Some might say that anyone who is prepared to throw themselves out of an aircraft from 1,000s of feet with little more than a glorified bedsheet to ease their descent must be mad and as if to further prove that point, member of Rectitude Lodge of Blackpool No 4122 George Dorling chose to torture himself both physically and mentally by marching non-stop for 24 hours, lugging a 28 kg kit bag strapped to his back.
When the committee of Rectitude Lodge were considering ways of raising money for charity as part of the lodge’s celebrations of its forthcoming centenary, George, a former corporal in the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, offered to do a sponsored walk and came up with the madcap scheme of walking around the perimeter of Stanley Park, Blackpool for a full 24 hours. That was in May and George’s intention was to time the walk to coincide with Armistice Day in early November, giving him ample time to prepare himself for the ordeal.
But the lodge had set its heart on doing something memorable on D-Day, 6 June, and it was at this point that madness blurred better judgement. George hesitantly agreed to the revised date. It left him only a couple of weeks to prepare.
The reader will have already gathered that George Dorling is no ordinary chap, certainly not your average Joe Soap. Having served 17 years in the Parachute Regiment and seen action in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Sierra Leone and Iraq, as well as two years providing close military protection to workers in Africa, he is not easily deterred from a challenge. Ask any member of Rectitude Lodge: “Can the tough spirit of George Dorling be crumpled?” and he will offer you attractive odds against any such likelihood. Whatever slings and arrows of outrageous fortune he may have to suffer, you will still find George in there battling. He just spits on his hands and gets straight down to it. And so it was that he accepted the earlier appointment. D-Day it was to be.
Proceedings of the day were vividly conveyed to the brethren and guests of Rectitude Lodge by Ronny Bentley at a ladies and gentlemen to dine evening after a regular lodge meeting and the principal guest was Lt Colonel Hamish Cormack of the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster Regiment, who was representing the charity that all the proceeds from George’s walk were donated to. Accompanying the Lt Colonel and equally intrigued by the tale accounted by Ronny was CSgt Warren Fletcher, also of the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.
“Receiving a bucketful of moral support and good wishes from his colleagues, George set off on his gruelling march from the cricket club at 11 o’clock in the morning of the allotted day” reported Ronny. A handful of brethren made of stern tissue accompanied him on the early laps but, as time wore on, each fell by the wayside until by midnight George was left as the sole walker. Throughout the day and evening a range of local delicacies was presented to him by well-meaning members of the general public; fish and chips, sausage and chips and curry and chips being the favoured choices of the well-wishers. Had George accepted all donations of beer and other potent brews that were thrust in his direction, it is unlikely that he could have completed more than a couple of laps before tottering into a hedgerow and sleeping it off until the morning.
Late night revellers offered him slurred words of encouragement and remnants of wine bottles and party-fours. Others, less encouraging, were enquiring if he had a cigarette that they could borrow or a light for their recently acquired cigarette end. Courteously explaining that he had more pressing thoughts on his mind, George continued on his way.
Alone in the engulfing darkness, he plodded on his way. By this time, blisters had ballooned, cracked heels were bleeding and scorching shoes were suffocating his feet. His only consolation was that he only had another seven hours to complete; not the most comforting of thoughts and hardly likely to bring a smile to a lone walker’s face, not even to that of the stoic George!
As dawn broke and cheery birds heralded the glories of a new day, bees and butterflies danced in gay abandonment. But the joys of the morning did not sit comfortably with George. An unsettled outlook was becoming more unsettled with each heavy step and the general outlook was now very scaly; no mistaking that.
George recalled that at this juncture his feet were wrecked and ointments and powders offered only fleeting respite. Cramp had also inflicted his calves. He was one with a heavy heart and a mind that was questioning the wisdom of his volunteering spirit. He was weary, exhausted and even doubting his capacity to see the mission through. But, with the dawn of the new day, colleagues from Rectitude Lodge, refreshed from their full eight hours, were on hand to once more offer moral support. Bearing gifts of bacon barm cakes, they and members of the public lavished him with early sustenance and cheer. It was just what George needed. Driven by their faith; spurred on by their encouragement, he forced himself to continue. Continue he did and with military precision arrived at his destination, the cricket ground from which he had departed 24 hours before, at exactly 11am; there to be cheered and greeted by members of the lodge and military dignitaries.
As George recalled: “I was totally wasted at the end but by some miraculous force I found the strength and energy to rush to the bar. That one beer was the best I have ever tasted!”
George had walked an epic 78 miles and he had raised £1,100 for servicemen’s charities. In presenting the cheque to Lt Colonel Hamish Cormack, George, modest to the core, thanked the members of Rectitude Lodge saying: “It was a team effort and I couldn’t have completed the task without the support of the brethren of the lodge.”
Lt Colonel Hamish Cormack was exuberant in his praise of George, but was also keen to add that he had found the occasion humbling and that he had been delighted to have been made aware of the enormous contribution that Freemasonry makes to local and national charities.
As far as George’s feet are concerned? They have fully recovered and he is now planning another walk. This time it will be over a distance of 100 miles. By George! He must be mad!