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Snapshot of the Lodge

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Lodge Greenock St John’s No. 175

 

The following is a short story of a fraternity which has prospered in Greenock for over 234 years. It began qietly, almost unseen. The brethren who founded the Lodge could hardly have envisaged that, after 234 years, their Lodge would have endured the passage of time.

 

Contained in the records are details of meetings and events, most faithfully penned by dedicated brethren. Through the records there runs a line of service to the Lodge which portrays the ideals of Freemasonry.

 

Lodge Greenock St. John’s No. 175 on the roll of The Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland was founded on 1st February 1790. Although that date was almost sixty years after the formation of The Grand Lodge of Scotland, Lodge Greenock St. John’s lost no time in commencing to build a reputation for itself, particularly in the west of Scotland.

 

Looking back through the years, we learn a little of the purpose which spurred and inspired the fine men who perceived the proposal to found Lodge Greenock St. John’s.

 

It is impossible to record in detail the proceedings since 1st February 1790 although we must pay tribute to the founder members and those who succeeded them in making masonic history for us. They handed down a tradition we have proudly inherited and which the present generation of brethren must sustain and pass on to those who will follow.

 

All through the history of the Lodge, there has been testimony to works of charity, paying special attention not only to poor, infirm and elderly brethren but also to widows and dependents. In addition, financial assistance was given on a regular basis to charitable institutions within the community.

 

The record of service given to us by generations of brethren must surely be an example which gives us encouragement as we strive to follow in their ways. Our resolve must be to endeavour to continue to promote our Craft in the Lodge and in the community.

 

For the historian it is not an easy exercise to follow the rise of the Lodge from the days of long ago, but in doing so, one experiences a sense of gratitude for the efforts of the brethren, especially in the early days of the Lodge.

 

When the Lodge was inaugurated in 1790, the population of Greenock was about 15,000 and had reached that figure through the steady influx of individuals from the Highlands after the ’45 rebellion.

 

The Lodge first met in premises in Market Street and Watson’s Lane, both locations now built on as Town Centre developments.

 

From the earliest days of the Lodge, the members expressed a desire to have a building of their own. Although the proposal to erect a building was discussed from time to time over the years, it was not until 1893 that it was decided to proceed to erect a Masonic Temple.

 

No time was lost after coming to the decision, and by January 1894 a short list of seven sites was produced. While the list of sites was produced in a short time the final decision on the most suitable site took much longer. It was towards the end of 1895 when the ground at the corner of Argyle Street and West Stewart Street was purchased from the George Square Baptist Church.

 

On 6th November 1896 the tenders for the building works were accepted and the work of erecting a Masonic Temple commenced shortly thereafter.  The Foundation Stone was laid on Saturday 6th February 1897 and was a colourful and eventful occasion, with members  of the Lodge, together with other Lodges from various parts of Scotland, parading from Cathcart Street to West Stewart Street. The Foundation Stone was laid by the then Right Worshipful Master of the Lodge Brother James Reid (Owner of Fleming Reid, Merino Mill, Drumfrochar Road, Greenock).

 

This event is marked by the marble tablet which is fixed to the  external wall at the north east corner of the building at the junction of Argyle and West Stewart Streets. There is also a large photograph of that day displayed on the  passage wall between the Temple and the Secretary’s office.

 

The Lodge building was carefully planned to meet all the requirements of the Lodge. Apart from the principal entrance in West Stewart Street which gives access to a stairway leading to all floors, there is a side entrance from Argyle Street giving private access to the Lodge Room and also to the stairway leading to the large hall on the second floor. The hall has the only remaining double sprung dance floor in the west of Scotland and can accommodate 200 persons.

 

The Temple measures about 29 feet by 27 feet and features a large elliptical window to Argyle Street, although this is now built in the internal glazing remains. The main feature of the window is the arch which contains the statement ‘All The World A Lodge And Every Man A Mason’. Apart from modern heating, lighting and decoration the Temple has remained unchanged over the years.

 

The provision of the building cost the Lodge a considerable sum of money, the bulk of which was raised from a Grand Masonic Bazaar which was held in Greenock Town Hall on Thursday 15th, Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October 1896 and proved a great financial success.

 

On Saturday 23rd July 1898, some seventeen months after the laying of the foundation stone the consecration of the Temple took place. The ceremony of consecration was conducted by the Provincial Grand Master, Brother Sir Michael Hugh Shaw Stewart of Carnock, member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire.

 

The Lodge building  which is constructed of red sandstone from the long since defunct Skelmorlie quarry, is one of the few buildings of character which remain in Greenock town centre. It is a testimony to the designers, Messrs. Boston, Menzies and Morton, who were the foremost Architects in Greenock in the late 19th Century.

 

Five days after the consecration of the Temple on Thursday 28th July 1898 the first meeting of the Lodge was held and such meetings have taken place on a regular basis since that date.

 

Since that momentous day in the summer of 1898 the walls of the Temple have been adorned with the portraits of some of the distinguished members from the past. Most of the portraits have been in possession of the Lodge for many years, some were purchased from Lodge funds, others were gifted, others are new.

 

The portraits are of:-

 

Brother John Herriot

Brother Dugald McInnes  (A former Baillie of Greenock)

Brother John Black  (A former Provost of Greenock)

Brother William Bentley McMillan (A former Provost of Greenock)

Brother John McNaughton

Brother Malcolm Keith

Brother John Farquar

Brother Andrew McMaster

 

There are also two large paintings (8’ x 5’) by Bro. Thomas Crombie which were specially commissioned by the Lodge and presented on 1st May 1794. They display Masonic Symbols and represent The Three Grand Lodges. There are also three pictures of the Office-bearers of the Lodge taken at the Centenary (February 1890), 150th Anniversary (February 1940) and the Bi-Centenary (February 1990).

 

In the adjoining Master’s Room, there are individual pictures of brethren  who have served the Lodge as Right Worshipful Master since 1854 to the present time.

 

Over the years there have been many notable Greenock citizens members of the Lodge including Bro. Colin Rae Brown Founder of the World Burns’ Federation and Past President of both London and Greenock Burns Clubs. He was also instrumental in having many monuments built in Scotland especially the Wallace Monument in Stirling. Also Bro. Gilbert Cameron who built the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Sadly Bro. Cameron died very suddenly while serving as RWM on 5th November 1866.  

 

The Lodge was Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland on 1st February 1790 and allocated No. 234. During the next 90 years Grand Lodge restructured as new lodges were founded and existing lodges were re-numbered. The lodge was again allocated No. 234 in 1809, No. 173 in 1816, No. 176 in 1822 and finally No. 175 in 1826.

 

The Lodge met in various premises - The Gardner’s Hall, Buckhead Hotel, Assembly Rooms, St. John’s Hall. In 1895 the Lodge purchased a vacant site on West Stewart Street and on Saturday 6th February 1897 the Foundation Stone was laid with full Masonic Honours .

 

The consecration of the new Temple was carried out on 23rd July 1898.

 

During its existence the Lodge has provided many Provincial Grand Lodge office- Bearers including Provincial Grand Masters Bros. Patrick Maxwell Shaw Stewart (1841 – 1846) - William McIntosh McKillop (1979 – 1988) and Alexander Galbraith (2003 – 2008).

 

Brother McKillop also served the Grand Lodge of Scotland as Substitute Grand Master  -  1998) Brother Galbraith also served the Grand Lodge of Scotland as Substitute Grand Master (2011 – 2013)

 

And so this short sketch of Lodge Greenock St. John’s No. 175 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland draws to a conclusion.

 

Two Hundred and Thirty Four Years of the Lodge’s activities are very briefly Covered in these few paragraphs and many important events have had to be omitted due to the lack of space.

 

Lodge Greenock St. John’s No. 175 is a lodge with a rich history. It is a lodge with a promising future and may the light of Freemasonry which has burned so brightly for 234 years continue to illuminate the work of the lodge for generations to come.

 






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