(THE OPERATIVE AND SPECULATIVE MASONS OF STIRLING)
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH
By Brother James Scougal, Past Master
The history of the Masonic craft in Stirling is of two distinct periods: the speculative lodge (now known as Ancient Stirling, No.30), whose minutes start so abruptly with the installation of Office-bearers on 28th December 1741, and the operative masons who worked at the castle and built the two churches mentioned in the Charter of David I in 1129 from which the revenues went to the Abbot of Dunfermline. These churches were identified as the Chapel Royal in the castle and the Parish Church of Stirling, which was burnt down by a Douglas.
Who built the two churches and the town around them which had grown before the twelfth century dawned? From the days of the twelfth century, when recorded history shows us in Stirling emerging from the mists that surrounded the origin of the castle and town, the ancient burgh has not looked back. Its place in the national, civic, ecclesiastical and social development of Scotland has been well told, and it does honour to the ” Sons of the Rock” and their forbears. Freemasons owe much to the searches towards the close of the last century into the history of the many fine examples of the skill of the operative craftsmen down through the centuries. From 1406 onwards the stones of the old town proclaimed the glory of the old Lodge of Stirling in kirk and monasteries, the old lodgings of the nobility, the dwellings of wealthy merchants in the old quarter of the town.
The castle itself has two distinct periods, the Gothic period which dates back before recorded history and where we find the first written record of the appointment of Robert Cochrane in 1473 as Master Mason and Master of Works at Stirling Castle. In the book, The King’s Masons, there is a record of accounts rendered by him and audited by Dr Dickson, Curator of the Historical Department of Register House, Edinburgh. There seems little doubt that the accounts covered work done on the Great Parliament Hall of Stirling Castle. The Parliament Hall with its great windows, within the Castle of Stirling, belongs to this period and the delicacy of the mouldings as well as the chaste character of the outline bespeak an admirable type of Gothic design. The whole structure is in marked contrast to the later work of Nicholas Roy, a Frenchman, erected for King James V under French influence which contains strange and fantastic decoration.
In the year 1496 Sir Thomas Smith, a ” Priest”, was Master Mason and Master of Works with Walter and John Meridon, acting Masons; he was succeeded in turn by the Abbot of Lindores (then Keeper of Linlithgow Palace), then by Sir W. Betoone and Andrew Atoune. In the Privy Seal Writ dated 3rd January 1529 Sir Thomas Nicholay was appointed Master Mason and Master of Works at Stirling. The Master being a priest and the royal castle being so near Cambuskenneth Abbey, we may infer that the appointment was made on the recommendation of the Abbot, then in such high favour with the Crown. The appointment of Nicholas Roy was made under Privy Seal Writ dated 22nd April 1539. He was responsible for the French influence in the extending of the castle. In 1557 James, Earl of Arran, was Regent of Scotland, and he appointed John Roytell as Principal Master Mason for life and in this way the French connection was maintained.
In 1599 we find that the second of the Schaw Statutes named Stirling as the Third Head Lodge of Scotland in accordance with their Ancient privileges; this document lay hidden in the muniment room of Eglinton Castle until 1861 when it was discovered. It shed an entirely new light on Masonry as organised at that date. The document is now held by the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The St Clair Charter of 1628, supporting the claim by William St Clair of Roslin as being hereditary Grand Master, was signed by John Servrite as follows: “I John Servrite Master of ye Crafties in Stirling, with my hand at pen, led by the notes subseryv and for me because I cannot writt-J. Henrysone, notaries asservit.” It was also signed on behalf of Stirling by John Thompsone and James Rynd, thought to be Deacons of the Lodge
The” Charter ” used by the present Speculative Lodge is in fact a copy of the ancient charges used by the Operative Lodge at the reception of members. It was forwarded to Brother Woodman, Clerk to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, for his inspection and later it was forwarded to that eminent Masonic Historian, Brother W. J. Hughan, who placed it as belonging to Grand Lodge No. 1 family. In his book The Ancient Charges be lists the document as D9 and gives a very full report on it, and dates it as 1650 circa.
The Speculative Lodge, whose records begin with the installation of Office-bearers on 28th December 1741, have in their possession the ancient charges belonging to the Operative Lodge (which is recognised as a Charter by Grand Lodge), a copy of the alleged Charter by King David I dated 1147, and two ancient brass plates, believed to be seventeenth century, on which are inscribed the different steps in Masonry
Taking these items in the above order, we find that the Ancient Charges which were used by the Operative Lodge at the reception of candidates, and which is different in style to all other known copies, is 2 feet wide and 20 inches long with the writing running across the full width of the document and contains two certificates at the bottom which were quite new to Brother Hoghan, who states that he believed that this was the first time such certificates had been made known. The document which is now mounted on cardboard and framed has for long been looked upon by the members as a ” Charter” and the meetings would not be deemed legal unless it is exhibited in the Lodge room and is recognised as such by Grand Lodge.
A copy of the alleged Charter by King David I dated 1147 was inscribed in the Lodge minute book covering the period 1738 to 1822 by Past Master Brother Alexander Craig, being in accordance with a request from the Brethren of the Lodge as minuted in the minutes of the meeting on 23rd December 1784. For this work Brother Craig was granted a draught on the Treasurer for the sum of Two Pounds, two shillings sterling-this information can be found on folio 149 of the old minute book. It is apparent that Brother Craig either made a mistake in the date or that the document is false as two signatories John of Monteath and Robert of Lennox were not created Earls until 1149
From the photographed copy it will be seen that the seventeenth century brass plates do in fact relate to the various degrees in Freemasonry including many of the higher orders which were at that time worked by this Ancient Lodge. We find in the minutes of 5th February 1784 that three Brethren were advanced to” Excellant “and exalted to” Super Excellant”; they were John Hair, Allan McDonald and Robert Munroe (Sgt. Major) all of the 76th Regiment. While the minute of 5th June 1784 states that John Buchanan and James Ferguson from Callander were “Knighted”. From these humble beginnings there emanated the oldest Royal Arch Chapter in the world, i.e. Stirling Rock, No. 2.
The Lodge of Stirling was not present at the formation of Grand Lodge. Perhaps the brethren of that day felt that, as the Third Head Lodge of Scotland, they should have been consulted. However, since joining Grand Lodge in 1738 the Lodge has carried out its duties with dignity and whole-heartedly supported that great body, as proved by the fact that the Lodge has provided five Grand Masters since that date. They are: 1748-49 Hugh Seton of Touch; 1885-92 Walter Hendry, Earl of Mar and Kellie (Hon. Member); 192~29 Archibald Douglas Campbell, 4th Lord Blythswood; 1937-39 Brig. Gen. Sir Norman A. Orr-Ewing, Bart; 1965-69 Major Sir Ronald A. Orr-Ewing, Bart
Since 1745 the Lodge has carried out the following consecrations: Lodge of AIba, No. 69, Ayr and Renfrew Militia St Paul’s, No. 271, Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle, No. 312, Grangemouth Zetland, No.391, and Ben Ledi Callander, No. 614, which had in fact been working for over 100 years under a dispensation from Ancient Stirling which gave them the right to elect their own Office-bearers and to receive, pass, raise, advance and exalt, but the ceremony of Knighting had to be referred to the Ancient Lodge. It was therefore appropriate that we should consecrate the Lodge under Grand Lodge Rules on 24th September 1878. At the consecration of Lodge Zetland, No. 391, Ancient Stirling represented Grand Lodge and wore the Grand Lodge regalia. The Office-bearers who occupied the chairs were the R.W.M., Brother Dyson, and his Wardens, Brother Pebbles, S.W., and Brother Rutherford, J.W., while the Charter of Constitution was read by the Secretary, Brother McLea. Other Lodges present on that auspicious occasion were Nos. 13, 17, 48, 69, 181 and 392.
The consecration of the Military Lodge of the Ayr and Renfrew Militia, St Paul’s, No. 271, was a momentous occasion, being carried out in the Guildhall where the Lodge was supported by our Sister Lodge Stirling Royal Arch, No. 76. The Charter of Constitution and Erection having been issued by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and having been read, the Lodges unanimously consecrated the above Lodge No. 271 with every solemnity agreeable to Masonry
There are many instances of deputations attending such as the Wallace Monument, Causewayhead, Stirling; the G.P.O. Building, Glasgow, where the stone was laid by H.R.H. Prince of Wales; the Forth Bridge at South AIba; the Bruce Memorial at the Field of Bannockburn; the Third Home at Dunblane. It will be seen that even in distant days when travelling was difficult the Brethren of Ancient Stirling always responded to appeals from Grand Lodge, or Provincial Grand Lodge, for Lodges to send deputations to any important function.
As it was then, so it is today, Grand Lodge or Provincial Grand Lodge never issue an invitation of any kind without it being answered by the Brethren of this Ancient Lodge with the same fervour as their predecessors. We in Stirling are proud of our heritage and to be members of that great fraternity of Brethren, the Grand Lodge of Scotland