A SHORT HISTORICAL SKETCH
Bro. William Little 1974
(Updated by Bro. James G. White P.M.)
"This night the Brethren in the house of Hugh Paterson met, for the purpose of electing Office-bearers, according to the request of The Grand Lodge of Scotland, and, having unanimously chosen John Banks President for the night's proceeding, the following persons were elected Office-bearers:
Thomas Crawford Master
John Ferguson Depute Master
William McAllister Senior Warden
John Wilson Junior Warden
James Dobbie Treasurer
William Denovan Secretary
John Banks Steward
John McCulloch Auditor
David McQew Tyler
The above is the first Minute Book Record of the Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle Lodge numbering '312' on the roll of The Grand Lodge of Scotland and was recorded 175 years ago.
The Lodge has continued in the "Town," with the name of such great historic significance to Scotland, since that time.
Any organisation of men which has stood the test of time from just after the Battle of Waterloo to the landing of men on the moon must surely have contributed something worthwhile to the well-being of the community.
The nineteen founder members when they met first in the house of James Anderson, Innkeeper, Newmarket, Bannockburn, to hold a Lodge of Brethren assembled and to formulate in Bannockburn the high ideal which is the foundation of Freemasonry, may not have imagined that their Lodge, started also as a Friendly Society, would continue in strength and be on its way to the second century of its existence.
It is fitting after perusing the known Records and Minute Books of Lodge Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle to pay tribute to the historians of the Lodge represented by a long line of excellent Masters, Secretaries and Treasurers. Not all of the records are in copper-plate handwriting, for many of the early members were weavers and could not record the Minutes as men of letters.
But shining through the Records, however presented, is the fact that Lodge Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle has been ever-mindful of charity - with top priority always being given to the less fortunate brethren, in sickness or other distressed circumstances, their widows and orphans.
The basic industry in the village of Bannockburn at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century was the weaving of cloth. The occupations of 13 of the 19 founder members were Manufacturers (2), Weavers (8), Warpers (3). The fees due at this time on being initiated as a Fellow Craft and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason were ten shillings (50 pence), a not inconsiderable sum then.
The first name to be recorded as a member, dues paid, was Thomas Crawford, Plasterer, Stirling, the first R.W.M. as stated in the Minute of the first meeting on 6th November, 1824. It is probable he was connected with a Stirling Lodge and may have been the same Thomas Crawford who was R.W.M. of Lodge Ancient Stirling No. 30 in the year 1800.
There has always been some speculation on how the "Thistle" became incorporated, along with the natural desire to have the famous Scottish hero King Robert the Bruce forever linked with the name of Bannockburn.
It may be of some significance, in attempting to discover why "Thistle" should be chosen - apart from the more obvious connotation of its being one of the National Emblems of Scotland - to record this fact. Some of the early meetings were held at "Sister Denovan's" and her "Crown and Thistle" Inn was at the end of Newmarket.
Meetings, many of which were in the homes of members in the early days, were not so frequent as in recent times.
The first public parade of the Lodge occurred in December 1825 when the Brethren of the Lodge, accompanied by the Bannockburn Instrumental Band, paraded through the town prior to assembling for the first Festival of St. John.
The consecration of the Lodge took place on October 23rd 1827, almost three years after the charter was granted, with the ceremony being performed by Bro. John Prentice R.W.M. of the Stirling Ancient Lodge.
Lodge Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle's two sponsor lodges, The Lodge of Alloa and Lodge St.Andrew Denny and Loanhead were also in attendance as were Stirling Royal Arch and Stirling Rock Encampment.
But the brethren attended many more public occasions, particularly the laying of foundation stones.
Brethren of Lodge Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle attended such ceremonies as the new bridge over the Forth at Stirling in 1831; the Wallace Monument in 1861; the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1870 and the Smith Arts Museum at Stirling in 1871.
Gifts to the Lodge from members were many in the early years and it is recorded that on the return from their visit to Edinburgh in 1870 one of the deputation, Bro. E.L.Wilson R.W.M., presented a handsome mahogany mallet with ebony handle and Senior and Junior Warden's Pillars.
The history of Scotland and the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution can be traced from the Minute Books of the Lodge during the Nineteenth Century. The start of the working of coal in the local pits could be seen by the number of miners who joined the Craft.
There were those who joined the emigrating Scots who were to make new lives for themselves and families in Canada and Australia.
Many of these brethren were raised through all the Degrees to become Master Masons at one emergency meeting - a speedy arrangement also made for many members going overseas on active service.
The social and Harmony ideal of Freemasonry has never been neglected by Lodge Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle in going from labour to refreshment. The constantly changing social aspect can be traced through concerts, dances after Festivals of St.John, a cinematograph show, summer drives in charabancs, Masonic Balls and on to the present '312' Social Club.
After Lodge Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle had taken a Lodge Room on its own instead of meeting mostly in members houses the premises were frequently let to other organisations and societies to assist them in their formative years at the end of the Nineteenth Century. They included the Free Gardeners, the Y.M.C.A. for Sabbath morning meetings and also the let of the premises as a reading room.
The Lodge received help on many occasions from Bro. Col. Wilson, who owned the weaving mills for tartans in Bannockburn by providing storage space for Lodge possessions etc, and to other members of the Wilson Mills family.
In 1826 the Brethren attended the laying of the Foundation Stone of James Wilson's Mill. The exact location of this Mill is not known but could it have been the Royal George Mill Building in which the present Lodge Temple is situated? Indeed, there is a lintel in the building bearing the date 1826.
The Lodge considered the building of a new Temple at the close of the Nineteenth Century instead of renting a Lodge Room.
One of those rented and in use for many years was the building at the corner of Main Street and Kirk Wynd, near the old Ladywell Church, later the Murrayfield U.F. Church.
The Lodge decided, however, to rent as a hall the upper storey of the Old Town Hall and their first meeting in these premises was in February 1904.
During the Centenary Year of the Lodge (1924) the brethren were in the midst of negotiations to purchase the present Masonic Hall premises at the Royal George Mill and to raise money to renovate it.
This was probably why no Thanksgiving Service or Dinner was held in that Centenary Year. The decision was taken to combine the Consecration of the new Masonic Temple with the Centenary Celebrations the following year on 24th April 1925.
In a closely-knit community like Bannockburn, son has followed father into the Fellowship of the Craft during the 175 years of its existence as a Lodge.
It is particularly interesting to trace names such as Wilson, Plank, Vallance, McQue (sometimes McQew), Morrison, Stevenson, Buchanan, Jaffray and Don appearing and re-appearing as generation succeeds generation throughout the Lodge's history.
To pick out just one of the above names, in December 1888 it was recorded that Bro. John Don, 84 years of age, had been a Freemason for 65 years. This pre-dates the Lodge by one year. In 1916 a presentation of a Gold Albert and Seal and a life membership certificate was made to Bro. George Don who had been the Lodge Tyler for 25 years.
The current R.W.M. is Bro. Alexander Don and his brother Robert is the W.S.W., both of whom followed their late father into the Lodge. Whilst it is not known if these two brethren are direct descendants of Bros. John & George Don, in a small community such as ours it is likely that some connection exists.
The Brethren of the Lodge have always been ready and willing to give a practical token of their sympathy to those in distress. When three Brethren died in the Plean Pit explosion in 1922 special payments were made to their wives or dependants.
In the immediate years after the Great War and again after the Second World War there were understandably many more candidates to join the Craft after long absences from home of serving men in the forces.
Greater visitation between Lodges, no doubt because of improved transport in the motor car era, was also a feature of the post War years.
This short history is more of a sketch of its idealistic work during the first 175 years. Some happenings have been left unrecorded and names which might have been expected are not mentioned, because of some Minute Books not being available or perhaps through human oversight, but I hope that the inherent laudable intentions of the Brethren of the Lodge, down the years, to follow the precepts of the Craft, shine through it all and provide an inspiration to present Freemasons and to all who follow in the Bannockburn Bruce and Thistle Lodge No. 312.