by Bro. HERBERT DOWN, Lodge St David’s Edinburgh, ,No. 36; Hon. Member of Lodges Leith and Canongate – Canongate and Leith, No.5; the Lodge of Edinburgh St Andrew, No. 48; Lodge Trinity, No. 885; and Lodge St. Leonard’s Newington, No. 1283.
Right Worshipful Master Bro. Andrew Kelman, Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland Bro. Captain Christie Stewart, Members of Grand Lodge, Reigning Masters, Past Masters, Visiting Brethren, Worshipful Wardens and Brethren all. That is the. worst part of my speech over.
I think it was that witty Irishman, the late T. P. O’Connor, who declared that effective after-dinner oratory was a difficult art, and came only by prayer and fasting. While I cannot remember having prayed-and you have seen to it that I have not fasted-over this speech to-night, it must not be assumed that I have not given to its preparation a great deal of time and thought and careful research. For my elocutionary sins and may heaven forgive me they are many I have been called upon during my thirty to forty years traffic of the concert platform, either to propose or respond to some hundreds of toasts of varying degrees of importance and of none; but I doubt, if, in all that experience, I have approached a task with greater pride or with a deeper degree of diffidence than I do now in proposing the toast of this ancient and historic Lodge.
The real historians of any Lodge are its secretaries, and its authentic history is embodied in the minutes of its meetings. It must, therefore, be a matter of profound regret to all of us that so many of your old minute-books are missing: Some were destroyed by fire; others have gone unaccountably astray. The earliest minute-book preserved dates back to the year 1780, but subsequent minute books cannot now be found; and others, which have been preserved, are incomplete, in this respect, that for periods of as long as nine and ten’ months at a time, your secretary has omitted to record the- minutes of a single meeting. It would, therefore, be quite impossible for anyone to attempt, successfully, to build up anything like a complete history of your Lodge. Such of your minute-books, however, as have. been preserved, are intensely interesting, reflecting, as they frequently do, the customs and conditions of the early Georgian period in which they were written, and presenting us with a most fascinating and very valuable footnote to history.
The story of Scottish Freemasonry is very largely the accumulated, histories of the various Lodges chartered under the Scottish Constitution, and to that story Lodge Edinburgh St Andrew has made no insignificant contribution. The year 1745 recalls to the minds of most people the ill-starred and abortive Jacobite rebellion, but to the Brethren of Lodge St Andrew that date carries a deeper and more personal significance, for on the second day of April of, that year there was granted to them by the Grand Lodge of Scotland the Charter of their Lodge. The two-hundredth anniversary of that event we are here to suitably commemorate to-night. There is a tradition that your Lodge was operating as early as the year 1717, but that date cannot be evidentially supported. Certain it is, at all events, that for a period of at least three years before 1745 your Lodge was operating under the title of The Scots Lodge of Canongate, a title it retained, according to the endorsement on your Charter, until the year 1759, when it assumed the title of St Andrew, and its number was stabilised as No. 48. It had previously been numbered 53 and 43.
It is impossible to discover at this late date where your Lodge first held its meetings. The earliest record we have is in 1784, when the Brethren decided to leave their present room-the place is not stated-and hire a room from Mary’s Chapel in Niddry’s Wynd. At various other times you have occupied premises in Blackfriars Street, the old Sheriff Clerk’s Office in Brodie’s Close, the Regent Hotel, the Freemasons’ Hall, and in a place simply designated “Baxter’s,” possibly some old howff in the Canongate – but I am open to correction upon this point.
It is also difficult to discover who were the original members of your Lodge. We know, of course, that your Master in 1745 was one George Scott, and we have the names of several office-bearers, but I have been able to discover only one other reference to an original member of your Lodge.
In a minute dated 1781 it states that “John Ross, son of Adjutant-Lieutenant John Ross, was entered apprentice gratis in honour of his father, who is an old and original member of this Lodge and who has been of infinite value in times past, and who has so remarkably distinguished himself in the service of his King and Country.” He was probably out after Prince Charlie in the ” ’45.”
Lodge St Andrew has not only had a long, but also a very chequered, history.
In 1785, a number of the Brethren, headed by the Senior Warden, Dr John Brown, seceded from this Lodge and erected the Daughter Lodge, of “Roman Eagle.” In 1808, Lodge St Andrew, along with several other Lodges, seceded from Grand Lodge, and a reconciliation was not effected until 1813. Several times for a period of years, your Lodge was dormant from lack of support. In 1887, however, after your Lodge had been closed for five years, twenty-two members of Lodge Roman Eagle petitioned for affiliation to Lodge St Andrew. The petition was granted, and it was largely the result of this affiliation that Lodge St Andrew was resuscitated. So, if, in the, first place, Roman Eagle owed its erection to St Andrew, St Andrew owed its resurrection to Roman Eagle.
Whatever differences, Brethren, may have existed in the past between these two Lodges have long since been cast to the limbo of forgotten things, and now Mother and Daughter reside in perfect friendship and harmony under the same roof.
What a wealth of information is embedded in these old minute-books of yours!
For example, it is revealed that the entrance fee in those early days was £1, 11s. 6d. and the cost of a supper ticket for the Festival of St. John the Evangelist was 2s. including beer. It is recorded that the sum expended on the entertainment of the visiting Brethren at one of your meetings was ten pence. The smallness of this sum, Brethren, must not be misinterpreted as a reflection on the hospitality of Lodge St, Andrew a Lodge whose hospitality is told in Gath and whispered in the streets of Askalon. It is simply a melancholy reminder that we live in a world of shifting values where not even, the price of beer is static.
At one of your meetings your secretary was instructed to write to two of the Brethren informing them that if their fees were not paid by a specified date, legal proceedings would be taken to recover them. I can hear Brother Murray Thomson sharpening his pencil!
One amusing entry refers to a brother who attempted to hold up the proceedings one night until he had extracted a promise from your Right Worshipful Master that he would redress an indignity inflicted upon this brother on the preceding Tuesday night, when he had been thrown out of a Sister Lodge. Your Right Worshipful. Master adroitly escaped from the dilemma by referring the complainer to Grand Lodge. Your minutes do not reveal where Grand Lodge sent the complainer.
It is also disclosed that in those remote days the election of a Grand Master Mason for Scotland was a matter for public celebration. The entire Lodge, headed by a regimental band, marched through the streets to divine service, thereafter to Parliament House where the election took place. The streets were lined by the men of the Loyal Edinburgh Regiment carrying torches, and then there is this illuminating comment – illuminating in a double sense – “the streets were lit!”
Some remarkable men have occupied the chair of No.48. William Mitchell, a teacher of languages, for example, became Provincial Grand Master of the Seven United Provinces of Holland.
Dr Thomas Glen, your Master in 1780, was an extraordinary character. He had amassed a huge fortune by the practice of his- profession, abroad. He was a man of unbelievable meanness. It is stated he made efforts to secure a second-hand coffin for the funeral of his first wife. At the age of seventy he re-married – a young wife who had made the doctor promise that when they were wed he would give her a carriage. The doctor may have been a mean man, but he was a man of his word. He gave her a carriage all right, but he gave her no horses. That, he insisted, was not part of the bargain. As a result, this second marriage lasted only three weeks. Then he began to take an interest in Freemasonry, and joined my Mother Lodge, St David, No. 36, afterwards affiliating to No. 48. He became an exceedingly active and zealous Freemason, heading deputations here, there and everywhere, and, I fancy, his study of the Craft must have softened his heart and loosened his purse-strings, for, the funds of the Lodge being at a somewhat low ebb at the time, he presented the Lodge with £100, a very considerable sum in those days.
Another very well-known Edinburgh character – Bailie John Spotiswoode – also occupied the Chair. He, Dr Glen and Dr John Brown were all faithfully dealt with in Kay’s Original Edinburgh Portraits, which can be consulted at the Public Library in George IV Bridge.
During the Mastership of Spotiswoode, Dr John Brown was Senior Warden. He was an amazing man with that touch of genius which is akin to madness. He was born of peasant stock and, after a brilliant scholastic career, studied for the ministry. After passing, however, instead of taking a charge, he returned to the little school at Duns where he had been a pupil, and acted as usher.
He then took up the study of medicine, and founded the Brunonian Medical School. It is said that the Chair of Medicine at Edinburgh University was his for .the asking. Instead of pursuing a medical career, however, he opened a lodging-house for students. He was a profound Latin scholar, and was appointed genealogist to the Prince of Wales.
It is clear from the minutes of 1783 that in the temporary absence of your Right Worshipful-Master Spotiswoode, Dr Brown officiated. Not only are all the minutes of his meetings recorded in Latin, but he actually worked the degrees in that language.
I fancy that, in dissatisfaction over this fact, we have a clue to the rift which led to the erection of Roman Eagle, for in a minute of a meeting of November 1784, it states: “At the same time, Brother Craven, who was formerly made in Latin, was again entered, passed and raised,” this time, presumably; in English.
This remarkable man, unfortunately, developed intemperate habits. He became a drug addict, and died in penury in London in his fifty-second year.
Another Master was William Charles Little, 11th Laird of Liberton, who assumed the name of Gilmour on succeeding to the estates of Craigmillar.
On the roll of this Lodge you have some of the best-known names in this city. You have Lord Provosts of Edinburgh. You have Sir Alexander C. Mackenzie, the Grand Old Man of Music (for 37 years Principal of the London Royal College of Music). You have the Shakespearean actors Philip Gordon and Osmund Tearle, the father of Godfrey Tearle. A Russian prince was entered in 1869, but the brother of whom we are most justifiably proud is, undoubtedly, George Meikle Kemp, the designer of the Scott Monument.
During my researches in connection with this speech, I came across an article in “Chambers’s Journal” for April 1838, announcing that Kemp had won the competition for the design for the proposed memorial. The writer discloses that one of the objectors to Kemp objected on the grounds that he was an obscure map. With biting sarcasm, the writer asks; “Do we read Shakespeare and Burns with less enjoyment because the first was a second rate actor and the second a ploughman?”
George Meikle Kemp was not merely a great designer; he was a great man. Homer was greater than his heroes! That George Meikle Kemp, at the peak of his fame, should have become a member of this Lodge, is one of the highlights in the history of Number Forty-Eight. The grit, tenacity of purpose and nobility of character of this peasant genius have, for one hundred and twenty years, given to succeeding generations of the Brethren of this Lodge an exalted ideal and a never-flagging source of inspiration.
The centenary of Kemp’s initiation was suitable in 1928.
our Right Worshipful Master’s chair – which he occupied in the Temple downstairs earlier this evening – is the handiwork of Kemp. It was discovered, between fifty and sixty years ago, in the cellars of Grand Lodge, in a broken and dilapidated condition. .It was brought to the Lodge one night in 1890 and was identified by Bro. Thomas Bonnar, Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Dramatic and Arts, as the handiwork of his famous uncle. Bro. Bonnar paid for its restoration, and presented it in its restored condition to the Lodge. For so doing he received Honorary -Membership.
I have always been a little critical of the wisdom of working more than one degree in one night, but in those early days it was quite usual to work a First, Second and Third Degree at one sitting. Between 27th October and 14th November 1789 – that is in fourteen working days – this Lodge worked no fewer than forty-five separate degrees. In one day this Lodge was opened and closed four times for four separate workings of the First Degree. A few days later the same thing occurred when four Third Degrees were worked.
Freemasons must have taken the Craft very seriously in those days!
Possibly the greatest night in the history of this Lodge was the 12th January 1787. On that evening the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Bro. the Hon. Francis Charteris, supported by every member of Grand Lodge, paid his annual visit to St. Andrew. Sitting in the body of the Lodge amongst the other Visiting Brethren, is one of the greatest men and Masons who ever lived. He is 28 years of age! He is plainly, but properly; dressed in a style midway between that of the holiday dress of a farmer .and that of the company with which he is now associated. His shoulders are bent in the characteristic stoop of the ploughman. His swarthy features are illumined by the most amazing eyes – Sir Walter Scott avers – he ever saw in a human head. His face is turned towards the dais! He is all attention, for is not the Grand Master Mason proposing the toast of his health? The toast is: “Caledonia, and Caledonia’s Bard, Bro. Robert Burns.”
In a letter-preserved in the Morgan Library, New York – Burns writes to his friend, John Ballantine: I went to a Mason Lodge yesternight where the Most Worshipful Grand Master Charteris and all the Grand Lodge of Scotland visited. The meeting was numerous and elegant. All the different Lodges about town were present in all their pomp. The Grand Master, who presided with great solemnity and honour to himself, as a gentleman and a Mason, among other general toasts proposed ‘Caledonia, and Caledonia’s Bard, Bro. Burns,’ which rung through the whole assembly, with multiplied honours and repeated acclamations: As I had no idea such a thing was going to happen, I was downright thunderstruck, and, trembling in every nerve, I made the best return in my power. Just as I had finished some of the Grand Officers said so loud that I could hear, with a most comforting accent, ‘Very well, indeed’ which set me something to rights again.”
The visit of Robert Bums to this Lodge, Brethren, is not a mere matter of tradition; it is a matter of history. The verifiable fact that the man who bears the most distinguished name in Scottish Freemasonry should have received encouragement and inspiration within this Lodge, strikes the highest and proudest note in the two hundred years of its history. I t is therefore peculiarly appropriate that, every January, the memory of this man, whose life was a constant summons to courage, and a perpetual challenge to despair, should be reverently honoured by the Brethren of Number Forty-Eight.”
At first sight it may seem strange that the name of Bums does not appear in the minute of the meeting he attended. It has to be remembered, however, that, although Bums was the lion of that particular Edinburgh social season, and had just published the Kilmarnock edition of his poems, he was not yet recognised as the Immortal Genius posterity” was ultimately to acclaim him. He was simply known as the Ayrshire poet, and the 350 songs on which is reared his chief claim to immortality had yet to be written, as well as his magnum opus “Tam 0′ Shanter,” which only appeared in 1790.
In the minute of a meeting two years earlier it is recorded, “The Lodge was Visited to-night by the renowned Bro. Vincent Lunardi; the first aerial navigator, who is giving balloon ascents from Heriot’s Hospital Green.” It is a trifle ironical that the visit of Lunardi to your Lodge should be recorded in the minute of the meeting he attended, and that of Robert Burns omitted, when one reflects that Lunardi is best remembered today because his name is mentioned in one of the poems of Burns.
A particular type of bonnet affected by the ladies of the period was named “the Lunardi bonnet, in honour of the great balloonist. Bums, in his poem, “To a Louse,” on seeing one on a lady’s bonnet in church, says, –
I wad na been surprised to spy
You on an auld wife’s flannen toy,
Or aiblins, some bit duddie boy
On’s wylie coat;
But Miss’s fine Lunardi
How daur ye do ‘t?
What a diversity of creatures have been enrolled in the membership of this historic Lodge! Apothecaries and actors, japanners, candle-makers, wig-makers, vintners, seal-engravers, miniature-painters, city guardsmen, naval agents, artists and artisans, butchers and barristers, clerks, comedians and clergy- men and rabbis, a vast number.of doctors, musicians and lawyers, princes, publicans and publishers; men who, in ordinary life, would have few if any contacts, and yet who, within the body of this Lodge, mutually experienced a moral and spiritual resurgence, and met, in sympathetic communion, on common ground. This fundamentally democratic spirit in Freemasonry, Brethren, must forever remain the. chief source of its strength, and its complete and final justification.
What a flood of memories this night must evoke for most of those present-for Bro. Clouston, for example, who was present at a similar function in connection with this Lodge fifty years ago – memories, both happy and grateful, which come surging. up within us, touching us all to finer issues.
What marvellous harmonies have been held in this Lodge!
In your early days, it was quite a common thing to have the entire military band of the regiment, stationed either at the Castle or at Piershill Barracks, to be in attendance for the entertainment of the Brethren. One of the Brethren who affiliated to this Lodge from Lodge Roman Eagle in 1887, was James Lumsden, founder of the Lumsden Scottish Festival, Concerts, and, as is borne out in your minutes – he was a decided acquisition to the musical activities of the Lodge. I am delighted to see his son amongst my hearers tonight!
Many present will recall that memorable night when, amongst our artistes, we had the great Scottish character comedian Will Fyffe!
I sat near Will during a working of the Third Degree – most excellently worked by your Right Worshipful Master at that time, my very great friend, Bro. John Stuart. Never once during the whole of that ceremony was Will’s attention diverted from the proceedings. Later, after making a most generous contribution to the harmony-and he was taking his departure – he said to me: “Man, I wish I could have stayed to the very end, but I’m leaving in seven hours for an unknown destination to entertain the men of the Merchant Navy, and, of course, that must come first.” And then he said, “But man, this has been a graun’ break!”
How many hundreds of the Brethren of this Lodge down the last 200 years, after many a similar night, could and would endorse that simple but sincere tribute of Will Fyffe, “Man, but this has been a graun’ break!”
During the last six years, when civilisation seemed to be breaking in pieces over our heads and life itself hung by so tenuous a thread, it might have been excusably anticipated that Freemasonry would have fallen upon lean times. Such, at all events, was not the experience of Lodge St Andrew. The entire Lodge seemed to be revitalised, and a fresh and vigorous impulsion given to every branch of its activities. That great upheaval, like a wild stormy night full of terror, seemed to have drawn the Brethren more closely together around the cheerful warmth of a common interest.
I am not going to preach to you, Brethren; that has already been done to admiration by Bro. the Right Reverend Dr, George Taylor. Preaching is not my metier, as you all know. But, Brethren, this is not merely an occasion for jubilation; it is also an occasion for revaluation and for rededication; a revaluation of the spiritual contribution we are individually making to the ideals of Freemasonry, and-where that is found wanting a rededication of ourselves in the spirit of the solemn vows and obligations we undertook at our Initiation.
You, Brethren of Lodge St Andrew, are the inheritors of a great history and a great tradition. Be worthy of them, Brethren, as you are proud of them!
If Freemasonry stands for anything at all, it is for Universal Brotherhood, irrespective of race, colour, creed or caste. Let us aim at a fuller realisation of that ideal! Let there be no circumscription of that spirit! Let us widen our horizons, and in the indestructible faith that all men are Brethren in the sight of the Great Architect of the Universe, let us strive for an all-embracing expansion of that spirit of Brotherhood, and by so doing, we will be making our contribution to bringing nearer that day for which all good and true Freemasons must pray, when swords shall, indeed, be beaten into plough-shares, and nation shall no longer rise against nation.
May this Grand Old Lady – God bless her! – who is your Mother Lodge, and who carries so gracefully the heavy burden of her age, continue to progress from strength unto strength, stead- fast in her Freemasonic faith, and rich in that righteousness which alone can exalt a people or a Lodge; may she, despite the ever., lengthening calendar of her years, still be fruitful to the bearing of many good and worthy sons, who shall, in their day and generation, as we do now in ours, arise and call their Mother blessed.
It is my distinguished privilege, Bro. Kelman and Brethren all, on this great and historic occasion in the annals of this Lodge, to invite you to be upstanding to honour with acclamation the toast of “Long life and continued prosperity to The Lodge of Edinburgh St Andrew, Number Forty-Eight on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.”