It is a feat of courage to live to 98, coping with a diminishing world while the other one, the world of tomorrow, surges confidently onwards. But WBro Alick McKeown Wilson, Past Grand Almoner, defied limitations, strengthened as he was by his 62-year devotion to Freemasonry, and a personality, described as “mischievous” in a notice of his death on September 18 – half way his through his 99th year. It was a fall, a chance mishap at home, that ended his fragile independence and brought death which, even at his age seems premature, for he was a lively and cheerful man; a marvel to all who knew him.
The press notices also remarked on the “beautiful” cushions and quilts he made and gave away to lodge widows and others as tokens of goodwill.
As for the mischief, fellow Masons relished his zesty recitals of The Shooting of Dan McGrew in refectory, but few will have heard about the rollicking, all-in battle of the meat pies which rounded out his upholstery firm’s Christmas party one year. Then there was the time friends and family brought musical instruments to his place for a barbecue and sing-song, and a noise control officer turned up. Nonagenarian Alick was given a ticket. “’Excessive’ noise from a 90-year-old? I’ve got that framed,” says his elder son John.
Masonic brethren in the various orders to which he belonged were amazed at Alick’s memory. He was a ritualist who liked the hard jobs; long and difficult charges were his specialty. He was once invited at short notice to take the part of a soldier in an amateur theatrical production. No problem. He learnt the part, and the whole play as well.
Born on March 13, 1912, and educated at Newton West and Newmarket Schools, Auckland, Alick was trained in the upholstery trade, went to Europe as a young man before the war leaving behind his future wife Clarice, whom he wooed by correspondence and wed in 1939, and then did army service in the Pacific. He was initiated into Lodge Auckland No.87 in 1948, installed as Master in 1958, and thereafter held almost continuous office, including 38 years as an almoner. A feature of this was that as he grew older, the people he helped and comforted with such tact and skill were ever younger.
Lodges and individuals, plus the Roskill Masonic Village and Chapel, came to benefit from gifts of cushions, quilts and pillow slips which he continued to make after his retirement from the upholstery firm of Wilson and Nicholson, which he co-founded. The company still trades under that name.
Alick received his 50-Year and 60-year Service Badges in 1998 and 2008 respectively from the hands of his old friend RWBro Jack Turner PProvGM, who was assisted in the latter presentation by RWBro Selwyn Cooper as Divisional Grand Master.
Alick’s big OE of 1936-38 included working in London and a three-month cycle tour of Europe with an Australian. The y were lionized in Germany as products of the British Empire while a European with them got the cold shoulder. Alick kept a letter in which a German acquaintance of that time hailed the “great adventure” of the coming war, and mused that they would be on opposite sides! The cyclists did their tour on only 37 pounds, and one of the bikes broke in half as they headed back to Calais. They could not afford to have it welded, so one rode the remaining machine and the other hitch-hiked.
Alick and Clarice who died in 1991 are survived by their two sons John and Brett, both of whom entered Freemasonry, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.