Being part of the HCPT pilgrimages over the years has been a great privilege. On many occasions I have been humbled by the Group 35 children's humility and strengthened by their strength. Each year has been hard in many ways in terms of organising what is usually an overland expedition with heaps of luggage sometimes involving weighty oxygen cylinders but invariably including medicines and wheel chairs and many children's and adults' needs and wants to cater for. And catering for thirty people travelling by trains over day and night has had challenges of its own. Yet the prayers singing partying and yes on occasion tears too, which accompany each trip have made their mark on us all. Life has been far richer for me as a result of being part of HCPT Group 35 for so long and I can only hope that the other Group 35 pilgrims too look back on their expeditions and pilgrimages to Lourdes with as much fondness as I do. LDS.
Group 35 was founded in 1973 by two helpers from Group 24 - Brian Burgess RIP and Jerry Hawthorne. Brian led the Group for the first two years with Jerry as Deputy. Both were former pupils from Beaumont College which closed in their final year in 1967. Beaumont boys and staff gave much support to HCPT in the early days and the current helpers in the HCPT London Beaumont Region reflect that support. The colours of Group 35's rugby shirt logo above, light blue dark blue and Windsor brown, were the Beaumont colours and are in general used to identify HCPT London Beaumont Groups.
Brian Burgess became an HCPT governor/trustee soon after and remained such until his death in May 2007. Jerry Hawthorne then led the group from 1975 through to 2011.
At the begining children joined the group from all over the country - on one occasion helpers had to take a flight back from Lourdes to Gatwick thence onto Newcastle to accompany child pilgrims home there, then flew back to Gatwick from Newcastle on an almost empty plane. Similarly helpers regularly used to travel up to Birmingham by train from London, to meet child pilgrims from there and then travelled with them on trains down to Folkstone, took the ferry to Boulogne platform one and then the chartered HCPT couchette train left from platform two and travelled down overnight to Lourdes. Such has been the success of HCPT however that since then not only Birmingham and Newcastle but also many other towns and cities in the UK Ireland and elsewhere abroad, have their own thriving HCPT groups.
Today HCPT Group 35 is based in Wimbledon and welcomes about 15 helpers and 7 children with special needs to join us over Easter week our planning for which starts in September each year. Child pilgrims tend to come from schools in the Home Counties where a great deal of rapport and trust has been built up over the years. We also take individual children where families so request, usually from Wimbldon and South West London.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
HCPT Group 35 - End of Personal Era
Having decided finally to relinquish the leadership of HCPT Group 35 to an enthusiastic new leader for 2012 onwards, a little reflection on past pilgrimages with HCPT since my days as a school boy at Beaumont is apt if a little self indulgent. I will post some more another time but for now am copying and pasting part of the introduction from the Group's current website as the new man must be free to change that. The site intro reads:
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