The History of Lodge St Monan 1348 Founded 1926
By Bro. A. W. McDonald, P.M
Written in MArch 1976
The writing of this narrative has not been unlike compiling an anthology, the writer is constantly aware that when all is done, many of his readers will look as keenly to see what he has left out as what he has put in. No one is more keenly aware than myself of how much I have indeed had to leave out, however, if this booklet gives the reader as much pleasure reading it, as it has given myself writing it then this will be my reward.
For myself, since starting the book I have seen it not as a story of a lodge, which in itself is an inanimate thing, nor even a story of village life which the lodge is so much a part of – but of Masonic brethern united in the common bond of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and so may it ever remain.
I have tried to include as much detail as possible based on the information available in the minute books and some of the minutes are very brief. Therefore any errors or omissions is accidental. No book, however of this nature would ever be completed without reference to the minute books and most of all the advice and guidance of friends and brethren alike. My acknowledgement of these sources is recorded below and to them I am deeply indebted.
My thanks to Past Master Bro. Alexander Overstone for the inumerable telephone calls and letters when I required information or details clarified.
My thanks to Past Master Bro. Aitken Fyall who read and corrected the manuscript and gave me the benefit of his experience and made some valuable suggestions.
Last but by no means least my thanks to all our ladies and families whose tolerance makes all this possible.
Finally brethren having written the history as a story rather than a documented year by year account, I leave you the reader to decide if more or less information was required for our purpose.
If, however I have succeeded in arousing your interest in the history of your Mother Lodge, or, imparted even a glimmer of Masonic light, then the greater part of my purpose will have been achieved.
50 Years of History (Produced in 1976)
The Nethertowners were extremely superstitious and had no social intercourse of any kind with any of the neighbouring villages. They had their own oracle who guided them in everything they did. They also had a deep hatred of swine. If they saw one they immediately abandoned their mission and fled from it as they would from a hungry lion.
Their occupation was then suspended till the ebb and flow of the tide had effectively removed the spell. The only way to dispel immediate danger was to touch anything metallic and say “cauld iron”. These same devils were kept by the Uppertown folk in great numbers affecting much annoyance to the Nethertowners on account of their occasional intrusion down the brae.
Eventually the Oracle decided that they must go in a body and destroy, not the animals (for they dared not touch or look at them) but in fact all who bred and fostered\ such terrible demons. Armed with boat hooks and other murderous implements they made their way up the brae but were discovered, whereupon the inhabitants of Overtown set loose the swine chasing them downhill towards the fisherfolk who, on seeing this horrific sight turned and fled back down the brae there to wait for the ebb and flow of the tide.
Things could not go on like this and, although the Feudal Lord tried to negotiate between the two sides, he found it impossible to placate the fisherfolk so eventually ordered the destruction of all swine. According to authentic tradition, not an animal of its kind existed in St Monans for nearly a century. Even at the present day although they are kept, fed and eaten they are considered extremely adverse to look upon or even mention by name but when necessity demands they are referred to as simply – swine, or curly-tails.
It is conforting to record that Saint Monan must have left his mark and influence on the village for as time passed, peace reigned and the two sections of the village became united. If they had not, there would not have been an important meeting of Overtown and Nethertown inhabitants several centuries later.
Our real story starts in the Ex-Servicemen’s Hut on the “Muir” on the night of St Andrews day, November 30th 1925.
Fallowing a proposal by Bro William Dunn, a meeting of local freemasons was held on that night to discuss the purchase·of the Union Hall for the purpose of inaugurating a Lodge of Freemasons in St Monans, Bro Rev John Hart occupying the chair.
At this meeting, it was agreed that the number present (thirty) was insuff icient to represent the opinion of St Monans freemasons and it was decided to meet again on 1st December 1925 when, with a better attendance, the matter might be more fully explored. This meeting duly took place and from it a new Masonic Lodge was born. Eight brethren came forward to act as guarantors for the sum required to purchase the Hall and for the sake of posterity they are named as follows:-
Bro James Wood – West End
Bro Alexander Hutt – West End
Bro George Duncan – Braehead
Bro William Anderson – Station Road
Bro Alexander Tarvit – East Shore
Bro William Dunn – East Backagate
Bro William Sommers – Station Road
Bro Walter Reekie – Elmgrove
As can be seen from the addresses, the Overtowners and Nethertowners were now well and truly united!
A committee of the above brethren including Bros Hart and Paxton was then formed, with full powers to purchase the Union Hall on behalf of St Monans freemasons.
The committee carried out their duties in a speedy and efficient manner and decreed that the business be conducted through the North of Scotland Bank with Bro William Sommers as principle negotiator, with a limit of spending fixed at five hundred pounds.
Bro Sommers duly reported back to the committee on the 4th December 1925 that the Union Hall had been purchased for the purpose of a Masonic Lodge for the sum of £411 (obviously he was a good business man) and that entry would be obtained on the 8th January 1926.
The first meeting by the masons, in their newly acquired premises, was held on the 9th January 1926 to consider making application to the Grand Lodge of Scotland for the grant of a Charter empowering the Brethren to meet as a regular lodge at St Monans.
This may be unique in the History of Scottish Freemasonry from the fact that the brethren made application for their charter after having first secured and equipped their premises as a masonic lodge before making application for a charter. It was therefore possible for the Provincial Grand Master, Bro Lord Elgin, to consecrate and erect the Lodge as well as consecrate the premises, at one and the same time. This fact was duly reported to the Grand Lodge of Scotland by the Provincial Grant Master as is recorded on Pages 306 and 307 of Proceedings of Grand Lodge of Scotland for 1926 and 1927.
At this meeting, the petition was read out to the brethren present and it was agreed that the Lodge by known as “St. Monan”.
The brethren then proceeded to nominate and elect the following office bearers of the new Lodge.
Master – Bro Rev J Hart
Depute Master – Bro Wm. Sommers
Substitute Master – Bro Walter Reekie
Senior Warden – Bro Jas Allan
Junior Warden – Bro Andrew Allan
Secretary- Bro Andrew Paxton
Treasurer – Bro David Bremner
Senior Deacon – Bro Gerrard Reekie
Junior Deacon – Bro William Anderson
Inner Guard – Bro Wm Dunn
Tyler – Bro Wm Ferguson
The elected office-bearers along with 24 other brethren recorded under, then signed the petition as founder member and the secretary was instructed to forward the petition to Grand Lodge for their consideration. There was nothing more the brethren could do now except wait.
Bro Robt Aitken
Bro Jas Wood
Bro Wm Tarvit
Bro Wm Meldrum
Bro David Morris
Bro David Smith
Bro Robt Allan
Bro Andrew Fyall
Bro Wm Reekie
Bro Robt Pratt
Bro John Mathers
Bro Alex Smith
Bro George Duncan
Bro Alex Hutt
Bro Wm Davidson
Bro David Allan
Bro Alex Smith
Bro Alex Aitken
Bro Alex Innes
Bro Alex M Robertson
Bro Jas Gowans
Bro Alex Tarvit
Bro David Easson
Bro Jas Reekie
It is with grateful hearts that we thank these worthy masons for their foresight and dedication in giving ‘US “Our Mother Lodge”.
Of the above brethren, three of them are still with us today in the persons of Bro Jas Gowans, residing in Forth Street, Bro Alex Smith, residing in the Braehead and Bro Alex Robertson, residing in Station Road and it is to be hoped that these brethren will be present at the re-dedication of the Lodge in May 1976.
Petunia was the colour chosen by the brethren for the lodge clothing and the initiation fee fixed at Five Guineas, Two shillings being the annual subscription.
Considering that the initiation fee was equivalent in those days to at least four week’s wages, the author would not hesitate to suggest that the current Lodge fee for initiation of £20 is indeed excellent value for money.
The brethren now waited nearly four months before they knew if their petition had been successful. Patience however brings its own reward for on the 22nd May 1926 a letter was received from the Provincial Grand Secretary intimating the grantingo.&a charter for Lodge St Monan, Numbering 1348 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The seeds sown in 1925 were now beginning to bear fruit. A meeting was hastily convened by the brethren in order that final preparations could be made for all matters connected with the ceremony of Consecration and Erection of the Lodge.
On the 11th August 1926 the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, Bro Lord Elgin and the Provincial Grand Office-bearers entered the Masonic Hall, St Monans and proceeded to open the Provincial Grand Lodge of Fife and Kinross in due and ancient form. The Provincial Grand Lodge was duly passed and raised and the Provincial Grand Lodge Chaplain offered up the consecration prayer at the conclusion of which the P.G.M. called upon the Prov. Grand Treasurer to read the Grand Lodge of Scot land Charter granted to Lodge St Monan.
For the sake of younger members of Lodge St Monan who may not have studied the Lodge Charter, the opening lines are reproduced under:-
“To All and Sundry to whose knowledge these presents shall come, greetings in God everlasting.
Wherewas upon the Sixth day of May Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-Six, a petition was presented to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, in the names of (Founder Members) praying the said Grand Lodge to grant a Charter of Constitition and Erection, in the usual form, for holding a Lodge under the name and Title of ST MONAN : ST MONANS : Province of Fife and Kinross, and proposing the persons aforementioned to be the first office bearers thereof Viz: (Office-bearers) which petition, with the requisite certificates, therewith produced, having been duly considered in Grand Lodge assembled, they were pleased to ordain a charter to be issued in the terms underwirtten. Know ye therefore, that the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland and the Grand Lodge thereof have constituted, erected and appointed likeas they hereby constitute, erect and appoint the Master Wardens and brethren above named, to be now, and in all time coming, a true and regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the name, style and title of St Monan: St Monans: Province of Fife and Kinross, and appoint and ordain all regular lodges to hold and respect them as such, giving granting and committing to them and those to be afterwards admitted members of the said Lodge, full power and authority to meet, assemble and convene as a regular Lodge”.
The Charter continues and is signed at the end in the following manner:-
Stair : Grand Master Mason, : Elgin : I P Grand Master, : Blythswood : Grand Master Depute, : J Inglis : Subs Grand Master, : A A Fraser : Sen Grand Warden, : Belhaven : Jun Grand Warden.
It is interesting to note that the Charter of Lodge St Monan has the signature of no less than four Past Grand Masters. Bro Lord Elgin recorded above was the father of the present Bro Lord Elgin our Provincial Grand Master, and at that time he also was the Provincial Grand Master of Fife and Kinross. The Charter having been read to the Lodge Bro Lord Elgin performed the ceremony of consecration by pouring Corn Wine and Oil dedicating the Lodge thereby to Freemasonry, Virtue, and Universal Benevolence. The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies then pro claimed Lodge St Monan No 1348 to be a true and regular Lodge for all time coming. After the proclamation the Provincial Grand Lodge was closed in due and ancient form. After a short pause, the brethren were then called to order by Bro Lord Elgin, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, and for the first time Lodge St Monan No 1348 was opened in the first or entered apprentice degree for the purpose of installing the first Master, Bro Rev John Hart and his office-bearers into their respective offices.
This ceremonial was carried through by Bro Lord Elgin, P.G.M. ably assisted by Bro H Buddo Middleton, Prov Grand Depute Master.
The Lodge having been formally consecrated and erected and launched on the sea of life by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Fife and Kinross, Bro Lord Elgin and the Provincial Grand office-bearers retired and were after wards entertained to tea in the Parish Church Hall.
The Lodge was now well and truly set and the brethren lost no time in calling a special meeting on 13th August 1926 in order that a notice of motion could be tabled for discussion at the first regular meeting to be held on the 14th August 1926. The notice of motion was, that the pattern set of Bye-laws as approved by Grand Lodge be adopted to rule and guide Lodge St Monan.
These same bye-laws have changed little in the past 50 years, the most significant points of the originals being that the regular meetings of the Lodge would be held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The nomination and election of Office-bearers would be the fourth Tuesday in November and the Annual Meeting and installation of Office bearers would be the second Tuesday in December. These particular bye laws however were changed within a year to exclude meetings in June, July and August, but the Lodge continued to meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays until September 1931, when the bye-laws were again changed to exclude the meeting held on the fourth Tuesday of the month . These meeting dates remained fixed for the next 36 years when the bye laws were again changed to the second Friday of each month, September to May inclusive.
A feature of the Lodge in those early days was to meet also on a Saturday in order to accommodate the fishermen of the Lodge, who due to their calling, were unable to attend the Lodge during the week.
The Lodge having now agreed the bye-laws the secretary then read out the first applications from gentlemen wishing to be admitted to the Lodge . They numbered eight in all and are as follows:-
William Gordon – Railway Clerk – Roll No . 36
William Mackie – Risherman – Roll No 37
George Miller – Postman – Roll No 38
John Campbell – Minister of Religion – Roll No 39
William Kean – Slater & Plasterer – Roll No 40
Thomas Latto – Carpenter Club Maker – Roll No 41
James Easson – Club Maker – Roll No 42
Robert Guthrie – Joiner – Roll No 43
So the Lodge was ready to initiate their first members, the very first three being William Gordon, William Mackie and George Miller.
Bro George Miller was eventually to become Master in 1940, no doubt Bro “Geordie” will be remembered with nostalgic affection by a number of the brethren as he trudged round St Monans with his post bag. When asked “Are there any letters for us” his reply was always “A great big bagful!”.
The running of the Lodge was therefore left to the boat builders, the shopkeepers and the “land lubbers” in general. This did not mean however that the fishermen were forgotten or neglected by the active members of the Lodge as special meetings were arranged to suit the seasonal requirements of the fishing community.
Special reference was made to the fishing community in general by Bro H Buddo Middleton when he headed the Provincial Visitation to the Lodge in 1929. It would appear that there had been a very severe gale during the “Winter Herring” which resulted in almost total disaster for the fishing fleet, all of whom lost nearly their complete compliment of fishing nets. Bro Middleton expressed the deep regret of Provincial Grand Lodge at the disaster which had overtaken the fishing fleet along with the sincere hope that the widespread sympathy which was being felt throughout the county and the efforts which were being made to give practical expression to that sympathy, would in some small measure assuage the disappointment and distress which was being felt in the fishing communities.
Soirees, socials, whist drives and many other functions were regularly held in the Lodge rooms. Indeed if the majority of the readers of this narrative ask their Mothers and Fathers no doubt they will be told that not only was their wedding reception held in the Masonic Lodge but they were married there as well, as the Old Union Hall has seen a great number of other functions besides Masonic degrees.
So the Lodge grew and prospered and it was not until September 1939 that its harmony was disturbed by the outbreak of war. Man’s lust for power was to see the world go mad for the next six years.
At the outbreak of war the Masonic Hall was quickly commandeered by the Military authorities and all masonic meetings were suspended.
The brethren were however able to hold a regular meeting in December 1939 at which eleven office-bearers were present. It’s purpose was to enable the secretary to make a return for the year to Grand Lodge and it was unanimously agreed that the existing office-bearers remain in office for a further year.
Apart from the initial suspension of meetings at the end of 1939, the Lodge continued to meet regularly throughout the war years. Indeed after the first few months of 1940, the Lodge quickly got back into top gear and were once again working two degrees in one night as well as working special meetings, this trend continuing into 1945.
At the cessation of hostilities, the brethren returned home and picked up the threads of their life which had been so abruptly interrupted six years before and the Lodge did likewise.
Some of the brethren however were not to return to their home or to their Lodge as they had paid the supreme sacrifice in order that those who were left might remain free.
The words of Laurence Binyon are very appropriate at this point. “They shall grow not old, As we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them”
A memorial plaque was erected on the west wall of the Lodge:- “In Memory of Those Who Fell”.
The world, having settled down after six years of war, began the slow but steady build-up to normality and very soon we had arrived in the jet age. From there is was but a short step to the space age, when man walked on the Moon. These world-shattering incidents however had little or no effect on Lodge St Monan which continued its harmonious advance into the last half of the twentieth century and saw it nearing its Golden Jubilee, still teaching these excellent precepts laid down on our Masonic tracing boards.
This celebration is now upon us and the last fifty years has seen a number of worthy brethren pass through the Lodge and finally pass, from this mortal scene, to the Grand Lodge above. It would be almost impossible to name them all in this narrative.
It may be invidious to select any one personality by name but perhaps within living memory Past Master Bro David I Black can be regarded as a typical example of the devotion shown by a number of the brethren of the Lodge from 1926.
Bro Black devoted so much of his long life to the welfare and wellbeing of Lodge St Monan and was looked upon in the early sixties as a father figure and exemplar of all the Masonic Teachings. For his devotion, Bro Black received the Distinguished Service Memembers Certificate from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, an honour not given to many but so well deserved on this occasion.
The last fifteen years has also seen a great number of changes to the world in general and perhaps to the East Neuk of Fife in particular. No longer are there great shoals of herring, busy boat yards and the like, resulting in a gradual decline in the smaller industries and businesses which depended so much on the great fishing fleets. The very nature of the Scottish economic scene has resulted in a great number of the brethren of the Lodge having, like Saint Monan before them, to bid adieu to their place of nativity and settle elsewhere in the world.
The brethren of 1348 have been scattered over the four quarters of the globe but still look with deep affection to their Mother Lodge. The name of Lodge St Monan No 1348 S.C. must surely appear in Lodge attendance books all over the world. The author has in his possession a letter received from the King George Lodge No 129 working under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, informing the Master and brethren of Lodge St Monan that they had had the pleasure of the company of Bro Alex Allan Hutt who had attended a meeting of that Lodge on 22 May 1968. Bro Hutt was at that time serving on H.M.S. Glamorgan.
A number of brethren have also risen to distinction in other Provinces and other constitutions. To quote only two examples of this, at a regular meeting in April 1969, when the author was in the chair, Bro Robert Mayes who was at that time on holiday from Australia was presented to the Lodge, the last occasion being 42 years previously.
Bro Mayes was initiated at a regular meeting in February 1927 and that same year emigrated to Australia, Bro Mayes continued his masonic career in Australia and became a Past Master of two lodges, Ashburton No 563 and Mitcham No 472, he was also at the time of his visit to his homeland the Senior Provincial Grand Deacon of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Western Australia.
Also Bro Aitken Fyall, who resides in England became a Past Master of Lodge Mercury No. 4581 E.C. and is currently the Provincial Senior Grand Warden for Hampshire and Isle of Wight.
This must indicate that the examples set by our predecessors are being carried on and Lodge St Monan is known throughout the world.
As our story of the past fifty years draws to its close, with so much left unsaid and so many tributes unpaid, the author would hesitate to look too far into the future but can only entertain a firm but humble hope that Lodge St Monan will continue for another fifty years, unmoved by wars, natural disasters and the like, spreading the cement of love and harmony to all mankind. Today the Lodge is part of the very fabric of village life. Long may it be so!