The location was Blairgowrie in Scotland, the intention was to have a lot of fun, and along the way raise a bit of money for charity, primarily the MCF 2021 Festival. Well, it can safely be said that on this year’s annual Masonic charity fundraising week’s holiday organised by the Wigan Group, all objectives were achieved, with a staggering sum in excess of £7,500 being raised.
It was cold and damp morning when just short of 200 people arrived at their pick-up point or gathered on the car park at Bryn Masonic Hall to fill the four coaches organised for the Wigan Group by Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Ogden. Cases were loaded for the journey to the Angus Hotel in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, for a four-night break. Brethren, wives and partners, not just from the Wigan Group, but parties from South East, Eccles and Leigh, Ormskirk and Bootle, Warrington and other groups as well, were all set for a great time.
The journey north was thankfully uneventful, with light traffic, some fine views, and two stops en-route for refreshments and lunch. The group had taken over the hotel, which was nestled in the centre of the quaint little town overlooking the green. The first evening was spent in the hotel with excellent entertainment and cuisine, with just a fundraising game of bingo. With a talented singer, a great time was had by all, before retiring to be ready for the next day’s outing.
The following day, after a hearty breakfast, saw a trip to first Perth and then St Andrews. It had snowed during the night and Blairgowrie and the surrounding mountains and valleys had been transformed into a winter wonderland. The first port of call was the new Victoria and Albert Museum perched on the banks of the River Tay in Perth, then it was a scenic ride along the coast to the historic St Andrews.
Following a visit to the home of golf, the afternoon was spent exploring this beautiful centre of history, architecture and education, not to mention the numerous pubs and restaurants. It was in one of those hostelries where David Ogden struck up a conversation with a local academic, originally from the Boothstown area of Manchester and himself a non-Mason, who had written a book about the influence of Freemasonry on the design and construction of the city hall at Perth.
An expert in geometry, he had concluded that the geometric dimensions were identical to that of King Solomon’s Temple, and that the architect had knowledge of a ‘sacred geometry’ which he believed had links to Freemasonry. After an interesting discussion, it was back to Blairgowrie. The artist for the evening was a vocalist who also doubled as comedian, with a repertoire of jokes and stories. He provided a great night of entertainment to a packed and energetic audience
The day after was the morning of the charity walk. It was originally planned for a route in Pitlochry, but snow and ice made it unsafe. A really good alternative was found locally, which started on a path by the river which flowed past the hotel. It was a lovely scenic walk, with great views down the river, lots of wildlife, and many interesting features. The only downside was that the return to Blairgowrie required the walkers to negotiate a steep hill before a similar steep descent.
There was a huge turnout for the walk, and those not wanting to tackle the hill had a return back along the flatter riverside path to the starting point. The weather was really kind to the walkers, it was dry with crisp snow underfoot. All the walkers negotiated their preferred route without mishap and enjoyed the surroundings. The walk having been a local trek, and not to miss out on an outing, the party then spent the rest of the day in Pitlochry before returning for another great night’s entertainment and customary bingo fundraiser.
Bright and early the next morning it was off through the snow covered and spectacular highland scenery to visit the ski centre at Glenshee and the historic town of Balmoral. The weather however had changed and the conditions up in the high ground were not the best. How fortunate the walkers had been yesterday to have such fine conditions. Not to be put off however, a great time was had by all and everyone, despite the elements, returned safely to enjoy afternoon tea and cakes at the hotel, followed by the evening meal and entertainment. A fine dinner was followed by bingo, a raffle with a stage full of donated prizes, and entertainment, only to be interrupted (if that’s the right word), for David Ogden to thank everyone and to bring them news of how the fundraising had gone.
The trip raised a considerable amount of money. Firstly, the sponsored walk for the MCF 2021 Festival raised over £2,800, which is credited to the various lodges and groups. On top of that, by some pretty canny negotiation, David Ogden and his team had managed to get discounts and other incentives to add to the funds raised by the raffles etc. As a result, a staggering amount of nearly £5,000 was raised, and as is the custom on this holiday, was divided amongst the groups according to the numbers attending. David was therefore delighted to share out the money raised with the amounts announced as follows: to Dave Whitmore of the Warrington Group for £360, Ernest Lloyd of the Eccles and District Group for £540, Peter Kelly of the Ormskirk and Bootle Group for £1440 and John Selley of the Wigan Group for £2520.
John Selley, the Wigan Group Vice Chairman, then thanked David and Joan Ogden, his drivers and staff, who had all worked so hard to make the event a success.
It was with the warm feeling, that helping to contribute over £7,500 to charitable causes brings, that everyone returned safely and contentedly to their ‘native shores’.