It is not very often that one meets a PGSN, the highest rank in SGC that can be bestowed upon a companion without them being a Ruler. At the recent meeting of the newly-amalgamated Chapter of St Alphege and Charity No 1431, over 60 companions did just that as they were there to support a certain EComp Michael J Price CBE PGSN who was to receive his 50th year certificate.
With a recipient of such note, it was no surprise that the ME Grand Superintendent was present along with most of the Provincial Executive, no less than two Past Grand Superintendents, a plethora of Officers of SGC, and a great number of Officers of PGC.
The Grand Superintendent thanked the MEZ for inviting him to make this very special presentation and started by recalled one of his first outings as a newly appointed Craft ProvAGDC when he was due to escort EComp Michael, the then ProvGM. He was terrified but EComp Michael put him at his ease and that evening has stayed with him ever since.
The Warwickshire modus operandi for such occasions is so very special – a friendly chat surrounded by friends followed by the formal presentation and a proclamation. It was no different for EComp Michael although perhaps a little different for him being on the receiving end for once.
The Grand Superintendent started by taking EComp Michael back to 1935 when he was born in Hall Green. He can recall the war years, looking up at the vapour trails of dog-fights, the Anderson shelter in the garden until it took a direct hit, and going with his mother to collect their ration books in a room with a wonderful ceiling that had been commandeered by the Ministry of Food – the Masonic Rooms in Birmingham! Having attended a local primary school, EComp Michael’s education continued at King Edwards Camp Hill that, he was quick to say, had provided no fewer than 3 ProvGMs – Stanley Lates, Robert Vaughan and him!
He then continued his education at the Austin Motor Company as an apprentice engineer. Queen and Country came calling and EComp Michael was commissioned into the RAF as a Flying Officer and tasked with teaching engineering and the theory of flight. It was during this time when he was posted to South Wales.
A fellow officer got involved with the local teacher training college and was invited to a dance. Needing a set of wheels, he asked for EComp Michael’s assistance so they both went. He found himself dancing with the same girl all evening and his colleague suggested that he would marry her one day – prophetic words as the girl was Dawn and they recently celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary!
Having completed his National Service, his Wing Commander told him that he was the bolshiest junior officer that he’d ever known, and with those words ringing in his ears, EComp Michael returned to the family firm – starting at the bottom, but finishing as MD.
An important facet of EComp Michael’s life has been his voluntary work. He became involved with the King Edwards Foundation, was a Governor of Camp Hill for over 20 years, and ultimately was appointed the Foundation’s Bailiff for one year and Chair for three.
Another major part of EComp Michael’s life has been politics. 1968 saw him at odds with what the government was doing so he joined the Conservative Party. Whilst he felt unable to stand for election himself, he served as the Chair of the West Midlands Region of the Conservative Party, a considerable role that he thoroughly enjoyed and, as such, saw him regularly attending meetings at No 10.
It also took him to conferences and in 1984 he and Dawn were in Brighton when a bomb exploded in the room next to him. Having heard that M&S were opening their doors to clothe those involved, he tried to get a taxi but was without any way of paying. Thankfully a passer-byer paid for the taxi but it gave EComp Michael a very real feeling of being ‘poor and penniless’.
It was for his services to politics that he was appointed a CBE and the family enjoyed a wonderful trip to the Palace having stayed in the RAF Club. One of his daughters got the fright of her life when, thinking that the Life Guards that line the stairs were not real, one of them winked at her! He was honoured to receive his honour from the late Queen and was surprised to see his family sitting on the front row – Dawn simply said that someone had to sit there!
Talking of family, EComp Michael is very proud of his two daughters and his two grandsons. Fly-fishing is an important part of the Price family since he took it up ages around 7. He sent his daughters to Devon to learn and Dawn also picked up a rod and before long they were enjoying fishing together all over the world with Dawn acting as his personal travel agent. They have also loved playing golf together.
Back to the Royal Arch; EComp Michael was exalted into St Alphege Chapter and was made treasurer at his second meeting – he obviously made quite an impression – an office he held for 10 years.
With all his other commitments, he took a break from Royal Arch but was persuaded to return and became MEZ in 1996. His promotion was rapid as he was appointed GSoj in 2002, GSwdB in 2007 and GSN in 2010. This latter position came with huge responsibility, as EComp Michael was required to sign all new Chapter Charters, Patents for Grand Superintendents etc. On one occasion, EComp Nigel Bister, the then ProvGSec, took a call from London – “a charter is on its way and could the ProvGM ensure that his hands are clean when he signs it”. EComp Nigel responded that he would ensure that, once EComp Michael had his bacon sarnie, he would do just that! Apparently, EComp Michael would often get into Stirling Road very early in the morning and someone would produce a scrummy bacon bap to start his day!!
Having taken us all through the life and times of EComp Michael J Price CBE, the Grand Superintendent formally presented him with his certificate and lapel badge, adding that the Province was so very proud of him.
Following another superb proclamation from the ProvGDC, EComp Michael responded by thanking the Grand Superintendent and all present for “giving a lot of pleasure to an elderly man”. He then presented the Grand Superintendent with a little something to enjoy (drink!) on a quiet evening at home with Julie.
The assembled throng then enjoyed an excellent Festive Board, complete with more stories from EComp Michael, before heading home, feeling privileged to have witnessed a truly special moment when the companions of Warwickshire recognised a truly extraordinary Freemason.
SWG Feb 2023