by Brother W S Paton P M No 223
During 1988, Trafalgar Hall, Leith, the premises of Lodge Trafalgar,
No 223 will be 100 y'ears old. The Brethren of 223 believe that
their hall is unique, in that it must be one of the few built
specifically as a Masonic Temple The following article traces the
search forr preinises culminating in the building of this unique
hall, and the Brethren whose love and generositv over a century has
given it a character of its own.
Based on a "History' by Brother W S Paton P M No 223 Hon. Grand
Bible bearer Grand Lodge of Scotland edited by Brother A. McKinnon,
P. M. No.223
Being a major port in the nineteenth century, it is not surprising
that Leith should provide men for the crews ("press-ganged", no
doubt) of the ships engaged in the Battle of Trafalgar.
Shortly after that battle a number of Masonic Brethren of the port
of Leith decided to form a new Lodge to be named "Lodge Trafalgar"
in commemoration of the great victory at Trafalgar Bay.
The petition to form such a Lodge, having been granted, Lodge
Trafalgar was opened on 8th February 1808 in a house in Rotten Row
(now Waters Close). In this part of Leith the houses were of such
splendour that Mary of Lorraine, mother of Mary Queen of Scots, had
a house built in Rotten Row as a place of retreat and a royal
refuge. Mary Queen of Scots herself stayed either in this house or
"Andro Lambis" house (Lamb's House) when she landed at the Shore
from France in 1561.
Lodge Trafalgar fell dormant during the years 1837 to 1858.
On being resuscitated on 22nd February 1859, Lodge Trafalgar took up
residence in the New Ship Hotel, Shore, Leith. This obviously did
not live up to the grand beginnings in Rotten Row, as the Brethren
were soon on the move, and in 1867 moved their activities to 89
Constitution Street, then in 1872 to the glasswork company's
schoolroom in Salamander Street. This company undertook the
education of the large number of boys they employed; also the site
of one of the earliest Sunday schools in Leith.
Two years later a short return to the New Ship Hotel preceded the
move to 54 Bernard Street on 15th December 1874. This hall is now
used as a warehouse, above the entrance of which can still be seen,
cut in the stone, the coat of arms of Leith, and the motto
'Persevere". Negotiations to purchase the Bernard Street hall
failed, and prompted the Brethren to seek an alternative site.
After attempts to purchase the Old Market in Tolbooth Wynd likewise
fell through, they finally acquired a piece of ground in St Anthony
Place, and on this ground it was decided to build the future Lodge
Trafalgar No.223, Masonic Temple.
On this site in 1430 the Preceptory and Hospital of the Blessed
Confessor St Anthony, near Leith, was founded by Sir Robert Logan of
NOTE: near Leith, not in Leith, as in 1430 the St Anthony district
was outside the Port of Leith; this is borne out by the inscription
on the seal now in the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh, which reads
"S Comune Preceptorie Sancti Anthony Prope Leicht", which translated
means "The Common Seal of the Preceptory of St Anthony near Leith".
This Catholic Hospice served as a home for the aged and infirm.
The ceremony of laying the foundation stone on this historic site
began with the Lodge being opened on 17th March 1888 at 15.00 hrs,
then the procession forming in Bernard Street; representafives of
the Forresters, Free Gardeners, Oddfellows, Society of Mechanics and
36 Sister Lodges were present, with Trafalgar Lodge following in the
rear. Several bands made up the procession. As is their traditional
right, the Working Tools were carried by the Right Worshipful Master
and Brethren of the Lodge of Journeyman Masons, No.8. The route
taken by the procession was by way of Cohstitution Street, Great
Junction Street, Henderson Street to St Anthony Place, where a large
crowd awaited their arrival.
After the laying of the Foundation Stone, with full Masonic honours,
by the Right Worshipful Master, Brother G. Craig, the procession
re-formed and returned to Bernard Street, when the Lodge was closed.
The silver trowel which was used was presented to Brother G. Craig,
and was returned to the Lodge in 1958, and is now in the Lodge
It is our good fortune that the then Right Worshipful Master,
Brother G. Craig, was an architect by profession. His design and
layout has given us what must be one of the finest purpose-built
Masonic Temples in the country.
The carved finials of the Sun, Moon and Stars which stood above the
entrance unfortunately had to be removed a few years ago, due to
weathering and decay. Carved into the stonework on the front of the
building are copies of the marks of the Right Worshipful Master and
the Brethren of the Building Committee.
On completion of the Temple, the inauguration ceremony of Trafalgar
Hall, Leith, was performed on Monday, 22nd October 1888. Once again
the Lodge was opened in Bernard Street at 19.00 hrs by Brother G.
Craig, Right Worshipful Master. The Brethren then marched in
procession to their new Lodge. The effect must have been very
striking in the poor lighting of the day; preceded by a few Brethren
on horseback, then the Tyler, in full naval uniform, and carrying a
drawn sword, next to Lodge Standard (not the present one), borne by
the Lodge Standard-bearer, the Lodge Brethren followed by the
Office-bearers were next, with the Right Worshipful Master taking up
the rear, each Office-bearer carrying the emblem of his office, with
the Secretary in charge of the Lodge Charter. Then followed a pipe
band. The long parade in full Masonic clothing, the red, white and
blue regalia, flanked by blazing torches, must have been a
picturesque scene. The whole route was heavily lined with spectators
and, in St Anthony Place once more, they met a densely packed crowd.
On arrival at the new Lodge, the Brethren formed into a double line,
through which the Right Worshipful Master and his Office-bearers
On reaching the door, the Right Worshipful Master gave the knocks to
demand admission, then the door opened to admit the Brethren for the
first time into their new home. After taking up their rightful
places in the Lodge the Right Worshipful Master received a
deputation from the Metropolitan District Committee, headed by the
Chairman, Brother R. Crichton. who then performed the ceremony of
This momentous occasion in 1888 is the reason for the present
Brethrens' wish to celebrate the lOOth Anniversary of the opening of
Trafalgar Hall, Leith. Starting with a rededication ceremony, to be
conducted by the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland,
Brother James Malcolm Marcus Humphrey of Dinnet.
Buildings, however, are merely a collection of stone, wood and
various assortments of building material. The life and character
comes from the people whose contributions of time, money, work and
thought, built up over the years, makes the building a living
During the hundred years of its existence, our Temple has been the
subject of continuing generosity by Brethren whose efforts and
presentations have over the years added to the Masonic and seafaring
character of Trafalgar Hall. It would be wrong in an account of our
hall's development not to mention some of the major items which can
all too easily be overlooked.
One strong tradition which started in 1905 was the celebration of
the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar; this included a church
service held in St John's Parish Church, our own Brother The Rev. J.
Park officiating. We now hold an annual "Trafalgar Night" on the
third Tuesday in October in Trafalgar Hall, Leith.
Any self-respecting Masonic Lodge with new premises must have their
own crest. This was introduced in 1912 along with the motto "At Home
Our Lodge museum contains enough items of interest to warrant an
article on its own. Pride of place for a Lodge with our background
must go to two letters: one written by Lord Nelson to Lord Elgin on
4th November 1799, presented to the Lodge on 26th November 1920 by
Brother E. J. Bruce, 10th Earl of Elgin, and 14th Earl of
Kincardine, Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason. The other, written
by Lord Nelson in 1801, presented to the Lodge on 7th February 1890.
H.M.S. King George V was a battleship which was in action at the
Battle of Jutland in May 1916. The wheel from the bridge of this
ship was presented to our Lodge on 25th October 1965 by Captain Adam
Tait, H.M. T/S Dolphin. This wheel can be seen in the West of our
Lodge where, with port, starboard and masthead lights, form the
bridge of a ship, with a naval ensign in the background. To complete
the bridge hangs a ship's bell, presented to us on 26th February
1918 by Brother J. H. Dormer, H.M.S. Repulse, on behalf of his
Masonic Brethren of that ship. Brother Dormer explained that the
bell had come from the foundry in a crude condition and that his
shipmates had applied the finishing touches. The beautiful bell-rope
which now adorns the bell. is the work of our present Tyler, Brother
D. W. Brownhill, P.M. The bell was hung with ceremony, and Brother
W. Fergus Harris, I.P.M., was given the honour of being the first to
strike the bell, in accordance with Lodge custom at four bells
(10p.m.). This is now the custom at Harmony, in remembrance of all
Trafalgar Brethren wherever they be, "At Home or Abroad".
In October 1913, Brother Sir Robert Maule presented to the Lodge
seven oak stall-chairs, which now grace our dias. Also an oak
pedestal for the Right Worshipful Master. These chairs replaced the
original oak chairs presented by a Brother (unknown) in 1870. The
W.S.W., W.J.W. and Chaplain now use these chairs.
These presentations ensure that we can boast one of the most
impressive Easts in Freemasonry, while the view from the East is
unique and is probably unrivalled anywhere in the world.
A further presentation made by seafaring visitors, again in thanks
for the hospitality they received from the Brethren of Lodge
Trafalgar, was from Brother Eng. Lt. Willcock, H.M.S. Tyne, on
behalf of his Masonic submariners (H.M.S. Tyne was berthed at the
Imperial Dock during the war), they gave us a magnificent door
knocker in 1919. This was recently refurbished by seafaring Brethren
based in Rosyth.
Our Lodge banner was presented by our own Brother Captain W. B. W.
Lyle on 1st March 1966. This beautiful banner adorns the wall in the
South-East of the Lodge beside the oak table and chairs presented by
his father, Brother W. W. Lyle in 1921, for the use of the Secretary
The year 1955 almost proved calamitous for our hall, with the
discovery of dry rot. Prompt action by our members, whose work and
donations, along with contributions from Royal Arch Chapter
Perseverance and Preceptory of St Anthony, also our good friends
Lodge Trinity, No.885, enabled the rot to be eliminated. At the same
time a Canadian pine floor was laid in the Temple, an improvement on
the old knotted one.
Presentations of the material kind are only part of our Lodge's
character. In 1980, Brother J. B. Linton, P.M. donated a Holy Bible,
its presence during our ceremonies is a memory to the late Brother
J. C. Hackland, P.M.
Demolition work by South Leith Parish Church of the old Kirkgate
Church Hall, which adjoined our hall, meant that this wall had to be
made safe. The Brethren once more had to contribute, and the work
has been carried out to the satisfaction of the Lodge.
The last few years have seen further positive contributions to our
Lodge's future, including the recording of our Lodge history by
Brother W. S. Paton, P.M.
Under the stewardship of Brother D. W. Hogg, Right Worshipful
Master, and Brother G. Ritchie, Immediate Past Master, the last two
years have seen the start of a programme of modernisation to ensure
that the second century of Trafalgar Hall continues with the present
Brethren, following the footsteps of our forebears, and thus keep
our unique building to the fore in Scottish Freemasonry.