The History of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Forfarshire from 1747 to 1901

By Iain D. McIntosh, Past Substitute Provincial Grand Master.

Part 1 - The Early Days of the Province 1747 - 1797


To find our ‘roots’ it is necessary to look before 1747 and research into the early history of Grand Lodge to look at the decisions of the members and leaders of Grand Lodge during that time.
We examine the concepts of, and the appointment of Provincial Grand Masters, the establishment of the Provinces and in the early years of the 19th Century, the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge as an entity and Lodge in itself.


The First Provincial Grand Master in Scotland appointed.
It was during the term of John, the third Earl of Kintore who reigned as Grand Master from 1738 to1739, when on December 27, 1738 he made a Grand Visitation to the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), and a new office, that of Provincial Grand Master was established.
On February 7, 1739 he appointed Alexander Drummond, Master of Lodge “Greenock Kilwinning,” to the supervision of the “West Country Lodges.”
Two months later on April 20th it is reported, that Drummond made a visit to “St John’s Old Kilwinn­ing Lodge,” at Inverness, and in the minutes of that body he is described as “The Provincial Grand Master for Scotland,” and on being “entreated,” took the chair, and “lectured the brethren for their instruction.”
On November 30, 1739, his Commission was renewed, and Drummond styled therein as “ Provincial Grand Master of the several Lodges in the Western Shires of Scotland,” again he was appointed in the same terms from the years 1740 to 1742.


Drummond's remit was Provincial Grand Master over the Lodges in the Counties of Argyll, Clydesdale, Dumbarton, Renfrew and Stirling. On the day of his appointment the number was increased by two, when the Lodges of Maybole and Dumbarton paid for their Charters or Patents of Confirmation.
 At the installation of the Grand Master in November 1739, Grand Lodge then decided whereas there is already appointed a Provincial Grand Master for inspecting and visiting the Masonic Lodges in the Western Counties in Scotland, there ought to be another two proper Brethren named as Provincial Grand Masters for visiting the Lodges in the North and South Counties.
A committee was, therefore formed of the two Grand Wardens, George & Alexander Drummond, and five others, and given powers.


 On the 6th February 1745 the second Provincial Grand Master to be appointed in Scotland was Brother John Callander of Craigforth Esq., and he later became the Provincial Grand Master of that district for the Lodge of Stirling and other Lodges in that County, with ordinary powers.
 Then on the 7th August 1745, Brother Alexander Melville of Balgarbie, the then Master of the Mason Lodge of Falkland, desired a commission to be Provincial Grand Master of the Lodges within the County of Fifeshire, which was granted, and agreed to accordingly. Therefore he became the third Provincial Grand Master appointed in Scotland.

 When Grand Lodge met on 5th August 1747, they seriously considered the position of the Lodges throughout the “Kingdom”, those who acknowledged Grand Lodge, at that time and who had taken Charters from Grand Lodge, but due to the difficulties of travelling and the distances involved had never attended Grand Lodge meetings.
The problem was that they had not recorded their new members or paid their quotas for the subscriptions being levied for the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, nor had they appointed their Proxies.
It was therefore proposed that the Lodges throughout the Kingdom should be classed into districts or divisions, and some particular appointed person within each district or division enjoined to advise the members of the Lodges of their responsibilities to Grand Lodge, to send to Grand Lodge the Rolls of old and new members and to pay the common dues for such.


 A Committee was appointed to meet and to decide on this issue. They reported to the Quarterly Communication on the 30th November 1747, when the Grand Lodge announced the various groupings of the Lodges, under the various nominated brethren to act for and to represent Grand Lodge in those parts of Scotland.
For us in Forfarshire there is mention in this list of the two brethren who appear on the top of our P.G. Masters’ list - either of whom being the possible first Provincial Grand Master.
The minute details the grouping of the Lodges and their respective designated authorised Brethren or ‘Collectors’ as they were then called. The one, which concerns us in Forfarshire, is the following entry in the minutes: - 

Robert Thomson or John Cumming

“By Professor Robert Thomson, or John Cumming. - The Lodges of Montrose, Bervie, The Operative Lodge of Dundee, The Ancient Lodge of Dundee and Aberdeen.”

According to an address given, in Dundee, by D. Murray Lyon the Grand Secretary in 1901 the Province was at that time titled the Province of Forfar, Angus and Aberdeen.
These brethren were not appointed nor were they specifically commissioned as Provincial Grand Masters: they were just given powers, by Grand Lodge to collect the fees, get the Lodges to renew their proxies on Grand Lodge and report their Rolls to Grand Lodge.

In other words they only acted as representatives from and with the authority of Grand Lodge.
Therefore these two brethren, strictly speaking, cannot be thought of as early Provincial Grand Masters of our Province of Forfarshire.
As yet I have no information regarding the activities or any visits that these Brethren performed in the course of their duties.

John Cumming?

However regarding John Cumming. There is mention in the historical notes of Lodge Montrose Kilwinning No. 15 of a John Cumming, who is named as being the Right Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge entitled Montrose Kilwinning for the year 1745.
Montrose was held by the Jacobite Forces from September 1745 to Feb 1746 and was the main port for bringing in supplies from France.
In his excellent history of “The ‘45” author Christopher Duffy mentions an incident, which happened in Montrose during November 1745 when a Royal Navy ship the ‘Hazard’ entered Montrose harbour and the captain installs a certain Excise Supervisor by the name of Cumming as a sort of government administrator of the town.
A company of Lord Ogilvie’s regiment rushed from Brechin to Montrose to counter this action and along with troops of the French Royal Ecossais (Scots) and cannons, which had just landed from a French ship south of Ferryden, bombarded the ship and succeeded in forcing the captain and crew of Royal Navy ship to surrender. The ‘puppet’ administrator ‘Cumming’ and his supporters were then promptly jailed by the Jacobite troops.
It is interesting to note, that David Dobson names an excise supervisor, by the name of John Cumming, in his list of ‘The Jacobites of Angus’. He indicates that he was imprisoned in Montrose in 1746. Christopher Duffy mentions that, when Montrose was re-possessed the government troops drew up lists of informants and that ‘Cumming’ was on both lists because ‘thou’ a rogue, he may yet be useful’
Could this be the same John Cumming who is named by Grand Lodge in 1747 as the ‘collector’ for our area? It is possible, who better than an excise man to collect fees on behalf of Grand Lodge.
In February 1756 Brother Charles Hamilton Gordon, Esq., Past Grand Master, made a motion at the quarterly communication – That in order to have the affairs of the Grand Lodge put upon a better footing, it would be proper and necessary that Provincial Grand Masters should be appointed to visit the several distant Lodges, examine the books and to report back to Grand Lodge various particulars regarding the Lodges in their districts, i.e. Names of the Master & office bearers, dates and times of meetings, number of members, the state of their funds, the dues to be remitted to Grand Lodge, to get Lodges to nominate Proxies to represent the Lodge at Grand Lodge meetings and to report back to Grand Lodge on the state of the Lodges in general.
The Grand Lodge at that meeting also resolved, That the following persons be named Provincial Grand Masters for executing the different matters contained in the above motion… Amongst the list was the name of: -

Mr. David Dalrymple, Advocate
To the Lodges of: Peterhead, Aberdeen, St Machar’s Aberdeen, Bervie, Montrose, Glasgow Montrose (sic), Ancient Lodge of Dundee and the Operative Lodge of Dundee. (Strangely there is no mention of Arbroath or Brechin)
The beginnings of our Province
 The one and only reference recorded regarding the appointment of a actual, ‘designated’ Provincial Grand Master to our part of Scotland, is that of David Dalrymple, Advocate, to the area covering Dundee and the shires of Angus, Kincardine and Aberdeen.
However as far as this brother is concerned, at this time, no other documentary information has been found about his activities and relationships with the Lodges under his jurisdiction from this appointment in 1756 up until 1797 the year when the next name appears on the Provincial Grand Masters list, that of George Paterson.
What David Dalrymple did, where he went, what influence he had, whether he performed the functions of his office, I don’t know. The Minute Books of Lodge St. Peter No. 120 in Montrose, which go back to 1769, certainly make no mention at all of any contact, dealings or correspondence with this brother. David Dalrymple - Later Lord Westhall became Grand Master between1774 – 1776? 


In August 1758 Grand Lodge was of the opinion that several Provincial Grand Masters should be written to, entreating them to report by the November Quarterly Communication on the state of returns from the Lodges. It therefore seems obvious that some of the Provincial Grand Masters are not fulfilling their duties and that the Lodges are forever slow in sending in their dues. The Provincial Grand Masters were advised they should accept the most easy composition from the Lodges in Arrears.
There were threats that those Lodges who had not paid by the November Quarterly should be immediately struck off at the August Meeting in 1764.
There is no further mention of Provincial Grand Masters in Grand Lodge Minutes until May 1784, when a certain Brother Brown moved that the number of Provincial Grand Masters should be increased. No details are given and con­sideration was delayed until a future Quarterly Communication.
In September 1792, the Substitute Grand Master was given the task at the earliest opportunity to find out proper persons to fill the offices of Provincial Grand Master where it may be thought expedient throughout the different Districts of Scotland to place them. Whether he investigated the possible Provincial Grand Masters or Districts is not known. There is certainly no report minuted.


However five years later on the 25th January 1797, (The same year as the Battle of Camperdown – 11th October) the four Dundee Lodges, - Operative, Ancient, St. David, and, Thistle Operative – met in the Lodge room of Thistle Operative and drew up a petition to Grand Lodge for the appointment of a Provincial Grand Master to the Dundee District, which also was intended to cover the county of Angus and also the Mearns.  
Extract from the Minutes of Lodge Ancient No. 49 of 25th January 1797 records - That the Grand Lodge had proposed to appoint three Provincial Grand Masters for the North of Scotland, viz. One at Inverness, one at Aberdeen, and one at Perth. A copy of two petitions being produced, read and considered and in order to petition the Grand Lodge that a Provincial Grand Master might be nominated for Dundee as being a proper situation considering so many Lodges in the said town and vicinity, the meeting agreed to the second petition produced in conjunction with the other Lodges. The thanks of the meeting was also given to Brother William Marshall of the Operative Lodge for his diligence in bringing over & communicating the above intention of the Grand Lodge, to this place.


Extract of the Minutes of Lodge Ancient of 22nd February 1797 - At this meeting the Right Worshipful (Master) reported that the petition to the Grand Lodge, mentioning a former meeting 25th January last, had been properly draw up, signed by the Masters of the four Lodges in Dundee and transmitted, which was graciously received by the Grand Lodge, the prayer thereof granted, and he produced their answer the tenor whereof is as follows.
Edinburgh 6th February 1797, A Petition was presented signed by the Masters of the Four Lodges of Dundee, which after having been read by the Grand Clerk, it was intimated from the chair that an apology had been sent to the Substitute Grand Master from the Most Worshipful Lord Downe, regretting that it was not in his power to attend the meeting, but that he highly approved of the Dundee Petition, and proposed George Paterson Esq., of Castle Huntly to be the Provincial Grand Master for said District. Which proposal the Grand Lodge agreed to, and hereby declare the Dundee District to be confined to the Lodges in the Counties of Angus & Mearns only. (Extracted and signed Thomas Sommers, Grand Clerk.)


Upon receiving the above, a meeting of the Four Masters attended with a committee from their respective Lodges was agreed upon to meet in the house of Brother Roderick Ormond (R.W.M. of Lodge Ancient No. 49) in order to draw up an address of Congratulations to George Paterson Esq. Of Castle Huntly upon his being appointed Provincial Grand Master to the Dundee District. Brother David Gall to attend as Clerk to the meeting. No other business occurring, the evening was cheerfully concluded with a glass and a song.


Copy of the address sent to George Paterson Esq.


“Brother,
            “We the Masters of the four Lodges in Dundee, in name and by the authority from the members of our Respective Lodges, take the earliest opportunity of congratulating you, on your appointment as Provincial Grand Master over the several Lodges in the Counties of Angus & Mearns; which took place, at a Quarterly meeting of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, held in Edinburgh on the 6th instant.
            Your character as a gentleman & attachment to the Craft, justly pointed you out to the Grand Lodge as a proper person to fill that high and important office, and if the Petition presented by us tended in the smallest degree to promote your appointment, and in fixing Dundee as the residence of a Provincial Grand Master, we feel peculiar pleasure, and trust, that under your auspices Masonry will flourish; to promote such valuable purposes, may you be long spared among us as a blessing to the Craft, to your family & to the World at large, We are with much esteem and regard.”
“Your most obedient servants
Signed Thomas Matthewson, Master of Operative Lodge.
            Roderick Ormond, Master of Ancient Lodge.
            William Scott, Master of St. David’s Lodge.
            Charles Haggart, Master of Thistle Operative Lodge. 

Dundee 18th February 1797 & of Masonry 5797.”

Copyright Iain D. McIntosh 2014

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