Nobody does tradition quite like the British – and the same can be said for members of a Higham gentleman’s society set up 40 years ago.
The “Foursmen” have met every month to eat, drink and be merry at their spiritual home the Four Alls pub where the club first began in 1974.
But what started as an after-work get-together for Burnley and Pendle business owners has become a time-honoured tradition in the village.
The club, which includes builders, solicitors and even a helicopter pilot, regularly enjoy jaunts to the races or a hike in the Yorkshire Dales – as well as a pint or two in their local.
Now members are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the “Foursmen” with a boat trip from Liverpool to Manchester.
“We are not like the Freemasons,” explained Foursmen secretary and treasurer Mick Holden. “There are no secret handshakes. It is nothing sinister – it is a gentlemen’s society. It is just a good crack really. It is all about the banter. We just enjoy ourselves.”
The Foursmen first came into being when a group of business owners would meet in the pub for a pint after a hard day at work.
Mick said: “It was a loose collection of businessmen that started it off. Many lived in the village, some towards Nelson and others from Pendle villages and Padiham.
“The pub was a stopping-off point on their way home from work and they would all come in on a Tuesday night.
“People have come and gone over the years. There have probably been 100 or more different members through its history.
“We have bakers, solicitors, doctors, builders and even a Daily Express photographer and a helicopter pilot.”
The Four Alls pub has been the ever-present focal point for the Foursmen – giving the group its name and proudly displaying wooden plaques bearing the names of past presidents of the society.
Mick said: “I have been a member since 1982 and in 32 years this is the best the pub has ever been.
“It has ebbed and flowed over the years and we even left here for about nine months because the landlord at the time would not open at 5-30pm ready for out meeting at 6-30pm.”
Memberships of the Foursmen is by invitation only – but Four Alls landlords are given the honour of being president of the society and the current incumbents are Michael Bann and Matthew Reid.
The groups number cannot exceed 25 and the age ranges from around 35 to one member Jim Fishwick who is in his 80s.
The group still has one original member – Bill Oddie – but others have come and gone down the years as the tradition continued.
The Foursmen enjoy a friendly rivalry with the “Top Room Gang” at the pub and the two groups face off in an annual crown green bowling match.
The Foursmen have ventured out on all manner of day trips and excursions – often taking a horse race or two at Thirsk or York and sampling the local ale and fare.
The Four All Rambling Trail Society sees the members hike through the hills and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales.
So what has kept the Fourmen going strong all these years? “Drink,” joked Mick. “There is not one tee-totaller in the whole group. ”
At each meeting each member pays “subs” which are collected diligently and spent amongst the group throughout the year on food, drink and trips out.
There is even a coffin-shaped kitty which members pay in to so the group can raise a toast to a member if they pass away.
To mark the 40th anniversary the Foursmen are set to board a barge along the Manchester Ship Canal from Liverpool – all wearing specially-made anniversary ties.
The six-hour cruise – with a fully stocked bar of course - takes them into the heart of Manchester where they will disembark for some well-earned food.