Palma.—76-year-old John Hieron was recognised for his achievement on his arrival at the monastery in Lluc by being presented with a special plaque by the President of the Balearics, Jose Ramon Bauza, who was on hand to welcome the thousands of pilgrims who had made the annual pilgrimage from their various villages around the island.

John and his wife Eileen, 70, have owned a second home in Llubi for the past 20 years and flit back and forth between Majorca and their home in Gloucestershire.

And, it was from Llubi, John, Eileen and some 30 other locals set out on the 28 kilometre walk up to Lluc early Sunday morning.
John explained that he originally used to come to Majorca with his cycling club for Spring training with the Sineu cycling club and fell in love with the island, met fellow former cyclist Toni, who is now in charge of the Llubi walking group, and decided to buy a house in Llubi. “And since then, we pop back and forth but once I hit 70, I decided to give up cycling and take up long distance walking, and being a naturally fast walker, began to really enjoy it, especially here in Majorca. “And my wife also shares my passion for walking. I guess I walk an average of 12 to 15 kilometres each day and walk into Inca from Llubi, and back, about three or four times per week,” John said yesterday.

Experience “This was not the first time we've taken part in the pilgrimage up to Lluc and it really is a wonderful experience. “Providing one is relatively fit and properly equipped it is not particularly demanding, although, as you get nearer Lluc a really strange thing happens and that is that people start to get quieter and quieter. “On the one hand I guess it's because some have been walking all night or since the very early hours and are beginning to tire, but on the other, I think it's because people begin to meditate. “I know myself, my wife and friends do, after all, this is a pilgrimage up to Lluc to give thanks for things which may have improved in your or a loved one's life over the year. “It really is quite a moving and unusual sensation,” John explained yesterday.
This year 12'000 people from 40 villages took part in the pilgrimage which has been taking place as an organised event for the past 23 years although, as John pointed out, people have been making their pilgrimages up to Lluc for centuries.

President Jose Ramon Bauza was not the only local politician to be in Lluc to welcome and congratulate the walkers, a number of mayors from participating municipalities also joined the welcome party.

It was, however, the President who presented John with his plaque of honour and John spoke of how later on Bauza returned for a quick chat. “He was very polite and I stressed upon him the need for traditions like the an annual pilgrimage to Lluc and all the others which take part around the islands to be protected and kept alive.

Traditions alive “I told him how so many villages in the United Kingdom have lost their traditions and once traditions have been lost, they can never be revived - I made it quite clear that he must protect the region's culture and heritage and the President was very receptive,” John added.

The Soller Train, the Giants of Manacor and LLuchmajor and the Antoni Maria Alcover Institute were also presented with special plaques. But, it was the first time a foreigners has been honoured.