No Fog on the Tyne
An early morning start on Saturday, 7th March 2020 was the approaching challenge for two Allied Brethren from West Lancashire, who were to embark on the longish drive up to the Masonic Centre at Gateshead which is separated from Newcastle by the river Tyne. Would there be fog on the Tyne, and would it be all mine (one for the oldies). The answer to both questions was in the negative, in fact it was pretty clear when we arrived, I’m not certain know what Lindisfarne was on about.
The reason for the journey was to join up with another four West Lancashire Brethren to attend the Northumberland & Durham AMD District meeting. These Brethren had taken the easy way out and travelled up on Friday and stayed overnight so that they could be within easy striking distance of the Masonic Hall on Saturday morning. I understand that Newcastle Breweries was founded in Gateshead by a John Barras, and, from the appearance of those Brethren who had stayed over, I suspect that they had sampled a few of his wares the night before!
The Saturday morning two and a half hour journey from Northwest to Northeast was in very changeable weather, starting and finishing in relatively dry conditions but the middle part brought wind and rain as we passed along the higher ground via the A685 / A66 rout through Kirkby Stephen and Barnard Castle. Luckily, convivial conversation along the way meant that time passed very quickly for the two Brethren.
Before we knew it we were passing the magnificent Gateshead Angel of the North, designed by Antony Gormley. This awe inspiring monument is Britain’s largest sculpture and is 20m high with a 54m wingspan, and weighs in at a colossal 200 tons! Famous names connected with Gateshead (in addition to the Brewer) include the writer Daniel Defoe whose classic Robinson Crusoe still defies the passage of time, and William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army which is as relevant today as it was then. Arriving at the Masonic Hall we were welcomed with a crispy bacon and sausage barm and a warming cup of tea, which set us up nicely for the meeting. Other Brethren from East and West Lancashire soon started to arrive and of course the joint East West Lancashire group photograph was taken.
“Cheerleaders for Clifford Bull’s Farewell Tour?”
I must say that some news made me a bit depressed; West Lancashire, which usually provides one of the largest contingent of visiting Brethren on these occasions, was beaten not only by a large turnout from Cumberland and Westmoreland, but (say it through gritted teeth) also by  group from East Lancashire! Come on West Lancashire, surely we’re not going to put up with that are we?? Anyway, onto the meeting which was to take place in the presence of the Grand Master.
“I’m sure that this was the correct meeting date”
Before the start, rumour and speculation abounded as to why the GM was to be present. Could it be to preside over a public execution, is that not allowed these days? The large number of Brethren packing the Lodge room and waiting in anticipation suggested that something significant was in the offing.
The meeting started in a calm enough way with the usual mixture of processions, welcomes and salutations. The Grand Master then entered under the direction of the AGDC (also N&D District DC) along with Acting Grand Officers to great applause. The anticipation and tension was building nicely and eventually could have been cut in strips and served with gravy (in fact strips of beef in gravy was the main course at the festive board – coincidence or what?).  However, all eyes were on the Grand Master, the question on everyone’s lips “what is he here for”……., I suspect that some Brethren were already in the know, but lips were sealed.
“We know nothing!”
The meeting went well and without incident, and in due course the AGDC stood to arrange for the the Grand Master to leave the Council, could it be that the rumours were not true then? Hang on a bit, the Grand Master was gesturing to his DC that there was another item of business to transact. Brethren in the Council held their breath, leaning forward trying to get a good view of what was about to take place, the Council was buzzing with anticipation. The Grand Master, unmoved by the tense atmosphere and remaining cool as a cucumber, stood and formally commanded his DC to present the Deputy District Grand Prefect of Northumberland and Durham to him. No sign of the executioners block yet, eyes were furtively darting around trying to spot if an implement much loved in the Mark Degree had been secreted away in the Lodge Room.
“Are the rumours true?”
The AGDC dutifully presented Worshipful Brother Malcolm Macfarlane Thomson to the Grand Master, the tension was reaching its climax, but still no axe or block in sight ………. just an outstretched hand of fraternal friendship from a smiling Grand Master who, to great acclamation, invested W. Bro. Malcolm with the rank of Past Grand Standard bearer as a reward for his work in supporting the AMD in the Northeast. As an added gesture, the Grand Master also informed W. Bro. Malcolm that he was feeling generous and, on this occasion, he would not be charging a fee of honour for this field promotion (being a little careful with my money myself, I now know what my AMD goal in life is!!).
So, the bookies must have had a field day, only those already in the know had an inkling of why the Grand Master was present, and we can only speculate on who were trusted with this forbidden fruit! I must say that I was impressed, normally the masonic grapevine would have given the game away within seconds or, at the latest, minutes; but I suspect that the executioner’s block would have been put to good use had the word got out!
“You may say that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!”
Our DGP isn’t as thrifty as me (no I’m not a miser!) and at the festive board he proffered his usual gesture, asking his “very skilled, articulate and hardworking District DC” (his exact words!) to arrange drinks on him for the West Lancashire Brethren present. Even one of our East Lancashire Brethren cheekily got in on the act and benefitted from our DGP’s extremely generous nature.
And so the meeting was over and we commenced the journey back to God’s county, unfortunately beset by wet and windy weather for most of the way.  However there were no real distractions and we arrived home safely and in good time before dark, which is always a blessing for me these days. I don’t think I exceeded the speed limit but I’ve no doubt I’ll find out in due course if I did (can these sort of expenses be claimed back from the District Treasurer - there’s no harm in asking, is there?).
Words by Man Friday – Photographs curtesy of a number of Brethren