Freemasonry in Stirlingshire and West Perthshire
T.W. R. JOHNSTON
When I got a request, or rather a command, from my friend, Mr. J. J. Munro, to write an article on Masonry in Stirling, I was at a loss as to why his choice had fallen on me for the task. It is true I am a Past Master of Lodge Royal Arch., Stirling, No. 76; P.Z. of Stirling Rock Royal Arch Chapter No.2, and a P.S. of Castle Red Cross Conclave, No.14. but not even this triple distinction entitles me to pose as a Masonic historian. I plead guilty, however, to having compiled the story of the Ancient Lodge of Stirling, No.30, from the date of the first minute extant, to wit, 28th December, 1741, to 14th September, 1905, the opening date of a three days' bazaar, held in aid of a Masonic Hall Fund. That story extended to seventy one pages of the Bazaar book. Had I not been a prisoner at home suffering from a sprained ankle, I fancy it would have been shorter! However, it will come in useful now.
I have always regretted I did not have the story made up by itself as a booklet. It would have cost me nothing when it was in type and there was always the chance of a copy surviving and corning in handy in the event of anything happening to the Minute Books. It is wonderful how official records have a knack of disappearing. I understand that at the present moment a search is being made for old books of Royal Arch Chapter, No. 2 - the oldest Chapter in the world. Their disappearance is nothing short of tragic. I sincerely trust that the enquiries now being made will result in their restoration to the Chapter.
Bro. N. A. Macdougall, who was R.W.M. of No.76 for the session 21st December 1931, to 14th December 1932, has done for that Lodge what I attempted to do for No. 30 written the history of the Lodge from its minutes. He delivered this as a lecture to the brethren on 10th October, 1934. Bro. Macdougall well deserved the vote of thanks accorded him. His address was worthy of the Lodge over which he had presided with conspicuous ability, but only what was to be looked for from an enthusiastic and scholarly student of the Craft. All seemed to go well with No. 76 till 1854 when minutes became meagre and unsigned. In December 1855 to 1860 there were meetings in the Golden Lion Hotel when office-bearers were appointed, but only on two occasions was the Festival of S John celebrated. From 1860 to 1868 the Lodge was dormant. From 1869 to 1872 the Lodge was evidently working as pages were left for minutes that had been drafted but not entered, which the lecturer suggested showed that the Lodge was not dormant, but lacked a conscientious secretary!
No. 30 is fortunate in having a continuous record from 28th December. 1741. There was as least one minute book before that, date. Had it been in existence now it might have helped to solve the mystery of the Ancient Lodges age. Writing as I am for readers the majority of whom are not Freemasons I cannot within the space of a necessarily short article deal at length with debatable matter. I am not going to assert that the Ancient Lodge of Stirling had anything to do with Cambuskenneth Abbey. In all likelihood, the masons engaged there had a luge, but it would be operative. It might claim a right of excluding travelling craftsmen looking for a job; might even turn a deaf ear to the monk suggesting that the tramp be engaged in order to hasten on the job; but I am far from convinced that there was any connection between the operative Masonry of Cambuskenneth and the speculative of the eighteenth century in Stirling. What is more important is the fact that the Ancient Lodge beyond a doubt should be nearer 3 than 30 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
I have of necessity had to deal very briefly with the two Lodges of Stirling. It will be clear, even to non-Masonic readers that my Bazaar Book contribution left much unsaid about No.30. Strangely enough it was another brother of No.76 who made good the deficiency in the person of Mr. William Harvey, J.P., F.S.A.Scot., at whose initiation I assisted. I am the fortunate possessor of No. 21 (of fifty copies printed) of a booklet of forty-six pages entitled “Ancient Stirling Ludge the Operative Craft and the Speculative System," printed in 1923. It came to me with kind regards" from the author, now a well-known man of letters and editor in charge of the story department of the numerous papers and magazines published by the Leng-Thomson combination in Dundee. “Ancient Stirling Ludge” disposes once and for all of the Cambuskennth “myth”, and is besides an intensely interesting contribution to local history, particularly in regard to the Masons, Mechanics and Omnigadrum. Mr. Harvey has to his credit several other Masonic books, among which may be mentioned “Robert Burns as a Freemason,” “ Complete Manual of Freemasonry" and “The Ancient Craft and the Third Degree” His Mother Lodge is justifiably proud of such a son who is now Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire.
Thus far had I got with my task on the evening of Sunday, 5th July, oblivious to the fact that Mr. Harvey had been in a nursing home for a week suffering from a heart attack. My morning paper informed me of his death. When one has passed the allotted span, one is supposed to be case-hardened, and there’s some truth in that. But Willie Harvey dead! It seemed beyond belief. Colleagues, however, don’t write obituary notices about one of themselves by way of a test and I had to accept the fact. Let me be pardoned if I felt justifiably proud that while to me he was still alive, I had place on record my appreciation of his merit. I believe I am right in saying that Willie Harvey was a contributor to the “Stirling Journal” while still working in Messrs. Kinross’s coachwork. I do not remember ever turning down anything he sent in. I even made him free of its columns for a serial story – the first he ever wrote. It had the title Kennthbrook, a thin disguise for Cambuskennth, about which he had a good deal to say masonically at a later date. Then he entered the law office of Messrs. Mathie, MacLuckie & Lupton. Willie was a good dead in the company of my assistant and eventually, successor as editor, the late David Scott, who was a first-class shorthand writer and always willing to help one anxious to learn the art. The pupil developed into reporter for a short spell in Alloa. Then followed Dundee, where the reporter found a more congenial sphere of journalism indoors, and full scope for his literary ability and judgment. In the fullness of his power he has passed, and all that remains to say is, “Frater, ave aique vale!
Yet another booklet I must mention. It came to me 7th May, 1927, with a letter which read -"It gives me great pleasure to send you the first completed copy of my little book on the Lodge of Stirling. I never forget it was you who, unconsciously on your part, first directed my thoughts to the Craft…. You will agree with me, I know, that something should be done to place Stirling in its deserved place masonically. Whether my argument is convincing or not you will be able to judge. At least I have done my best." The book was The Lodge of Stirling, Part I. (Prior to 1741)," and the author was James Bain, M.A., Stirling, of Lodge St Andrew (Dennyloanhead), No.176; Hon. Life Member, Lodge Carron, No. 139; Former Chaplain, Lodge "Harmony," Cawnpore, No.435, E.G. and of the travelling Lodge of the 1st Cameronians, Lodge Cameronian," No. 26, I.C.” J. Bain, M.A., I felt like parodying what men and gods said of Baron Houghton. His soldiers called him Padre, but his friends just Jimmy Bain Shattered by the Indian climate. hobbling along on crutches, Jimmy faced life gallantly, undauntedly to the last. I fancy he faced death with a smile. "The Lodge of Stirling "was delivered as a lecture. Briefly it was a plea for the restoration of an earlier number than 30, well written. Part I. was printed for Lodge 30; Part 2, if finished, has not been put in type.
Masonry in Stirling - let it be granted that the Speculative Mason had an Operative ancestor, he took centuries in Stirling before showing his appreciation of the latter's work. Not of him could it be said that he had flattered by imitating the good workmanship of which Stirling Castle, the Abbey, and Greyfriars Church were speaking examples. It was not till 1933 the Freemasons of Stirling had a Temple they could call their own. And they bought it ready-made. Outwardly it may be still Craigs House. Inwardly it is a Temple, not built by hands. The Masonic organisations of Stirling have reason at last to be proud of owning a Temple in which they can work with that reverence which their ceremonies demand. They were fortunate in having in John Bruce, architect, a Past Master of No 76, a brother who was able to adapt the interior to best advantage.
The Masons of Stirling had a very weary pilgrimage. The wanderings of the Israelites was trifling in comparison. It will take long to trace the wanderings from “the house of Bro. George Henderson” to that of James Jaffray, from that of the Neather Hospitall Yaird,” from the Trades Hall to the Guildhall, from the house of William Mathie to that of Bro. MacNaughton, the Sun Inn, the Corn Exchange Inn, the Golden Lion Hotel, The Agricultural Hotel, The Caledonian Vaults, Station Hotel, the Council Chambers in Broad Street, and at length the billiard room in King Street. So far No.30, No.76’s final resting place before the Temple opened was the hall below the North Church.
Among the Masters of No.30 it is worth mentioning that Bro. Hugh Seton of Touch, who held office from 1746 to 1748, was elected Grand Master Mason of Scotland in 1748-49. Coming to more recent times an outstanding Master of the Lodge was Bro. George Christie, Provost of Stirling, and P.G. Master of Stirlingshire from 1893 to 1903. The ex-Provost was also a member of Lodge No.76 and was in a way responsible for my becoming a member thereof. There was no direct attack, merely "Well, when are you corning up?" But when he came to Mrs. Hogg, my mother-in-law, it was different – “Tom must join 76.” It wasn’t usual in the early nineties of last century for a mother-in-law to advise a son-in-law to join the Masons, but the Provost's reiteration of the command became so frequent that I was requested for any favour to become a Mason at once if I had any inclination in that direction. I had, and that ended the matter to Mrs. Hogg's relief. R.W.P.G.M. for two terms of five years each, ex-provost Christie was a popular chief. He was candid in criticism, but at the same time generous in praise. His end was sudden - he dropped down dead when leaving a hotel in London. He had married an English lady belonging to Lancashire and by her wish was buried in Timperley Churchyard. His successor as P.G.M., Brother William Black, Falkirk. The P.G. Secretary and Bro. J. G. Murray and myself attended the funeral, which took place from Altrincham, and I shall never forget the journey by coach. One of the occupants at regular intervals in mournful tones proclaimed to his audience of three, “He was a wonderful man." It was true, more true in fact than the speaker realised. It may be that some time in the future a Son of the Rock will in his travels come across a monument to a Provost of the City of the Rock in Timperley Churchyard and marvel how it came to be there. His surprise will be no greater than mine when travelling by road from Chester to Wrexham for a Scotland V. Wales " soccer" International match, I passed a cottage rejoicing in the name of Ochilbank and later, on visiting Wrexham Cathedral, I found a monument to a Murray of Polmaise.
To Brother Christie as P.G.M. succeeded Brothers William Black, A. W. Gray Buchanan, Dr. Edmund Eustace Dyer and Andrew Hunter, all good men and Masons to whom I would willingly have paid tribute here had space permitted. On the death of Bro. Hunter, his successor was found in the person of Bro. Brigadier-General Sir Norman A. Orr Ewing, Bart., D.S.O., A.D.C., V.L., a Past Master of Ancient 30, and Laird of Cardross, Port of Mentieth. A more popular choice could not have been made. The Province of Stirlingshire’s appreciation of Sir Norman’s merits has been fully endorsed by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in which he holds the rank of Grand Master Depute to the Grand Master elect, The Duke of York. But for the death of King George, the Grand Master would have been the Prince of Wales, who, however, on constitutional grounds could not hold office. That the successor to the Duke of York will be ---- I leave to the readers to fill in the blank as I have no desire to have the Masonic equivalent of pack drill meted out to me. But it won’t be the first occasion on which the Province of Stirlingshire has provided Grand Lodge with a Master.
In his choice of assistants Sir Norman showed excellent judgment in giving commissions as Master Depute to Bro Daniel Robertson, Past P.G. Treasurer and P.M. of No.16. and as Substitute Master to Bro. Colonel A. R. Bain, M.C., P.M, of No.30. Here we have experience and enthusiasm combined in a marked degree. It was, it may be mentioned, these two Lodges -- only 16 had the number 14 at the time -- which composed the P. G. Lodge when it was erected on 6th February, 1745, with Bro. John Callendar of Craigforth as P.G.M. A century later the Lodges had increased to seven, the additional ones being Nos. 69 (Alloa), 76 (Stirling), 139 (then 138, Carron), 176 (Denny and Loanhead), and 312 (Bannockburn). In the present year of grace there are twenty Lodges, the foregoing and Nos. 391 (Grangemouth), 484 (Slamannan), 531 (Bridge of Allan), 588 (Falkirk), 598 (Kincardine-on-Forth, 771 (Alva), 780 (Balfron), 782 (Tillicoultry), 793 (Brightons, Polmont Station), 850 (Dollar), 911 (Bonnybridge), 1268 (Buchlyvie) and 1303 (Clackmannan). There is plenty of work for the P.G. Master, the Depute and his Substitute. I can testify to that after being S.P.G.M. for two periods of Dr. Dyer's Mastership of twenty years. Sir Norman has also been fortunate in securing as P.G. Secretary Brother Thomas Pitcairn, Town Clerk Depute of Falkirk, a very worthy successor to the late Bro. James Brown, and to Bro. J. G. Murray, and incidentally a most accomplished Installing Master whose services are in constant demand and ungrudgingly given. As to the Chaplains -- the Rev. Dr. Boyd of Menstrie and the Rev. J. J. S. Thomson, M.C., M.A., Larbert, the Senior is welcome in every Lodge in the Province and the Junior has but to follow in the Senior's footsteps to attain a like popularity.
As the Observer and its subsidiary paper, The Callander Advertiser, cover much of the Masonic Province of Perthshire west, the south-west portion of which marches with Stirling-shire, so that it is difficult for the motorist exceeding the speed limit to know whether he has to appear at Stirling or at Dunblane until the perambulating policeman settles the point to his own satisfaction. The truth is that where Red (that is Royal Arch Chapter) Masonry is concerned the Companion or would-be Companions of Dunblane, Doune, Thornhill and Aberfoyle, find Stirling their most suitable centre. There are no more respected names on the Roll of Stirling Rock R.A. Chapter, No.2, than Provost Hume, Dunblane, and Companion David Ferguson, Doune -- both dead, and Provost M'Anish, Doune, still with us, all of whom were First Principals of the Chapter. (Of course, there are applications from many other quarters for permission to join the oldest Chapter in the world, but that is quite a different matter). As regards " Blue" Masonry, no man in the neighbourhood of Dunblane, Dunkeld, Crieff, Comrie, Kenmore, Callander, Aberfeldy, Tbornhill, Pitlochry, Killin, Aberfoyle and Kinloch Rannoch, requires to look further than one of these centres for initiation in the Craft. From a reliable source I learn that Masonry is in a very healthy state in the Province. This year the Lodges have been reduced by one by the amalgamation in Dunkeld of No. 14 and No. 152 operative to form the United Lodge of Dunkeld No.14 which has bought a church and is converting it into premises suitable for the Lodge’s working. The amalgamation was sensible and should tend to strengthen Masonry in Dunkeld. It will also lessen the work of Bro. James MacGregor, P.G Secretary. Robroyston. Dunblane. In arranging Visitations which in a Province like West Perthshire must be a matter of considerable difficulty. Bro. MacGregor, however, is the kind of man who makes light of difficulties. He is the right man for his post.
Perthshire West has for its Provincial Master Bro. John E Crabbie of Blairhoyle, Port of Menteith. As well-known in the “ruggar” world – Edinburgh Academicals, Oxford, Scotland -- a generation ago as in Masonic circles to-day. Thornhill is not far distant from Blairhoyle and in the late eighties of last century Mr. George Crabbie of Blairhoyle, father of the present P.G.M., presented a Hall to the Masons of the Perthshire village. It was a handsome gift from a non-Mason and emphasised the donor's interest in the district in which he was a landowner. Subsequently Mr. Crabbie's eldest son, who had been called to the Scottish Bar, became R.W.M. of Lodge Blairhoyle, No.792 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and held the office to the complete satisfaction of the members for many years, till, in fact, he was elected as successor to Colonel A. M. B. Grahame of Glenny as Provincial Grand Master of Perthshire West. Bro. Crabbie's work as a Mason has not been confined to his own Province. He followed Lord Clyde of Briglands as Master of Edinburgh Academy Centenary Lodge and held office for two years with acceptance. He had the further distinction of taking part in the ceremony when our present King (then Prince of Wales) was installed in London as R.W.M. of the Magdalen College, Oxford, Lodge. As P.G.M. Bro. Crabbie is a member of Grand Committee, and he has been for twelve years a member of the Finance Committee -- the most important of all G.L. Committees. Brethren who were present when Bro. Crabbie installed Sir Norman in the chair of Ancient 30 will understand why his services are in request at Masonic functions. A high compliment was paid him last year when at St. Andrew's Day Festival he was entrusted with the proposing of the toast of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and Sir lain Colquhoun, Grand Master, a task which he performed with credit to himself and with satisfaction to all present. Fate can play some peculiar tricks. Cardross and Blairhoyle are not far apart and as Norman Orr Ewing and Jack Crabbie in boyhood’s days explored together the realms of fair Menteith, they probably had their share of the long, long thoughts attributed to youth. But it is odds against their ever dreaming they would be Grand Masters of adjacent Provinces. That they are so is all to the good of Masonry.
A word or two now about Stirling Castle Red Cross Conclave No.14. I have always felt that the Conclave deserved greater support from local Masons than it received. A few faithful members have kept it going and I trust that their example will be followed by others in larger number. The Conclave work is highly interesting more than that I cannot say here. I am led to refer to the Conclave through the assertion made by ex-Provost Barker, following on Mr. Cunningham Graham's death, that he, while R.W.M. of No.30, had made the erstwhile Laird of Gartmore a Mason. That bee was in the ex-Provost's bonnet long before Mr. Cunningham Graham’s death. I have myself heard him refer to the matter. I ventured to doubt it but it was a case of one Brother being of his own opinion still, without being convinced against his will. And when a Brother tells you that he made a certain man a Mason... well -' Que voulez-vou' best expresses the situation. The fact is that the minute book of Ancient 30 has no reference to Mr. Cunningham Graham's entry into Masonry during Bro. Barker's term of office or that of any other Master. The ex-Provost has. I fear been dreaming dreams. He is not the first Daniel to dc so. But don't throw him to the lions. If his hallucination arose from the fact that he had dreamt C. G. had become a Mason, he is to be pardoned for the hidalgo-patriot and author of several of the best written books of his generation would have been an honour to Freemasonry. But this was to be a paragraph on the Conclave and it will be.
Some years ago, after a meeting of the Conclave, there was an adjournment for supper to the Golden Lon Hotel. There would be about a dozen of us present. After supper, Mr. Archie Stevenson, the then landlord carne into the dining-room and mentioned that Mr. Cunningham Graham was in the hotel, had just dined, and there was no one to keep him company. Would it be possible to have him beside us queried Archie. I saw no difficulty and I explained the position to my companions. Like myself they saw no reason why we should not invite the man who had lately been a prisoner in Morocco to spend an hour with us. He came in and made himself quite at home. After a little I got a hint that I should propose the health of our Guest. I did so, and we duly pledged hi health and assured him in the usual manner that he was a jolly good fellow. He gave us a charming reply and in the course of it referred to the Morocco affair. Part of the speech was to the following effect: - “As you are aware I was recently a prisoner in Morocco, One day a chief entered my cell. After I had answered several questions he asked ‘Are you a Mason?’ I had to admit I was not. With that he looked at me scornfully, turned and walked out, saying, ‘I thought every educated European would be a Mason! Gentlemen,’ added our guest, ‘had I been a Mason, I believe I would not have been a prisoner so long and my treatment would have been better.’” That goes to prove the Mr. Cunningham Graham was not a Mason before his captivity if proof were necessary. But it is not necessary. Had he become a member of No.30, the fact was bound to be recorded.
This Article by Bro. T.W.R. Johnston first appeared in The Stirling Observer Centenary Number 1836-1936 on the 15th September 1936.