Lodge St. John No.35 History

Compiled by Bro. Joseph Russell PM

The history of our Lodge stretches back into time and immorial the beginnings of our Lodge can only be approximately guessed at. our first recorded minutes in our first minute book dated 8th August 1737 debated whether to send a delegation to Edinburgh to see if this ancient Lodge should join the newly formed Grand Lodge, as you can guess two Brothers were picked to petition Grand Lodge on the Falkland Brothers behalf. Senior Warden Bro. Robert Ross Surgeon of Falkland and Junior Warden Bro. James Carmichael of Balmlea set of for Edinburgh which was a 2 day round trip in the 18th century. Their petition was successful and Lodge St. John received a letter of authority dated 12th October 1737. St. John No.35 is one of the few Lodges in existence that does not have a charter or warrant from Grand Lodge but we chartered ourselves, our charter heading proudly states ‘The Magna Carta of the Masons of St. John Falkland’

The first recorded meeting of Masons in Falkland is dated 26th October 1536, at the time of the building of the main part of Falkland Palace under James V (as quoted in Lawries history of Scotland). This meeting was chaired by Sir James Scrymegour Captain of Myres Castle and the Kings Master Mason. It is recorded that the Masters of St. Andrew and Dunfermline attended.

There is a history of various meetings of Masons in the burgh in the 16th and 17th centuries but unfortunately no minutes exist of these meetings.

Our first recorded Right Worshipful Master is Bro. James Lundin Gow of Drums Farm who chaired the meeting on 8th August 1737. After the date of the 27th December (Feast Day of St. John) 1739  the recorded pages in our first minute books has been cut out to the next recorded minute of 24th September 1774.

The period missing covers some of the most turbulent times in Scotland history and the forming of Provincial Grand Lodge in Fife. The first Grand Master of Fife Province was a member of Lodge St. John, Bro. Alexander Melville of Balgarvie (a small estate consisting of two farms at Cupar) and also of Holms a farm steading at Monamail and Lathrisk estate and part of the Earl of Melvilles who was his uncles estates. He resided at Lathrisk House during this period.

Between 1737 to 1810 the Lodge meetings took place in various places in Falkland including a weavers cottage in Balmblae and somewhere called the Byre or Barn or Steadings.

The second minute in our oldest minute book is all about bye-laws and penalties of becoming a mason, you could not work with or employ a Cowan (old Scots term for a dry stane dyker) you could be find 2d in old money for turning up drunk at a meeting etc.

In this period the Lodge was run and officiated by the Forsyth Family of two Brothers and a son. The younger Brother James seems to be the Village policeman or watchman.

In the year 1810 we moved into the newly built Town Hall that was to become our home for the next 180 years. We have during that period many famous masons as members including a High Court Judge, Bro. Andrew Deas and Crimea War Hero Major William Wood as RWM of the Lodge.

It was during this time that the Lodge went through a period of difficulty with meetings being cancelled and poor attendances. It was at the annual Installation of Jan 3rd 1853 at the Commercial Covenanter Hotel Bro. John Robertson and Alex Johnson were fined 6d each for misbehaviour and there part in the melee, it must have been an interesting Installation Dinner. On the 1858 Feast of St. John night on Jan 2nd Bro. John Millar was fined 2/6 by the Lodge for his part in the affray at the celebration these must have been riotous occasions.

The meeting on the 27th December 1867 was cancelled owing to only 5 Brethren turning up due to the weather (heavy snow). An interesting meeting took place on the 6th April 1893 where a Bro. Alexander Munro received all three Degrees on the same evening as he was leaving for America in a few days time.

During the late Victorian age the Lodge took its charitable duties seriously donating to both the Blantyre Mine Disaster and the Tay Bridge Disaster.

It was on the Installation night of 20the December 1890 that SD and JD were introduced to the Lodge so all rituals and ceremonies must have changed from that date.

An incident happened on the 7th April 1897 when the Lodges Provincial Visitation was headed on  this occasion by Lord Rosslynn the Scottish Grand Master himself, this is the only time in recorded history from Sir James Scrymegour in 1536 that this Lodge has been visited by the Grand Master.

In the early part of the 20th Century the Lodge went from strength to strength, and an outstanding Master of the Lodge at that time was Bro. Robert Sharp who was the last working mason (he was a monumental mason) Master of the Lodge from 1897 to 1905 if you want to see an example of his work there is a plaque on the SW of the Bank building on Cross Wynd Falkland of the Fallow Deer under the oak tree.

The Lodge prospered right up to the outbreak of the first world war, the younger Brethren of the Lodge answering the call to arms and the Lodge lost 4 Brethren which takes us up to living history.

Bro. William Anderson Sgt Scot Greys Battle of Loos 1915.

Bro. James Donaldson Cpl Black Watch Battle of Loos 1915.

Bro. David Hall Pte Black Watch Vimy Ridge 1916.

Bro. Rodger Slacke Maj the Buffs Battle of Loos 1915.

Also Bro. James Gibson died of war wounds 1920 from battle of Arrass in 1917.

Bro. William Anderson is the Great Uncle of Bro. William Anderson our present Inner Guard.

After the First World War membership boomed at the Lodge it was during this period that Bro. James Jackson was Depute Provincial Grand Master.

We regularly 20 – 21 Office-Bearers in the Lodge and had 60 plus paid up Brethren. On the night of the 22nd November 1919 6 candidates were initiated and it was not unusual for multiple Degrees to be worked at the period.

On the 20th October 1920 it was motioned by Bro. John Drysdale to change our meeting times from 7.30pm to 7.00pm.

On 31st October 1931 the Lodge was informed of the sad loss of Bro. Richard Sharp PM who was reputed to be the oldest Mason in Scotland at 102 years of age.

On Saturday 20th November 1937 marked the Bi Centenary of our entry into Grand Lodge at the Bruce Hotel Falkland, Grand Lodge was represented by Bro. Lt Col Skene Grand Lodge Depute Master who toasted the King and Craft. Lodges represented St. Fothad’s No.1059, St. Cyre No.121, Lindores No.106, Robert de Bruce No.304, Rothes No.532, Balgonie No.764, St. Clair of Balbeggie No.867 and the Provincial Grand Lodge. Also represented was Lodge Lommond Oak Falkland a Free Gardiners Lodge.

During this period and then the Second World War the Lodge paid for the District Nurse for Falkland District and supported the wives and families of Lodge Brethren serving our nation.

The Lodge boomed in membership after World War 2 on Thursday 16th February 1950 one William Anderson was petitioned at an enquiry meeting Bro. Anderson Balloted 23rd February 1950, Initiated 9th March 1950, Passed FC 6th April 1950, Raised MM 21st April 1950 along with 2 other candidates and who after 66 years is our Inner Guard.

On 22nd September 1960 a cabinet was ordered from a local Cabinet Maker cost £6 and new regalia ordered from Gouldilock Glasgow 12 Aprons and Sashes including Gauntlets for Master, SW and JW.

Lodge Church Parade that year Bro. Rev Graham Brotherton, the Lodges formed up outside the Town Hall Lodges present were Numbers 1549, 1441, 1332, 1276, 1260, 955, 911, 867, 781, 764, 532, 520, 400, 304, 273, 180, 121, 106, 77, 72, 19, 5 and 35.

On the April 1963 15 Brethren received their Mark Degree by Bro. James Reekie and his Mark Degree Team.

In 1984 we moved out of the Town Hall to the Liquorstane Building  after 174 years in the Town Hall. After 32 years in the Liquorstane Building the Lodge is moving to Leslie to Rothes No.532 premises after 481 years of Lodge activity in Falkland.