On Monday 31st October 1921 a certain James William John Raymont was born in North Devon. It was the same day that George Melford’s wildly successful silent movie The Sheik premiered in Los Angeles and propelled Rudolph Valentino to international stardom.
We were still in the reign of King George V and his Prime Minister at the time was David Lloyd George.
Jim was brought up in Barnstable on the North Devon coast, in a farming background. His parents moved to Basingstoke, Hampshire when he was 13 years old, he left school at 14 and went to work at Thorneycrofts as an improver.
At 17 Jim went to work at an aircraft instrument factory where he met his future wife, Sylvia, who had been sent to Basingstoke to avoid the Blitz.
Although he was exempt from war service, Jim decided to join the Royal Air Force, and on 17th July 1939 was accepted as a trainer engineer. After training at the RAF Halton apprentice school, as an engine fitter, he was posted to Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire.
His next posting was abroad with 621 Squadron, Coastal Command, but before moving he married Sylvia on 27th February 1943 and left for Africa in September 1943. Jim served in Mombasa, Aden, Tripoli and Tunis, acquiring the giddy rank of Corporal.
At the end of the war he returned to England and in 1946 joined the Transport Police where he stayed until 1950. He then transferred to Kent County Police, serving at Gravesend (where he met Keith Emmerson), Tonbridge and finally Faversham, retiring in 1975 having served 25 years in Kent. After which he worked as a welfare officer for Swale Borough Council for 11 years.
Sylvia passed away 7 years ago after 69 years of marriage. Jim has a very caring daughter, two granddaughters and four great grandchildren.
One of Kent Freemasonryâs most popular and prolific organists, Jim was Initiated in The Athelstan Lodge No. 4024 in Faversham in April 1966. He was Installed into the Chair of King Solomon in 1975 and received Provincial Honours in 1990. His Mother Lodge is one of many who have afforded him the privilege of Honorary Membership. He is currently a subscribing member of East Kent Mastersâ Lodge No. 3931 where, unsurprisingly, he is the Lodge Organist. Jim is also Guest Organist at a further 14 Craft Lodges in the Province.
In 2017 Jim was presented with the Provincial Grand Masterâs Award forÂ Meritorious Service by R.W. Bro. Geoffrey Dearing of the Masonic Province of East Kent for his âlong and faithful allegiance to the Provinceâ.
W. Bro. Jim was Advanced into Favershamâs Lodge of Harmony of Mark Master Masons No. 984 52 years ago in October 1968, just before his 47th Birthday, progressing into the Worshipful Masterâs Chair in 1977. He was appointed to P.Prov.G.S.D. in 1980, promoted to P.Prov.G.S.O. in February 2008 and to P.Prov.G.S.W. only seven months later, in September 2008.
He had the honour of being appointed to P.A.G.St.B. in 2001 and promoted to P.G.J.D. in 2010.
In the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariner, Jim was Elevated in the Lodge of Harmony No. 984 in 1981, becoming Worshipful Commander in 1987. He was appointed to Prov.R.A.M.G.R. in 1994 andÂ R.A.M.G.R in 1999.
As well as being the Organist for both Harmony Mark and R.A.M. Lodges, he is the Guest Organist at a further four Mark and three R.A.M. Lodges. In total Jim plays for 26 different Lodges in Kent.
Jim has also been the Charity Steward at Harmony Mark and R.A.M. on numerous occasions and has recently received the MBF Grand Patron Award. Anyone who has visited Jimâs Faversham Lodges will be only too aware of his legendary bar and raffles. A conservative estimate is that over the past 40 years he has raised more than Â£20,000 for charitable causes.
In sending his personal best wishes to Jim, our Provincial Grand Master, said:Â “I am delighted to extend my sincere best wishes to W. Bro. Jim Raymont on the occasion of his 99th birthday.
Jim is one of life’s true characters and I am very pleased that he is a Mark Master Mason in Kent. He is a hard-workingÂ and committed member of our Province and an inspiration to us all. It is always a joy and pleasure to be in Jim’s company, from listening to his organ playing during meetings to his humorous anecdotes at the festive boards; once met, you will never forget having been in Jim’s company.
On behalf of all the members of our Province, I wish Jim a very happy birthday and good health to enjoy his hundredth year.”