On 23rd August 1921, Rothesay St John Masonic Lodge reached itsCentenary. But for the beginning of Freemasonry in Rothesay we mustgo back to the year 1792. On 6th February of that year a Petition
was read in Grand Lodge praying for a Charter for a Lodge in the
said town under the style and title of St Brooks. The Charter was
duly granted, the number of the Lodge being 244. Unfortunately the
Charter had not been copied into the Grand Lodge Chartulry, the
Minute Books of the Lodge are not in existence, and we have no
further authentic information regarding this Lodge, except that it
was struck off Grand Lodge Roll on 6th November 1843.

St Brooks had a short life. True, it was not struck off the Roll of
Grand Lodge until 6th November 1843, but we may safely assume that
it ceased to be a working Lodge not later than the opening years of
the nineteenth century. In the Bute Museum, Rothesay, is preserved
an earthenware jug decorated with Masonic emblems and inscribed
"John Blain, Collector of Rothesay, 1797". John Blain was
successively Town Clerk, Baillie of Rothesay, Sheriff Clerk and
Sheriff of Bute. He was the most prominent man of his day in
Rothesay. He was also author of the "History of Bute". This History
was in MS. about 1795 but was not finished until about 1820, and
while he mentions other local societies he does not refer to Masonry
in his History.

By 1821 a great change had taken place in Rothesay. There was still
shipping, fishing and cotton spinning, but Rothesay was now a
fashionable watering-place. In this year Dr McLea, the parish
minister, wrote: "There have been a number of houses built upon both
sides of the bay and several more of the foundations clearing out
for immediate building. If the rage goes on Rothesay shall soon
become a noted watering-place." The resident population had largely
increased, and amongst the newcomers were some Freemasons. Lodge St
Brooks must have been defunct by this time so they resolved to form
a Lodge, and with this end in view, on 23rd August 1821, sixteen
brethren met in Peter Robertson's tavern in Castle Street, and with
a letter of authority from the Grand Lodge of Scotland constituted
themselves into a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. The new Lodge
received the name of St John's and was originally numbered 296. The
Originators of the Lodge were Dr John Stobo, who had a medical
practice in town and was also tenant of the farm of Windyhall,
where, it is said, he introduced to Bute the system of pitting
potatoes, and fifteen other brethren, six of whom were operative
masons. Dr Stobo was elected the first Master of the Lodge. The
Lodge fixed that meetings should be held on Friday of each week
"until the R.W.M. thought proper to alter the same". But at the
second weekly meeting the R.W.M. failed to appear and sent no
excuse, so the Lodge proceeded to "fine and amerciate him in such a
sum for so doing as the majority of the body may think proper". In
their enthusiasm the members had fixed weekly meetings, but they
soon found that they could not get an attendance every week, so
after a short time the meetings were called as required. Thus we
find three meetings held on three consecutive days, while there is a
blank from February till September 1822. The membership, however,
was growing, and at the end of the first year there were fifty-one
names on the Roll. The fees fixed were: entered apprentice, œ1 to
the Lodge; 1/- to the Tyler; and for "emergencies", 2/6 - in all,
œ13s 6d. Passing and Raising, to the Lodge, 10/6; to the Tyler, 2/-;
and for "emergencies", 51- - in all, 17/6.

On 27th December 1821, the Lodge held its first Anniversary of St
John. The brethren met at noon in Brother Robertson's and elected
office-bearers. They then adjourned till the evening when they
paraded through the town, had dinner, and wound up the day's
proceedings with a ball in the Bute Arms Hotel. This was apparently
the last meeting held in their original meeting-place. On 26th
November it had been reported that they found the accommodation in
Brother Robertson's was not sufficient for their growing numbers,
and they opened negotiations with Mrs McGregor of the Crown Inn in
Montague Street, with a view to getting accommodation there. Matters
were satisfactorily arranged, and the first meeting was held in the
Crown Inn on 13th February 1822. This was to be the home of the
Lodge for six years.

While the Lodge had been working since 23rd August 1821, they had
not yet received their Charter from Grand Lodge. It is dated 6th
August 1821, but owing to the absence of the Grand Master, the Duke
of Hamilton, it had not been signed. It was not till 20th September
1822 that it was received and submitted to the Lodge. It was then
arranged that the Lodge should be consecrated on 8th November. For
the consecration it was agreed to get twelve aprons and twelve
sashes for the use of the office-bearers, and to ask Col. Moore for
the loan of the flags belonging to the local Militia or those
belonging to the recently disbanded Volunteers. On 8th November
1822, the Lodge met at noon and deputations were present from Largs
St John and Greenock St John. The Office-bearers were installed, and
after the consecration the members paraded through the town, and the
evening was spent "in the greatest harmony, peace, love, and unity".

On 10th March 1825, the Lodge adopted a seal. This seal was produced
on 25th November, and at the same meeting a letter was read from
William Macfie, writer, on behalf of a Mr Gray, jeweller, Glasgow,
threatening to sue the Lodge for the price of a seal furnished to
the late Secretary, Brother Alexander Robertson, then in London.
None of the members knew anything of this second seal, there was
nothing in the minutes authorising Brother Robertson to get a seal,
so the Lodge repudiated liability. The claim against the Lodge seems
to have been dropped as the matter is not again referred to.

The Lodge celebrated St John's Day, 27th December 1825, by their
first official attendance in church. They met at noon and proceeded
to the Parish Church, where a sermon was preached by the Rev. James
Denoon, the text being 1st Corinthians ii, v.10, 11, 12 and 13. A
collection amounting to œ5 was taken and handed to Mr Denoon to be
devoted by him to any charity he might think fit. After the sermon
the office-bearers were elected, and the usual dinner followed in
the evening. In these days the Lodge met annually on 27th December
for the celebration of St John's Day, except when the day fell on a
Saturday or Sunday. In such years the Lodge met on the Monday. So on
Monday, 28th December 1828, the Lodge attended the Parish Church at
noon, and having heard a sermon by Rev. Mr Wilkie, took a
collection, amounting to œ7 9s 10 1/2d, for behoof of the poor of
the parish. The election of office-bearers followed, and the day's
proceedings were wound up with the usual dinner. In 1829 the
collection was handed to Colonel Moore for the Rothesay Female
Benevolent Society, and in 1830 it was handed to Miss Campbell for
the same Society. The annual sermon was then allowed to lapse, but
was revived in the years 183~37, the preacher being the Rev. Robert
Craig, to whom the collections, amounting in each year to œ4 lOs 3
1/2d, were handed for the necessitous poor. Thirteen years after we
find the record of the next Masonic sermon. It was preached by Dean
Hood who, while not a member of Rothesay St John, was the first
local clergyman connected with the Masonic Order - and it is
interesting to note that his successor in St Paul's Church, Rev.
Canon Matthews, was the first clergyman to be Master of the Lodge.

The young Lodge was progressing favourably in all respects. Its
numbers were steadily increasing and it was financially sound. The
original members had advanced the money for the initial expense of
the Charter and other expenses, and these advances were duly repaid.
But there was trouble in collecting the dues of initiation, passing,
raising and affiliation. Sometimes these payments were commuted for
work done to the Lodge; some- times the dues were not paid at the
time of initiation, etc., a frequent entry being, "the dues not paid
- emergencies only paid". This practice led to the Lodge passing a
resolution, on 7th November 1828, that in future no one would be
admitted a member unless he paid at the time of his admission all
the dues, or brought forward a person approved by the Lodge who
would give a written obligation to pay such dues when called upon by
the Lodge. This might mean that the dues were not paid until the
apprentice had been raised to the degree of Master. So this
resolution raised other questions - when were the names of intrants
to be sent to Grand Lodge? and were the names of apprentices only or
of masters to be sent? Were they to be sent if they were in arrears
with the dues? Were apprentices eligible to vote in the election of
office-bearers and to sit in committee? And lastly, were there any
bye-laws of the Grand Lodge printed to guide the Lodge, for they
were "mostly young masons and anxious to walk as closely upon the
square as possible". The Grand Secretary replied that all intrants
must be paid for and that therefore the Lodge ought not to give
credit; that they were to transmit the names of apprentices and to
intimate when the Brother had been raised to the Sublime Degree;
that Grand Lodge was not interested with the dues of Master Masons
except the fees of diplomas, 'which if they are opulent people the
charge is 21/-, if operatives or tradesmen, etc., 10/6"; that it was
a matter for the Lodge to regulate whether apprentices could vote in
elections, and that there were no printed bye-laws of Grand Lodge.

The Lodge accordingly called on all who were indebted to pay, but
within a month thereafter they were admitting apprentices on payment
of "emergencies" only.

No meeting of the Lodge was held between 14th March and 4th December
1832. Cholera was epidemic in Rothesay during the greater part of
that period, and three members of the Lodge succumbed to this
disease. One of these was Dr Fyfe, who was the first Treasurer of
the Lodge, and subsequently held other offices. On 3rd April 1829,
he was appointed Surgeon of the Lodge, and was paid in that year for
services rendered to brethren, œ1 15s. This office does not appear
to have been continued after that year - at least no further
payments were made.

The members were not satisfied merely to record progress within the
tyled door of the Lodge. They wished to let the public know of their
existence, and to attend or send deputations to any public functions
which were being held.

The first to be recorded was the laying of the foundation stone of
Largs Pier on 8th January 1833, when a deputation from the Lodge
attended. Very probably the deputation was told to get all the
information possible, in view of the great function which was to
take place in Rothesay that year in the laying of the foundation
stone of the County Buildings.

The date fixed for the ceremony of laying the foundation stone was
30th June 1833, and the Lodge asked and obtained permission to
attend. In anticipation they had ordered a flag, the silk being
supplied by Brother Alexander Duncan, and the flag being painted by
Brother David Leith. The cost of the painting was œ6, and the Lodge
thought this an overcharge, but left it to the penalty of Brother
Leith's obligation to say whether his account was not exaggerated.
When he declared it was not the account was paid. On the morning of
the eventful day the Lodges of Rothesay, Largs and Glasgow St Mungo
assembled in the Castle and marched from there to the Cross, where
they met the Sheriff, Magistrates, Town Councillors and others at 11
a.m. A procession was formed and, headed by three bands, they
marched to the Parish Church where a sermon was preached by the Rev.
John Buchanan of Kingarth. The procession was then re-formed and
returned to the Buildings, where the foundation stone was laid.

On 13th February 1850, the minutes record that the brethren
processed in open Lodge through the principal streets of the town,
and afterwards assisted in laying the foundation stone of the Hall
of Science in Rothesay, afterwards sitting down to dinner in the
Bute Arms Hotel. Where the Hall of Science was we have failed to

At many of these functions the Lodge engaged a band, and it occurred
to the brethren that they might get up a band of their own. So on
29th March 1850, they voted œ4 to purchase instruments, and we read
that on 26th April following "the brethren were delighted for some
time with the masterly performance of the band". But the band had a
short life. There was some disagreement, with the result that the
members were summoned to attend a meeting of the Lodge on 11th March
1853. None of the bandsmen appeared, and the Lodge called in the

On 8th September 1828, the Lodge moved its meeting place to the Bute
Arms Hotel, and this remained their house for twenty-two years. It
was also the last licensed house in which the Lodge met.

In 1850 Brother James Macindoe moved that the "emergencies" which,
as we have seen, were always paid by candidates for initiation,
should not be spent in liquor every evening, but applied to some
more useful purpose. This eminently sensible motion met with the
approval of the Lodge, but a difficulty arose. No rent had hitherto
been paid for their meeting place, the various landlords being
evidently satisfied with the amount spent in their houses on each
meeting night. But this state of matters could not be expected to
continue if the "emergencies" were no longer to be spent in liquor.
A deputation was appointed to negotiate with "mine host" of the Bute
Arms Hotel, but evidently they could not come to terms, for on 8th
November of that year a committee was chosen to negotiate for the
use of the Literary Hall as a Lodge Room. The Literary Hall is now
part of the Theatre De Luxe. This hall was engaged at a rent of
three pounds per annum, with seven shillings and sixpence extra for
gas, when gas cost 8s 4d per thousand cubic feet.

On 21st January 1881, sixteen brethren met in McKinley's Hotel (now
the Esplanade Hotel) to consider the formation of a new Lodge. Dr J.
C. Maddever provided and processed a requisition signed by
thirty-one brethren who were of the opinion that a new Lodge should
be opened in Rothesay, and who pledged themselves to become members
of it. The chairman, addressing the meeting, said it was a movement
in the interests of Freemasonry and of Temperance - that the
ancient and honourable craft could be conducted in true and proper
Masonic form without the use of intoxicating liquors of any kind,
the indulgence in which had been so long the bane of the Royal
Craft. It was agreed to petition Grand Lodge for a Charter, and to
name the new Lodge "Rawcliffe". On 25th January at a meeting of St
John's Lodge, a letter was read asking the Lodge to support the
proposed new Lodge, but consideration was delayed until the meeting
on 31st January, when a motion to decline the request was carried by
forty-one votes to six. Brother Archibald Morrison, who was taking a
very active part in establishing the new Lodge, was also Provincial
Grand Secretary, and he guided the new Lodge so well that at a
meeting of the new Lodge, held on 7th February, it was intimated the
Charter had been granted and was actually then in Rothesay, the
number of the Lodge being 658. Lodge Rothesay St John protested to
Grand Lodge against this unseemly haste in granting a Charter to
Lodge Rawcliffe, but their protest was of no avail.

The new Lodge was not a success numerically or financially. The
members who appeared to be so enthusiastic at its beginning did not
attend - at its second meeting for nominations of office-bearers, on
13th November 1882, only the R.W.M., G.M. and Tyler could be
nominated on account of the meagre attendance. New members did not
come forward in any numbers - only twenty-eight members being
initiated and two affiliated during the short life of the Lodge. On
20th December 1886, eight brethren passed the necessary resolution
for the winding-up of the Lodge, and so Rawcliffe passed out of

The Lodge had transferred its meeting-place to the Literary Hall but
this did not prove suitable. Farther up Bishop Street was a building
used as stores, the upper floor of which was tenanted by Mr Logan.
It was approached by an outside stair and required a good deal of
repair to make it suitable for a Lodge Room, but the brethren saw
possibilities in it, and they concluded a bargain with Mr Logan
whereby they took it on lease for eight years from 28th May 1851 at
a rent of œ3 lOs per annum. The brethren apparently did the bulk of
the work necessary gratuitously, and in four months the necessary
repairs were executed, the new Lodge Room being opened on 3rd
October. Ten years later the Wardens' chairs of oak, which were
obtained in exchange for the band instruments, were produced and
small pedestals with desks for the Wardens were provided.

In 1862 a new lease for five years was arranged with the landlord of
the hall, but before it expired the Lodge appointed a committee to
see about getting a better Lodge Room, or to prevail on the landlord
to make the present one more suitable. The result was that a new
lease was arranged for ten years at a rent of œ55s per annum, but
the improvement of the hall or the procuring of a better one was not
lost sight of.

On 9th May 1882, the Lodge minuted a hearty farewell to the old
Lodge Room, and the Memorial Stone of the altered Lodge Room was
laid on Tuesday, 14th July. The Room was apparently consecrated on
13th December 1883, and Brothers Gilchrist, Heaton and Milloy were
appointed to draw up an appropriate minute - but the minute, if
drawn up, has not been inserted in the Minute Book.

The Lodge's troubles with regard to a meeting-place were
satisfactorily overcome for twelve years, and meantime their
occupation of the convenient and commodious Lodge Room was a period
of prosperity for the Lodge. They had no troubles to contend with
and there are few outstanding events to record.

On 26th February 1894, the proprietors of the ground on which the
Lodge Room was built intimated that they could not renew the lease
as the property was passing out of their hands at Whitsunday. The
Lodge was again homeless, but found a temporary meeting-place in a
hall in High Street. In January 1898, more suitable premises were
secured in Bridge Street, and in the same year the Lodge purchased a
property in Bridge Street at a cost of œ750. A Building Fund was
started, and the donations to this Fund were augmented by a Bazaar
held in August 1900, which realised a surplus of œ645. When the
property was purchased it was thought that it would be possible to
arrange for an access from Chapelhill Road as well as from Bridge
Street, but this did not materialise and, as it was felt that the
site with only an access from Bridge Street was somewhat
inconvenient, on 4th March 1901, a committee was appointed to
dispose of the property. This was arranged at no loss to the Lodge.
Messrs Adamson's property came into the market in 1904. As there was
a hall, though on the small side, on the site, there was no
immediate hurry for building, and the Lodge could take time to
consider their building plans. The Lodge purchased this site for
œ1,100. There were many discussions as how best to utilise the site,
and eventually it was resolved to build a hall costing about œ1,525.
But a few months afterwards this was changed and it was resolved to
proceed with the erection of a smaller hall on the Chapelhill Road
site at an estimated cost of œ1 ,000. This work was undertaken, and
the Memorial Stone was laid by Sir Charles Dalrymple on 3rd December
1909, on which date the hall was also consecrated and opened for the
meetings of the Lodge. It has been the Lodge meeting-place ever

In 1921 the Lodge attained its Centenary, and celebrations were held
on 18th October of that year. A Special Meeting of the Lodge was
held, and after the Lodge meeting a dinner was held in the Temple,
presided over by the R.W.M. Presentations were made to several of
the older brethren and to the P.G.M. who, in turn, presented a
handsome silver Loving Cup to the Lodge, which has been competed for
annually since then as a golf trophy by teams from the various
Lodges in the Province. On Sunday, 16th October, a Masonic Service
was held in the New Rothesay Church.

In 1938 Brother John MacLachlan, a Past Master of Rothesay St John,
and an ex Provost of the Burgh, was appointed P.G.M. of Argyll and
the Isles, and held that office until 1943. His term of office saw
the commencement and crucial stages of World War II, and the
establishment of Rothesay Bay as a naval base, with also infantry,
commandos, and other units stationed in the burgh and island while
many of the younger brethren of the Lodge left for service in H.M.
Forces. In their place many of the naval masonic brethren attended
the Lodge meetings, and took an active part in degree work. Two of
the most prominent were Stoker Whitbread and Canadian C.P.O. Graham
MacKay. During the six war years the Lodge arranged for comforts to
be sent to their members on active service, as was done in the
1914-18 war.

Previous to the outbreak of war the Lodge had approved a plan for
redecoration of the Lodge Room and despite the dislocation caused by
war it was carried through to completion. On 16th September 1940,
the first meeting of the Lodge was held in the newly decorated Lodge
Room, when a warm welcome was extended to the many visiting brethren
present. Deputations were also welcomed from the Grand Lodge of
Scotland, headed by Brother J. S. M. Grieve, R.W. Substitute Grand
Master, and other office bearers of Grand Lodge. In an inspiring
address Brother Grieve gave a resume of the Lodge and of
Freemasonry, and stressed the importance of unity, courage and
sacrifice in these troubled times. R.W.M. Thomas S. Lockhart
expressed the thanks of the Lodge to the various craftsmen who had
done so much of the work in beautifying the Temple, and thought the
present work could be considered a continuation of that commenced 50
years previously by P.M. Robert Whiteford, who occupied the chair
when the Temple was built, and was present this evening.

The Lodge was fortunate in that the Regal Cinema had just been
built, and Brother W. Davidson, Forres, had been engaged in doing
the decorative work on it. His services were offered to make the
panels which adorn the walls of the Temple, and provide Masonic
subjects for the brethren to contemplate and reflect on. The borders
of each were of gold paint, laid on with a palette knife. The first
panel of those from east to west on the north side of the Lodge Room
shows a lad holding a bowl, kneeling before an old man and receiving
his blessing.

The second shows Jacob sleeping on the ground and the ladder he
dreamed of reaching from earth to heaven, with its three principal
steps, faith, hope and charity, and at its top the seven or more
stars without which no Lodge is perfect. Next panel shows the arch,
with its keystone, followed by the panel exhibiting the working
tools of Masonry, as used in Lodge Rothesay St John. On the south
wall of the Temple are two panels, one bearing the name of the
Lodge, its working tools and Rothesay coat of arms. Next the names
of four brethren, all in the Merchant Navy, who lost their lives in
the First World War, was vacant at the time of the re- dedication of
the Temple, and completed afterwards. Another panel, porchway or
entrance to King Solomon's Temple, and next to it the four virtues,
temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice.

Occupying the whole of the west wall is a landscape showing the
development of architecture from its beginnings. On the summit of a
hill are two huge upright stones, supporting a horizontal one, as at
Stonehenge, then the sphinx and a pyramid, also a lone pillar
(probably Baalbek). The further development of the mason's art is
shown by the Athaneum of Greece and the Coliseum of Rome. At the
foot is what seems to be an open vault or grave, with a large beam
across it. These are main items of the mural. There is much else to
be seen, but the difficulty is to describe it accurately.

Lodge Librarius, No.6966 (E.C.), met in the Temple on 30th September
1964. R.W.M. Donald Currie said this was an historic occasion, the
first time a Lodge of the English Constitution had conferred a
degree in a Scottish Lodge Room. Librarians from all over Britain
were holding their annual conference at Rothesay that week.

In December 1965, a large deputation of brethren of the United Grand
Lodge of England was given a hearty welcome at the installation
meeting of Rothesay St John, and at the installation the following
year five brethren of English Lodges, headed by a former Rothesay
resident, Brother James Graham, a native of Rothesay, attended, the
party having motored all the way from London.

At the close of 1970, the secretary reported that the Lodge had 300
known members, test fee payers 32, life 269, an increase of 11.
Highest attendance 75, lowest 23, 15 regular meetings, one emergency
meeting and divine service.

The Island of Bute's principal export to all parts of the world is
young men, and this to a large extent explains the disparity between
the numbers claiming St John as their Mother Lodge and those who
remain to carry on the work with the same sense of dedication as
their forebears. This is illustrated by those brethren who in the
spring of 1971 gave their spare time for several weeks repainting
the Temple in preparation for the ceremony of re-dedication by a
deputation of Grand Lodge officers.

The Masonic highlight which brought Rothesay St John, No.292, to its
150th year in 1971 was the re- dedication of its Temple by the Grand
Master Mason of Scotland, Brother David Liddell-Grainger of Ayton,
K.St.J., D.L.. F.S.A.(Scot.) and a deputation from the Grand Lodge
of Scotland. Previously, Brother Walter Macneill, Provincial Grand
Master of Argyll and the Isles, and a deputation from Provincial
Grand Lodge, had been welcomed by Brother Gordon Calder, R.W.M. of
Rothesay St John. Both deputations were piped into the Temple by the
Lodge Piper. All eighteen Lodges of the Province were represented,
and a number of English and overseas brethren were present, from
places as far apart as Western Australia and Philadelphia, U.S.A.

The impressive ceremony of re-dedication was carried out by the
Grand Master and officers of Grand Lodge, and, in a short address
following it, Brother Liddell-Grainger spoke of the universality of
Freemasonry. Thereafter a large company was present at the dinner in
the Grand Marine Hotel, and on Sunday the Lodge paraded to the West
Church for a divine service