History


Lodge Girvan St.Johns No.237

Established 1810

and

Celebrating over 200 Years of representing Masonry to the World from Girvan, Scotland



Toast to Girvan St John 237

Chartered by The Grand Lodge of Scotland

11th November 1810

 

  

Girvan St Andrews Lodge No.171

Chartered by The Grand Lodge of Scotland

17th September 1772.

 

Now you might be wondering why I have started a toast to Girvan St John 237 with the title Girvan St Andrews 171, Brethren this is where the history of Girvan St John 237 starts as this is where the first record or mention of the lodge is found.

 

 

A Minute Book for St Andrews 171 covering the period of 24th June 1776 till 12th March 1828 is retained within the archives of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from which the following information has been taken. The whereabouts of their FIRST Minute Book is unknown and may well have been lost.

 

This is also true of St John’s 237, unfortunately there are no minute books from 1810 to 1875, the earliest minute book being from 7th September 1875, but I have found mention of 237 within the minutes of 171.

 

                                                                

Just for your interest                                    1778

24th June.

Brother John McKissock, Ballantrae, a member of St John’s Ayr Lodge was affiliated this evening to 171. This one is just for interest and will return to it later.

                                                   1810

8th July.

It was agreed to have a tombstone erected on the Lodge’s burying ground. (This is the first mention of the Burial Plot owned by the Lodge in the minute Book but it would appear to have been in existence before today’s date.) Its intention of ensuring that no Mason would be buried as a pauper. This was later gifted to Lodge Girvan St Johns in 1888 by a Bro Dickie the last surviving member of Lodge St Andrew 129.

 

The first mention of Girvan St John’s 237

 

22nd October.

At a Meeting of the brethren this evening, a Petition was presented from Brother William Blair, Brother Francis Stewart, Brother Robert Gordon and Brother Robert Chalmers, praying a recommendation for the Grand Lodge of Scotland in order to obtain a Charter for establishing a New Lodge in this place. The regular manner, in which the aforementioned brethren have conducted themselves enabled our Lodge to grant their request. This new Lodge was Lodge Girvan St John’s No.237. Brother Blair served as Master from 1810-1811 and Brother Chalmers from 1811-1818 & 1824-1827 & 1830-1836 & 1844-1847.) so they were even recycling Masters way back in the 1800’s and here we are tonight still recycling Bro John Fairbairn PM. Bro Chalmers could be most likely related to Bro Archie for having been on the chair for over 20 years he must have liked to talk as well.

 

1822.

23rd April.

This being the day appointed for the celebration of the Kings Birthday and also being appointed for the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the New Mail House a full attendance of the brethren ensued. Also in attendance, for the first time recorded in the Minute Book, were brethren from Girvan St John’s 237 Lodge.

 

This is the last Minute recorded in the Minute Book.

 

Among the papers borrowed from Grand Lodge was a large notepad which appears to have been the Secretaries notes from the Meetings which he then transcribed into the Minute Book. The notepad contains reference to Meetings up till 1848. The following is a brief look at the notes, which indicate the demise of the Lodge.

 

  1. Only two Meetings held. Nothing of importance recorded.
  2. Only one Meeting held. 30th November. Office-bearers re-elected.
  3. Only one Meeting held. 30th November. Office-bearers re-elected.
  4. Only one Meeting held. 30th November. Office-bearers re-elected.

1833 & 1834 & 1835. No records available.

  1. Only one Meeting held. 30th November.
  2. Only one Meeting held. 30th November.
  3. Only one Meeting held. 30th November.
  4. Only one Meeting held. 30th November.
  5. Only one Meeting held. 30th November.
  6. Only one Meeting held. 30th November.
  7. 30th December. The records show that the RWM held 3/7d being the total

financial assets of the Lodge.

 

There are no more entries in the Notepad until the last one dated November 17th 1848. Money to hand £1/1/7d, money disbursed by the Lodge £1/1/7d. Balance –NIL.

 

One must assume that this was the date that the Lodge was finally closed, although the Records of Grand Lodge indicate the Year of Dormancy being 1832.

 

So Brethren your recorded history starts on the 22nd October 1810 and it doesn’t take long till your Charter is granted on 11th November 1810, at this time given the number 240 but later during restructuring in 1826 being changed to 237 as it still is today.

 

Now history was never my strong point at school, but knowing a little about Robert Burns and his death being only 14 years prior to 1810 it gives us some insight into what life would have been like during the 1800’s. No electricity, no central heating, no motorised transport or public transport, no proper roads, no street lights, and what no Wi-Fi, ha-ha, to mention but a few, in fact it is not until 122 years later that it is recorded in your minutes on 5th August 1932 that the lodge held its first meeting with the use of electric light. The first Electrician to join the Lodge was a Bro Harold Thomas Page on 19th March 1919 from London at the age of 32.

 

During these early times from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s Freemasonry was held in high regard, testament of this is the Lodge being invited to lay the foundation stone for prominent projects such as the Maybole Gas Works, the new docks in Ayr, the new Post Office in Paisley and the unveiling of a statue to Robert Burns in Kay Park Kilmarnock to name but a few. Today I was invited to come and toast Girvan St John, I thought nothing of jumping in the car and a 12 mile journey later taking all of 15 mins, 20 mins if there are any traffic police present and I was here. For the Brethren back then to be able to accept these invites to travel such distances they should be greatly commended. Now if the Post Office in question in Paisley is the one next to the train station then I must say you made an excellent job of the corner stone as the Post Office is still standing today and I have frequented it on many occasion. Not to post letters may I add but for a pint as it’s now a Wetherspoons.   

 

Now if you cast your mind back to the Brother who lived in Ballantrae 1778, Mother Lodge in Ayr that’s a distance of 33 miles, which without motorised transport would be an estimated 11 hr walk or if you were lucky to be rich and own a horse or like Burns being a farmer and having a working horse a travelling time of approx. 3hrs based on the time to cycle, Brethren I wonder if the life blood of Freemasonry, visiting, as we know it today was as common an occurrence in those early days. Most of the people never left their village back then as it was self-contained having every type of shop and supply that they would ever need.

 

Masonry in Girvan was very strong in the early 1800’s, there was a charter granted for a Royal Arch Chapter in 1818, Girvan Union 35, also a Conclave No32. In the years up till the 1840’s the largest industry at this time in Girvan was hand loom weaving but unfortunately disaster was about to strike not only the lodges but Girvan itself when in the 1840’s there was a cholera epidemic and due to the industrial revolution and modern equipment in Glasgow and Paisley it brought mass unemployment to Girvan and the surrounding areas. Many families had to move away from Girvan to look for work which could have been one of the reasons for Girvan St Andrew 171’s demise in the late 1840’s and the Royal Arch Chapter in the 1860’s.

 

Girvan St John 237 managed to weather this storm, they were holding their meetings in the town chambers in Knockcushan Street, then by the late 1800’s it was holding it’s meetings in a rented room above a public house in Old Street, this public house was later to be named the Masonic Arms. The public house changed hands and in 1913 the Lodge meetings had to be moved to a room built above a stables in Old St. In 1926 these premises were purchased by the lodge and now after 116 years they owned their own premises for the first time. The lodge went from strength to strength but disaster was once again to strike the lodge when due to redevelopment of Old St for housing this led to compulsory purchase of the lodge and sadly it was demolished in April 1974. The lodge then met in a variety of places, on 14thFebruary 1974  it again found itself homeless after it was served a 14 day statutory notice to vacate the premises in Knockcushan Street from Ayr County Council. The lodge then found themselves coming to agreement with the British Legion to temporarily hold their meetings there until suitable premises could be found. The lodge had previously put an offer in for the old scout hall in Vicarton Street in 1973 which was not accepted. In 1978 the lodge was to receive some good news that the old scout hall is back on the market, the lodge make an offer which this time is accepted by the Gas Board and on 6th September 1978 the lodge held its first meeting in their new premises at Lagganwhilly, with the temple being consecrated on 10th February 1979. Since then the Brethren have worked tirelessly to make improvements within the lodge with the result of the beautiful temple and the excellent facilities they now have today, only having one job left to finish that big hole left in the floor. But, no they are not about to move again they now have plans in to extend.               

 

The early years of the lodge have intrigued me as to who the members were, where did the live, what did the work as, did brethren visit and so decided to have a closer look at Girvan’s membership during these years, unfortunately again like the first minute books there were no petition books until 1st November 1899 which is where I have researched the information. Lodge Stinchar Valley 1705 which I am at present Master does not have any members that actually live in Ballantrae and Wallace St Hugh 1212 Crosshill, my Mother Lodge where I am Secretary, I am the only active member that actually stays in Crosshill.

 

 From 1st November 1899 till the 5th November 1919  a period of just 20 years there were 301 petitions made to join 237 an average of 15 per year, the average age being just 32. From these 301 members 212 are from Girvan, 76%, 17 Turnberry, 15 Ballantrae, 5 Colmonell, 4 Pinwherry, and 1 each from Maybole, Pinmore, Barr, Stranraer and Ayr. Approx. 93% local, the other 7% are 5 London, 4 Glasgow, 2 Birmingham, 1 Cornwell, 1 Paisley, 1 Edinburgh, 1 Dundee and the furthest travelled a carpenter from South Africa. There are a total of 83 different professions from the 301 members, the most common being miner 22, engineer 17, joiner 17, fisherman 16, hotel keeper 9, traveller 9, baker 8, there are 4 masons, and the most unusual is a Bro James Marshall, a tea planter in India. I have listed the others for anyone wishing to read them.

Clerk 7, motor mechanic 6, fireman 6, draper 6, grocer 6, farmer 6, plasterer 6, contractor 5, blacksmith 5, banker 5, sailor 5, soldier 5, teacher 5, railway 4, photographer 4, slater 4, painter 4, engine driver 4, mason 4, plumber 4, builder 4, postman 4, chemist 4, merchant 3, coachman 3, spirit merchant 3, iron monger 2, cashier 2, game keeper 2, dentist 2, shoe maker 2, signalman 2, coastguard 2, inspector 2, male nurse 2, pro. Golfer 2, policeman 2, printer 2, tailor 2, spirit healer 2, forge man 2, station master, watchmaker, fruiterer, postal overseer, fish merchant, shipping agent, flesher, gas manager, doctor, road contractor, fur buyer, salesman, hotel porter, chauffeur, fitter, gate sergeant, butcher, librarian, motor contactor, sheet metal worker, electrician, hair dresser, journalist, frapper, storeman, steward, civil servant, royal air force, tea planter, machine man, driver, rubber merchant and book keeper. An interesting mix of professions with no mention now of any weavers.

 

        Originally a fishing port Girvan was soon to become a seaside resort with the opening of the Maybole to Girvan railway in the late 1850’s and became very busy during the summer months with tourists. It is a pleasing note that the lodge did its best to accommodate those of the fraternity who expressed a desire to attend a lodge meeting while on holiday. On 17th July 1895 such a meeting took place with 29 visitors and the lodge not closing till midnight. Sounds like peace and quiet form the wife and the wains and a good dram. Girvan has always been greatly involved in charity work and have made many donations to local and other charities through the years still continuing this tradition to the present day. On 3rdSeptember 1924 the Lodge agreed to donate £5 to the Hall Fund of Lodge Wallace St Hugh 1212. Even in today’s money a donation of £5 would be gratefully accepted, £5 in 1924 is equivalent of £300 today.       

 

 

                  

Moving on Brethren on Wednesday 5th December 1979 a Bro John D Fairbairn was nominated for the first time as Master, his proposer being Bro A Taylor and seconder Bro W Dobbie. The lodge at this time must have been flourishing as there was a full card of office bearers and also with 3 stewards. On Saturday 19th January 1980 Bro John was installed into the chair of King Solomon for the first time by Bro George McGill PM 135 and Bro William Lumsden PM 135. Bro John had apologies in for the first meeting where 3 candidates were initiated to the EA Degree. Not learning his lesson the first time Bro John was then once again nominated for Master in December 1984 and again for the second time installed as Master of Lodge St John Girvan 237 on Saturday 21st January 1984. Now exactly 40 years on from that first time of being installed as Master he’s back for a 3rd time lucky. John I take my hat off to you and wish you the best of luck and the best of health for the ensuing 3 years.

 

The history of Girvan St John is vast and varied and I have only managed to give you a little insight into a few of these 210 years. I myself didn’t join Freemasonry until 2001 and over these 19 years have met many Brethren who I would now call good friends and Brothers. The first Bro I met from 237 was PM Bro Neville Clark, a Hon. Member of my Mother Lodge. Bro Neville was Master here in 1978/79 and then again 1979/81, he was held in very high esteem by all the Brethren and this was reflected when he became SPGM of Ayrshire and also a member of Grand Lodge. I remember after our meeting was finished he would always take up position in the JW’s chair and from their sell the Ashler. I then met a very amazing Bro, PM Bro John Cook only once on the chair1965-66, now he wasn’t daft, he was still attending the lodge up until he was 100 but wasn’t daft enough to do more than one year on the chair, does that not tell us something. I could have been doing with Bro John’s assistance with writing this toast as he had a great memory of the history of the lodges and would always remind me that his uncle was a founder member of my Mother Lodge and tell me stories of how his father and uncle would leave Girvan on horse and cart to go to Crosshill. On this the evening of your installation I have fond memories of Bro Duncan Campbell chairing the evenings proceedings. At the start of the toasts he would bring the Brethren to order with a large thud on the table from an almost full bottle of whisky, come the end of the evening the thud on the table was a lot quieter, that was if he actually managed to connect with the table due to the bottle of whisky now being empty. A Bro that enjoyed a small dram. Anyone who is a PM will know that you always remember the Bro who was going about visiting as WSW at the same time as you were and then your year on the chair. That Bro in my case was PM Bro Bill Smallwood. Bro Bill unknowingly taught me a great lesson in Freemasonry, how to remember what position you column should be in, not only as a Warden but now as an Installing Master, when installing the Wardens I think of Bro Bill closing the lodge and I always remember it should be on the “plume”. I’m not going to say anything about the next four Brothers as I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side, only joking Brethren each of them are gentlemen. During my first years visiting Girvan you had the Mitchell Brothers in the persons of PM Bro’s Kevin and James Gibson, now in retirement as the new set of Mitchell Brothers have taken over in the persons of PM Bro’s Robert and Henry McMaster. Finally brethren, a PM who is a country gent by name, PM Bro Robert E. H. Laird but also a true gentleman in nature. Bro Robert who was the Secretary at Girvan was only a phone call away in my first few years as Secretary at Crosshill and a great mind of knowledge when I needed assistance and was only too willing to help. Again when I was installed as Master of Stinchar in 2018 Bro Robert was also still the Secretary there at that time and was a great help to me as Master, any Master will know you need a good Secretary as it makes your life so much easier. Bro Robert has always been the brunt of jokes over the years because of his height, fondly known as Little Robert by the Brethren but I have too much respect for him to follow in their footsteps but will leave you with this thought. If only the electricians had known Bro Robert like we do, they would have put more thought into what height they put the light switches at when they introduced electric into the lodge back in 1932.    

 

Brethren I hope you have enjoyed this small insight into a very small part of the history of Girvan St John, I know I have greatly enjoyed reading through it. I would like to thank you RWM Bro John Fairbairn for affording me this high honour of proposing this toast and only hope I have done justice to this old and honourable lodge and to the brethren I thank you for the very kind hearing you have given me. I would now ask you to please charge your glasses and be upstanding and join me in a toast to Lodge Girvan St John 237. Thank you, Brethren.


By

RWM Bro Jim Mac Donald


Lodge Stinchar Valley 1705

PM Secretary Lodge Wallace St Hugh 1212

© 2006-2020

Lodge Girvan St Johns' No 237