W Bro Donald Robins PPrSGW of Hadley Highstone Lodge, No. 4203The Longest Current Subscribing Freemason in the English Constitution.
50 years in Freemasonry might be considered a pinnacle of achievement.
60 years would be mind blowing and even a 70 year length of service might be achievable.
But to reach 80 years is overwhelming to say the least.
The accolade of being the longest current subscribing Freemason in the English Constitution, as at 1st April 2021, merits special consideration, as the Brother concerned would have to be very advanced in years.
This distinction belongs to W Bro Donald Robins PPrSGW who was Initiated on the 10th April 1941 into Hadley Highstone Lodge, No. 4203.
His father, Brother George Coleridge Robins, was a member of the Lodge having become a Joiner in 1927.
No doubt the young Donald would have seen his father head off to the Lodge on a Thursday afternoon and perhaps pondered his own possible entry into freemasonry at the appropriate time.
80 Years of The Craft –April 10th, 2021 saw the 80th anniversary of W Bro Don, who is now in his 102nd year.
His longevity in Freemasonry was acknowledged when he reached his 100th birthday in 2019.
This was reported by the Media Team at the time – pglm.org.uk/l4203-installation-100th.
W Bro Don recalls his early days, particularly the day of his Initiation with another young man by the name of Stanley Chandler.
The Ceremony took place at the Salisbury Hotel, Barnet.
It was a Double Initiation and the Lodge was tyled at 4.00pm with Festive Board at 6.15pm.
Don was in the Army at the time as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers and recalls that he had to pay due respect to the older Lodge members and even have to refer them as Mister.
The passage of time has meant that W Bro Don is unable to recall much of the Ceremony but does remember that the Lodge DC had a chest full of medals and in a flippant moment thought of Hermann Goering but, of course, would never relate this musing to anyone.
Membership of the Hadley Highstone Lodge in 1941 was 67 and post war membership peaked at 85 in 1948/49.
These were heady days for Freemasonry.
More than likely his career in the Royal Engineers and war service may have meant he was held back and attendance at the Lodge may have been subject to these vagaries.
However, after this period as Steward he then started his journey to the East and was Installed as Master of the Lodge in 1960.
In 1966 he was Appointed and Invested as Assistant Secretary a role he carried out for 10 years.
In between times he received his first Provincial Appointment as Past Provincial Assistant Grand Sword Bearer in 1967.
His masonic career was a shorter than Donald’s, as sadly George passed to Grand Lodge above in 2000.
Donald’s working life was spent entirely within the printing industry and frequent night shift working made it difficult at times for him to attend regularly.
However, once retired he was able to take on a more active role in the Lodge as DC, a post he held from 1987 until 2001 and his attendance at Lodge meetings and Lodges of Instruction was almost 100% over a period of 40 years.
Meanwhile in 1985 W Bro Donald was promoted to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden
At the time of the Lodge’s 75th Anniversary in 1996, W Bro Donald’s recollections of over 55 years in the Craft were published in the Lodge history as he was the oldest member.
It’s now 2021 and he still holds that title. However, being the longest serving Freemason in the English Constitution takes the biscuit, to coin a phrase.
Recycling Past Masters –In 2003 Donald, after a 43 year break, was again Installed as WM; a recycled Past Master so to speak.
It was done primarily to slow progression to the Master’s Chair so that the younger, newer Brethren would have a bit more time to understand the whole process and savour masonic ritual and ambience.
Two years after his second time in the Chair he was promoted to Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden.
Although now approaching 102 years old, and an Honorary Member of the lodge, until fairly recently Don still took an active part in ritual when requested.
He last delivered the Traditional History of the Third Degree in March 2018.
Not Done Yet –
In the year 2000 a legacy left to the Lodge enabled the commissioning of a new Lodge Banner.
It was designed by W Bro Don.
Some time later in 2015 he was introduced to the Provincial Grand Master HRH Prince Michael of Kent at the Provincial AGM.
Never too Old to Celebrate –
On Saturday, 10 April 2021, a small group of socially distanced Brethren accompanied W Bro Bob Rough, APGM, who presented Don with an 80-year continuous membership Certificate and letters of congratulations from HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Peter Baker, Pro Provincial Grand Master and W Bro Bob Rough.
He was also presented with a bottle of aged single malt whisky and a specially commissioned 80-Year lapel pin.
At Home With Don –
Don is still living at home and has two carers who pop in daily to get him up and dressed.
He’s fairly self-sufficient but his mobility is somewhat impaired.
His daughter, Jean, and her son, Matt, visit him several times a week.
The Lodge Almoner, W Bro Ian Bowers, keeps in regular contact with daughter Jean and has arranged for him to receive a daily newspaper, which is paid for by the Lodge.
During the early part of lockdown, Don had to shield.
Food deliveries were arranged but a preponderance of pasta in the food parcels meant that this facility was foregone.
A short while back, pre-pandemic, in August 2020, Don mentioned that his garden needed tidying up.
A Lodge ‘task force’ was formed to carry out the work.
Once a DC, always a DC, and the Lodge members had great difficulty in stopping him from trying to help them do it.
Foot Note –
W Bro Donald’s 101st birthday last November was celebrated whist in the Barnet General in the Rainbow ward.
Having difficulties with mobility he had been admitted to hospital.
Although testing negative for Covid 19 on admission, he was tested positive a week later.
However, this has not impacted on him and after a few weeks with mobility improved he was sent home.
Certainly, this is a story of remarkable masonic tenacity and one which is relatively unique.
All credit to W Bro Donald and a hearty congratulations for the wonderful achievement of being the longest current subscribing Freemason in the English Constitution as at 1st April 2021.
The fact that he is a Middlesex Mason is the icing on the cake.
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