THE HISTORY OF DUMBARTON KILWINNING LODGE NO. 18
by Brother David Wilson
Extracted with permission from the Year Book of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland
Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18, constituted in 1726, celebrated its 275th anniversary in 2001 and has, not before time, published its history. It covers the Lodge's foundation and connection with Kilwinning, together with important and memorable events both within the Lodge and the town of Dumbarton. The history contains many references to local buildings, churches, ministers and families, all of which are certain to be of particular interest to anyone with even a distant connection with Dumbarton.
The following is a selection of extracts, reproduced with permission from the archives of Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18:-
In 1617, Archbishop Spottiswoode of St Andrews, commendator of Kilwinning Abbey resigned the Parish Church of Dumbarton together with the patronage and manse, in order that it might be conveyed to the Town Council.
Mr Edward McGhie in his book Dumbarton Parish Church in History states 'indeed and rather inexplicably, the Burgh records show payments still being made to the treasurer of the abbacy of Kilwinning, years after the Reformation.' Why was the Town Council treasurer paying monies on a regular basis to the treasurer of the abbacy of Kilwinning? The abbey was destroyed at the Reformation. Did these quarterly 'dues' to Kilwinning coincide with Lodge quarterly meetings?
The first minute book of Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18 begins:
'At the Lodge of Dunbritan, the 20th of January, 1726
The which day being the first meeting of the masons thereof after their constitution, convened seven master masons, six fellows of craft, and three entered 'prentices, all by the advice and with consent of John Hamilton, the Great Master of the Lodge, present and sitting, and the box being got on the table by authority, and each having thrown in his free offering, which, with the papers of the constitution, was ordained to be put into the box, and the box of common contents, to remain in the house of Walter Williamson, one key to be kept by John Campbell and the other by James Nicholl, until the Feast of St John when a new box keeper and key keeper shall be elected and ordained. The price of the box, keys and lock to be paid out of the first end of the Lodge free offerings, all which being done, there remained in the box seven pounds two shillings Scots.'
The second minute 25 March 1726 and records 'the said day that Brother Gabriel Porterfield, by unanimous consent of the masters, was admitted and received as a master of the fraternity, who renewed his oath and gave in the entry money in terms of the constitution. This is the earliest record in Scotland (and the world) of the raising of a master mason. This unique minute is reproduced in the Lodge history.
A minute, dated 25 April 1779, records the decision of the brethren to flit the Lodge from the house of George McFarlane (a vintner) to the upper storey of the house of Thomas Phillips in the Cross Vennel, an offer being made by him of that flat for the yearly rent of £2 Sterling. George McFarlane was lessee of the Town's Arms Inn (later the Elephant Hotel) from 1776 to 1798 and a subscriber to Robert Burns' Edinburgh Edition.
The 25th June was fixed for the removal, and the brethren were ordered to meet at 4 o'clock in the afternoon in their proper clothing to process from the one house to the other. The house of Brother Phillips stood in Upper College Street, opposite to Risk Street, and was demolished when it passed into the hands of the later Lord Overtoun. This house was later raided by a company of excisemen led by William Corbet - a friend of Robert Burns. A full account of the raid is given in the Lodge's history.
From 26 March 1787 to 29 November of the same year, we have no record of the Lodge's proceedings. Frequently the brethren held meetings and took no record. In June there should have been a quarterly meeting, but Robert Burns' presence in town that week, involving some of the members, possibly could account for the absence of any minute. The quarterly June meetings of 1786 and 1788 are recorded in the minute book. Either June 1787 meeting did not take place or someone omitted to write the minute. The list of members shows two admissions at the January 1787 meeting and none in the June.
From the early history of the Lodge one can picture the brethren eagerly collecting 'the dues' in very small sums so as to accumulate such sums for loan or grants to impoverished brethren, widows and orphans. The discipline of the Lodge was rigorously maintained with brethren being 'fined' for non-attendance.
The original principles were never forgotten: making due allowance for the poverty of time.
The early minutes record greater importance on finance rather than the formality of ritual work.
Attendees were marked as having paid, or not, their fees: no separate sederunt. Payments from the box for charitable purposes were paramount.
The basic principle was like a simple Department of Health and Social Security/Benefits Agency operation.
At this time the Lodge met in the Elephant Hotel, which was located between Glencaim House and Quay Street. It opened in 1762 and had stables at the rear.
In 1807 the adjoining property was acquired and the hotel extended to the Quay Street corner. The last meeting in the Lodge room of the Elephant Hotel was held on 23 December 1872 when they moved to the Mission Hall in Church Street during January 1873. The Elephant Hotel was demolished in 1935. In February 1892 the Lodge bought for £200, from the trustees of the late R D Buchanan Esquire, laird of Auchentorlie, the building and ground known as the Infant School, one of several school houses which he had built. To make it suitable for the requirements of the Lodge, a further sum of over 400 pounds was expended. The Lodge and the Royal Arch Chapter flitted from the Mission Hall, Church Street to the new premises in Risk Street in January 1893. The Mission Hall had never been an ideal meeting place as the premises were shared with other organisations. Occasionally meetings were cancelled due to 'double bookings'. The Risk Street temple was behind a hall used by the Dumbarton Artillery Volunteers as a drill hall, and adjacent to a school which became the YMCA halls and then the Blackburn Aircraft Social Club. By 1920 the premises were becoming inadequate due to the increase in numbers and repairs required to the roof. Consequently a building committee was appointed and a Building Fund started. The committee considered various alternatives and thirteen different options were reviewed. These included properties and ground in High Street, Strathleven Place, College Park Street and Caledonian Railway property in the Glasgow Road. Other options were the YWCA Hostel in College Street, the adjacent YMCA building in Risk Street and the Artillery Drill Hall.
Ultimately in February 1921, it was decided and agreed to purchase from Mrs Killea the Muse House and grounds of College Street, with first option on the Muse Cottage adjoining, for £1900.
On 15 August 1931 the brethren assembled for the last time in Risk Street hall to march to the new premises in College Street. Tragically the Master, Brother John Gourlay collapsed and died of a heart attack in the old hall. The arrangements were naturally abandoned and the purvey distributed to local hospitals. The first meeting held in College Street was an emergency, the following Tuesday (the 18th) with Brother Thomas Bell IPM in the chair. A deputation from Provincial Grand Lodge headed by Brother Rev T Angus Morrison, Provincial Grand Master conducted a funeral service for Brother John Gourlay. The consecration ceremony was postponed until 4 September 1931.
During the second half of the sixties, the Lodge's primary concern was the redevelopment of the town centre and the impending demolition of the temple in College Street. There are many references to letters from the Town Clerk's office, the appointment of legal advisers and others co-opted to the property committee. At a meeting in April 1969 the architects had finalised plans for the proposed new premises with assistance from Brother John Gillies, and these were approved. The anticipated completion date of the new premises was constantly being revised. Likewise, the date of demolition of College Street was repeatedly delayed until ultimately it was fixed for the end of June 1972. The contract for the construction of the new premises was signed in October 1971 on the recommendation of Brother J N Humble, the Lodge's solicitor. The first meeting convened in the new premises in Church Street was a property committee meeting on 7 May 1973 with an apology from the architects. On Saturday 26 May 1973 the ceremony of laying the foundation stone and erection and consecration of the new Masonic Temple, Church Street, Dumbarton was conducted by Brother Newton M Stewart, Depute Provincial Grand Master.
In 1997, the Master and Wardens persuaded me to write the history of the Lodge and then with quite remarkable qualities of delegation, left me to carry on with the task! However, since the publication in December 1998 of The History of Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18, four significant things happened.
1 Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18 celebrated its 275th anniversary on 20th January 2001.
2 The Very Reverend John B Cairns LTh, LLB., former minister of Dumbarton Riverside Parish Church and Past Moderator of the Church of Scotland asked me to produce a leaflet with a description of the church building and graveyard for the benefit of visitors.
3 The ruined parish church of Cardross in Levengrove Park, Dumbarton was listed as a national monument following evidence of the royal burial.
4 The Master Ian Burch suggested I prepare an inventory of the entire contents of the Lodge.
The inventory revealed a letter from eleven founder members of Bonhill St Andrew's Lodge petitioning support from Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18 for a charter to erect a new lodge on the east bank of the River Leven. This letter was presented by the Master Ian Burch, to the Master John McDonald of Bonhill and Alexandria No. 321 at their 175th Anniversary Celebrations held on Saturday 3rd February 2001. The inventory also unearthed a certificate confirming the working of a Royal Arch Degree being conferred a brother from Lodge Leven St John by Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18 or No. 20, as it was then. This certificate is dated 19th February 1803. Therefore, this year, 2003 will commemorate 200 years of Royal Arch Masonry in Dumbarton.
Consequently, certain things came to light, which are relevant to the history of Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18. For the sake of completeness, I considered it sufficiently important to record these in writing, with a view to publication as a sequel to the original History of Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No. 18. That volume was based on a chronological account of the Lodge's minutes. Volume II is entirely different, focusing and expanding on specific items, people and events. For example, the associations with the parish church, the inventory, laying of the foundation stones, the links with King Robert the Bruce and the 275th anniversary. It also includes a section on the roll book, lists of wardens, secretaries, treasurers, the Lodge hymn and a copy of the 200 year old certificate mentioned above.
Volume II was issued in 2003 and is available from the lodge.