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Durham and North Yorkshire Law Society
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Michael Manning Born 23rd March 1928 - Died 26th July 2007 Our first thoughts, our sympathy prayers and support on this Friday morning go to Ann on the loss of her husband of nearly 5 decades.Only you, Ann, will know the gap he leaves, but we are all alongside you as close as we can be. To Guy, Nigel and Kate on the loss of a greatly loved and respected Father, our sympathy, support, prayers and understanding.He loved you all dearly and you were held very clearly in his thoughts.How thankful, proud and thrilled he was to be able to fulfil his paternal duty and escort Kate down the aisle last year especially after his accident and the consequent hip problems and to welcome Steve into the family. We also have in our thoughts Michael and Ann's Grandson, Leo who is not with us this morning, and of whom Michael was exceedingly fond and valued his relationship with Leo.Michael often spoke of his own warm relationship with his maternal Grandfather in Risca in South Wales and spent many holidays there.He therefore fully appreciated the value of such relationships. Family to Michael was important, with Ann, his rock.We share with you all in your loss as much as we are able.We have come in great numbers this morning and from different starting points, not only to show our sympathy, support and care for Ann and the family but to acknowledge with gratitude the contribution and possibly the difference Michael has made to all our lives.You may be one of the close family friends whom Michael valued so much.Friendships made in early Stockton days and in later years, which continued to the present.Having lived his life in the town and worked professionally for over 40 years in Stockton, it was inevitable that he would build up long standing and trusted relationships with his contemporaries. Michael knew how to make friends and how to keep them.He was never happier than entertaining at home or visiting friends: a glass in one hand, monocle in place on occasions, and in earlier days, a cigar in the other, surrounded by stimulating conversation, intellect, wit and great humour.How he loved those occasions and as he did not particularly care for his own company, he was at his happiest when surrounded by his friends. Michael was born on the 23rd March 1928, the only son of Dr David and Mrs Josie Manning.In later years Michael attributed a certain unsteadiness in his gait to this accident.He completed his education at Stockton Grammar School.However even at 16 years of age Michael embodied style, with Ann recalling how he used to describe how he would wear a bowler hat, cane in one hand and cigar in the other as he strolled through the town, a picture I am sure we can all visualise. Michael had already commenced one of his three great loves; that of the theatre and it was at this period in his life that he determined to be on the stage.That wish never really left him throughout his life and some would say that his world was his stage.However, Dr Manning had other ideas about Michael's future and he determined that Michael should follow the law and become a Solicitor and thus commenced the second great love of his life.Michael had an inbuilt sense of fairness and justice and treated the law with the utmost respect.Guy comments that his father saw the law as a vehicle for natural fairness, of order, of structure and he had this deep sense of justice which pervaded his work.Michael was articled to Cohen, Jackson, Scott and Simon a well known firm of Solicitors and it was here that he came under influence of Thomas Jackson who was to play a significant role in Michael's third great love.Michael qualified in March 1955 and after two years on his own he joined Neville Bolsover with Peter Scott to form Bolsover, Manning and Scott with offices first in Finkle St and later in the old Gazette Offices, where he remained until retirement almost ten years ago.Michael specialised in matrimonial cases and would often quip that many women had every right to be grateful to him.Even at Kate's wedding last year he commented how he was known a "Matrimonial Manning" and then later with a definite twinkle in his eye "or perhaps Masonic Manning". Michael was highly regarded and respected by his profession, becoming President of the Durham and North Yorkshire Law Society, a role he undertook with immense pleasure as well as of course, responsibility.Perhaps more importantly the recent comments of his peers "he could be like a terrier in pursuing issues" - "tremendous style as an advocate" - "his knowledge of the law was profound" - " a deep sense of fairness and justice" serves to mark his contribution.There is no doubt that with his professional work he developed his immense ability to speak, to be a wordsmith, to use the English language as it was meant to be used, to waste not a word and make every word have an impact.His style of oratory was highly refined and his preparation for any speech was intense. He involved himself in the life of Stockton, being President of the Chamber of Commerce and his sense of social justice led him to be a founder member of the Stockton branch of the then newly formed Social Democrats, an association he later disregarded.He was a well known figure in Stockton society and with Ann, he created a formidable partnership.Having qualified in 1955, he then some three years later in 1958 met Ann at his aunt's house in Coventry and they soon became engaged.Ann's father with whom Michael in subsequent years was to develop a most valued relationship, was slightly dubious at his daughter marrying this impecunious solicitor from the North, but Michael swept all before him and I think we can imagine that, and he and Ann married later that year, a wonderful partnership which endured the test of time and made its mark on all who were fortunate to come within its circle. Under the influence of Thomas Jackson who, at that time was an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the Masonic Province of Durham, as well as Michael's professional mentor, it was no surprise then that Michael became a Freemason, being initiated into his beloved Lodge of Freedom in Stockton on the 7th May 1958, proposed into the lodge by Thomas Jackson.Michael Manning was proud of Freemasonry, proud to be a Freemason, proud to be known as a Freemason and eager to share his knowledge and experience with mason and non mason alike, as we will all testify.He flew the flag on every occasion and many succumbed to his powers of persuasion, never regretting the decision. Freemasonry was proud of Michael Manning and loved him.But what was it about Freemasonry that was such a magnet for Michael?Freemasonry provided Michael with a platform to demonstrate his values, his beliefs, his considerable skills and abilities in a structured and sociable environment.Michael subscribed to the principles of Freemasonry, which readily conjoined with his own core beliefs and thus Freemasonry became a code of life for him.This was clear to all who know him - a man of principle, a belief in the value of society and his fellow men; a belief in friendship; in opinion, there was little grey and mostly black and white, he could be uncompromising even stubborn, but underpinning all was his belief in fairness, justice, equitable dealings and love for his fellow men.Freemasonry embraces the widest spectrum of society and Michael revelled in meeting people with whom he could not have come into contact, except through Freemasonry.Michael loved the form and structure of Freemasonry, the lodge and the lodge meeting.Everybody has a place and Michael loved and fully appreciated the ceremonial.He was again happy and proud that Nigel became a Freemason.The language and content of the ritual was like a beacon to Michael because he could appreciate its beauty and the value of its interpretation. Delivering ritual provided him with the stage on which he could excel, which of course he frequently did and was always anxious to do well, never satisfied with second best.At the Festive Board he was in his element, speaking with purpose, wit and humour and was always happy to receive "a mention" quoting "there is no such thing as bad publicity".But above all he was dining with old friends and meeting new ones and nothing was more important to him than friendships.He loved the Lodge of Freedom and was Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1978 and had a wonderful year and he was then was appointed Provincial Junior Grand Warden of the Province of Durham in 1987, an appointment which he considered an