The History of Lainshaw Viaduct and Freemasonry

We want to thank Bro. Archie Chalmers PM for his extensive research and documenting of the history of Lodge Thistle 127, The Lainshaw Viaduct and his passion for Freemasonry. This page and its contents would not be possible without his contribution.

Image of Lainshaw Viaduct courtesy of Rosser1954, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stewarton 1868

One of the greatest Public Demonstrations in the Town of Stewarton must have been when the Freemason's Laid the Foundation Stone of the Railway Viaduct over the River Annick on Monday, August 3rd, 1868. The viaduct is known by several names: Lainshaw Viaduct, Annick Water Viaduct, and The Stewarton Viaduct.

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.

Brother Colonel Mure of Caldwell performed the ceremony of laying, as he said,"One of the last, if not the last stone, of one of the finest specimens of useful architecture in the West of Scotland."


The following is a copy of part of a Minute of a Meeting of Lodge St. John, (Kilwinning), Kilmarnock, No. 22, held on 17th July, 1867.

“Discussion took place in reference to an agitation amongst the Brethren in Stewarton concerning the Laying of a Foundation Stone of the Viaduct now being built in that locality by Mr McNaughton, Railway Contractor. It was suggested that as reports had been of the Stewarton Lodge being lukewarm on the subject, a small deputation be appointed to meet Mr McNaughton and inquire if he wanted the stone to be laid with Masonic Honours and then to approach the Provincial Grand Lodge, whose duty it was to conduct all such ceremonies-- but after hearing one or two brethren on the subject, it was thrown aside, as being beneath the dignity of Masons to do any such thing - Masonry was of a higher standard than allow any of its members to cater for public honour, should Mr McNaughton, however, give it as his wish that the stone be laid under Masonic auspices, we would be glad to co-operate and render every assistance in our power.”

It would appear that all was not well amongst the Brethren of Lodge Thistle regarding the proposed ceremony of laying a Foundation Stone for the Railway Viaduct currently being erected in the Town. Why should there have been any doubt as to going ahead with the ceremony? We will never know, but we can read that they were obviously not happy with something or someone. It must have been a great shock for the Brethren of the Kilmarnock Lodge to hear of this lack of enthusiasm, so much so that they brought it up in open Lodge and decided that if Lodge Thistle felt that they were not able to lay the stone, then they (No.22) would afford them every assistance to do so. Lodge No. 22 obviously felt that it would have been wrong (from the Masonic point of view) to miss such an opportunity to put Freemasonry on public display and, by doing so, show to the outer world that the Craft is not an organization to be ashamed of. Lodge Thistle definitely has to be forever grateful for the display of brotherly love and guidance that the Kilmarnock Brethren gave them in this hour of need.

[Whatever else became of the cause for concern, we may never know, but the ceremony did take place with Lodge Thistle No.127 as the principal Lodge. The following are reports from newspapers leading up to and including the main event].

Bro. Archie Chalmers Commented.

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 put in place in the almost completed structure, was hewn by a 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, P.G.M. Bro. Mure occupying 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?

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, July 18th, 1868

Advert on the front page. "The Foundation Stone of the Railway Viaduct across the Annick, at Lainshaw, Stewarton, will be Laid with Masonic Honours, by Colonel Mure, P.G, M, of Ayrshire, on Monday, 3rd August, at Two O'clock, P.M. The Craft generally are invited to take part in the ceremony,

Robert Wylie, Provincial Grand Secretary, Kilwinning, 16th July, 1868,"

Lodge Thistle 127 Banner

Banner known to have been carried on the day of the Laying of the Foundation Stone.

The Procession

The procession which paraded through the principal streets of the Town before ending up at the Viaduct was from the newspaper reports a very impressive one. I would put a conservative estimate of the number of persons in the parade to be around 200. The lineup was as follows:-

Assistant Marshals (Eros J. Smith and W. Wilson of 127)
Stewart on Whipmen (mounted)
Darvel Band
The Contractor's Workmen
Irvine Band
The Magistrates, Commissioners, and inhabitants of the Burgh of Stewarton

The Freemasons;

311 Dunlop Caledonian,
290 DaIry Blair,
253 Pollokshaws Royal Arch,
205 Lochwinnoch Garthland St. Winnoch,
202 Riccarton St. Clement,
179 Mauchline St. Mungo,
157 Beith St. John,
149 Irvine St. Andrew,
Assistant Marshals (Bros John White and Thomas Hamilton of 127),
135 Tarbolton St. James,
129 Paisley St. Mirren,
126 Kilmarnock St. Andrew,
109 Kilmarnock St. Marnock,
86 Troon Navigation,
51 Newmilns Loudoun Kilwinning,
22 Kilmarnock St. John Kilwinning,
127 Stewarton Thistle St. John,
Assistant Marshals (Bros F. Queen and W. Craig of 127),
Deputation from The P.G.Lodge of East Renfrewshire,
Stewarton Band,
Newmilns Band,
Mother Kilwinning,
Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire.

An extract from the History of Lodge Thistle No. 127, courtesy of PM Bro. Archie Chalmers

Commemorative Mark Token

The lodge has produced a commemorative mark token with funds raised from the sale going to local charitable organisations in Stewarton. To purchase these limited and numbered tokens visit the link opposite.

Want to read more?

Bro. Archie Chalmers PM has completed extensive research on The Viaduct and its importance not only to Stewarton but also connecting Kilmarnock via railway to Glasgow. There is also additional content relating to Freemasonry, the Railway and Viaduct. You can download a PDF with Bro Archie’s full notes below.

Further reading from the British Listed Buildings Website

Annick Water Viaduct, StewartonA Category B Listed Building in Stewarton, East Ayrshire

1868, George Cunninghame for the Glasgow Barrhead & Kilmarnock Joint Railway. Landmark, 10-span round-arched railway viaduct over Annick Water. Coursed, rock-faced masonry with impost and moulded string courses.

The Annick Water viaduct is a tall and imposing structure that forms an impressive and distinctive landmark in the area. It crosses the Annick Water to the Southwest of Stewarton and is a dominant feature of the town.

The viaduct was built as part of the Glasgow Barrhead & Kilmarnock Joint Railway and was a key part of a new line going from Glasgow to Kilmarnock through Stewarton and Kilmaurs. The contractor was James McNaughton. The previous route had gone through Dalry and was rather indirect. Once built, the new route became the main route to the South and was able to connect with trains in England. Eventually a new station, St Enoch's (now demolished) was built in Glasgow to accommodate the rising new traffic. The foundation stone of the last arch of the viaduct was laid by Colonel Mure, the Master of the Kilwinning Lodge, in 1868, and the day was a general holiday for the people of Stewarton. Work did not begin on the railway line until 1870, but the viaduct was completed in 1868. Two men were killed in the building of the viaduct.

List description revised as part of Stewarton Burgh resurvey, 2009. Credit: