Story of the Foundation and Early History of the Lodge

by Bro. WALTER KERR, P.M. delivered at the
SEMI-JUBILEE CELEBRATIONheld in the Royal Arch HallWednesday, 27th February 1946

Right Worshipful Master, Right Worshipful Grand Master, Grand Office-Bearers, Masters, Past Masters, Wardens and Brethren – At request of our Committee, I submit o you the story of the Foundation and Early History of our Lodge, which I trust you will find interesting.


LIFE in the Volunteers and Territorials prior to the first world War was (to most of us) one of social and semi-military activity. Few were the adolescents who did not serve in some form of auxiliary military service, the various battalions of the Royal Scots - including the Queen’s Edinburgh “Blacks” as a. byname being favoured with the most attention. Citizenship in those days was incomplete unless one served in some Unit - and paid for the privilege. Evenings spent at drill in the Queen's Park after a work; Saturday afternoon parades; Rifle shooting firing at Hunter's Bog; competitions at Malleny a ranges during Summer months; Winters taken up drills; these were some of the spare time activities of that period. Whist leagues and dances and visitations between various Messes (including Glasgow) formed of friendly intercourse and happy times on the social side.

Then came August 1914. Various Units mobilised were posted to different parts of the country for further training before being sent abroad on active service. Individuals were dispersed to put into practice that which they had been taught in times of peace, and reports were received that friends whose company one had enjoyed in happier times were gone, and by 1918 the whole social structure had changed for those who returned. This, in brief was the picture which presented itself to me one Sunday evening the Autumn of 1920 while half asleep in front of the fire in a darkened room. My thoughts then turned as to how we who were left might keep together and remember our departed friends, and bring closer together those who remained of our ranks into one friendly body which could not exist under military conditions.

Although not in the category of a long experienced Mason but only of two years' standing, I was forcibly struck by the idea of a Masonic Lodge.  Arousing myself and turning on the light, I wrote down my dream thought, and next morning transmitted it to Bro. Andrew Law, and in turn to Bros. Duncan Lowe and Colonel Archibald Young and others interested.  The scheme fell flat for a few weeks until I met Colonel in St Andrew Square, and he encouraged me to take immediate action. A meeting was advertised, and as a result  a Form of Petition was obtained from the Grand Lodge. Altough rush to be Founders was rather disappointing, and it was quite evident that all ex-members of the Queen's Edinburgh did not share our view, Lodge Heart of Midlothian, which had a large membership of old Volunteers and Territorials came along, and with their assistance we were able to collect about 70 Founders. We were grateful for the help of Brother T. Donaldson from that Lodge, who assisted me in the work. The Test Fee of 10/-, and Founder's Fee of which did not carry Life Membership, may have reason for the falling away of some of the Founders and was to be regretted. There are four Founder Members still active today namely: Past Master E. Burns; Bro. R. Reid, Junior Deacon; Bro. Hannah and myself. Other Founders present this evening whose attendances at our Assemblies are by other duties are Bro. Douglas Radford (Right Worshipful Senior Grand Warden and Chairman of the Visitation Committee of the Grand Lodge) and Bro. James Carruthers, Grand Committee and Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Midlothian. We regret tonight the absence of our oldest living Past Master, Bro. James Sime Waterston (Gand Almoner), who was responsible for the Ritual and methods of working our Degrees.

The project of a new Lodge of military character received by the Grand Lodge with enthusiasm, guidance and assistance in this connection received from the Chairman and the Metropolitan Visitation Committee is in evidence to this day. After many Committee Meetings the Petition was duly completed, signed by Master and Wardens of No.2 Canongate Kilwinning and No.1 5 1 Edinburgh Defensive Band as sponsors, and submitted to the Grand Lodge in time for their Meeting on 3rd February 1921; but here objection was raised by the Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Rifle in view of the similarity of title. By the eloquence of Colonel Archibald Young and Bro. James Sime Waterston speaking in our favour, tbe name Queen's Edinburgh Rifles was maintained.

During the preliminary stage the Ritual was overhauled, and revised copies bound and interleaved were presented to some of the Office-Bearers by Bro. W. G. Oliver, Past Master of No.1. The approved method was rigidly adhered to for some years, but with the change of office-bearers has gone back somewhat to the issue as printed.

At first it was considered that the colours of the Regalia should be Rifle Green and Gold, but later it was decide in view of the well-known popular designation of Edinburgh Blacks, the colours would be black and gold. It was thought that these would be most appropriate, as they resembled the uniform of The Queen's Edinburgh Volunteers in 1865, when the gold badges and chevrons of the Regiment were specially gifted by Her Majesty Victoria on the occasion of her conferring on the regiment the title of "The Queen's."

All set with Charter, Ritual and Clothing, Lodge Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles, No. 1253 on the roll of The Grand Lodge of Scotland was, on 28th February 1921, officially erected and consecrated by Bro. Joseph Inglis, Past Senior Gr:and Warden, Chairman of the Metropolitan Visitation Committee, who officiated as Acting Grand Master. By courtesy of Lodge Defensive Band, their Quarters and Furniture were used, meetings were held there regularly until transferred to Royal Scots Club, Abercromby Place, in 1925. The first Office-Bearers were: Colonel Archibald Young (Right Worshipful Master), Master Mason from Lodge No2; Walt Oliver (Deputy Master), .Past Master from Lodge No.1; J. McEwan (Substitute Master), Master Mason from Lodge No.1; Sam Miller (Senior Warden), Master Mason from Lodge No. 932; Duncan Lowe (Junior Warden), Master Mason from Lodge No.1. Harmony was afterward was held at the Territorial Hall of the Queen's Edinburgh Rifles in Forrest Road, where many toasted the health of the latest Lodge. Other toasts and songs, etc., still remembered, brought to a close a memorable evening in our history. I cannot pass this stage without a thought of reverence to the four out of five office-bearers mentioned, including the Acting Grand Master who are no longer with us. Here was inaugurated the Silent Toast, which is proposed by the Right Worshipful] our fallen comrades at every Harmony Meeting.

Clothing and adorning the new infant daughter to the Grand Lodge of Scotland was an exciting and interesting event. While the monies received from the Founder’s Fees provided funds for Aprons and Sashes, many gifts of other essentials came forward, and the Lodge was not long in being fully equipped with all the various necessary paraphernalia. The Volume of the Sacred Law was gifted by Bro. J McEwan Watt; The Right Worshipful Master's Jewel of Office (a fine piece of jewellery) made by Bro. Oliver, was presented by the first Office-Bearers; Bro. Sam Miller, Officer Commanding the 1st Volunteer Service Company during the Boer War, presented a box of Working Tools; Bro. W. J. Oliver presented the Jewel of Immediate Past Master; Bro. D. Lowe, the Mallet; and I gave the Deacons' Wands made from wood of the old Portobello Pier. With the articles purchased by Lodge Funds, gifts from the Members, and Lodge Defensive Band’s Furniture, we were well equipped.

During the first 11 months of 1921, 14 Working Meetings were held, when 26 Candidates were admitted, passed and raised. Three of that number have occupied the Chair, namely: J. A. Rankine, S. Baillie and C. R. McVittie. Eight held various offices, while others are now abroad or absent. Bro. Andrew McDonald, the first name on the first Billet, who resided at Biggar, afterwards became interested Biggar Free Operative, No. 167, and was elected to the Chair of that Lodge for the year 1929. Not forgetting his old Territorial comrades, he invited Bros. Duncan Lowe myself to install him and his office-bearers. On the eve of 28th December, frosty and cold, a Deputation left for Biggar by car, where a warm Masonic welcome awaited us. The Ceremony was duly carried' out, followed by an excellent Harmony at the Crown Hotel, when the usual greetings were exchanged.

The Test Fees and Annual Subscription still bothered some of the Members, and this caused a Special Meeting to be on Monday, 21st November 1921. After various expressions of opinion, the matter was left to a Committee to approach Grand Lodge - their decision being 2 guineas for Founders, no Commutation, and 10/- Annual Subscription. The Laws were finally approved and passed by the Grand Lodge Committee on 23rd March 1922.

Right Worshipful Master Colonel Archibald Young's term of office was one full of enthusiasm and untiring energy, and we all regretted his passing ten years later. On Sunday 5th December 1931, a Lodge of Sorrow was held in the Lodge Room in the Royal Scots Club. His successor, Past Master Bro. James Sime Waterston, said of him:

"His personal connection with this Lodge of ours perhaps what touches us most deeply. From its inception he took the keenest possible interest in it, and the grip it has taken on the imagination of all those connected it is largely due to the Foundation so ably laid down by Archie Young. I know what a joy it was to him to become its first Master, and the work this entailed upon him, new to Masonic office of any kind, must have been heavy. It was performed with the fullest acceptance of the Brethren and to his own sincere pleasure.

Since that time he was always at the service of the Lodge for installation, musical accompaniment, or indeed any office or task which he felt it his duty to carry out. He was a tower of strength in committee and general management, and must have been looking forward to many years of continued Masonic service, not only to the Lodge, but also to many bodies allied to the Craft and to the Metropolitan District itself."


This Service was first held in 1916 by a Parade at Mohamdryeh, Desert of. Sinai, and since the end of the Great War has been held in St Giles' Cathedral, the date being as near as possible to the 28th June, the day in 1915 when both bat serving at Gallipolli went into action together and lost heavily. The 4/5th Battalion the Royal Scots carried on this service until 1924, but being unable to continue, the Lodge took over the duties, and have faithfully and zealously carried out their sacred responsibility. After 28 years the Service is still well attended by old soldiers of the last war, relatives and friends. But still another war has brought new responsibilities to carryon with renewed energies. This Memorial Service includes the fallen Royal Scots who kept the enemy from our shores from 1939 to 1945. This job is ours to carry on, and while it is a privilege to belong to any Masonic Lodge, membership of our Military Memorial Lodge, is charged with the sacred duty of remembrance, is a unique honour and distinction.

On 29th June 1922 the Lodge held its First Annual Celebration in the Lecture Room at Territorial Headquarters in Forrest Road. In a stirring address Immediate Past Master Bro. Colonel Archibald Young carried us through the varying military history of the Queen's Edinburgh Rifles from 1859, the year of the formation of the Volunteers, to the end of World War No.1. His finishing remarks were:- This Lodge, Queen's Edinburgh Rifles (No.1253), was erected as a memorial to their sacred memory, and, in accordance with our invariable custom, I ask you now to stand awhile in solemn silence." This Annual Celebration has been held each succeeding June, and the oration has been given some eminent mason, soldier or citizen, and has never throughout the 25 years lost its importance in our Masonic life. While the assembly has lost some of its lustre through war restrictions, the attendances have proved that the Brethren are well aware for what the Lodge stands - a Memorial the Second Anniversary Celebration it was decided to admit non-masonic friends.

The First Mark Lodge was worked in Graham Street by a team of office-bearers from Lodge Canongate Kilwmnmg, with Past Master Bro. Muir as Right Worshipful Mark Master.

As I have already said, the Lodge was at first named ‘Queen's Edinburgh Rifles. At a Regular Meeting of 23rd April 1925, a Notice of Motion was intimated by Worshipful Master, D. M. Lowe – “That the words Royal Scots” be added to the existing title of the Lodge making the full title Lodge Queen's Edinburgh Rifles (The Royal Scots) No.1253, that being the correct designation of the Units of which the Lodge is a memorial, and that Grand Lodge be asked to give effect to this." The Motion was passed and approved by The Grand Lodge on 7th August 1925.

The Royal Scots Club having purchased the property at 30 and 31 Abercromby Place to be converted into new club premises, the Trustees were approached, and they agreed to accommodate our Lodge as being part of the Royal Scots’ peacetime activities. Certain minor alterations were necessary to comply with Grand Lodge requirements, these being allowed and carried out by the Club Trustees, and afterwards inspected and approved by the Grand Lodge Committee, the entrance being by Northumberland Street Lane. The assistance given by Bro. W. Clark in these alterations and after our occupation was greatly appreciated. While club engagements kept him from attending our meetings, we were at all times indebted to him for his kindly interest and assistance. April 1925 saw the commencement of interesting job of arranging details and purchasing furniture to be ready for our occupation, and there was no off-season, for the Committee and other assistants who joined in preparations. A Furnishing Fund had already been started with a gift of £5 from Col. Horatio MacRae; the Lodge voted £100, and Members subscribed £81,6/-; the 4th Royal Scots Trustees handsomely gifted £100 to meet the cost of the Master's Chair, two Wardens' Pedestals, three Columns, Wardens' Chair, and eight chairs for the dais; the Organ .gifted by Sir Robert Maule with a cheque for £50; Secretary and Treasurer's Writing Tables were gifted .Bro. James Sime Waterston; 100 Music Books from Lodge Defensive Band; a Velvet Cushion trimmed with gold and gold lace tassels from Mrs Dunn; the Altar from Mrs McRorie. These were some of the principal gifts, but many others received from members. The valuation later taken by Dowells Ltd. worked out at the handsome figure of £42 and this will give an idea of the spirit that prevailed among the Founders and Initiates up to date.

Bro. David Lyall, a master in the craft of cabinet making gave willingly of his experience, and his judgment in purchasing was of great value. A great part of the woodwork was completed with his own bands.

On 8th October 1925, an emergency meeting was the Memorial Hall of the Royal Scots Club, and in a word Right Worshipful Master D. M. Lowe expressed the Lodge would be comfortable in its new home. A Report was given at this Meeting of a Deputation having attended the Erection and Consecration of Lodge Royal Thistle, No. 1338 at the Royal Scots Barracks, Glencourse. On behalf of No.1253 the new Lodge was presented with a box of Working Tools. It is of interest to note that Her Royal Highness Princess Mary used the Mallet presented by us at the Ceremony of opening the Memorial Gateway at Glencourse Barracks on 18th March 1927.

Our aspirations and endeavours were rewarded when on “22nd October 1925 the new premises were formally opened by The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason, Bro. The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Stair, D.S.O., D.L., J.P., accompanied by The Rt. Hon. Lord Blythswood, Rt. Worshipful Depute Grand Master; Bro. Joseph Inglis, Right Worshipful Substitute Grand Master; Bro. David Reid, J.P., Right Worshipful Secretary, and 14 other Grand Office- Bearers. We were honoured by three deputations of five members each from Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No.2, Lodge Defensive Band No.151, and Lodge Royal Thistle, No.1338. The Master occupied the Chair and conducted the Ceremony. Right Worshipful Bro. Dr W. Ewing, M.C., Grand Chaplain and Chaplain of No.1253 in his Invocation, said :-

“And now as we enter the building henceforth to be our home, we pause a moment on the threshold to invoke anew the Divine Presence and aid. May it be for us indeed Temple wherein the spirit of our craft shall be enshrined, where the true principles and practice of Freemasonry shall ever prevail. May it be a very Temple of the Living God, where His Spirit shall rule and control the hearts minds of men. Here may the weary and troubled find rest and quiet; the tempted and tried, protection encouragement; the erring, sympathy and guidance; here may the fallen be lifted up and touched with a new nobler hope; may the lonely find fair comradeship; the broken and needy, timely succour. May all things tend the building up of character, liberty-loving, brave and pure; strong enough to be gentle and tender.”

Bro. Dr Ewing during one of his visits in connection with the Scottish Church at Jerusalem, died there, and was buried at Mount Zion.

After the Ceremony the Grand Master complimented Lodge on the high position it occupied in Scottish Freemasonry and wished it continued success. At the close of the opening Ceremony, the Grand Master handed the Mallet to Right Worshipful Master D. M. Lowe who conducted the further business, and at the conclusion, Lord Blythswood congratulated the Office-bearers on the working of the First Degree, and expressed the pleasure he had in visiting the Lodge.

On 26th December 1926, we were again honoured by a visit from the Most Worshipful Grand Master in the person of The Rt. Hon. Lord Blythswood. Also present that evening were Bros. General Sir William E. Peyton, G.O.C. in Chief Scottish Command and Alexander Stevenson, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh and Hon. Col. of the 4/5th Royal Scots. This made a historic gathering with the first mason, first soldier, and first citizen of Scotland. Other distinguished guests included Sir William Sleigh who received his Hon Member's Jewel.

After this eventful period we settled down, carrying the banner of Freemasonry faithfully and zealously with pride and devotion.

Our field of recruits being limited, the Membership has never been large, but this is as was intended in order that each brother, would know his fellow-member more than is possible in a Lodge with a large membership; everyone a chance of helping the Lodge or filling an Office, and expressing himself in his own particular way, thus making one united family. Our idea of this has been evidenced by the large proportion of Initiates who regularly attend and are anxious to become useful Masons. A number of Affiliates have been admitted many having come from the regular Battalions of The Royal Scots, and some of these have been elected to Office.

The Gallipoli Pilgrimage on 1st May 1936 an opportunity of exercising our heritage of Remembrance. A wreath was ordered on our behalf from the Poppy Factory, and made by an ex-Royal Scot who served from 1910 to 1918 and was severely wounded. This was conveyed to Gallipoli by Mrs Milne, widow of a a Royal Scot. On her return she reported having placed the wreath against the Royal Scots Panel in the Memorial at Cape Helles. A photograph was later received from her.

We are proud of the fact that at no time during the past 25 years has it been found necessary to vote a Brother into office. The Committee's recommendation has always been accepted, and Brethren have at all times acquiesced to  resolutions passed by a majority.

Our relationship with other Lodges in the Metropolitan District and further afield has always been most cordial, and our inter-visitations have proved pleasant and helpful in the making of our history.

The appreciative testimonials of the Visitation C ommittee on their Annual Visit prove that we have always had competent Brothers in the offices of Secretary and Treasurer.

Masonic bowling, golfing and rifle shooting have -represented, the most important event being the late Bro. G. L. Watson's achievement in winning the One-armed Golf Championship of Scotland in 1937. In peace time Whist Drives Dances, Ladies Nights and Children’s Parties enabled our wives and families to participate in the social side.

The outbreak of World War No.2 deprived us of our hall, this being taken over by the Royal Scots Comforts Committee. Convenient temporary quarters were found at St Andrew’s Chapel, 76 Queen Street, where we still work, hoping shortly to be re-established in our old home, continuing to add lustre to our Lodge and the Craft.

You have heard the names of the Honorary Members, a list of which we are proud. It is a great satisfaction to us that most of them have revisted the Lodge, and one donated a handsome gift which helped to swell our Benevolent Fund, while others keep in touch by sending us greetings from to time.

The Past Masters whose names and honours are on the back of the toast list have all fanned the flame of enthusiasm for their Lodge, and the: services of many have been requested as Installing Masters in the Metropolitan and Provincial Lodges and also as Right Worshipful Mark Masters. Bros. E. Bums and J. McLean, after having left the Chair, filled the office of Secretary, an office still adorned by Bro. McLean.

The members who have distinguished themselves in Masonic, military and civil life would provide another interesting chapter of lives given to public services as Grand Office-Bearers, soldiers of courage and devotion to duty, Members of Parliament and Councillors.

Bro. Sir William Y. Darling, Initiated 26th November I was Lodge Bard, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, and became Member of Parliament at the last election.

The late Bro. John Ewing, an Initiate of our Lodge, was The Royal Scots Historian, later appointed Professor of History of Rhodes University College, Grahamstown, South Africa.

Bro. George Galbraith, also an Initiate, received recogni for saving the life of a deck hand in the North Sea.

These are only three of the many of the illustrious Brothers of No.1253 whose deeds we are proud to have recorded in our Minutes. There are details of minor events which could have been referred to had time permitted, but fairly fresh in the memory of most, they will be passed over.

Our semi-Jubilee year finds us with some of the offices held by Brethren from the Services, full of enthusiasm under the Chairmanship of Bro. Edward Sutherland, carrying the banner and restoring the old Ritual and established customs.

This, then, is briefly the story of the 25 years of our Lodge. I trust it will be an inspiration to our younger Members to carryon and hand to their successor the work so well and truly laid from the foundation.

Long live 1253!





Lodge or…

Date of Initiation


Archibald Young, C.B.E., V.D., D.L., J.P.

Founder Member

Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No.2



James S. Waterston, J.P.

Founder Member

Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No.2

Right Worshipful Grand Almoner, Past Substltute Grand Master





Past Grand Sword-Bearer, Grand Lodge of S

M. M., Lodge Fidelity, No. 2061


1924 - 25

Duncan M. Lowe, D.C.M.


Member of Grand Committee

M. M., The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1



Walter Kerr


Chairman, Past Masters' Association

M. M., The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1



George T. Reilly.


M.M., Lodge Rossyln St Clair, No.606.



Richard Card


Lodge Level, No. 702, S.C.



John A. Rankine



25th April 1921


Samuel Ballie, M.M.



25th April 1921


George Eakins, M.C.



26th April 1923


Christopher McVittie



28th March 1921


Edward Burns, M.S.M.


M.M., Lodge Rossyln St Clair, No.606.



Frederick D. P. Lyall



13th November 1924


John M. Milligan, T.D.


M.M., Lodge Portobello, No.226.


1936 – 37

Alexander Meanie, D.C.M.



24th March 1927


George J. R. Simpson



28th December 1922


James McLean


M.M., Lodge St David, No.36.



Walter Kerr, P.M.





George Watt



10th January 1929


William F. Marshall



8th October 1931


George Neill



22nd March 1928


Alexander Grieve, M.C.



28th December 1922


William J. C. Hastings



14th February 1935




Masonic Details

Other Information

Bro. Joseph Inglis.

Past Right Worshipful Substitute Grand Master.


Bro. David Reid, J.P.

Right Worshipful Grand


Bro. General Sir Francis Davis, K.C.B., K.C.M.B., K.C.V.O.

P.G.D. England.:

General Officer Commanding in Chief, Scottish Command.

Bro. The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Stair, D.S.O., D.L., J.P.

The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland


Bro. The Hon. Lord Blythswood, K.C.V.O., D.L., J.P.

The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland


Bro. Sir William Lowrie Sleigh.


Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.

Hon. Colonel 4/5th Bn. The Royal Scots.

Bro. Sir Thomas Hutchison.


Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.

Hon. Colonel 4/5th Bn. The Royal Scots.

Bro. Sir Alexander Stevenson.


Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.

Hon. Colonel 4/5th Bn. The Royal Scots.

Bro. General Sir William E. Peyton, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O.

Past Grand Steward, Grand Lodge of all Scottish Freemasonry in India.

General Officer Commanding in Chief, Scottish Command.

Bro. General Sir Percy DE Radcliffe, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.,



General Officer Commanding in Chief, Scottish Command.

Bro. A. A. Hagart Spiers OF Elderslie, V.L., J.P.

The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland.


Bro. Sir William Thomson, LL.D.


Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.

Hon. Colonel 4/5th Bn. The Royal Scots.

Bro. Sir Louis S. Gumley.


Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.

Hon. Colonel 4/5th Bn. The Royal Scots.

Bro. The Right Hon. Lord Saltoun, M.C., J.P.

The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland.


Bro. Sir Henry Steele, LL.D.


Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.

Hon. Colonel 4/5th Bn. The Royal Scots.

Bro. Thomas G. Winning.

Right Worshipful Grand Secretary.


Bro. W. King Gillies, M.A., LL.D., F.R.S.E.

Right Worshipful Grand Secretary.


Bro. J. Hamilton Birrell, M.A., Ph.D.

Past Grand Bard


Bro. James S. M. Grieve, J.P.

Right Worshipful Depute Grand Master.


Bro. Leonard Melrose.

Right Worshipful Grand Treasurer.