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Report on Lodge Meeting at Sea!
By PM Mike Ford

A Wee Trip Across the Pond

queen mary shipI have had a life long ambition to cross the Atlantic Ocean by boat ever since I witnessed the launch of the Queen Elizabeth 11 in Clydebank all those years ago. The chance to score this off my ‘bucket list’ came this year when my wife decided that she must go to see our younger son who is working in the US of A. 
   We arranged the trip and managed to book the Queen Mary 11 for the journey.  We were expertly processed for boarding the ship and we set off from Southampton on our adventure. The ship has a daily bulletin that details the events occurring each day and on the list for the Sunday to my surprise was an intimation that there was a Masonic Gathering taking place in the Board Room on Deck 9 ( QM11 has 14 decks). This trip was my first time aboard a cruise ship therefore I had no idea that such an occurrence would take place. Therefore, after the Interdenominational Church Service it was with some interest and trepidation that I ventured along to this ‘Gathering’
   On arrival I found a number of elderly gentlemen sitting with poker faces, I nodded respectfully to the assembled group and sat down nearest  the door (for a quick exit if the meeting was not to my liking). I was relieved to note that a number of much younger men started to join us and at the allotted start time of the meeting a young stewardess entered the Board room and handed me a clipboard with an attendance sheet attached to it. I was asked to append my name along with the rest who attended and return the list to pursers office.
   At this point one gentleman who had obviously travelled before on the QM11 assured me that this was normal practise and inquired where the minute book was. This broke the ice and everyone started talking at once  until the gathering was brought to order by the suggestion that we should elect a chairman. The group agreed that it ought to be the most senior Mason  present.
   It was quickly established that there were no members with Grand Rank However there were a number of brethren  of London Grand Rank and a number of  members of Provincial Grand Rank from England. A Past Provincial Grand Senior Warden from Warwickshire turned out to be  the most senior and organised the meeting by getting each person attending to introduce themselves and give a resume of their Masonic career.  At this point the Clip board had return to my hands and as I had admitted to being the secretary of My Lodge I was informed that I would take the minutes.
The gathering threw up a number of interesting characters e.g. there  was a brother who had been Knighted for his services to industry in the West Midlands, brethren who had received the MBE and the OBE and their occupation ranged from Labourers, Tradesmen, Lawyers, Toast Masters, Oil Explorers and Guys who worked in the Tourist industry. A total of 32 brethren attended the function and we were surprised that there were no Americans in the company.
   There were brethren from Northern Ireland, Eire, Provinces in England and Myself as the only Scot. The company soon relaxed and the conversations started to flow. It came to light in these conversations that this type of gathering took place on all the Queens in the Cunard fleet and the minutes were recorded for the ship’s Log.  All too soon it was time to draw the gathering to a close but it was suggested that we hold another meeting this time with our wives and partners. The suggestion was readily agreed to and I was nominated to approach the pursers office to make the arrangements. The gathering agreed to host a private function and invite any Masonic Widow who were travelling to join us. The group decided to subscribe a minimum of $15.00 per couple to fund the  event.
   The entertainments officer was most helpful and the Winter Garden Area on deck 7 was made over to our private function. The Crew laid on Coffee and cookies for the guests and opened  a bar for those who wanted a stronger drink. We had mixed feelings when we realised that there were no Masonic Widows attending either they were not on board or were too reserved to come and join us. That did not detract from the fellowship we all enjoyed and I have to say that as I had to collect the monies for the function, those who attended were most generous in their giving. Once I had paid for the privilege of the private function the cash left over amounted to $350.00 which went to the Captain’s Charity which is the  Prince’s Trust.
   I would commend any brother travelling on Queen Mary 11 , Queen Elizabeth or the Queen Victoria to take advantage of such a gathering as I met interesting  brethren and left with a feel good feeling that again the Craft had done some good for those less fortunate than ourselves. The Cunard Line  gave all who attended a certificate. I wondered if this was a first for Lodge 19 in the Province of Fife and Kinross to have a certificate for attending a Masonic Function in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary 11, but this was not to be as I discovered the Bro. Jim Mack PM of Lodge Templehall disembarked the QM11 as we were boarding at Southampton. Bro Jim was also impressed with the trip and his Masonic Gathering.

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