Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No.76.
A Short Historical Sketch.
By Brother J. Stewart Donaldson. Dis.S.Dip.
Sometime prior to the 21st of May 1759, a group of Masons gathered together in the Town of Stirling, the object of this meeting was to discuss the forming of a second Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the City on the Rock. As a result of this assembly of Brethren, an application was made to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, ‘craving the issue of a patent under the seal, constituting and erecting the petitioners into a Regular Lodge by the name Stirling Royal Arch.’ Grand Lodge duly granted the request and on the 21st of May 1759, the Most Worshipful and Right Honourable, Alexander, Earl of Galloway, Grand Master of Scotland, ‘Constituted and Erected and appointed the Worshipful Brethren…..and their successors, in all time coming, to be a true and regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.’
The Lodge is fortunate in that it still has the Minute book which covers this period, and from these Minutes there is evidence that the Lodge possessed books which pre-dated the joining of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1759. It would appear that once the Lodge received its Charter a new Minute book was started, in which an exact replica of the Charter was copied. At the entry dated the 7th of June 1759, we have the first evidence of the Lodge being older. It lays out the fees due to the Lodge and states that those Members whose names are found in the records of the Lodge or can produce the Lodge’s certificate shall be at liberty to join the Lodge. This same Minute also makes the first mention of Royal Arch Masonry when it states that the fee for receiving the Royal Arch degree would be 5/-. There can be no doubt that Royal Arch Masonry played an important part in the naming of the Lodge, for in the bye-laws of the Lodge dated the 6th of August 1760, the second one which deals with the rules governing the election of the Master states, ‘….always understanding that no Brethren shall be entitled to bear office either annually of pro tempore or be members of the Committee, except such has been raised to the Degree of Royal Arch Masons.’ In all probability the Lodge had been in existence before the date of its Charter, conferring these ‘higher degrees’, in fact some sources state the Lodge was independent until 1759 when it joined Grand Lodge.
Our ancient Brethren all resided in and about the Town of Stirling, and by examining the Guildry records of this period, we find that they are mentioned as being Merchants and local businessmen. All our early Brethren were either Members of the Guildry or the Seven Incorporated Trades, and a great number of them sat on the Town Council. In fact during the first 100 years of Lodge Stirling Royal Arch, the Town Council was never without a majority of Masons, taking its assembly from both the Lodges in the Town. With Stirling being a garrison town, the Lodge over the years attracted a great number of Military personnel from a variety of different Regiments, which were billeted in the Castle. One of these was the Ayr and Renfrew Militia, which had moved to Stirling in 1799. On the 13th of February 1800, Lodge Stirling Royal Arch along with its Sister Lodge Ancient Stirling No.30 met in the Guildhall to consecrate a new Lodge, the Military Lodge Ayr and Renfrew Militia St. Paul’s No.271, this Lodge is known today as Lodge Ayr St. Paul No.204. Lodge Stirling Royal Arch was during this period still conferring the Royal Arch Degrees. Not only had the Lodge been working the Royal Arch Degrees since its inception, the Knights Templars degrees were also ‘worked’ by the Lodge. The Chapter in Stirling at this time was called the Stirling Rock Encampment of Knights Templars and held its Charter from Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No.93. (The Lodge number in 1800) This Chapter visited the St. Paul’s Lodge on the 22nd of May 1800 and presented the Master with a medal expressive of the Order.
During this early period, the Lodge met in various taverns throughout the Town, where the normal procedure would be to admit the landlord into the Lodge ‘gratis’, this was done to ensure that he could act as the Lodge’s Steward on meetings nights, and be caretaker to the Lodge’s belongings. One such meeting place was the Coffee House in Bow Street where the Lodge met for many years, it was in this tavern that Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have spent some time whilst waiting to receive the surrender of the Castle before removing to Bannockburn House. From the first recorded meeting place to the present, the Lodge has held its meetings in a variety of establishments, such as, the Old Episcopall Hall, the Guildhall, Sawer’s in Baker Street, the Old Coffee House, the Saracen’s Head, Grassom’s Tavern, Carmichael’s Tavern, the Globe and Crown Tavern, the Royal Hotel, the Stirling Arms, the Corn Exchange Hotel, the Golden Lion Hotel, the King’s Arms Tavern, the Douglas Hotel, the Masonic Hall King Street, the Masonic Hall Thistle Street, the North Church, the Masonic Temple at the Craigs, Allan’s school, the Masonic Hall Bridge of Allan, the Spiritualist Church and the Masonic Hall Bannockburn.
The beginning of the 19th Century saw the Lodge participate in a great number of public events, the laying of foundation stones of various new buildings in Stirling and also throughout Scotland. The Athenaeum at the top of King Street, the Corn Market, the High School, the New Bridge over the Forth, the Rail Bridge, the Grandstand at the Racecourse to name just a few. The Lodge played a leading role in a number of these events in the town, no small wonder when you consider the Provost at this time was a Past Master of the Lodge, and most of the council, members of the Craft.
Lodge Stirling Royal Arch has had many ups and downs during its history, not the least of which, the Lodge has been dormant three times, the first occasion this happened was from 1827 to 1829, the reason given in the Minute book was the resignation of the Master. The second time this was to happen was from 1860 to 1868, in truth, the Lodge had only been meeting on St. John’s day for the previous 5 years to elect the office-bearers, and had been dormant since 1855. This time the reason was the non-attendance of the Brethren, which had been steadily getting worse since 1850, and came to a head in 1859 when the Lodge stopped working altogether. On the 13th of February 1868 a meeting was held in the Guildhall for the purpose of reforming Lodge Stirling Royal Arch, the Brethren pledged their support for the Lodge and along with Brethren from other Lodges who joined on the night, the Lodge soon became active again. All was well for a few years, until in 1878 the Lodge again became dormant. This time the Secretary of the Lodge wrote to each Brother advising them of a meeting to be held to wind up the affairs of the Lodge. The let of the Hall was given up and all the furniture sold and disposed off. The selling of the Lodge’s possessions show that the members of the Lodge did not expect the Lodge ever to open again, this was the final nail in the coffin, and with the exception of a few books, some scraps of paper and one or two artefacts, Lodge Stirling Royal Arch has very little left of its proud heritage and antiquity. The Lodge was to remain dormant until 1890.
The Lodge has continued from 1890 to the present day without the fear of being dormant again, and in 1959 celebrated its bi-centenary, when a deputation from Grand Lodge headed by the Grand Master joined with the Lodge in a service of thanksgiving and re-dedication. Afterwards, a company of 240 Brethren attended a dinner in the Golden Lion Hotel, an old meeting place of the Lodge, and now at the beginning of a new Millennium, the Lodge reached its 250th centenary of the issuing of the Charter by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 2009.
In 1927 at the Festival of St. John, the Past Masters of Lodge Stirling Royal Arch presented to the Brethren of the Lodge, the Past Masters board which presently hangs on the West wall of the Lodge room. These eminent Brethren, from Brother Alexander Young to our current Master have in their own way played a great part in the life of the Lodge. The Lodge has had a lustrous past, and can look forward to an even more brilliant future, and now as we have moved beyond our 250th Centenary, each of the Brethren of Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No.76 can look at our past History and the wonderful traditions which have been entrusted to our care, and try to emulate those who came before us, and, by supporting Lodge Stirling Royal Arch become part of the Lodge’s history.
The History of Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No.76 is available to buy.