Lodge Thistle 127 was granted its Charter on 20th May 1771 and much of its history has been understandably lost, or has never been 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 in this section is taken from that document and reproduced with the kind permission of Bro. Archibald.
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 Wark of Auld Toun
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 when 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 on 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 gone-by it was the custom of the Lodge to hold their 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, to my knowledge, the only Lodge in Ayrshire to do so.
The first Office-Bearers of the Lodge were:-
Andrew Brown Right Worshipful Master
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 researches, The Lodge has been in continual existence since its Institution in 1771. Albeit that 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 links below are a selection of reports compiled by Bro. Archibald Chalmers, PM, which form part of the History of Lodge Thistle 127, Stewarton. Bro. Archibald had much pleasure researching them and trusts that you will derive as much pleasure from reading them.
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.
It is not known where the Brethren of the Lodge met in 1771, but no doubt they would have met in an Inn or Public House like most other Lodges at that time. There were not many Lodges which could afford premises of their own, indeed most Lodge Temples in Ayrshire at the present time 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 1900's 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 once again in the Institute Hall, as well as 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 remain there to the present day.
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.)
My Mother Lodge thou art so dear
Masonic Light I first saw here
It's Mystic secrets, to me given
Dear Brethren -- of One Two Seven,
What joyful hours herein are mine
With Brotherhood so sweet divine
All evil thoughts are rent and riven
Dear Brethren -- of One Two Seven.
Each emblem set before my eyes
Is purity, without disguise
All wickedness is backwards driven
A loyal hearts of One Two Seven.
Let all the goodness each one hears
Accompany us to outer spheres
And from the Temple spread the abroad
The works and wonders of our God.
Here wealth and rank fade out of sight
Before that pure Masonic Light
So Mote It Be, until in Heaven
Are gathered all of One Two Seven.
Since its inception Lodge Thistle has been actively involved with many different Lodges, both within and outwith the Province of Ayrshire. Three Lodges which it is proud to have sponsored are:-
LODGE IRVINE ST. ANDREW No. 149.
Chartered:- 7th February, 1780 and still active.
Sponsored by The Stewarton Thistle Lodge.
LODGE THISTLE AND CROWN No. 334.
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.)
LODGE CALEDONIAN, DUILOP, No. 382.
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, are very close friends of Lodge Thistle No.127.)
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, 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 in the course of the meeting presented to the Lodge a Salver with six crystal glasses to commerate the occassion and at the same time expressed the congratulations and best wishes of the people of Stewarton.
After the official Masonic Meeting, the Brethren adjourned to the Institute Hall and all enjoyed a Celebration Dinner followed by the usual Loyal and Masonic Toasts. The whole evening being spent in genial conviviality.
One of the greatest Public Demonstrations which have taken place in the Town of Stewarton must be that of when the Freemasons Laid the Foundation Stone of the Railway Viaduct over the River Annick on Monday 3rd August, 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 having 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 hewen by a Brother John Cunningham who was employed by Mr. MacNaughton the Construction Manager.
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 Ceremonial the Provincial Grand Lodge returned to the Masonic Hall in 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?
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 at the number of persons in the parade to be around 200. The line up was as follows:-
Assistant Marshals (Eros J. Smith and W. Wilson of 127)
Stewart on Whipmen (mounted)
The Contractor's Workmen
The Magistrates, Commissioners, and inhabitants of the Burgh of Stewarton
311 Dunlop Caledonian,
290 DaIry Blair,
253 Pollockshaws 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. Karnock,
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.
Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire.
Sometime, around the beginning of the 1800's, 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 where money is concerned, those involved can meet up with 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 and this 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 settlement of the money owed. The Lodge agreed to accept this offer and the house, being 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 a Mr. Alexander Watt for the sum of £73. The Title Deeds of the house, 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 history. Regretfully, the house was demolished in November 1991 to make way for a new shopping centre.
On Saturday, 4th June 2022, Lodge Thistle 127 commemorated 250 years of Freemasonry in Stewarton. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the commemoration and celebrations were postponed from 2021 to ensure the milestone would be marked with an event fitting of the occasion.
On this page are items of interest, pertaining to Lodge Thistle which I have found over the years
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 whom we do know of are
Today there exists in the Town an active Royal Arch Chapter by the name of Thistle Royal Arch Chapter No.867 on the Roll of The Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland. It was Consecrated on March 9th, 1990, by a Deputation from Supreme Grand Chapter headed by the First Grand Principal, Most Excellent Companion the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.
Another branch of Freemasonry which existed in Stewarton from 1827 till around 1900 was A Knight Templar Encampment. The enthusiasm for the Craft must have been great to justify the need for an Encampment in the Town.
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