstrained by stray pieces of paper spilling over the side of a lectern or pedestal, Martyn doesn’t distract the audience’s attention, or try the patience of eager listeners. When, therefore, this excellent speaker begins by telling his audience that he isn’t about to deliver a lecture but is rather going to lead a talk about his subject, one sits comfortably back in ones chair and goes with the flow.
In the lodge summons for the meeting, the subject title for Martyn’s presentation was ‘American Masonry on the Fylde during WWII.’ In the event, the speaker’s grasp of his subject enabled him to describe in some depth the events leading up to America’s entry into the war, the economic state that American servicemen found this country in on their arrival and the effect that we had on them and the effect that they had on us.
He spoke of the austerity measures that existed in Britain at the time, such as the points required for purchasing food and clothes, which left many wearing threadbare clothes wrapped around a hungry population. In stark contrast, the smartly dressed Americans who were well paid and well provisioned found themselves handing out gifts to their hosts. He particularly described the importance of the Fylde coast to the war effort, with its airports, aeroplane assembly and maintenance depots, army camps, boarding houses and entertainment facilities – particularly the entertainment industry, with its importance to raising morale amongst the military personnel and civilians alike. One of the key industries in the area was engineering, particularly in the manufacture of Wellington Bombers.
Martyn was quite frank about some of the divisions which existed, particularly concerning the segregation of black and white GI’s and the rivalry between senior officers such as Eisenhower, Patton and Montgomery to name but a few. He also referred to the Freckleton Disaster, which was caused by a Consolidated B24H Liberator bomber crashing into the village. The death toll was 61, including 38 children. He pointed out that one had to beware of Hollywood’s habit of glorifying war. Accidents such as that at Freckleton, the unimaginably high death toll as a result of conflicts, the countless injuries amongst servicemen and civilians alike and the awful suffering of innocent people dramatically illustrates the horrors of WWII.
Touching on the Nazi victimization of Freemasons during this period, Martyn explained that Adolph Hitler partly blamed the loss of WWI on the Masons. He stated that the two conflicts were inextricably linked and referred to them not as WWI and WWII but as the war with Germany – round one and round two. He also spoke of the decision by United Grand Lodge of England to suspend meetings at the beginning of the war, a decision which was later rescinded as lodge meetings were seen as morale boosters.
On a lighter note, Martyn also described the many Masonic bonds that were forged between English and American Freemasons. Our visiting brethren would conduct demonstration ceremonies as worked in their own constitutions, in some cases creating temporary lodges in which to hold these demonstrations. They also supported many local charities – another example of our visitors’ generosity. He also referred to the many instances where these bonds were strengthened after the war with transatlantic visits in both directions. Martyn also told of the vast amount of evidence of the Masonic links and activities which are held in the Museum of Freemasonry situated at the Masonic Hall in Adelaide Street, Blackpool.
At the end of the talk brethren were invited to ask questions and to share knowledge and anecdotes. Many contributors told of the connections between local families and our American brothers and this proved useful and enlightening. At the conclusion, the master thanked Martyn for an informative and interesting talk. His observations were supported by South Fylde Group Chairman Ian Ward, who described the content as ‘fascinating’. This was supported by Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden Chris Blackwell, of Cuerden Lodge No 6018, who had travelled from the Leyland Group to attend the meeting and had provided some interesting information during the latter stages of the evening. The evening was concluded, as ever, by a fine feast in the banqueting suite.