The History of Lodge Thistle No. 127

Lodge Thistle 127 was granted its Charter on 20th May 1771, and much of its history has been understandably lost or never recorded. In 1993, following extensive research, Bro. Archibald Chalmers, P.M. published a document entitled 'Historical Notes on Lodge Thistle No. 127 (Stewarton)'. The information on this page is taken from that document and reproduced with the kind permission of Bro. Archie.

In the Beginning

Lodge Thistle came into being in the year 1771 as a result of several brethren "at great distance from their several Mother Lodges" who had petitioned the Grand Lodge of Scotland craving a Charter to constitute a Lodge in Stewarton.

The petitioners, or Founder Members, were:-
Francis Warkof Auld Toun
Andrew Brown
John Barclay
Thomas Simson
Alexander Brown
James Howie
Robert Gilliss
James GemmiII
Robert Kerr
William Wylie of Buiston Head
and Andrew Brown.

The Charter was duly granted by The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason Brother Lt. Col. James Adolphus Oughton on the 20th of May, 1771; written by Alexander MacDougall, Grand Secretary on the 28th of May, and recorded in the books of Grand Lodge on the 6th of June, 1771, by David Bolt, Grand Clerk. The Lodge was to be known by the "Stile and Title of The Thistle Lodge of Stewartoun" and recorded as Number 167.

It is interesting to note that the actual number recorded on the Charter is No.166, which was the original number of Lodge St. Andrew Kilmarnock, now known as No.126. It is only natural to conclude that the Grand Secretary made the mistake of writing up both Charters on the same day.

Still, on the Numbers of the Lodge, Grand Lodge has, from time to time, renumbered all its Lodges, removing from the Roll those Lodges which had been declared Dormant. In 1771, it was No.167; in 1816, it was No.125; in 1822, it was No.126; and since 1826, it has remained as No.127.

The colours of the Lodge regalia have been, since 1848, Green and Gold.

At present, the Lodge Meetings are held on the First and Third Tuesday of the Month, but they have been held every other night of the week at some time or another. The Annual Installation is now held on the Friday prior to Christmas Eve. 

For many years, it was the custom of the Lodge to hold its Annual Installation and Celebration of the Festival of St. John on the 27th of December (St. John's Day). Our sister Lodge in Beith still retains this custom and is the only Lodge in Ayrshire to do so.

The first Office-Bearers of the Lodge were:-
Andrew Brown, RWM
Thomas Simson, Deputy Master
Willian Wylie, Senior Warden
Francis Wark, Junior Warden
James Howie, Treasurer
John Barclay, Secretary
John Miller, Tyler

Their Petition to Grand Lodge stating that they were "Brethren who wished to Promote the Honour and Interest of Masonry in and about the Town of Stewartoun."

It is interesting to note that the Brother appointed as Tyler is not recorded as being a Founder Member.

As far as I can discover from my research, The Lodge has continued existence since its Institution in 1771. Albeit there were times when activities were very few, sometimes the only Meeting taking place was the Annual Meeting and Installation. According to the records of Grand Lodge for 1880, Lodge Thistle No.127 was five or more years in arrears with its Dues to Grand Lodge and, as a result, was almost struck from the Roll. (The fact that they continued to meet leads us to believe that the arrears were paid soon after the information was disclosed.)

The information below is a selection of reports compiled by Bro. Archibald Chalmers, PM, which forms part of the History of Lodge Thistle 127, Stewarton. Bro. Archibald enjoyed researching them and trusts that you will derive as much pleasure from reading them.

Lodge Minute Books

It is regrettable that a Lodge so "Ancient and Honourable" as ours does not possess Minute Books from its beginning. Recently the Lodge had returned to it the Minute Book dating from 1918 and this is where our recorded History begins. However, over the past 15 or more years, I have carried out research in the Dick Institute, Kilmarnock; the Saltcoats and Ardrossan Library; and the Carnegie Library in Ayr as well as reading through the Minute Books of Lodges Mother Kilwinning, St. John's No.22, St. Marnock No. 109, St. Andrew No.126, St. Andrew No.149, St. John's Beith No.157, and DaIry Blair No. 290 and have accumulated what I consider to be a wealth of information regarding the activities, both Masonic and Public, of our ancestral Brethren.

Meeting places of the lodge

It is not known where the lodge's Brethren met in 1771, but they would have met in an Inn or Public House like most other Lodges at that time. Not many Lodges could afford premises of their own; indeed, most Lodge Temples in Ayrshire today were built within the last 100 years.

Lodge Thistle was very fortunate that in April 1824, they were able to Lay the Foundation Stone of their "New Temple". This information is found recorded in the Minute Books of both Lodge Beith St. John's (Kilw) No.157 and Lodge St. John (Kilw) Kilmarnock No.22 of that date. I am uncertain of the whereabouts of this property, but it is believed to have been in Avenue Street. (Perhaps further search in the future will confirm this.)

Other places where the Brethren met, sometimes once, other times frequently, were:-
The Commercial Inn
The Buckshead Hall
Mr. Kerr's Hall
The Alma Hall
and The Railway Hotel

The Lodge held their meetings in the Railway Hotel from 1873 until the early 1900s when they moved to the Lesser Institute Hall. The Brethren met there until 1934 when The Fever Hospital, owned by Bro. Dr. John Cuuningham, P.M., was Consecrated by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire on Saturday, 7th July. This building proved to be ideal for the Lodge, and it was thought that in due time, the Lodge would become the owners of the property. Unfortunately, they lost out in their attempt to purchase the premises and reluctantly had to vacate them in 1951. Meetings were then held again in the Institute Hall, the Drill Hall, the Temperance Hall and even one held in the Temple of Lodge St. Maurs No. 1398 (5th Sept. 1961). The Lodge successfully bid for the Temperance Hall in 1963 and remains there to the present day.

The Centenary Celebration Meeting

Monday 29th May, 1871

This evening the Brethren of the Stewarton St. John's Thistle Lodge of Freemasons met in their Lodge-room, and Celebrated the Centenary of their Lodge by partaking of an excellent supper, at which upwards of fifty sat down, --- the R.W.M. Bro. John Cunningham in the Chair, supported on the right and left by Brother James Chalmers (Substitute Master); John Paton (Depute Master); etc, .... , and Gray, supported by Brothers Dr. Caskie; John Hamilton; etc... After supper and the removal of the cloth, the R.W.M. opened the Lodge in Due Form when the Brethren fraternised in the Light till high twelve, when the Lodge was Duly Closed.

(Extract from the Kilmarnock Standard dated June 3rd, 1871.)

Lodges Sponsored by Lodge Thistle 127

Since its inception, Lodge Thistle has been actively involved with many different lodges within and outside the Province of Ayrshire. Three Lodges which it is proud to have sponsored are:-

Chartered:- 7th February 1780 and still active, and we regularly visit each other to confer degree work.
Sponsored by The Stewarton Thistle Lodge.

Neilston, Renfrewshire East.
Chartered:- 3rd February, 1817. Later declared Dormant.
Sponsored by The Stewarton Thistle Lodge and Paisley St. Mirrins Lodge.
(The present Lodge Thistle and Crown No. 1167 was instituted in 1918, and Lodge Thistle No. 127 still enjoys fraternal relationships with the Brethren in Neilston).

Chartered:- 3rd May, 1824. Declared Dormant in 1881.
Sponsored by Lodge Thistle No.127 and Lodge Beith St. John's (Kilwinning) No. 157.
(The present Lodge Dunlop Caledonia No.1408, instituted in 1945, remains close friends of Lodge Thistle No.127).

The Bi-Centenary Celebration Meeting

Saturday 29th May, 1971

Exactly one hundred years to the date of the Centenary and only one day out from two hundred years since the Lodge was begun, the Brethren at the Lodge met to Celebrate the Bi-Centenary of Lodge Thistle No.127.

The meeting was held within the Lodge Rooms in Springwell Place, with the Right Worshipful Master Brother James Gillies in the Chair. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire was headed on the occasion by Brother Gregor Grant, Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Mother Kilwinning and as such 'ipso facto' the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire. The Lodge was honoured with a Deputation from The Grand Lodge of Scotland headed by The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason Brother David Liddell-Grainger of Ayton.

Brother William Aitken, the Provost of The Town of Stewarton, was present and, during the meeting, presented the Lodge with a Silver Medal with six crystal glasses to commemorate the occasion and expressed the congratulations and best wishes of the people of Stewarton.

After the official Masonic Meeting, the Brethren adjourned to the Institute Hall, where they enjoyed a Celebration Dinner followed by the usual Loyal and Masonic Toasts. The whole evening was spent in genial conviviality.

Lainshaw Viaduct

One of the greatest public demonstrations that took place in the Town of Stewarton was when the Freemasons laid the foundation stone of the railway viaduct over the river Annick on Monday, August 3rd, 1868.

On the said day, Brother Colonel William Mure of Caldwell, R.W.M. of Lodge Mother Kilwinning and as such 'ipso facto' the Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire, had the honour of conducting the ceremonial assisted by the Master and Brethren of Lodge Thistle No. 127 as well as the Magistrates of the newly formed Burgh of Stewarton.

The newspaper reports of that time inform us that the weather conditions were ideal for the occasion, warm and sunny with clear blue skies. The day has been declared a Public Holiday for the whole Town.

The stone, which is properly called a memorial stone since it was placed in the almost completed structure, was hewn by Brother John Cunningham, who Mr MacNaughton, the Construction Manager, employed.

The R.W.M. of the day was Bro. John Paton and the Chief Magistrate was Baillie Brown (a Past Master of Lodge Thistle).

After the Ceremony, the Provincial Grand Lodge returned to the Masonic Hall on Avenue Street, where they closed the proceedings pertaining to the Masonic Craft. In the evening, a large company sat down to dinner in a tent erected in the New Station Grounds with P.G.M. Bro. Mure occupied the Chair.

The Lodge has in its possession a large (6ft x 8ft) silk banner with two pillars; square and compasses; thistles; and Thistle 127 Stewarton painted on either side. The date is unknown, but it looks old enough to have been carried at the Lainshaw Viaduct ceremony.

I have searched on numerous occasions to find the Stone but have been unsuccessful. Perhaps you might know where it is?

Bro. Archie Chalmers PM.

You can learn more about the history of the Lainshaw Viaduct and its connections to Freemasonry at the link below.

A Friendly Society

Sometime around the beginning of the 1800s, the brethren of the Lodge formed themselves into a "Friendly Society" and, as such, were able to lend money to the members of the Lodge at a reasonable interest rate. As often happens when money is concerned, those involved can encounter unexpected difficulties. When this situation arises, arrangements are made for extended time limits for the money to be repaid, and at the worst, legal action is taken to recover the amount owed.

One such loan did not work out for a Brother who borrowed the sum of £95 from the Lodge in 1818. A Bond was drawn up, which became the legal means of controlling the loan and the repayments. The Brother was called Alexander Ferguson, a shoemaker in the town. The Bond was signed on behalf of the Lodge by Bro. William Deans, Master and Bro. John Skeoch, spindlemaker, who was the Treasurer of the Lodge.

By 1825, it seems that Bro. Ferguson was in financial difficulties and unable to repay his debt to the Lodge. So serious must have been the situation that he felt that there was no alternative but to offer his house as a settlement of the money owed. The Lodge agreed to accept this offer, and the house valued at £100 was considered adequate recompense for the money due plus interest. So, in December 1825, the Title Deeds for the house show that the "Managers of the Stewarton Thistle Lodge" became the owners of a house in 'Cocklebierig'. This property is now known as No.9 Rigg Street. The Brethren of the Lodge retained the property until 1833, when it was sold to Mr Alexander Watt for the sum of £73. The house's Title Deeds, at the time of the sale, are signed by Bro. James Gillies, Mason, Right Worshipful Master of the Saint John's Thistle Lodge of Free Masons in Stewarton, and Bro. John Skeoch, Treasurer of the Lodge.

This very interesting information was given to me by the last owners of the house and is a very important part of the Lodge's history. Regretfully, the house was demolished in November 1991 to make way for a new shopping centre.

Lodge Thistle No. 127 Roll of Past Masters

"...and The Rightworshipful Master to Govern his Lodge."

Our unbroken line of Past Masters from 1771 is a testament to Freemasonry within Stewarton. They come from all walks of life and have a wide spectrum of careers, from military men to factory workers, salesmen to engineers and dairymen to doctors, but one thing binds them together: they are all equal within the lodge.

Interesting facts and items of research on the history of Lodge Thistle No 127

On this page are items of interest pertaining to Lodge Thistle that I have found over the years: This extract is from the history of Lodge Thistle No 127 by Bro Archie Chalmers, PM.

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The Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire Office Bearers

Unfortunately, due to the lack of Minute Books of the Lodge, we do not have a full record of all those Brethren who have served the Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire down through the years. Those who are known are listed here.

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