W.Bro Bill Holden P.Prov.Dep.G.Supt.Works.
My very dear friend Bill Holden was born in the Rossendale Valley on 8th November 1946.
As a child he suffered from Asthma and when he was four years old his mother asked the doctor if there was anything that could be done. She was advised that a move to a drier climate would perhaps help and so the family moved a distance of about 12 miles and set up home in sunny Westhoughton.
Unusually for a lad from Westhoughton Bill won a scholarship to a boarding school in High Wycombe called Horsley Green. This was a school set up by Lancashire County Council based on an old war time "Camp School" built to house evacuees.
It was an ideal environment for an adventurous teenager from the poor North and it was here that Bill first practised his entrepreneurial ability by assisting the more wealthy students to balance their assets with his
At the end of his education he returned to the family home in Westhoughton where he began to train as an engineer.
In 1965 when he was 18 he came under pressure from his mother to help more with the domestic duties and was eventually told that if he wouldn't cut the grass he was to go out and buy something that would eat it. Bill decided that this was the easier alternative and so he arranged to view a goat with the intention of buying it. Here, not for the last time Bill got more than he bargained for because it was whilst viewing the goat that he met Jean who he subsequently married in 1968.
Diane, Karen and Peter soon came along and with three little mouths to feed Bill decided to put into practice the business skills learned at school and he set up in business removing worn out conveyor belting from the pit heads, cutting it to shape and selling it back to the mining companies as machine guards. From this grew the very successful Conveyor Belting Supplies Limited which Bill ran to the end.
It was around this time, almost forty years ago that I first met Bill. We met as members of an organisation designed for young businessmen called The Round Table. We soon became firm friends and it was obvious from the start that here was a man dedicated to his family, an outgoing friendly man who loved to have fun and who was extremely generous with his good fortune. We have often reminisced about dark freezing, sometimes foggy December Saturdays when we stood together on the main street in Westhoughton wearing fancy dress rattling cans and annoying the local shopkeepers by repeatedly having Slade's "Merry Christmas" blaring out from tinny speakers at a very high volume. Packing up and going home around five o'clock we would reconvene a couple of hours later in the same fancy dress and with the same cans we would tour the pubs until closing time. Very happy days.
Round Table was a great way of making friends and we both made many and most of them are still friends today many of them in Freemasonry. Same people, same bars, different fancy dress.
Bill's generosity was offered to me quite spontaneously in the mid 1970s when a property transaction broke down as I was moving house and I ended up with nowhere to live. Bill immediately insisted that I move in with him and his family and I lived with them for about five months. It was during that time that I became "Uncle John" to his son Peter who was by then about four years old.
In the late 1970s Bill and his family started to take long annual holidays in Florida and I, and others went with them. In 1978 Bill and I spent a most happy day in the Magic Kingdom celebrating the 50th birthday of Mickey Mouse and on that day we made a pact that if we were both still alive we would return together to celebrate Mickey's 100th. Sadly that won't now happen.
It was around that time that Bill had an abortive start in Freemasonry. He joined a lodge which even for its day had very old fashioned ideas, not at all based on the friendship that Bill so exuded and valued, and within a very short period he became a non attender.
He was bitten by the Florida bug (or was it an alligator) and moved his entire family there for several years whilst somehow managing to keep the home fires of business burning. back in the U.K. Again he made many lifetime friendships in the sunshine state and I visited him there on a couple of occasions.
He returned to the U.K. and decided to resume his Freemasonry and so in January 1986 he became a member of St Bartholomew Lodge in Westhoughton. This was more suited to him and he worked his way up to the Master's chair.
Like all of us I suppose Bill had his setbacks but perhaps none more than the tragic accident which happened to his son Peter. Bill worked tirelessly to try to make things easier for Peter and it is very obvious that his own fighting spirit has passed to his son because there is no doubt that Peter's attitude to his own misfortune has shown incredible courage, determination, bravery and good humour.
There is also no doubt that Bill found his real home in Freemasonry when at my invitation he joined Internet Lodge in March 2001. Here Bill found that involvement of families together with fun and friendship and an opportunity to provide for those less fortunate than ourselves which so epitomised his personal values.
From the day he joined he never missed a single meeting and he took part in and enjoyed all the visits made to members overseas, to Holland, Portugal and the United States. Together with Jean and Joyce he and I travelled everywhere together and within the Lodge I'm sure we became regarded as an indivisible foursome.
We laughed often about the occasion in August 2003 when Bill and I were stuck in 14 miles of stationary traffic on the M5 at the precise moment that the lodge should have opened in Penarth South Wales and we were carrying the warrant of the Lodge.
We laughed also with David Corderoy about the moment when Bill inadvertently drove through a puddle outside the Hotel Atlantico in Estoril and drenched poor David from head to foot.
Bill became charity steward of the Lodge, a job he loved, in 2004 and he worked tirelessly in that capacity until forced to retire in 2008 when he became Senior Warden. He had the knack of removing large sums of money from us in a way that we all enjoyed and never really noticed.
Also in 2004, when I was in the chair, he organised the Ladies' Festival in Kendal which was a wonderful weekend but only a precursor of what was to come. It was here that he first met a then new member of the Lodge W.Bro Frank Harris who though almost 80 years old was making his first visit. Frank quickly became firm friends with Bill and Jean and stayed with them on many occasions and hosted them in his home town of Minneapolis.
During all this period Bill found time to devote many hours to forming and then organising the Masonic Caravan Club of England and Wales
Bill became Worshipful Master of the Lodge in March 2009. It was a year of triumph which ended in sadness. Singlehandedly Bill arranged a very successful trip to Slovenia. We had a wonderful celebration of Masonic music in Boston, Lincolnshire but the icing on the cake was surely the Ladies' Festival dressed up as a Christmas party which was held only last October. A fantastic weekend of fun, family and friendship all organised by Bill and Jean.
Bill was so looking forward to installing his successor today and in his own words had learned the ritual "back to front". But it was not to be and Bill was suddenly taken from us on 21st February 2010. Sadly Joyce and I were over 8,000 miles away when we heard the awful news that same day but the shock felt by all of us reverberated throughout the lodge around the globe. We were unable to return for the funeral and in any event Jean wouldn't hear of it but we did attend a church service many miles away at the precise moment that our dear friend was laid to rest and were thus there in spirit. The final hymn at the funeral service that day had words familiar to us all and which are so apposite to our late Worshipful Master and friend.
Now the evening shadows closing
Warn from toil to peaceful rest
Mystic arts and rites reposing
Sacred in each faithful breast.
The reading, suggested by a very close mutual Masonic friend was also very appropriate and was the tale of the Good Samaritan
I want to close by reading an extract from the order of service
Today is a celebration of Bill's life
Don't think of him as gone away
His journey has just begun
Life holds many facets
The Earth is only one
Just think of him as resting
From the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort
Where there are no days and years
Think how he must be wishing
That we could know today
How nothing but our sadness
Can really pass away
And think of him as living
In the hearts of those he touched
For nothing loved is ever lost
And he was loved so much.
Bill has been taken from our sight but his spirit lives on
It lives on in the hearts and minds of his family and of his many friends and it lives on in this lodge which so represents the values he held so dear, family, friends fun, caring for others and sharing our good fortune in life.
W.Bro John Dutchman-Smith
20th March 2010