James Jack was Surveyor of Taxes in Dundee and also took a great interest in the Freemasons, he was born at Drumkilbo, in the Parish of Meigle in 1785 - his father holding the situation of 'land steward' there for many years. James himself was the second son in a large family, and when attending the parish School of Meigle he received a good education. For a time he assisted his father in his duties, but in 1803, owing to a dispute, he left home and walked to Forfar where he encountered a recruiting party of the Forfar and Kincardine Militia, there he enlisted receiving a bounty of £9.
In the regiment he distinguished himself by his attention to drill and duty and due to his previous education in writing and arithmetic at Meigle he was appointed to the orderly room and acted as clerk in several capacities. He was promoted through the non-commissioned ranks and during his whole military career his duties in the office spared him the more arduous duties of the other rank and file soldiers.
In 1808, a number of the soldiers of the Regiment, who were Freemasons, applied to the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a charter of constitution, enabling them to form a military Lodge, with liberty to conduct Masonry in any part of the United Kingdom. The Charter was obtained and the Lodge was constituted in Newcastle-on-Tyne with the title 'Forfar and Kincardine. The Brethren requested 'Sergeant Jack' to join the Lodge, at first he was reluctant to do this but ultimately he was admitted as the first 'Entered apprentice' of the Lodge on the 25th August 1808, two days later on the 27th he was passed and raised.
He became a very enthusiastic Mason, studied the practices and principles of the order, and was appointed, from time to time to various offices in the Lodge. He compiled and framed a judicious code of Laws and established the Benefit Society in the Lodge and 'manifested a warm interest in the welfare of the Order'. In after years he used to relate many amusing anecdotes and incidents in connection with the Lodge which occurred at its numerous destinations in England Ireland and Scotland. When the Regiment was encamped, the meetings were held in a tent, and a strict guard of brethren, armed with muskets and fixed bayonets, surrounded and kept inviolate the canvas Lodge-room.
The Forfar and Kincardine Militia Regiment was disbanded at Montrose in 1816; but the Masonic brethren, being desirous to retain their fraternal union, petitioned the Grand Lodge to endorse the charter, so as to fix the Lodge permanently in Dundee, in which town the greater number took up their residence. This was granted; and the Masonic business and benefit society were continued with good success until, after some years, it became necessary to dissolve the society. The Lodge itself continued with varied success until 1857, when a falling off in the attendance and paucity of recruits rendered it almost dormant. However, about that period, a fresh spirit was imparted, and the Forfar and Kincardine No. 225 subsequently became one of the most thriving and best conducted Lodges in the provinces.
After the disbandment of the Militia regiment, Jack remained for some time in Montrose, having been successful in being attached to the staff of the Militia, and being afterwards appointed Quartermaster of the regiment, with the rank of Lieutenant. During his residence in Montrose, he continued with ardour his duties in the three lodges which were held there. In 1823, he formed a code of rules for the Caledonian Lodge of Free Gardeners, Montrose; in return for which service that society presented him with a handsome regimental regulation sword.
In 1831, Mr Jack was appointed to the important office of Surveyor of Tuxes for Dundee and the district. On his arrival in the town, he resumed his connection with his mother lodge, and he was always a welcome visitor to the sister lodges in Dundee and elsewhere. By his attention, he kept the Union Royal Arch Chapter, No. 6, Dundee, in its place on the roll. This he did by holding a meeting annually in his own house, until Feb. 1855, when an influx of members established its revival.
In consideration of this, and other services, the companions of the chapter, in 1857, presented Brother Jack with his portrait in a rich gilded frame. Mr Jack was very proud of this compliment; and having no near relations to whom it might be handed down, he requested the chapter to accept of it for preservation along with the charter. The portrait was accordingly accepted by the chapter, and now forms a prominent object in Smellie's Hall, Barrack Street, where the chapter and Forfar and Kincardine lodge hold their meetings.
For some years before his death, Mr Jack's memory and energies became somewhat impaired; and lie retired from Ids duties in the Inland Revenue Office with the statutory pension; besides which he enjoyed an allowance as Quarter-master of the Militia. His infirmities continued to increase, and he died on Sunday, Dec. 15, 1801, aged 77 years. On Thursday, Feb. 26th, 1833, a monument to his memory, subscribed for by the Freemasons of Dundee, was formally inaugurated at the Church-yard of Liff, where he was interred.
The monument consists of a square obelisk, standing on three steps, with a pedestal and shaft 13 feet in height, and is ornamented with Masonic emblems and scrolls. It bears an inscription setting forth that it was erected by his Masonic brethren. 'As a respectful record of his worth, and of his eminent services as a brother of the craft, for the long period of fifty-three years.'
To the memory of
©Research by Iain D. McIntosh, 2014
Formed in 1736 theGrand Lodge of Scotland is the governing body for all Freemasonry in Scotland.
Formed in 1861 the Provincial Grand Royal Arch Chapter for Angus and Mearns is the governing body for Royal Arch Masonry in this area.