John Bernard Hardy C. Eng M.I.C.E

John Bernard Hardy

Born 13th September 1928 in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire
Only son of Hilda and Fred Hardy, a railway clerk.

Q What is your earliest childhood memory?

The first recollection I seem to have is travelling home from Blackpool with my mother on the train, it was 1931, not that I remember that. There was an accident when the train was derailed outside Preston station. From the newspaper account, which I still have, my mother was injured and had to go for treatment at the local Infirmary.

Apparently I was very difficult and crying, everyone thinking I was frightened by the incident and by my mother’s injury. It subsequently became clear that my upset was as a result of the loss of my Balloon. This little railway incident was to be the first of three, for I have subsequently been in further incidents.

Q When did you first move away from your place of birth?

In 1936 the family moved to Hipperholme, Nr Halifax. For a short period I attended the Lightcliffe National School and later the Hipperholme Grammar School, which was near our home. I did little except run and play rugby football, consequently I left in 1947 with only a very modest school certificate.

Q Did you go into the forces?

I was eligible for conscription and so joined the RAF at Padgate. I was sent to Bridgenorth for ‘square bashing’ and then to RAF Melksham to train as an Electrician, their choice and not mine. I was then posted to RAF Cranwell nr Grantham. Whilst there I spent most of my time playing Rugby. Most weekends I played for the Old Brodleians R F U (My old boys school team). My final move was to RAF Innsworth nr Gloucester where I worked in the motor pool.

Q Most people have an amusing story to tell about their national service do you?

Yes in so much that it was there that I taught myself to drive. We had an old Hillman Van and as a result of a National Dock strike, all of the camps regular drivers had been sent to the London Docks. I found I was pressed into service running errands around the camp in the old Hillman Van. It being assumed, it seems, that I was both qualified and authorised to drive when in fact I was not.  The Innsworth and Barnwood Camp was the home of the RAF’s personnel records. Every day, except Sundays, a delivery was made to RAF Ruislip (nr London). Monday to Friday a two-ton lorry was used. On Saturday the Hillman van. Foolishly I agreed to take the place of a friend and drive the van on a Saturday run,  promising another pal that he could come along as he wanted to visit his lady friend, although I had no authority to drive the van never having driven on a public road.

Imagine my horror when I arrived at the guardroom by the main gate, to find that an Austin Lorry had been loaded ready for use in place of the Hillman Van. Don’t know how much you know about vehicles of those times, but syncromesh gears were still to be invented as far as the RAF was concerned, a knowledge of “double declutching” together with a good understanding of the level of engine revs was required. I had neither and to avoid being found out would need to get the lorry off the  camp pretty damn quick.  I managed to get out of the gate unseen in a series of  Kangaroo jumps and once I found a gear I had to stop in it. What gear changing there was occurred whilst freewheeling and was accompanied by much grating, grinding and crashing of gears.

Once on the main road it was quiet and a straight run to Ruislip- unload and get back I thought. I was in shock after being told that I was to go to Hornchurch via the North Circular Road with it’s many roundabouts and traffic. At each roundabout I had to freewheel and whilst trying to find a gear I seemed to manage to loose the plot on steering and demolished the bollards at almost every roundabout exit along the length of the North Circular Road. Having arrived at Hornchurch I hurriedly unloaded and set off on the return journey. Unfortunately it was a repeat of my trip in the opposite direction and so the bollards which were then on the entrance to the roundabouts and had remained intact, now became the bollards on the exits from the roundabouts and so suffered the same fate, the result being no bollards on either side of the roundabout along the North Circular Road.

Once back at Innsworth it was late and dark and with hammer and blue paint I repaired some of the damage to the vehicle. To my relief no one noticed but I did wonder what the Highways Engineers thought on the Monday morning when they saw their roundabouts. In late 1949 I was demobbed and left with unblemished drivers record-easy if you do not drive.

Q. So when did you take up your first employment.

In the January of 1950. I took up an appointment with the Bingley UDC as a junior technical assistant. There were three of us in the office. The Boss, his Secretary/Clerk and me.  It was here that I had my first experience of the fairer sex. Having been sent to warn residents that their water was to be turned off for a short while, I stumbled upon lady bathing in a large kitchen sink. She was unperturbed having mistaken my arrival for that of the rent man. Needless to say I beat a hasty retreat and never returned as I soon afterwards moved down the road to the Shipley UDC, where I was a Junior Engineer in the Surveyors Dept.

In 1952 I moved to the Staveley UDC Nr Chesterfield as 2nd Engineer.

Q When did you meet and marry Brenda.

Having known Brenda for a number of years we were married at Shipley Parish Church on 13th Sept 1952. It’s a good job that we had known each other for some time because one cold but sunny day, following a snowfall, I was working to extend the Sewerage Works when I inadvertently slipped and fell headlong into black decomposing evil smelling sewage. Taken home on the back of a lorry it was left to my new bride to get me, my donkey jacket and corduroy trousers clean, just picture the scene, me in me undies covered in black evil smelling sewage, the gallant groom of the suffering new bride. All this on a freezing cold morning in a small out building behind our home, not the image one would want to think of when trying to impress your new bride.

Q This experience did nothing to make you think of a career change then?

No. I soon thereafter moved on to Brighouse Borough Council, following a family bereavement. I took up the post of Private Street Works Engineer and this proved to be a good move for it was there that I was able to start to study for professional my qualifications.

Q How did you come to be in Evesham?

Well first of all I moved to Great Malvern UDC in 1959 and had by now a very young son, Richard. In 1960 I completed my final examination and became a Member of the Institution Of Municipal Engineers and that led me to apply for the position of Deputy Borough Surveyor at Evesham Borough Council, under the late James Hodson. It was he, a member of the Elmley Castle Lodge, who was later to propose me, a Lewis, my father being a member of the Saville Lodge No 1231 in North Yorkshire, for initiation into the Elmley Castle Lodge No 6247.

At Evesham my duties were quite extensive and a number or events fell my way. Early one morning I was awakened by a phone call telling me that some 30 ladies were taking refuge in an upstairs bedroom of a house in Pershore Road having fled from their flooded caravans situated close to the river. Having by now learnt to drive almost any type of vehicle, I took the Council’s 6 ton Lorry and a long ladder, drove to the house, put the ladder from the back of the lorry up to the window and waited whilst these mature ladies clad mostly only in nightdresses, with some having a dressing gown, came backwards down the ladder onto the lorry. You could say it’s not the sort of experience you want very often.

One of the duties I always enjoyed was making the preparations for the Mayors Annual Ball, at the Public Hall in the market place.  On one particular occasion the Mayor was a member of the Showman’s Guild, a very well known and respected citizen whose son has been Master of this lodge. He wanted something “spectacular” inside the Public Hall to impress the visiting dignitaries from the surrounding authorities. The hall had a very imposing staircase leading up to the first floor where the ballroom was situated. I caused a waterfall to be built down the centre of the stairs complete with lights that changed colour, water plants and gnomes fishing, all very spectacular. Unfortunately the pump available was not self-priming and required someone to suck the pipe to cause a vacuum to get the water flowing down from the top of the staircase. The pump was situated under a sheet to disguise its presence. After having got it all set up and working well I left at 4pm to get ready for the evening. On my return at 7.30 just as the guests were assembling on the stairs to admire the wonderful feature and to be greeted by the Mayor and Mayoress, we had a power failure due to overloading of the system somewhere within the building. The pump stopped and so did the wonderful water fall which all were admiring. Having restored the power supply I sneaked under the sheet caught hold of the pipe and proceeded to suck. When the water started it came with force. I rushed to put the pipe in the outlet so the water would flow down the waterfall, missed it and sprayed all the guests standing alongside. One, a chap named Henry King, fared rather badly and understandably was none too pleased.

Q So when did you become a Mason.

In October 1966 I expressed a wish to join a Masonic Lodge. My passage was not the easiest due to my work as a Council Official and I very nearly found myself proposed as a member of the Abbot Lichfield Lodge, but commonsense prevailed. The senior members will know that the Henry King I had soaked at the Mayors Ball was in fact the W Bro Henry King who was to become Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire, a member of Abbot Lichfield Lodge.

As I have already said W Bro James Hodson was my proposer and W Bro John Roebuck, a well-known local land agent, was my seconder.
I was initiated in October 1967. My biggest regret was that my father did not see the  ceremony having died some 5 months earlier. In 1969 the then elderly catering steward of Elmley Castle Lodge, Bro Tony Partridge, announced that he had need to be nearer his family and that meant that he could not continue with his duties. I volunteered my services to be responsible for our meals, buying the food, employing the staff, arranging the seating and generally watching the cooking, my offer was accepted and I filled that roll for 30 years.

Q You finished your working days with Wychavon?

Yes in 1974 ‘Wychavon’ was created from the constituent authorities formerly Serving the area. Amongst these being my former employer Evesham Borough Council. With five authorities having officers bidding for the senior posts I did not fare too well initially but made the most of the circumstances. Ten years after the formation of Wychavon, in 1984, I was appointed Chief Officer of the Technical Services Department, with responsibility for all aspects of Engineering, Refuse collection, Environmental Health, Property Maintenance and Recreation and Leisure. In that same year I was admitted a Member Of the Institution Of Civil Engineers. In March 1989 I retired from full time employment having served the various authorities for 39 years, and in 2000, I had for health reasons, to relinquish my catering duties in the Lodge having been responsible for some of the best food in the Province.

Q So have you restricted yourself to the craft or have you joined any other orders.

Well having been initiated into the craft in 1967 I was passed and raised in 1968. In March 1978 I was installed into the chair of the Elmley Castle Lodge having served every office en route whilst still managing the catering. In 1983 I received my first promotion in the Craft, P.P.Supt Works. As the Prov G M was to say in Birmingham that day in The Gents Loo of all places ‘Not bad for a Cook’. I had the very great pleasure of being appointed a PPGSW on the floor of the lodge by the RW Provincial Grand Master Barrie Cooper on the occasion of the lodges 50th Anniversary in 1996. In 2005 I took, and still hold, what is my first and only Lodge office to date, that of Chaplain.

I was advanced into the St Egwin’s Lodge of Mark Master Masons 1135 in the April of 1970, I went through the chair in 1981. In 1987 I was appointed Acting Provincial Grand Warden in the Mark Degree and in 1993 received the honour of Grand rank being appointed Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. I was elevated into the St Egwin’s Royal Ark Mariners Lodge 1135 in October 1971 and have served twice as commander, first in 1977 and again in 2001. I had RAM Grand Rank conferred upon me in 1989. In 2008 I became a member of the Worcester Installed Commanders Lodge.

In 1988 I ventured into the ranks of Royal Arch Masons. In 1990 I joined the Evesham Chapter Rose Croix and became Sovereign in 2002. In 1996 I became a Founder Member of the Royal Air Force Mark Lodge No 1774. Having been a Director of the Masonic Hall Co for many years I took on the duty of Administrator of the newly created Evesham Masonic Trust.

Q Have you any regrets about Masonry.

So far as My Masonic career is concerned I have only one regret, that has to be the fact that I never had the opportunity to preside over a Third Degree ceremony in the Craft. In my year in the Craft Chair I was preoccupied with Initiations and 2nds and on Past Masters evenings there were always others with greater claim than mine.

My great interests in life apart from Masonry have been Photography, Rugby, Caravanning, Cruising and learning to play, and possess, some of the best Organs available. I have been fortunate and enjoyed reasonably good health and have had a very good and rewarding Career serving others. More importantly I have had a very loving and supportive wife in Brenda, a young lady who I met at a dance when I was 17 and still at school. She was the first and only lady in my life. We were married in 1952 and have two sons who have respected their parents at all times and who have prospered professionally in Banking. Perhaps more important we have enjoyed good fortune and been blessed in so much that Brenda has suffered and recovered on three occasions, and two resulting operations, from Cancer. Many others are not so fortunate.

Thank you Bernard for this brief yet meaningful insight into your life.

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