Lodge St Machar Woodside No:319
From Conception to the Post-War years….
On the 6th February 1826, Lodge St Machar Woodside received it’s Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Its number on the roll being 319. As was common with the great number of masonic lodges at the time they met in the local tavern known as “The Haudagain Inn” at the western end of Woodside.
The lodges that sponsored St Machar were:
“St Luke” Gilcomston No: 189 – Which went defunct a few years later.
St George No: 190 – Happily still a very active member of the craft.
Owing to the severe industrial depression which hit the village not long after the lodge was started it went dormant about 1834. Unfortunately little is known about the early lodge as no minute book or regalia can be found despite every effort made to trace them.
When more prosperous times returned to the village a meeting of the Freemasons in the districts was called on the 13th May 1879, in the Burgh Hall to consider the advisability of resuscitating the lodge. Bro. John Crombie, a past master of St Andrews No: 110 and also of St Machar No: 54 was called to the chair. He read a letter he had received from D. Murray Lyon, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, dealing with the terms the lodge could be re-established and stated the arrears amounted to £16, but he would recommend the Grand Lodge to accept £8 in full settlement. Bro. Crombie then told the meeting there was no possibility of getting the old charter and as a new one would cost £10 10/-, suggested that an extract on vellum could be had at a cost of £1 11/6. A committee was appointed to find a suitable place to hold meetings. John Murray who was later destined to be the first master wrote the first minute.
The next meeting was held in the Burgh Hall on the 27th May, 1879, when John Murray was appointed chairman. The committee recommended Mr. Hendry’s Hall in Bridge Street, Woodside as the most suitable place to hold meetings if the shutters were fixed to the outside of the windows, and if that was not suitable movable ones to be put on the inside. Mr. Hendry would pay for the outside ones and the brethren for the inside ones. the rent of the hall including fire and light for eight months being £3. The attendance at this meeting was very small and it was felt it was perhaps not advisable to resuscitate the lodge after discussion it was left to the committee to visit the Freemasons living in the district and if necessary to call another meeting.
On the 3rd June 1879, the brethren again met in the Burgh Hall, John Murray was appointed Interim Secretary. On a show of hands it was unanimously carried to resuscitate the lodge and any brother who was out-of-pocket as a result of these meeting would be paid from the funds as soon as affiliation fees were obtained. Bro. John Crombie was instructed to communicate with Grand Lodge to ascertain the lowest amount they would accept in claim for arrears.
Another meeting was held in the Burgh Hall on the 17th June, 1879, John Murray being in the chair. It was proposed and carried that the sum of five shillings be the amount the affiliation fee and John Masson was appointed Interim Treasurer. The committee was appointed and instructed to have the shutters ready for the first meeting.
On the 19th September , 1879, the first meeting took place in the Bridge Street Hall, better known locally as the Temperance Hall or Hendry’s Hall. The Aberdeen City Provincial Grand Lodge (Dr. Robert Beverage, P.G.M) met and opened the lodge in due form. The Provincial Grand Master stated the meeting had been called for the purpose of resuscitating St. Machar No. 319 and called for the necessary papers and authority from the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The following were then produced:-
- Copy of the Charter.
- Receipt of fees exigible by G.L.
- Petition of the three surviving members of the original Lodge of St. Machar.
- The Annual Certificate.
The R.W.P.G Master then asked if the three surviving members were present and none being present Lodge St. Machar (Woodside) No.319 duly opened and then invited the petitioners to come forward and take the affiliation obligation.
The following brethren then came forward:-
- One Brother from Lodge St. Machar No.54
- One Brother from Lodge St. Andrew No.110
- One Brother from Lodge St. George No.190
- One Brother from Lodge St. Anthony No.154
- Eight Brothers from Lodge Neptune No.375
- Eleven Brothers from Lodge St. Nicholas No.93
John Murray who became the first master belonged to Lodge St. Nicholas No.93 and Robert Bruce who succeeded him belonged to Lodge Neptune No.375. The office-bearers were then elected when John Murray, draper, 115 Hadden Street, Woodside, was called to the chair. The installation of the office-bearers was deferred. It was then proposed and seconded that Alexander Massie Hendry be admitted a member of the lodge. The R.W.P.G Master declared it competent to vote on Mr. Hendry’s admission on the present occasion. He was then admitted and received his first degree from the Provincial. Grand Lodge, Bro. Crombie giving him the lecture on the Tracing Board. The R.W.P.G.M. hoped the lodge would equal, if not surpass the first lodge, and hoped the history of the first lodge would be written up as long as some of its members were still alive, unfortunately this was never done. John Souper was elected the first secretary and John Masson the first treasurer.
The next meeting was held on the 22nd October, 1879, when Provincial Grand Lodge again attended and the office-bearers were installed into office and Bro. Hendry received his second degree. He received his third degree on the 14th November. The bust of Bro. Hendry who was the first initiate of the new lodge can be seen in our temple.
The first St. John’s Festival was held on the 20th December, 1879, at 2pm when the brethren met to elect the new office-bearers, John Murray being re-elected as R.W.M. The brethren then met at 8pm the same evening to hold a cake and wine banquet when deputations from many lodges were present.
At the meeting on the 14th January, 1880, it was decided to hold a concert in aid of the Tay Bridge Disaster Fund, another proposal was to raise the affiliation fees from 5/- to 10/6. On the 8th May, 1880, John Murray intimated that for business reasons he was unable to continue as R.W.M. Bro. John Crombie was appointed to carry on as R.W.M. until St. John’s Day. On the 27th December, 1880, Bro. Robert Bruce was elected R.W.M. Bro. Hendry was appointed Tyler at a fee of one guinea. There is a touch Aberdeen canniness in the minutes of 20th April, 1881, when the secretary was instructed to write to the treasurer of the Tay Bridge Disaster Fund and take notice to pay back our subscription as they had known subscribers receiving back their money because of the fund being over scribed. the money was subsequently paid back on the 2nd November.
On the occasion of the opening of the Sir John Anderson Library in Clifton road on Saturday. 13th August, 1881, the brethren took part in a grand procession when the village had a gala day. Triumphant arches of flags and flowers were placed at different points in the village. The brethren were asked to participate at the special request of the Burgh Commissioners. The rent at the hall at this time, including fire and light was £4 for twelve months, while the Benevolent Fund stood at £6. It was resolved on the 13th January, 1886, to get tools to work the Mark Degree, which was worked for the first time the 20th November, 1885, when Bro. Hendry was the sole candidate for this degree. The salaries of the officials on 27th December, 1886, were:
- Secretary £2 10/-
- Treasurer £2
- Tyler £1 10/-
There was no musical service in the degrees at this time. On the occasion of the Provincial Grand Lodge visitation on the 3rd May, 1893, the lodge was asked if better anteroom accommodation could not be found. The preparation from for the candidate was a small closet that had only enough room for two. After being prepared for their degree they had to climb a trap stair to the lodge room above so members can understand the difficulties candidates had to undergo at this time. It was not until 18th December, 1900, that Bro Andrew Donald gave the motion that a committee be formed to see about the advisability of acquiring a hall or ground for a building to be used solely as masonic institution. The brethren responded quickly to Bro. Donald’s appeal. The first meeting of the committee appointed by the lodge took place on the 30th December, 1900, in Bro. Wilkie’s office which was situated at the foot of Anderson Road. The brethren present at this meeting were:
- R.W.M Bro. John Duguid
- Bro. A.Donald
- Bro. John D. Farquhar
- Bro. Alex. Vincent Martin
- Bro. A. Wilkie
- Bro. Alex Beattie
Bro. Alex. Wilkie who was appointed convener the committee, said the first consideration was to raise money to get the building started and if the £300 could be raised the remainder could be borrowed as he felt £600 would be the probable cost. this would include an upstairs hall and shops below.
The best means visualised by the committee was to hold a subscription sale as this would be the best means of reaching our many brethren abroad and, of the brethren of the lodge would take a deep interest in the matter, they could help by presenting prizes. At the next meeting of the committee it was decided to order 400 books of 50 tickets to be sold at sixpence each and the first prize would be a bicycle valued at 12 guineas. it was also decided to approach the lodge and get them to write to Provincial Grand Lodge to rescind the levy imposed on every initiate of our lodge as the money derived from this source was entirely to clearing the debt of the Masonic Hall in Exchange Street, which St. Machar No.319 had but little interest in. They were also informed there was property for sale in Great Northern Road that might be suitable. A letter was then read informing them that the rent of the Bridge Hall, where the lodge met, was to be increased from £4 to £8. The committee at once decided to visit the Burgh Hall to see if it was suitable to hold our meetings. Bro. John Duguid, R.W.M., reported at the next meeting that the Burgh Hall was suitable and had received an offer of £12 per annum and that the Royal Arch would pay £4 towards the rent. A consecration service was performed on the 29th October, 1901, by the Aberdeen City Provincial Grand Lodge, Bro. A. Wilson being Provincial Grand Master. The meetings of the lodge were held there until the hall was opened in 1904. But to revert back to the committee who held a meeting in October, 1901, when the secretary reported that the sale of subscription tickets was£59 13/6 and donations £18 8/-, but the draw for prizes would be postponed as a great number of books had not been returned. Bro. James McKenzie who had a shop in Woodside said he would display all the prizes in his window. The dry for the prizes took place in the Burgh Hall at the close of a meeting on 3rd December, 1901. The total salesroom the tickets was £85 15/-. It was reported that a vacant piece of ground in Bank Street, Woodside, could be feted but it was felt it was not suitable. At the meeting on 22nd August, 1902, the committee reported in favour of a piece of ground in the south side of Western Road. The feu duty being 2/- per foot frontage and was meantime occupied by a market gardener. it was felt that this was just the piece required and that no time should be lost in acquiring the ground and the Provincial Grand Master Bro. Wilson be appointed our legal adviser which was agreed to. It was also agreed to recommend to the lodge that the initiation fees should be increased by 2/6 to help the funds and an endeavour to be made by every brother to raise or collect £2 in the course of a year.
On the 14th October, 1902, the committee had a rough sketch plan submitted to them by Bro. George Forbes of Operative Lodge which was generally approved, the estimated cost of the building being £800. Bro. Wilson was given instructions to secure possession of the ground, the first rent to be paid at Whitsunday, 1904. To augment the funds a concert was held the Burgh Hall on 26th February, 1903, which raised £14 14/- The committee having applied for forty feet of ground were informed by Bro. Wilson that to make a satisfactory feu they would be required to take the whole fifty-nine feet. Bro. Wilson was informed by the committee they were not prepared to do this, but if they could get the fifty-nine feet for the price of forty feet they would accept, this was later agreed to by all parties concerned. As the legal preliminaries were now settled for acquiring the feu, the lodge was now anxious to get the building commenced as soon as possible.
To raise the money the brethren decided to hold a two-day bazaar in the Burgh Hall and to help this project a special meeting of the ladies of the brethren who were interested was called, which resulted in a splendid response. they formed themselves into a committee and made full arrangement for the different stalls.
The bazaar was opened on Friday, 18th September, 1903, by Bro. A. Wilson, Provincial Grand Master, and on Saturday, 19th September, by Jas. Murray Esq., of Glenburnie park. A list of the stalls were: fancy work; plain work; knitting; dairy; flower; art; sweets; refreshment; workmanship stall; shooting gallery, etc. A sandwich board man paraded the streets advertising the bazaar. Miss Shand, who was a teacher at Woodside School and a sister of the Chaplain Bro. A. M. Shand, M.A., was convener. The bazaar was a great success, the sum raised of £302 being drawn in.
The treasurer reported to the lodge that the sum now available for building purposes was £650. Two sets of plans were submitted to the committee in February, 1904, one from Bro. Christie and the other from Bro. Geo. Forbes and Bro. Jas. Milne who had joined together to draw up their plans.
Bro. Christie’s plan was adopted at a price of £668. Bro. Wilkie pointed out that only the best material would have to be used and the linings must be pitch pine instead of Whitewood. Bro. Shirras was appointed contractor and Bro. J. Milne inspector of works. Now that the building of the hall had been settled the next question confronting the committee was that of new furniture. After discussion a contract was drawn up by Mr John Rennie of 76 Woolmanhill, to supply three armchairs, three pedestals , three candlesticks with brass capitals, treasure and secretary’s table and a large pine table for the sum of £35. The work to be done in fumigated oak. It was recommended that two Lucas lights be erected and three gas stoves for heating. Bro. Brown was appointed painter. In August it was decided to purchase 17 forms from the Free Church at a cost of £4 15/- and Bro. Catto supplied twelve chairs at 6/- each. Bro Wilkie received an offer of a carpet at £4 17/6 which was accepted. As the building was nearer completion it was left to Bro. Wilkie and Bro. Andrew Donald to make arrangements with the Provincial Grand Master Bro. Wilson for the consecration ceremony. The total cost of the hall with every item of outlay was £781 15/-.
On Wednesday, 28th September, 1904, Provincial Grand Lodge performed the ceremony of consecration, the hall being packed to capacity. P.G.M Bro. Wilson expressed his admiration for the beauty of the new Temple and congratulated the lodge on having accomplished it. A cake and wine banquet then followed in the Burgh Hall, over 140 brethren being present.
The first meeting in the new temple was held on the 11th October, 1904, Bro. Andrew Donald being R.W. Master. The first degree was worked. It was decided by the lodge to invite the ladies and brethren of the bazaar committee, who had done so much work for its success, to a reception in the hall on Friday, 21st October, 1904, as a fitting conclusion to the hard work and planning that had crowned their labours with success.
As the membership of the lodge continued to grow it was resolved in 1914 to enlarge the hall by 16 feet, Bro. Jas. C. Selfie being R.W.M. In later years a new lighting system was installed to give beauty and dignity to the hall and in 1952 a new heating system was added for the comfort of the brethren, Bro. Albert Hay, P.M., doing the bulk of the planning to see this scheme being carried into effect. Despite the shaking the hall got from enemy bombs in World War 2 when part of the plaster fell from the roof, our temple stood firm as a monument to the hard work and enthusiasm of its brethren who had the interests of Freemasonry and their Mother Lodge St. Machar, Woodside, No.319 so dear to their hearts. From these early struggles the lodge has gone from strength to strength until at the present time during which times the roll of Brethren achieved numbers as high as over 1500 Brethren. With the lodge becoming one of the most highly esteemed in the Aberdeen City Province.