On a fine autumnal evening, 50 lodge members and visitors attended the Country Pursuits Lodge of West Lancashire No 6615 September meeting at Wyrebank, Garstang; the first meeting of a new Masonic season for this rapidly growing specialist lodge. Members were delighted to be in the company of brethren from the Country Pursuits Lodge No. 9898 in the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland.
Country Pursuits of West Lancashire was formed in 2022 by members of the West Lancashire Masonic Shooting and Fishing Associations, bringing together Masons with a common interest other than Freemasonry. The membership now stands at 50, following successful ballots on the evening for two new members and one who took up his membership from a previous ballot. During the meeting another six joining members were proposed.
At 7pm, the lodge was buzzing with lively conversation as the brethren looked across the room and could see various items, artefacts and a projector which had been brought in by the visiting speaker to support his lecture topic for the evening. Just after 7pm, the lodge meeting was opened by acting WM Andy McClements, who occupied the masters chair at very short notice on behalf of Mike Casey who was unfortunately unable to attend the meeting. The lodge business was undertaken and included a period of silence and reflection led by the chaplain Lawrence Alston to remember Steve Laffan, a lodge member who had sadly passed away.
At the appropriate moment, Andy McClements welcomed Keith Young to the meeting. Keith is a Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland who had kindly agreed to be the keynote speaker for the evening. The title of his presentation was ‘My other hobby’. By now the brethren had realised that Keith’s ‘other hobby’ was deer stalking. Keith gave a fascinating insight into his 40 years as a deer stalker which has taken him across much of Scotland, the Lake District and as far away as Slovakia and Finland. At all times, Keith spoke about the important conservation management issues that estates must deal with when controlling populations of creatures like deer, which are prolific breeders. He described the UK native red and roe woodland deer, the season when they are likely to breed, during the ‘rut’ and the times of the year when a period of culling of both deer sexes is needed, to control the population.
Keith explained a number of other deer species, namely the fallow, sika, muntjac and Chinese water deer, which were introduced into the UK from Europe, Asia and China over the last century. Many escaped from private estates and zoos, to then breed in large numbers in the wild.
As well as deer stalking, Keith spoke about the necessary control of wild boar and wild goat populations. He referred to the only place where you can find white goats in the UK as being on the Scottish island of Jura. He explained that birds of prey can be used to assist in vermin control and how the term ‘cadger’ is used to describe a person who carries birds of prey such as falcons and hawks around the countryside.
Keith spoke about the tools of the hobby, namely his .270 rifle, scope, moderator (silencer) and bipod which he has used effectively for many years. He detailed the nature of the ammunition and how it is designed to perform to ensure accuracy and efficiency. The brethren were reminded at all times of the safety considerations which are necessary when making long distance shots ie, having a visible physical back-stop to absorb the round. Keith mentioned that any knives which are used for gralloching deer must feature a plastic/composite handle, rather than bone, antler or wood, as these latter three materials can lead to cross contamination of meat.
Whilst deer are normally considered as being of a red/brown colour, Keith spoke about recent sightings of white albino red deer in Southern Lakeland near Witherslack, just off the A590. Watch out for these quite unusual deer! Following a lively question and answer session, Andy McClements formally thanked Keith Young for an interesting and fascinating lecture which informed and educated everyone in the lodge room. He presented Keith with a token of appreciation from the lodge.
During the festive board of meat and potato pie, chips and peas the conversations continued with many brethren discussing the lecture, and some considering their possible next step into deer stalking. Andy McClements reminded brethren that Country Pursuits Lodge of West Lancashire will be attending the next meeting of Old Huttonian Lodge No 7614 on the first Saturday in October, where they are undertaking the second degree ceremony on behalf of Country Pursuits Lodge of West Lancashire’s first initiate.
He also wished to record his grateful thanks to lodge member Bob Reeves, who has donated £50 to the lodge charity fund, following his successful sale of his handmade antler/horn walking and beating sticks at the recent Lancashire Game and Country Festival; held at Scorton Showground, where the West Lancashire Masonic trailer was manned by members of Country Pursuits Lodge of West Lancashire for the two-day show.
The next meeting of The Country Pursuits Lodge of West Lancashire is Wednesday 29 November 2023 and the venue is Morecambe Masonic Hall. This is a business meeting to decide and elect the team of officers for the ensuing year. On completion of the lodge business, they will be holding an Old English Night with ‘Gentleman to Dine’ which will be attended by any forthcoming initiates. Please contact the lodge secretary, Chris Tittley at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to book a place.
Article and pictures by John Topping.