The words of famous Scottish songs wax lyrical about the appeal of one of nature’s great vistas and an area of spectacular scenery and beautiful lochs and shores. What a wonderful setting then, for this year’s annual Masonic charity fundraising week’s holiday organised by the Wigan Group.
It was a grey and drizzly morning when 120 people gathered on the car park at Bryn Masonic Hall around the three coaches organised by David Ogden of Bryn Lodge No 6553 and Vice Chairman of Wigan Group. Cases were loaded for the journey to the Winnock Hotel, Drymen, for a four-night break. Brethren, wives and partners, not just from the Wigan Group, but parties from South Eastern, Ormskirk and Bootle and Warrington Groups as well, were all set for a great time, despite the inclement weather.
Stopping off for lunch on the way in the famous Gretna Green, the party arrived late afternoon in Drymen to be allocated rooms. The village has a population of only 800 people but sports no less than six pubs and hotels and is a very popular stopping off place for tourists.
The first evening was spent in the hotel with excellent entertainment and cuisine, with just one adjournment for a fundraising game of bingo. With a talented singer and a crowded dance floor, a great time was had by all, and the evening was followed by a mandatory adjournment to the bar to meet with old friends and new acquaintances, before retiring to be ready for the next day’s outing.
The following day saw a trip through the beautiful glens of Argyllshire before arriving at the seat of the Campbell clan at Inverary. This lovely town on Loch Fyne is noted for its wonderful oysters and has its own fairy tale castle, although closed at this time of year. This meant that everyone had time to wander around the town and enjoy a casual lunch before heading back via the shores of Loch Lomond. Arriving back in Winnock everyone enjoyed another excellent dinner in the evening with some fabulous entertainment during and into the evening.
The day after was the morning of the charity walk, which was only about four miles along the country roads leading down to the shores of Loch Lomond and The Oak Tree pub at Balmaha, for some warm Scottish hospitality and lunch. There was a fantastic turn out for the walk, despite some pretty wet weather, and with a stop along the way for some coffee and something a little stronger, everyone completed their goal. Star of the walk was undoubtedly Sarah Brogan, who without sight and with physical difficulties, pressed on determined through the worst of the weather, to break all records for sponsorship by her effort. The party then travelled on to the Loch Lomond shore and the picturesque village of Luss followed by a wee bit more shopping and whisky tasting or coffee for some, whilst some, still energetic, went off to climb the Conic via the West Highland Way before walking back to Drymen. Another great night’s entertainment followed, with a raffle with many, many prizes.
Bright and early the next morning it was off via Stirling and its imposing castle to Edinburgh and a tour around the ancient capital of Scotland before taking some personal time for shopping, site seeing, or as some did, exploring the local historic hostelries. One little discovery of note came from a graveyard up on one of the hills overlooking this beautiful city. It would have been easy to miss the inscription on this old and weathered gravestone from 1722, but the symbolism, square and compasses in the centre and the badge of a director of ceremonies in each bottom corner, was such to confirm the resting place of a long-departed brother. A lovely day over it was back to the Winnock Hotel. The evening involved being right royally entertained with Scottish dancing and the piping in of the traditional haggis before dinner, not to forget a whisky raffle, with some fine single malts being claimed by some grateful recipients. Freddy Wright, always the life and soul of the party, had to miss out on the trip to Edinburgh to see a doctor following a slight mishap on the previous day. Just before the evening meal, in came Freddy, always the joker, with a walking frame and covered in bandages, to set the evening off to a jovial start.
The trip raised a considerable amount of money. Firstly, the sponsored walk for the MCF 2021 Festival raised over £2,500 credited to the various lodges and groups. On top of that, by some pretty canny negotiation, David Ogden and his team had managed to get discounts and other incentives to add to the funds raised by the raffles. As a result, a staggering amount of £5,160 was raised, and as is the custom on this holiday, was divided amongst the groups according to the numbers attending. David was therefore delighted to share out the money raised with cheques presented as follows, to; Dave Whitmore of the Warrington Group for £430, Ernest Lloyd of the South Eastern Group for £860, Peter Kelly of the Ormskirk and Bootle Group for £1,290 and John Selley of the Wigan Group for £2,580.
The success of the event, which is always oversubscribed, has prompted David to organise a bigger hotel for next year’s trip to Bournemouth, with four, not three coaches.