Lodge Breadalbane No.657
Compiled by Bro. William Telfer
First Published in 1980
IN THE BEGINNING
Before the erection of Lodge Breadalbane Aberfeldy No.657 there were already a number of Freemasons resident in the district who were members of Lodge Tay & Lyon No.276 at Kenmore which had been founded in 1818.
According to a minute of a meeting of Lodge Tay & Lyon Kenmore, held in December 1836 it was agreed that a “Deputation Lodge” should be given to Aberfeldy, with the power of opening and holding a branch of Lodge Tay & Lyon there, and Bro. James Kippen, a merchant in Aberfeldy was appointed Master Depute.
It would appear that in order to promote and extend the benefits of Freemasonry to the areas around Kenmore, particularly Aberfeldy, Kinloch Rannoch, Glen Lyon, Killin and Fortingall that Lodge Tay & Lyon as it were, opened branches in these places by means of a document drawn up by themselves which they called a “ Deputation Commission “. This rather irregular document nominated and appointed a Master Mason of lodge Tay & Lyon who was resident in the area designated and gave him authority “to enter apprentices, pass Fellow of Craft, and raise to the sublime degree of Master Mason, as if done by us in our hall here” and further granted to their nominee the power “to make proper choice of two brethren to be Wardens, and an officer, who must all be Master Masons”.
One of these interesting documents dated 18th December 1836 has survived and is in the possession of Lodge Tay & Lyon who kindly granted permission to make a copy of it. It is of particular interest to Aberfeldy Masons as it is obviously the means by which Freemasonry was developed in the Aberfeldy area and which eventually resulted in the founding and erecting of our own Lodge, Lodge Breadalbane Aberfeldy No.657 in the year 1881.
This “Deputation Commission” is made out in favour of their “truly and well beloved Brother JAMES KIPPEN” and his designated place of working as a Lodge was “within the Breadalbane Arms Inn, Aberfeldy”. The names of the Initiates with the appropriate fees were transmitted to the Treasurer at Kenmore, and entered in the Books of Lodge Tay and Lyon “with entitlement to all emoluments agreeable to the Lodge and Society Laws”.
These Lodge Tay and Lyon “Deputation Commission” meetings in Aberfeldy were held in one of the upper rooms of what is now known as Breadalbane Arms Hotel.
As Aberfeldy grew more important as a market town and business centre it attracted more people to the town in different professional and business capacities, and as a number of the new residents were also Freemasons from other Lodges, they made a significant increase in the number of Freemasons already in Aberfeldy. This addition to number of Freemasons in Aberfeldy obviously influenced the founding in 1880 of Breadalbane Royal Arch Chapter No. 181. At the same time many informal meetings were being held among the Freemasons with a view to erecting a Craft Lodge in Aberfeldy. This required of course, that not fewer than seven Master Masons in good standing must apply by Petition to the Grand Lodge of Scotland in Edinburgh, praying to be constituted into a Regular Lodge and to be granted a Charter accordingly.
The Petitioners must also produce a recommendation signed with consent of their Lodges, by the Master and Wardens of at least two Daughter Lodges in the Masonic Province in which it is proposed to erect the new Lodge.
There are seven Master Masons named in the Charter of the Lodge who petitioned Grand Lodge for a Lodge to be erected in Aberfeldy to be called
“Lodge Breadalbane Aberfeldy” namely:-
Bro. Patrick S. Keir R.W.M. Lodge St. John No.14 Dunkeld
Bro. Thomas Butler S.W. Lodge St. John No. 14 Dunkeld
Bro. George Pople J.W. Lodge St. John No. 14 Dunkeld
Bro. James Murray R.W.M. Lodge Operative No. 152 Dunkeld
Bro. John Claey S.W. Lodge Operative No. 152 Dunkeld
Bro Charles Pullar J.W. Lodge Operative No. 152 Dunkeld
Bro. F.P. Carnegie R.W.M. Lodge Perth Royal Arch No. 122 Perth
Bro. John Stephen D.M. also of Lodge Perth Royal Arch No. 122 and a number of other Brethren were petitioners, in addition to the above, though they are not named in the Charter.
There were three Lodges in the Province who sponsored the Petition as follows:-
Lodge St. John No. 14 Dunkeld
Lodge Operative No. 152 Dunkeld
Lodge Perth Royal Arch No. 122 Perth
Lodges No. 14 and No. 152 both of Dunkeld amalgamated in 1935 to become The United Lodge of Dunkeld No. 14.
The Grand Lodge Charter was duly granted and is dated 3rd February 1881, and Lodge Breadalbane Aberfeldy takes its precedence among lodges according to this date.
The first seven Office Bearers of Lodge Breadalbane Aberfeldy are named in its Charter are as follows:-
Master Bro. William Sellar Lodge St. John Operative No. 193 Rothes (Morayshire).
S.W. Bro. James Stewart (Weem) Lodge Tay and Lyon No. 276.
J.W. Bro. James McDonald Lodge Tay and Lyon No. 276.
S.D. Bro. Stewart Cruden Lodge Albert No. 448 Lochee, Dundee.
J.D. Bro. William Gow lodge Tay and Lyon No. 276.
I.G. Bro. James Stewart Lodge Tay and Lyon No. 276.
Tyler Bro. John McDonald Lodge Tay and Lyon No. 276.
As a Lodge must be Consecrated before it can act under its Charter, the Founders lost no time in proceeding with the arrangements for the Consecration of the New Lodge. This was carried out by a Deputation from the Grand Lodge of Scotland headed by its Senior Grand Deacon, Bro. Gavin Campbell, Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane and Holland, Provincial Grand Master of Perthshire East, within the Schoolroom of the old Breadalbane Academy, now known as the Lesser Town Hall, on 19th April 1881.
After the Consecration Ceremony the first Office Bearers who are names in the Charter were installed by the installing Master Bro. Captain J. Crombie, assisted by Bro. Edward Savage of Aberdeen.
Deputations were present from five Lodges:-
Lodge Scone and Perth No. 3 headed by Bro. Chalmers, Master
Lodge St. John Dunkeld No. 14 headed by Bro. D.M. Christie, Master
Lodge Perth Royal Arch No. 122 headed by Bro. Bailie F.P. Carnegie, Master
Lodge St. Andrew, Perth No. 74 headed by Bro. E.L. Paton, Master
Lodge Forfar and Kincardine, Dundee No. 225
After the Installation Ceremony the Third Degree was conferred upon Bro. James Wright, Bro. Duncan McGregor, Bro. Alex. Robertson and Bro. James Menzies.
The Brethren then marched in procession to the Breadalbane Arms Hotel where the Earls of Breadalbane presided at a banquet prepared by Bro. A. Davie. That same evening the first Lodge Annual Assembly was held in the Public School which was very gaily decorated for this important occasion, and was attended by a large company including Lord and Lady Breadalbane, Taymouth Castle, Sir Robert Menzies Bart., Castle Menzies, and Miss Menzies.
THE LODGE MEETING PLACES
Between the foundation of Lodge Breadalbane No. 657 in 1881 and the year 1899 the meetings of the Lodge were held in several different places in Aberfeldy.
Firstly they met in the Breadalbane Arms Hotel, Aberfeldy, and then in Reid’s Temperance Hotel. A house in Bank Street was the next venue for the meetings, though it is not recorded which particular house this was.
The Lodge then moved to a house above the present Library at the Town Hall. This accommodation eventually proved to be unsuitable for Masonic purposes and the Lodge then obtained the lease of the ground floor house in Breadalbane Terrace next to the Palace Hotel from the Hotel owner Charles S. Bain.
The lease was for five years and Bro. John Scott P.M. of Eastertyre and later of Lawers View, Aberfeldy, and who was Master of the Lodge from 1897 to 1899, generously agreed to pay the rent of £13 per annum for the five years.
The Brethren fitted out his house as a Masonic Temple and spent upwards of £40 on furniture, floor coverings, painting and decorating, gas fittings and also regalia boxes etc.
The five-year lease expired at Whitsunday 1904 and the Lodge decided to keep on the lease of the Lodge Room in the meantime and apparently managed to negotiate a reduction in the rent to £8:10/- per annum.
There seems to have been a strong feeling among the Brethren at this time that the temporary nature of their accommodation for the Lodge was most unsatisfactory and that the only solution to the difficulty was to acquire or build a hall of their own. The minute of a meeting in March 1904 seems to reflect this attitude where it is stated that the Lodge Committee were instructed to consider ways and means of raising money to add to their present Building Fund.
The idea of a Masonic Temple of their own gathered momentum during 1904 with the satisfactory result that in the following year on 4th May 1905 the Foundation Stone of the new Masonic Temple was laid on a site in what is now known as Moness Terrace, and such was the speed of the erection of the new building that the Brethren were able to hold their First Regular Meeting in the new Freemasons Hall on 4th October 1905.
THE PRESENT MASONIC TEMPLE
On the 1st February 1905 Bro. G. Dalgleish P.M. moved and Bro. G. Strathearn J.W. seconded that a small committee be appointed to arrange for the possible building of a New Hall, and to make enquiries for a site and the preparing of draft plans along with the probable cost of the building and submit same to a Regular Meeting for approval.
Events moved quickly and the committee approved two sites:-
1. A piece of vacant ground immediately to the south of the feu of P. & J. Haggart in the
new road leading off Dunkeld Street to Athole Building.
2. The piece of ground running parallel with the Laundry in Home Street.
Plans for the two sites were laid out in the Lodge Room for inspection. Plan for site (1) was to cost £470 and plan for site (2) was to cost £440.
On Saturday 18th February 1905 the committee met Bro. Lord Breadalbane on the arrival of the 1.35 train and had a conference with him in the Lodge Room. They adjourned and all went out and examined the two sites and they approved of the site to the south of Messrs. Haggart’s feu, and Lord Breadalbane expressed himself as being very happy and agreeable that they should have it.
After this meeting the Acting Secretary wrote to the Marquis in order to have the conditions of the gift committed in writing.
Lord Breadalbane’s letter in reply is pasted into the Minute Book and is sufficiently interesting and important to be quoted in full here.
D. Anderson Esq., Breadalbane Estate Office
Act. Secretary Kenmore, ABERFELDY, N.B.
Lodge Breadalbane No. 657 21st February 1905.
Dear Mr Anderson,
In reply to your letter of 20th re. site for Lodge Hall, I shall be glad to give a small site, sufficient ground to build the Hall, free of charge, that is to say for a nominal rent, as long as the Hall is used for Masonic purposes. Should it, however, be sold, or turned to any other purpose, then, of course, the ordinary feu duty would be payable. I think the Brethren I met were agreeable to a clause being put in the Charter, that in the event of the Railway being extended so as to necessitate the removal of the Hall, they would be willing to remove on getting another free site, and the full amount that the Hall and laying out of the grounds etc. etc., cost.
Believe me, yours truly
The Committee were then empowered by the Lodge to proceed with the erection of the New Hall, with the proviso that the Contractors to be asked to offer for the work were to be only those contractors operating in the Aberfeldy area.
The Architect’s plans were passed by the Town Council and the Breadalbane Estate Office and the Foundation Stone was laid with due solemnity and in accordance with Masonic usage and declared duly and truly laid on 4th May 1905.
It may be of interest to some to note that in the cavity of Foundation Stone were deposited copies of four different newspapers date 4th May 1905, a Highland Railway Time Table, a Highland Railway List of Furnished Lodgings, Cameron’s Historical Guide to Aberfeldy, the Bye Laws of the Lodge and a List of the Office Bearers and Members on 4th May 1905, a few of the current King Edward VII coins of the Realm and post cards of Aberfeldy.
On 16th August, 1905 the Committee intimated that the Contractors had finished their work and the Lodge agreed that the Provincial Grand Lodge be approached and asked to fix a date for the Opening Ceremony. However, it was not until 2nd December 1905 that the Consecration of the New Masonic Temple was carried through with all due and proper formalities by the Provincial Grand Master Bro. Captain C. Murray Stewart, and the Provincial Grand Chaplain Bro. Rev. John Harrison in the presence of a large number of Brethren of Lodge Breadalbane No. 657 and representatives of neighbouring Lodges. The Provincial Grand Master in his Minute of the Visitation said he was very glad to take the opportunity of putting on record the great pleasure he had in consecrating such a beautiful and useful Masonic Temple and he hoped it would be the scene of many happy meetings of the Brethren, held in true Brotherly Love and Unity and he hoped that Lodge Breadalbane would long continue to flourish and shed around it all the beneficent Fruits of Freemasonry.
On 4th October 1905 the Acting Secretary was instructed to convey to Bro. The Marquis of Breadalbane K.G. the thanks of the Lodge for his generous gift in granting the free site for the new Masonic Temple, to which his Lordship replied.
Another act of generosity worthy of mention was made by Bro. John Scott P.M. Plasterer of Aberfeldy, Master of the Lodge from 1901 to 1902, who offered to put up, at his own expense, the ornamental paneling in Masonic design which is below the east window of the Temple. Finally, the Treasurer on the 4th October 1905 reported to the Lodge that the cost of the building of the new Masonic Temple and the furnishings amounted to £384:19:9d. This announcement concluded the business and the Lodge was closed, after which the Brethren spent an hour in song and sentiment.
Unfortunately, five years after the new Hall was completed the Lodge Committee reported that they had examined the Hall and found that the floor and joisting and some of the linings were seriously affected by dry rot. This was in December 1910 and when the Treasurer had only recently reported a deficit for the year of £40. The elimination of the dry rot and the subsequent renovation were to cost about £80. The Lodge was in trouble but the Brethren rallied round and made a great effort to make arrangements to clear off their debts.
Bro. Robert McLean offered to give the cement and asphalt and also supervise the work free for the clearing of the dry rot. Bro. W.H. Stocks moved that a bazaar be held, which was agreed. Several Brethren made ‘handsome donations’ to the debt clearance fund. The Bazaar was held in the Hall which was ‘tastefully decorated’ by Bro. George Dalgleish P.M. and was opened in August 1911 by the Grand Master Mason of Scotland , Bro. the Marquis of Tullibardine M.V.O., D.S.O., M.P.
It was so well supported by the Craft and the public alike that the Lodge was able to discharge all its debts and carried forward a credit balance at November 1911 of £61.
On 18th January 1956 the Master, Bro. George U. Seaton reported that a committee composed of himself, Bro. James Dewar P.M. and Bro. Charles Roy P.M. had now completed their estimates for the cost of the intended Lodge extension to mark the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Lodge, and which amounted to approximately £200. By the 15th February the Master reported progress in that Provost Haggart’s permission to go ahead had been obtained and now awaited the next sitting of the Dean of Guild Court, which in due course granted the Petition. The extension plans were drawn up by Mr Duncan Douglas, Scone and Bro. A. McKinnon D.M. of Lodge Breadalbane St. Fillans, Killin, gifted a door to the extension committee to help with the good work.
An income to the Extension Fund totaling £262 collected by Bro. J.B. Lowson, Treasurer of the Fund, by way of donations, raffles, collections at harmony and proceeds from dances and the eventual cost of the extension amounted to £261 which seems a very happy way to finance an extension project with a balance of a pound to spare.
The Lodge met on St. Andrews night 30th November 1956 for the Installation of the Officer Bearers and the Dedication and Declaring Open of the new Lodge extension to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Lodge. This was done by a deputation from Provincial Grand Lodge of Breadalbane West, headed by the Provincial Grand Master Bro. Alex. Thomson, supported by
Bro. J.F. Harley I.P.P.G.M. and Bro. Rev. T.R. Gillies, Provincial Senior Grand Chaplain. The Provincial Grand Master took the Chair and called for a brief history of the Lodge which was given by
Bro. W.H. Kirkwood in a lucid and rapid address. Bro. J.F. Donechy, Lodge Chaplain, lead the Prayer of Dedication for the new extension and Bro. Re. John Robertson read the portion from the Volume of the Sacred Law and pronounced the Benediction. The singing of the 2nd Paraphrase concluded the Ceremony of Dedication. The Provincial Grand Master then declared the new extension open. After the Installation the Lodge was closed and the Brethren celebrated the Festival of St. Andrew with a dinner in the Palace Hotel, Aberfeldy.