Jim Mitchell – The Man Behind The Mason

As told to Paul Steventon, Editor of The Mercury

Obviously everyone knows Jim Mitchell, our Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies. He has been doing the job since 2017 and he is doing things his way.

The Provincial meetings certainly have a very relaxed atmosphere as Jim’s view is that everyone should thoroughly enjoy their Freemasonry.

Before our interview we decided to do some clay pigeon shooting at Bisley.

When Jim eventually turned up, an hour late! (I promised not to put that bit in – sorry Jim) we started shooting and it started well, or I should say, it started well for me !

But by two thirds of the way round Jim wasn’t very happy, so I decided to be kind and let him win ! !

We then retired to the pub where I interviewed him over a bite of lunch and, as is the case with all these interviews, I learnt a lot about him; he told me he started work as a shoe repairer in his dad’s shop – but that’s “cobblers” !

Q: Where were you born and where did you grow up ?

A: I was born in Isleworth at West Middlesex Hospital and I grew up in St Margarets which is a suburb of Twickenham and which is only a mile from Cole Court.

Growing up, I went to St Stephens School and then to Orleans Park Secondary School and left there in 1982.

My dad was a shoe repairer, who had a shop in Acton and a shop in Isleworth; I used to help out in the shop from when I was about 10 years old, which is probably where I learnt to interact with people.

When I left school I started working for him but six months later I realised I hated it.

I then went to college in Kingston and did an engineering course, which I hated as well, so I left there and got a job in a warehouse, which was just picking, packing and forklift driving.

I stayed there for some years, then went to another warehouse company and then to a company called Copygraphic for six months, again just driving a forklift but soon progressed to doing stuff inside.

The company decided to move to Reading but I didn’t want to go so transfered to their office furniture division as a warehouse operative and then worked my way through to Service Engineer.

I then progressed to Manager of the Service Engineers, then went into sales as Sales Support and ended up on the road for them, selling, which was great fun and it was a great place to learn about the office industry and sales.

I then went to a company called Impact Office in Addington and fell out with the Managing Director within six weeks – probably because he was an Arsenal fan !

We had a real clash and that combined with a two and a half hour journey each way and having a young family, I decided to resign and then I went to a company called OFFICESmart which was a buying group and I was involved in the marketing side – it was great fun and I was absolutely terrible at it.

I stayed there for a while and then went to Verco Office Furniture where I stayed for the next 191/2 years.

Three and a half years ago I started Mint which I love and is so far going well.

Q: Who brought you into Freemasonry ?

A: A friend of my ex sister-inlaw’s husband, a guy called Graham King, who asked me one day in the pub if I was interested in Freemasonry, to which I said yes as it was always a subject that fascinated me.

A few weeks later I was asked to pop along to Cole Court for an interview.

I joined Heston St Leonard’s Lodge, No. 7378 in March ‘95 and I absolutely loved it and became Master in 2000/1.

Q: What do you get from Freemasonry ?

A: Sleepless nights !

If you told me 24 years ago that I would now have the position I have and direct and command the brethren to do the things they need to do and stand up in front of hundreds of people at Freemasons Hall, I would have genuinely wet myself with fear.

So the one thing Freemasonry has given me is confidence.

Q: What hobbies or interests do you have outside of Freemasonry ?

A: I do enjoy my shooting but I seriously don’t do enough of it.

It’s also great to compete with other keen shooters in the Province, especially when you get the bragging rights.

The other passion I have, apart from my family, is Scouting.

I look after two Scout Groups and I’m also a Deputy District Commissioner for the Thames Chilton region of Oxfordshire.

Q: What was your best holiday or the most interesting place you’ve been ?

A: The first holiday I had with Liam (his son) in Ireland.

We went to Schull, which is where Debbie’s (his wife) dad was born, with Debbie’s parents and it was a cracking holiday.

I also love Cornwall.

I’m not really an abroad type person, I have travelled abroad a bit but I’m more of a home bird.

Q: What excites you ?

A: I enjoy seeing people having fun.

I get excited when Tottenham win !

I love going to see my grandchildren, I get massively excited over that.

My eldest boy recently came back from Australia and it is brilliant having him home again.

Q: What annoys you ?

A: Bad driving and dishonesty.

Q: Film or theatre ?

A: Film. Return of the Jedi.

Q: Favourite drink ?

A: I can’t believe I’m about to say this – Soda Water and Lime.

(For those of you that don’t know, Soda Water and Lime is the ‘Deputy’s drink’ and he knew I was going to comment – he was not wrong).

Q: City or countryside ?

A: Countryside – definitely.

Q: Favourite food  ?

A: Poached Eggs – I’m a simple man with simple tastes.

Q: Friends round for dinner or going out for a meal ?

A: Out to a restaurant – less washing up !

Q: Favourite piece of music ?

A: Bizarrely, Mr Blue Sky by ELO, because it makes you feel good.

(I asked him if he knew what the very synthesized voice says at the very end of the song, which he didn’t. It is, for those of you that are in the slightest bit interested, ‘Please turn me over’ – ‘Mr Blue Sky’ was the A-side of the single , therefore, in the days of vinyl one had to turn the record over to hear the B-side – which was ‘One Summer Day’).

Q: Cats or dogs ?

A: Dogs – I have three.

Q: Sweet or savoury ?

A: Savoury.

Q: Art galleries or museums ?

A: Museums – History Museums.

Q: Rugby or football ?

A: Football – Tottenham.

Q: Favourite season ?

A: Winter.

Q: Talk radio or music ?

A: Talk radio.

Q: If you were on a desert island what book would you take ?

A: The Dummies Guide to Shelter Building.

Q: And finally what would be your luxury item ?

A: My dog.

We had a very enjoyable shoot (did I mention I let him win!) and a very enjoyable lunch and it was great getting to know Jim a little better.

Once the interview had finished we chatted about many things, but mainly masonry.

Jim does not have a bad word to say about anyone, what he doesn’t say speaks volumes and he will not let politics get in the way.

He thinks the most important thing about masonry is to enjoy it.

I couldn’t agree more, well apart from the bit about not having anything bad to say about anyone !

As told to Paul Steventon, Editor of The Mercury

This article appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2019 Edition of the Mercury, which can be viewed HERE whilst hard copies are available at all Middlesex Masonic Centres while stocks last.


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