Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A Dittisham pilgrimage

I've been off the radar from friends and relatives for the last few days because my wife and I have been travelling. This afternoon, we arrived at the small village of Dittisham which sits by the edge of the River Dart in the county of Devon, England.

There's too little information for me to write anything on at present because this evening, we are due to travel with Allen Choong and See Liang Teik to a town called Paignton where we shall be attending a dinner reception by Lotus UK who are welcoming an opinion of Old Frees to their part of the world. (An opinion of Old Frees, you may ask? Yes, why not? We Old Frees are a bunch of opinionated old farts. But that's beside the point.)

Tonight in Devon, there are at least some 30 Old Frees who have descended on Paignton; about 40 if you count their family members as well. The 40 of us are probably a record number of Malaysians who have gathered in Paignton all at the same time.

Tomorrow at noon, we shall all be gathered at the St George's Church for a special thanksgiving service that the Dittisham community shall be organising for us. This will be a special occasion for them and for us, since it will cement the ties between Dittisham and Penang Free School. We share a common denomination in Revd Robert Sparke Hutchings. He was appointed the Rector of Dittisham in 1805 but by 1816, he had already arrived in the Far East and been the principal party to establish the Prince of Wales Island Free School.

As Penang Free School celebrates her Bicentenary on 21 October 2016, what better way is there than to make this special pilgrimage to the place of Hutchings' birth. The convoy of six cars that left Penang about two-and-a-half months ago are scheduled to arrive at Dittisham tomorrow at 11 o'clock with the few of us who flew in from Malaysia and other parts of Europe, but we - Allen, Liang Teik, Saw See and I - are the advance party who have come first. We feel it is more meaningful -- and symbolic -- for us to stay in Dittisham tonight instead of faraway Paignton. And so far, we have been swept away by the friendliness of the few Dittisham folks who were aware of our arrival this afternoon, in particular, Helen, who is one of the chief organisers of tomorrow's church service.

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