It must have been the speed marching yesterday but I slept like a log. A lovely warm bed in a quite hotel was just what I needed. I had a late start and found my way to the last Masonic Centre on the coast of Yorkshire. I got really excited when I found the gates open but when I got round to the door, alas, it was locked... 🥺
I thought about dragging my heels a for a bit and having a look around Middlesbrough but it had started raining so I headed for the Newport Bridge which would take me over the River Tees and into the third province of my trip.
I do have a fascination with bridges, that'll be the Royal Engineer bubbling away under the surface but this was the biggest Meccano set I'd ever seen. What a magnificent structure, it no longer lifts but I'll bet it was an incredible sight when it did lift to allow the boats to pass under.
I recieved a call from the Communications Officer Paul from Durham Freemasons so a plan was hatched for me to walk up to Seaton Carew just South of Hartlepool where I'd be met and offered a room in The Norton Hotel. No sooner had we finalised the plan, I was on my way when I car pulled up in front of me, a chap jumped out and came running over, it was only the Provincial Grand Master who had tracked me down and wanted to come and personally welcome me into his Province... 😅 I couldn't believe it, but that shock and disbelief was to magnified beyond anything I could imagine later in the day.
There was roughly a 10 mile walk ahead of me and knowing I was to be met on arrival I walked the most direct route. I could have headed south to get to the coast a bit sooner but there was still a lot of industry over this side so it made no sense to waste energy and time.
I marched on and was met by John, a local man to Hartlepool, a long serving Freemason and the manager at the Norton, he checked me in to lovely room with a sea view, told me to crack on and get showered and changed as he'd be back for me in a hour to take me to my first Durham Lodge meeting. It was a privilege to attend the meeting as a Brother was to be receiving his 50 years continuous service award and to top it off, many of the senior ranking Freemasons, including the Provincial Grand Master had changed their plans in order to be in attendance.
What I really wasn't expecting though, the PGM stood in the Lodge and welcomed me, he then presented me with a donation of £1000 from the Durham Benevolence fund... absolutely incredible...
As if that wasn't enough, when we retired to the Festive Board, I was wined and dined as a guest for which they would not allow me to pay, the Masters from five lodges also stood to wish me good luck and also to donate to my fundraising effort. To say I was overwhelmed would be the understatement of the year, I hadn't been in this Province for 12 hours yet, the welcome I'd recieved was quite incredible but the generosity in this short time had swelled the funds by £1520 !!! Truely outstanding and I tried to get round every Mason there to thank each of them personally.
After the festivities, I was driven back to the hotel, which incidentally had also been gifted to me free of charge and John and I had a little nightcap. I was buzzing from the evening so sleep would have to wait, I think we turned in at about 1.30am and sleep came very fast. This was Freemasonry at its very finest, the kind of Freemasonry I have enjoyed so many times in my own Lodges in Lincolnshire, The Round Table Lodge 8240 and The FreeWheelers Motorcycle Lodge 9991. I love to visit other Lodges which I regularly do but weirdly, tonight I felt the buzz and exileration that I only usually get when attending my own Lodges with the guys I know so very well. It's a funny old game this Masonry you know, but one I absolutely love....
I was supposed to be leaving first thing to head up the coast. The 1.30am bed time wouldn't have stopped be but actually, the chat I had with John over a bottle of red made me realise, this province only has a short coastline. There is much of interest to see, there was plans being made for me possibly to visit another 2 or 3 lodges whilst here so we decided it was best for me to have my rest day early. I spent a lovely day with John and Paul, an ex Navy man and a Mason on the Headland in Hartlepool, a lodge visit, breakfast and a day being a tourist taking in the history and culture of this lovely port town, the inhabitants of which, effectionately know as 'The Monkey Hangers'... a funny story, legend actually... look it up.... 😂🤣