RWM Bro. Peter J Brown
 


Bro John Weir PM

  LODGE HISTORY  
     
 

The following is an account of the initial years of the Lodge's history up to the time of Burns. It is taken from the official Lodge history book that was written by one of our own Lodge members, Bro John Weir, DSO,OBE, JP, MA, FEIS, PM, PPGM, Past Substitute Grand Master Mason. The book itself is in 10 chapters, the first 3 of which are presented here.

The forward to the book, also written by Bro Weir himself, is also included.

CONTENTS

FORWARD

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

 

 
   

FORWARD

"This historical review of Lodge St. James Tarbolton Kilwinning No. 135 grew out of a suggestion by Bro. Stuart Falconer, Grand Secretary, that I might contribute an article on the history of 135 suitable for inclusion in the Masonic Year Book. As I addressed myself to the request it soon became all too apparent that an adequate review could not be contained within the limits of the suggested size. "Why spoil the ship for a pennyworth of tar", I mused. Hence this fuller, more detailed account of a fascinating story of masonic growth and achievement. Throughout I have tried to combine factual detail with readability. Consequently I have avoided repetitious minutiae. I had, of course, to be selective in my choice of material. Such selection is personal but never at the expense of authenticity. In its final form this account would not have been possible without the willing co-operation of the Office-bearers of the Lodge, the assistance and constructive criticism of friends and the expert advice and helpful suggestions of Bros. Jim Laidlaw and John Merry of the Cumnock Chronicle, the printers of this work."

JOHN WEIR P.M.

 
   

 

 
 

CHAPTER 1

Lodge St. James Tarbolton Kilwinning No. 135
(The Lodge of Robert Burns)

A HISTORICAL REVIEW 1771-1976

How Freemasonry came to Tarbolton in 1771 must ever remain a matter of conjecture. There are no extant records. Nor, strangely enough, in a community rich in historical associations, local legends, traditions and cherished family anecdotes are any stories told of the origins of freemasonry in this romantic Ayrshire village or of the circumstances or motivations which culminated in an application from the Brethren - Masons in and around the village of Tarbolton - being submitted to the Kilwinning Lodge "praying the authority of the Kilwinning Lodge to be formed into a Regular Lodge or Society . . ." In one sense this is not surprising. In a community - small though it was (population approximately 450) - which in the early 1770's could boast a Weavers' Guild, a Universal Friendly Society, -a Farmers' Society, and later a Reform Movement, the formation of a Masons' Lodge would neither occasion surprise nor evoke undue comment. The villagers were accustomed to progressive movements. Tarbolton was just such a place.

Two factors which may well have contributed to the growth of freemasonry in this corner of old Strathclyde are worthy of consideration:

1. Speculative freemasonry stemmed immediately and directly from operative masonry. Stonemasonry was a prominent local craft whose numbers in the neighbourhood had been augmented by an influx of itinerant masons engaged in the renovation, building or re-building of the many local country mansion houses. Indeed Rule VII (of the Early Lodge Rules) states, interalia, "But if the person who wants to be made a mason has served an apprenticeship to a Mason, he shall pay only five shillings sterling, being the half of the entry money". On the 2nd December, 1772 there was added the following additional rule - "That every squairsman that enters is to pay fifteen shillings sterling of entry money and everyone that is not a squairsman is to pay entry money of twenty shillings sterling." There is evidence - oral tradition - of persons being made "squaremen" and receiving the word and grip during the late 18th century at Coilsfield, near the village.

2. The sentimental deism and liberal benevolence which were the Craft's basic principles would appeal most strongly to the radically minded, independent Tarbolton weaver and small farmer.

Unfortunately the official Lodge records provide no guidance whatsoever to the Lodge origins. Minutes are but bald statements of election meetings with sederunts attached thereto - e.g. the following extract is typical: "Eodem die, on which day the Lodge met, there being present the following Brethren . . ." Indeed for the first few years of the Lodge's existence only the business of the annual meeting is recorded and yet there is clear evidence that the Lodge was meeting to enter, pass and raise candidates. Sederunts and the register of admissions are inextricably mixed and often completely undated. The early records, displaying an economy of words and a complete lack of feeling for history, were certainly not written with an eye to posterity.

Be that as it may, whatever the reasons, as the first minute records: "Tarbolton, 25th July 1771, the which day the Brethren of the Tarbolton Kilwinning Lodge having convened and after the Lodge being open by Wm. Gairdner Esqr. of Ladykirk, late Right Worshipful of Ayr Kilwinning Lodge, Grand Master, and Wm. Willson, Depute Master of said Lodge with Wardens, Secretary, and Stewards of said Lodge received the following regulations to be engross'd into their books in order as a direction for said Lodge and are as follows viz.

FREE MASONS' RULES

That at the third stroke of the Grand Master's hammer, always to be repeated by the Senior Warden, there shall be a general silence . . .

Hereafter are carefully and neatly recorded twenty-one rules which today would be regarded, inter alia, as a combination of Laws and Rulings, Standing Orders, a Code of Conduct, Charges and Schedules 1 and 11. The origin of the rules is not known but they clearly follow some ancient pattern. Interesting and quaintly worded they give an insight into social customs and styles of life of that time. It is further to be noted that the minutes of Lodge St. David's 174, - now No. 133 - constituted under Charter from the Grand Lodge on 5 February, 1773, records nineteen rules which are virtually the same even to the inclusion of the following: "Whoever shall break a drinking glass at any meeting he shall immediately pay sixpence sterling for every one he breaks before he be allowed to leave the room or company." It was indeed a convivial, hard-drinking age.

No mere lip service was paid to the Rules. Members were frequently reminded of their obligations. Reported breaches were investigated and on occasion guilty parties disciplined. Three examples are worth quoting:

1. As an addendum to the Rules is the following minute written by John Wilson (Dr. Hornbook) and signed by Burns as Depute Master: "Tarbolton Dec. 7 1785. The Lodge thought proper to commit to writing that old regulation that whoever stands as Master shall be bound, at the entry of a new member, for that member's dues if the money is not paid or security such as the Lodge shall approve of given."

2. Burns's rhyming epistle to Dr. Mackenzie, Mauchline - "Friday first's the day appointed/by the Right Worshipful annointed/To hold our grand procession" is more than an invitation to the annual meeting. It is a telling reminder of the good Doctor's obligation in terms of Rule XIII.

3. "Tarbolton 2 Dec. 1789 ........... They next proceeded to make enquiry into Br. McDonald's conduct at a former meeting which had been found great fault with as Senior Warden and excluded him unanimously from that office and elected Bro. Hugh Manson in his place till the 24th June next."

But 'to return to the first minute - after a formal signing of the Freemasons' Rules the Brethren were joined by the R.W. Dr. John Nimmo, Grand Master of the Ayr Kilwinning Lodge, who presented the Charter from the Kilwinning Lodge, dated 17th May 1771. The Lodge is still in possession of the Kilwinning Charter. The minute continues: ..... Thereafter the said Charter was openly read and after prayer by Rev. Mr. Widrow, one of the Brethren, and a charge by Bro. Alex Gillies of the Kilwinning Lodge, the same was consecrated in ample form and full powers given to them as to any other Lodges as are consecrating the same: Thereafter out of the members of the said Tarbolton Kilwinning Lodge the officers are elected and are, viz:

1. Alex Montgomerie, Esq. of Coilsfield - Grand Master.
2. John Hood in Tarbolton - D.M.
3. John Anderson, mason at Adam Town Burn - S.W.
4. Alex Wilson - J.W.
5. (name omitted) - Treasurer.
6. John McLatchie, innkeeper at Tarbolton - Secretary.
7. W. Anderson - S. S.
8. Adam Grieve - J.S.
9. John Mitchell - Standard Bearer.
10. Matthew Wilson - Tyler.

The above to continue in their offices for the ensuing year who all have accepted the same and given their oaths de fideli. John Nimmo, G.M.


The Kilwinning Charter, 1771

The minute has been signed by Wm. Gairdner, Wm. Willson, the Wardens, Secretary, and Stewards of Lodge Ayr Kilwinning who had constituted the Lodge at the opening ceremony and by Alex Montgomerie and John Hood, G.M. and D.M., of the newly consecrated Tarbolton Kilwinning Lodge. On the adjoining page are appended the signatures of 63 Brethren who attended. Some of these Brethren were to figure prominently in the subsequent history of the Lodge: e.g. Jas. Dalrymple (of Orangefield), John Hamilton (of Sundrum), Thos. Wallace Dunlop (of Craigie), John Andrew, John Dove, James Manson, John Richard, Hume Campbell, John Rankin, John Ferguson and Henry Cowan. Thus did Freemasonry come to this ancient Burgh of Barony. What hopes the founder members entertained for their Lodge can only be guessed. They were not to know then, that within a decade history would be made in the village and the name of "Auld Tarbowtin" for ever assured. This, unfortunately, was not to be achieved without dissension, turbulence, and bitter animosities.

Within two years the Scottish Passion for schism betrayed itself. On the 5th February 1773 the Grand Lodge of Scotland considered a petition on behalf of Sir Thomas Wallace Dunlop Bart. and 10 others, all members of Lodge Tarbolton Kilwinning "setting forth that they being at a distance from their Mother Lodges (the bold is the present author's) nevertheless were willing to promote Masonry in the place above mentioned and craved to hold under the sanction of Grand Lodge . . . . . . . and praying the Grand Lodge to grant them a Charter of Erection and constitution for a Free Mason Lodge to be held in the Town or Village of Tarbolton by the name and Title of Tarbolton Saint David's ..."

Grand Lodge accepted the petition and as the first minute of Lodge St. David's records: "1773 Feb. 26 was the day of the Charter of St. David's Lodge being granted in faiver of Sir Thomas Walles Bart., John Mitchell" (Sir Thomas Wallace Dunlop Bart., second son of John Dunlop of Dunlop House and Frances Ann Wallace - the Mrs. Dunlop, friend and correspondent of Burns - acceded to the title in 1771 and assumed the Wallace family name.) Harvey in his book, 'Robt. Burns as a Freemason', a work which in relation to Tarbolton contains several gross inaccuracies, seeking to justify the schism, maintains that - "the influence of Kilwinning at this time was rapidly waning before the growing power of the Grand Lodge of Scotland." Others, since, have repeated, parrot-wise, his conclusion and would attribute to the founder members of St. David's qualities of prescience which they themselves would never have claimed. This is too simplistic. The credulity of those who have supported this theory is matched only by their naivety. Such an approach displays a total lack of knowledge of the vagaries of village life and completely underestimates the power and influence that Lodge Mother Kilwinning continued to exert, not only in Ayrshire but in the whole West of Scotland and far beyond during the next 30 years, a power and influence which enabled her to rejoin Grand Lodge in 1807 largely on terms of her own dictating. For the most part, for the majority of Brethren in the village at that time, Grand Lodge was an irrelevance. Then, and for many years to come, her control was so lax and ineffectual as to be of little or no consequence. The real reason for the secession resided, as has already been stated, in the Scottish propensity for schism and in all probability sprang from local differences, petty jealousies or unsatisfied ambitions. Hans Hecht, in his 'Robert Burns, The Man and His Work', hits the nail on the head when he attributes the secession to "internal friction". No reference, whatsoever, to the secession is made in the minutes of Lodge Tarbolton Kilwinning. Nevertheless, within a year the Brethren of Tarbolton Kilwinning, no doubt to safeguard their position and perhaps as a precaution, applied to have a Charter from Grand Lodge. The Lodge minute, worthy of note, is quoted at length:

"On the 24th June 1774, this being St. John the Baptist's Day and the anniversary meeting of Tarbolton Kilwinning Lodge the Lodge was opened in due form and there was presented and read the Charter for said Brethren from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, bearing the date 27th May 1774 under the stile and Title of St. James Tarbolton Kilwinning Lodge No. 178 . . . . The Brethren then marched in due and orderly procession from their Lodge Room to the Church where an excellent sermon was preached from the text Romans 12 verses 9-11 by the Parish Minister Bro. Rev. P. Wodrow. The Brethren returned from Church in the same due and orderly procession to their Lodge Room and after prayer by Bro. Wodrow proceeded to the election of Office Bearers for the ensuing year, when by plurality of votes they made choice of the following worthy Br. into their respective offices - viz: James Montgomery Esqr. -- G.M. etc."

The other office bearers are listed and forty-three names are appended to the minute. This account of the early history of the Lodge may seem somewhat profuse but this is deliberate to dispel doubts and to correct the many inaccuracies which, over the years, have appeared in print from a variety of sources. Two Lodges, both operating under Grand Lodge Charters, now functioned in the village and for the next seven years continued to co-exist with considerable success and in close harmony. It is surely a tribute to both Lodges that from their original formation until 1780 each Lodge had initiated upwards of 140 members and in addition many prominent members of the community were associated with both Lodges. Despite this initial success it was becoming increasingly apparent that a small community could not continue adequately to sustain two active Lodges. Oblique references indicate a growing desire to establish one Lodge in the village.

The initial overtures regarding a possible union (Juncheon) emanated from Lodge St. David. The St. David minute of the quarterly meeting of 6th Dec. 1780, at which meeting 17 members attended, records what is virtually a notice of motion by Bros. Henry Cowan and John Richard "that the sense of the Lodge re a proposed union with Lodge St. James may be given pro. and con. on the first Wednesday of May 1781."

On 6th June 1781 the St. David minute records, inter alia, "have considered on our offers to St. James Lodge respecting a Juncheon on the 24th - i.e. the anniversary meeting of both lodges - also their answer and find by a majority of votes both lodges may unite on terms offered and exchanged this day".

On the 25th June 1781 the two lodges were united under the style and title of St. David. The minute of Lodge St. David is as follows:

"Sederunt for June 25 1781. On the above mentioned day the two lodges formerly going under the names of St. James and St. Davids were united and now go under the name of St. Davids being the oldest Charter and made choice of the following office bearers. List of Office Bearers for 1781. "

The Choice of office bearers had been made with tact and care. It was a judicious sharing of offices from members of each lodge. Joseph Norman, a P. M. of St. Davids was chosen as Master. Geo. Guthrie - S. W. (St. Davids), John Highet - J.W. (St. James), James Manson - Treasurer (St. James), Robt. Wodrow - Secretary (St. James), Wm. Corbett - D.M. (St. James). Thereafter each office has two Brethren, one from each lodge, and finally a Senior and a Junior Tyler. Not unexpectedly, there is no reference in the St. James minute book to the union.

The minutes of July 4th - the first meeting thereafter of the united lodge - and October lst 1781, as recorded in the St. David minute book are historic and are here stated in full:

"Sederunt for July 4th. Robt. Burns in Lochly was entered an apprentice. Joph. Norman, M."


The Minute Book Entry when Burns became a Freemason

"Sederunt October lst 1781. Robt. Burns in Lochly was passed and raised. Henry Cowan being Master, James Humphrey being Senr. Warden and Alex Smith Junr. Do., Robt. Wodrow Secy. and Jas. Manson, Treasurer and John Tannock Taylor and others of the Brethren being present."

It should be noted that the first three Brethren mentioned were not elected office bearers and accordingly must have been acting for the evening. The elected Master, Joseph Norman, has signed the minute.

The union was ill-fated. By the 5th December 1781, the date of the next meeting, dissension had arisen. Robt. Wodrow, the elected Secretary of St. Davids, had removed from the Lodge Charter Chest the Charter, Books, and sundry papers belonging to St. James, for which act he was, by decision of the meeting of 24 June 1782, expunged from Lodge St. David and the Master and Wardens were ordained and appointed to prosecute him. Robert Wodrow later became Secretary and in 1810 Master of the re-constituted St. James. The office bearers of St. David were embittered by the resumption of St. James. They petitioned the Sheriff of Ayr to grant a warrant to apprehend Wodrow. They disagreed with the Sheriff's findings. They authorised the Master and Wardens or their successors in office to prosecute Wodrow before the Court of Session or by appeal to the Grand Lodge. They retained, through Robertson Smith, Writers in Ayr, Bro. David Cathcart, Greenfield, Alloway, an advocate - Bro. Cathcart later became Lord of Session with the legal title of Lord Alloway - to act for the Lodge in the dispute.

The minutes, recorded in great detail, indicate not merely the depth of feeling engendered but literally how obsessed the office bearers had become with the issue. For six years it was the major lodge business. Their obsession became counter-productive and indeed marks the turning point in the history of Lodge St. David. It was the beginning of the end. Throughout, Wodrow remained defiant. Even the order from Grand Lodge anent restoration of the documents failed to move him. The minute of Lodge St. James is brief and to the point: - "Tarbolton 17 June 1782. St. James's Lodge met upon the same footing that it was before the Juncheon. Jas. Montgomerie, G.M. for the night."

On the 8th July 1782 they re-constituted the Lodge and on 8th August 1782 elected a full quota of office bearers for the ensuing year. The only other reference to the unhappy events of 1781 appears in the minute of June lst 1785 when the thanks of the Lodge were unanimously voted to Capt. Montgomerie, the Right Worshipful Master of the Lodge, "for his trouble in recovering their colours for some time illegally retained by the Lodge of St. David's".

Robert Burns - the only person to be initiated and later passed and raised in the united lodge - associated himself with the reformed St. James, became a most active member, and from 1784 to 1788 was Depute Master and, as such, was "oft honour'd with supreme command". Burns proved himself not only a most enthusiastic freemason but a most competent Depute Master. During this period the Lodge met with increased frequency both in the village and in neighbouring communities. For example, the Lodge, or a deputation from the lodge, met regularly at Mauchline and on one occasion, 5th October 1786, with Burns in the chair at Sorn. It is also to be noted that at one such meeting of the deputation at Mauchline Gilbert Burns, the poet's brother, was enter'd, passed and raised. Later in his capacity as Junior Warden Gilbert was to preside, on at least four occasions, over meetings of the deputation in Mauchline. Again, at the lodge meeting in Mauchline on 25th July 1787, with the poet presiding, Professor Dugald Stewart of Catrine, Claude Alexander of Ballochmyle, Claud Wilson of Paisley, John Farquhar Gray of Gilmilnscroft and Dr. George Grierson of Glasgow were admitted Honorary Members of the Lodge.

The Lodge greatly valued the importance of its Mauchline connection. On the 3rd December 1788 it was agreed, on representation, from the Mauchline deputation "that the office bearers with as many of the Brethren as shall think proper shall go from this place to Mauchline with the colour and insignia of the Lodge for the purpose of having a procession there and dinner at John Dove's upon Monday 12 Jan. first." Again on the occasion of the annual meeting on 24 June 1790 it was proposed "that there should be an Annual Meeting of the Lodge once every two years at Mauchline. But this being ags. the original institution of this Lodge to have an annual meeting anywhere but at Tarbolton, the seat of the Lodge, this proposal was refused by a great majority. But as the interest of the lodge has been much advanced by a number of worthy members in and around Mauchline who have joined it the Lodge agreed to have a general meeting at Mauchline some time in December next. - "The day to be fixed afterward". No such meeting ever took place. Incidentally, the following year 1791 Lodge St. Mungo was Chartered in Mauchline.

The Burns period in the history of the Lodge had been a hectic one. He had a real zest for freemasonry. He clearly appreciated that true masonic fellowship is intimately bound up with the company of one's brethren and cannot be dissociated from the lodge room. Hence the frequency of meetings under his direction. While it is true that in the immediate post- Burns period lodge meetings were less frequent we must not jump to conclusions, as so many chroniclers have done, and assume that, bereft of the personality, zeal and driving force of the poet, there was a gradual diminution of interest in the Lodge and its activities. This was just not so. The availability of candidates from the village and its immediate neighbourhood was closely related to the size of the male population. Some decline was inevitable - in a small community the number of candidates is limited - but 56 candidates in the ten years from 1790- 1799 was not insignificant, and, as we shall observe presently, other horizons beckoned.

 
       


A drawing of Manson's Inn

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

In common with many lodges in those early days meeting places did not possess any degree of permanence and their precise location is not always easily determined. The village lacked the amenity of a community assembly centre or focal point. The only known hall was in the property of John Richard, a prominent member of Lodge St. David, to the rear of his inn. The Town House in Burn Street, a two storeyed building which combined upstairs a small meeting place and downstairs the Town jail, was not built until 1832. It was not suitable for masonry and never used as such. Consequently, societies, lodges etc. had to foregather in the only premises available viz. "the House of John Richard" or one or other of the ale-houses. Such accommodation was limited and though eminently suitable for ensuring at first hand facilities for sociability and good fellowship were for the most part unsatisfactory masonically. This was clearly recognised by the Brethren and demonstrated by the constant desire to secure a Lodge room more adequate to their needs, e.g. "Tarbolton June 30 1784. This night the Lodge met when there was a motion made. Whether the Lodge should be removed from the place where it is at present or not? And it was carried that it should be removed and that the next meeting shall be at James Manson's."

At this next meeting, held in Manson's on 27 July 1784, Burns was elected Depute Master. "Tarbolton June 15 1786. Also it was proposed by the Lodge that as they much wanted a Lodge Room a proposal be laid before the Heritors who are intending to build a Steeple here that the Lodge contribute to the building of a Lodge Room at the Bases of that Steeple and that from the Funds of the Lodge they offer fifteen pounds besides what will be advanced from the particular Friends of the Lodge." Burns was one of a deputation of five chosen to meet the Heritors to discuss the proposal. There is no evidence in the minutes of the outcome of this proposal, nor do the Treasurer's Ledgers show any corresponding entry. The matter is never mentioned again. There has always been a strong oral tradition in the village that the Lodge did meet on occasion in the room at the base of the steeple. There is no recorded proof of this fact. For my part I doubt it. At the quarterly meeting on December 3rd 1788 the Lodge agreed "for their better accommodation as to a Lodge room" to pay Bro. James Manson fifteen shillings sterling at Martinmas 1789. Manson had acquired the building adjoining his house. An inter-connecting door gave access from Manson's to the newly acquired property.

In all but a few lodges such considerations, as have been enumerated, can be of little more than academic interest. For the Lodge of Robert Burns they assume not merely a local but a national significance. Such is the vitality of Burns that there is scarcely a place where he put his foot that has not assumed historical importance. Three lodge rooms in the village fall into this category:

1. John Richard's property - the Bachelors' Club - now a National Trust property. Here the united Lodge met. Here Burns was made a Mason.

2. The Cross Keys where Lodge St.James reconstituted in 1782. Here the Lodge was meeting when the three sons of the poet were made Honorary Members of St.James, 9th August 1844. Now demolished but a hallowed spot.

3. Manson's Inn where Burns was elected D.M. and where he presided over the lodge in that capacity. Here too, Gilbert Burns was elected J.W. and where, in that capacity, he also precided over the Lodge. The House was demolished to make room for improved Council Housing. The site is appropriately marked.

 
       

Candlesticks used by Burns

 

CHAPTER 3

Because of its close association with our National Bard Lodge St. James possesses a number of interesting and valuable relics of the Burns period. These include:

1. The Minute Books, Ledgers and Roll Books of the Lodge from its inception but especially the first, covering the years 1771-1790. In it is recorded in full Burns's active association with Lodge St. James, particularly noteworthy his period as Depute Master, 1784-88. Three minutes are written in full by the poet, the first unsigned. In all he has signed the minutes on 32 occasions. The poet's brother, Gilbert, has signed the minutes on 5 occasions, one of the minutes being written in full by him. In addition there are minutes written by John Wilson (Dr. Hornbook) as Secretary. Two minutes have also been signed by him as Master pro. tem.

2. The Minute Books of Lodge St. David's from 1773 to 1843 when the Lodge was disbanded. Reference has already, elsewhere in this account, been made to the entries relating to Burns's entering, passing and raising. These Minute Books, after the dissolution of the Lodge in 1843, became the property of the Oliver family and were handed down in the families of their descendants as treasured heirlooms. On 28 May 1920 Mrs. Murchie indicated her desire to dispose of the Minute Books. On the advice of Provincial Grand Lodge a deputation from St. James met with Mrs. Murchie but failed to persuade her to "hand them over". On 8 June 1923 representatives of St. James discussed the situation with representatives of Provincial Grand Lodge and the Master and Secretary of Lodge St. David (Tarbolton) Mauchline No. 133. Their final decision was to refer the whole matter to Grand Lodge. On 3 October 1924 Provincial Grand Secretary intimated to the parties the opinion of Grand Lodge. It was further agreed to initiate legal proceedings to recover the Minute Books. This process was unsuccessful. The terms of the final minute of 7 January 1843 were held to give possession of the lodge funds and property to the eight remaining members and their heirs. The Minute Books passed from Mrs. Murchie, Burns Tavern, to her daughter Grace, Mrs. Stewart, Black Bull Hotel, Mauchline and in time to her daughter, Olive. On 30 November 1970 they were put up for auction in Sotheby's, London, Lodge St. James learned of this from Grand Secretary, Dr. Alex Buchan, via our own Immediate Past Provincial Grand Master, Bro. T. Muir Wilson. At a hastily convened meeting the office bearers commissioned Bro. Muir Wilson O.B.E., who had placed his services at the disposal of the Lodge, to endeavour to purchase the Books for St. James. This was happily effected, the Minute Books being bought for £500. It must be placed on record, however, that such was the determination of the office bearers, with the concurrence of the Brethren, to secure such priceless records for 135 that even if the price had been double that figure the Minute Books would still have come to Tarbolton. When Bro. Horace W. McCurdy, George Washington Lodge H251, an Honorary Member of 135 and a generous benefactor of the Lodge, learned of the purchase he refunded the total cost. The Books are, therefore, recognised as a gift to the Lodge from Bro. McCurdy.

3. The first office bearers' jewels presented by Capt. James Montgomerie, Master in 1774. In his "Farewell to the Brethren of Lodge St. James" Burns makes special reference to the Master and the Master's Jewel: "And you, farewell! whose merits claim Justly, that highest badge to wear."

4. The Master's Chair and Footstool.

5. The Candlesticks and Snuffer.

6. The D. M.'s Apron worn by Burns.

7. The Bible bought by Burns with Lodge money, and Square and Compasses purchased for the Lodge by Bro. McDonald, Secretary.

8. The clock hammer and pendulum of the Kirk clock: "The Auld Kirk hammer struck the bell".

9. The copper plate from which were printed the summonses to meetings issued to Brethren. The practice of issuing these summonses has had, of necessity, been discontinued. Each initiate receives one "as a souvenir of a most important occasion".

10. The Lodge Snuff Box which Bro. M. T. Wilson, R.W.M. 1924-25, the last real snuff taker in the village, kept constantly filled.

11. The very letter sent to the Lodge by Burns from Edinburgh, dated 23 August 1787. At that time in the absence of convenient banking facilities - the Lodge did not open a bank account until 18 January 1817 partly, no doubt, because of inconvenience and partly, maybe more so, because of lack of confidence in banks - the Lodge loaned its available capital to Brethren at 5% p.a. interest. Quarterly meetings were "settling days". On occasion, depending on the state of trade in the village, Brethren defaulted or "craved days". Defaulters were liable to prosecution. In this letter which was also a letter of apology for absence, Burns is interceding on behalf of defaulters, hence his comment: "if you please, I wish you would delay prosecuting defaulters till I come home . . . . and those who confess debt and crave days, I think we should spare them. Farewell!" He then added the famous stanza beginning: "Within your dear mansion may wayward contention Or wither'd envy ne'er enter". It is interesting to record that at the quarterly meeting, 5th September 1787, the office bearers agreed to defer the prosecution of them until the next meeting.

12. The signatures of the three sons of the Poet viz: Robt. Burns, Wm. Nicol Burns James Glencairn Burns.

13. The tracing Boards - cloth and canvas - used in the Lodge at the time of Burns. These old Tracing Boards were, on 7 May 1920, returned to the Lodge beautifully renovated and in handsome frames by the Brethren of Lodge Wishaw St. Mary No. 31. This had been executed by members of a deputation of Lodge St. Mary who had previously visited Tarbolton and had expressed a desire to leave something to commemorate their visit and had asked to be allowed to take away the old Tracing Boards and have them renovated to preserve them.

14. The veritable mallet used by Burns, and proudly by all his successors, when presiding over the Lodge.

This is a wonderful heritage of which the Brethren of St. James are justly proud. Here we have a unique collection of relics pertaining to Burns's magqnic connections with Tarbolton. With the exception of the Tyler's Sw rd of Lodge St. David and the Peggy Orr, Toddy Bowl and Jug, both in the Bachelors' Club, Tarbolton, two Candlesticks belonging to St. David, still in private hands, and a small piece of silk (1/2in. square) cut from the Burns apron, now in the Lodge of Robert Burns, Australia, on,the authority of Mr. John Hunter, a direct descendant of John Richard, and who as a boy spent his holidays in the "Bachelors' Club", there are no other authentic relics of this period of the Poet's Masonic life now in existence. The chairs of Lodge St. David's were disposed of because, as the minute of 24 June 1837 states, "they were rotting". With the passage of time other articles, documents, etc., met the same fate as that which befell the Depute Master's chair of Lodge St. James after the Burns Centenary Exhibition in Glasgow 1896 - consigned to the flames - while the mallet and certain papers (copies of diplomas?), handed down as treasured possessions in the Cowan and John Richard families, were destroyed in the disastrous fire which gutted the home of Mrs. John Richard, who sadly lost her life in the fire - 2 October 1915. (Mrs. Richard was the second wife of John Richard who predeceased her in 1912. His first wife, Elizabeth Cowan was the grand-daughter of Henry Cowan who occupied the chair on the evening Burns was passed and raised.)

 
       

 


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