St. Machar Lodge was commenced in Old Aberdeen, prior to the middle of last century; and seems to have been the Lodge of Old Aberdeen, as the Aberdeen Lodge was of the Burgh of Aberdeen. The precise date of its origin is uncertain, as the earliest of its Minute Books is no longer extant. It applied for and obtained a charter from Grand Lodge, of which the date is 1st March, 1753, and a continuous series of minutes exist from that date onwards. That the Lodge however existed for at least a few years prior to that date, and that there had been an older Minute Book than the one commencing then, is shown by the following circumstances. In the minute of acceptance of the charter, of date 11th April, 1753, occurs the following passage:- “The Lodge considering also that the present members has been at a good deal of Pains and charge, In advancing the Lodge Interest Procuring the Charter Jewels &c. It would be Reasonable and Just That Intrants in time coming should pay a Higher Composition then formerly. The Lodge therefore Enact and Ordain That Instead of Five Shillings Sterling formerly payd by Intrants They shall in time coming pay the sum of Ten Shillings Sterling, besides the usual Dues of the Lodge. The Lodge further Appoint Enact and Ordain that in place of a Sixpence payd annually by the Members they shall in time comeing pay one Shilling Sterling; and appoints their Theasurer to provide a New Book wit’h Parchement Broads, and to see Recorded therein a coppy of the Charter and Other Minutes as the Lodge Shall Direct.” This New Book with “Parchement Broads” is the oldest Minute Book now extant. At page 10 the following minute appears, which may be quoted in full, as showing not only the existence of the Lodge prior to 1753, but also the terms on which Diplomas wel’e granted and the mode of working generally :- “At St. Machar’s Lodge Chambers in Old Aberdeen, the 14th of July, 1755, the Lodge being Regularly met compeared Mr. John Henderson and Represented to the Lodge that he was made a Member by a private meeting of some of their Fraternity some time in the year 1751 which they neglected to Intimate Regularly and he haveing Remov’d very soon after from Old Aberdeen It had been intirely forgot But five of the members present haveing Recollected; mind exactly that he was entered accordingly But not Recorded as the Members entered him neglected to Demand some small Dues then payable and as there is some fallen Due since He made an offer of Five Shillings and Sixpence Sterling in name of all that the Lodge has title to from him, Which they Accepted finding him to be equal with others and which sume he Instantly payd Down, and is hereby Declared a Legal entred Apprentice, and as he has been a considerable time without haveing any opportunity of being properly Instructed in the Mysteries of Masonry belonging to his Station, The Lodge Recommend to Alexander Swap to be at Due pains to Instruct therein, and as soon as the sd [said] Alexander Swap Reports that Mr. Henderson is Properly Qualified They Resolve and Appoint That he shall be Provided with a Diploma in common form.”
At page 45 of the Minute Book, under date Feb. 1st, 1762, the following (reference to bye. Laws appears:-“That notwithstanding of a Bye Law in 1749 anent [about or concerning] receiving Members into the Lodge not under 21, nor above 50 years of Age, they are still of the same opinion as to the former, viz. 21, but leave the latter to ye Discretion of the Mr., and Office-Bearers, to determine, as they shall think fit, always with Respect to the Constitutions of sd Lodge. “An occasional reference also appears to quoted pages of the “Old Book” (For instance see Minute Book, page 86) referring evidently to a previous Minute Book; and there is still extant a list of members made up apparently in 1753), with the dates of their joining the Lodge. The oldest date on this list is 1749. The terms of the Charter, also, which is rather one of confirmation than of erection, bear out the prior existence of the Lodge. It commences by reciting the terms of an application “By the Brethren after named who nave been in use to conveen as a Lodge under the Title of the Lodge of St. Machar in Old Aberdeen,” and then follows a list of names of the Master, 2 Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, 18 Master Masons, 2 Fellow Crafts, and 19 Apprentices, thus making 44 members in all belonging to the Lodge, at the date of its application to Grand Lodge for a charter. In connection with the terms of the charter, it might be noted as bearing upon the position of the holders of the different degrees, that Fellow Crafts might be members of Grand Lodge, as the following extract shows:- “Are hereby Required Punctually to attend the whole general meetings and Quarterly Communications of the Grand Lodge… or by Lawfull Proxies in their Names, providing the Said Proxies be Master Masons or Fellow Crafts belonging to some Established Lodge,” &c. [etc.]
For about a quarter of a century after its acceptance of a charter, St. Machar Lodge prospered greatly, but at the end of that time it entered into a building speculation, and the succeeding quarter of a century in its history is occupied almost entirely by the results of that speculation, and the disputes which it led to. This makes a convenient break in the history of the Lodge, the first portion of which may be described as extending from 1753 to 1776. During that time the Lodge seems to have been worked very systematically on the following plan:- The annual meeting was held on St. John’s day.(Dec. 27, when the Office-bearers were elected, and the Treasurer submitted his accounts. A few days before this a Committee meeting was held for the purpose of auditing, or, as it is generally called in the minutes, “visiting” the accounts; and a few days after, another Committee meeting was held, when the retiring Treasurer formally handed over to his successor the money, accounts, bills, &c., in his hands, and received a formal discharge. The new Treasurer accepted these, and produced two sureties who then signed a minute, binding themselves as securities for his intromissions [accounts] during the year. Although the transacting of this business was entrusted to a Committee named by the Lodge, yet all the members were invited to be present. Four quarterly communications” were held in the months of February, May, August, and November, (The usual day was the first Monday of the month) and at these, all business relating to finance, charity, &c., was transacted; but, as a rule, no candidates were admitted at any of these meetings. All members were expected to attend these meetings regularly, and for some time a small fine (2d.) was exacted for absence, but this gradually fell into desuetude, apparently from the circumstance that, although the Lodge met in Old Aberdeen, yet a large number of the members, even at an early date, were residenters in Aberdeen. Several plans seem to have been tried to obviate this inconvenience, one in especial is noted (M. B. page 16, 3rd May, 1756) – “Found that it was difficult for severals of them exactly to attend at the hour appointed; viz. 6 o’clock afternoon, therefore they unanimously agreed that those attending betwixt six and. eight o’clock afternoon, in the Summer Quarters, and five and seven in the winter Quarters, shall be exempt from paying the Fine enacted in the Lodge Books,” and another (M. B., page 17, August 2, 1756) – “Agreed upon that there shall be a monthly communication of the members upon the first Monday of the second month of every Quarter, at Aberdeen, and upon the first Monday of every third month of the Quarter in the Lodge at Old Aberdeen… and when in Aberdeen, the members residing there shall forfeit two-pence for every night’s absence. And the members residing in Old Aberdeen, when the communication is there as above mentioned shall be liable to the same penalty if absent.” It does not appear that this arrangement was carried out, and ultimately the difficulty was solved by the entire removal of the Lodge to Aberdeen. Besides the meetings mentioned above which are duly minuted, others were held for the admission of candidates. These were held at anytime, and frequently seem to have been very numerous. The dates of their being held are readily ascertained from entries in the Lists of Members, and in the Treasurer’s accounts; but no minutes of them appear at any time. Either the Lodge deemed it unnecessary to keep such minutes, or more probably considered it improper to put on record the transactions at meetings held for purely masonic purposes.
The exact place of meeting is but rarely mentioned. The minutes usually begin “at Old Aberdeen,” or “at St. Machar’s Lodge Chambers in Old Aberdeen;”and latterly, simply “Lodge rooms.” It may however be assumed that when the exact locality is mentioned, it indicates a change of the house of meeting (as indeed is often distinctly stated), and that the lodge continued to meet in the same house till the next change is specified. This refers specially to the Annual and Quarterly Meetings; as to the meetings for the admission of candidates, there seems for a long time to have been a good deal of laxity. This is illustrated by the following extract, of date Feb. 1st, 1762 -“It was judged inconvenient for the members to have been received sometimes in one House, and sometimes in another; they therefore unanimonsly agree for the future to fix upon the most convenient House for that purpose, and not to be moved therefrom by any member, unless the candidate be positive to be received otherwise, and that House found upon Inspection fit for the purpose.” (M. B. p. 45). Where the early meetings were held is not stated, unless we take the following in the Treasurer’s accounts – “1753, Dec. 27. By Peets to the Fire in the Schooll, 6d ” (At the same date is the following entry: – “By cash for Ringing the Bell, 1s [one shilling]” Query – was this to summon the meeting?) – to imply that the meeting at that date was held in the School-room. Under date, 3rd Nov., 1755, appears the following:- “At same time they unanimously agreed to continue their possession of the 3rd Flatt of Robert Leslie’s House from Whitsunday [50 days after Easter Sunday] 1756 to Do. 1757, and to pay him Eleven Pounds, Scots, therefore, which the said Robert Leslie agreed to.” This arrangement seems not to have been acceptable to the ensuing general meeting; for next year (May 24, 1756) we find the Master reporting that – “Conform to the desire of last General Meeting he had agreed to Mr. Walter Leith for five years (of the Gallary and Midd Room) Tack [lease], commencing at Whitsunday 1756, for Three Pounds and Ten Shillings Sterling of yearly Rent, the said Mr. Leith having engaged to make such Repairs, as are particularized in a letter entered into betwixt him and our said Master, and therefore the Lodge unanimously empow’rd John Spring their pnt [present] Thesaurer [Treasurer] to enter into Assedations [the act of letting or assigning on lease] on the Lodge Accot. with the said Mr. Leith betwixt and the first day of July next to come, at the sight of the Master & Office-bearers, or any three of them, provided the said Mr. Leith have agt. that time made the necessary Reparations agreed on.” The minute proceeds to recite – “That it would be absolutely necessary that a table should be made fitting for the above mentioned Gallary at the least expence possibly it could, and therefore appointed Mr. Joseph Forbes (Joseph Forbes, is one of those mentioned in the Charter, was, in 1756, Master of the Lodge) to make a Table of such Dimensions as he thought most proper, and that would be of least Expence to the publick Funds of the Society. And it was farther agreed that in regard Mr. Forbes had orders from several of the members to make a Chair for each of them, to be used in the Lodge; It was enacted that there should be no chairs admitted into the New Lodge Hall, that were not made by Mr. Forbes or his order, all to be uniform, and each of them to be paid by ye [the] members who have subscribed the order to Mr. Forbes, and to be deposited in the Lodge for the use of the owners and their successors.” (M. B. page 17). So well pleased do they seem to have been with the arrangement, that at next meeting (Aug. 2nd, 1756), they enact – “That there shall be no member Pass’d or Raised belonging to the Fraternity but within The Lodge Galery or Chambers in Old Aberdeen holden by them in consequence of their Tack with Walter Leith dureing its continuance, and this to be duely observed without any pretence to the contrary.” (M.B. page 18). By next meeting, however, they find “said Lodge inconvenient for want of a Press… therefore they unanimously consent that Mr. Forbes put up one at the easiest charge for that purpose betwixt this and 20th Dec. next.” (M.B. page 18. In the Treasurer’s account for that year (1756) payments for these furnishings duly appear, viz.:- “By Cash paid for ye Lodge Table £1 15s. By Do. [ditto] for ye Warden’s Chairs £1.12s. By Cash for a Cup-board in the Lodge 15s.” (M. B. page 19). In the Inventory of Dec. 27, 1757, appear the following entries:- 36 Chairs, 3 Armed Do., 2 Tables with 6 standards.” (M. B. page 26). Apparently therefore, Mr. Forbes had presented a Chair for the Master, and thirty-six of the members had taken advantage of the permission to order chairs for themselves “and their successors.” In the same Treasurer’s account appear the entries – “By Cash for Drawing a Tack of our new Lodge 2/6” and “By Cash for Entertainment at same 1/. [one shilling]” Whether a “Tack” could be as cheaply drawn now-a-days may be doubtful. But the bargain thus made is very speedily in disfavour, for next year’s accounts show the following entry :-” 1757, May 9: By cash spent at signing ye assedation ‘twixt ye Lodge, and Mr. Paul 8½d.” (M. B. page 23). The following is the explanation given in the minute of 18th Feb., 1757:- “by the Mrs. [Master’s] orders… when the said Master represented the Insufficiency of the Room and Gallery now possessed by the Society, belonging to Walter Leith, and likewise in consequence of the Report made by George Cumming and James Jaffray, wrights [carpenters] in said city, by virtue of an order from Baillie George Gordon there, the said Master made offer to the said Society of the Removal from sd Gallery and Room betwixt this and Whitsunday next, and obliges himself to free them of any expenses laid out on Lawsuit against the said Walter Leith as also of the Rents and Penalty contained in a Tack betwixt them and the Proprietor from and after Whitsunday, 1757, unless as to Mr. Joseph Forbes who signed sd Tack; whereupon they proceeded to state the votes, Remove or not, which was unanimously carried to Remove, and thereafter empowered the said Master with the Office-bearers to look out for and accommodate sd Lodge in Rooms not exceeding twenty arid ffive shillings yearly.” The next minute shows this resolution carried out, May 2,1757:- “They therefore stated a vote, Enter or not enter into a Tack with George Paul, Gardener in Old Aberdeen, of the south Rooms in the third flatt of his new built house in said city (this house seems to have been in the neighbourhood of the Old Bridge of Don), for five or seven years, the last two rear’s in the Lodge option, and the vote Enter was carried by a great majority. They therefore empower their present Treasurer, William Cruickshank to enter into Assedation with. the said George Paul, betwixt and the fifteenth of May current, 1757, at the sight of the Office-bearers or any three of them for the yearly rent of Twelve pound Scots. The said George Paul being bound to keep the said Rooms in good repair.” (M. B., page 22). In this house the Lodge remained for the seven years of the lease, and then removed to a house in the Spital as the following minute shows:- “7th May, 1764. The members then present then took into their consideration their Removal from this to anoyr [another] Lodge in Spital, and unanimously fixed on Monday 21st curt [current] for that purpose, and to have yr [their] furniture removed some time before; and recommend, That the whole members of said Lodge, or as many as can conveniently attend, meet upon said 21st currt. at five of ye [the] clock in the afternoon, properly cloathed, in order to make a procession to said new Lodge.” (M. B., page 55). In the following year. a project is mooted to purchase “a Rigg [a strip of land longer than it is broad usually used for cultivation] of land lying on the east side of the city of Old Aberdeen, formerly belonging to the heirs of Thomas Nicol,” and now to the “Incorporation of Weavers in Aberdeen,” and the meeting of 13th Nov., 1765, resolves “to offer for the said Rigg to the extent of Eighty Pounds Sterling, and no, further upon any account whatsoever.” (M. B., page 60). Nothing however came of this resolution. The St. John’s Day meetings of 1767, 1768, and 1769,were held, in the Town House, Old Aberdeen, but the other meetings down to St. John’s Day 1770; were held in a house spoken of as Scotstown’s Room. On April 1st, 1770, a special meeting was held in “Foot-Dee’s Mire’s Lodge” and on St. John’s Day of that year, the Lodge seems,to have removed finally to that place Foot- Dee’s Mire, or, Futtiesmyre, was a portion of the low lying ground bordering on the Links, about half-way between the Broadhill and Footdee. It was purchased by the Lodge of Aberdeen, No.1ter in 1700 and a house was erected which for many years was the meeting place of that Lodge, and in 1707, it was sold by that Lodge to the Hammermen Incorporation of Aberdeen. From 1770 to 1776, St. Machar Lodge seems to have met at Foot-Dees Mire; no direct statement of this, it is true, is made; but there is no mention of removal, and the minutes open with the words “Lodge Room” only, without any reference to Old Aberdeen as in the earlier minutes. In 1776, the Lodge purchased from Provost James Jopp, a piece of ground in Queen Street, on which they proceed to erect a house for a Lodge Room, &c., but the history of this transaction will be told subsequently.
The Office-bearers elected by the Lodge were a Master, two Wardens and two Deacons or Stewards (the latter being the term commonly used), with a Treasurer, Clerk and Officer. The Master named two Deputies, and each of the Wardens one, to act in their absence. The following minute taken at random from among the St. John’s Day minutes, wiIl show the ordinary procedure at elections. “At Old Aberdeen, 27th December, 1760, the Lodge then, proceeded to the election of Master, Wardens, and Office-bearers for the ensuing year, and accordingly made choice of the Right Worshipful Master, Robert Cruikshank; William Innes, Senior, and William Burr, Junior Wardens; John Ferrier, Treasurer; James Brebner, Senior, and John Gordon, Junior Wardens; Clerk and Officer being continued as formerly. And likewise appointed Alexander Davidson, Depute, and Joseph Forbes, Substitute Masters. William Innes likewise appointed Alexander Davidson, Depute Senior Warden; and William Burr, James Leith Depute Junior Warden, to act and exerce [discharge to duties of (an office)] for them in their absence. John Ferrier named Adam Duncan and William lnnes as his cautioners, with whom the Lodge was satisfied; and appointed a Committee of the Master and Office-bearers, along with any of the members that can attend at the Lodge Rooms, at four o’clock this afternoon to, make up the Treasure’s charge, transact as to their outstanding Debts, take the, Treasurer and Cautioners’ security for the ensuing year, and see their Accounts and Minutes fairly recorded in their Books.” This form is repeated year after year with but little variation, and gives a good idea of the style of transaction any business then in use. The securities for money lent (always bills) are not delivered to the Treasurer, but are deposited in the Lodge chest; if any considerable balance in cash is handed over to him, his bill for that amount is taken and deposited with the rest; and his own and cautioners’ obligation for his intromissions is entered in the minute book, duly signed and witnessed, usually in the following terms:- “Afterwards compeared [appeared before] John Ferrier, book- binder in Aberdeen, present Treasurer of the Lodge of St. Machar in Old Aberdeen, and with and for him Adam Duncan and William Innes both Lint-dressers in Aberdeen, and hereby bound and obliged themselves, conjunctly and severally, to make good and forthcoming to the said Lodge, the haill [whole] Intromissions [Accounts] of the said John Ferrier with the Funds thereof from 27th December 1760 to Do. 1761. In witness whereof the above parties have subscribed these presents at Old Aberdeen, &c.; &c.” After some years, the custom of the Wardens naming Deputies fell into desuetude; and shortly thereafter the Master named but one Depute; finally about 1775 the Lodge took into its own hands the election of Depute Master. The stewards seem to have had special charge of the Lodge furniture, as we find them several times signing an inventory of it, and to them (and not to the Treasurer) was handed the entertainment money, of which they gave an account at the year’s end, handing over the balance, if any, to the Treasurer. In 1753 there were connected with the Lodge, several of a family of the name Swap – the names of five of whom appear on the charter. One of these, Alexander, who is named as Senior Warden in the charter, was elected the following year as Clerk, and by him the greater number of the minutes in the old minute book seem to have been written. He continued in office till 1710, when he resigned (he received a small annuity in acknowledgement of his long services) in favour of his brother John (named as Master in the charter), who continued in office till 1776. Another of the family; William, was elected Officer in 1754, and continued to act in that capacity until I779.
The three craft degrees only are directly mentioned in connection with the Lodge. Not withstanding this, it is clear that from an early period; at least the arch degree were wrought in connection with, although not in, the Lodge. In the account given of laying the Foundation Stone of Virginia Street bridge in 1768, there is an entry of “Arch Masons” taking part in it. During the early years of the Lodge, these three degrees were invariably given on two separate days, sometimes with a short interval, but more often with a considerable interval, not unfrequently extending to some years. For instance, J. Dalgarno received the first degree in 1755, and the other two in 1763, he having in the interval held office as steward. According to this mode the first degree was always given alone; and the second and third together. A large number however contented themselves with the first degree, without proceeding to the others; Thus of 260, who up toalld including the year 1775, took the first degree by itself, only 137 took the other two degrees; This however did not prevent their taking an active interest in the Lodge, nor even their holding office. In each year (with one exception), from 1753 to 1761 inclusive, at least one, and occasionally both, the stewards were apprentices. In 1755, the Junior Wardens office was held by an apprentice but this is the only instance of any of the higher offices being so held. After the year 1761, this practice seems to have been abandoned, and none but Masters were elected to any office. The practice of conferring the three degrees at one meeting came into use slowly, and at first apparently did not meet with much favour. No instance occurs prior to the year 1765, when two out of fifteen candidates received the three degrees at once. This innovation was followed only once during the next two years; but in the three years 1768 – 70, five, six, and seven instances appear of its being done. For the next three years this plan was almost abandoned, but in the middle of 1774, the views of the Lodge on this point seem suddenly to have changed, and from that time the rule seems to have been to confer all the degrees at once. While the degrees were kept separate; the payments for them were also kept separate. In 1753, when the charter was obtained, the fees were raised, and became ten shillings for the first degree; and six shillings for the second and third, exclusive of entertainment, Grand Lodge dues, and clothing, and of small dues to the clerk and officer. In 1755; a complaint was made of the cost of entertainment, in consequence of which it was fixed at five shillings at entering, and four shillings at passing and raising. In 1756, the fee for entering was raised to fifteen shillings, but two years later it was reduced. In 1762, the fees for entering were raised to fifteen shillings – and for passing and raising to eight shillings – the charge for entertainment being five shillings for each, and this remained the charge till 1777, when a resolution was passed, raising the charge for entering to twenty shillings, with ten shillings for entertainment; and for passing and raising ten shillings, with five shillings for entertainment; or for the three degrees taken together (which had now become the regular practice) thirty shillings to the Lodge, and ten shillings for entertainment. This change seems scarcely to have been acted on, as for the twenty years following, the Lodge was practically in abeyance.
The following are the most interesting of the Lodge transactions recorded in the minutes:-
“Upon St. John’s Day 1760 immediately after our Election the Right Honourable Sir James Reid of Barra Bart. generously made a present to our Lodge of an elegant copy the Book of Constitutions with an ode to the Praise of Masonry, and the sword of Gustavus Adolphus, which were delivered to Adam Duncan for preservation.” (M. B. page 38). Sir James Reid mentioned here, was the maternal grandfather of the recently deceased Alexander Stronach, Advocate, and the “sword of Gustavus Adolphus” which he presented to the Lodge, is still in its possession.”
Mrs. May Buchan in a letter dated Old Aberdeen, 4th January, 1765, gave a donation of five Pounds “for the benefit of destitute Widows whose Husbands has been members” and reserving to herself during her life the interest of the money. On 30th December, 1766, she made a further donation of three Pounds, reserving always to herself ye interest thereof during her natural life, and farther stipulating “ye favour of said Lodge to attend her Burial, and desires her corpse to be interred in that part of ye Church-yard of Old Machar lying betwixt ye wedding Church-style and the Minister’s. As also, orders them to put a Head-stone on her Grave, all which ye said Lodge unanimously agreed to, and order the same to be recorded in their Books, as witness our hands, place, Day 0.£ ye month, and year of God above written.” On 1st February, 1768, she gave a further donation of one pound four shillings and two, pence, as specified in the minute of that date, which has attached to it a copy of the Treasurer’s receipt for the same. This receipt bears that the money is “deposited in trust to said Lodge; and ye said sum to be laid out by said Lodge for twenty indigent People after her Funeral, and yt [that] in ye following manner, viz.:- to each of said Persons one shilling sterling, one penny Loaf, and a bottle of Ale… In witness whereof I have subscribed these presents in Name and by Authority of said Lodge, place, day and date as above.” Although it is not so stated, it is probable that the Lodge attended Mrs. Buchan’s funeral the other stipulations were undoubtedly complied with, for in the accounts for 1770 there appears this entry, “By cash to ye poor at Mrs. Buchan’s Burial £1. 4s. 2d.,” and in the accounts for 1772 “By a Grave stone to Mrs. Buchan £1. 7s. 2d.”
On two occasions the Lodge appeared in public, on the occasion of the Master’s laying the foundation stone of the Bridge over Virginia Street, and of the Chapel of Ease at Gilcomston. The following are the accounts given of these in the minutes:-
“At ye desire of Alex. Bannerman, one of ye members of said Lodge, who had undertaken to build the Bridge over Virginia Street in Aberdeen; praying ye Master to call a General Meeting to walk in Procession for laying ye Foundation Stone yreof [thereof]. Therefore upon ye 11th day of March 1768 ye Master called a General Meeting; and ye vote being put, Procession, or not, it was carried in ye Affirmative; and in consequence yreof, they proceeded upon ye 15th of said Month, an year above mentioned; ye ceremonies whereof were as follows, viz.:-
“The Brethren of ye Lodge of St. Machar assembled at ye Trinity Hall at 11 o’clock:-about half after 12 they went in Solemn Procession, thro’ ye principal Streets in ye following order:-
Military with drawn swords.
Masons of other Lodges.
Drums and Fifes.
Band of Musick.
Stewards of ye Lodge.
Wardens of ye Lodge.
The Square, Level, and Plumb, carried by three Operative Masons.
The Cornucopia and Mallet, carried by ye Officer, and an Operative Mason.
The vessels for ye Wine and Oil, carried by two Gentlemen Masons.
Sword of Gustavus Adolphus, carried by a Gentleman Mason.
The Book, carried by a Gentleman Mason.
The Master, supported by two former Masters.
A Detachment of the Military.
“How soon ye Brethren came to ye Ground, it was surronded by ym [them], none being allowed to enter ye circle, but ye Provost and Magistrates. The Master, wt [with] ye assistance of two operative Brethren, turned ye stone, and laid it in its Bed (ye Inscription undermost). The Stone is in the South-East corner of ye south pillar of ye Bridge; the Square, Plumb, Level & Mallet were successively delivered to ye Master, and re-delivered in ye same manner to ye persons by whom they were borne; he applied ye Square to yt part of ye Stone which was Square; he applied ye Plumb to ye several Edges of the Stone; he applied ye Level above ye Stone, in several Positions; & wt ye mallet he gave ye Stone three Knocks, on which ye Brethren gave three Huzzas; Then ye cornucopia, & ye two vessels were delivered; ye cornucopia to ye Substitute, and ye two Vessels to ye Wardens; and were successively presented to ye Master; and he, according to an ancient ceremony, poured out ye Corn, Wine & Oil on ye stone, saying:- “May ye bountiful Hand of Heaven ever supply this City with abundance of Corn, Wine, & Oil, and ye other conveniences of Life.” This being succeeded by three Huzzas, ye Master said, “May ye Grand Architect of ye Universe, as we have now laid this Foundation Stone, of his kind Providence enable us to carryon and finish what we have now begun; and may he be a Guard to this Place, and ye City in general, and preserve it from Decay and Ruin to ye latest Posterity.
” ‘My Lord Provost and Magistrates,
” ‘In ye publick character I hold, at ye head of my Brethren of the ancient and honourable Society, I presume to address you: and in their Name, and for myself, I return you my most humble and hearty Thanks for ye Honour you have done us, in witnessing our laying this Foundation-stone; may you and your Successors be happy Instruments of forwarding this great and good work, as it will add greatly to ye Ornament of this City; and I hope it will be a lasting Honour to you, and a means of transmitting your Memories to ye latest Posterity.
” ‘My Brethren, and Fellow-Citizens,
” ‘We have now begun a work of no small Importance; and I hope our Brother, who is at present materially engaged, as well as all those who shall hereafter engage in compleating ye Plan, will so avail themselves, as shall add to ye Honour of Masonry in general; and I look upon it, my Brethren, as a particular good Fortune to ye Lodge of St. Machar, of having ye Honour of laying this Foundation; and I wish ye success of this good City may afford many ye like opportunities, which must give satisfaction to every good Man, and be a Pleasure to every well-wisher of Bon-Accord.’
“The ceremony being over, the Provost and Magistrates took leave; and the Brethren returned to the Trinity-Hall in the same order, escorted by the Military. At the Hall-Gate, the Brethren opened, and received the Master with three Huzzas; and paid him the compliments due to his Rank; They then proceeded with the usual State into the Hall; where they were entertained in that Elegant, and harmonious Manner usual among Masons. During the whole Ceremony, the greatest Regularity was observed; and although many thousands of spectators were present, no.Person received any Hurt.
“On the stone was the following inscription:-
|N.J. Mr. St. Mr. L.
|A.B. Utr. A. D. 1768
|Ær. Mas. 5768
“i.e. Provost John Duncan, Ninian Johnston, Master of St. Machar’s Lodge, Anno Domini 1768; and of the Ær [Era]of Masonry 5768. A. B. i.e. Alexander Bannerman, Undertaker.” Then follows a list of the Members of St. Machar Lodge present, to the number of seventy-six.
“Wednesday, 2nd May 1770, The Foundation-Stone of ye Chapel of Ease at Giloomston, was Laid. At Eleven O’clock, ye Office-Bearers and Brethren of ye Lodge of St. Machar met at ye Trinity-Hall; from whence they marched in Solemn Procession to ye Place where the Chapel is intended to be built, on an Eminence at ye Den-Burn. The Stone was laid wt ye usual ceremonies, after which ye Master said, ‘May ye Grand Architect of ye Universe, who has assisted us in laying this Foundation-Stone (for a Place of publick worship) of his kind Providence enable us to carryon and finish what we have begun; may he be a Guard to this Place, and Preserve it from Decay and Ruin to latest Posterity.’ Then addressing himself to ye Gentlemen Clergy he said,
” ‘Reverend and worthy Sirs,
” ‘In ye publick Character I now hold at ye Head of this honourable Society of St. Machar’s Lodge, I think it my Duty to address you on this happy occasion; I do yrefore heartily congratulate you on ye success of your Endeavours for ye good of ye Parish of St. Machar in particular, and of ye publick in general. This useful work will redound to your everlasting Honour; and I wish in sincerity, yt your worthy Example may be followed in many oyr [other] places; as ye Populounsness and Prosperity of this happy Country calls loudly for it; you have on this occasion shown your care for ye Good of Mankind, not only by your indefatigable Endeavours to forward this great and good work; but also by your own generous contributions; may you be blest wt [with] Health, and satisfaction while in this world, and when you depart from it, and rest from your labours, your works will then follow you.’ Addressing himself to the Lodge, he said,
” ‘Worthy Brethren,
” ‘It is with ye utmost satisfaction yt I congratulate you on this publick and happy occasion, which kind Providence has favoured us with, in prosperity ye Work of our Hands, by giving success to our weak Endeavours for the publick Good. This is now ye 2d time wtin [within] ye space of two years, that I have had ye Honour of calling you together, to lay ye Foundation of two publick Buildings, which for their Utility, I may say, none has exceeded in this Part of the Country in our Day, and which will to Posterity be lasting Monuments to your Honour. I give you my sincere Thanks, Brethren, for your ready and willing attendance on this occasion, and I wish ye grand Architect of ye Universe may preserve you from all Evil, and grant you Health and vigour to prosecute and finish this useful undertaking.’ Each of these Addresses was followed by three Huzzas.
“After which they marched thro’ ye Town, to their Lodge, where a cold collation [(food) contributed or ‘pooled’ by the members] was provided; and the Brethren parted with ye utmost satisfaction and good Humour.
“Most Parishes in this Synod have contributed very liberally towards ye erection of this Chapel.
“The following is ye Inscription upon ye stone –
(1) R. J. M. F. M.
(2) R. P. D. S. M.
(3) R. W. N. J. M.
(4) S. M. L.
(5) A. B. U.
(6) A. D. 1770
(7) Æ. M. 5770
“Explained thus: (1st Line) The Reverend Mr. James Mitchell, First Minister. (2nd) The Reverend Mr. Patrick Duff, Second Minister. (3) The Right Worshipful Ninian Johnston, Master. (4) of St. Machar’s Lodge. (5) Alexander Bannerman, Undertaker. (6) Anno Domini 1770. (7) And of the Æra of Masonry 5770.”
A list is given of “ye Brethren at ye procession” to the number of seventy-six members of St. Machar Lodge, and fifteen “visiting Brethren of different Lodges.”
During the twenty-five years now spoken of, the Lodge gave Diplomas to its members, but only when specially required. A small fee was charged for each, but only those who went elsewhere seem to have been in the habit of obtaining them. Thus out of 214 Master Masons (and only Masters received them) who were from time to time members of the Lodge during the period spoken of, only 68 took Diplomas, and of them a list is kept. The earliest mentioned is dated 1760, and at that date a form of Diploma is inserted in the Minute Book.
(Please note that the above has been reproduced as closely as possible to the original printed text. Obscure or now disused words are explained by using square brackets – [ ] Ed.)
The above is the first part of the Lodge’s history the second part will be added in due course.