The intrepid travellers of Bryn Lodge No 6553 are well known for their globetrotting expeditions as they continue their tradition of annually visiting a lodge in a different country/jurisdiction. 21 years have seen them travel to lodges far and wide. including Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Holland (to a lodge working under the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts), Portugal, Majorca, Jersey, Greece, Gibraltar, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland, Belgium and France.
On each occasion, they have visited an English-speaking lodge and seen many variations of ritual, customs and culture. The last two years’ restrictions have made visiting overseas impossible, and this year a trip to Tallinn in Estonia was planned, but had to be abandoned, or at least put on hold until next year, all being well. Not to be outdone by the restrictions, nine of the usual travelling gang decided to make a fraternal visit in England, just to keep their hand in. A visit to Durham was the answer.
The trip got off to a great start, with one of David Ogden’s busses leaving from Bryn Masonic Hall on Friday morning. The lodge meeting being a six-thirty start, there was plenty of time to stop and explore the historic market town of Richmond in North Yorkshire and have a pub lunch and liquid refreshment before continuing to the hotel just outside Durham. Suited and booted, regalia at the ready, taxis made the short journey to the Masonic Hall in Old Elvet. The Masonic hall is an amazing building, opening up from a small inconspicuous entrance, in a ‘Tardis’ like manner, to reveal a grand and opulent interior of large proportions. The hall dates back to 1868 and is thought to be one of the first, if not the first, purpose built Masonic buildings in the country. The walls of the dining room, which resembles the great hall of some imposing manor house, are decorated with wood panels each bearing the name of a Past WM from 1739 to the present day.
The host lodge was Bede College Lodge No 4840, and the visitors were to be treated to a wonderful ceremony of initiation. The warmth of the reception from the happy and friendly lodge members was in direct contrast to the temperature in the lodge room. No-one in the lodge could master the settings on the heating come air conditioning unit and the meeting started in the cold, and it got colder and colder, until it was absolutely freezing.
They are a tough lot from Bryn, or at least they put on a brave face, but didn’t hang about after the meeting and quickly retired to the bar and dining room, where normal temperature was resumed. The meal was wonderful, and an atmosphere of fun and friendliness permeated the room with much banter and joviality. Being the meeting nearest to Christmas, a band was due to attend for what traditionally is an annual carol singing event. Apparently, a storm was raging outside, snow had fallen, and the musicians couldn’t get to the venue, but that couldn’t deter the lodge from engaging in a hearty sing song. It was a great night and reluctantly, as midnight approached, it was time to head to the hotel.
By this time, storm Arwen, unbeknown to the visitors, had done its worst, and shortly after arriving at the hotel there was a power failure and everything went dark. No lighting or heating and of greatest concern, no beer. Rising the next morning, back to the cold, the power was still down, with no breakfast and no help. A short bus ride took the travellers into Durham, where a table in the local Weatherspoon for an all-day breakfast turned out to be the viewing point for a virtual tour of the city as the weather worsened. It transpired that the power was still out at the hotel, so it was time to move lodgings. Vacancies were at a premium, and to find rooms for a group of nine at four on a Saturday afternoon is not an easy task. Fortunately, David Ogden was able to get his office to track something down, and gathering belongings in the dark, the nomadic Masons headed for Gateshead, where a Travelodge could accommodate them. Fortunately, there was a nice pub restaurant across from the hotel, and despite the ravages of storm Arwen, a nice meal with beer and wine provided an unofficial festive board with no worries about logistics
A break in the weather on Sunday allowed for a trip to the Christmas markets in York, and after exploring and dining in the Shambles everyone was transported home safely as the snow started to fall again. Despite the adverse conditions, everyone agreed that it was a great trip with one of the friendliest lodges encountered in 20 years of travelling. Glad to have weathered the storm, surely Estonia can’t be any colder for next year’s trip.