Bon voyage for Botley
Around mid-morning on Friday 31st January 2020, a number of not so common brethren set out from different vantage points to meet up at Manchester Piccadilly railway station for a 13.35pm Avanti (previously Virgin) train to Euston. This was the start of a longish trip to Botley. The purpose was to support the Grand Master, and the Brethren of the District Of Southern Counties, in the Investiture of a new District Grand Prefect at Brooke House Masonic Centre, situated in the village of Botley. Arrangements for the journey and stay over had been expertly put together by our resident travel consultant form the Chorley area, whose name escapes me for the moment but I think he might wear a flat cap on occasions!
It was a damp, but relatively mild morning when we set out. Arriving at Piccadilly a little early, we made for the 1st Class lounge and enjoyed a beverage to help wile away half an hour or so. The Euston train was in fact bang on time, so all aboard for what turned out to be a magical mystery tour (due to a de-railed goods train disrupting the line on what should have been our last rail leg to Botley), but more of that later.
“Flat Cap & whippet Society Outing”
Now, I know that those of us who weren’t very attentive in our Geography lessons may not have known the existence, or the whereabouts, of the village of Botley, so I’ll rectify any ignorance with a potted resume. It is described as a picturesque village on the bank of the River Hamble near the south coast, and is about 7 miles from Southampton. Its early development resulted from a Roman road requiring to cross the river Hamble. Later, rising sea levels caused the river crossing to be moved upstream and the village, as it is now positioned, started to grow.
I know that Allied Brethren are confirmed abstainers, but it may be of general interest to know that Botley’s popularity as a ford or river crossing point, meant that travellers stranded waiting for a low tide could choose from around 14 pubs / ale houses for hospitality in the small village. That probably answers my conundrum as to why there is a Masonic Hall in the village and why it attracts so many travellers!! Which came first, the Botley or the beer? Another of those unfathomable questions to which we might never know the answer.
Actually, I understand that the current Masonic centre was developed in the 1960’s when a certain W. Bro. Selby bought 14 acres of land to develop as a country club and Masonic Centre. Initially the Masonic Centre comprised a couple of ex MOD Nissan Huts with the main residence on the site being used as the Country Club.
The journey south went very well, the hostess on the Avanti train making sure that the Brethren were plentifully supplied with snacks and, for confirmed abstainers, it is amazing that an emergency was declared as the train hostess had to seek a new supply of G & T’s resulting from a rapid depletion of stock between Manchester and Euston. Nowt to do with me guv, I’m teetotal, honest!!
“East Meets West”
The train arrived in Euston on time, and we met up with our adversaries from East Lancashire travelling to the same meeting. Hang on a bit, most of the East and West Lancashire Allied travellers are also members of Councils in both Districts; so I’ll rephrase, we met up with our cherished Lancashire Brethren from the east of the County.  A subsequent underground journey to Waterloo station then enabled us to catch the train for what should have been Botley, but which as it turned out involved an enforced change at Basingstoke to make the short journey to Winchester station. At Winchester we had the option of a bus to Botley; but long queues, and being a damp night, an executive decision was made to travel by Taxi to the McDonalds Hotel in Botley for our overnight stay.
The cause of our difficulties on the last leg of our journey resulted from Thomas the tank engine deciding that he wanted to escape the restrictions imposed by railway lines, and very inconsiderately jumping the rails near Eastleigh, taking a number of goods wagons with him for company. Apparently the rails and sleepers are no longer in good fettle as a result, so the line was deemed out of service for the duration. I understand that Thomas has since been grounded by the Controller as a consequence of his very selfish action. Never mind, we anticipate that our aforementioned very distinguished travel consultant will, in due course, pursue adequate compensation with his usual energy…………some wait with baited breath, but I’m not holding my breath!
Looking on the brighter side, the McDonald hotel booked by our travel consultant was very comfortable and well appointed, and is recommended if you are ever in that neck of the woods. A substantial evening meal and a couple of beverages in esteemed company set us up for an earlyish night to get in readiness for the object of our Journey the following morning. A welcome buffet breakfast was had before final preparations and a subsequent taxi ride to the Masonic Hall and a warm welcome from our Southern based Brethren.
“Keeping up the Botley Tradition?”
The investiture and appointment of the new District Grand Prefect, RW Brother James Leslie Whelan was undertaken in a packed Council as you would expect. RW Brother Richard Dunleavy, the outgoing DGP for Southern Counties, had served the District for around 12 years. I think he deserves a well-earned rest.  The Grand DC and his team coordinated the investiture in a very professional way, with the Grand Master performing the ceremonial in an impeccable manner. The Grand Organist ensuring that we didn’t nod off by playing rousing fanfares at regular intervals during the ceremony.
“Suits You Sir”
The Festive Board followed with a glass or three of the hard stuff. Unfortunately the return journey beckoned, and after quick change, 8 of us travelled by a taxi to Winchester at the start of the return journey via Euston. The GM, Paul and William stayed a little later to the end of the proceedings and eventually caught up with us at Euston. From that point the return journey was relatively  uneventful. It had been an interesting and enjoyable sojourn in great company, but as always it’s good to be back home and a chance to rest the old plates of meat.
Here’s to our next merry tramp.
Report and Photographs by Henry the Green Engine