On 20 November 2015, seven Worshipful Brethren from St. Alphege Lodge No. 4095, meeting at Bath Masonic Hall, travelled to Northern Ireland to attend a meeting, which included a demonstration of an Initiation ceremony, at McCammon Crozier Lodge No. 497 meeting in Holywood, Co. Down.

Pick-up from the airport to the Stormont hotel, together with transport to and from the meeting was very kindly arranged by the Bro. D.C. and Bro. Sec. of McCL, as was our return to the airport on the following Sunday. However, I think we got a few strange looks driving by as the minibus belonged to a local Scout group – not many 60+ years old Scouts nowadays!

The meeting was very well attended and included a number of Provincial officers from Co. Down and Co. Antrim. The lodge has not had any new members in recent years (it is a recent amalgam of 2 lodges whose membership has been declining) and an Initiation ceremony had not been carried out by the members for some time, but it was agreed by everyone that the Worshipful Master, his Officers and selected participants performed a superb and sincere demonstration.

The Festive Board afterwards was indeed memorable, with W.Bro Jeff Penfold responding with gracious thanks and a certain amount (not a lot) of decorum to the Visitor’s toast. As expected, we returned to the hotel to carry on with our serious debates on Masonic issues – mainly electing a Steward who would be responsible for the kitty and getting the next round of the black stuff or Bushmills. W.Bro. Ken Barnes having been a past Treasurer of St. Alphege was entrusted with that particular duty – and a fine job he did too (we think but can’t remember – he has been smiling a lot since the trip?).

A full day excursion had been arranged for Saturday 21st, remarkably all the brethren managed to get up on time to have breakfast before the minibus arrived. Our ‘Guide’ was called Damian and he did a fine job of taking us to the various murals on both sides of the divide, the wall and other parts of Belfast before taking us up towards the north coast of the province to see various sights. These included Giant’s Causeway, Whitepark Bay, Ballintoy Harbour, Bushmills Distillery and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Fortunately for some of the more ‘sensitive’ brethren (a certain W.Bro. David Medlock in particular), we were too late arriving to obtain a ticket to cross the bridge. It is only 100 feet above the roaring, open Atlantic Ocean so I don’t know what the problem was!

Bushmills Distillery was the obvious highlight, although W.Bro. Jim Buick had mixed emotions about the entrance fee. Being the only one in the group under 60 he did not qualify for the reduced Senior Citizen’s charge. A hot toddy before the tour followed by a wee dram at the conclusion was very well received.

On Saturday evening we went to the Crown bar in Belfast city centre, a must see tourist attraction owned by The National Trust (only to check out the black stuff you understand) and then had a great meal in nearby restaurant called Cocos. Great food, great wine, great company and great visual delights! We rounded off the night by going to ‘Fibber Magee’s’ at the back of Robinsons bar to listen to some traditional music. Some of our brethren – no name, no pack drill – also managed to enjoy a couple of dances with very enthusiastic, local ladies. ‘Tired and emotional’ we retired at 1.00 a.m. back to the hotel only to decide to check out the ‘Bush’ again.

Sunday, and we all managed to get up at the appointed time – bar one! W.Bro. David Hayward decided he needed more beauty sleep. As the hotel was opposite Stormont parliament building we decided to walk the 1 mile up to the building and back again. We still had a few hours to spare before returning to the airport so 4 of us ( Ken, Jeff, Martyn & Jim) decided to go into the city centre for further sightseeing (and another pint in the Crown). Let you work out who the lazy ones were!

Back to the airport, courtesy of the McCL D.C. and the Scout minibus, then a quiet flight back to Bristol. A fantastic time had by all.

Ten McCammon Crozier Lodge members visited St Alphege about 2 years ago and it was brilliant that a number of us could return that fraternal visit. I will be there again, either in Holywood or maybe Dublin for a special meeting planned for November 2016, and I recommend you talk to any of our brethren who travelled and ask them about their experience at the lodge meeting or Northern Ireland. Maybe more brethren will be able to travel next time.