A Son Introduces his Father into Freemasonry
Ray Heathfield lived in Kennington, Ashford, until 1979 when he joined the army. He now lives in Essex and, in 2005, was initiated in The Pyefleet Lodge No 8913, meeting in Colchester. He is also a member of his regimental lodge, The Queensman Lodge No 2694, based in London where he got to know an East Kent Freemason, Jeff Hymers.
Ray’s father, John Heathfield, still lives in Ashford and this is Ray’s account of how his father became interested in becoming a Freemason. “I have always told my Dad I was a Freemason, I never hid it. He knew how much I enjoyed it, how much my wife supported me, and how much she enjoyed it too! We often told him about the social events we attended and how much fun they were. He would ask me questions about Freemasonry, and I answered them truthfully. He had also met some of my friends and Brethren, and liked them too! And so, when I asked him the inevitable question ‘why don’t you join a Lodge’, he was a bit apprehensive, partly due to him being 81 years old. However after he spoke to a member of Stour Lodge No 2305 in Ashford, he thought he would like to join after all.
I happened to be speaking to Jeff Hymers, a member of Essetesforde Lodge No 9746, and mentioned my Dad’s position. Jeff told me his lodge met in the daytime, and I agreed that it would probably suit Dad better. It would enable him to be home earlier, and avoid eating a large meal at the festive board later in the evening, something he wasn’t overly keen on. After giving Jeff my Dad’s contact details, he assured me he would contact him, and start the ball rolling.
After a meeting with Jeff and the Lodge Secretary, Fred Keeler, a date was agreed for a formal interview at the Ashford Masonic Centre. That all went very well and so in due course my Dad, John Heathfield aged 81, was initiated in Essetesforde Lodge No 9746 on Wednesday 26th October 2013. He kept the Tyler amused while waiting to enter the Lodge, ‘There’s lots of banging going on in there, are the builders in?’ he asked. I don’t think the Tyler could believe what he was hearing, but he gave a chuckle and sent him in.
Three of us from Colchester drove to Ashford for the ceremony, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and were made so welcome. The festive board was equally enjoyable, an ample buffet in a very relaxed atmosphere.
The passing and raising ceremonies were completed within twelve months, after which he was asked to present the Working Tools in the second degree. When he saw it in his little blue book, he said to me ‘that’s far too much for me to learn, I’ll never do it’! But after some gentle persuasion from WBro Jeff Hymers and encouragement from me, he said he would give it a go. He not only managed it, but it gave him such a boost he wanted to do it again!
A unique feature of Essetesforde Lodge is that the tracing boards are drawn by hand during each of their ceremonies, with certain words spoken while it happens. Dad was asked to learn a particular part of this ritual, which he again did perfectly. At his first installation meeting, he was asked to close the Lodge, which he again took in his stride.
He was beginning to enjoy this learning of words, and was asked if he would like to be the ‘stand in’ Inner Guard for the year 2015/2016. He was more than happy to oblige, thinking that he probably wouldn’t be needed. Still, straight into his blue book, learning the Inner Guard’s words for all three ceremonies. This proved to be quite a good tactic, as about four weeks before the installation meeting, the brother who was to be inner guard, had to withdraw and Dad was asked if he would like to take the position. He of course agreed, and was invested as Inner Guard at the installation meeting on Wednesday 9th September 2015, after less than two years in the Craft.
John has also managed to persuade his cousin’s husband, a Master Mason of eighteen years, to become a Joining Member of Essetesforde Lodge. Bro Ivan Marshall visited Essetesforde Lodge as a guest of John, and enjoyed it so much he decided he would like to join them and was elected as a Joining Member in September. Bro Ivan has also been given some words to learn, something that he didn’t have the opportunity to do in his previous Lodge.
Not content with all this, John joined the Royal Arch, and was exalted into Ashford Chapter No 8945 on 23rd January 2015.
Freemasonry has really changed John’s life. He has made some great friends, been invited to functions with his wife Audrey, and visited other Lodges. As for his age, it just goes to show it really is no barrier to learning new things.
Finally, while bringing a son into Freemasonry must be a great honour, it’s not bad bringing your Dad in either!”