Day 40. Wednesday 22nd Feb. Berwick upon Tweed into Scotland.
A while since my last post so a quick update for you before we move on. I had a much needed break in Berwick over the weekend which extended into Monday & Tuesday so I could attend a number of Masonic meetings. Berwick Upon Tweed is full of interesting places to explore, an incredible history having changed from English to Scottish 13 or 14 times over the years. They are still at it, there was a punch up outside the pub on Saturday night although to be honest, I think they were both drunken Englishmen but who knows !!! 🙄
While I was walking up the coast of The Durham Province, a few people had mentioned that if I could get in, I should try to visit the Oriental Lodge No. 9371. When I got into Northumberland I made enquiries and managed to blag myself a seat. I got a train from Berwick , back down to Newcastle on the Monday morning and was invited to a pre meeting lunch at the Sky Chinese restaurant, I made it but was over a hour late. The 50 minute train journey took three and a half hours, a signal blackout in the Morpeth area pretty much wrecked the days train timetable as it is the main line between Edinburgh and London. Anyway, they saved me some lunch, I got booked into a Prem and was collected with 2 other chaps who were also in town for the visit, one from London, the other had flown in from Canada just for the meeting !!! The meeting was excellent and I think the hundred plus Freemasons in the Lodge were as shocked as I when The Provincial Grand Master accompanied by his Provincial Grsnd Secretary made a surprise visit. I was even more shocked when he presented me with a cheque for £2000 for the MCF, amazing generosity which didn't end there, the Lodge also presented me with a cheque for £100.
The Festive Board was a feast of Chinese food served back at the Sky restaurant in China Town, as it was also their Chinese New Year meeting, we were joined by a rather large dragon. Not something you often see at a Masonic meeting.
The next morning I was on my way back to the coast, 2 bus journeys got me back up to Seahouses in time for a meeting at The Farne and Glendale Lodge No. 5228, a good meeting and another kind donation to the cause and the following morning I was on my way again. The next trip was back to Berwick on the bus to catch a train up to Edinburgh.
I had already been told that there were 5 or 6 Lodges I could visit on the coastline between Berwick and Edinburgh but it would be right and proper if I were to go to Grand Lodge first to introduce myself and seek permission to visit the Lodegs around the entire coast of Scotland. I also need to point out that English and Scottish Freemasons have different Grand Lodges and therefore have different charitable objectives. In England The Masonic Charitable Foundation takes care of all charitable donations made by its members and distributes the money to Masonic and Non Masonic charities accordingly. In Scotland, the Grand Lodge works in partnership with a specific charity for a set period of time with an intention of raising money for that charity. Currently, the charity is Prostate Cancer UK so members of The Grand Lodge of Scotland from around the world have been raising awareness and money for the past 10 years. Recently, it was declared that £1.1 million had been raised for the charity. The generosity of Freemasons once again helping to do amazing things and another well kept secret, I certainly was not aware of this incredible achievement and one we should be very proud. To this end, it didn't seem right that I should walk the coast of Scotland and raise funds for the MCF so my visit to Grand Lodge was also to offer any donations I am given during my time here, would be given to The Grand Lodge of Scotland. I met with Dawn, The Charities Manager so we could sort out the logistics and I was given a personal tour of The Grand Lodge, a beautiful building.
I was also very fortunate that I had accidentally bumped into Dale while in Berwick, Dale is a Mason in both England and Scotland and kindly invited me to his Lodge in Edinburgh as I was going to be there on the Wednesday. After a look around Grand Lodge I booked into a hotel and prepared myself for the meeting that evening. It was to be the last ever lodge meeting of The Lodge Freindhsip No. 1712 as it was to be amalgamating with another Lodge soon. It was a real treat to be present at their last meeting and to meet so many Scottish Freemasons, including the Provincial Grand Master and many of his Provincial team. I also enjoyed an excellent ceremony of Raising, the last ever brother to be Raised into the Lodge, a honour for him and a privilege for me to watch.
It was also fascinating to talk to the PGM about the history of the building and Scottish Freemasonry, something that fascinates me and something I'm sure I will learn much more about as I travel around the coast. Records Dating back to 1599 when the first and principle Lodge in Scotalnd was formed in Edinburgh.
The Lodge kindly donated £100 and a further £45 in cash from individuals, although I need to be quick getting back in touch with the Lodge Treasurer as the cheque was refused at the bank as the date isn't legible !!! A comment was jokingly made by a brother that the cheque would bounce anyway as the Lodge was no more following the closing of the last ever meeting... 😰 I'm sure all will be okay, he was joking, wasn't he ???
With my brief visit in Edinburgh done, I needed to get the train back down to Berwick to continue the walk and cross the border officially, on foot. I'd rested up for 4 days so I was itching to back on the trail and praying the weather forecast for snow was wrong....