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

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

Part 5 - 1872 to 1880


Lord Ramsay (John William Ramsay) P.G. Master 1876-1880

John William Ramsay 13th Earl of DalhousieFox Maule, the 11th Earl of Dalhousie died 1872. The Provincial Grand Lodge then immediately started the selection process for a new P.G. Master. The Death of Fox Maule seems to have come as a bit of a shock to the Provincial Grand Lodge and threw them into a bit of turmoil.
The first circular sent to the Lodges produced 5 candidates, Colonel Alison of Dundee, who had 6 votes; Mr. Kinloch of Kilry & Logie, 2 votes; The Earl of Strathmore, 1 Vote; Sir John Ogilvy of Inverquharity (Dep. P.G. Master) 1 vote, a Mr. D.D. Black of Brechin, 1 vote and Brother Gardyne of Middleton, 1 vote. Fifteen Lodges made no suggestion.
The first preference of the P.G. Lodge selection committee was for Sir John Ogilvie of Inverquharity. A local well known landowner, he lived just north of Dundee at Baldovan House. At that time he was the Depute P.G. Master, and initially seemed keen on the idea, but indicated that due to other personal commitments he might not be able to give as much time to the duty as he would like.

The whole matter of a new Provincial Grand Master seems to have been delayed for over a year. It was not until at, a very well attended Provincial Grand Lodge quarterly meeting in January 1876, chaired by Sir John, that it was finally decided on the nomination of Lord Ramsay as the next Provincial Grand Master.
When Fox Maule, the 11th Earl died, he had no son to succeed him, so the title of Earl of Dalhousie went to his cousin, Admiral George Ramsay, who now became the 12th Earl.
It was his son John William Ramsay, titled Lord Ramsay, who now becomes the new P.G. Master. The title of Lord Panmure ceased. I have as yet, no information regarding Lord Ramsay’s Masonic background, or where he joined Freemasonry.

There was also a suggestion at this meeting of dividing the Province into two or more Provinces. This proposal was moved by a Brother J.H. Mackay, R.W.M. of Lodge St. David No. 78 and seconded by a Brother William Smith R.W.M. of Lodge Panmure No. 299. However at a subsequent meeting this suggestion was by common consent withdrawn.
Lord Ramsay was installed by the acting Grand Master, Major Hamilton Ramsay of Garion, at that time Senior Grand Warden in the County Buildings Forfar on 26th March 1876. His Depute P.G. Master was again Sir John Ogilvie of Inverquharity. His Substitute P.G. Master was the Right Honourable Algernon Hawkings Thomond Keith Falconer, commonly called, Lord Inverurie.

Lord Inverurie in his capacity as Substitute Provincial Grand Master acted for the Provincial Grand Master at the consecration of the new meeting hall for Lodge Lour No. 309 at 105 High Street, Forfar on 20th March 1879.
He was present at the consecration of a new hall for Lodge Ancient in Rankin’s Court, Dundee in 1876.
He later became the first Provincial Grand Master of Kincardineshire in 1877 and remained as such until 1888. Up until 1880 he also still held the rank of Substitute Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire, and later succeeded to the title of Earl of Kintore and was Grand Master of the Great Priory from 1906 to 1928. He was also Governor of South Australia 1889-1895.

Lord Ramsay’s other commissioned office bearers were: -
            Senior Provincial Grand Warden, Thomas Cuthbert, Dundee
            Junior Provincial Grand Warden, David Guthrie, Carlogie House
            Provincial Grand Chaplain, Rev. James Crabb, Brechin
            Provincial Grand Secretary, David Small, Solicitor, Dundee           
            Provincial Clerk, Wm. McDonald, Solicitor, Dundee

On the 29th September 1876, Lord Ramsay consecrated the Lodge room of Lodge Ancient, No. 49, Dundee, situated in Rankine’s Court. Afterwards he was made an honorary member and presented with a diploma and a Master’s Jewel, suitably inscribed, in commemoration of the ceremony.
The following year a petition was submitted from a number of Brethren in Lochee who were desirous of founding a new Lodge there to be called “Prince of Wales Lodge”, but on a vote the request was lost by 8 votes.

In the absence of the Provincial Grand Master the Lodge room of Forfar, Kilwinning No. 90 at 105 East High Street, Forfar was consecrated with all due solemnity and according to the regulations by the Substitute Provincial Grand Master Lord Inverurie, on the 20th March, 1879.

Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Dundee Asylum, Westgreen, Liff

The following information was taken from the current minute book.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Forfarshire again met on the17th September 1879 in the Lodge room of “Ancient” Dundee No. 49. After the roll was called representatives of 21 Lodges in the Province answered to their names and two deputations from Lodge “Coupar Angus” No. 105 and Lodge “Perth Royal Arch” No. 122, both in the Province of Perthshire East, were received.

The Provincial Grand Master Lord Ramsay having opened Provincial Grand Lodge in due and ancient form intimated how pleased he was to see so large a gathering. He then proceeded to address the Brethren on the duties of the day. These were the perfecting of the request of the Directors of the Dundee Royal Asylum that Provincial Grand Lodge should lay the foundation stone of the new buildings at Westgreen, near Liff.

After instructing the various Office-bearers on their respective duties, the Provincial Grand Master adjourned Provincial Grand Lodge, which along with the Master’s, Office-bearers, and members of the Lodges, proceeded by the advertised route.

They marched to the West station and took the train to Liff and then again marched to the Asylum buildings where the Provincial Grand Master, Officers and Brethren were received and conducted to the Foundation Stone by Sir John Ogilvie, Chairman of the Board of Directors.

A fine display of flags, Masonic Emblems, etc., was made by the various lodges and huge crowds viewed the procession and the ceremonial. Dean of Guild Edwards presented Lord Ramsay, Provincial Grand Master, with a silver trowel with ivory handle engraved with Masonic devices and the following inscription “Presented by Messrs. Edward and Robertson, Architects to the Right Honourable John William, Lord Ramsay, Provincial Grand Master for the County of Forfarshire on the occasion of his laying the Foundation Stone of the Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum 17th September, 1879”.

The Provincial Grand Master, thereafter in due form well and truly laid the Foundation Stone and having suitably addressed the large gathering and reply having been made by Brother Sir John Ogilvy, the Provincial Grand Lodge returned by rail from Liff Station to Dundee, where in the premises of Lodge Ancient the Provincial Grand Lodge was closed.

On the 11th December, 1879, in the Queens Hotel, Dundee, Brother Stott of Forfar moved that each member of Provincial Grand Lodge shall pay an annual contribution of 2/6 or 5/- to form a nucleus of a fund for benevolent purposes, It was agreed that if the members do not pay, their Lodge would pay.

Less than three weeks later on the 28th December 1879, during a wild stormy night the central spans of the first Tay Rail Bridge collapsed into the River Tay. A train including six carriages and 75 people plunged into the cold water below and were drowned.
The collapse of the longest rail bridge in the world, opened only 19 months earlier and hailed as an engineering marvel, sent shock waves through the Victorian engineering profession and was reported in newspapers across the world. That disaster is still one of the most famous bridge disasters in the World. Strangely this event is not recorded in the minutes.

Resignation of Lord Ramsay

In April 1880 the Provincial Grand Secretary, Brother David Small received a letter of resignation from Brother Lord Ramsay from which the following is an excerpt. Having given the matter serious and thoughtful consideration, I have come to the conclusion - painful though it is - that I must resign my office of Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire. I do not see that I have any honest choice in the matter. And I now ask you to be so good as to place my resignation in the hands of the Brethren. I fear I have been to them a most unsatisfactory head. But if I could have foreseen that I was to serve on board ship (he was Commander Lord Ramsay on S.L. “Britannia”) for two and a half years, and then become Member of Parliament for the largest constituency in the Kingdom, (Liverpool), I should not have undertaken the great Masonic responsibility with which the Brethren honoured me four years ago.

The resignation was reluctantly accepted and Lord Ramsay was most cordially and fraternally tendered the best thanks of the Brethren for the invariable kindness shown by him and for the very great consideration and attention he had uniformly exhibited for the interests of the Craft.
Lord Ramsay eventually succeeded to his father’s title in 1880 and became the 13th Earl of Dalhousie. Tragically both Lord and Lady Dalhousie died within 24 hours of each other in December 1887. The funeral Lodge held for him in the Thistle Hall, Union Street, was a very large and well-attended event. (Details of the ceremony are included during Frank Lyon’s term as P.G. Master) The archway at the entrance to the village of Edzell was built as a memorial to them.

Funeral Lodge of Lord Ramsay

During Lord Ramsey’s term as Provincial Grand Master only one new Lodge was constituted in the Province and that was Lodge The Bruce No. 593 in Froickheim, chartered on the 6th Nov 1876.

Also during his term the Province of Kincardineshire was erected and the Lodges in Johnshaven, Laurencekirk and Inverbervie were moved from the jurisdiction of Forfarshire to Kincardineshire. The first Provincial Grand Master of Kincardineshire being Lord Inverurie who was still at that time, the Substitute P.G. Master of Forfarshire.

Copyright Iain D. McIntosh 2014

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