A FORMER Rossendale MP has been appointed as the highest ranking Freemason in East Lancashire at a ceremony King George’s Hall.

More than 1,000 people were expected to watch Sir David Trippier receive the title of The Provincial Grand Master, which will see him lead the area’s 6,000 Freemasons.

Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values who meet regularly at Masonic Halls to raise money for charity and organise events.

Speaking before the appointment, Helmshore-based Sir David said that he hoped to encourage more men to join the Freemasons.

“My aim is to try and raise the profile of the Freemasons and hopefully further improve the number of members we have in the East Lancashire province.

“In the past Freemasons were quite secretive and closed off which may have put people off joining.

“During the past 30 years it has changed beyond all recognition. Now you only need look on the internet or in the library and you will be able to find out about all the Freemasonry and we are actively encouraged to talk about it. “ Sir David was Conservative MP for Rossendale from 1979-83 and for the Darwen and Rossendale constituency from 1983-92 when he was also a junior minister for Trade, Industry and Employment and later Environment and Countryside minister. He was deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in 1990 and appointed High Sheriff for Lancashire in 1997.

A member of the Stock Exchange since 1968 and Sir David is also a director of Granada TV, a founder of Rossendale Enterprise Trust and Rossendale Groundwork Trust and has been honorary Colonel of the Royal Marines Reserve Merseyside since 1996.

He was initiated into the Freemasons when he was 21 in 1968, following in his father’s footsteps.

He worked his way up through the Freemasonry ranks from Master of the Lodge to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden then to Grand Officer in the acting rank of Assistant Grand Sword Bearer.

He added: “I respected and looked up to my father and his friends who were all Freemasons and thought that is how I wanted to live my life.

“If it wasn’t for being a Freemason then I wouldn’t have met my wife Ruth, who I have been married to for 37 years.

“My father was friends with her father and I had been asked around to her house for a lodge meeting rehearsal and saw her photograph. I deliberately got it all wrong so I could go back to the house again in the hope of meeting her.

“I owe a lot to being a Freemason so it was a privilege to be asked to be The Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire.”

The chapter covers a vast area including the current six boroughs of East Lancashire and historic ‘Lancashire’ including large parts of modern-day Greater Manchester.