A golden jubilee celebration was held by the members of Old Huttonian Lodge No 7614 in the old school hall of Hutton Grammar. Harry Thomason was the proud Mason to be honoured on the day following 50 wonderful years in the Craft and a good number of colleagues and visitors turned out to witness the celebration.
Martin Swarbrick had opened the lodge and had welcomed Assistant Provincial Grand Master Stewart Seddon into the lodge room. Stewart was accompanied by Gordon McKay Provincial Assistant Grand Standard Bearer and Eric Hart Provincial Grand Almoner. The gavel of the lodge was presented to Stewart who on this occasion, and for the purposes of celebration, he kept it. Taking to the chair of the lodge, Stewart went on to introduce Harry and pay tribute to one who has served the Craft for 50 years. He exclaimed this to be a wonderful milestone in Harry’s Masonic journey where he can now add ‘golden jubilee’ into his extensive portfolio. Stewart asked if Harry could be placed centre of the lodge so that he could listen to his biography.
Stewart’s precis started with taking everyone present back to 1940, the year in which Harry was born. This he did by making reference to other notable peers and contemporaries around at the time. King George VI was on the throne; Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister of a coalition government soon to be replaced by Winston Churchill; Britain was at war with Germany whilst over in America, the Yanks were enjoying the premiering of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’; Frank Sinatra made his singing debut with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra; Glenn Miller and his band recorded Tuxedo Junction and Pennsylvania 6-5,000; William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created Tom and Jerry. Other notable people born in 1940 were; John Hurt; Penelope Keith; Cliff Richard; Sir Clive Sinclair; Mary Rand and Dennis Law to name but a few.
On 29 February at Sharoe Green Hospital, Preston, Mrs Edna Thomason gave birth to a son to be called Harry. Dad, Alfred, was a builder and mum a weaver with the family home at Croston. Harry’s dad had joined the Royal Navy but once the bombing began his building skills resulted in him being redeployed to London where the important bomb-damaged buildings were covered with fabric and rebuilt behind the screen. After the war he went working for the Gas Board, but he also made the newels for St. Mary’s Church in Leyland.
Harry went to school and his primary and junior education was at Croston Parochial Boys School, now Bishop Rawstorne, where there were three classes but only one teacher, Miss Parkinson. Harry passed his exams and entered the first year at Hutton Grammar School in 1952 where he was greeted by a boy called McIlwaine who asked what does a ship do when it docks? He himself answered, ‘ties up’ flicking Harry’s tie up and ‘anchors down’ stamping on Harry’s foot. Harry’s response was a smack – right on the end of his nose.
Harry became a keen sportsman and played rugby, cricket (captain of Croston Cricket Club), swimming and athletics which was to play a very important part of his life. In 1959, following sixth form, Harry went to Chester College for two years on a teacher training course and then on to Loughborough University where he majored in human biology. On graduating in 1963 he got a position at the Royal College of Advanced Technology, Salford. Whilst there, Harry specialised in ‘Human performance under extreme conditions’ using athletes, cyclists and deep-sea divers as guinea pigs, and this platform of expertise created an opportunity to make one of the most significant impacts on modern sport.
In 1965, as part of Harry’s doctorate, he researched stress on the hearts of athletes and enquired whether it would be possible to monitor the cyclists on the Tour de France. This was refused but he was allowed to do the Tour of Britain. The press back in the day got it wrong and published that he was doing ‘drug testing’ and so, on behalf of the Institute of Sports Medicine, that is what Harry ended up doing.
Harry met Marie and had been going out for some time when early 1966 Marie’s mother asked Harry when he and Marie were going to get married. Harry, no doubt feeling he was on safe ground said: “If we win the World Cup we’ll get married.” The happy couple were married at Hoole Parish Church on 3 August 1966, under special licence. Their son Tim was born two years later and they have been blessed with two grandchildren Natasha who is 21 and taking a Master’s Degree at Bristol and Joe 18 who on completing his studies at Manchester Grammar School is off to the London School of Economics.
In 1977 Loughborough University wanted to create a new Department of Physical Education and Sports Science and the then Vice-Chancellor, Sir Clifford Butler, blatantly poached Harry from Salford University where he became the founding professor and first head of a department that had a very small budget. Sir Clifford told Harry that if he went out and got some sponsorship money he would match it £ for £. This would cost Sir Clifford a £250,000 as under Harry’s leadership, Loughborough rapidly became the best sporting establishment in Britain. Soon after a Mr Coe went to see Harry and told him he wanted his son to win the 800 metres at the Moscow Olympics – and so Sebastian did!
Harry held a succession of senior posts starting with a departmental position as Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1985 until 1987; Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1997 until 1991 and a university position as Pro-Vice-Chancellor which was created especially by the then Vice-Chancellor. This post he held from 1989 through until 2003 during which time he forged strong relationships with the governments of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Jamaica, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Harry was initiated into New Hall Lodge No 5940 on 16 November 1966 and was installed as WM of that lodge on 19 January 1983. Harry was exalted into Leyland Chapter No 4249 on 8 April 1971, becoming its first principal in 1985.
Stewart rounded off the biography stating: “There is no doubt at all that your entire life has also been an example of what makes a good Freemason, as well as a good citizen, a good husband, a good parent, and in every way, a contributor to society as a whole. There is also no doubt, that, during the last 50 years, anyone who happened to learn that you are a Freemason, could not fail to see you as anything other than a good ambassador for our Order.”
Stewart then asked David Bishop, Group Secretary of Leyland and District Group, to read aloud in the lodge the certificate. This certificate is an acknowledgement of the Province of West Lancashire’s great appreciation of Harry’s half a century of membership of the Craft.
There was one surprise remaining and it left everyone showing their appreciation with a huge round of applause. Harry Thomason was awarded his first Provincial rank as PPrSGD. Harry accepted the honour and was clearly humbled by this presentation as he had very few words to say.
The lodge closed and all members and visitors once again moved into the school dining room where good camaraderie and memories were shared with the celebrant.