Plymouth Hoe for the Devon and Cornwall District Meeting
The sun is up, the sky is blue, there’s not a cloud to spoil the view – so the song goes; and so the Allied pilgrims from West Lancashire go, setting out on an expedition to the beautiful County of Devon, Plymouth to be exact, on a beautiful summer morning. In complete contrast to the weather conditions normally prevailing in this neck of the woods. Enjoy it while we can.
Paul, William, Al and Ray chilling at Wigan NW Station
Four Allied Freemasons, dressed in their 1950’s demob ‘civvies’, met at Wigan North Western Station on Friday 27th July with a view to catching up with other Lancashire Brethren (east and west) in Plymouth for the Devon and Cornwall District meeting the following day. William, our DDGP, had the most difficult start to the morning journey having been faced with a major detour as a result of an inconsiderate wagon driver trying his best to demolish a bridge near M6 junction 33, causing the motorway to be closed in both directions for a time. But we don’t let such minor setbacks upset our routine do we? William’s simple answer was to set off early, 5.30am to be precise, so as to be well in time to be picked by our DGP at the home of our Grand Master for the final leg to Wigan NW Station (how many of us would try to delegate car minding duties to the GM??).
Ray was a little upset that he had to pay for a ticket for this Wigan to Manchester connection as his Greater Manchester travel pass only kicked in at 9.30am. He had finally been initiated into the legendry “Twirly” fraternity of underprivileged pensioners.
Arriving at Manchester Piccadilly we had a slight setback in that one of our merry band had downloaded one of his tickets onto his mobile and the natives of Manchester had to call for an interpreter to negotiate with him to sort out the technical hitch. Ah well these things are sent to try us, and try us they do. The upside was that Paul, our well-travelled DGP, knew where to get a reasonably priced crispy bacon barm on the Piccadilly concourse, as we had time on our hands before our next connection was due. And good it was too, with a touch of sauce it went down a treat and set us up for the day.
The train we had to catch was run by Cross Country Rail, whose pedigree I wasn’t aware of. We had booked first class (no expense spared – it’s no wonder the District fees are so high!! – only kidding District Treasurer), and expected some kind of refreshment, but taking no chances our intrepid leader felt that we should stock up on provisions just in case, and purchased 4 huge Cornish pasties which would have fed a family of 5 for a week (slight exaggeration maybe – perhaps a family of 4). Better to be safe than sorry Paul proclaimed – and who are we to argue!
East meets West, East Lancashire Secretary Trevor and DGP Mervyn catch up with us at Birmingham
From there on in, the onward journey to Plymouth was pretty straight forward, we caught up with some of our East Lancashire colleagues at Birmingham and had a convivial and chatty ride to Plymouth. There was some refreshments on board, but not of the standard of Virgin West Coast in my opinion, however it filled a gap, and with slices of the pasties doing the rounds we managed to survive. I shouldn’t really mention the hen party on board, as it could give the wrong impression of our respectable fraternity, but one of our party managed a kiss with the bride to be – no names, no pack drills. A taxi drive from the station to our various hotels completed the outward journey.
What a catch in the Harbourside Fish Restaurant 
A Pimms please, Anyone for tennis?
The group of West and East Lancashire Masons (with exception of Stuart Leach and Andy Whittle who had made other arrangements) agreed to meet up with Geoff Catterall and his wife Sue who were having a longer break in Plymouth. Geoff and Sue had booked us in to the harbour fish restaurant where we had a fabulous meal accompanied by a Plymouth Gin, and followed by a Pimms or 3 at an adjacent hostelry. Any downsides to the evening……not really except that there was a pop concert on in the park near our hotel and it was a little noisy until late – ah to be young again.
Fitness First, Geoff shows the way
Paul William and Ray stopped in a delightful small hotel within easy distance of Plymouth Hoe, and, although the weather had freshened, had an early morning sojourn on the Hoe and met up with Geoff Catterall, who is an avid early morning walker, and who was taking a turn around the sea front at the time. A pleasant way to sharpen our appetite for a very tasty breakfast back at the hotel.
I see no ships, but still a beautiful view
Popular Legend has it that Plymouth Hoe was the spot where Francis Drake allegedly played bowls (with his Bosun?) while waiting on news and sight of the Spanish Armada, and the breath taking views that you get from that vantage point certainly adds credence to the story.
Calm before the storm?
The focus of our little escapade then meant us changing from our comfortable leisure wear into more formal attire for the District meeting at Mount Edgcumbe Masonic Hall, set to kick of around 11.30am. So dressed in our best bibs and tucker we carried our bits of luggage down the hill a short distance to the Masonic Hall for an extremely warm reception and another cup of tea. 10 East and West Lancashire Masons helped to swell the gathering in the small but welcoming Lodge room.
Dinner is Served (almost) but always time for a photo of the  East and West Lancs Allied Masons in attendance
Geoff Catterall has attended this particular District meeting over a number of years, and he warned us in advance to expect a salad of some kind as the main course at the festive board, and Geoff hates salads with a vengeance. However, they must have known of his dislike for rabbit food and would you believe it they laid on a fish dinner with the usual selection of vegetables (Geoff’s influence extends way beyond West Lancs!). That together with a pate starter and strawberries and cream dessert went down very well. The Allied Order is known for succinct formalities and soon after dinner the meeting was concluded followed by fond farewells.
We used one of the robing rooms to change back into more comfortable attire and the hall steward allowed us to store our bags while we had a last mooch around the harbour, the place where the Mayflower set sail for the New World in 1620. On our return we had a final Pimms (what else).
A taxi was arranged by the steward to take us to the the train station and soon we were on a through train to Manchester. A chance to relax and have a chat about the visit and every other topic under the sun. 5 hours journey time passed very quickly and we reached Piccadilly around 10.30pm. With the onward train schedule to Wigan being disrupted we decided to go by taxi. Within a short time we we’re at Wigan NW station where cars had been park for the final leg and home.
What a great couple of days, it had flown over as happens when you are enjoying yourselves. Here’s to the next time, in fact a couple of the Brethren have already booked their hotel for next year – now that’s what you call dedication.
Here’s to our next merry Allied meeting
Words and Pictures– Francis Drake’s Bosun.