Members of Perseverance Chapter organised a group booking, well in advance, with South West trains to get the best deal for the return trip from Honiton to Waterloo. Nearer the date the RMT announced a strike that was to include this route. Come the day, and with no other real option left, the eight from 164 were collected by the two volunteer drivers from their homes around the Jurassic Coast at around six o-clock in the morning. Soon the cars were making their way to Yeovil Junction where a shuttle train service was being run to Salisbury. Both cars reached the station with some time to spare despite an accident causing delays on the final stretch. The picture on the right shows the “Enthusiastic Eight” in the Station's Waiting Room.
In due course the modern train arrived and we were whisked along the line to Salisbury. Fortunately, there was a trolley service from which coffee and a frugal selection of snacks were obtained to build up strength for the next leg of the trip. The “guard or whatever his title is these days” advised which platform to go to where we should catch our connecting service. The transfer went smoothly and we found eight seats together for the final leg of the trip. Arriving at Waterloo we had a long walk down the platform, during which we met old friends from Wiltshire heading to the same meeting. Arriving at the automatic exit gate it refused to accept our tickets and we had to find a staff member to let us out. On to the taxi rank and into cabs only to get a slow exit from the station area into the roads to Waterloo Bridge. Eventually getting to the roundabout at the start of the Bridge we found there had been another accident there which was causing all the congestion.
Safely at Freemasons' Hall we piled out and made our way to the robing areas where regalia was donned and plastic bags stowed away before signing in. Making our way into the Temple, greetings were exchanged with other Devonshire Companions who'd come up from South Devon on the normally running services to Paddington as well as other friends from neighbouring Provinces. We then made our way to space in the raised seats behind the Principals' Chairs where we would have a good view of proceedings.
The meeting was one of the normal Quarterly Convocations but was also being used to mark the 50th anniversary of HRH THE DUKE OF KENT KG, GCMG, GCVO, ADC as ME First Grand Principal. As part of these celebrations the First Grand Principal had been pleased to make a number of Appointments to and Promotions in Grand Rank. The main item on the agenda was the Investiture of these Companions. From our vantage point we had a clear view as each of those being honoured stepped forward for their big moment with the First Grand Principal. Six seconds for a promotion and eight for first appointment. Full details of those honoured in Devonshire are in a previous item on this web-site. Around 20 Devonshire Companions were attending this meeting in support.
Investitures at Grand Chapter are very polished events handled with military precision. This was no exception and in less than an hour the whole meeting was over. No pictures I'm afraid as photography is banned throughout the Hall. Afterwards it was a matter of the Eight returning their regalia to plastic bags before walking next door into the Connaught Rooms. Here we re-joined the rest of the Devonshire Contingent to partake of a glass of bubbly before we were all ushered into the dining room. A very leisurely lunch ensued, it couldn't be too rapid with close on 400 in the room. One or two hiccups occurred, like Jeff's elusive soup, toasts were taken and by the time we had reached our dessert course the top tables retired. At the foot of this report are some of the better pictures taken during lunch. I'm sure many of you will be able to provide suitably apt captions.
Leaving the venue Devonshire's party split into two groups. The Grand Superintendent's party headed off to Paddington to visit their favourite Temperance Establishment before catching their train home. The Sidmouth Eight decided to head for Waterloo and check what delights awaited them courtesy of RMT. Five decided to walk down Kingsway, around the Aldwych and across Waterloo Bridge while the other three decided it was time to exercise their bus passes.
Re-joining at the concourse, train times were checked to see when the earliest opportunity of reaching Salisbury might be. It was found that there was one due to leave in a few minutes time. It was then a rapid amble to almost the furthest of the platforms, crash through the gate and straight into the first open door. With all aboard we progressed down through all the very full carriages until, in the front but one, we managed to find eight empty seats scattered around the compartment. Shortly after the train was on its way and we were making the second step in our return.
Arriving at Salisbury we found a large display listing alphabetically all the destinations served with time and platform given. Unfortunately, station names finished at W.... ; Yeovil was not shown! Further investigation discovered that we were at the right platform but there was an hour and a half wait before our next train would leave. Only one option – find the refreshment room! We were soon perched around two tables in the centre of the room with a selection of drinks, snacks, newspapers and magazines. You could say it was an uneventful period if you ignore the fact that a coffee jumped all over a new copy of Private Eye and the catering staff had to come out to mop down the table and floor - but we somehow managed to live through it. On schedule our train arrived and we were returned to our vehicles for the final stage home.
Even then there was a sting in the tail for having returned two of our party to their start points our way back out of Sidmouth town centre was closed due to what seemed to be a burst Water Main. Another diversion and soon we were all home.
Summing up, whilst waiting at Salisbury, it was generally agreed that despite all the problems it had been a terrific and memorable day. Any Companion who has not attended an Investiture meeting in London should really add this to his “to do” list.
Arthur W Rowe PAGDC
Perseverance Chapter No 164
Click images to enlarge