City of dreaming spires
In his long reflective poem ‘Thyrsis’, the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold describes the view of Oxford from Boars Hill in December 1865:
“And that city with her dreaming spires, she needs not June for beauty’s heightening”.
So it was to the city that inspires poetry and learning, on a cool and overcast morning of Friday, 18th October 2019, that four Allied Masons, DGP, Paul Snape, Geoffrey Catterall, Ray Pye and Richard Higson went on tramp (well by car to be truthful – but I’m sure that you’ll forgive the poetic licence).
“Allied Masons on Tramp”
W. Bro (now VW) Geoffrey Catterall had volunteered (or drawn the short straw if you like) to drive, and we were to meet at his house, Geoff kindly agreeing for us to leave two cars, one in his garage and one immediately in front of the garage door on the drive. Store this bit of innocuous parking information in the back of your mind as it resulted in a bit of a kafuffle on our return, but I digress.
Around 9.15pm we set off in good spirits, looking forward to attending the Thames Valley AMD District Council the following day. Hang on a bit, since when did a journey south start with detour in to East Lancashire? Well, I forgot to say that part of the reason for starting early on Friday for the Saturday Oxford meeting was to attend a Royal & Select meeting in Saddleworth. Now I can hear Brethren asking why we embarked on this course of action. The answer in two words is “William Richmond” - our Deputy District Grand Prefect. He was to be Installed as the TIM of Saddleworth R&S on Friday at a lunch time meeting, and we were determined to provide him with some moral support, hence the reason for our detour. On arrival at Uppermill around 10am we refreshed ourselves with a cup of tea and met up with our Grand Master, VW Brother Glyn Davies and many other Allied Masons in attendance.
“Uppermill Masonic Hall, Saddleworth”
“Spot the Allied Mason”
Some of our little group were able to witness the ceremony of Installation, but a couple of us who haven’t yet achieved those heady heights were asked to leave the Council at the climax, in the time honoured Masonic way. The meeting and festive board turned into a very pleasant experience and we had time to have a natter with old and new friends. On completion of the formalities at the Festive Board, we little band of brothers on tramp changed into more casual dress to continue the journey south Unfortunately, this is where we started to experience a couple of distractions. One of our Brethren, his surname has 3 letters, starts with a “P” and ends with an “E” left his bag of R&S gear at Saddleworth, only finding out about this on arrival at our hotel on the outskirts of Oxford. However one of those common people, a Knight of Constantinople in shining armour did come to the rescue as will be explained.
We arrived at our hotel in Oxford around 7pm and were soon ensconced in our rooms refreshing ourselves before dinner. It was at this point that one of our Brethren realised he had left behind his R&S regalia at Saddleworth. As always, our DGP came to the rescue, making a quick telephone call to Mervyn Wilson, DGP for East Lancashire, who agreed to retrieve the regalia, take them to Grand Council the following Tuesday and pass them to the incompetent Brother who had left them behind. Many thanks Mervyn!
After a pleasant breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to the hotel, we changed into our stripes and made the relative short journey to the Masonic Hall for the Thames Valley meeting. Bacon Barms and coffee/tea was on offer, but the substantial breakfast at the hotel meant that we were unable to avail ourselves of the fodder on offer, making do with the beverages available.
“Cardinal House - Oxford Masonic Centre”
The Masonic Hall at Oxford is a very pleasant venue, in an attractive setting as you will see from the pictures. The meeting was of a typical District meeting type, a little different to the way we organise ourselves in West Lancashire but that always adds to the experience.
“Enjoying the Occasion”
“A Determination of District Grand Prefects”
On conclusion of the festive board our intrepid band changed back into our civvies for the long journey back, and thus was the making of our second conundrum which is further explained below.
A few delays and a couple of stops along the way meant we arrived back in God’s Country around 9pm. Remember that Ray’s car had been left in Geoff’s garage, with another Brother’s car left directly up front and close to the garage door so no quick escape for Ray. The other Brother, no names no pack drills, then couldn’t find his car key (subsequently it was found at the Masonic Hall in Oxford!). Urgent phone calls ensued to try to remedy the situation and subsequently Geoff had to convey the Brother home to pick up a spare. At long last on their return we were all able to wend our weary way home.
A packed and varied itinerary over a couple of days, and a couple of interesting asides, meant that we were all pleased to get home, put our feet up and partake of a little tincture (medicinal purposes only!). Here’s to our next merry manoeuvres on the highways and by-ways.  
Words: Matthew Arnold’s Scribe
Pictures, Ray Pye &  Brian Roake (curtesy of Oxford District Website)