During his earlier term as Depute Provincial Grand Master, under Francis Bowes Lyon, and then during his actual term as Provincial Grand Master he presided over some very big events in Dundee and Angus during the later part of the 19th Century.
The industrial revolution was changing the world. These were the days of Empire when British trade, commerce and influence spanned the world. Dundee was reaching the height of its industrial power, prosperity and pride. Jute was now king in Dundee and the Harbour was busy and bustling.
Dundee and the towns of Angus were growing rapidly and new public buildings were springing up - Hospitals, Libraries, Asylums and other such places. This indeed was a busy time for the Provincial Grand Lodge. It was the age of the ‘foundation stones,’ a time when Freemasonry was a far more accepted and integral part of the local community.
James Berry was initiated into Lodge St. Nicholas No. 93 in Aberdeen, on the 9th March 1863. Then on the 16th November 1870 he affiliated to Lodge St. David No. 78 in Dundee. During his affiliation to St David’s, for some reason, the Right Worshipful Master entered the Lodge and took forcible possession of the Charter, thus stopping the proceedings and Brother Berry had to go through the ceremonial again nine days later.
On that same night of his affiliation James Berry was nominated for the position of R.W.M, The then sitting R.W.M. who had served in that office for three years was also nominated, and at the election on St. Andrew’s Night James Berry, received 27 votes against his opponent’s 2 votes. Brother James Grant in his History of Lodge St. David No. 78 states the Lodge was in a fairly prosperous condition, but under James Berry it enjoyed a greater degree of prosperity.
At the meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge convened for the purpose of Consecrating Lodge Broughty Castle No. 486 by the Earl of Dalhousie, P.G.M. on the 27th November 1871, James Berry made his maiden speech in Provincial Grand Lodge in moving - “That this Provincial Grand Lodge view with profound sorrow the attack of illness under which His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, Patron of Scottish Masonry, is labouring, and they earnestly pray that the Great Architect of the Universe may be pleased to arrest its course and restore His Royal Highness to that health which all loyal subjects and good Masons desire to see him enjoy”.
James Berry’s name does not appear in Provincial Grand Lodge minutes until 17th September 1879 where he is stated to be Acting Grand Clerk and Director of Ceremonies. On the 11th December 1879 he was appointed Provincial Grand Clerk.
At the Installation of Captain George David Clayhills Henderson as Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire on 19th August 1880 he was appointed Provincial Grand Secretary, a position which had been filled by David Small, Solicitor, Dundee, since 1854. He became Provincial Grand Junior Warden on 30th July 1883 and the following year, the members of Grand Lodge in the Province were advised to support his nomination as a member of the Grand Lodge Executive Committee on account of his long and valuable services to Masonry.
On the 24th October 1888 in the Thistle Hall, Dundee he was installed into office by the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Sir Archibald Campbell of Blytheswood, The platform party who accompanied the Grand Master Mason included: - The Right Hon. Lord Saltoun, Senior Grand Warden, David Murray Lyon, Grand Secretary, J. Dalrymple Duncan, Senior Grand Deacon, Dr. John Falconer, St. Ann’s, Proxy District Grand Master, New South Wales, Capt. Clayhills Henderson, P.P.G.M. and many others.
In total about 320 Brethren attended the event. After the ceremony they had a cake and wine banquet.
He commissioned the following office bearers: -
James Morton Peto Campbell as Depute P.G. Master.
A.D. Lowson, Arbroath, as Substitute P.G. Master.
Provost Alexander. D. Anderson, Arbroath as P.G. Secretary
Rev James Crabb, Brechin as P.G. Chaplain
David Murison, Montrose as P.G. Senior Warden
John H. Mackay, Dundee as P.G. Junior Warden
Thus began the reign of one “who had already proved himself a zealous worker on behalf of the Craft and who during his term as both Depute and ultimately Provincial Grand Master endeared himself to all with whom he came in touch. Fully qualified in the ordinary rules governing Masonry, he neither spared time nor money in securing the best results from the Lodges under his control”.
James Berry was very regular in his attendance at all Provincial meetings and also in his frequent visits both officially and non-officially to the various Lodges in the Province. At many it is said ‘he gave sound advice and on many-times advised Lodges who had secured a good set of working officers, or had adopted any outstanding method of ceremonial to visit those who were struggling’.
He continued the practice he had introduced while he was Depute P.G. Master, of viewing the working of the Lodge when on his official visit and on occasions made suggestions to correct procedure whether it was in the opening or closing of Lodges or in the performance of the ritual work, and then he actually showed them what he considered the proper method.
James Berry began his visitations of the Lodges in the Province early January 1889 and brought to the office a vast experience in improving every part of Masonic procedure. Lodges whose Bye-laws were obsolete had them withdrawn and they were instructed to update them in accordance with the requirements of Grand Lodge.
The majority of the Lodges were recommended to increase their initiating Fees to what was being charged by other Scottish Lodges, and that was from about £1 2/6 (£.12p approx)to a level of £2.2/- (£2.10p). Also dues to Provincial Grand Lodge of 10/- (50p) per year; to give in their minute books for inspection, also the occupation and address of their Entrants, for easy identification in the future, and to refuse to sign any document coming from unauthorised sources relative to the suspension of individuals by Grand Lodge or P.G. Lodge.
Unfortunately one of the first Lodges that James Berry visited after his appointment as P.G. Master, he was forced to suspend for ‘discourtesy to the Provincial Grand Lodge and himself’. On his official visit to Lodge Dalhousie No. 679 in Carnoustie in March 1889, only 3 brethren appeared at the advertised time and neither the Master or Wardens put in an appearance at all. When a Past Master turned up an hour later, he showed a ‘want of courtesy’ to the P.G. Master and when the books were inspected he found that they had not been authenticated by signatures for over 4 years. In those circumstances the P.G. Master ‘expressed his dissatisfaction and felt himself compelled to suspend the Lodge’ but at a following meeting the members of Dalhousie turned up to apologise and the suspension was cancelled
It seems that by October 1889 he was exercising authority over the four Lodges in the Province of Kincardineshire and he, along with the P.G. Secretary and Treasurer, were making trips up to Laurencekirk, Johnshaven, Stonehaven and Inverbervie to officially visit those Lodges, to inspect their books and observe their degree workings. He displayed the same dedication and devotion in his duties to the welfare of those Lodges as he did to those in Forfarshire. It is reported that Lodge St John No. 65 in Johnshaven had not had a Provincial visit for 12 years and whilst there he installed the R.W.M. Brother Murray.
On the 13th January, 1890 “The standing committee of Provincial Grand Lodge unanimously recommended that the Provincial Grand Lodge request Grand Lodge to relieve James Berry of that supervision but at a meeting held on the 28th January, 1890 the Grand Secretary Bro. David Murray Lyon stated that it was the desire of Grand Lodges to see the two Provinces combined and known as the Province of Forfarshire and Kincardineshire.
At this meeting the Provincial Grand Master James Berry intimated that he already held a commission from Grand Lodge appointing him Provincial Grand Master ‘AD INTERIM to superintend Kincardineshire’. However on the 29th April 1890 Grand Lodge reported the appointment of another Provincial Grand Master for Kincardineshire, namely Major W. Disney Innes.
In January of 1890, James Berry was called upon to sort out a disputed election at Lodge Broughty Castle, which at that time was meeting in the Good Templar Hall in Gray Street, after reviewing the details he declared that the election of Brother Robert Bell as Right Worshipful Master had been regular and valid.
However Brother Bell (who was the current R.W.M.) thought otherwise and refused to accept the office again, as did everyone else who was proposed. Such was the ‘impasse’ that Berry ruled that it was impossible to continue and he seemed to have left them in no doubt as to what his opinion was on the matter. He told them to consider their position and think about submitting a name for the office of R.W.M.
He and the members of Provincial Grand Lodge returned to Broughty Ferry a month later and in the absence of any of the Past Masters he occupied the chair, addressed the brethren assembled and called for nominations. It seems there was only one brother willing to take on the duty of R.W.M., that of William Leslie. The P.G. Master there and then gave him the obligation and declared him to be R.W.M. for the remainder of the year, and that he would be given the installed Master’s degree at a future date.
On the 29th April 1890 the death of Sir John Ogilvy, Bart, Past Depute P.G. Master was announced. The P.G. Master referred in ‘feeling terms to the respect in which Sir John was held in the Province and his identification with every good work’ and ‘that he was full of years and honours’.
On the 25th March 1890 a new “seal” for the Provincial Grand Lodge was approved. This incorporates the figure of Saint Andrew at the top, flanked on each side by two St. Andrew’s Flags. The shield in the centre has the red Rampant Lion, the crest of the Ancient Earldom of Angus. The surrounding five shields intertwined with thistles are the crests of Dundee, Montrose, Brechin, Forfar and Arbroath.
The full coloured modern version of the crest is displayed on the front cover of this book.
In December 1890 a big fund raising event was organised by the Grand Lodge of Scotland to boost the funds of the Benevolent Fund. This would take the form of a Grand Bazaar to be held in the Waverly Buildings in Edinburgh. As the Kincardineshire Lodges were - it seems from the minutes - still at that time under the jurisdiction of James Berry they would be grouped in with the Forfarshire Lodges to support this effort and to organise a stall at Edinburgh.
Other ideas for raising funds were suggested, two ‘Reverend Brethren’ would give lectures, a concert could be given where ‘vocalists of repute’ would appear. James Crabb of Glamis said that the ladies of his Lodge had taken an interest in this scheme and they to would organise a concert.
On the 27th January 1891, Brother Berry reported that the Grand Lodge Bazaar had been very successful. A sum of £10,000 had been aimed at, but with the hard and enthusiastic work of the Brethren a total of £16,500 was raised.
Special thanks were extended to the ‘Noble’ families in the Province of Forfarshire for their keen and able support. He reported that ‘In their own Province the noble family of Glamis came forward and offered to do all they could for the local stall, and during the whole week of the Bazaar at Edinburgh the Countess of Strathmore, Lady Glamis and others from Glamis Castle, were in constant attendance,’ Also mentioned was the help given by Mrs Berry, the P.G. Master’s wife, who also worked on the stall every day.
The stall of ‘Forfarshire and Kincardineshire’ drew in cash of over £560 and had goods to the value of £180 in hand. These surplus goods were later ‘auctioned off’ within the Lodges of the Province. (The surplus balance of £11 was remitted to the scheme of Scottish Masonic Benevolence in January 1893 and this closed the ‘Bazaar account’)
On the morning of the 12th September 1891 at a large meeting in the City Assembly Rooms, Dundee, in recognition of her hard work and services at the Bazaar, the Countess of Strathmore was presented with an Illuminated Address enclosed in a handsome oak casket by the Provincial Grand Master.
The “Dundee Advertiser” of 14th September 1891, gives a very full report of the event. (See Appendix 5 for full details.)
Later on that same day - the 12th September 1891 - the Provincial Grand Lodge again assembled in the afternoon and after receiving the Grand Master, Sir Archibald Campbell, of Blythswood Bart, the meeting adjourned.
The Freemasons formed up in procession and went through the streets of Dundee to Clepington Road for the ceremony of laying the Foundation Stone of the Dundee Sick Hospital. This was somewhere in the Maryfield Hospital area – the building is long since gone and a sports centre has been built on the land. (The report of that day are fully detailed in Appendix 6)
After the meeting the Grand Master Mason of Scotland presented James Berry, for passing on to Mrs. Berry, an illuminated Address enclosed in a pretty Oak Case, having on the front the crest of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in Silver, in recognition of her unwearied services in forwarding the success of the Bazaar.
On the 5th December 1891, James Berry presided at the laying of this foundation stone for this building; Provincial Grand Lodge was opened in the City Hall. Other high ranking P.G. Lodge officers present included Brother Morton Peto Campbell, younger, of Stracathro, Depute P.G. Master and J. Bruce Gardyne of Middleton, P.G. Senior Warden.
It is minuted that there were deputations from Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose, Forfar and a large number of members from the Brechin Lodges. They processed to the site where the Provost of Brechin (not named) presented Brother Berry with a ‘handsome silver trowel’ as a memento of the occasion.
On the 26th January 1892 at the Quarterly meeting in the premises of Lodge Ancient in Rankine’s Close, condolences were to be sent to the Prince of Wales on the death of his brother, His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence; also condolences were to be sent to Glamis Castle regarding the fatal accident, which had befallen the Honourable Ernest Bowes Lyon.
James Berry also announced that he was entering his fifth and final year as P.G. Master and wished to retire. He mentioned that in the past year he had visited 10 of the 25 Lodges in the Province and that there had been a large increase in candidates joining Freemasonry. Two hundred and twenty had joined in 1890 and 304 in 1891.
In April 1892 the Provincial Grand Secretary of Yorkshire, through the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland had made a complaint about irregularities with a ‘man of colour’ being initiated into one of the Dundee Lodges. The minute book does not say which Dundee Lodge was involved, nor does it elaborate on the details of the complaint.
On the 1st October 1892 the Foundation Stone of the new Established Church at Downfield was laid. Provincial Grand Lodge met in the Church Hall. Also present was Brother James Guthrie Orchar, Provost and Chief Magistrate of Broughty Ferry.
A unique event then took place after the platform party had taken their places. James Berry announced that he had found out that the people of Downfield had expressed a strong wish for Provost Orchar to lay the stone, he being the last surviving trustee of the Church and someone it was said had taken such a strong interest in the church.
Such was the amazing character of James Berry that he, there and then invested Provost Orchar with the collar and jewel of P.G. Master and presented to Brother Orchar the gavel of authority so that he could lay the stone with full authority and the approval of the P.G. Master. It seems this kindness went down very well with the church officials and the audience.
On 31st October 1893, at the quarterly meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, held in the hall of Lodge Panmure No. 299, Arbroath, James Berry presented a renewal of his commission as Provincial Grand Master. It seems from the tone and text of the minutes that this re-appointment was received with a lot of joy and enthusiasm. Also this year we see the establishment of a Provincial Grand Lodge Benevolent Fund to provide for local benevolence within Dundee and Angus.
The first important Provincial Masonic event that James Berry undertook after his re-election as P.G. Master took place on the 30th January 1894. This was within the hall of Lodge Operative No. 47 (in the Overgate), when the Provincial Grand Lodge received an annual visit from the reigning Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland, who was at that time was Brother Sir Charles Dalrymple of Newhailes.
It was the norm in those days for a large event such as this, which usually attracted a large numbers of local Freemasons, to be held in some spacious public Hall. However on this occasion this practice was not followed. For some reason the Grand Master specifically instructed that the meeting was to be held in ‘a properly consecrated Masonic building.’ Even so it is reported that 148 brethren attended the meeting.
The entrants joining Grand Lodge in 1892 numbered 5955, while this year only 5188 had joined. They all wished those periods of depression would pass away, and that their parent institution would be benefited thereby.
Brother Smith, Forfar, intimated that he wished to move at the next meeting that the Province be divided into two, one division to include Dundee, Lochee and Broughty Ferry, and the other the remainder of the county. Brother Berry said he would have received this motion with great cordiality, but it would have to be tabled at the Grand Lodge and not here.
After the ordinary business had been conducted, the Provincial Grand Bard – a Brother D.D. Beaton of Lodge The Bruce No. 593, Froickheim - recited an ‘Ode’ which he had composed for the second Installation of James Berry as P.G. Master – the Berry Ode No. 2. (See Appendix 11 for the full text).
At the Quarterly communication of Provincial Grand Lodge held on the 24th April 1894, Brother Berry turned down a request from Brechin for a Masonic Ceremony in connection with the laying of the Foundation Stone of the New Police and Municipal Buildings. It seems that the Provost of Brechin, Mr Valentine, wanted to be the person to lay the stone, but as he was apparently not a Freemason the request was refused.
By October1894 Dundee had now become the ‘County of the City of Dundee’ and the Provincial Grand Lodge requested a ruling from Grand Lodge as to whether this would have any effect on the composition and coverage of the Province of Forfarshire.
On the 30th October1894 the following ruling was read from Grand Lodge, regarding the recent elevation of the City of Dundee to the ‘County of the City of Dundee.’ - “that in Dundee being made a County, Grand Committee does not recognize any change in the Masonic Province of Forfarshire”.
The Installation of the Hon. Charles Maule Ramsay, M.P. for Forfarshire as Substitute Provincial Grand Master took place in the Mechanics Institute, Brechin on 17th April 1895, by the Most Worshipful Grand Master Sir Charles Dalrymple.
On the 18th April 1895, a special meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was held in the Court House, Arbroath Again another Foundation Stone was being laid, this time that of the New Parish Church of Arbroath. The old Church had been destroyed by fire in the morning of Monday, 14th November 1892.
The Provost at that time, a Mr Keith, in addressing the Grand Master of Scotland remarked that as far as he knew this was the first Foundation Stone of any building in Arbroath to be laid with full Masonic Honours.
Having presented the Grand Master with a Silver Trowel as a memento of this ‘interesting and memorable event’ the latter remarked - “that he had been presented with many trowels but this is the first one I have received as Grand Master Mason of Scotland”. (See Appendix 7)
The year of 1896 started with the P.G. Lodge expressing sympathies to H.M. the Queen and Princess Beatrice on the death of Prince Henry of Battenburg,
In 1896, Grand Lodge finally had decided that 14 days should elapse between the “degrees”. Provincial Grand Lodge agreed but suggested that the Provincial Grand Master should have liberty to grant authority of dispensation if a representation of facts rendered emergency meeting being held. However Grand Lodge subsequently decided to enact a Law to require Lodges to have these intervals.
This Law did not go down too well with some Lodges and there was a degree of opposition to it. Some Lodges carried on with the old practices and this resulted in some Lodges being suspended by the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Lodge.
In his April 1896 report to Grand Lodge the P.G. Master reported that the Lodges in the Province were in a very healthy condition and very prosperous although there had been a drop in candidates in 1895 to only 337 as against 352 in 1894. He also had to report that due to continuing ill health he had to delegate the responsibility of visiting the county Lodges to his Substitute P.G. Master, Brother C. M. Ramsay.
Lodge Dunnichen No 684 in Letham, was still in suspension for not obeying the Laws of Grand Lodge. They had still been working all three degrees in a single meeting. Charles M. Ramsay reported that the Lodge was in a bad way.
Grand Lodge informed the Lodges that there would be a grand Masonic Ceremony in Edinburgh for the laying of the foundation stone of the new North Bridge on the 25th May 1896. They asked for deputations from the Lodges in the Province to be sent to Edinburgh to attend this event. They expected about 6,000 masons to attend.
On the 24th October, 1896, Grand Committee “concluded that if Initiation” took place on a Wednesday the “Passing” could take place on the second Wednesday and thereafter with an equal interval between the “Passing” and “Raising”, although strictly only thirteen clear days would be the extent of the interval.
The year of 1897 opened with the meeting on the 26th January with the ceremony of consecrating a new hall for Lodge Camperdown No. 317 in Camperdown Court, Barrack Street Dundee. Also Lodge Thistle Operative was given permission to move from the ‘Vaults’ to the Overgate.
On the 10th March 1897 Provincial Grand Lodge consecrated a new hall for Lodge St. Ninian’s No 66 in Lindsay Lane, Brechin.
On the 27th April, Lodge St. Thomas No. 40 asked for permission to hold a 3-day Bazaar in October of 1898 for the purpose of clearing off the Lodge ‘debt’ and also to establish a benevolent fund. Approval was given, and also because of the urgent situation that the Lodge was facing, Provincial Grand Lodge would also bestow its ‘patronage’ on the event. The subsequent Bazaar in 1898 raised £300 for the general funds and also for the benevolent fund of the Lodge.
At this same meeting a letter was read from John Carver, Secretary to the SATURDAY DEMONSTRATION COMMITTEE, asking for the support of the brethren in a ‘demonstration in aid of the Royal Infirmary’. The P.G. Master intimated that if large numbers of brethren wanted to support this demonstration he would be inclined to approve it. They did – so it was approved.
Also consideration of how to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was remitted to P.G. Committee. Further on in the minutes of 10th May it was decided that due to the lack of unity amongst the Lodges there would be no turn out of masons on ‘Jubilee Day’
On the 10th May 1897, Brother John Herald of Arbroath, P.G. Treasurer, at the request of the Provincial Grand Master, addressed the Brethren at great length regarding the ‘raising’ of a Masonic Temple in Dundee for the use of all the Lodges in the Dundee area, at an estimated cost of £10,000 and all the Lodges in Dundee would be asked to contribute, ‘according to its means’. He was asked to formulate a scheme whereby the many difficulties could be overcome and to report back to P.G. Lodge.
In October of 1897 the Provincial Grand Lodge were informed that a former brother from Forfarshire, a Brother William Ferguson, who had emigrated to New York in the United States, had left a bequest to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, for the purpose of building a Masonic home in Forfarshire for ‘the poor widows of deceased husbands who at the time of their death were members in good standing of the Grand Lodge of Free Masons of Scotland’.
His estate was estimated at $7,366, which at that time equated to about £6,500 in sterling. However as his wife had been bequeathed a ‘life interest’ from the estate they would only benefit at her death and as she was only 45 years of age it was accepted that they would have to wait quite a while for the money!
The handling of this bequest entailed quite a lot of correspondence and ‘transatlantic cables’ between lawyers in Edinburgh and New York. William Ferguson had no children but he had 2 sisters and a nephew and they contested the will.
It took until January 1898 for the American courts to decide that the will was valid and legal and that his other kin had no claims upon it.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland were declared as the trustees of the fund, and they would receive the funds after the death of Mrs Ferguson.
James Berry issued a statement on the 25th January 1898 regarding this bequest, which he desired to be entered into the minute book and which the Provincial Grand Secretary would communicate to the Law Agent of Grand Lodge. The statement was as follows: -
Continuing, Brother Berry said some of them might not be there when the money came to Grand Lodge; but their books would show that they meant to claim the whole fund as belonging to Forfarshire, and to be divided amongst the distressed in the Province.
The P.G. Secretary said he had advised the legal agent of Grand Lodge in terms somewhat similar to what Brother Berry had read. He thought they should clinch the matter by intimating to Grand Lodge as Brother Berry had proposed. this proposal was unanimously agreed to.
By 1899, the legalities and details of the case were still being argued, as well as the amount that Grand Lodge would inherit, which was now assessed at half the original sum - about $663, still a considerable amount in 1899 terms.
At the moment I have not found out from the minute books what eventually happened to that bequest, or if any money did remain. One thing is certain – no home was ever built in Forfarshire.
At a quarterly meeting on the 25th January in hall of Forfar and Kincardine No. 225,
In Meadow Street, Dundee. James Berry expressed a desire to retire and allow a younger Brother to undertake the duties of Provincial Grand Master. His renewed commission was about to expire and he had held office in the Provincial Grand Lodge for about 20 years.
Strong influences were brought to bear on Brother Berry to continue, including that of Brother Hon. Charles M. Ramsay, Depute P.G. Master and Captain P.W. Anderson, Substitute P.G. Master and many others. Subsequently he agreed to allow his nomination to go forward.
This took place on Wednesday, 9th March 1898, ‘within the hall attached to the Panmure Hotel’ and in the presence of about 200 Brethren. After Brother Berry and Provincial Officers had carried out the ceremonial of consecrating the new Lodge, they all formed up into ranks and marched through the village of Edzell in a torchlight procession.
Within the hall of Lodge Panmure No. 299, Arbroath on Wednesday, 16th November 1898 at P.G.L. quarterly communication the following letter was read: -
“Saltoun Free Masons Hall
Grand Master Mason of Scotland Edinburgh, November 3rd 1898
At the Quarterly communication of Grand Lodge held here this day Bro. James Berry was unanimously and with acclamation re-appointed Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire for the period of five years from date hereof.
D. Murray Lyon,
Of the 26 Lodges in the Province at this time, Lodge Dunnichen No. 684 at Letham was at present under suspension. Of the 25 Lodges in working order, twenty-two had intimated by resolution, their desire that James Berry should again be appointed, one Lodge had declined to vote and two Lodges had made no return. Brother D.D. Beaton, the Provincial Grand Bard recited another one of his famous odes, which he had composed in connection with the Provincial Grand Master’s renewed commission. (See appendix 12)
When James Berry was elected for his third term in 1899, the Lodges and brethren of the Province, from all backgrounds, to show their high regard and respect for him contributed into a fund which would enable them to purchase and present to him a collar and jewel that would become his own, and something that he would keep after he had retired from the office of Provincial Grand Master.
But James Berry, delighted that the brethren of the Province had thought so highly of him, made it known, that he would prefer the collar and jewel should become, in the future, the insignia for all future Provincial Grand Masters to wear. After twelve designs, specifications and prices had been considered an order was placed with James Ramsay, Jeweller, High Street, Dundee.
The presentation of the collar and jewel took place in Russell’s new hall, previously known as the Thistle Hall in Union Street on Wednesday 1st February 1899 and was made by the Grand Master Mason, Lord Saltoun, who gave a lengthy address on the history of the Province and the unique occasion he had been asked to participate in and to present James Berry with the new collar and chain.
He stated, “that Brother Berry’s services to the Craft had not been confined to the Province they were known and appreciated by Grand Lodge and more than once he had acted as his Lordships’ delegate at important Masonic functions in the Province. He had often presided over Grand Lodge and very often presided with great acceptance at meetings of Grand Committee, of which he had been a member during 18 consecutive years”.
Lord Saltoun also presented a handsome Silver Salver to Brother Berry for passing on to Mrs. Berry. The cost of the collar and jewel was £105 and the silver salver £21-14/-.
So now today, because of this fine act by James Berry, we still have this amazing, unique collar and Jewel as a reminder of his long and distinguished term as Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire. When one looks around at all the other Provincial Grand Masters when they parade into Grand Lodge, it has to be said that our collar is the finest Provincial Grand Master’s collar in the whole of Scotland. Indeed in my opinion it has no other equal among the other 31 Provinces in Scotland. (See Appendix 11 for the full information on the collar.)
On Saturday, 25th August 1900, the P.G.L. met in the Municipal buildings Carnoustie and thereafter proceeded to lay the Foundation Stone of the New Parish Church of Carnoustie. The Provincial Grand Master, James Berry, was presented with a beautiful trowel, and Brother Gibson, R.W.M. Lodge Dalhousie also presented a handsome mallet with silver plate, on which was an inscription suitable to the occasion, and thereafter the stone was laid with full Masonic ceremonial. (See Appendix 8.)
On the 22nd September 1900 the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, the Hon. James Hozier, M.P., paid a visit to the Province and to this very big occasion and event at Brechin.
The Grand Master announced that it was his intention to appoint Bro. Hon. Charles Maule Ramsay to the office of Depute Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
Thereafter the Grand Master Mason, accompanied by the Provincial Grand Master, Brother Berry and about 400 members of Craft laid the memorial stone in connection with the restoration of Brechin Cathedral. The cost of this important restoration was about £12,000. (See Appendix 9 for full details.)
On the 19th January, James Berry and Provincial Grand Lodge consecrated a new hall for Lodge The Bruce No. 593 in Froickheim. It is reported that 200 brethren were in attendance and a Brother Muir, the P.G. Bard, recited an ‘ode’ to the Lodge
At the Provincial Grand Lodge quarterly meeting on the 6th February 1901, the Director of Music, Brother John Burrows played the mournful “Dead March from Saul” to mark the death of H.M Queen Victoria (22nd January 1901).
‘They were comforted by the fact that so worthy a son as the Grand Master Mason of England would succeed to his most noble mother”. This of course referred to the Prince of Wales, nowKing Edward VII.
From the minutes members were very concerned that at the recent funeral service in Dundee for Her late Majesty the Freemasons had not been invited. Brother MacLauchlan commented that ‘He remembered the day when no important public function took place in Dundee without the Freemasons being conspicuous there’. The P.G. Master James Berry reported ‘that the matter was a delicate one that it would take a long time to explain … he mentioned that he was preparing a statement for submitting to the Lord Provost which might tend to remedy the matter in future’
The Provincial Grand Master James Berry laid the Foundation Stone of the Foresters Hall in Ward Road. The Provincial Grand Lodge convened in the hall of Lodge Forfar and Kincardine No. 225 in Meadow Street. They then adjourned the P.G. Lodge and marched in procession via Reform Street, joined the main procession of other civic and public bodies, and taking precedence at the front of the line, marched to the site of the building in Ward Road.
On the31st August, 1901, in the absence of James Berry, Brother Hon. Charles M. Ramsay presided at a special meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge held in Public Hall Buildings, Kirriemuir for the transaction of General Business but particularly for the ceremony of laying the Memorial Stone of the Monument on Tulloch Hill, Cortachy to the memory of the late Brother the Earl of Airlie, who fell at the head of his regiment in the South African War. (See appendix 10)
At this time Bro. Berry intimated his intention to resign his office, being forced to do so by absolute necessity and medical advice. His health was such that it was imperative that he should retire. Bro. The Hon. Charles M. Ramsay who had enthusiastically acted the part of Depute Provincial Grand Master became Brother Berry’s worthy successor as Provincial Grand Master.
For thirty years Bro. Berry gave of his best and that of great importance to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Forfarshire as Clerk, Secretary, Depute Master and P.G.M. for two full terms and during his long service did much to improve to ceremonial. No P.G.M. had so many changes in procedure brought in force by edict of Grand Lodge, all of which he saw en-forced in such a courteous manner that merited the approval of the Brethren in the Province.
During James Berry’s term as Provincial Grand Master it is noticeable that he and the Provincial Grand Lodge were becoming more and more involved with settling and judging disputes and misdemeanours committed by Lodges and Brethren. We really can see during this period of the growing power and authority that Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge were now exerting over the Lodges.
This compares to the semi autonomy and the individual control that the Lodges seemed to have over their own affairs at the start of the century and even up into the middle of the Century. By the end of the 19th Century this was indeed changing rapidly. James Berry seems to be the first Provincial Grand Master, and even before that as Depute, to use powers to suspend, discipline and make Lodges and Brethren conform to the growing Rules and Regulations emanating from Grand Lodge.
Freemasonry was itself growing in numbers, influence and respect. At the start of the 20th century there were 26 Lodges in the Province, which included a Lodge that closed early in the 20th Century, Lodge Dunnichen No. 684 at Letham. The intrants into the Lodges for 1894 was 352, in 1895 – 337 and would continue to grow rapidly into the 20th Century.
James Berry in my opinion achieved more than any of his predecessors and there would be no one to surpass or even equal him among his successors. The whole direction and formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge as the structure we know today are, again in my opinion, due to his efforts, his dedication and his example, the foundations of the Provincial Grand Lodge we recognise today are in a great measure due to him. That is his legacy to us.
But even more than that, he has left a far more valuable, noticeable and tangible legacy to the Provincial Grand Lodge, something we all see today, every time the Provincial Grand Master walks into a Lodge wearing his regalia and that is ‘the Chain and Jewel of the Provincial Grand Master.’
Letter of resignation from James Berry to Grand Lodge
11th September 1901
Dear Grand Secretary,
It is with great regret that I beg leave to lay before you my desire to retire from the office I have so long held, of the Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire, and to ask you to place the same before the Executive Board of the Grand Lodge of Scotland on Thursday the 19th Current
The need for taking this step has been full pressed upon me by my own medical attendant, but until the same was very recently and earnestly pressed upon me by Dr D. Bramwell of Edinburgh, I was somewhat in the hope that I might have been able to continue giving my humble services to the Grand Lodge, and especially to that part of the craft in connection which I have taken active supervision for the long period of 30 years.
Assuring the Grand Master and all the other office bearers of Grand Lodge, that I will always entertain the warmest interest in the affairs of the Grand Lodge of Scotland
Yours very faithfully
In September 1901 James Berry submitted his resignation, as P.G. Master. His resignation letter indicates that he was having health problems.
It is obvious from the minutes that the P.G. Lodge were surprised and very saddened by his decision to resign and they accepted it with extreme regret.
At the Quarterly communication in Arbroath on the 23rd October, the Depute P.G. Master, Brother the Hon Charles M. Ramsay, echoed this view but “while they all regretted the step Bro Berry had been obliged to take” because of his failing health - told them “that, painful as it was – they had to accept Bro Berry’s resignation, and while doing so to convey to him their high appreciation of his services to the Masonry of the Province – they all knew how keen and active an interest Bro Berry had taken in all matters pertaining to the craft – It was now thirty-seven years since he became affiliated with St. David’s, Dundee, and for twenty-four years he had been actively connected with the Provincial Grand Lodge… he had done two full terms as Provincial Grand Master and no one could have filled the office more capably and more efficiently than Bro Berry”
He begged them to move that they receive Bro Berry’s resignation and thank him heartily for the work he had done for the Province, at the same time expressing the wish that he might be long spared to be of service to the craft.
They decided to form a committee to look into some sort of recognition of the great contribution and work James Berry had done for the Province and the P.G. Secretary, A.D. Anderson, soon despatched the following letter to all the Lodges
Arbroath 28th November 1901
Dear Sir and Brother
Following upon the resignation of Brother Berry as Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire, Provincial Grand Lodge, at its last quarterly communication held at Arbroath on 23rd October last, unanimously passed a resolution expressive of its deep sense of Brother Berry’s services to the craft and its sincere regret at his enforced resignation, owing to the state of his health, and appointed a committee to arrange for the presentation to him of some mark of its respect.
At a meeting of that committee I was instructed to ask your co-operation and assistance in the furtherance of this object, which is to be promoted by subscription. I enclose a subscription sheet, and shall be pleased if you will kindly interest yourself in the matter
It is desirable that the subscribers should be as representative as possible, and that brethren, by subscribing, show their appreciation of Brother Berry’s services, however small the individual subscriptions may be.
Yours faithfully and fraternally
It seems that James Berry’s ill-health prevented him from attending the installation of his successor, which was held in the Thistle Hall on the 15th November 1901, but a very high powered deputation, headed by the Grand Master, the Hon James Hozier M.P., and others from the Grand Lodge visited him at his home in Newport before the installation ceremony. This visit was to collect the ‘magnificent gold badge of office of the Provincial Grand Master’ and also, on behalf of Grand Lodge to thank Bro Berry for all his good work over the years for both Grand Lodge and the Provincial Grand Lodge.
The Grand Master was accompanied by – Sir Charles Dalrymple, Past Grand Master; John Graham of Broadstone, Depute Grand Master; The Hon Charles Maule Ramsay, Substitute Grand Master (also in his dual capacity as the new Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire) Bro Denholm, Senior Grand Warden, Bro Reid, Grand Secretary; Bro Chisolm, Grand Treasurer; Bro J. Sprunt, P.G. Substitute Master, Bro Watt, P.G. Substitute Master-elect and Bro A.D. Anderson the P.G. Secretary.
James Berry’s health did not improve until April of 1902, when at the quarterly meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, held in Lodge Camperdown – “he was escorted into the P.G. Lodge by Past Masters of Lodges No. 15, 40, 47 & 49, and formally introduced by Bro Lawson Keith (Lodge No. 486), P.G. Director of Ceremonies, and was greeted with loud applause”
The Provincial Grand Master, Brother the Hon C. M. Ramsay, then addressed Bro Berry: -
“As a response to the capable manner in which Brother Berry had carried on the work of the Province during his period of office the brethren had expressed a desire to recognize his services in a tangible form, and he had to ask Brother Berry to accept from them a token of their gratitude and esteem for the manner in which he had laboured for them for many days. The presentation consisted of a very handsome silver rose bowl.
The P.G. Secretary afterwards, in an appropriate speech, asked Brother Berry to accept from the Provincial Grand Lodge a pair of handsome silver candlesticks for Mrs. Berry and a beautiful silver-mounted mirror for Miss Kidd, Sister-in-law of Mr. Berry.
Brother Anderson referred to the kindness and hospitality which both ladies had shown towards Masonic brethren and to the help which each had rendered during Brother Berry’s illness.” (See Full Information in Appendix 13)
Brother James Berry only presided once more over Provincial Grand Lodge and that was at the quarterly meeting of P.G. Lodge on the 4th May 1904, in the premises of Lodge Forfar and Kincardine in Meadow Street, Dundee. The P.G. Master, the Hon Charles M. Ramsay, was absent due to the death of his mother the dowager Countess of Dalhousie.
A special meeting held on the 3rd August 1904, proved to be a very sad one indeed for Provincial Grand Lodge. Not only did it record the death of Mrs Ramsay, the wife of the Provincial Grand Master, Hon Charles M. Ramsay, and the death of the Substitute P.G. Master, Brother Watt, but it also recorded, with great regret and sadness the passing of Brother James Berry, Immediate Past Provincial Grand Master of Forfarshire.
So ended the story of one who must be considered one of the finest, most dedicated and conscientious Provincial Grand Masters in the whole history of our Province.
A very remarkable man indeed and to him we owe the position of laying the foundations of the modern Provincial Grand Lodge of Forfarshire that we recognise today.
Copyright 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.