Father of Southsea

I have been a freemason, and member of Southsea Lodge, for a little over 11 years, had the pleasure of the company of the brethren throughout that time, observed them as they conducted the duties of their respective offices, and enjoyed their friendship during our festive boards. Throughout this time, there has always been one constant. The older statesman, who sat alongside me when I was an entered apprentice, and who shook my hand when I was made master of the lodge. He is the most quiet, always respectful presence at our practices, regular meetings, GP’s, and social events. An example in terms of attendance and conduct. Most of your lodges will have such a person, an older member who fits the role of “Father of the lodge”. Worshipful brother Phil Dare is Southsea’s, and I would like to share some of his story with you.

Phil was born in Finsbury Street, Portsmouth, in the early springtime of 1928, the middle of the Art Deco period, and the year in which the Nazis won their first 12 Reichstag seats, before steadily rising to power. The son of a professional pianist (blind), he started by telling me that his surname should not be “Dare” but “Shaftner”. When applying to join the army during WW1 his father was told that he “dare” not have his German surname, lest he become captured by the enemy, hence the origin of the name. Failing eyesight, eventually leading to blindness, prevented him from serving. During his childhood, Phil accompanied his parents to many dances (his father played piano) and became an accomplished dancer at a young age. This love of dance has stayed with him throughout his life.

Phil has memories of his schooling ending at 14 years of age and of alternate week schooling during some of WW2, due to a shortage of teachers. Aged 18, he was conscripted into the Royal Air Force for National Service. His service lasted two years and was spent mainly in Singapore and Malaya. He recalls many Japanese P.O.W’s still being there, awaiting repatriation. Trained as a carpenter by the R.A.F. it was in an administrative role at Brickwood’s brewery that he was employed for over 30 years. He later worked for Mainland Market Deliveries as their Insurance Claims Manager until eventually retiring. It was through his love of dance that he met his wife, Elsie and became aware of Freemasonry through several friends. Phil was married to Elsie for over 42 years, and they enjoyed many years of competition dance together. Phil expressed an interest in becoming a mason to a friend, who was already a lodge member (Names such as Fred Norton and Tom Grosvener were mentioned). After an 18-month wait, he was initiated into Southsea Lodge 4071 on January 28th1965.

Phil has served Southsea Lodge in the office of Secretary and later as and mentor from 2008 – 2013.

Phil was Passed on 25/2/1965 and Raised on 23/9/1965. He was Exalted into the Holy Royal Arch on 13/10/1966 and remains a member to this day. He was Worshipful Master from 23/11/1977-22/11/1978.

  • 02/07/1986 – Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon
  • 01/07/1998 – Past Provincial Junior Grand warden
  • 28/01/2015 – 50th Year Certificate
  • 05/02/2016 – Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden

I was particularly interested in what Phil sees as the differences between masonry then and now. He said firstly “You had to express an interest in joining, not the other way around”. Also, that the membership was still mainly older, and that progression was slow. The main difference he can see is that “The evenings were much more formal than they are today”. In his eyes, the degree of informality in some lodges may go a little too far on occasion. When asked if he could recall a most notable event at Southsea Lodge, he immediately recalled an initiation where both the Wardens were blood brothers (Keith and Ralph Waldren) of the initiate (Nicky Waldren) and their father (Danny Waldren) carried out the ceremony as Master. The current Master, at that time, had stepped aside to allow the father to conduct the ceremony.

Talking to Phil was both interesting and rewarding, with a history reaching from the first world war to the present day. I am glad to have recorded a small part of his rich life.