On Saturday 6th January 2018, the Province of Berkshire came together at the memorial service for VW Bro Colin Hayes, PGSwdB, Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master.
This was a solemn occasion, attended by over 200 people, that brought back very many happy memories of the masonic life of Colin.
Martin Peters The Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire delivered the following eulogy
VW Bro Colin Hayes, PGSwdB, Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master
I am sure we are all still coming to terms with the loss of such a popular member of the Province. The responses I received to my brief announcement of Colin’s death on 23rd November spoke volumes for the extraordinarily high regard in which Colin was held in Freemasonry, both within Berkshire and beyond this Province. As I said in that announcement, Colin was one of the kindest, friendliest and most compassionate people any of us are likely to meet and I am grateful to have this opportunity today to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution Colin made to the success and happiness of this Province. W Bro Guy Barlow paid tribute to Colin’s life outside Freemasonry at his Funeral on the 11th of December and he will be making a similar contribution today, leaving me to focus on Colin’s illustrious Masonic career which spanned nearly 47 years.
Colin was born on 9th April 1948 in Windsor and when he was nine a significant family event occurred – his father Norman was initiated into Berkshire’s oldest lodge, the Etonian Lodge of St John, No 209. Just before his 23rd birthday Colin was proposed by his father for membership of the Etonian Lodge of St John and he was initiated into that lodge on the 2nd March 1971. He filled all the progressive offices before being installed as Worshipful Master in 1983. In all these offices Colin showed consummate skill in delivering the ritual and after the Chair he became Assistant Director of Ceremonies forming a formidable team with the Director of Ceremonies W Bro Stan Clarke before he himself took over as Director of Ceremonies.
He received his first Provincial appointment from RW Bro Tim Wilder in 1989 which, almost uniquely, was to the acting rank of Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in recognition of his strong ritual and ceremonial capabilities. It was a role in which he excelled and in which his natural talents as a stage performer had ample opportunity to be expressed. His first promotion came in 1997 when RW Bro Digby Woods appointed him as his Senior Warden and Grand Rank came three years later when he was invested by the Most Worshipful The Grand Master His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent as a Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. RW Bro Mike Hooton became Provincial Grand Master in 2003 and a year later he appointed Colin as one of his Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and a promotion to the Grand Rank of Past Senior Grand Deacon followed on 2005. One of my easiest tasks after being appointed Provincial Grand Master in 2011 was to decide that Colin was the ideal man to be my Deputy, an appointment he enthusiastically accepted and in which office he served the Province brilliantly for five years before retiring in 2016. I thus became the fourth consecutive Provincial Grand Master to honour Colin with a significant acting Provincial Appointment.
I could not have made a better choice and his promotion in Grand Rank to Past Grand Sword Bearer, which brought with it the prefix of Very Worshipful Brother, was amply merited. Colin was always the most unassuming of characters when it came to Masonic progression. He never went looking for promotion nor felt he deserved more. I remember when I asked him to become my Deputy he said he wasn’t sure what he could bring to the table but he’d love to have a go! He had served with me on the Executive between 2004 and 2008 and I knew exactly what he could bring to the table – an enviable skill to carry out his duties while making all those around him feel at ease and enjoy the moment.
Although Colin had already played important roles in Berkshire Freemasonry prior to his appointment as Deputy Provincial Grand Master in 2011, it was his contribution as Deputy that was fundamental to the turnaround in fortunes which this Province enjoyed during his tenure. He, like the two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, had a portfolio of responsibilities. His main responsibility lay in implementing plans to grow our organisation. To do this he selected a dedicated team who worked tirelessly with him on activities such as the Introduction to Freemasonry programme; providing recruitment resources at Open Days and public events such the race day at Windsor Racecourse; and other general recruitment activities some of which involved having a presence in town centres to give those who might be interested in joining Freemasonry an opportunity to discuss potential membership. Without Colin and his team we could never have attracted the record number of new members who joined us in 2016 which enabled us to achieve our growth objective.
Colin had excellent organisational skills and he was a very good delegator. These skills enabled him to deliver successful outcomes the other tasks assigned to him such as the Chairmanship of Sindlesham Court Limited, the Visiting Grand Officer scheme and the successful family day out in Windsor Great Park last May. Colin’s talents included his ability to encourage others and use his compassionate nature to cheer those in need of comforting. He exemplified the caring nature of Freemasonry and it is worth mentioning that the picture of him on the rear cover of the Order of Service was taken on the occasion of a visit he made to Bill Kirkwood shortly before Bill died in 2015, a visit which gave Bill and his wife great pleasure – a pleasure which Colin also brought to many others on numerous occasions as a result of his thoughtfulness and smiling presence.
But perhaps we will best remember Colin for his natural ability to lift the spirits of all those who attended any gathering at which he was present, whether it was a Lodge meeting or a function such as the lunch after Quarterly Communications or a purely social occasion. He brought warmth, humour and friendship to every occasion, qualities which were much in evidence in the year before his death when he visited nearly half the lodges in the Province after being installed as Worshipful Master of the Berkshire Masters Lodge in October 2016. As always, he embraced the duties of that appointment with total commitment and the enormous enjoyment and pride he took in holding that office was typical of the man. He had a lot of fun in the process and so did those around him.
It cannot be overstated how instrumental Colin was in making Berkshire the happy and successful Province that it is today. The messages I received following his sudden and unexpected death indicated that he was clearly an inspiration to many and his appeal as a much loved individual was widespread. There are few within the Province who will not have a special memory of him and he will be sadly missed. His death was a tragic loss for Freemasonry and for his family who are here with us today and who I know have been very much in our thoughts over the past six weeks, as they will continue to be in the future. Nevertheless, for the Brethren of Berkshire we must rejoice in the fact that it was through Freemasonry that our lives were enriched by knowing this remarkable man and we will remember his friendship and cheerful countenance for the rest of our lives.