Well, as I start to write at the beginning of June, I do hope that we have not seen the last of this summer. A very dull start to the month and a threat of thunder storms. On Saturday 2 June, Maureen and I travelled to Blackpool. We called first at the Masonic centre for coffee where we met with David Winder and his wife Sue, David Randerson and his wife Anne, also Duncan Smith together with John Turpin, David Cooke and Stephen Jelly and other members from the Blackpool Group. We were to welcome Simone Enefer-Doy from the charity `Lifelites` into the Province. They wanted a photo call with Blackpool Tower in the background whilst on their tour of all Provinces in England and Wales. Their mission is to raise funds for the `Lifelites` Charity and we in West Lancashire were able to help them with the assistance of WLFC, who donated £5,000.
A very big thank you from ‘Lifelites` to all who joined us for this wonderful opportunity to help children in hospices around the country and in particular Brian House in Blackpool. The weather stayed fine despite the clouds and the Tower thankfully emerged from the sea mist that had shrouded it earlier. Maureen and I then accompanied Simone northwards toward Cumberland and Westmorland for her next leg of the journey, following which we enjoyed a restful afternoon.
In the evening we set off for the Longlands Hotel at Tewitfield for the ‘Annual Royal Arch Assistants Dinner’. It was a great evening in the company of most of the Royal Arch Cabinet, my Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals and their ladies and we all enjoyed a most delicious dinner in a very intimate and informal setting. A wonderful evening bringing Royal Arch Masonry to a close for this season.
The next day, I had to make the most of a relaxing morning for at 1 pm we were off, stepping out for the MCF 2021 Festival by joining the ‘Raven Winder Walk’ along Morecambe promenade. It was a glorious day in the summer sunshine. I would like to thank the 100 brethren and their immediate families who `Walked the Walk` along Morecambe`s glorious promenade with fantastic views across the bay and helped in raising over £10,000 toward the Festival. Well done and a very big thank you for your support.
At the start of the next week, Maureen and I boarded a train at Lancaster for our ‘big event’. We were bound for London, looking forward to not only seeing the sights of the city but also to see HM The Queen! After a relaxing day at our hotel, the following morning dawned with glorious weather promised for our special day. After a hearty breakfast we set forth for a leisurely walk through Green Park and then back to the hotel for a coffee.
It was then time to change into our ‘Sunday best’ for our visit to the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. It was a marvel to see so many people attending this wonderful event and an experience to be remembered for a long time. Entering through front of Buckingham Palace we saw the magnificent spectacle of a huge lawn decked out with chairs and tables and edged with marquees looking towards beautiful gardens. As the guests entered the gardens we were amazed at the sight of so many ladies and gentlemen definitely dressed to impress! We thoroughly enjoyed the delights of a most delightful afternoon tea and then had the great pleasure of witnessing Prince Charles and Camilla enter the garden and then meet with many of the guests. Also present in the Royal party were the Duke of Kent and Prince Michael and the Princess of Kent, who it was a great delight to meet once again. After enjoying further cups of the ‘Royal tea’ we departed after the Royal Party had left and made our way back to Euston Station for our return train journey to Morecambe and to reflect on a magnificent day at the Palace.
On Wednesday 6 June, I travelled first to the Provincial office for a general Cabinet meeting with the members of both the Craft and Royal Arch. In the evening I visited another palace, this time it was ‘The Palace’ at St Annes, for the annual grand officer’s dinner. I was in the company of David Randerson Assistant Provincial Grand Master and many other very distinguished brethren from the Fylde coast. What a delightful experience enjoying a delicious dinner in the company of many of the grand officers from the Fylde coast groups.
As the weekend approached, Maureen and I were looking forward to welcoming our daughter Tracey and her husband Peter to Morecambe. It was something of a ‘flying visit’ from their home in the Isle of Man but really wonderful to see them before we set forth for our visit to London on the following Monday.
Monday 11 June soon came around, so off we went to London. We caught a morning train from Lancaster to Euston with some of our close friends from Morecambe. We were all staying at the Imperial Hotel, London. The ladies enjoyed the sights and sounds of the big city, whilst I and many other brethren from West Lancashire made our visit to Grand Lodge in Great Queen Street.
The next day was the annual investiture of Grand Mark Lodge and it was my last meeting as the Grand Junior Warden in this Masonic Order. It was a spectacular meeting and gratifying to see the Grand Temple full to capacity with Mark Masons from all over the UK. Many were receiving their appointment to or promotion in grand rank. It was a long and tiring day but one to remember. Returning to our hotel in the early evening lent us an opportunity to spend the rest of the evening in the company of our ladies.
On Wednesday 13 June, after breakfast we made our way back to Great Queen Street for the Quarterly Communication of UGLE. Once again, the Grand Temple was full, this time of Craft Masons making the time to visit this very well supported meeting. What a sight it was to see so many brethren all in one place. Following the meeting we enjoyed the grand officer’s luncheon in the Connaught Rooms before making our return journey to Euston Station and our train journey back to Morecambe.
The next two days proved rather busy as Maureen and I were preparing for our special holiday to Australia. As the Masonic season was almost over, we set forth on a great adventure to the other side of the world. This was our opportunity to spend a holiday with our son, Mark and his wife Dorothy and our grandchildren, Daniel and his wife Darrinda, Jake and Matthew, and our new great grandson Kaysen, who we had not yet seen. Needless to say, we were both very excited and looking forward to being with the family despite the long flight, halfway around the world!
Saturday June 16 swiftly arrived, and we headed for Manchester Airport, taking the train. We stayed overnight at a hotel so that we could have an early start the next day. On the Sunday we made our way to Terminal 1 for our flight with Singapore Airlines to Singapore and then onward to Brisbane. We enjoyed a wonderful flight even though it was quite long and somewhat tiring. The flight however seemed to pass quite quickly as we enjoyed the meals, short periods of sleep and an occasional movie.
We landed at Brisbane Airport on the Monday and were met by our son Mark and his wife Dorothy who were accompanied by our eldest grandson Daniel, his wife Darrinda and their son Kaysen. Maureen was thrilled to see our great grandson for the very first time. We all then travelled north to Murrumba Downs and settled into our son`s home for the next few weeks.
During the next three weeks we enjoyed the winter sunshine of 25/26oC, not quite as good as you were all enjoying here in the UK at that time, but it was glorious every day from dawn to dusk. We travelled to the Sunshine Coast and enjoyed visits to Redcliffe, Scarborough and Bribie Island. It was so pleasant to be taking in the local atmosphere and tasting the delicious fish and other food specialities of the area. It was a wonderful time being with our family that we had not seen for just over three years. It brought back many memories for me as I watched Maureen pushing Kayson along the promenade in his push chair. The sights and sounds of the Sunshine Coast were marvellous but Morecambe Bay is very difficult to beat!
We took in many interesting walks, sightseeing and of course we had to visit the gigantic shopping malls which appeared out this world compared to English shopping malls. Everything you could require and wish for was all under one roof. We met with some local guys, friends of Mark and Dorothy`s and enjoyed some great Australian meals and drinks of course.
On Monday July 9, we picked up our motorhome rental which was to be our base for our adventures for the next 3 weeks. As soon as we had packed up and said good bye to the family we headed north up the east coast of Australia and some three and a half days later arrived in the city of Cairns where we stayed for 4 nights.
We enjoyed the sights of Cairns and of the harbour on a dinner cruise, then visiting the ancient mountain village of Kuranda which we approached by the old historic mountain railway which was built by hand over 120 years ago. We had fabulous views as we travelled along the mountain side railway. We returned on the newly built ‘Skyrail’ over the top of the rainforest which also gave us some fabulous views of the forest canopy which has evolved and grown over 1,000,000s of years.
Our next excursion was a trip up the Daintree River on a riverboat to see the crocodiles and what an experience it was to see such huge reptiles. We travelled up through the Mossman Gorge, through the oldest living rainforest in the world and on to Cape Tribulation before returning through Port Douglas. What a wonderful experience we had!
We then started our journey back down the coast, enjoying magnificent views as we passed through Mission Beach and on to Townville, where much of the Australian Army is based. We then travelled to Airlie Beach and on to Mackay, Yeppoon, Rockhampton, Gladstone and through a huge coal mining area. We then visited the town ‘Seventeen Seventy’ or as the locals write it, ‘1770’. This is where Captain Cook made his second landing in Australia. From here we sailed out to the Great Barrier Reef and Lady Musgrave Island enjoying the fantastic views of the coral reef and all its inhabitants.
We then travelled further south to Bundaberg and visited the world-famous rum distillery set amongst 100s of 1,000s of acres of sugar cane fields. We had of course, to buy some bottles of this exquisite liqueur for drinking during our holiday but also for bringing home as a reminder of this part of our adventure! Moving on once again, we travelled south to Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, a fabulous beauty spot on the Sunshine Coast offering indescribable and very memorable views of Tin Can Bay. Eventually arriving at Rainbow Beach, we met up with Mark and all the family for a four day stay at this incredible white sandy beach. It gets its name as it changes to all the colours of the rainbow as you drive along its 80 kilometre length. This beach is not only open for swimming and for walking on, but it is used as a road way by 100s of 4×4 vehicles, enjoying the magnificent views of this natural phenomenon.
Sadly, it was soon time to move on once again and we travelled further south to Noosa Head, Maroochydore, Caloundra, Deception Bay and then back to Brisbane after a wonderful and most exhilarating and interesting adventure along the east Coast of Australia. All too soon our time was ‘up’ and we had to return our motorhome.
However, we still had many more days to be with our family in Murrumba Downs and to further enjoy the surrounding areas. We took the train to Brisbane on Saturday August 4 and had a wonderful tour of the city and sights, under the close eye and direction of Peter and Sue Greathead who were staying in Brisbane for their annual winter visit. What a great place to live, although not for us.
Still enjoying the wonderful sunshine day after day, we were now having our last two weeks with our family so we took the opportunity to have a big family gathering and a well-earned ‘Aussie party’ to bring our stay in Murrumba Downs to a close and to say a sad farewell to our family as we flew from Brisbane to Sydney for our last five days in Australia. We had a great flight and then took the underground train from the airport into the city. We stayed at an aparthotel on Darling Harbour with great views of this very busy part of Sydney. The weather was still very hot and sunny but there was a cool breeze in the late afternoon.
What a fabulous city Sydney is! We first took the ‘Big City Tour’ bus for a guided tour to get our bearings. ‘Hop on Hop off’ was great, as we saw an area and attraction we wished to visit, we just had to hop off to enjoy the sights and then back on for some further sightseeing. There is so much to see in this sprawling city. We were amazed by the size of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and also by their history. We saw all the small areas, inhabited by the British on their arrival to Australia many years ago, that have over the years now formed part of this cosmopolitan city.
We also took advantage of having a tour of the Sydney Harbour itself with magnificent views from the boat as we sailed up as far as Manley. Maureen and I agreed that we could not be in Sydney without visiting Bondi Beach. What a great seaside area with such wonderful white sands from end to end along the beach. I have to say though that I was a little disappointed as I never saw a lifeguard, or all those 1,000s of surfers and sunbathers sprawled out over the sands! However, it was great to have seen Bondi Beach.
The next few days we took in many of the sights and experiences of Sydney and thoroughly enjoyed the many restaurants surrounding Darling Harbour. On one of our walks around the harbourside we met Steven Varley, the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Derbyshire, who was there with his wife and son as they were visiting Australia to spend some time with their daughter who lives in Darwin, Northern Territories. It was quite a surprise.
Well the time to head home finally arrived and on Monday 20 August we packed our bags and headed off to Sydney Airport for our flight home with Singapore Airlines. Again, it was a rather long and tiring flight, but with overnight travel so we were in ‘sleeping mode’. We arrived back at Manchester Airport somewhat weary but glad to be back in the UK and ready for our train journey back to Morecambe. It was good to see our house in one piece but with long grass and a very overgrown hedge. It was nice to be home even though the weather was somewhat cold compared to that on our fantastic Australian adventure.
On Wednesday 29 August I attended my first Royal Arch meeting of the new season. I travelled to Wyrebank, Garstang for the installation convocation of Vale Chapter of Installed Principals No 5256. On arrival the car park was ‘packed’ and I was delighted to see 92 companions from the Lancaster and also Furness and South Lakeland Groups in attendance at the meeting. We all experienced a most delightful ceremony conducted by Nigel Higginson, Chris Larder and John Bates who in turn installed their successors, John Stanley, Andre Lawrence and Bill Glassey. I was accompanied by my Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton and Assistant Chris Butterfield together with other officers of Supreme Grand Chapter. David Barr Provincial Scribe Nehemiah was also joined by many acting Provincial officers. We were all under the watchful eyes of the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas. An excellent meal brought the very enjoyable meeting to a close.
I hope that like me, you’ve all had a wonderful and relaxing summer break and are looking forward to the new Masonic season. I look forward to meeting many of you in the months ahead.
Provincial Grand Master.