Provincial Grand Lodge

Founded 1998


The Provincial Grand Lodge of Edinburgh was Consecrated and Erected on Saturday, 17th October 1998 in Freemasons' Hall, Edinburgh. That date saw the last possible occasion of the founding of a new Provincial Grand Lodge, as Edinburgh is the last area of Scotland in which a Province could be established. Below is a report of the Consecration and Erection.

Many new organisations slide imperceptibly on to the scene virtually unnoticed; some have a more ostentatious birth, perhaps coupled with the muted sound of a fanfare; there can be few fledgling bodies who have exploded into action with the sound of smoke alarms followed by the deafening approach of the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade!

This was to be the unusual and somewhat bizarre welcome of the Brethren of Edinburgh to their new Provincial Grand Lodge. For the record, the Erection and Consecration Ceremony had been carried out with dignity, decorum and diligence. The Installation of the first Provincial Grand Master of Edinburgh, Brother the Provincial Grand Master informed the Brethren that due to the installation of smoke alarms in Freemasons' Hall, it was not permissible to smoke in the lower part of the building. In retrospect, this could have been construed as 'tempting fate'. Brother Tait informed the Brethren that it would be deeply embarrassing to receive some four fire-tenders, each with at least five firemen on board, when we had no spare seats at dinner!

Having reached the 'Toast List' without any major catastrophe, the members of the Steering Committee of the new Province were beginning to relax, to look back on a job well done and to allow themselves a certain smug self‑righteousness, when suddenly the most appalling noise of these wretched smoke‑alarms invaded their eardrums. What caused such a furore?

The Substitute Provincial Grand Master, one Brother J. Martin Jackson by name, and Irish by birth, was launching himself in to the 'Toast to The City of Edinburgh'. He was drawing the distinction between the many Masons present and our Lord Provost. He stated that we were all proud wearers of the emerald green and whilst the Provost had not had that privilege, it appeared that there was substantial evidence to confirm The Right Honourable Eric Milligan's predilection to the colour green, he having arranged to have most of Edinburgh's roads painted that colour. (Edinburgh has recently introduced a 'Greenways Traffic Management Scheme')

The proposer of the Toast then went on to say that by colouring the roads it made the journey to Easter Road the more pleasant for those supporters of Hibernian Football Club. Knowing that the Lord Provost's allegiance is to a football team at the other side of the city, it seemed that the potent mix of partisan football loyalties had created a chemical reaction well beyond the tolerance of the new smoke alarm system.

The startled residents of the city must have been enthralled to see more than 300 diners disgorging from Freemasons' Hall to await the arrival of the four ear piercing fire tenders. On their arrival the firemen received encouragement from some of the Brethren. They were heard to say 'You'll never get in there, you don't have the right knock', or 'if you dinnae ken the password they'll no' speak to ye.' Fortunately this was neither a deterrent nor a problem for the redoubtable firemen of Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade. They merely pushed forward their Leading Fireman, Brother Andrew Paterson, Provincial Grand Chaplain of the Province of Fife and Kinross, who gave all the convincing proofs necessary.

Fortunately what had been a 'false alarm' was soon over and the Brethren returned to enjoy the rest of the evening. Brother J. Martin Jackson informed the Brethren that Civic and Masonic duties in Edinburgh were no strangers. Four serving Lord Provosts had combined their Civic duties with the onerous task of Grand Master Mason and by so doing gave no offence to either, but much support to both. Whilst it had often been stated that Freemasons looked after themselves, they had always been a force for good in supporting the community at large. In this connection a cheque valued £1,000 was presented to the Lord Provost to be donated to a charity of his choice. There being no further interruptions the Brethren honoured the Toast to 'The City of Edinburgh'.

In his reply, The Right Honourable Eric Milligan, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, said that he was particularly pleased to be present at this most historic day for the Freemasons of Edinburgh. He paid special tribute to one of his predecessors as Lord Provost, Brother George Drummond, who had been installed as Grand Master Mason in 1752 and was generally regaled as the visionary of Edinburgh, as he had been responsible for the design and creation of the New Town. The Lord Provost subsequently confirmed that he would donate the Charity cheque to Marie Curie Cancer Care'.

In his rousing Toast to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Edinburgh, Brother Dr. Ian H. Thomson welcomed the opportunity to express the very best wishes of all Freemasons to the new Province and to wish it every possible success. He was aware of the considerable work which had already been accomplished by the Steering Committee and trusted that if this was the result of their first efforts, then the Lodges within the Province could be justifiably proud of their sound leadership.

In his reply to the Toast, the Provincial Grand Master, Brother Robert S. Tait, said that he looked forward to working with the Lodges and Brethren of the Craft in Edinburgh. As we would confront many new situations he was aware that many decisions required to be taken as the Craft moved towards the Millennium. The Provincial Grand Lodge would endeavour to be a potent force for good within the Community and in order to encourage more openness it was emphasised that all 'Masonic submarines are now decommissioned and we must come up to the surface. The Provincial Grand Lodge will embrace the opportunities afforded to us as Freemasons to assist others. This we will accomplish by increasing the perception of the truest tenets of Freemasonry and by re‑establishing its importance in the fabric of Scottish life'.

The final Toasts having been honoured, the Brethren joined in singing 'Auld Lang Syne' followed by the National Anthem. A most happy day had been spent by all who were privileged to attend the 'launch' of the newest Province. We all wish the very best of good fortune to our Brethren in Edinburgh.

This article is reproduced from the Ashlar Magazine, issue 6, January 1999, to which due acknowledgement is made.

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