Provincial Grand Lodge Of Gloucestershire

Back in the Dolman Stand . . . 58 years on!

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Back in the Dolman Stand . . . 58 years on!

In 1966, Ashton Gate’s Dolman Stand boasted the longest single span roof of its kind in Europe, and supervising its construction was one Fred Beacham. Some 58 years on, Fred and wife Margaret were VIP guests at ‘The Gate’, organised by St Peter’s Hospice, in conjunction with Bristol Bears. St Peter’s Hospice is a firm favourite on the charity list for many Glos lodges south of the Province. Fred is under their care and openly admitted this would be his last “big adventure”.

“The Rugby March” initiative is an annual event; a pairing of support between the Bears and St Peter’s, which involves a 6-mile charity ‘march’ through spectacular scenery on the south side of the city, arriving at ‘The Gate’ for a live Premiership match.

“The stand was a project of gargantuan proportions in its day,” said Fred. “The single truss was 360 feet long, which we welded on site before it was lifted by two 100-ton cranes, which you can see in the photo.” [Fred, at six-feet-two, is naturally the one on the right.] “1966 was the World Cup year, of course,” recalled Fred. “Alf Ramsay brought the team which would go on to win the cup down to Ashton Gate for training. Building was going on and some of the Irish gangers were giving the England lads a right ragging, and banging on pieces of steel. There was a gentle knock on my cabin door and Mr Ramsay very politely asked if I could perhaps control my staff as his players couldn’t hear his instructions. It was much more of a gentlemanly sport in those days!”

Fred joined masonry back in the eighties. He managed to get to the Christmas meeting of his Lodge of St Christopher, and had as great time. A life-long rugby man, Fred played for The Army in Germany and then Board Plain in Bristol; obviously second row.

“We are both very tired,” he said the following morning, “but it was so worth it. The sun shone and the Bears had a spectacular win. What more could we want! Huge thanks to St Peter’s; they really made us feel very special. Never thought we’d make it, but we did, and have the T-shirts to prove it!”

We thank Dick Smith for this article and photographs.

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Fred and Margaret were VIP guests at ‘The Gate’
Back in the Dolman Stand . . . 58 years on!