Earlier this year Alan Murray, a former member of Newton Lodge No 6288, moved to Bulgaria with his wife Vasi. The main reasons were to retire and to be nearer Vasi’s family who are Bulgarians. Since moving Alan has been in regular contact with some of their Masonic friends from Warrington and in particular David Whitmore, WM of Newton Lodge and his wife Lynn.
Before Alan moved to Bulgaria he had identified an English speaking lodge and in due time joined the Black Sea Anchor Lodge No 57, being the only English Emulation lodge in the Balchik area of Bulgaria. The lodge works under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria and is recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England. Following Alan’s move to Bulgaria in March 2015 and joining the lodge, he was very soon appointed as senior deacon.
Following recent conversations Alan and Vasi asked David and Lynn to consider looking at the possibility of joining them in Bulgaria for a few days. Alan suggested that if they could arrange a particular date to visit, it may be possible for David to visit Alan’s new lodge and the next meeting would be a very special one, being the installation of the first Bulgarian into the chair of lodge. Since the lodge was consecrated in 2011 all the previous masters were English.
The visit was arranged at quite short notice with David and Lynn planning to fly out to stay with them for a few days.
The only flight available at short notice was with Wizz Air, but that meant departing from Luton at eight in the morning. Fortunately seats were still available at a reasonable price along with accommodation at the nearby hotel at Luton. So the journey started at Wigan station on board the 14:09 service to Euston, followed by a brisk walk to St Pancras to catch the commuter service to Luton Parkway followed by a connecting airport bus shuttle service to their overnight accommodation.
After arriving in Bulgaria and being met by their host, David and Lynn were soon being driven up to the Black Sea town of Balchik for the next four nights.
Saturday being the day of the installation and following a relaxing morning, Alan and David met up with several other brethren and their partners, enjoyed a few drinks sitting alongside the small idyllic harbour prior to going to the newly refurbished rooms in the basement of the hotel opposite.
As it was such an important installation some grand officers from both Bulgaria and England were present and took part in the ceremony. Stuart Ludlow, Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies from Ceres Lodge No 3501 helped by acting as JW for the ceremony. He also sang the masters song at the social board. Lubomir Parmakov PDGM from the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria gave an excellent address to the brethren during the ceremony, which received a round of applause. George Petkov was duly installed by Derek Marney to become the first Bulgarian master of the Black Sea Anchor Lodge No 57.
David and German Germanov were two visiting masters who sat alongside the WM in the position normally occupied by the chaplain in our lodges in England. Upon completion of the ceremony, very little time was available for pictures to be taken and unfortunately David and Alan were not able to gain a picture of themselves at this special occasion.
At the social board David was very privileged by being asked to sit next to Lubomir. Many brethren took along raffle prizes which generated a good amount for local charities.
With time passing into the early evening it was time for the brethren to meet up with wives and partners in the Lotus Hotel lounge to participate in more refreshments and entertainment. A most enjoyable atmosphere ensued! However, due to the distance that many had to travel, only around 30 people stayed on until midnight when the most enjoyable evening came to a close. Both David and Alan had enjoyed the evening very much with Alan saying he really felt at home and settled in his new environment.
It appears that David was not the first visitor to the lodge from the Province of West Lancashire. Barry Dickinson from the Wigan Group had taken several members to visit the lodge some two years earlier. George showed David the gift presented by the Wigan Group to mark their previous visit to Bulgaria.
As Sunday saw beautiful weather David, Lynn, Alan and Vasi decided to take a trip into Romania, a country new to all of them. The drive to Constanta took around two hours including border formalities. Monday continued with glorious sunshine so a few local beauty spots soon had the lens shutter clicking. Tuesday morning saw the four saying farewell at Varna station as David and Lynn boarded the express to Sofia.
Lubomir and his lady had previously arranged to meet up with David and Lynn at a nearby hotel, but on David and Lynn’s arrival at their hotel, Lubomir just happened to be in reception and invited and them to meet up with him and his wife later. With the Masonic season drawing to a close for the summer, several brethren would be dining in a room adjacent to the hotel’s restaurant to have an end of season dinner. Lubomir insisted that David and Lynn should join them and a very enjoyable evening was had by all!
The following two days were spent in the mountain resort of Bansko which was very beautiful with magnificent views at every angle. Back to Sofia for their final night in Bulgaria, before catching an early morning flight to Manchester.
Alan and Vasi extended their best wishes to everyone saying they hoped to make a couple of trips back to the UK. David and Lynn enjoyed their experiences and are looking forward to returning sometime in the future.