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Originally from the North East and after a lifetime working in a variety of professions, Hampshire freemason John Roach revived his original joinery skills and is now crafting cases as a hobby for masonic friends. At the request of Insight, John has kindly revealed how he has gone full circle from apprentice craftsman via a career in media sales and marketing back to the core skills of cabinet-making.
“In 1955 at age fifteen I started work at the Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson (Neptune Yard) in Newcastle as an apprentice joiner. After serving my time and armed with my City & Guilds qualification, I travelled the country on civil engineering contracts for some years.
On my return to the North East, I changed direction completely and went into sales and marketing. As happened, the main part of my career was in advertising. It was while employed by Thomson Press, I became a freemason and joined the John Page Lodge in Newcastle. In 1976 I moved into independent local radio as a sales manager working for the then ailing Metro Radio in the Newcastle area. After a successful four years restoring their fortunes, I was on the move again, this time to Radio Victory in Portsmouth, which was the reason for my moving south. After four years, just as the franchise was coming to an end, I shifted into television, making commercials for independent companies. It was during this period unknowingly a friend of mine asked if I would like to become a freemason; when I told him I was already on the square, he proposed me and I joined Crofton Lodge in Botley.
John Roach
On the eve of his 101st birthday freemason Henry Gray died. During his 62 years as a mason he put to use the many talents he possessed. Foremost of these was his prowess as an organist, and he became the regular organist of many lodges. His other talent which he put to use was that of designing and making countless Lodge Banners. Other masonic items he produced included pedestal falls, pictorial tracing boards and the design for the face of a masonic clock.
Once more and not getting any
younger, I changed direction,
broke out and sharpened my
tools, and went into furniture
restoration, fitting kitchens
in between jobs. In 2013
somewhat older than others I decided to retire. Not one to be idle, I am never far from my workshop producing useful masonic and non-masonic articles. I made a mahogany case for my masonic regalia and before long the inevitable happened; a couple of friends asked me ‘Can you make me one?’ This got me thinking and here I am now turning out personalised regalia cases from time to time in between other pursuits.
To date, as a hobby, I have made quite a few for different people. Working odd half days, each case takes about a week to make and I suppose, if I took it seriously, I could turn out three or four per month. The cases can also be customised to serve different purposes, for instance provincial or grand rank. The main problem I see is not the size, shape or labour, but the cost of the brassware, which is quite expensive.”
Two years of research have now been completed and a book produced depicting many of his masonic achievements. For those who wish to acquire a copy of this book, please register your interest by emailing his daughter All profits from the sale are being donated to the The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
Michael Oliver has completely
revised and updated a seminal
work published by Walter Leslie
Wilmshurst in 1922. WLW, as
he was familiarly known, was
described by A E Waite as “an
inspired mystic of undoubted
integrity”. This fascinating read,
sub titled “The Meaning of
Masonry”, is a hardback tome
and costs £10 excluding postage.
Proceeds from the sale will go to
the Royal Masonic School for Girls
and Boys. Michael has offered by
request to visit lodges to talk
about and hopefully sell the
book, but at age 85 he has to limit visits to within 25 miles of Bransgore in the New Forest unless he can be chauffeured. The book is also available on Kindle for £5.50 and again all proceeds will go to the 2016 Festival. If you require more information please email him at
Insight • Issue 9 10
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