Sidmouth came to a halt on the afternoon of Monday 6th July when friends, colleagues and brethren lined the streets to say farewell to Brother the Reverend Robin Laird.
It was a fitting tribute to a man who had touched the lives of so many in the 20+ years he had lived there.
Robin was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, the fourth of six children of Bertie and Emily Laird. He was educated in King’s Hospital, Dublin before beginning a theological degree at Trinity College, Dublin. Having decided that was not for him, he went to teach geography in a preparatory school in Pitlochry, Perthshire, where he met Carol, to whom he was married for 54 years.
After returning to a theology degree in Edinburgh, and a three year curacy in Omagh, Northern Ireland, where his elder son, Mark, was born, he joined the army in 1968 as a chaplain. His first posting was to Berlin, where Andrew was born. As Robin said at the time:
”From a divided country to a divided City”.
This was followed by postings to Hong Kong, Nepal, England, Northern Ireland, more in Germany and the Falkland Islands.
He was appointed Queen’s Honorary Chaplin in 1990 and retired from the army in 1993. Retirement from the Army took him “back to school” becoming Chaplain at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, before finally settling in Sidmouth.
Life did not stop there as he soon became involved in charity work beginning with the Abbeyfield Society and going on to the Talking Newspaper, Sidmouth Museum, Hope and Homes for Children, the Sidmouth Hospital Comfort Fund, Memory Café and Admiral Nurse, not to mention the Salcombe Regis Fair, Royal British Legion, Living with Cancer and Hospiscare. He took services regularly at St Mary and St Peter in Salcombe Regis, as well as numerous other churches in the area.
And as well as all this he’d had a very long involvement in Freemasonry. He became a joining member of Lodge of Perseverance on the 7th January 2004, proposed by Rev. Bro. George Usher and seconded by W Bro Brian Thomas (both now sadly passed away). W Bro David White was the WM at that time and W Bro Jeff Bailey the Secretary.
Initiated into Freemasonry in 1965, Robin joined us from the Irish Constitution where, from 9th Dec 1965 to 8th May 2003, he was a member of Ballyshannon Lodge No. 287, in the District of Londonderry & Donegal, his Mother Lodge. Sadly the Secretary has only just learnt this or it might have been possible to get him a 50 year certificate.
When Robin applied to join Perseverance he sent a brief CV, these are Robin’s own words exactly as he wrote them:-
“ Occupation – Clerk in Holy Orders (Army Padre, School Chaplain, now retired).
Full name is Robert George Laird, known as Robin.
Initiated in 1965 along with TWO of my brothers into my father’s lodge in BALLYSHANNON, Ireland, Lodge No. 287…. Irish Constitution.
Have been regular in Masonic activities in Berlin (Phoenix Lodge); Bielefeld; Dusseldorf; Rheindahlen…. (Grand Lodge of Germany); in Middle East, (Bahrein and Dubai); in Hong Kong (Shamrock Lodge …. one of 3 Irish lodges there) … also in several Regimental Lodges …. (Travelling Lodges).
Have never held office …. because of moving (as Army Padre). Retired to Sidmouth and having been a guest/visitor to Perseverance Lodge, No. 164, now wish to apply! “
An amazing man and Freemason as I’m sure you will agree. He never held office in Perseverance but was much loved by all, especially round the bar beforehand and at the Festive Board after. He was a very frequent attender and always sent his apologies if he couldn’t make a meeting.
He also took the service at many Masonic and other local funerals – just the chap many of us would have liked to do ours!!! (But not for a while yet.)
His family said many of the “lovely” letters they had received, and for which they are extremely grateful, have commented on his interest in people, his very strong handshake, and his terrible jokes.
His demise came after battles in the last year or so with cancer. He will be sorely missed in Sidmouth and in Perseverance Lodge. He was a very, very nice man and brother.
These last two pictures show Brethren gathering to pay their respects, outside the Masonic Hall, from where the procession commenced and the cortege completing its journey along All Saints Road as it finished its progress around the centre of Sidmouth.
Compiled by Arthur W Rowe from input provided by Mrs Carol Laird, Henry Jaggers and others.
Pictures from Roger Horton and Henry Jaggers.