Peter Best (A. 1951-54)
Written by Peter Best (A. 1951-54)
Thursday, 13 September 2012

Tuesday 21st August was, by any standards, a special night in my life when I celebrated fifty years in the Old Brightonian Lodge. At the Installation Meeting in the Great Hall for our new Masonic year, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, V.W. Bro. Grahame Carr (A. 1953-56), presented me with a framed certificate from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex to mark the occasion, while at the dinner afterwards a large framed copy of an original painting of the College entrance by former headmaster W.Bro. Bill Blackshaw (Brighton College Headmaster 1971-87), who was present, was presented by our new Worshipful Master , W.Bro. Adrian Latham on behalf of the Old Brightonian Lodge and Brighton College.

Turn back the clock 65 years things were vastly different. My father had been killed at sea in the Merchant Navy in 1943, my mother was instructed by our doctor to get away from London and on 3rd January 1945 the two of us arrived in Hove with no previous connection with the twin towns and with precious little money. What was clear was that I would follow in my father's footsteps, but to be accepted as a cadet required at least four "old fashioned" O Levels, and few schools then reached that standard. Somehow my paternal grandfather and my mother conspired to get agreement from the then post-war Labour Government that they would pay most of the fees for me to go to Brighton College, as it was deemed to be in the "national interest", I suppose because at that time we had a huge Merchant Navy.

This, looking back, was clearly the major turning point in my life. I needed first to pass Common Entrance and I went to St. Christopher's (now part of the Brighton College family of schools) in New Church Road, Hove, again my Grandfather footing the bill.

The three years at the College, when Bill Stewart was headmaster, certainly acted as a stimulus, with certain masters specifically Father Peters and Geoff Lees, (sadly recently passed away) awakening my interest in the Church, history and the English Language, while Bill Boddy was an entertaining Geography teacher! Those who know me understand that I was not built for speed and while I liked cricket and Rugby and was already an ardent fan of the Albion, I was not Mo Farah when it came to "Standards" in the Lent Term!

I left the College in July 1954 to join Ellerman's Wilson Line of Hull and at our meeting on 21st August two contemporaries of mine from my sea days were present-over 100 years of friendship between the two of them. In fact, it was while at sea that a distant relative told me to join my old school lodge which I did in April 1962 by which time I was ashore.

During my time at sea the U.K. exported many motor vehicles including MG sports Cars and probably it was the sight of seeing a ship full of MG Midgets in 1961 which was another defining moment in life. In 1963 I met my wife, Marian, whose first car was a 1932 MG J2 Midget (which she still has) and the MG die was cast.

I spent seven years at sea and loved every minute of it - but it was not a career for life there were too many other things to do. In 1961 I joined Ford Motor Co. as a Commercial Trainee and spent the next thirteen years in Product Planning (particularly on the original Transit Van), Marketing and Sales, travelling extensively to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand , Philippines, U.S.A. and Canada. In 1975 I moved to Volvo where I had another sixteen enjoyable years and it was during this time, with Insurance as part of my responsibilities the foundations of my third career were born resulting in the merging of my passion for MG's - and Insurance.

From 1974 onwards, what started as a hobby turned into years of administrative involvement as a director of the MG Car Club and then in 1985 Marian and I took the decision to establish a small business to develop and sell classic car insurance, then very much in its infancy. My wife initially ran the business at home rising to five staff by the time I joined in 1991 finally leaving the motor industry after thirty years.

Fast forward another twenty years and Peter Best Insurance Services Ltd is a progressive insurance broker - still with a strong Specialist Vehicle bias - but much else besides - with two Essex based offices at Maldon and Kelvedon with 35 staff.

The clock, unfortunately, has not stood still, as I recently passed 75, but am still lucky enough to be able to work full time. My Grandfather worked till he was 81 so maybe it's in the genes!

However throughout my life my continuity with the O.B. Lodge .and the Old Brightonians has been an anchor - always there and has kept me in touch with the College and Brighton - which might not otherwise have been the case. A school lodge has a very special character where relationships begun at the College can be with you through life.

In conclusion, Rebecca has asked me a number of searching questions -What is the best piece of advice you were given? Apart from joining the OB Lodge, a solicitor friend of mine always used to say "listen carefully to what people say - you fail to listen at your peril" - very important in dealing with people in all walks of life, and secondly "always remember that how you see yourself is not how others see you - at best you might be surprised at worst horrified!" On that salutary note I will end!

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