Extract from, Airdrie Advertiser
Saturday 6th November, Year 1886.
GRAND MASONIC DEMONSTRATION.
CENTENARY CELEBRATION OF LODGE AIRDRIE ST JOHN, NO.166.
Yesterday, the Centenary of Airdrie St John Lodge, No. 166 was celebrated with very considerable pomp and enthusiasm by a large gathering of the Brethren from various quarters, including a deputation from Grand Lodge of Scotland. The weather was somewhat dull and threatening like in the morning, but a quiet breeze sprung up, and throughout the day kept fine, and excellent for the display of such an outdoor demonstration.
From about eleven o’clock the town began to show sign of more than usual activity, and now and again strains of music were heard as instrumental bands paraded the streets before the commencement of the ceremony.
It was fully expected, until the previous evening that Sir Archibald Campbell, Bart., of Bltyhswood, Grand Master of Scotland, would be present; but, owing to indisposition, he was unable to come to Airdrie, so the deputation from Grand Lodge was headed by Bro. Murray Lion, Grand Secretary, those consisting of Br. R. G. Jamieson, Proxy Grand Master of Venezuela; Bro. Albert Althorpe;
Bro. Wm. Edwards, President of Grand Stewards, &c.
The various local lodges met in their Lodge rooms, whence they marched to the County Court Hall at 12 O'clock, where the deputations from sister Lodges from various parts of the Country also assembled, and the Lodge No.166 was duly opened by Right Worshipful Master Bro. Harvie, the Provincial Lodges were received in open Lodge, the band meanwhile playing the “Grand March.”
After this had been done, the R.W.M. amidst the enthusiastic applause of the Brethren assembled, introduced Br. Sheriff Mair, Proxy Master of the lodge, vacated the chair in favour, the applause of the brethren being renewed most enthusiastically.
Bro. Sheriff Mair, acting R.W.M., then rose and said, it was the first occasion on which he had handled the mallet and presided over a meeting of the craft. He first thanked them for the honour done him, and to congratulate them upon the excellence of the arrangements they had made for carrying through the celebration of their centenary. (Applause,) He regretted, however, that he had two letters of apology to read-the first from the Worthy Grand Master of Scotland, Sir Archibald Campbell, Bart., who, as many of the brethren were already aware, was suffering from indisposition, and who sent word of regretting that he could not come to Airdrie, as a chill would only aggravate his trouble. The other apology was from Captain Colt of Gartsherrie. On the platform beside Br. Sheriff Mair and the R.W.M. was Br. D. H. Paterson, the Worthy Chaplain of the Lodge.
The arrangements having now been completed for receiving the Grand Lodge, Br. Sheriff Mair called upon the brethren to be upstanding, while the band played “The Merry Mason” during the entry of the deputation, the members taking seats within the enclosure of the Court Room, Br. Lyon Murray, as the head of the deputation, ascending to the platform beside Sheriff Mair, who relinquished the mallet in favour of his superior, but had it immediately returned to carry forward the proceedings.
HISTORY OF THE LODGE BY SHERIFF MAIR.
Br. Sheriff Mair, who again was received with great applause, rose and said they would all observe from the programme issued, that he had put forward to give a sketch of the lodge from the earliest minutes preserved by the lodge (Applause) He thought that this could have been much better done by some of the older members of No.166, but the brethren had generally and earnestly urged him to take up the subject, and he had at length consented. (Applause). He found that the charter had been granted on the 5th November, 1786. It was true that there had been some sort of association previous to this in Airdrie of a benevolent nature, because there were records back to the year 1786, when St John No 166, was instituted. (Applause). It was very gratifying to him (Sheriff Mair) while he had the honour of presiding at such an influential meeting of the craft, to be able to congratulate the brotherhood upon their uniform charity and benevolence to their unfortunate brethren, and even, indeed, during their period of prosperity-for he was glad, to be able to say that Lodge St John, No.166 had at all times been very prosperous-had helped the community amongst which they lived, as there was a record in their minutes that they had contributed a very considerable sum of money towards the cutting of a road at the west end of Airdrie, the burgh being short of funds at the time. (Applause) On another occasion, towards the end of last century, the lodge, after taking into consideration the particular situation of the country owing to the high price of provision, appointed a committee to supply cheap food to the people of the neighbourhood to an extent not exceeding £70. (Applause.) These were the bright spots in the history of Lodge No. 166, and were likewise the gems of Freemasonry. (Applause.) The Proxy-Master then went on to touch upon the various demonstrations at which the lodge had taken part, from laying of the foundation stone of a monument to Lord Nelson in the year 1806, to the foundation stone of the Airdrie Working Men’s Club, at which Sir Archibald Campbell, whose absence they to-day so greatly regretted, had so worthily presided. (Applause.) He could not fail to mention one or two other public buildings in Airdrie, at the foundation of which the Brethren of St. John had officiated, such as the market Buildings, the North British Railway Station, and the County Courts, under which roof they were now presently assembled. (Applause.) Nor should he forget the Inmedius building over the way (Laughter) which had been build for the accommodation of those who required to be taken care of for the good of their country. (Laughter and applause.) He could not attempt to compute the number of class of inmates that had from time to time occupied the historic building-(Laughter) but he could tell them that the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council, with their officials, were now safely housed within its walls. (Great Laughter) But leaving this aside, he had to tell them frankly-for it was only the truth, and might prove for their good-that the lodge had at one time lost its vitality, and fell asleep for a few years; but was again re-formed by the Grand Lodge in 1851, since which time it had been an undoubted success. During the last four years they had imitated into the mysteries of the craft no fewer than 115 brethren, something over 28 per year, which, he believed, was more than any lodge in Scotland, when population was taken into account, had done in any similar period. (Loud Applause.) In looking over the long roll of members and office bearers, he found names of many familiar families in Airdrie, such as Motherwell, the ancestors of the present worthy Provost - (Applause.) - Black, the forbears of ex-Provost Black-(applause)- together with those of Rankin, Loudon, Thom, and Arthur- names of local interest, and certainly distinguished in having greatly tended to make Airdrie what it now was. (Applause.) One thing he had almost omitted to mention in his brief and sketch of the work of the lodge No. 166 was that in the month of October in the year 1809, the brethren attended divine service to listen to a sermon by the Rev. James Begg, and to offer thanks to Almighty God for the protection of His Majesty the King during his long Reign; and he knew, from the sterling loyalty of Freemasons generally, and from that of the Brethren on No.166 particularly, that they would all rejoice in having the honour in a very short time of celebrating the jubilee of a monarch, whose equal for generous love of her people was unknown to the civilised world. (Great Applause, during the course of which the learned Proxy Master resumed his seat.)
PRESENTAION BY SHERIFF MAIR
After the applause had subsided, Brother Sheriff Mair again rose, and in a few neat and complimentary sentences laudatory of the office-bearers of No. 166 presented to the lodge two handsome volumes bearing strictly on Freemasonry. The first is entitled “Freemasonry in Scotland,” by David Murray Lyon and dedicated to the Earl of Dalhousie, K.T., G.C.B. It is most profusely and beautifully illustrated. The second bears the title of “The Ancient and Accepted Rite, Illuminated,” from the first to the thirty-Second degree, the whole being got up in a highly artistic style-both of which will prove of great service to the office bearers and brethren of Lodge No. 166.
Brother Harvie R.W.M. briefly acknowledged the handsome gift made to the lodge by Brother Sheriff Mair. Br. Murray Lyon, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, in a highly eloquent speech, congratulated Lodge No. 166 upon having secured so able a Proxy Master as the learned Sheriff of the Airdrie district – Sheriff Mair (Applause). He had most carefully, and indeed brilliantly sketched the career of the lodge with which he was now connected, and it spoke volumes for the civilising influences of Freemasonry to learn that Lodge No.166 had carried out the traditions of the craft in everything pertaining to Love, Charity, and Benevolence. (Applause.)The Brethren were then called from labour to refreshment, previous to parading the principal streets of the town in processional order.
GRAND PROCESSION THROUGH THE TOWN.
At half-past two o’clock the members of the various lodges attired in full regalia and bearing the usual insignia of the Masonic order, were marshalled in front of the County Buildings by Bro. Matthew M. Henderson, who was mounted, and Brothers John Forrest and William Smith, preparatory to a Grand parade of the streets of the town. Fortunately, the weather, which had hitherto been some- what dull, kept fair, and the procession was seen to be fine, advantage by the dense crowds who had congregated in the vicinity of the New Cross and along the route. The procession was headed by the Airdrie Saxhorn Brass Band, and a start was made from the Cross up Graham Street, the following being the order of lodges and bands: - Harthill, 590; Renfrew, 426; Cambusnethan, 427; Bo’ness, 409; Whitburn, 374; Airdrie Brass Band; Airdrie Operative Lodge, No.203; West Maryston Brass Band; St Andrew’s Coatbridge, 544,; Harthill Brass Band; New Monkland Montrose No 88; Airdrie St John No.166, with the first banner of the lodge, now 100 years old, followed by upwards of 100 members, and the Airdrie Old Union Brass Band; the procession being wound up be the following members of The Grand Lodge of Scotland: - Bro. R. G. Jamieson, proxy Grand Master of Venesuela; Bro. Albert Abthorpe;
Bro. Wm Edwards, President of Grand Stewards; Bros. Murray Lyon, M.W.G.S.; Sheriff Mair, Provost Motherwell, Baillie Arthur, ex-Bailie Adam, &c. The following was the route of procession: - Up Graham Street, Clark Street, along North Biggar Road, down Flowerhill and Hallcraig Street, up South Bridge Street, along High Street, Aitchison Street, down New Street and up Alexander Street and Stirling Street, to the County Buildings,
CLOSING OF THE LODGE.
The Brethren having again been all assembled within the Court Hall, Brother Harvie was called upon by Sheriff Mair to preside, and close the lodge, which was accordingly done in due form, after which the principle office-bearers of all the lodges present, and the members of Lodge No.166 adjourned to the Commissioners’ Hall where a BANQUET OF CAKE AND WINE had been purveyed. The tables were set in fine style, and the hall looked exceedingly well when filled with the Brethren arrayed in their clothing and jewels.
Bro. Sheriff Mair presided, and briefly proposed the usual toast of “The Queen and the Craft,” “The Prince and Princess of Wales and Members of the Royal Family,” both of which were received right loyally by the Brethren.
Bro. Rev D. H. Paterson, chaplain of the Lodge, next gave “The Navy, Army, and Volunteers,” which was responded to in a martial tone and speech by Bro. Lieutenant Arthur.
Brother Sheriff Mair here rose and said – I have now to propose for your acceptance a toast which, in every Masonic assembly, is received with hearty enthusiasm-namely, “The Grand Lodge of Scotland.” (Applause.) The time was, and that not so long ago, when its affairs were in a state of confusion. Thanks, however, to those who took the helm-aye, and took it with a firm and determined hand, the Grand Lodge is now out of troubled waters and enjoying peace and prosperity. (Applause.) When I look at the names of its office-Bearers, I feel a a confidence-and I am certain every Mason in Scotland does the same-that the affairs of Grand Lodge are in excellent keeping, and that everything will be done by them for the true interests of the Craft. (Applause.)
It is said that on Her Majesty’s dominions the sun never sets. The same may be said of The Grand Lodge of Scotland when you consider that her influences and power extends to all India, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and America. (Applause.) In the King of the Scottish Craft, the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Sir Archibald Campbell, we have one whose heart and soul are in masonry-(applause)-whose zeal and interest in it are increasing, and who has always been ready and willing to promote any object of Masonic importance. (Applause.) We all regret his absence to-day, but there can be no dough he would have been with us had his health permitted. In his absence I beg to couple the toast with the name of Brother Murray Lyon, who briefly but earnestly acknowledged the toast. The other toast was- “The Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire,” “The Airdrie St John,” “The sister Lodges,” “The Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of Airdrie,” “The Clergy of all Denominations,” &c.
Provost Motherwell, before the close of the proceedings, as a member of the craft and the Chief Magistrate of the Burgh, paid a well merited compliment to Sheriff Mair for the great efforts he had put forth on this occasion to make the centenary celebration of St John Lodge so complete a success, which had undoubtedly been the result. Of course, the Sheriff was assisted in every way possible by the office-bearers and the other members of the Centenary Committee-viz., Bros Harvie, R.W.M; Thomas McLaren, S.W.; R. McLaren, Jun.; Geo. Anderson, P.M..; and Adam Nish, the energetic Secretary.
It is Gratifying to relate that the whole proceeding’s passed of most satisfactory, not a single hitch occurring during the five hours the demonstration lasted.
Our indefatigable townsman, William Torrance, outfitter, Stirling Street, (who seems to the manner born) did yeoman service by supplying the bandsmen and numerous brethren, with beautiful aprons and other aesthetic paraphernalia, which greatly enhanced the attractiveness of the procession.
Bro. Adam Linning.
70th Year Diploma.
LEST WE FORGET
They shall not grow old
as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them not the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun
We shall remember them.
The Great War 1914 - 1918
James Balheme Frank Morrison
Neil Darroch John McDowell
Henry Flavell Thomas McIvor
David Forsyth William McKenzie
John Freeland Edward McKerley
John Hall Fairburn Raynor
Alex Hastie Alexander Samuel
John Jack James Stevenson
James Lauriston Andrew Turner
Thomas Lauriston Alexander Welch
Second World War 1939 - 1945
James McVey John Sneddon
Friday 5th March 2010.
June 2006 Bro. James O. Ferguson PM/Secretary had the distinction of being appointed by the RWPGM Bro. James L. Jack of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire (Middle Ward) to hold a Commissioned Office with the position of Provincial Grand Junior Chaplin.
As far as can be ascertained that although we have 5 brethren who have received Honorary Grand Rank, Bro. Ferguson is the first member of Lodge Airdrie St. John No.166 to hold a Commissioned Office.
Bro. James was further honoured by the RWPGM Bro. James L. Jack by being invited along with the Provincial Grand Secretary Bro. William B. Craig to perform the installation ceremony of the elected Provincial Office Bearers for the year 2010 at the installation meeting on Friday 5th. March 2010.
Along with a large attendance of lodges from within the province also present on the occasion were representatives of 15 Sister Provincial Grand Lodges headed by RWPGM of Ross & Cromarty Bro. Ramsay McGhee.
The RWPGM congratulated both brethren for carrying out the ceremony in a most dignified and impressive manner.
Thursday 9th June 2011
Again another Proud moment for Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 as Bro. James O Ferguson PM Sec of our lodge. Bro. Jim is the first member of the lodge to ever to be commissioned in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire Middle Ward. Bro. Jim holds the rank of Right Worshipful Substitute Provincial Grand Master
Lodge Airdrie St, John 166-its as much a part of Airdrie today as Inver House, Pye, the Imperial or Broomfield Park.
And, with all due apologies, especially to the diamonds, the lodge has a history which outshines them all; a history which goes hand in hand with the development of the town.
Masonry, and when one talks about this in Airdrie our own lodge is to the forefront, has always been very strong in the district.
And our fathers, grandfathers and great-great-grandfathers can take the credit for introducing and flourishing the beliefs of the craft in Airdrie.
But the history of Airdrie St John 166, which I have tried to condense in the pages of this book, is not all one of success and glory.
It is one with many pitfalls, numerous crises, and even threatened extinction. But it also one of pride and admiration for our brothers in those early days, and some not so early, who struggled and fought to keep alive the lodge when others of a not so inbred belief would have been tempted to let the lodge die.
Therefore the history of our lodge is more than just a collection of dates and events.
It is the true story of undying belief by a host of different men in different centuries who were bonded together by brotherhood.
Men who allowed nothing to blow them off their chosen course-establishing Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 as a leading light in Scottish masonry.
In that, there can be no doubt they succeeded. Perhaps only now, as we prepare to move house again, are the fruits of their labours being rewarded.
They are not here today to witness the healthy position of the lodge as it gets ready to write another chapter in its history, but none of us should ever be allowed to forget them.
If this book keeps alive their memory then that itself is enough reason for its publication.
They say that all good stories should have a beginning, a middle and an end.
This tribute to all men of Airdrie St John 166 most certainly has a beginning, without a doubt a middle … Let’s all pray that it never has an ending.
Bro. Thomas White
THE BEGINNING AND THE EARLY YEARS TO 1940
Airdrie was growing. The little market town was attracting new people. Industry and farming were standing on the threshold of a boom.
‘Way back in the days of the early eighteenth century the Burgh of Airdrie was beginning to emerge. But a belief that had spanned thousands of years was already strongly rooted-masonry.
Airdrie St. John 166 joined the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland on November 6, 1786.
But we know that before this time there was a lodge in Airdrie, Called Airdrie Kilwinning, and there is absolutely no reason to doubt that it was the members of that lodge which formed Airdrie St. John 166 as we all know and love it today.
There is a minute in our books, and I quote: “The lodge is in a very good condition but considering you have had a charter since 1721 it could be better.”
This was said during a Provincial deputation, but it meant be remembered that a number of our operative masons had left to form the Operative Lodge of Airdrie No. 203 as it is today.
But where did the first masons come from to found the craft in Airdrie? Where did they meet? And how did they grow into such a strong and prosperous lodge?
The third question we will answer in this book. The second can be safely guessed-in houses, fields, indeed anywhere where meetings could be held in complete privacy and safety.
The first cannot be answered. There is simply no trace of the men who came to Airdrie and founded masonry, and the several theories which are bandied around are nothing more than that, there simply is no proof.
It can be safely stated through that the weaves of the town were among our early members. It is much more sensible-and certainly easier to understand-to stick purely to the facts.
In the beginning our lodge worked and grew under three different numbers (the last being 166). It can be said that the lodge worked under numbers 201, 164 and finally 166, but for simplicity 166 is the number used throughout the book.
Although I have absolutely no doubts that members of our lodge were the oldest practising masons in the town (from the days of Airdrie Kilwinning), it is fair to note that New Monkland Montrose 88 is the oldest lodge in Airdrie as far as receiving its charter from Grand Lodge is concerned.
But minutes and records of those early days do not exist. Indeed, the first minute book begins on January 10, 1799, but I believe we can safely assume that the lodge met in brethren’s houses probably initiating around 12 brothers each year.
However, by some miracle, the original General Rules and Regulations of the Lodge, compiled all those years ago, still exists, and I believe it is worthy of publication.
GENERAL RULES AND REGULATIONS
1. The master has the power to convene the members of the lodge when and where he pleases, within the town of Airdrie. In case of sickness or necessary absence of the Master, the S.W. shall meet the lodge and act as Master pro-temporie if no brother is present who has been master of this lodge.
- The lodge agrees to meet the first Friday of every month.
- That besides the monthly meeting the lodge shall meet quarterly, the first meeting on lodge day, being the 25th of March, the second quarterly meeting being on St. John the Baptist Day, being 24th June, the third quarterly meeting being on Michillmas on 29th September, the fourth quarterly meeting being on St. John the Evangelist, being the 27th December.
- That at each of these quarterly meetings every member of this lodge shall pay as follows; three pence sterling each, which sums are to be paid into the hands of the treasurer for the time being.
- That the treasurer of the lodge shall keep a book containing the particular accounts of all money received and his accounts shall be annually inspected by the lodge.
- That all members of this lodge do meet annually on St. John the Evangelist Day, being 27th December, at which time they shall choose a Master, Wardens and other officers for the year ensuing.
- That upon the monthly meeting immediately preceding St. John’s Day, the Master shall name a member of the lodge as a proper person to be elected his successor who, if approved by the lodge, shall be upon St. John’s Day elected by a majority of votes.
- The new Master shall be installed and clothed by the old Master and afterwards saluted by the lodge after which he has to appoint his two wardens who are to be clothed by the new Master and properly saluted by the lodge.
- No man is to be admitted a member of the lodge without a previous petition being presented for that effect one month before his admission.
- Every new member is to be elected by ballot allenarly and one single dissent shall hinder or prevent his being admitted a member because the unanimous consent of all the members of the lodge present at the admission appears necessary in order to preserve that unity and harmony that should obtain or correspond among masons.
- Every new member upon his being made a mason of this lodge has to pay into the hands of the treasurer for the use of the poor 10 shillings sterling.
- All and every member of this lodge shall have the aforesaid rules and regulations read over to him at the time of his admission to which he will solemnly promise to submit himself and such other good laws as may be necessary with the harmony and brotherly love of a mason.
- That no member or members of this lodge presume to make a man a mason without the authority from the lodge or be a witness thereto without he receive a Mark of Scots money for the use of the poor of the lodge.
- That every fellow-craft of this lodge shall pay into the hands of the treasurer the sum of four pounds Scots for his entry for his being passed from an apprentice to fellowcraft and three shillings four pence to Master Masons.
- That every member of the lodge after being raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason and likewise all brother Masons, initiating from any other regular lodge, must remain at least three years before they can receive aliment from the funds of the lodge.
It is a great pity that minutes do not exist for those 13 years or before, for I am certain it was a time of great excitement and change for masonry and our founder members.
Nevertheless, from 1799 until the present day, excepting the period that the lodge was dormant, the minutes have been faithfully written and testify to the dedication and growth of our Mother Lodge.
Certainly the men who governed 166 meant business. For instance, on March 29, 1799, at a meeting in the house of Bro. James Bryson, they decided that any office-bearer who was absent would have to pay three pennies to the treasurer before being allowed back into the lodge.
The first truly historic event in the workings of the lodge took place on October 9th of the same year. All three degress, Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason, were conferred on a candidate…..on the same night.
And just as historic, the same meeting decided to buy a pair “of good strong shoes” for Bro. William Allan. Search as I might I could find no reason for this truly soleful decision!
In November the lodge voted to buy a pair of trousers, at 5s. 10d. for use in ceremonial work.
From what I gather several of our present day brethren feel they are still in use.
However, on the serious side, the lodge was getting itself deeply involved in the welfare of the town, lending assistance wherever possible, and, I might add, not just confining its help to the borders of Airdrie as I will show in later chapters.
The minute of December 2nd 1799, offers us a perfect example. It states: “The society
(The Lodge), considering the particular situation in regard to the high cost of provisions, are unanimous in their opinions that a committee should be from the Airdrie St. John Lodge, to correspond with other societies in Airdrie for the purpose of buying grain for supplying the town and country with provisions in this time of scarcity to the extent of £50 sterling, not to exceed £70 sterling.”
The lodge also donated a fair sum of money towards the building of a road east to the town, and later paid for the sinking of three drinking wells for the benefit of the welfare of the people living in Airdrie at this time.
Thus this minute, and others like it, are undisputable proof that Lodge Airdrie St. John had its fingers on the pulse of the town-and was always ready and willing to act when the pulse rate became irregular.
The provisions, by the way, were donated to the poor of the town are were gifts of money. Although no final figures are available, it can be estimated that well over 100 poor people were given badly needed aid by the lodge during this period.
However, the lodge also proved itself quick to punish its own members who failed in their duty
On June 23, 1801, the senior and iunior wardens were fined, warned, banned from the lodge for an indefinite period and stripped of their offices for missing three meetings.
And, obviously to warn other brethren, a brother who failed to pay off his debt to the lodge was ordered to be prosecuted on September 15, 1801.
And it didn’t stop there. In 1803 a brother was suspended for missing three meetings, two others were warned to pay off bills within a week, or be prosecuted, the junior warden was replaced for missing three meetings.
But he was lucky, One month later he was given back his post after the lodge accepted his reason for absence.
But I believe the lodge probably had other reasons for taking such strong action with brethren, reasons which have not been recorded in the minute book.
Whatever they were, the actions taken at that time proved to be very effective, and the record of attendeces, especially that of office-bearers, continued to improve.
Indeed, attendances generally at the lodge meetings were excellant, even although it was not unusual th have two meeting in the one week.
The lodge moved into the nineteenth century on a high not continuing to show expansion. But dark clouds were on the horizon . . . although the brethern had no knowledge of the desperate crisis which lay only a few years ahead.
But before the crisis, there were several interesting and off-beat happenings in the lodge.
For instance, in 1809 Past Master Bro. Thomas Cherry was reported to the lodge for not attending the St. John’s Day installation. He was fined the total of the collection taken at that meeting-three shillings. He promptly paid up.
It is also interesting to note that there is a possibility, and that’s all that can be said, that lodge owned all the houses in which it met.
For several minutes refer to the lodge “receiving rent from the tenants,” but this can only be guesswork as nothing has been written to confirm this view.
January 3, 1809, can be regarded as the day Airdrie St. John 166 began the slide into financial disaster and almost total extinction.
On that day a committee was formed to investigate the possibility of purchasing a hall. At the end of the month £300 was borrowed towards the cost-which was limited at £500.
But the sun was still shining as far as the lodge members were concerned. The foundation stone was laid on Friday, August 11, 1809, with 10 other lodges taking part in the ceremony.
As far as I can discover, the hall was situated in High Street, and became known as “The Masons Hall.” In our own Minute Books there is absolutely no mention of the site or street of the hall.
And on May 11, 1810, Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 met in their new hall. It seemed like the answer to the brethren’s dreams, everything the ever wanted.
Ambitious plans were now being made to make full use of the facility which was the envy of lodges throughout Scotland.
However, the dream was about to turn into a nightmare. For the cost of the hall was beginning to emerge. By July 19 the lodge owed £591, and the repayment of this was creating many headaches and late nights for the brethren.
However, full credit to the lodge. They did not stop paying benefits to the poor or brethren in need.
In fact, at this time they set down a list of payments to needy brethren: previously all cases were considered individually.
The list was: Bedridden, 3s. 6d. per week; walking about, 2s per week: unemployed or old age, 1s. 6d. per week.
For the next few years the lodge worked quietly, doing its utmost to pay off the debt. But the body blows began to come hard and fast, starting on January 15, 1815.
John Rupen, who had loaned the lodge money for building the hall, demanded a repayment of £60. Instead, the lodge borrowed £150-and paid him off.
Coincidence or not, at the very same meeting the initiation fee was raised from £1 to 24 shillings.
On June 24, 1816, the lodge discovered that the treasurer was out of pocket by over £5 for the years’s working. They borrowed £20 to allow the lodge to continue working.
And probably the most hurtful decision of them all was taken by members. They decided that alimony could be paid until further notice-and the tightening of the belt had stated in earnest.
Practically nothing was bought for the lodge during this period. Expenses were kept to a minimum, and at one point cash in hand was just over £1.
But help was coming. Hopeton Lodge of Bathgate gave a loan of £300, and Mr. Waddell of Airdriehill gave a loan of £360, this money being used to pay of existing debts.
However, other important events at this time cannot be overlooked. The lodge, on November 28, 1823, conferred honorary membership on all seven members of the Airdrie Volunteer Instrumental Band.
And in the same year there appears the first record of lodge members parading to the house of the R.W.M Elect and escorting him back to the lodge. The master was Bro. Alex Taylor.
But the silver lining didn’t last long. In 1828 the lodge voted to continue for another year, an example of the extreme difficulty it was finding in paying off the loans.
The practice of giving relief to any travelling brother who visits the lodge was, however, abandoned because of costs.
At this point I would like to mention the tremendous number of historic engagements undertaken by the lodge, these being mainly the laying of the foundation stones.
Our lodge was represented at all the following events, and these are only a few: Laying of the foundation stone of Lord Nelson’s monument; laying of the foundation stone for the new jail and town house in Airdrie; and a similar event for the new lunatic asylum in Glasgow.
Also on April 1, 1830, we find the first record visitation to our lodge by a sister lodge. This honour goes to Lodge Old Monkland St. James 257.
By 1832 things looked black for the lodge. There were meetings cancelled because of pitiful attendances, and the number of meetings, which sometimes numbered two a week, dropped dramatically to only four in the whole of 1834 and a mere two in 1835. Yes, things were that bad.
On December 27, 1836, came the fateful, but really inevitable, decision . . . the lodge and the house would be sold for £800.
But in February the next year the buildings were still unsold, so the price dropped to £700.
The lack of meeting naturally hindered the minutes, and information and this highly important part of the lodge’s history is incomplete and vague.
It has to be assumed that the lodge now finds itself in a position of having to sell to pay of loans which are now due . . . remember they have been in the lodge since 1810.
And by “ canny management” they continued to function, very, very irregularly, until 1840, and at this time there was still no buyer for the hall.
The last entry in the minute book for that year tells its own sad story . . . “IT WAS AGREED TO AUCTION THE LODGE”
At that time the number of members in 166 was just 12.
A Time For Building – The Year 1840 to 1950 (excluding the world wars and the Graham Street Temple move)
In the Reporter of the Grand Lodge of Scotland (Volume 1, No. 5) there is to be found the following entry dated December 23, 1851 :
“ St, John’s Lodge, Airdrie No. 166, which was erased from the Roll of the Lodges in 1843, and then declared dormant, was, on petition, reopened on payment of all outstanding dues and on production of its original Charter for exhibition, etc.”
On referring to the actual minutes of Grand Committee there is more detail on this particular matter and the following is the relevant extract from the minutes;
“ Extract from minutes of Grand Committee December 23, 1851.
“ A Petition from a number of members of the late St. John’s Lodge at Airdrie No. 166 which had been erased from the Roll of Lodges 1843 praying to be reopened was submitted along with Rev. James Allen,s letter to the Grand Clerk of 18th inst and relative papers.
“ The Grand Committee considering the emergency of the case and the propriety of having the lodge acknowledged by the next St. John’s Day authorised its being reopened as No. 166 on payment of all outstanding arrears and on production of the Charter for exhibition to the Grand Clerk so that he might be satisfied that the petitioners, when reopened, were working under a proper Warrant from this Grand Lodge.”
What the minutes of Grand Lodge don’t tell is the story of sheer hard work and dedication by a number of our brothers who, on the day our lodge went dormant, began the uphill task of breathing life into Lodge Airdrie St. John 166.
And an uphill task it certainly was ! It is probably impossible for us to imagine the circumstances of our lodge in those dark days of the 1840’s.
Meetings had fizzled out, the lodge was heavily in debt, the hall was auctioned, regalia and ceremonial were sold to other lodges, and, but for a few members, interest had died.
But those few members, were determined men, men who were not prepared to say die. They quietly worked at restoring Masonary in the realms of 166, paid off as many debts as possible and travelled the town talking to our members trying to persuade them to return to the meetings.
The first minute I can find after the year 1840 is dated June 4th, 1851 – and the meeting was held in Brother William Rankin’s Tavern, Bell Street. It is better known as the Black Bull.
As these meetings, with Brother James Allen in the Chair, the brethren discussed the progress being made within the town of Airdrie and the hopes of Grand Lodge that they will be able to begin working again.
Searches were made for the working tools and seal of the Lodge, and lo and behold they found them. They had been sold by Brother D. Smith to Old Monkland St. James Lodge.
And the Coatbridge lodge immediately agreed to sell them back to 166 in an effort to help our Lodge begin working again.
It was the kind of willing co-operation that enabled our Lodge to get “back on our feet” much quicker and with a much firmer stand than those who had set out to rekindle the flames of the Lodge could ever have hoped for.
Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 was back in business. And it didn’t take our Brethren long to begin full Masonic workings with initiations taking place at all meetings.
The crisis was over, although the brethren still had a lot of hard work to undertake. But this we can be sure they did with a tremendous feeling of pride-and a knowledge that they had beaten all the odds and restored to life one of the greatest lodges in Scotland.
Therefore we can now look at the minutes of our lodge and bring to light some of the interesting, and the many off-beat, incidents that helped to give the history of our Lodge such colour and independence.
For instance, on March 1, 1865 the lodge decided to have a public demonstration of June 24 and that all members belonging to the Lodge would pay one shilling towards the music for the parade.
By the way, this applied to everyone-whether they attended or not.
And we also took up what we considered a very ‘touchy’ case of one of our affiliated brothers. The story began on December 4, 1867 when the R.W.M. reported that Bro. Peter MacKinnon, an affiliated member of 166, of St. James Old Monkland 177, had been expelled from his Mother Lodge.
Our Lodge gave the R.W.M permission to contact this lodge asking for details of the case so that they could be placed before the Brethren of 166 to see what action they would take.
The reply said that Bro. MacKinnon was expelled because of his conduct towards the R.W.M. on the night of 177’s annual festival
The brethren of 166 considered the case and all agreed that the expulsion was unfair, and decided to support Bro. MacKinnon in his protest to Provincial Grand Lodge.
Bro. Mackinnon won his appeal on August 5, 1868, and prompyly passed on his thanks to 166 for their solidarity and support.
The lodge was meeting in houses belonging to the brethren, normally each house would be used for one year.
Between 1868 and 1874 the most interesting items are a decision to begin holding meetings in the Olive Hall, agreement to begin a Benevolent Fund to assist the poor and needy of the district, the opening of a lodge bank account with £30.
The lodge also offered help to establish a Masonic Lodge in Slamannan and assist in the building of a Freemasons Hall, Edinburgh.
Now meeting in the Olive Hall, our lodge had a fairly successful period in its history with attendances increasing.
A historic occasion took place on January 21, 1880, when the R.W.M of our lodge, Bro. David Donald, resigned after only 25 days in the Chair, He had to leave Airdrie to take up a new position in London…..the lodge “very regrettably” accepted his resignation.
And I found a very unusual minute on May 5th of the same year when the lodge decided not to have a demonstration on St. John’s Day this year.
Instead they voted for the amendment which said “ No demonstration should be held, but instead the members should meet in the hall on the night and have at least a four-penny pie.” Those pies must have been really good !
A clash with the Grand Lodge took place in 1881 when all three Airdrie Lodges protested about a decision not to allow them to wear regalia during the centenary celebrations of Airdrie Weavers Society.
All three Lodges held a joint special meeting when a strong letter was sent to Grand Lodge demanding that an explanation be given.
Grand Lodge merely replied that the request was not in accordance with their policy, and the three lodges simply had to accept the decision.
The following year the lodge found itself with a problem, a problem, which thankfully is not with us today, and indeed, did not remain with our own lodge for too long………falling attendances and failure of brethren to pay their dues.
R.W.M. Bro. George Wilson expressed his concern at the situation, and on 1st February put forward a motion, which undoubtedly would please the Tyler although the main purpose was to collect dues.
Indeed, I find this a truly remarkable motion and one worthy of total reprint: The motion read: “ That the Secretary to write to the brethren to pay their dues on the first meeting night that if they paid no acknowledgement to this that the Tyler get a list of arrears from the Secretary and call on the brethren and that this lodge give him 10 per cent of all monies collected.”
And on the 27th June the Lodge agreed to take part in a public procession to commemorate St. John’s Day. This took place on June 24th, and again the Minute is absolutely beautiful.
The members of the lodge met in Olive hall in full Masonic costume to commemorate St. John’s Day.
The brethren headed by Airdrie Brass band paraded through the streets of the Town, thence via Clarkston and Plains to a field granted for the occasion.
After the brethren refreshed themselves for a considerable time (with dancing0 and then returned to the lodge room.
Co-operation between all three Airdrie lodges was very good at this time, and, on the instigation of 166, it was decided to appoint a common treasurer for the purpose of “dispensing charity to visiting brethren as the present mode of distribution caused a great deal of annoyance to both Master and Treasurer of the lodges and also to visiting brethren.”
The reason for the appointment of a common treasurer was quite simple. Visiting brethren could call upon all three lodges in the town….thus receiving three payments of alimony.
By making a joint Treasurer for this purpose this practise, which was obviously not benefiting any of the local lodges, ceased.
It is interesting to note that Bro. David Hughen of our lodge took this post and held it for over 40 years-a remarkable achievement and indeed a great honour for 166And talking of off-beat Minutes, the entry of November 16th 1883, is superb. The lodge was discussing arrangements for a supper and ball to be held, and it was agreed that Bro. McDonald would arrange to have a “fiddler present on that occasion.” We can only assume that they meant musically.
The “Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser” reported the supper of December 26 thus: “The brethren of No 166 Airdrie st. John’s Lodge met in their Lodge Room, Olive Hall, to do honour to St. John’s Day by partaking of a supper which was excellently provided by Mr. Abernethy of the Start Hotel.
“After doing ample justice to the good things provided, the cloth was removed and the usual loyal and the masonic toasts were given and responded. Bro. George Wilson, R.W.M., was presented with a very handsome gold P.M. Jewel and to Mrs Wilson a pair of beautiful silver bracelets.
The jewel bore the following inscription: “This jewel along with a pair of bracelets for Mrs Wilson was presented by the officers and brethren of No. 166 St. John’s Lodge to Brother George Wilson, R.W.M., for the eminent services performed by him during the past two years.’
“The younger brethren with their partners afterwards tripped to the light fantastic toes, the utmost goodwill and harmony prevailing.”
On 13th December, 1884, there is a entry which will no doubt to be interest to many of our brethren. The lodge took place in the ceremony of to him demanding an apology the laying of the foundation stone of Airdrie Working Men’s Club-329 brethren attended.
On March 4, 1885, an incident took place which no doubt did not help the relation between 166 and 88. Our lodge was told of a complaint made against the R.W.M of lodge 88, who, according to a brother of 166, had “ made use of language which was not becoming of a brother Mason to use about another lodge, especially this lodge (166).”
According to the minutes, the R.W.M. of 88 had described Lodge Airdrie St. John as the “Irish-Blues.” The secretary was instructed to write to him demanding an apology.
There is No record of an apology ever being received, but, thankfully, this incident did not cause any deep split between the two lodges, and any disagreement seems to have quickly healed.
In 1886 the lodge was preparing to celebrate its centenary, and special arrangements were made. On October 21, the secretary reported that Bro. Sheriff Mair, Proxy Master of the lodge, had donated £10 to assist to defray the cost of the centenary celebrations.
Quote from the Minutes: “The intimation was received with great cheering from the Brethren present.”
On November 5th, 1886, the lodge met to celebrate the centenary of 166. The report from the “Advertiser” is used in our minute books as the exact record of this historic event.
It reads “The centenary was celebrated with a very considerable pomp and enthusiasm by a large gathering of the brethren from various quarters.
“From about 11 a.m. the town began to show more than the usual signs of activity, and now and again the strains of music were heard as instrumental bands parade the streets previous to the commencement of the ceremony.
“The deputation from the Grand Lodge of Scotland was headed by Bro. Murray Lyon, Grand Secretary, The Grand Master Mason, Sir Archibald Campbell, calling off the previous evening.
“After the speeches, the lodge in full regalia marched through the streets watched by the dense crowd congregated in the vicinity of the new Cross. The procession marched through thr streets back to their gathering point, the County Buildings.
“Brethren gathered in the court hall where the lodge was closed. The company then retired to the Commissioners Hall where a banquet of cake and wine had been purveyed.
I fell it is worth quoting a part of the speech given by Bro. Sheriff Mair. He said: “It is said that the sun never sets on Her Majesty’s dominions. The same may be said of The Grand Lodge of Scotland.
“In the King of the Scottish Craft, the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Sir Archibald Campbell, we have one whose heart and soul are in masonry, whose zeal and interest in it are increasing and who has always been ready and willing to promote and object of masonic importance…”
By the way, Sheriff Mair was proxy Master of the lodge, and was allowed to take the chair on that occasion.
Back to the “Advertiser”: “It is gratifying to relate that the whole proceedings passed off most satisfactorily, not a single hitch occurring during the five hours the demonstration lasted.
“Our indefatigable townsman, William Torrance, outfitter, Stirling Street, who seems to be to the manner born, did yeoman service by supplying the bandsman and numerous brethren with beautiful aprons and another paraphernalia which greatly enhanced the attractiveness of the procession.”
After the centenary celebrations the lodge returned to its normal working. But another major advance was made on May 13, 1887, when Bro. George Anderson, R.W.M, became the first member of Lodge Airdrie St John 166 to receive his Mark Master Mason Degree from the lodge. In all nine brethren received the degree that evening, a degree that has become one of the most popular within our Mother Lodge.
What makes this historic night even more interesting is that our members had been electing a Mark Master Mason Degree being worked in 16
On June 19, 1898 the lodge marched to Longriggend for a picnic. The local paper quoted the event so well I just had to include it in the history of our lodge.
“The weather was all that could be desired, there being only sufficient breeze to prevent the heat of the sun from being oppressive, Consequently the various games such as football, tug o’ war, kissing rings and the almost forgotten game of rounders were entered into with great gusto by all those who took part, while those who preferred dancing ‘tipped to the daisy’ to music.”
All in all, it seemed quite a day for the members of the lodge.
On July 2, 1891, the lodge was told that two of our members had borrowed money from lodge 121 Hereford and not repaid it. The lodge was extremely concerned at this, and took immediate steps to ensure that it could not happen to them.
They decided that no one would be admitted into the lodge unless he is properly know to a numer of members.
And that “ no travelling quacks, travelling theatricals or any such person of no fixed abode be admitted at all unless they are recommended by a brethren from the district from where they were last residing.”
On a happier note, a presentation was made two years later to R.W.M William Harvie for his long and faithful service.
He was presented with a Gold watch, and Bro. Harvie said he hoped the watch would be handed down as a heirloom so that it could be handed down as a heirloom so that it could be displayed on the bi-centennial celebrations to the lodge-despite many questions, I have been unable to find a trace of the watch which, I am sure, can be considered a very historic part of 166.
And just to prove that the lodge was concerned with events throughout the country they agreed to send to Lodge Worthington Sussex … the “relief the fever which had stricken the district.”
Also on September 1, 1897, the lodge decided that only Master Masons had taken part in previous ballots- which was contrary to Grand Lodge Rule 160.
Moves were being made at this time to secure new premises for the lodge, but these will be dealt with in an exclusive chapter later.
On a lighter note, there is an entry on December 27, 1897, which reads more like the programme of the Pavilion Theatre rather than what it was-the 166 celebration of St. John’s Day.
I quote verbatim: “Although the company was not quite so large as expected was lacked in numbers was made up in enthusiasm, almost without exception every member contributing to the enjoyment.
“Bro. Bell sang ‘Homes of my childhood,’ Bro. Arch. Scott favoured us with ‘Jessie the Flower o’ Dumlane,’ Bro. Barr sang ‘Drinking,’ while others did their best!
“Bro. David Clarkston did much towards the pleasure of the showed himself a very versatile artiste. He swung the Indian Clubs in a very masterly style, versatile artiste. He swung the Indian Clubs in a very masterly style, manipulated his cards very cleverly and palmed his coins very cunningly, besides singing a topical song called ‘Beer.’ ”
A different kind of problems hit the lodge on July 7, 1899, when an unsigned diploma was seen hanging in the window of a public house in Airdrie.
The Lodge immediately reported the matter to Grand Lodge, but they advised 166 not to take any action and let the matter drop, which they die.
At the first meeting in 1900 Airdrie St. John knew they had to put their sad days behind them. The provincial Grand Lodge visitation praised highly the financial state of the lodge and the tremendous amount of charity work being undertaken in the district and elsewhere.
However, there is an intriguing minute which seems to suggest that, for some unknown reason, the lodge was suspended by Grand Lodge from April 17, 1900, to June 4, the same year.
The only reference in any of our minute books is as follows: “The R.W.M Thomas Bell, jnr. referred to having to attend a Grand Lodge committee meeting in Edinburgh along with the two wardens and Secretary in connection with the suspension of the lodge.
“After having explained to the Grand Committee that it was an overlook on our part, the Grand Master, presiding, cautioned us to be more careful in the future, and withdrew the suspension.”
Efforts to find out more have met with little success, but it does seem that the whole incident was blown out of all proportion and the immediate lifting of suspension by Grand Lodge seems to indicate that they too agreed that the decision was harsh in the first place.
However, the lodge soon continued, and one of its first duties was to send a letter to King Edward V11 expressing condolences at the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
The letter sent by the lodge to the King read: “The Right Worshipful Master, office bearers and members of Airdrie St. John’s Lodge of Freemasons No.166 at a special meeting on January 25 passed a resolution of condolences with your Royal Highness and the other members of the Royal family in the great bereavement you and they have sustained by the death of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.
“They also desire to congratulate your Majesty on your succession to the throne, both as members of this Great Empire and as Freemasons and to express their feelings of loyalty to your Majesty and to your Majesty’s Government.
“Their sincere prayer is that your Royal Highness may be long spared to rule the Great Empire.”
And on May 1, 1901, the lodge decided to introduce Life Membership cars after many brethren had expressed an interest. The fee would be one guinea…….times have certainly changed
However, there seems to have been trouble at an installation meeting on the 27, December of that year. Foe in the first meeting of the year Bro. William Jack, treasurer, resigned because of the conduct of some brethren.
The R.W.M. Bro. David Hughen also made strong references of the conduct of brethren at the harmony; the incident to which he refers are not detailed.
But he appealed to Bro. Jack to reconsider his decision, which (and this lodge will always be fortunate for) he did and continued to be one of the greatest workers of our lodge.
And on March 4, 1903, the lodge decided that all applications for all initiations should lie on the table for at least 14 days. This was because brethren felt that some members were proposing candidates whom they did not believe were fit and proper persons to join the lodge.
And on the same lines, another record: A candidate being balloted for, received NINE blackballs. He never applied again.
As I have already said, the majority of minutes in this period re taken up with notes on the new hall to be dealt with in the next chapter, Which is why the next item took place on October 27, 1906.
I believe it is well worthy of mention in this book. The entire story is taken from the “ Advertiser”;
“A stranger to the town, walking from Commonhead Station to the Old Town Cross to Chapelside Place on Wednesday afternoon at about 3:15 p.m. and noticing that all the principal shops were closed and witnessing the numerous crowds assembled at every point of vantage and enquiring the reason therefor and being told that all this was caused by a funeral, might be excused for thinking that it must have been some dignitary or naebob of the burgh or at least someone who had been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth.
“The occasion was the passing away of a working man, of one far superior to any of these consideration and one who can best be described by that exposition of Pope’s in which he has defined. . . the noblest work of God is an honest man . . . Bro. Donald Scobbie, sen, who for over 33 years was a member of Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 and endeared himself to the public and the craft,”
It was customary at this time to submit reports to the “Advertiser” of Lodge meeting. As a result some very interesting notices appeared.
For instance, a report on an emergency meeting read: “One F.C. Mason had the M.M. Degree conferred on him by the Junior Deacon, Bro. Robert Frazer. It is an open secret that the F.C. so honoured has been described as Airdrie’s hope, Airdrie’s pride Airdrie’s strength but certainly, and without doubt, he is Airdrie’s stalwart.
“Cast a glance at the columns or pillars.”
On December 26, 1906, the lodge paid tribute to one of its greatest members who was retiring as Master, Bro. William Jack, who had given untiring service to the lodge throughout his Masonic career, which included 15 years as treasurer.
It would not be unfair to give Bro. Jack the main credit for establishing the Temple in Graham Street as he was deeply involved with the plans from the very beginning.
He worked tirelessly to raise funds, and it is a mark of his extreme popularity with the lodge that he was unanimously elected Master despite the fact that he had neither served as Junior or Senior Warden nor had undertaken any degree work.
But this perhaps shows Bro. Jack’s quality more than anything, for within three months of taking the chair he was working all three degrees, The lodge presented him with a gold watch and chain.
On September 16, 1908, the lodge decided to begin Instruction Classes, and 32b of the brethren became members, I think it is well worthy of note that at some of these classes there were over 80 brethren, and some of our best-known brethren began their Masonic careers in this way.
The next year a name cropped up in Airdrie St. John 166, a name which the lodge wish had never heard, Herman Reiss.
The lodge first became familiar with the man after receiving a letter from the St. Louis Board of Relief, America.
They informed 166 that Herman Reiss, a member of 166 had been touring the United States soliciting relief from as many lodges as possible-without, Of course, having intention to pay back.
The lodge followed procedure, that is, they tried to contact him in America for an explanation. They couldn’t, and on August 3, 1910, Herman Reiss was expelled from the Masonic order by order of The Grand Lodge of Scotland.
But it wasn’t the last we were to hear from him. For several years later it was reported he was still touring the States borrowing money from lodges. However, our own lodge had done everything in its power to stop this practise.
To show how much interest the lodge took in national affairs, in November, 1912, they wrote to the Prime Minister regarding the Ireland Bill going through Parliament.
Honour for the lodge . . . it was revealed on May 9, 1909, that a brother of the lodge, Bro. McLean, had been elected R.W.M. of Lodge Thistle No. 987 Natal.
Let there be light . . . electric, of course. For on August 18, 1909, the lodge decided to go electric after seeing a demonstration of a Olsam electric lamp.
A couple of nice inclusions in the minute of 1910. Cigars were sent to the lodge from one of our Brothers in England . . . his name? Bro. Clough, and no prizes for guessing his first name!
And the property committee gave permission to one of our tenants to erect an advertising sign . . . providing the lodge would not be held Responsible if it fell and hit someone.
To show how much interest the lodge took in national affairs, in November, 1912, they wrote to the Prime Minister regarding the Ireland Bill going through Parliament.
The Lodge urged the Government to ensure that the Bill would continue to give Freemasons in Ireland protection, and continue the privileges they presently enjoy.
During this time the lodge lost a great number of brethren who were emigrating, notably to Canada, America and Australia.
But the lodge continued to prosper. At one meeting they even initiated 33 candidates in the E.A. Degree.
But our loss was undoubtedly other lodges, and countries, gain. For there is record of brethren from 166 taking a very active part in Masonic work abroad; several helped to launch new lodges while others rose to become R.W.M of their lodges.
In March 1916, Bro. Col. R.K. Stewart, Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason, became the first Honorary Member of our lodge.
With the First World War drawing to a close, which is dealt with in a separate chapter along with World War Two, the lodge was soon back in action . . . and a little bother.
For on March, 1918, they found themselves in trouble over the use of the sheet in the Third Degree. It was reported at the quarterly communication of Provincial Grand Lodge that concern was being expressed over our “abuse and horseplay during the M.M. Degree.”
The lodge was told to end this at once, and at a Third Degree on May 1 the R.W.M. of our lodge revealed he had ordered a smaller sheet to be used, and emphasised that he did not want any event to detract from the “beauty and solemnity” of the degree. The brethren obliged.
Still on degrees . . . on October 30, 1919, 67 Mark Master Masons took part in the one M.M.M. Degree. Nowhere I, have found this figure beaten. And just two months later 33 candidates were initiated in the E.A. Degree, and that is also a record.
And on December 17, 1919, the lodge was stunned when the treasurer, Bro. Peter Sutherland, announced that he wished to resign before the installation.
His reasons? He said that as there had been a move to oust him from office at the A.G.M. and that some brethren had spoken against him, he felt that he could no longer have the confidence of the lodge members.
But many members spoke in favour of the treasurer, and appealed to him not to listen to the “malicious gossip” which had taken place.
A personal appeal by the R.M.M, Bro. William Currie, was successful in persuading Bro. Sutherland to withdraw his resignation.
But Bro. Sutherland said that he would only stay in office for one month . . . and four weeks later he did resign despite a lot of behind-the -scenes persuasion.
On the benevolent, side the lodge empowered the Master to give £2, at his own discretion, to any unemployed member of the lodge . . . and there were many at this time in the history of 166.
On July 20, 1923, a petition was read from Masons from Glengowan and Caldercruix to from a new lodge (Caldercruix St. John 1314). Our Master and two wardens signed this petition.
But perhaps the greatest honour our lodge could have was that one of our members, Bro. Robert Samuel, had been elected as the first R.W.M. of the new lodge, a fair reward for the great help given by our members in the formation of the Caldercruix lodge – and a link that has gone from strength to strength from that day until the present.
On October 5, 1924, the death was reported to the lodge of Bro. William Jack, P.M. a leading light in Freemasonry in the town and one of the most popular and hard –working men to join 166.
I can do more than quote the minute which paid tribute to Bro. Jack; “We as Masons are all equal, but there passes occasionally through our midst one who was particularly marked superior; nobody deserves this more than the late William Jack.
“He had been treasurer for 15years, filled the Masters chair for two years, A great deal of success of the lodge is due to him. He had been the leading spirit of the building scheme, and he had given his time unsparingly until the Temple was complete, and it could be said that the Temple is his memorial.”
It was agreed to put the lodge into mourning for three months.
Between April, 1928, and February, 1929, certain incidents in the lodge took place which caused me a lot of soul-searching before I decided to make them known.
I feel it is only correct that this item should be included, as I believe the Lodge is both strong and honest enough to accept the good with the bad.
On April 4 the lodge was told that it had lost over £2 per meeting over the past year. Several brethren complaint about the manner in which the lodge was being run, and a special committee was set-up to examine the expenditure of the lodge.
Expenses were cut and donations drastically reduced until a Provincial Grand Lodge examination of the books found irregularities regarding the financial affairs of the secretary
The secretary was relieved of his post. It was discovered that he was in debt to the lodge to the amount of £61.2s., and he offered to pay this back at the rate of 5s. per week, to be deducted by his company from his weekly wage packet.
The brethren also agreed to suspend the brother involved sine die for gross breach of Masonic Conduct. The Brother involved then wrote a letter to the lodge saying that he was going to emigrate and begging the lodge not to do anything to prevent this.
Under the said circumstances the brethren decided at their February meeting that emigration was probably the best thing, and agreed to try to forget the incident as soon as possible.
And little did anyone know but there was almost a St. Valentine’s Day massacre in the lodge when at the instruction class of February 14, 1930, dozens of members turned up to see a promised show, provided by a man with a cinematograph.
But the brother who was making the arrangements got his dates mixed up, and both man and machine was in England. The minute rather diplomatically, I think, states; “The rest of the evening was spent in discussion.”
By July 15, 1930, the lodge became worried at a noticeable drop in attendance. Having learned from past experience, the members were not prepared to let the matter lie for long.
So they decided to send a letter to all lapsed members in an effort to regain their full support. The letter read:
“At out last annual general meeting a special committee was appointed to purge the roll, and also to find ways and means whereby the attendance of members at our regular meeting could be improved.
“The R.W.M. and office-bearers would decree it a pleasure to see you once again attending regular meetings, and we make this very earnest appeal on behalf of your Mother Lodge.”
The letter seemed to have the desired effect, and the lodge continued to progress. There was never a lack of new initiates, and they even decided to make the installation meeting “wet.”
The highlight of this period was undoubtedly the 150th anniversary celebration of the lodge, which took place on November 6, 1936.
The event itself took over seven FEET of space in the local paper. I am sure readers will understand why I cannot compete.
R.W.M. at this historic occasion was Bro. James Priestley, who had the distinction of presiding over a large gathering of dignitaries from all over the country at a special anniversary dinner held in the Sir John Wilson Town Hall.
I believe the best tribute to 166 came in a speech that night by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Lanark, Bro. Sir James Knox, of Lodge 203.
He said, and I quote his exact words: “Lodge 166 is one of Airdrie’s old and treasured institutions.
“It is one of those institutions which throughout the generations had reflected in large measures the character of the people.
“You are all well aware with the common saying ‘that a man is known by the company he keeps.’ Similarly, but perhaps to a greater degree, a town or community is known by the nature and quality of the institutions it rears and continues to foster
“The fact that Freemasonry through the working of this lodge, and the two sister lodges, has occupied such a prominent place in the history of our town is to my mind a striking testimonial to the character of the community.”
Speech upon speech flowed that evening in the town hall, all praising the working of Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 and the men who had taken part in it since the very first days.
The tributes were heartfelt and true, and, looking back as we can today, well deserved.
Two of the greatest workers Lodge Airdrie St. John has ever had, Past Master William Jack and Shanks P. Jack. Our “old” Temple in Graham Street was nicknamed “The house that jack built” simply because of the incredible work by the family in establishing the lodge in the building. Their “track record” is second to none as can be seen from the writings in the book. Even today the family is “represented” within the lodge by Past Master Robert Jack, the oldest senior Past Master within the district and a man who has carried on this tremendous family association with Lodge Airdrie St. John 166.
The Foundation stone which was laid at the building of the Graham Street Temple. The date, October 8, 1904, and the names of the office bearers are inscribed on the front. Inside many articles of the day were preserved. The stone was removed and taken with the lodge to the temporary premises at Lingley Lodge.
Father and son, both Past Masters of Lodge Airdrie St. John 166. Indeed, Brother Archibald Campbell was the Installing Master at his son’s (Thomas) installation. This is believed to have been the only time in the history of the lodge that this has occurred. And Past Master A. Campbell was the first Master to hold his installation in the Town Hall. Both are still active workers for the lodge.
One of the most impressive features of the old Temple in Graham Street-the domed ceiling which has been admired since the lodge opened in 1904. With the demolition of the temple there was no way the ceiling could be preserved, but it is hoped to incorporate a similar design in the new Temple to be built in Broonknoll Street. Certainly it would be a cruel blow if such a beautiful piece of workmanship should be lost forever.
The magnificent Dais in the Graham Street Temple. It has always been regarded as one of the finest in the country. Much of it has been removed to Lingley Lodge in an effort to preserve the history of The Graham Street Temple.
To mark his distinguished service to Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 a presentation was held to Past Master William Hart, perhaps the leading member the lodge has ever known, Bro. Hart, who was secretary for a record number of years, receives a gift from Bro. James Martin, Past Master, Treasurer, another a long-serving member, R.W.M. John Marshall, in whose term of office the presentation was made, and Past Master James Spalding.
RIGHT Worshipful Master of Lodge Airdrie St. John at the time of the book’s writing, Brother Robert Whyte, Bro. Whyte followed in the footsteps of his older brother, James, when he became Master of the lodge in December, 1976, During his term in office the lodge saw the change from the Graham Street Temple to Lingley Lodge.
With the guest list, which included representatives from Provincial and Gran Lodge, as well as the local town councils, I feel we will have to work extremely hard to compete during the 200th anniversary in 1986.
In 1931 is the first record of a lodge’s Burns’ Night.
But the advent of the Second World War in September, 1939 (see later chapter for lodge and the war), was again to throw 166 off its chosen course, and force it into making sacrifices in both members and money for the betterment of the community and the continued safety and prosperity of the country.
An interesting inclusion, however, in April, 1944. Bro. Robert Watt, Kilwinning St. John No. 57, presented the lodge with a drinking vessel-which was discoverd to be over 150 years old.
After the War, in November 1945, Bro. William Hart was appointed to secretary, and history was made, Bro. Hart was to serve in the post for 25 years, the longest secretary on record.
Another historic event took place in March 1947, with the unveiling and dedication of the Memorial Tablet, alter and lodge furniture.
Psalm 145 was sung, Scripture reading by Bro. William Geddes, Tribute to brothers who had died was given by Bro. Archibald Campbell, R.W.M., with piper Bro. George Allen playing the lament. Thereafter Bro. John Hart unveiled the memorial and furniture.
At this time the lodge was given the opportunity to buy land behind the Temple for just £100.
Undoubtedly the decision not to buy this extra ground was a great mistake as it would have been of immense value for future development.
And of April the same year the treasurer resigned from the post, and Bro. James Martin was elected to the post, a position he holds today.
Between August, 1948, and October 1949, the lodge lost two of its most faithful servants, Bro. Shanks Jack, P.M. and Bro. James Hamilton, P.M.
As far as Bro. Jack is concerned no praise is high enough for the work he undertook on behalf of the lodge. His record of service is second to none, and the lodge was ready to pay deep and grateful thanks to this man who had lived for 166-the debt we owe to men like Bro. Jack will never be paid off.
It was also in this period that food parcels began arriving at the lodge. In all 30 arrived . . . from no nearer a place than Lodge 165 Adelaide, Australia.
Indeed, this was the beginning of quite a friendship, for the mayor of the Australian town was visiting Scotland in May, 1949, and he desired to visit the meeting place of 166.
But because of commitments the visit did not take place although the mayor did visit the house of our secretary, Bro. William Hart.
In recognition of the links established, our own lodge ordered three mallets to be made, the handles to be shaped in the form of a thistle, and presented them to the Adelaide lodge.
To conclude this chapter I think this is a perfect and fitting note.
In March, 1950, the first record appears of a Past Master’s M.M. Degree being held in the lodge. Taking the chair on that occasion was Bro. Robert jack, which I believe to be a fitting tribute to an entire family which simply had 166 in its blood.
MOVES INTO OUR SECOND “HOME”
AIRDRIE ST. JOHN 166 AND THE
GRAHAM STREET TEMPLE
The Masonic Temple in Graham Street, with its distinctive and unique decorated ceiling, has aptly been nicknamed . . . “The House that Jack Built.”
“Jack” in this case refers to the Jack family who have devoted themselves to Airdrie St. John 166 for almost a century.
And in Past Master Robert Jack we have today the Senior Past Master in the district, who still takes as much interest in the lodge today as he did on the day he was initiated.
I can say without fear of contradiction that if it were not for his uncle, Bro. William Jack, and his father, Bro. Shanks Jack, then our lodge would never have seen the Temple at Graham Street occupied.
But, of course, the tremendous amount of work needed to convert the former E.U. Church into a Masonic Temple and the drive and enthusiasm required to raise funds was not a “one family” task, as the Bros. Jack would be the first to admit.
Probably the other major “worker” at the time was the then R.W.M. Bro. David Hughen. Indeed, it was Bro. Hughen who first brought the former church to the notice of the lodge, and he was another driving force behind what must be considered the most successful-in terms of sheer achievement-period in the history of our lodge.
But to unearth the reason for a need to find a permanent home we have to delve back into the minutes to a special meeting held on March 20, 1895.
The lodge were told that their regular meeting place, Olive Hall, could not give a guarantee that the hall would be available every year for the St. John’s Day celebrations.
On a vote the lodge decided to leave the hall, and all furniture and regalia were removed. But our members did not meet in Olive hall for two more occasions.
A move was made to Callon Street Hall-which lasted exactly two meetings! A complaint was made to a meeting on July 3, 1895, that the lodge furniture was taking up too much space.
On the move right enough. It was pack your bags for lodge Airdrie St. John 166, this time to McLelland’s Hall where we met for the first time on August 7, 1895.
The lodge met regularly and happily in the hall, but the desire for a “place of our own2 was reaching mania proportions.
At a committee meeting on May 5, 1897, Bro. David Hughen reported: “We have to fulfil a long-felt want in the town and district, a large centre for the members of the craft.”
The committee gave unanimous support, and added that the funds necessary for a vast project “could no doubt be raised by the industrious efforts on the part of the committee and the members of the lodge and would no doubt receive good support from sister lodges.”
A building committee was formed, and soon sales were held. This in itself brought an interesting note. After one sale the committee were left with a sack of flour and an umbrella.
But Bro. Charles Spence volunteered to buy the flour to help the committee. The umbrella, I believe, was never sold.
From that day on the building committee were bang in business. Their most successful venture was the holding of Saturday-evening concerts in the public hall-which apparently were a tremendous success.
A masonic Promenade was also held in August, 1899, with the Airdrie Old Union Band providing the music.
However, what could have been a body blow was delivered in September of the same year when the building committee decided to abandon the Saturday concerts-because a theatre had opened in Academy Park.
With their most regular and successful source of income gone the building committee turned more and more to sales and appeal-and thankfully these were successful.
At the same time searches were going on for a suitable site. And, indeed, the building committee agreed with a Bailie Brown to take over a site he owned in Bell Street Airdrie.
At this time New Monkland Montrose 88 were invited to share the new hall if they were willing to raise funds, as were the Operative Lodge of Airdrie 203.
The lodge went as far as buying the feu, which cost them £6, from Bailie Brown, and everything seemed set for a move to Bell Street, which would cost £3.500.
Three brethren, Bro. Hughen, Bro. William Jack and Bro. W. Kinniburgh, were appointed as directors of a limited company formed by the lodge in the hope of selling shares to 88 and 203 as well as our own brethren. Shares would be in £1 units.
However, the move was nipped in the bud on February 5, 1902, when R.W.M Bro. Hughen reported that the former E.U. Church could be purchased for £750.
An agreement between the church and the lodge was signed in McLelland’s Hall on March 25, 1902.
The next month the feu was re-sold to Bailie Brown, and 166 had its sights firmly set on the Graham Street site. But who knows what might have been if the church site had not been available?
The building committee began once again its efforts to raise funds, with Past Masters of the lodge even offering to give masonic lectures throughout the district to help the cause-for a fee, of course.
By August the first £300 had been paid towards the church . . . 166 was on the road to its second permanent home.
Things now really moved. February 2, 1904, the lodge accepted a plan by Bro. J. Arthur, architect, for conversion work on the church.
It would cost £1.300, and the 211 clear members of the lodge were beginning to realise that their dream was becoming a reality.
Plans were submitted to the Dean of Guild, but there was a hold-up. For the council wanted an assurance that the lodge would not let any of the property we were taking over . . . to an ironmonger’s business.
In August the lodge were told that the revised cost of the Temple would be £1,400, and the younger brethren were urged to take a more active part in the fund raising.
But the plans had been forging ahead, and work on the Temple had surpassed all expectations . . . and on October 8, 1904, the memorial stone on the site of the old E.U. Church was laid by Bro. W. Hay, Provinical Grand Master Depute.
It truly was a magnificent day. The lodges taking part in the ceremony were 963, 948, 919, 668, 549, 544, 426, 406, 306, 305, 233, 203, 177 and 88. The meeting was opened in McLelland’s Hall.
The couurful procession marched to Graham Street accompanied by the Airdrie Old Union Band and a band from Coatbridge.
A choir made up of ladies from Flowerhill Church and masonic brethren took up a position near the memorial stone, and led the praises.
From the minutes; “Bro. J. Arthur presented the P.G.M.D. with a silver trowel, being the necessary implement for the laying of the stone, and hoped that he would find it an interesting memento of the occasion.
“Bro. William Harvie, who was acting R.W.M. presented Bro. Hay with a Mallet. The wood from the Mallet came from a yew tree on the Finlayson Estate under which John Knox had preached in the 16th Century.
“After prayers, he called upon the Provincial Grand Secretary and the Treasurer to place the memorial articles in the cavity of the stone, which is situated to the right of the main door of our Temple.”
The following were placed in a glass jar: Peoples Journal, Airdrie Advertiser, Coatbridge Express (all dated October 8, 1904), picture cards of Coatbridge Fountain, Airdrie Fountain, cards of the solicitors of the lodge, Airdrie Angling Club, Airdrie School Board, Airdrie Town Council, were also inserted.
These were followed by the constitution and rules of Airdrie Highland Association, bye-laws, Provincial Grand Lodge balance sheet, members’ cards Clydesdale Harriers, Balance sheet of 166, Goudilocks calendar, syllabus P.G.L., Royal Arch, Masonic, bye-laws P.G.L., copy of Grand Lodge Laws and a copy of the Glasgow Herald.
The following coins were also placed: Coronation silver medal 1902, crown 1897 (Diamond Jubilee of the late Queen Victoria), four-shilling piece 1888, half-crown 1902, (Coronation of King Edward V11), florin 1897, shilling 1902, sixpence 1902, three-penny piece 1902, one penny 1902, farthing and a half penny 1904, A list of office-bearers for Violet Chapter No.7 was also deposited.
During the singing of a psalm the mortar was spread and the stone lowered with three distinct knocks. During this time the Old Union Band played the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
After this, the procession, with some of the members having tears in their eyes, marched back to the hall.
The next major event was the consecration of the new hall, which took place on April 11, 1905. There was a tremendous attendance, and much of the praise for the success of the event must go to Bro. William Sneddon, the P.G.L. Secretary, who arranged much of the ceremony.
P.G. Master Col. K. Stewart, praised the lodge for its “magnificent” temple, and singled out Bro. Hughen, Bro. Jack and Bro. Arthur, the architect of the Temple, for their courage.
But he directed the majority of his speech to the entire members of 166 whom, he said, should be proud, not only of the new Temple, but of their efforts which made it all possible.
So the new hall was opened, and the work of 166 began in the Graham Street Temple, which is known and respected throughout Freemasonry circles both north and south of the border and even in many far off countries.
On April 19, 1905, R.W.M. Bro. William Jack and the honour to confer the first degree in the new Temple.
A number of gifts were also donated that evening to the lodge, among which were a Bible, square and compass, gong, rough ashler, broken column, Bee hive, two mallets and photographs.
On September 18, 1907, the lodge was told that a bond of £900 on the lodge had to be cleared. Four members of the lodge donated the cash.
But one year later the lodge paid three back the loan, with Bro. William Neilson offering to take over the full bond of £900.
However, what took place is only a matter for conjecture, for the lodge attempted to raise £900 from Airdrie Savings Bank on the strength of the property owned by the lodge.
But this was refused as the Airdrie Savings bank said that a change in bye-laws would be necessary as the present bye-laws did not allow the lodge to sell or mortgage property.
The lodge then made moves to change the bye-laws to allow this to take place. But the bank had a sudden change of heart, and agreed to take the bond of £900 on June 16, 1909.
This bond to the bank was cleared by the lodge on January 7, 1920, which meant that 166 was the sole owner of the property, and its biggest debt had been cleared.
However, by 1911 it had become clear to the members that the present lodge, whilst the temple was more than adequate, did not have sufficient space either for storage or meeting places outwith the business of the lodge.
A decision was taken in April, 1912, to extend the premises. Rather than change the bond, the £900 held by Airdrie savings Bank, two brethren Bro. William Jack and Bro. Robert Wilson, offered loans of £150 each to help defray the estimated cost of £350. The remainder was raised through the brethren.
On August 2, 1912, the extensions were formally opened by the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland, the Marquee of Tullibardine.
The lodge conveyed their thanks to him for this “truly great honour.” The Grand Master opened the extension with a Gold Key which had been presented to the lodge by Bro. Major J. M. Arthur.
To help pay the cost of the extension the lodge decided to split the town and surrounding districts into areas, each officer taking an area.
They would visit every brethren in their area and ask them for donations. They even allowed members to “pay up” donations at a weekly rate. And it worked.
The lodge has more or less maintained the character of the original Temple, our famous Temple Dome surely ranking among the finest in the entire country.
Where we would be today without the dedication of such men as Bros, Hughen, W. and S. Jack, Taylor and all the others too numerous to mention I would not like to guess.
Their foresight and dedication should be a lesson to us all, and the next time we sit below the famous dome or in our lounge perhaps we should spare even just a moments thought for these truly great men . . . the men who build our Temple.
Unfortunately, time does not stand still for long. Soon we are to be on the move to temporary premises before moving into our new Temple and halls in Broomknoll Street.
The future will be dealt with in the final chapter of the book.
However, the whole episode of building our Temple in Graham Street has an ironic and indeed almost incredible ending-which I feel does our lodge and the members at that time great credit.
The whole purpose of 166 finding a “home of its own” was to guarantee that we would hold our installations on St. John’s Day.
After the Temple was complete we invited all masonic bodies to join us in using the building. They did with the exception of 203 who wanted to hold their installations on St. John’s Day.
The deadlock seemed unbreakable until Bro. William Jack of 166, said: “This Temple is a glorious opportunity to have all masonic bodies under the one roof; we cannot allow it to fail.”
It didn’t. The members of 166 agreed to allow 203 to carry on their tradition, and for the first time in our history our own installations would not be held on St. John’s Day.
So the purpose for which our members moved to Graham Street didn’t materialise-but their long-held masonic principles gained enormously by this decision.
LODGE AIRDRIE ST. JOHN 166 AND
THE TWO WORLD WARS
Like everyone else in the community, the World wars had a profound effect on Lodge Airdrie St. John 166
And it was not just in the number of our brethren killed in action (21 in the First World War and two in the Second), or those injured in the battlefield, but on the day-to-day running of the lodge.
The Great War of 1914-18, in which 200 members of 166 fought, certainly had the most immediate impact on the lodge. And the lodge in turn had a tremendous influence in the town during the time of crisis.
However, both wars are bonded together by a determination and influence on the lodge which I feel is sometimes all too casually overlooked or put to one side . . . the womenfolk.
So I think it only fair that the brethren take a back seat for a while to let the women receive praise for their incredible efforts on behalf of the lodge during the two wars.
It was the women who took to do with organising the supply of food parcels to war widows in the town, and these were not just confined to members of the craft.
I managed to trace one widow who received a food parcel way back in 1916 from the lodge. Now 81 she well remembers the help given to her by the lodge.
“Several women from the lodge approached me with a food parcel and also offered to give me as much help as possible.
“It is almost impossible to put into words the comfort brought to me by the women of the lodge. Their kindness is something I will never forget,” she said.
In order to raise cash for their events, which also included sending P.O.W. food parcels in the Second World War, the lodge held concerts, dances and sales.
Ever conceivable effort was made to bring as much relief to those involved in the war, whether in the town or serving abroad with the armed forces.
But there are others interesting and historic happenings during the lodge which are connected with the war years.
For instance, On May 22. 1915, the lodge was informed that Bro, Samuel Proudfoot had lost his life . . . he was on board the Liner Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland, the event which was ultimately to bring the United States into the war.
And there were urgent searching of attics by brethren when Tillicudrie, Past Grand Master, appealed for pairs of suitable field glasses . . . which could be used by his regiment in combat in France.
As in the Second World War, Grand Lodge suspended payment of all dues of brethren who were serving in the armed forces.
But our own lodge went further on November 9, 1940, when it agreed to send a 10s. postal order to all brethren serving in the forces as a special Christmas present from the members of 166.
And no one was missed out. For one of our brethren was a prisoner-of-war, so the lodge decided to put his cash into credit and hoped it “would not be long until he could collect”
And the sound of “The White Cliffs of Dover” and other such favourites could easily have been drifting from our Temple.
For it was agreed between ourselves and the town council that the hall would be used as a rest centre for the people of the town in the event of an air raid on Airdrie or surrounding district.
Thankfully, this is one time when our lodge didn’t have to keep a promise!
The greatest fund-raising event of the war years took place in March, 1944, in aid of the Red Cross Prisoners of War Parcels.
Lodge Airdrie St. John members and friends raised a grand total of £220 in one evening.
It should also be put on record that the lodge prior to this had donated £200 every year to the Red Cross to help them carry out their valuable work.
And it should be put on record that a special forces fund collection was taken at every meeting held by the lodge during the Second World War, and this money was used to help war widows or Servicemen in need.
The final event of the War was a “Welcome Home” dinner given for brethren who served in the war.
Bro. Shanks Jack presented each brother with a diploma. It was quite a night too for Bro. Jack-for he had conducted the same service for brethren after the Great War-30 years earlier.
But perhaps the greatest function performed by the lodge was the most simple. . . . being there to welcome home on leave our brethren back from the battlefronts, on sea, on land and in air, from all parts of the world.
The comfort the Servicemen of our lodge found in the solemnity and peace of our domed Temple is something beyond measure.
Suffice to say that it is something that will never be forgotten by the men involved. And those men will never be forgotten by the lodge or the country.
In memory of the men of Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 who gave their lives in both World Wars I publish their names to be kept alive for ever.
Airdrie St. John members won several awards during the Great War.
Major W.B. Binnie was awarded the Military Cross and Bar, Lieutenant George Christie, the Military Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal, Corporal James Dalziel, the D.C.M., Corporal Sutherland, the Military Medal, Sapper Gavin Gibson, the M.M.
In recognition of their great service to the country during the war-and the honour they brought to 166 and the town of Airdrie-our lodge awarded each a silver clock piece valued at £7.10s.
LEST WE FORGET
They shall not grow old
as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them not the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun
We shall remember them.
The Great War 1914 - 1918
James Balheme Frank Morrison
Neil Darroch John McDowell
Henry Flavell Thomas McIvor
David Forsyth William McKenzie
John Freeland Edward McKerley
John Hall Fairburn Raynor
Alex Hastie Alexander Samuel
John Jack James Stevenson
James Lauriston Andrew Turner
Thomas Lauriston Alexander Welch
Second World War 1939 - 1945
James McVey John Sneddon
FROM 1950 UNTIL THE PRESENT DAY
NEW HALL PLANS
The modern history of our Mother Lodge has been dominated by one factor . . . the future of our Graham Street Temple and indeed the whole future of the lodge.
Redevelopment, that council-inspired word, brings with it modern buildings and facilities. It also brings in the path of the bulldozers little regard for the past.
Memories and tradition, which play such a vital part in it work of our order, have no place in the plans of councils, and I cannot help but feel that the manner in which our negotiations with officials have been conducted has shown little regard for the feelings of 166.
Today, almost seven years from the date our lodge first heard of plans to redevelop the site, the entire project is still in a state of “limbo.”
At the time of writing we still do not know when we are to move into our temporary home of Lingley Lodge. Dates for the construction of our new Temple and halls in Broomknoll Street are still a matter for conjecture.
Nobody I have spoken to, and this includes the council planners, is willing to put a guess on the date we will finally settle down for the third time in our history.
What we do know is that the Graham Street redevelopment will begin this year (1977) and is due to be completed by December next year.
Lingley Lodge will be made available, and on this point I must make it known that the brethren handling our negotiations have made it perfectly clear to the council that we will not move until this house is brought up to our requirements.
The Broomknoll Street Temple will be built, and indeed the tenders for such have already been submitted and accepted.
Many of our brethren, notably the Past Masters of our lodge, have been deeply involved in this subject, and it would be irresponsible of me in writing this history of our lodge not to place on record the deep gratitude the lodge owes them for their hours of untiring efforts on our behalf.
It would also be wrong to devote the entire chapter to this incident, as the years from 1950 to the present have seen our lodge grow in stature not only in the workings of the lodge but also socially.
Much of the increase in the social side of the lodge must have been due to the decision taken in February, 1965, to apply for a bar licence.
This was in operation by August of the same year, and I am certain all members would agree that our lounge has since proven to be a place of immense popularity with brethren and friends.
I think it is also worthy of note to pay tribute to the work being undertaken by the social committee and the building fund committee.
The building fund committee, which is being run by younger brethren of the lodge, has set itself a target, of £1,000 by the end of 1977.
I am happy to report that, as a member of this committee, we are now well on our way to this target, and the finance gained will be a tremendous help to our lodge when we settle into our new home.
However, going back into our minute books we discover that in May 1950, the lodge had a clash with the Fire master of Lanarkshire.
We were ordered to rewire the building and construct a fire escape . . . by June of the same year. This, naturally, was completed at a cost of £250.
But the Fire master was still not finished! He further ordered that the seating capacity be strictly limited to 204 in the Temple-and 122 for social functions.
And it may be interesting for the members to note that we could have been taken part in annual visitations to Lodge St. Oswins, Newcastle.
The ties were formed in 1950 when brethren from 166 visited our Newcastle brothers. An exchange visit was organised for May, 1951, when our visitors were accommodated in a Glasgow hotel.
As well as visiting the lodge, 166 arranged for the lodge to be taken on bus tours showing some of the famous sights in Scotland.
Unfortunately, there is no record in the minute books giving details of why the trips were stopped. It is almost certain that the visit were “one-off” affairs merely designed to strengthen the bond of friendship between the two lodges-which they certainly did.
In November of 1952 a special birthday party was held by the lodge, It was nicknamed a “Co-Incidental Birthday Party.”
For it was the 166th birthday of Lodge Airdrie St. John 166 receiving its charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
And, just to keep the “co-incidences” going, a special presentation was made to Bro. John Hart snr., who that year celebrated 66 years membership of 166.
And, keeping these events going it cannot be overlooked that our lodge conferred what the R.W.M. considered to be a very unique happening in the year of our 166th birthday . . . two Mark Master Mason Degrees in the one week.
The first was in Lodge 1067 Coltswood, and the second in our own temple. These events took place in October of 1952.
Television as we know it today was still in a bit of a novelty in 1953, Not everyone could afford what was then considered a luxury.
And in 1953 a very special event was to take place, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. So to make sure as many of our brethren witnessed this historic event as possible, the lodge installed a T.V set in the hall and invited as many brethren and families as possible to join with them.
The lodge moved smoothly through the fifties, growing in numbers and continuing to establish itself as one of the strongest lodges in the land.
Notes of interest before we hit the sixties, took place in 1959. In June of that year it was decided to hold the general committee meetings on the fourth Wednesday of every month.
In the same year the Grand Senior Warden, Bro. John McCormick visited 166 with only one aim in mind-to watch how our lodge worked the Master Mason Degree. By all accounts he was favourably impressed.
And in July the lodge won the King Stewart Bowling Trophy. Our winning team consisted of Bros. Andrew Brown, James Simpson, Auston McLaughlan and Andrew Maiter.
Two years later the lodge again won the trophy, but there is no record of the winning teams.
At the beginning of 1960 the well-kent portrait of Robert Burns was donated to the lodge by Bro Sam Campbell. Past Master of Lodge Queen Margaret, who had received his initiation in 166.
And in December the same year it was announced that Bro. William Hart, Past Master, and surely one of our most faithful and dedicated members had been received into the rank of Hon. Grand Marshal of The Grand Lodge of Scotland.
Following this appointment the lodge decided to purchase a jewel for Bro. Hart in recognition of his wonderful achievement.
At the same time it was decided to confer the distinguished service membership on another 166 stalwart, Bro. James Priestley, who also became Hon. Grand Marshal of The Grand Lodge of Scotland in December, 1964.
The distinguished service membership of our Mother Lodge was also conferred on Bro. James Spalding, P.M. and Bro. Robert Jack, P.M. in April 1966, and in May 1970, the honour was extended to Bro. James Martin, P.M. who is at present our Treasurer, and Bro. Robert Armstrong, P.M.
Another historic occasion took place in November, 1961, the 175th anniversary of our lodge.
A deputation from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, headed by Bro. Lord Bruce, Grand Master Depute, Bro. Alex Buchan, Grand Secretary, Bro. Rev. James Wotherspoon, Grand Chaplain, and others from Grand Lodge attended the lodge.
There was a service of rededication in the lodge conducted by the Rev. Mr. Wotherspoon, and the proceedings were chaired by Lord Bruce.
At the harmony three brethren were admitted, depicting the past, present and future.
To commemorate this occasion the lodge decided to buy a chip pan fryer for the Masonic homes in Dumblane.
And, if I can skip 12 years for a moment, when the Grand Master Mason, Bro. Liddell Grainger visited the lodge in 1973, the lodge agreed to purchase anything to the value of £100, the choice to be Grand Lodge’s.
However, we never heard any more from Grand Lodge-so far!
At the close of the year it was decided to present older members of the lodge with a food parcel at Christmas, and this was a practice which was to continue to grow and is indeed still carried on with great enthusiasm today.
In May, 1963, the lodge presented Bro. Arthur Murphy with a Gold Masonic Ball to mark his 60th year of masonic service.
The lodge also, for the first time in its entire history, tried to make Bro. Murphy an Honorary S.D., but this was refused as unconstitutional by the Grand Lodge.
Bro. Frank Wilson received the same presentation from the lodge in December of 1963, also for completing 60 years’ membership.
The year 1963, was also famous for another notable event. It marked the end of 166’s close association with the Operative Lodge of Airdrie No. 203.
For our brothers were about to embark on a journey, about 500 yards, to Clark Street where they were awaiting completion of their new hall and temple.
Our own lodge, in December 1963, decided to present the Master and two Wardens chairs to 203 for use in their new hall, but it was several years before the move to Clark Street actually took place.
When it did it ended almost 200 years of hall sharing by the three Airdrie Lodges.
But this paved the way for another honour for 166. For in December, 1966, we were invited to confer the first Third Degree in their new Temple. This took place on December 28 of that year.
Exactly one year later we had another historic night in our own Temple when, after the installation ceremony, the Past Masters’ Board was unveiled by Bro. Robert Jack, the oldest P.M. present, and Bro. James Whyte, Immediate Past Master.
A sad incident clouded the working of the lodge in February, 1970, with the passing of Bro. Stanley Page, our Senior Warden.
If Bro. Page had lived he would have become the first Englishman to have received the honour of R.W.M. of Lodge Airdrie St. John 166.
It was in 1970 with Bro. John Marshall, P.M. in the chair, that the lodge received unofficial reports of an impending move by the “old” Airdrie Town Council to demolish the area in Graham Street on which our Temple stood.
And before dealing with our Temple, what is believed to be a unique occasion took place at the installation of 1973 when Bro. Thomas Campbell was installed as R.W.M. by his father, Bro. Archibald Campbell, P.M.
There is no record of such an event ever taking place in all the written minute books which I have studied, although it should be noted that it was in the 1890s before the names of degree workers were recorded in the minute books..
And in 1971, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Airdrie Burgh, the three lodges in Airdrie sponsored the schools Swimming Championship.
But this fell away after three years because of lack of interest by schools.
At the same time the first indication of plans for our Temple came to light.
The plan received official confirmation in September, 1971, from the Airdrie Burgh, and the same month saw the council offer us alternative accommodation-which was promptly turned down.
What can only be described as a fatal meeting took place in April, 1972, between representation of our lodge and officials from Sworn Securities, the firm who were given the task of redeveloping Graham Street.
The firm agreed to find a site and build a new Temple for the Lodge-and they assured the lodge that we would not have to move from our present site while building took place.
Brethren will not need to be reminded that this firm is now bankrupt, and we will have to move to temporary premises.
From June, 1972, things really began to hot-up. Airdrie Town Council was very anxious to begin work as soon as possible.
Alternative plans were submitted by Sworn Securities, but these were rejected by the lodge, and then in August the council revealed that they had applied for a Compulsory Purchase Order on the premises.
The lodge joined with all other property owners in the Graham Street site area who were determined to fight the council’s hasty C.P.O. decision.
In May, 1973, another meeting with Sworn Securities, and the lodge were offered a site in Broomknoll Street, with the firm promising to pay all professional fees involved in the move.
Plans were drawn up by Sworn Securities for the new Temple, and, although alterations were made, it seems certain that the lodge would have reached agreement with Sworn at that time on the layout.
One year later the lodge was told that the Secretary of State had agreed with the C.P.O. Everyone knew then that the days of the Graham Street Temple were numbered.
Our Brethren had to battle hard against council pressure to move out. In August, 1974, the council said that they wanted entry by the end of the month, and told the lodge that the site in Broomknoll Street could be taken over at any time . . . they didn’t offer temporary accommodation.
Back went our own representatives with the simple claim . . . no alternative accommodation no move. By this time the lodge had hired architects who were preparing plans for the new Temple.
The council also discovered temporary accommodation Lingley Lodge. Probably we could have been in Lingley Lodge despite the collapse of Sworn Securities.
But an event took place in May, 1975, over which nobody had any control . . . Airdrie Town Council ceased to exist, and under local government reorganisation Monklands District Council entered the scene.
In November, 1976, they asked us to leave Graham Street for Lingley Lodge, but, as I have already stated, this will not take place until the accommodation suits our needs.
It is a tribute to the men who have (and indeed are still) guided us through this topsy-turvy period that 166 is now the only occupiers of this once noble shopping and housing area.
Our future is in safe hands. I have absolutely no doubt that the men who first founded masonry in Airdrie all those years ago would look upon our lodge today and simply say . . . “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Since the writing of the book, of course, events have speeded up . . . the lodge has moved, lock, stock and barrel, from the historic Graham Street building.
Lingley Lodge is now occupied and is likely to be our “home” for a few years.
The site of Graham Street Temple is levelled, and the foundations of a new shopping complex are being laid.
But much of the most historic and beautiful furniture has been taken with us to Lingley Lodge, and will find their final “resting place” in our new temple in Broomknoll Street.
THERE are always some incidents which “stick” in the minds of people. And in this since certain happenings in Lodge 166 are no exception.
This addition to the history of our lodge. I have entitled “Memorable Moments,” and I will be ever grateful to the memory of Past Master Bro. John Marshall for helping to bring them back to life.
Everything which has appeared previously in the book has been gleaned from the minutes of our lodge. But these off-best moments have never been minuted-but, I feel readers will agree, are well worthy of mention.
Usually, these have occurred during the “Masters Greetings.” Like the memorable incident when Hugh Campbell was giving his all to his rendering of “The Star of Rabbie Burns,”
There was a loud knock on the door, and an urgent voice beckoned Hugh to come outside. On his return he casually informed the gathering that his shop had been broken into-and carried on with the second verse as if nothing had happened.
And who could ever forget his “side-kick,” Jake McLatchie, standing in the top hall with a glass of Whisky in his hand, saying-“You killed my faither, you killed my mother-here’s revenge.”
I have been reliably informed that everyone in 166 knew the song “The Strawberry Roam” because of Jake, undoubtedly a great character.
But these nights were by no means a two-man show. There were Jimmy Spalding with his rendering of “Rothesay Bay,” and Eddie Smith, who admitted to being a strong contender for the “World’s Worst Singer” title, belting out “The Northern Lights” with more than a little help from the brethren.
And, of course, still performing today is Past Master Robert Jack with his monologues wee Jimmy Simpson with his host of songs, and Jimmy Martin still trying to finish the song to his favourite team.
Then we have the “Terrible Twins,” John Robertson and James Whyte, with their own unique version of “Who Killed Cock Robin,” ably assisted by John Cochrane, who still insists . . .”It wisnae me.”
There are many more up-and-coming brethren who will no doubt add their names to the list of “Memorable Moments.”
To them I say, be patient. To those I have mentioned, please don’t take offence (I know they won’t, by the way), and to those who have passed on . . . Thanks for the memory.