THE MEN AT THE TOP: E Comp Nick Critchlow PGSoj (PAGPurs), Metropolitan Grand Inspector (RA)
Comp Nick Critchlow was born on Friday 13th! Although considered an unlucky day in Western superstition, Comp Nick’s arrival in December 1957 and his life have been full of luck.
Born in a nursing home about 200 yards from Alexandra Palace, the Critchlow family lived in Crouch End where Comp Nick attended the local primary and junior school Rokesly. School and the rest of his life has revolved around sports; his favourite lesson at school was PE with swimming and football coming closely behind, and typical of the time, he enjoyed playing with his friends in the street.
Senior school was the Stationers’ Company’s Grammar School. Thoroughly enjoying his time there and particularly enamoured by the architecture, Comp Nick felt it was akin to Tom Brown s school days, although without the roasting! Again, life here was sport orientated. He competed for the school at the javelin and discus and swam for the local swimming Club at Hornsey Road Baths, and it was here he discovered what was to become a lifelong passion - rugby. Being a large lad, he typically played at number 8.
Successfully completing O Levels, Comp Nick left school to start an apprenticeship with the GPO; the date is fixed in his memory: 9 September 1974. The apprenticeship was as a trainee technician comprising three years of six-week blocks within each technical area — domestic telephones, up poles and down holes and in the exchanges. The apprenticeship also included blocks of time at college, learning how to work with the Strowger Telephone Exchange as seen in the old films. Comp Nick gained City and Guilds qualifications and took an additional year at college to take another qualification leading to him becoming a Technical Officer. At that time there was not a great deal of opportunity to travel, another passion, as most of the training was completed at Crouch End. Working hard, he enjoyed his time and can still remember the details of his first wage slip: £18.63!
Comp Nick continued with his first love, rugby, joining the GPO rugby team and as a couple of his colleagues also played for the local team at Wood Green, he also joined that - the Haringey Rhinos RFC. Rugby was the centre of his life, although he enjoyed work, it was there to support his rugby!
Having a varied career with the GPO and latterly BT, he was able to move around. Starting as a Technical Officer in the exchanges, Comp Nick worked outside and following courses and successful exams at the GPO Central Training School in Stone, Staffordshire, he qualified as a Precision Testing Officer. Being permanently on call, one of his roles was to determine where an underground cable break was. His job was to get to within 100yards of the break on a 90-mile length of cable!
As well as the primary task of the Precision Testing Officer to detect cable breaks, other tasks included testing the backup generator. Unfortunately, on one occasion the starting handle was left in. When the generator burst into life, it flew off and caused a significant amount of damage to the building. However, being one of only four Precision Testing Officers in the London area, he was able to brush that incident under the carpet. A rare but exciting task was to test the telephones in cold war bomb shelters; thankfully they were never used in anger.
Moving into management aged 30, Comp Nick took over the management of the heavy maintenance team. This is the team that would undertake the underground cable repairs - once a Precision Testing Officer had found the fault. At this time, he worked out of the offices in Potters Bar and was able to buy his first house in Barnet. He also bought a bucket list car being a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 455 with a 7.6 litre power plant. Sadly at 9 mpg, he was only able to keep it for a couple of years.
On promotion, Comp Nick started working out of the Shaftesbury Avenue offices as part of the service control organisation and after 41 Years, he left BT. His last 10 years were as London's night manager running the OFCOM ruled broadband change overs. He remembers the fun and excitement of driving in London at two or three in the morning — there were some sights that have stuck in his mind to this day!
Comp Nick was introduced into Masonry through the Haringey Rhinos RFC. Several of his teammates were members and following a couple of conversations, where his questions were answered, he was Initiated into High Cross Lodge on 9 March 1988. At that time, the Lodge met at the Park Court Hotel, Lancaster Gate off Hyde Park. The hotel was not really set up for freemasonry; hotel guests regularly walking through the ante room whilst the brethren were changing asking where the restaurant was! Today, much of the Lodge has a connection with Haringey RFC; the last four initiates are still playing for the club. Having been a member of the Rhinos for 46 years, Comp Nick is now the President of the rugby club and he ensures there is a
steady stream of initiates into Lodge.
As soon as Bro Nick was eligible, he was Exalted into the Royal Arch joining the eponymous Chapter, meeting at the same venue. To avoid the American tourists walking through the ante room, both the Lodge and Chapter moved to Mark Mason's Hall in the mid-90s and remain in rude health. As Comp Nick is the Lodge's RA Representative, mimicking his influence as President of the RFC, the Chapter has a steady stream of Exaltees.
As demonstrated in his life thus far, and wanting to contribute to everything he joined, Comp Nick only enters an organisation if he is able to focus completely rather than just touch the surface. Thus, Comp Nick is in just two other orders. Whilst the Holy Royal Arch is his favourite order, a member of Coeur de Lion Rose Croix, Comp Nick says the Rose Croix Ceremony of Perfection is one of his favourite ceremonies. Comp Nick has been through the chair of Rose Croix and was delighted to have been honoured with the 30th degree in 2010. Comp Nick is also in The Royal Order of Scotland, an appendant order within the structures of Freemasonry, also meeting at Mark Mason s Hall. Comp Nick describes it as a beautiful but complex ceremony. He is on the ladder but taking his progression slowly.
Comp Nick's first Metropolitan role, in the Craft, was as a Visiting Officer in W Bro John Parry s Inspectorate. Being honoured with LGR and SLGR, he was promoted to Grand Rank as one of the three Active Assistant Grand Pursuivants in 2019. Not expecting to do much ritual in this active role, he was equally delighted and horrified when the Grand Pursuivant was unable to attend Quarterly Communications and Comp Nick was asked to step in. The experience of being one of the four speaking parts during the opening of Grand Lodge, with the Pro Grand Master in the Chair of King Solomon, has remained with him as a highlight of his Masonic career.
Equally successful in the Holy Royal Arch, E Comp Nick went through the Chair and was made a Metropolitan Grand Chapter Steward in 2007, earning him London Grand Chapter Rank and another active role. He really enjoyed his active year particularly working with an enthusiastic group of people. Wanting to immerse himself in the order, E Comp Nick joined the demonstration team, initially to form a team to demonstrate the permitted alternative working. Working towards the 2013 Bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter Nick was honoured to be a member of the team selected to demonstrate the whole Ceremony of Exaltation in the permitted alternative version in front of more than 600 members in the Grand Temple. E Comp Nick demonstrated the signs.
E Comp Nick has enjoyed contributing to the wider demonstration team activities taking part in Talking Heads and Royal Arch in Camera presentations. He particularly enjoying working with the team to demonstrate the Ceremony of Exaltation with added theatre and was one of the members developing the team which now provides the presentation of the Royal Arch Tracing Board.
E Comp Nick was also the Royal Arch Metropolitan Grand Chapter Stewards coordinator for five years. This involved organising Stewards for both Metropolitan Craft and Royal Arch Investitures and any ad hoc events such as the biannual Organ Concerts at Freemason's Hall.
E Comp Nick became a Royal Arch VO in 2010 and was honoured with SLGCR in 2012. He was then promoted to SVO in 2016 and is now a Metropolitan Grand Inspector for the Holy Royal Arch.
When not engaging in masonic activities, travel is another of Nick's great loves. As ever wanting to contribute and to get the most from all he engages with, Comp Nick was able to combine two loves by playing for the Haringey Rugby Club when they toured most of the European countries. His first tour was in 1976 in Heidelberg and at the other end of the scale, he took part as a veteran in the 2008 Phuket International Rugby 10s, the popular social rugby tournament in Thailand. On that tour, the team played to raise money for orphans following the 2004 deadly tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Sporting fetching rugby shirts with pink kisses. Nick's team raised such a notable amount of money for the charity by selling the shirts after the tour that he was invited to the IRB World Rugby Awards.
A long-time supporter of Wasps RFC, Nick has also travelled around the world watching rugby. He followed the British and Irish Lions on their tours to South Africa in 1997, Australia in 2001 and New Zealand in 2005. These trips were four weeks long and Nick managed to see a lot of different places including the South Island of New Zealand. In 2013 Nick and a friend flew out to Sydney to see the deciding game in the Lions versus Australia tour. They flew out Thursday and flew back on Monday and it seemed that they had spent more time in the air than on Australian soil.
In 1987 Nick, with two rugby friends, decided to visit the USA. They flew to Miami and hiring a Ford Thunderbird (colloquially called the T-Bird) drove to San Francisco. The trip took just over seven weeks travelling 5,000 miles through 10 states with a dip into Mexico. Many great memories and many new friendships were established on the way. New Orleans was a fantastic experience and they stayed there for four nights instead of the planned two. Visiting San Antonio, Las Vegas and flying through the Grand Canyon were definite highlights.
Nick, of course, loves to travel with his wife as well, and they have spent time in India together as well as skiing trips and a visit to her relations in Canada in 2019. Nick was so impressed with the Motorhome they used in the 2005 trip to New Zealand that he sought and gained permission from his wife to buy one in 2009. Since then, they have travelled around England and Scotland with their two dogs whenever they have the opportunity. Nick also drove it across to France with two friends to visit the First World War battle sites spending four days and finishing at the Menin Gate in Belgium.
Freemasonry has given Nick a belonging, comradeship and a sense of direction including a group of great friends. After he was retired, it also gave Nick a great purpose, a benefit that is so enjoyable. As a Metropolitan Grand Inspector, he hopes to build on this, promote Masonry to the public, hopefully to attract more members. He is passionate about getting the message out that ours is a wonderful organisation.
Comp Nick lives in Sawbridgeworth and is married with two sons aged 44 and 40, four grandchildren and one great grandson aged six called Mason. His wife Adrienne is also an active, adventurous individual who shares Nick s love of travel and active sports — She was a ski instructor in Austria, a chef in New Zealand (where she did a bungee and a parachute jump) and a tour guide across Europe and Russia. She is now a dog trainer with her own business (Dogability) and Nick helps out setting up agility courses and general maintenance.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 43 January 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 43.