From September 13-16, 18 members, ladies, and friends of St. Alban's Lodge No. 6 attended the 66th Annual International Gathering of Masonic Lodges Named for St. Alban in Northumberland, UK.
We were greeted by the brothers and ladies of St. Albans Lodge No. 5322 as we and approximately 100 others, were shown the finest that Northumberland has to offer. Lodging was at The Grand Hotel in Tynemouth, a costal suburb of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, which provided spectacular coastal views as well as easy access to the charming seaside community.
Friday evening saw the group check-in, as well as a welcome reception at the host lodge located in the village of Shiremoor, where we were enjoyed classic Northumbrian fare such as "pease pudding" and pork pies. The entertainment for the evening saw an Irish step dance routine performed by a local group led by the host lodge's Worshipful Master's wife. Strikingly different from lodges in our jurisdiction, there was a fully staffed and supplied bar in the temple itself.
Saturday saw the men return to the lodge for the gathering's business meeting, where the roll of attendees and upcoming gatherings are announced. Next year's Gathering will be held in Long Island, NY, with Branford, CT hosting the event the following year. After a spirited discussion, it was announced that our very own St. Alban's No. 6 will host the event in 2022.
The lodge was then opened, and the attendees were treated to an exemplification of the Fellow Craft Degree in English-fashion, which was followed by a festive board, complete with singing and toasts. While the men "labored," the ladies were treated to a cruise down the River Tyne, taking in the quayside views and the city's famous bridges. That evening saw all return to The Grand Hotel for a formal "Ladies Night" banquet, complete with live entertainment, food, and drink.
On Sunday, the attendees took a trip into County Durham (south of Tynemouth), and spent the day at Beamish Open Air Museum (www.beamish.org.uk), where we took a step back into time. The museum is akin to Olde Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg, and Plimoth Plantation, but on a massive scale. As we rode vintage busses, trolleys, and steam trains, we were able to explore a former coal pit mine, a 1940s farm and homestead, Edwardian-era villages, victorian mansions, and pre-WWI military reenactors, taking in all the traditional sights, smells, and tastes. We returned to The Grand Hotel that evening and spent time at the local pubs, be it at Copperfields, The Stuffed Dog, or The Priory, where we enjoyed some "real ale" (i.e. cask conditioned), fish and chips, and other local classics.
All of us who attended used the Gathering as an excuse to make a vacation to the UK and beyond. Whether it was painting London red, smoking a cigar in Winston Churchill's favorite cigar store, enjoying the Eifel Tower in Paris, attending a wedding in Lincoln, walking along Hadrian's Wall, driving along the Northumberland coast, seeing the Cliffs of Moher, or strolling the streets of Edinburgh, everyone had the trip of a lifetime.
The International Gathering has been an annual event for the past 66 years; it brings together brothers and their families from all corners of the globe for a weekend of fun and fellowship. The connections you make become friends for life. Part of the
Gathering's purpose is to provide awareness and preservation of the crypt of St. Alban, fittingly located in the Cathedral of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK. Following this year's festivities, our group's Secretary, Joe Fletcher (Philadelphia), and chairman of next year's Gathering in NY, Charlie Scheu, presented a donation to the Very Reverend Dean of St. Albans Cathedral for the crypt, which was very well received.
The sign of a great trip is a reluctance to return home. For myself and all the others who traveled abroad, we all feel the same way. Here's to the 67th Gathering in New York- Cheers!
(The International Gathering of Masonic Lodges Named for St. Alban is open to all Freemasons and their families. Attendees need not be a member of a lodge named St. Alban, one must merely have a connection or friendship with one. If any are interested in traveling to future Gatherings, please reach out to W∴Jason Nystrom for details. If any lodge wishes to begin holding such events with their own and sister-named lodges, such as the St. Albans Gatherings, please reach out to any brother of St. Albans No. 6, and we will be happy to assist.) ?