The gathering was great and the people came
Even from the outer regions of that which is called Highbridge
And with equal dedication across the mighty river Brue
Whilst the sun watched and the people whispered.
They stood expectantly at the confluence of the metalled road and rail
Without tickets but never without hope
Waiting for the promised transport of the First
Never with a moments doubting as they had heard the call.
The bus then train to take the strain of this singular pilgrimage
Paid for with the Queen’s coin and cheap for those
Who threw themselves upon the day
With limited thought of how or why or when
That annual call from SIBA which they felt in their very hearts
Drew them as if in migration to the mighty Maltings
A precious shrine that may be found only at a special time
Revealed to the faithful in ancient Newton Abbot.
The host of them that journeyed, brought offerings
Of food and money to appease themselves and what was to be
Particularly to exchange for a commemorative glass
Which they trusted was to be filled with the juices of the hops and barley
Rare and subtle foods were laid across the bare planks
Sheltered from the very elements by the flapping canvas
No room inside for those slaves to the weed who must take their chances
The time to meet John Barleycorn was fast approaching.
At last the doors swung wide and the many were moved
As if swallowed complete by the gateway to this holy place
The queue was long and full of cheer of that greater cheer
That dwelt within that promised land, that hallowed hall.
The coin is passed and that etched glass reverently collected
Those promissory yellow tickets safely kept
Now such choice, which alter now to worship on
There are an hundred barrelled gods.
Some acolytes will go for strength
Some for brewers known and loved
And some of us will trust to luck to pick our due
Each half a tribute to that ancient wondrous skill.
This worshipping can take an age and hours passed
Some concentrate their reverence in many halves
Others of more delicate constitution take their time
Perhaps to savour more, perhaps to see more clearly
For this band of travellers, far from home
The time is coming to gather our bags and our wits
Along with straying friends, for the station calls
Most are glowing, some swaying, with the magnificence of the day.
On our return some dedicated souls feel the need for further obeisance
And quickly go to the local shrine to reinforce their mood
Whilst others quietly return to their hearths and homes
To bask in the love and respect due to all pilgrims of the ale.