Scots Masonic Relics, pp.251-255.

[Scottish National Memorials Contents]

   CHARTER granted by the Deacons, Masters, and Freemen Masons of Scotland, with the consent of William Schaw, Master of Work to King James VI., in favour of William St. Clair of Roslin as Patron and Protector of the Craft. The date of the document cannot be ascertained with exactitude, but, as is indicated by Mr. Murray Lyon in his valuable History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1, various facts known with regard to some of the signatories favour the presumption that it was executed between December 1600 and November 1601. 



   CHARTER granted by the Deacons and Masters of the Lodges of Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, Stirling, Ayr, Dunfermline, and St. Andrews to Sir William St. Clair of Roslin, son of the above-named William St. Clair, ratifying and confirming the former grant of jurisdiction, and constituting Sir William and his heirs-male Patrons, Protectors, and Overseers of the Craft. This charter was formerly supposed to have been executed in 1630, but Mr. Murray Lyon has shown that from various circumstances it is more probable it was signed at Edinburgh in April 1628. 



   The ‘St. Clair Charters,’ two masonic documents of very great interest and value, are written on scrolls of paper, the one 15 by 11 ½ inches, the other 26 by 11 ½ inches. The earlier charter proceeds on the narrative that the Lairds of Roslin had ‘from aige to aige’ ever been patrons and protectors of the craft, and had been obeyed and acknowledged as such, though for a few years ‘throwch negligence and slewthfulness’ this had ceased to be the case, a state of things which had ‘genderit manyfald corruptiones and jmperfectiones,’ and ‘gevin occasioun to mony persones to consave evill opinioun of ws and owr craft and to leive of great jnterpryses of pollecie.’ On these grounds, and on the further narrative that when disputes arise among the craft much inconvenience is caused by the want of a patron to whom these can be referred, ‘we nocht being abill to await vpoun the ordiner judges and judgement of this realme throw the occasioun of our powertie and langsumnes of proces ffor remeid qrof,’ the signatories agree that the Laird of Roslin should for himself and his heirs obtain from the king jurisdiction upon ‘the haill pfessoris of our craft wtin this realme,’ and be thereafter acknowledged as patron and judge without any power of appeal from his decision. This charter is signed by duly accredited representatives of the Lodges of Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Haddington, Dunfermline, and Achieson’s Haven. As, however, part of the lower portion of the document is missing, there were probably several additional signatures of delegates from other parts of Scotland. 

   The later charter, a document of greater length than its predecessor, also refers to the time- honoured connection of the St. Clairs with the Mason craft as its patrons and protectors, to which honourable position (it goes on to say) they had royal letters of appointment, which latter had been destroyed ‘in ane flame of fyre within the Castle of Rosling.’ There does not appear, however, to be the slightest ground for believing that there ever was a heritable conveyance by the Crown to the St. Clairs of the office of Patron and Protector of the Masons of Scotland. This has been conclusively shown by Mr. Maidment, the learned editor of Father Hay’s Genealogie of the Saint-Claires of Rosslyn, who points out that if there had been a grant of the office by James II. to the St. Clair family, as is maintained in Laurie’s History of Freemasonry, it would have naturally descended to the Earls of Orkney and Caithness, the representatives of the elder branch, and would undoubtedly have been referred to by William St. Clair when in 1736 he demitted the office on the establishment of the Grand Lodge. 

   The powers conferred by the second charter upon Sir William St. Clair and his heirs are very extensive, they being authorised ‘be thameselfis their waurdenis and deputtis to be constitute be thame to affix and appoynt places of meting for keiping of guid ordr jn the said craft als oft and sua oft as neid sall requyre, All and sindrie persones that may he knawin to be subiect to the said vocatioun to be callit absentis to amerciat, transgressoris to punish, vnlawis casualities and utheris dewties quhatsomevir perteining & belonging or that may fall to be pait be quhatsomever persone or persones subiect to the said craft to aske crave ressave jntromet with and uplift and the samyn to their awn propper vse to apply, deputtis vnder thame jn the said office with clerkis seruandis assistoris and all utheris officiaris and memberis of court neidfull to mak creat substitut and ordene, for quhome they sall be haldin to answer, all and sindrie plaintis actiounes and causes perteining to the said craft and vocatioun and againes quhatsumevir persone or persones professors yrof to heir discuss decerne and decyde, actis, decreitis and sentencis yairvpoun to pronounce and the samyn to dew executioun to caus be put And gnallie all and sindrie vyeris, priviledges liberties and immunities quhatsumevir concerneing the said craft to do vse & exerce and caus to be done exercet and keipet.’ 

   The charters are well and clearly written, and are undoubtedly authentic. They were purchased at the sale of the effects of Alexander Deuchar, a prominent Edinburgh Freemason, by the late David Laing, LL.D., who gave them to Professor Aytoun. and by the latter they were presented to the Grand Lodge of Scotland. 

   MINUTE-BOOK of the Masonic Lodge which existed in Rome, 1735-37. 

   Among other interesting MSS. preserved in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Scotland are the Minutes of a Lodge of Scottish Freemasons existing in Rome in the years 1735, 1736, and 1737, – a lodge over which it has been said ‘Prince Charles Edward presided as Right Worshipful Master.’ There is no authority for such a statement. The minutes in question do not support it; nor has evidence from a Scottish source ever been produced of Prince Charles Edward being a Freemason. 

   This relic of Jacobite Masons can scarcely be called a book. It consists of ten sheets of large post folio, placed loosely within a vellum cover, and attached to it by a piece of twine run through loops made of violin string – evidently the work of an amateur. It was to guard against surprise, no doubt, that such an arrangement of its Minute-Book was adopted by the Roman Lodge, for in the event of a domiciliary visit of the papal authorities the records could easily be removed or destroyed, and the parchment cover left in its entirety. 

   There are fifteen separate entries in the book. The first is without date, and contains the signatures of the Master, two Wardens, and thirteen members, among whom appear the names of some noted Jacobites, viz. John Stewart, brother to the Earl of Traquair; Dr. James Irvin, Colonel William Hay, and William Howard, Master. The Jacobite Duchess of Gordon was a Howard. 

   The next entry is in Latin, and embraces the ‘original statutes brought down for the use of the Free Masons of the Roman Lodge,’ and an English translation of the same. These statutes bear evidence of their Scottish origin in respect of the prominence they give to the custom of supping in open lodge, and the presentation of gloves or livery to the brotherhood by initiates on their admission. Foreigners were not admissible unless they could speak English. Absentees were sharply looked after. The following note is appended to the minute of 16th September 1735:- ‘That it being contrary to the laws of massonry for a member to absent himself after due warning, it hase been thought proper by the Grand Master and the lodge to fine Sir Mar. Constable, M. Fitzmorise, M. Le Wick in their share of the supper.’ 

   In the first of these minutes is recorded the admission of ‘George Seton Winton’ at a meeting held in Joseppie’s, in the Corso, August 16, 1735. This was the attainted Earl of Winton, who, escaping from the Tower of London while under sentence of death for his share in the Rebellion of 1715, sought refuge in the Roman capital, where he resided till his death in 1749. The Minute-Book under notice was taken possession of by Lord Winton when in August 1737 the Lodge was suppressed by Pope Clement the Twelfth, by whose order the tyler, a servant of Dr. Irvin, was sent, as a terror to others, prisoner to the Inquisition, though he was soon released. 

   Meetings were held in ‘Joseppie’s’ on 16th and 21st September and 27th Decenilier 1735, and on 4th January and 28th February 1736, at which, among others, were admitted several French, Neapolitan, and Polish nobles holding high military rank under their respective sovereigns. 

   The place of meeting was subsequently changed to ‘The Three Kings, Strada Paolina,’ where in March 1736 Lord Winton was received as a ‘Master Mason,’ prior to his election as ‘Great Master’ in April of the same year. 

   The admission of Dr. Alexander Cuninghame, afterwards Sir Alexander Dick of Prestonfield, and Allan Ramsay, the well-known portrait-painter, son of the author of the ‘Gentle Shepherd’ and other poetical works, took place on 2d February 1737, and on the 23d of the same month the ‘Marquis de Vassé, Brigadier of the French Army and Collonell of Dragoons,’ was initiated. 

   Another communication was held in May 1737, and at the last meeting of the lodge, which was held on 20th August of that year, there was admitted ‘John Murray, Esqr.,’ whose signature to the minute identifies him as the infamous John Murray of Broughton, the Secretary of Prince Charles Edward. His subsequent disgrace is known to all students of Scottish history. 

   We have selected the minute of Murray’s admission as the subject of our illustration. (See Fig. 176.) Its appearance here dispels the illusion under which successive historians of Canongate Kilwinning have claimed for that distinguished lodge the somewhat dubious honour of initiating Murray into Freemasonry. In December 1738 he was ‘admitted a member’ thereof by affiliation. His autograph, along with that of the Jacobite Earl of Kilmarnock (then Grand Master), is appended to the minute of the Grand Visitation to the Canongate Lodge in December 1742, and in November of the following year, being present in Grand Lodge, Murray was appointed Junior Grand Warden. In the oldest existing minute-book of Canongate Kilwinning, mention is made of visiting brethren from Rome, and in the record of his affiliation, Sir Alexander Dick is designated as of the Roman Lodge. 

   After passing through the hands of several Jacobite members of the craft, the Minute-Book of the Roman Lodge was, in 1799, put into the hands of Sir James Stirling, Baronet, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and Grand Master Mason of Scotland, to be by his Lordship deposited in the archives of Grand Lodge, where it has since remained. 

   The genuineness of this masonic relic was formally attested by ‘Mr. Andrew Lumisden,’ a gentleman who took an active part in the civil war of 1745, but escaped to Rome and became one of the Secretaries of James Francis Edward Stewart. After forty years’ residence on the Continent, Mr. Lumisden returned to his native country, and died at Edinburgh on 26th December 1801. He was a member of ‘the Lodge of Edinburgh from Dumfermling,’ recorded as such in 1742. [D. M. L.] (See pp. 148-150 ante.) 



   MINUTE-BOOK of St. Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons, Dumfries, of which Burns was an affiliated member, bearing the poet’s signature to the by-laws on page 11, and containing the minute of his admission, 27th December 1788. Burns, who, as is well known, was an enthusiastic member of the craft, was initiated in the Lodge St. David, Tarbolton, on 4th July 1781. In the following year dissensions among the brethren of the lodge culminated in an open rupture, when Burns and a number of the other members retired and re-established the Lodge St. James, Tarbolton, which had been constituted by Mother Kilwinning on 20th May 1771, but which, for a time, had been united with St. David’s under the latter’s charter. He was appointed Depute Master of St. James’s Lodge on 27th July 1784, and held that position for four years, discharging the duties of the office with great fidelity and regularity. During the period of his residence in Kilmarnock in connection with the publication of the first edition of his poems, and on the occasion of his memorable first visit to Edinburgh, he had continued to shew his interest in Freemasonry, and had been elected an honorary member of lodges in both places. It was only natural, therefore, that on his coming to Dumfries he should join the local lodge and take an active interest in its affairs. The Minute-Book was presented in 1879 to the Grand Lodge of Scotland by Sir Michael R. Shaw Stewart, Bart., Grand Master Mason. 



   The MASTER’S MALLET and APRON used in St. Andrew’s Lodge, Dumfries, at the time of Burns’s connection with it. They were presented along with the Minute-Book by Sir Michael R. Shaw Stewart, Bart. 



   MINUTE-BOOK of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning from 20th December 1642 till 1758. 

   No country in the world possesses records in the form of Lodge Minutes of such ancient date as Scotland. The Mother Lodge of Kilwinning, however, despite her worldwide fame and undoubted antiquity, lags in this respect behind some of her less-known sisters. The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) has Minutes dating back to 27th November 1599. The earliest authentic notice of St. John’s Lodge, Glasgow, occurs in the oldest Minute-Book of the Masons’ Incorporation under date 22d September 1620, and refers to the entering of an apprentice in the Lodge. The other Scots Lodges with Minutes dating back to the seventeenth century are as follows:- Melrose, oldest Minute 28th December 1674; Dunblane, 28th January 1696; and Aberdeen, 27th December 1696. 

   The Lodge of Kilwinning’s inability to produce earlier documentary evidence of her antiquity was the cause last century of an unfortunate schism in Scottish Masonry. At the formation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736 it had been decided to fix the precedence of the various Lodges on the Roll according to the date of the oldest records they should severally produce, and in conformity with this principle the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) was given the premier position, while the second place was assigned to Kilwinning. At first the Kilwinning brethren do not seem to have openly impugned the correctness of this decision, and for several years subsequently the Lodge was represented by proxy at meetings of the Grand Lodge. Eventually, however, without attempting any formal vindication of her claims, the Lodge of Kilwinning ceased altogether to recognise the authority of the Grand Lodge, and resumed the position of an independent Masonic jurisdiction. Lodge Charters were granted by her not only throughout Scotland, but also in the Colonies, and this unsatisfactory state of matters continued to exist till 1807. In that year, under the Grand Mastership of the Earl of Moira, a reconciliation was effected, it being reciprocally agreed on the one hand that Mother Kilwinning should renounce all right of granting Charters and come with all the Lodges holding of her into the bosom of the Grand Lodge, while on the other it was conceded that Kilwinning should be placed at the head of the Grand Roll, that her subordinate Lodges should be ranked according to the date of their Charters, and that the Master of the Mother Lodge should be ex-officio Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire. 

   The Minute-Book is a small quarto bound in vellum, and the Minutes are not kept continuously or in regular order. These lapses in the records, however, do not necessarily imply a suspension of the work of the Lodge, as detached scrolls referring to some of the missing years are still in existence. The first Minute is signed by over forty brethren, nearly all of whom add their ‘marks,’ the few who do not being, in the opinion of Mr. Murray Lyon, the apprentices. 


   MINUTE-BOOK of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning, from 1758 till December 1806. 


   MINUTE-BOOK of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning, from December 1806 till 1842. 


   MS. BOOK OF CHARGES of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning. 


   SEAL of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning. 


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