A Further History - The Third Fifty

Continued from Page 2 . . .

One body who enjoy the use of our premises is The Provincial Grand Lodge of Edinburgh, who since coming into being in 1998 have held all the annual Masters Dinners as well as their Committee meetings at Roseburn Gardens. Our Lodge initially voted against the formation of a Provincial Grand Lodge, preferring to retain The Metropolitan District Committee, which was unique to Edinburgh Lodges. However, once the democratic vote went in favour of a Provincial Grand Lodge, Caledonian has been, and remains, one of it’s most ardent supporters.

Indeed, since the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge, Caledonian has been honoured with the appointment of two Substitute Provincial Grand Masters, Brother David McNeill P.M. who is currently serving under Brother Maurice Wilson, the present Provincial Grand Master, and Bobby Clark who was appointed by Brother Bob Tait, the first Provincial Grand Master. Besides our own Brethren, several others who first saw Masonic Light in 392, now representing other Lodges, have been, and are, prominent in Provincial.

As per Grand Lodge Constitution & Laws each Lodge must have an annual Installation and two Installations since 1959 are worth remembering.

7th January 1987 saw the Installation of Brother Robert McKie. Bob, as we all knew him, hailed from the Dumfries area and from an early age was diagnosed with severe kidney problems which meant he was on a dialysis machine for most of his life. Indeed Bob held the unenviable record of receiving dialysis treatment longer than anyone in the country. However, this did not deter him from becoming, and remaining, an active Freemason, having joined Caley in 1977.

Bob loved Freemasonry and was a superb ritualist, working his way through the offices finally becoming Master Elect in 1986. Shortly before his Installation he broke his leg and was unable to attend the normal date for a Caley Installation which is the first Saturday in December. However his determination being what it was, Bob was duly installed in January, broken leg “et al”.

In 1996 Bob received the good news that a kidney donor had been found and he underwent a transplant operation. Sadly his body rejected the “newcomer” and despite further treatment and sessions on the dialysis machine, he finally lost his fight and passed to the Grand Lodge Above on 12th May 2004.

The other Installation took place in December 1999, the last Installation of the 20th Century.

Our present Secretary, Brother Brian Fairlie, having been elected, had asked Brother David Morrison P.M. and Brother Bobby Clark P.M. to do the needful. As it was the last Installation before the new millennium, we agreed something different was required and decided to involve as many Past Masters of the Lodge, willing to take part. I believe at the time there were, happily, about 30 Past Masters available, most of whom could be contacted and invited to participate. No fewer than 19 accepted and Brother Brian was duly installed by one of the largest Installing Boards ever assembled, certainly in 392 history.

While the Installation these days is held on the first Saturday in December, it wasn’t always the case. It used to be held on the 4th Wednesday in December which often clashed with the Christmas festivities. The last Master to be installed on the 4th Wednesday was Jimmy Abercrombie in 1972. However, in 1973 a notice of motion was tabled to change to the 2nd Wednesday, until it was changed again to what it is now the 1st Saturday.

Over the past 50 years Caledonian’s influence has also spread to other Lodges, with several Brethren becoming founder members or affiliating elsewhere.

Brother John Brash affiliated to Dramatic and Arts No.757, becoming Master on four occasions.

Brother Mike Gordon P.M. to The Lodge of Brotherly Love No.1428 and Master for two years.

Brother Jim Neilson to Meridian 1609 and Holyrood House St Luke No.44 where he occupied the Chair in both Lodges.

Our present Secretary Brother Brian Fairlie P.M. Master of Lodge Meridian No.1609 for three consecutive years and Bobby Clark P.M. a founder member of The Lodge of Light No.1656 and Master thereof twice.

Indeed a rather unique occasion is recorded in the Lodge minute book of 26th November 2003, Bob Mitchell’s “Greetin’ Meeting” when deputations from Dramatic and Arts, Brotherly Love and Lodge of Light headed by their respective Masters, John Brash, Mike Gordon and Bobby Clark, all of whom first saw Masonic Light in Roseburn Gardens, were welcomed.

Of course it works both ways with Bob Mitchell and Russell Imrie affiliating to Caley and attaining the Chair.

These achievements came about from the one common denominator - VISITING! Whilst I do not concur with the adage that visiting is the life blood of Freemasonry, (initiating candidates is surely the life blood), there is no doubt that without visitors many Lodges would be “gie empty.”

Over the years Caledonian has been blessed with it’s fair share of visiting Brethren, many of whom have entertained us regally at the Harmony board. Names roll off easily :-

Willie Greenshields 832; Jock Duncan 223; Bill Tiplady 349; Elliot Henderson 1253; Leslie Watt 937; Davie Cameron 405; John Reid 937; Bobby Thomson CLX; Tom Woolard and John Gibson 151; John Burgess 405 and the unforgettable doyen of them all, Bert Caldwell 937, without whom no Installation or Burns Supper was complete. There were, and still are, many others too numerous to mention, who along with our own talented members, have provided so many happy evenings.

The Harmony Boards of the 50’s and 60’s were dominated by two of our own Past Masters, Stewart Logan, an excellent singer and George Milne, a truly wonderful pianist. However, the one thing any Harmony Board needs is the right man to put it all together, a good Director of Music, and for most of the past 50 years Caley has had the best in Brother Arthur Symington P.M. now 95 years young and still going strong.

Some people are naturals in certain jobs and we have been fortunate to have Arthur as our Director of Music almost continually since the Centenary year. Not many Lodges can boast having the same Brother, and a Past Master to boot, in the same office at both the Centenary and the 150th celebrations, not to mention the 125th year! That’s quite a record of which Arthur is justifiably proud; and it is great to see him, hale and hearty, still enjoying his beloved Craft.

Arthur’s devoted service to his Mother Lodge was duly recognised on 13th February 1974, when he was made a Distinguished Service Member. I’m sure Arthur will remember that occasion well, and also the two other members of the Lodge who were also honoured that night, Brother Alex (Sandy) Foulis P.M. and Brother Jimmy Christie sen., who for many years was the Lodge Bible Bearer, an office which virtually became a tradition in the Christie family when Jimmy jun. and son-in-law, Brother Tom McGravie, followed in Jimmy sen.’s footsteps.

One thing all organisations require to keep them active, and Freemasonry is no different, is FINANCE, more so when, as we do, a Lodge owns it’s own premises.

Apart from the charity / benevolent aspect of The Craft, a Lodge raises funds in various ways. There is the initiation fee (sadly few and far between these days), test fees, the odd donation, raffles and bar profits. Such is the changing habits over the past 50 years we no longer run socials, whist drives or sales of work which were once regularly held to raise funds for the Lodge.

We still held the annual ball but over the years other sources of fund raising gradually took over. The 70s and 80s were dominated by race nights which, although excellent money spinners, did entail a great deal of effort in their organisation. Many a “fortune” was won and lost at the “ Roseburn Track” whilst exciting (and noisy) nights were enjoyed by all.

The 90s saw the introduction of “Wine & Dine” evenings.

This was an idea borrowed from Turnhouse Golf Club, which Brother Brain Fairlie P.M. was keen to introduce to Caley. Ably assisted by Brother Bob Mitchell P.M. and Brian’s good lady, Linda, the evening consisted of a 4/5 course meal, beautifully prepared and served, good wine, a little dancing and the opportunity to mix and enjoy the company of the other diners. Many a Hogmany wine & dine was held, allowing us to welcome in the New Year in a relaxed atmosphere, amongst friends, in the familiar surroundings of the Lodge. Thanks to the efforts of Brian, Linda and Bob, enough funds were raised to enable the complete refurbishment of the kitchen, the purchase of matching crockery, enough for 100 settings, and the renewing of the wall seating in the refectory. However, the dwindling numbers make it more difficult to drum up support for any social function, with the future of the annual ball in doubt.

Since the idea was first floated in 1991, and finally passed in 1993, opening the premises on international rugby match days has also proved a considerable boost to the Lodge income, albeit that it entails a great deal of hard graft on the part of those who, thankfully, volunteer their services.

For some time a succession of Lodge Treasurers have highlighted the need to consider other ways to utilise the main asset of the Lodge; our premises.

Hall lets were required especially since the demise of the Eastern Star and Royal Arch Chapters who were tenants for many years.

In 1999 the Lodge received a request from Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles The Royal Scots No.1253 to be considered as future tenants. This duly came before he General Committee, but despite the warnings of the afore said Treasurers, the request was not granted. When it came to the vote it seemed to be a case of the heart ruling the head in allowing another Lodge to occupy our domain. As one Past Master put it, “I can’t imagine another R.W.M. sitting in Caley’s Chair”.

Honourable sentiments and perhaps understandable, but not very practicable. I plead guilty!

However in 2001, Lodge Meridian No.1609 tabled a similar request and this time sentiment took a back seat, the request was granted, and Meridian duly moved in to become our first tenant Lodge. The idea was now up and running and in 2006 our old friends, Lodge Heart of Midlothian No.832, decided it was time to part company with their premises in Murieston Crescent with Roseburn Gardens an obvious target for resettlement. Despite considering other options, Caley’s near proximity to their old premises was undoubtedly a deciding factor and Hearts became our second tenant Lodge followed by Lodge Edinburgh Castle No.1764 in 2008.

Caley has made every effort to ensure that our tenants are, and remain, happy at Roseburn Gardens.
Whilst it is satisfying to have the three other Lodges with us and using the premises regularly, there is unfortunately a downside to the arrangement . . . The New Licensing Laws . . . Without going into detail here, we all know the problems these laws have created, particularly in finding volunteers to man the bar at Lodge Meetings. The Lodge needs your help . . . Please!

Our Lodge has never been slow to raise funds for the many charitable causes Freemasonry covers and supports. We have a long and honourable record in this respect.

One particular fund raising event of which the Lodge can be justifiably proud to have been involved in, is worth recalling as Brother Bob Mitchell P.M. now does: -

“At a committee meeting early in 2009, it was proposed to hold a special meeting of The Caledonian Lodge No. 392 on Wednesday 30th September 2009. This would give the Lodge the opportunity to invite those Lodges which meet on the same nights as us, whom we rarely get to visit, whilst raising funds for charity. It was also arranged to invite the military Lodges within Edinburgh, plus Lodge St. Clair No. 349.

The main business of the evening was to raise funds for the Mark Wright Project. Brother Mark Wright was a Master Mason of Lodge St. Clair No. 349 and a serving member of the Parachute Regiment. Sadly, Brother Mark lost his life whilst on active service in Afghanistan and was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions, which upheld the highest traditions of the Army and the principles of Freemasonry.

The Mark Wright Project was founded by Mark’s parents, Brother Bob Wright and his wife Jem, in the name of their son, to support service personnel past and present, as well as their families to overcome the physical and mental scars of conflict. The Lodge committee enthusiastically agreed to the proposal, the Right Worshipful Master giving his full support.

On the evening, the Lodge worked a 2nd Degree carried out by the ex-servicemen of the Province of Edinburgh.

Prior to the degree, a eulogy to Brother Mark Wright G.C. was delivered by Brother Bob Mitchell P.M. The Temple was set up for a 2nd Degree with the addition of the altar being decorated with a black cover, acacia leaves, a Parachute Stable Belt and beret. In addition to Bob Mitchell the other Brethren from 392 involved were Alfie Docherty, Arthur Symington P.M. and Willie McLeod P.M. The Brethren from other Lodges represented were Tom Stott R.W.M. No.1267, Bob McKenzie R.W.M. No.1428, Keith Miller I.P.M. No.8 and Brother John Buckham M.M. No.1267. Brother Paul Selwood, who had recently joined Journeymen Masons No. 8, on hearing of the degree volunteered immediately to take part and was the candidate. Brethren with military connections, both past and present, were invited to attend wearing their decorations, and many proudly did.

It has been traditional within the Lodge that on the night of our charity degrees all proceeds raised are given to the nominated charity and this night was no exception. With more than 135 signing the attendance book the collection in the Temple alone raised over £500. When added to the proceeds from the whisky draw, a raffle, the harmony and an auction conducted by the silvered tongued Brother Bob McKenzie, the final total raised was £1653. A magnificent sum!

The Harmony Board fare was “All in stew.” This is traditional military “cuisine” known to everyone who has served in any of the Services, though under a number of different names, all totally unprintable! The Chefs responsible were Brothers Tom Stott and John Buckham, and was served in mess tins much to the delight of the Brethren.

The entertainment, arranged by Brother Bob McKenzie, was a folk band “Houghmagandie” (think about it!), who, although not all of whom are in The Craft, nevertheless volunteered their services to make what was already a successful night into an exceptional one.”
Brother Bob Mitchell P.M.

Many of you reading this will not only remember the night in question but were also present, as I was, and to the more “mature” Brethren it will have brought back fond memories of yesteryear, when attendances of 120 plus upstairs, and a packed harmony downstairs, was Caley’s norm. The place was buzzing! A truly wonderful night and a privilege to have been present.

And what of the rest of our 150th year?

The Lodge had taken the sensible step of setting up an Anniversary Fund, which our then Treasurer Brother Bob Redpath P.M. made sure would be in a very healthy state when 2009 arrived. Ties and jewels were ordered, which not only our own members purchased, but also many visiting Brethren. A great deal of spade work had been carried out, particularly by Brother Ronnie Moyes P.M. who was the then Lodge Secretary. The Lodge owes both these Brethren and Brother Bob Mitchell, our R.W.M. in 2008, a sincere vote of thanks for all their hard work in the build up to 2009.

Brother Robert Brown P.M. (that’s Rab to you and I) who had occupied the Chair from 1995 / 97 was elected as the Right Worshipful Master for the 150th year and was duly installed on 6th December 2008 by Brother Robert Clark P.M. and Brother David McNeill P.M.

The Burns supper followed in January as usual and the Lodge business carried on normally until the first of the special events. This was the Rededication Service followed by the Anniversary Dinner on Saturday 2nd May 2009, exactly 150 years to the day our Charter was granted . . . 2nd May 1859.

The Lodge’s sincere thanks are extended to Brother The Rev. Ray Williamson P.M. 1712 who, along with Brother Davie McNeill P.M., organised a most impressive ceremony which was well received by all privileged to be there.

The Meeting was followed by the Dinner where the usual toasts associated with an anniversary were honoured, the highlight being the toast to The Caledonian Lodge No.392 delivered quite splendidly by Brother Ian Brown P.M. Right Worshipful Master of The Lodge of Light No.1656.

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