HISTORY OF LODGE PAISLEY ST MIRRINS’ No 129
The first step towards the ultimate formation of Lodge Paisley St. Mirrins', No. 129, in 1772, came 23 years earlier when a society was set up in the town by masons who wished to help the needy. The organization "The Incorporation of Masons" received its first Charter from Paisley Town Council. The document was an agreement made on May 9, 1749 between the Incorporation and the "Bailies and members of the Town Council."
The civic body ratified and approved the document and agreed to use their authority against "all persons subscribing who shall refuse to obtemper and obey the respective Articles agreed upon." The Council considered the Acts and Articles of the Society to be a "contract reasonable, just, and honorable."
The main aim of the movement was to assist members who were poor and aged and the children of members who required help owing to poverty. They would be brought up and put to a "trade or service." The Society was also avowed to "curbe several abuses in the Trade."
There were seven Masters of Trade as original officers-two being "Key keepers of the Common Chest or Box, one being Collector and one Boxmaster or Keeper of the Box." The latter was the principal officer and equivalent of the Right Worshipful Master of today. There were 14 signatories to the Charter.
The income of the Society was obtained by collecting fees from members. Master Masons had to pay £15 Scots money (£1.25) on entry to the organisation and each quarter they had to pay 35s Scots money (1p) for the poor. The Master Mason was also liable to pay 24s Scots money (10p) for each apprentice who was not a freemason of the Society on entering service and 12s Scots money (5p) for each freemason.
The finances of the Society were also boosted by fines which were imposed, including a 6s Scots money (2½p) payment for failure to attend meetings. Master Masons were not allowed to take into service any apprentice for less than three years under a penalty of £24 Scots money (£2). A "Freedom Fine" of 4s (20p) was also due on entering journeyman at the end of indenture.
A Paisley writer, Alex. Sheoch, was elected to be the first clerk of the Society at a meeting just seven days after the Charter had been signed. Town Officer William Stewart, Jnr. was the Incorporation's officer. At a subsequent meeting three days later on May 19, 1749, entry fees were paid. Most of the signatories to the Charter paid £1.1s sterling although some only paid 15s but were to pay quarterly "compts." At this meeting William Hart was chosen as Boxmaster.
Later the same year it was decided that members were not to trade with non-members under a penalty of 10s (50p) for each 60 long stones and 100 other stones supplied. Also one member must not take over the work of another member without his per¬mission under a penalty of £1 sterling.
The first appointed yearly election of office-bearers was on December 27, 1749, when John Thomson was chosen Boxmaster. On the same day the "Accounts of Charge and Discharge" of Robert Finlayson, Collector, were examined when the "balance due by the said Robert Finlayson to the Society was £14 17s 7d" and he granted his Bill to the next Collector payable on demand.
The first mention of Wardens in the Society records comes in 1760, when the minutes reveal that William Hart was chosen as Boxmaster and James Hendry and James Blackburn as Wardens and Keykeepers.
Towards the end of the 1760s membership of the Society seems to have spread throughout Renfrewshire. A number of entries show new members from Port Glasgow. They were employed in the Clyde shipbuilding industry. Another new member who joined the Society in 1769 was employed as a gabartman. He was Alexander Robertson and operated a river flat long boat, possibly on the River White Cart.
The minute of November 5, 1770, states that the contract entered into by the Town of Paisley and several Societies in Paisley for maintaining the Poorhouse or Hospital, expires at Martinmas and is to be renewed. It was agreed that £2 sterling be paid each year for five years to the Cashier of the Directors. John Russell, Andrew Kerr and Alex. Richmont were nominated to join the Directors of the Poorhouse. It is evident from this that the charitable acts of the Society extended beyond their own members.
Hugh Richmont was elected Boxmaster on December 27, 1770, and in the later stages of his term of office (November 4, 1771) it was decided that new ornaments should be purchased. The minute reads: "Sashes and other ornaments of Trade were greatly worn out, therefore five aprons, ornamented properly with blue satin, and five sashes in blue and certain furnature, etc., be got ready for next St. John's Day."
Trade Unions and Societies were looked on with much suspicion in those mid-eighteenth century days, and in 1799 trade unions as such were made illegal by the Combination Acts of that year. But in spite of this the organisation of Calan (Masters and Workmen) continued, combinations taking the form mainly of Friendly Societies.
Bearing these facts in mind, it is no wonder that the Society of Paisley St. Mirrin sought to obtain a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which was eventually granted on April 1, 1772.
THE FIRST CENTURY AS A SPECULATIVE LODGE
Slow, but steady, progress characterised the early years of the Lodge in its Speculative sphere. In fact, with very few excep¬tions, the history of its first 100 years is largely a chronicle of peaceful growth with but one thought-to help all, whether they be members of the Order or not. And here the danger to the historian is that of boring the reader with a welter of dull facts.
There is no mention of the new Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland granted on April 1, 1772.
PURCHASE OF PROPERTY
Later in the same year the Society purchased a house with ground at the rear to build a Lodge. The building, which was situated in New Street, was bought from Alexander Richmont, who at that time was Boxmaster, for £65 10s sterling. The Society unanimously appointed Alex. Richmont, Hugh Richmont, and William Cunningham to form a committee for planning and managing the house and Lodge.
By December 17, 1773, a total of £43 1s 2d had been handed to the committee for the Lodge and in 1772 the Society first introduced sickness benefits.
The minute of September 17, states: "The Society considering that there is no provision made in their charter for members who have officiated as Masters in said Trade and others who have paid the highest entry money and paid quarterly accounts it was agreed when they were unable to work but able to go about be entitled to 2s sterling weekly and those who were confined to bed the sum of 3s sterling per week and while in such a condition shall be inspected by a surgeon, whose certificate shall be sufficient security."
During the late 1770's the Lodge finances were boosted by the letting of sections of the New Street building.
The first time the designation "Master of the Lodge" appears is in the minutes of the meeting of December 27, 1775, when John Thomson was chosen Boxmaster and Master.
New bye-laws were read and agreed at a meeting on April 2, 1855. They included: Meetings to be held on the first Monday of each month. Annual Election of Managers on the first Monday in December ... money for Initiation, Passing and Raising-£1 12s 6d-must be paid in advance ... candidate, proposer, and seconder must sign book kept for that purposeannual subscription-2s 6d any manager not intending to be present must advise R.W.M. or Secretary in writing.
Other bye-laws agreed were that seven Master Masons can request a special meeting and the requisitionists are bound to attend under a penalty of 6d. The nomination of office-bearers took place on November 3, 1856, when every office-with the exception of junior Steward, Sword Bearer, Tyler, and Inner Guard-were contested by two or three candidates. The election took place on December 1 and Bro. A. Paterson was chosen as Master.
One of the highlights of that year was the Festival of St. John which was held on December 29. A procession of members headed by a band marched through the town and among the guests invited to the dinner was Provost Robert Brown.
The nomination of Office-Bearers took place on November 15, 1858, and most offices were contested by four or five candidates. On December 6, Bro. John Carswell was chosen R.W.M.
DAMAGE TO LODGE FLAGS
During the meeting of November 5, 1860, the Flags of the Lodge were examined and it was agreed that one flag should be replaced and the other repaired. This damage was the result of the flags having been lent to Mr. Peter Coats for the occasion of his daughter's wedding and it was agreed that the Committee should write to Mr. Coats and await results.
The annual St. John's Day procession was an important occasion for the Lodge-and for the R.W.M.'s wife! The Lodge met in the Presbytery House at George Place, where they were joined by members of Lodge Renfrew County Kilwinning, No. 370, on December 27, 1860, for the parade. Headed by the Militia Instrumental Band they walked to the South Church, where the Rev. John McLean, the minister there, preached the sermon.
LAYING OF FOUNDATION STONES
The Lodge took part in a historic ceremony on June 24, 1861, when they were present at the laying of the foundation stone of the Wallace Monument at Stirling. The members left Paisley shortly after 8 a.m. and travelled to Stirling by rail.
They arrived there shortly before noon and were assembled in the Park before being joined by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which had been opened by His Grace the Duke of Athol, the Grand Master for Scotland. The entire gathering marched to the Abbey Craig the site of the stone, which was laid with due Masonic honours.
That year the Lodge was also represented at the laying of another foundation stone. The R.W.M. accepted an invitation from the Rutherglen Lodge to assist in the laying of the foundation stone of a town hall there.
THE SECOND CENTURY AS A SPECULATIVE LODGE
BUSY PERIOD OF ACTIVITIES
The Lodge was conducted efficiently during the early part of the second hundred years and the minute books record a busy period of activities. Representatives of the Lodge attended the ceremony of laying the memorial stone of the new County Buildings by Sir Archd. C. Campbell, Bart., Past Provincial Grand Master, who was later raised to the Peerage as Lord Blythswood. Now 83 years after that ceremony the County Council officials are ready to move to new buildings in the Civic Centre development at Cotton Street in Paisley.
Lord Blythswood who was to have Honorary Life membership of the Lodge conferred, died nineteen years later. A handsome marble Key Stone was gifted to the Lodge by Bro. James Cramb at a meeting on November 17, 1890. The stone to be used during the ceremony of the Mark Degree.
Office-bearers discussed the security of the Lodge minute books-which form the basis of our history-on many occasions during the late 1800's. They were obviously conscious of their responsibility to pass on to future generations the knowledge of the enthusiasm and events which has kept the Lodge in active existence for over 200 years. To preserve the records they purchased a strong metal safe.
PERIOD OF MOURNING
As the Lodge moved into the early 1900's it went into a three months' mourning period from February 4, 1901, following the death of Queen Victoria. One year later the Brethren decided to gift £5 to help dependants following a disaster at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, when part of the stand collapsed. The tragedy occurred during a Scotland-England international. Twenty-five people were killed and 512 injured. 1971 Ibrox was the scene of another disaster in which 66 people lost their lives when a barrier collapsed towards the end of the Rangers-Celtic Scottish League match.
FIRST MEETING IN TOWN HALL
The first investments of the Lodge were made in 1904, when £300 was placed in Paisley Corporation Stock. One year later February 5, 1906-the last meeting was held in the High Street halls, and on the 19th of the same month the Lodge held its first meeting in the South Minor suite of the George A. Clark Town Hall, which has been its home for the past 66 years.
In 1916 members of the Lodge, along with other masons in Renfrewshire, contributed money to provide a motor ambulance to serve in the First World War. The vehicle is reported to have done good work in France' and at a meeting on October 16, 1916, a photograph of the "Renfrewshire Masonic Ambulance Wagon" was on display to the members.
The following year it was learned that Bro. Sgt. J. Jamieson, a well-known member of the Lodge, had been awarded the D.C.M. for conspicuous bravery in France. Another member-Bro. Lieut. E. Gordon R.N.R.-received the Distinguished Service Cross later that year for his part in mine-sweeping operations.
And on Saturday, September 8, 1917, the Lodge did more good War work on the home front when they entertained 100 wounded soldiers from various hospitals in the area. The soldiers were taken on an outing to Largs and later in the evening enter¬tainment was provided in Paisley.
VOLUNTARY LEVY FOR BUILDING FUND
The Lodge decided on March 10, 1919, that halls should be erected for the Lodge activities as a memorial to the Brethren who had fallen in the War. A motion that each member be asked for a voluntary levy of £1 to open a fund was carried unanimously. A large committee was formed to carry this through.
Just after the War years there was a tremendous upsurge in Freemasonry and records show large numbers of candidates being initiated into the Lodge. Within a period of about five weeks from October 6, 1919, 96 candidates were initiated at two meetings and 55 went through the F.C. degree at another meeting.
RECORD NUMBER OF INITIATES
1919 had the largest number of initiates in any one year in the Lodge as far as records show. The number of new initiates was 200. There was an average attendance of 176 at the meetings.
SUPPORT FOR NEW LODGES
The Lodge agreed unanimously to support new Lodges Gleniffer and Craigielea, which were being set up in Paisley. Bro. Thomas K. Powrie, who was Chaplain with 129, asked at a meeting on April 19, 1920, that his resignation from office be accepted. Bro. Powrie was to become the first R.W.M. of Lodge Gleniffer.
The Executive of Lodge 129 agreed to present Lodge Gleniffer with ten guineas to purchase their new Charter.
Sympathetic reference to the Glen Cinema disaster in Paisley was made by the R.W.M. at the meeting on January 6, 1930. Seventy children lost their lives in the incident, which occurred on December 31, 1929.
The cinema was within the old Good Templars Hall, which was situated at Paisley Cross. Smoke got into the auditorium and there was a mass stampede to the exits by the children who were within the building. As far as was known none of the casualties were connected with the Lodge.
The Lodge received one of its most distinguished visitors of all time in 1935, when the Grand Master Mason of Scotland attended a meeting in the Town Hall. A special minute dated Tuesday, October 8, 1935, is reproduced as follows:
"The Lodge Room, George A. Clark Town Hall, Paisley, 8th October, 1935.
The Most Worshipful, The Grand Master Mason of Scotland (Bro. The Right Honourable The Lord Saltoun M.C., J.P.) and the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master of. Renfrewshire East (Bro. Thomas Hart, C.A., J.P.) paid a visit of inspection to the Lodge Room of Lodge Paisley St. Mirrins’, No. 129, within the George A. Clark Town Hall, Paisley, on this date and were received by the Master (Bro. John McPhee) on behalf of the Lodge. This outstanding event in the history of the Lodge is hereby minuted as a record for all time.
Saltoun, Grand Master Mason.
Thomas Hart, P.G.M. Renfrewshire East.
John McPhee, R.W.M.
K. F. Macdougall, Secretary."
PASSING OF DEVOTED BROTHER
In the following year the Lodge lost a devoted member with the death of Bro. Norman M. MacKean, T.D., J.P., who was a Life Member of No. 129 and P.M. of No. 370. His passing was stated by the R.W.M. to be a sad loss in particular to this Lodge and to the Craft in general.
SECOND WORLD WAR
The Second World War brought death and tragedy to Paisley and to Lodge 129. The first siren warning in the town was at 12.15 a.m. on June 26, 1940, and the final one on March 25, 1943. There were 54 warnings in all. The first casualties were on April 7, 1941, when Havelock Terrace in Seedhill Road, was hit by bombs resulting in two deaths. And in the early hours of October 14, 1940, the Halls of the Lodge Prince of Wales, No. 426 Renfrew, was damaged by a bomb.
The war came home dramatically to Lodge members on May 6, 1941. Only a few hours after Bro. James Anderson and Bro. John Bowie, Senior Deacon, had taken part in a Third Degree they were killed when a land mine fell on the First Aid Post at Woodside. The two brethren had hurried to their stations at the post when the sirens sounded at 12.05 a.m., after they had returned from the Lodge meeting. During the night seventeen bombs and two landmines fell.
The Post was destroyed and 54 men, 36 women, and one child were killed. Twelve men, six women, and one child was seriously injured and 38 other people were slightly injured.
Like so many of our Brethren who fell in the two Wars.
Bro. Kenneth Munro was the first of our Brethren to lose his life while on active service. He fell in North Africa.
Bro. J P. Chapman, P.M., Lodge 370, attended a meeting of the Lodge on September 1, 1941, and asked the members to accept a Circular Notice calling a meeting of Lodge 129 on December 27, 1826, stating that it had been given to him by a lawyer friend. The R.W.M. thanked Bro. Chapman for his gift, which, he said, would now represent a link in the history of the Lodge.
An executive committee meeting of August 3, 1942, agreed to send £15 to the Grand Lodge War Distress and War Relief Fund and this was confirmed at the Regular meeting of September 14.
From 1943 to 1947 the Lodge had as Hon. Chaplains, the Rev.
Norman McLean, M.A., the Rev. Alex. C. Macgillvray M.A., and the Rev. Wm. D. S. Stewart, M.A., who joined the two others in 1947. In 1945 it was reported to the Lodge that Bro. Rev. Norman McLean had arrived home in this country again from Germany, where he had been detained in a prisoner of war camp since 1940.
Recording is made of the death of King George VI, Right Worshipful Grand Master Mason. As a token of respect the went into mourning for three months
. Special mention of one of the candidates was made at a regular meeting on May 5, 1958. He was Bro. Charles M. Hutchison our R.W.M. in this Bi-centenary year. A Jamaican by birth he came to make his home permanently in Scotland. His father is also an active Lodge member in the West Indies.
It is pleasing to note that over the years in all the annual visitations from Provincial Grand Lodge, "129" was always highly commended in the working of the Lodge and the efficient way in which the books were kept.
By Brother John L. Pate, P.M.
Past Provincial Grand Secretary of Renfrewshire East
There is really no authentic history of this person. It is believed that he lived somewhere around the fourth or fifth century. Legend is the main source that one can work on. The poet Motherwell, who had given a certain amount of study to his life and work, believed he had come to Scotland, probably from Ireland, to study at St. Andrews. He then went out as a missionary within the Kingdom of Strathclyde. On the other hand the name may have come from Mirinus, one of the Holy Men who brought the sacred relics of the apostle St. Andrew to Scotland.
Much of the missionary work in Scotland sprang from St. Andrews, and it would seem that St. Mirrin was appointed to the West, where in all likelihood he arrived and founded a Church at Paisley. After a good deal of missionary work here he may have passed the latter days of his life impressing the people with his innocence and piety and enlightening the natives with his con-versation. He made converts of some of his followers and erected Chapels at Kilbarchan, Kilmacolm, Kilpeter (Houston), and Kilallan.
There is further legend regarding St. Mirrin, as a confessor in the sixth and seventh centuries, recorded in the Breiciary of Aberdeen printed in 1475 recording some of his travels in Ireland. There is no doubt that the man St. Mirrin has been associated with Paisley for centuries and the old charters of Paisley are proof. By charter, May 21, 1491, Abbot George Schaw conveyed to the Town Council "a house in annual feu and farm for sustaining the lights at the Altar of St. Mirrin."
There was a portion of the Abbey buildings known as the Sounding Aisle, but sometimes referred to as St. Mirrin's Aisle.
The Charter granted by Robert III in 1396 runs as follows:- ¬"To God and the Blessed Virgin Mary, James the Apostle, and St. Mirrin the Confessor."
The fame of Saint Mirrin was not confined to Paisley, and must have carried an enormous influence throughout the West of Scotland.