The First 100 Years
From an eventful “First 100 “First 100 years this Historiette is written to remind Brethern of its origin, its steady growth and some of its personalities- always remembering that it is the membership as a whole, and not the individual, upon "which the Lodge depends.
When the Queens Edinburgh Rifle: Volunteer Batta1ion was established in 1859 No.12 Company was started, with the patronage of the Craft, as a Freemason Company. The sponsors to Grand Lodge for a Charter were seven Brethren of that company and a large proportion of the Founder Members were from Lodges Canongate Kilwinning, Edinburgh Defensive Band and St. Clair.
The inauguration of the newly erected Freemasons' Hall took place on 24th February 1859 and The Rifle Lodge was .the first Lodge constituted in it. The first meeting .of the Lodge took ,place on 10th May 1960, three days, after its Charter had been granted and signed by the Duke of Atholl, the then Grand Master Mason. The inauguration of the Lodge and the installation of the first office-bearers took place in Freemasons' Hall on 5th June 1860 and was conducted by the Depute Grand Master, Brother J. Whyte Melville.
The colours of the Lodge are Thistle Green with jewels silver gilt, but these were changed to gold gilt in 1876. There is a tradition that the colours of the Lodge were adopted by pure chance, owing to the clothing of a Colonial Lodge having been thrown on the hands; of the Grand Tyler Brother, W. Moir Bryce, an enthusiastic founder of the Lodge, who promptly seized the opportunity of getting, a set cheap for the Lodge. The story is that a Lodge at the Goldfields secured a Charter and ordered clothing, jewels, etc., but, before it could be constituted, a change occurred in the circumstances of the district, and the members scattered. The bo was sent back. By-and-bye, when the members united elsewhere, they got their Charter and Jewels, but the clothing was by that time "lost" and could not be found anywhere. The original Jewels of the Lodge presented by the officers bore their names, but it is regretted that only a few of these are still extant.
The fee for a Founder Member was, £1 1s. c, and not less than 5/6 to Grand Lodge. "The fees for Initiation, which were £1 6s. 6d. and Affiliation 10/6, were almost immediately increased and in 1870 rose to £2 2s "for efficient members of the Army, Navy and Volunteers" and for Civilians £2 12s. 6d. ~e original Test Fee was 4/- paid quarterly but was changed - to 2/6.
During this early period it was customary to hold a second ballot if a candidate had not been Initiated within three months of the original ballot, but ultimately Grand Lodge extended the period to twelve months and of course "Lodge Rifle" conformed. Minutes of meetings in these early days were certainly brief and to the point as the following extracts show:-
"At, a special meeting of .The Lodge Rifle, No. 405, held in Freemasons' Hall, 96 George Street, Edinburgh (present as per Attendance Book), On 22nd February 1866. The Lodge having been opened in due form, Brothers Anderson and Bishop were both raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, after which the Lodge was closed."
"On 4th March 1866 Mr Simon Marks, Jeweller, Newcastle, was ballotted for, initiated, passed and raised in consequence of having to leave town the next day."
"On 1st May 1866, the Lodge was -opened, the minutes read and passed, and the Lodge closed."
"Special Meeting 22nd April 1869. The Right Worshipful Master in the Chair. Brothers Hamilton, Bourhill and Anderson were raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason."
From the foregoing it can be seen that the Lodge Secretary was not overworked and it is obvious that Grand Lodge did not have the firm hold over .the administration of Daughter Lodges as is the case today for the first Minute Book contains no les; than 236. blank pages. The "full" writing up of minutes was not resumed until 1866 but it is interesting to note that the firs~ Initiate of the Lodge to take "the Chair was Professor J. Gamgee, Principal of Dick Veterinary College in 1863 and he was also the inventor of Roller Skates.
It is recorded that on 1st February 1867 the Annual Ball was held in. Freemasons’ Hall at which the Brethren wore full regalia.
There were over 200 ladies and gentlemen present and the occasion was graced by the presence of the Grand Master Brother, J. Whyte Melville. By custom, the Brethren removed their aprons at midnight and adorned their ladies with them; a courtly gesture which future Masters might bear in mind.
The first minute on the subject of the Lodge owning its own premises was, in April 1867 when the desire was expressed for a Lodge Room in which it had a permanent right and a home to display its present belongings "and which might secure for it in all time coming some of the valuable relics and mementoes it might get from their present possessors."
The Banner which holds pride of place in the Temple was painted by Brother Bourhill and jointly presented; by him and Brothers Ford and Douglas. It was first carried in public in 1872 at the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Watt Institute (now the Heriot-Watt College). Until the beginning of this century, it was the common practice for members of the Craft to' attend ceremonies at which foundation stones were being laid. The first of these attended by members of "Lodge Rifle" was at the Corn Exchange, Biggar, in 1860. Subsequently, other such ceremonies, attended by members of "Lodge Rifle" were:-
1861 - The Wallace Monument, Stirling, and The Albert Bridge, Glasgow.
1870 - Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.
1876 - The Galashiels Masonic Hall.
1883 - The Municipal Bui1dings, Glasgow.
1888 - Masonic Hall of Lodge Trafalgar
1896 - The; North Bridge, Edinburgh.
1911 - The new Grand Lodge of Scotland Buildings, George Street.
The minutes bear evidence of careful working, not without touches of that Masonic Spirit which occasionally prompts such little additions to the ceremonies of the Craft as linger in the memories of candidates, if not of those who take part in them. One of these, the giving of the Right Hand of Fellowship to each member on admission appears to have been regularly done after 1870 The Lodge originally met on the First and Third Tuesdays of each month from September to May and in 1870 it was decided to hold the Election and Installation of Office-bearers on a convenient evening nearest to the day of St. John (December) instead of mid-summer.