St Columba Lodge of Freemasons No. 1295
History the first 75 years

Produced in conjunction with the Re-dedication Ceremony conducted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Inverness-shire on 2nd August 1997


The main source of information when compiling this history of Lodge St Columba No. 1295 was gleaned from the Lodge Minute books and a great debt of gratitude must be paid to all those Lodge Secretaries who have, over the last 75 years, recorded the events and workings of the Lodge. Unfortunately the earliest Minute book covering the period from 1922 to 1927 was destroyed. The story goes that during one of the Lodge moves the books were stored in a shed and due to the porous nature of the roof the book was water damaged and illegible.

Enough is known however to indicate that at the beginning of the nineteen twenties, Freemasonry within Inverness was flourishing, so much so that the existing Lodges, Old Inverness Kilwinning St John's No. VI and St Mary's Caledonian Operative No. 339 found it difficult to cope with all the applications there were for membership. It became apparent that a further Lodge was required and 31 Master Masons decided to petition The Grand Lodge of Scotland for a Charter to institute a new Lodge in Inverness. On the 3rd August 1922 Charter No. 1295 was granted and St Columba Lodge of Freemasons No. 1295 on the roll of The Grand Lodge of Scotland came into existence.

The Lodge made its home in The Freemasons Hall, Huntly Street, Inverness, and there were 34 founder members. Of these, 26 Brethren were either members or affiliates of Lodge St Mary's No. 339, 5 from Lodge St Andrew No. 601 and 1 each from St John's Lodge No. VI, St David No. 78 Forfar and Lodge of Melrose St John No. 1. It was to transpire that 5 of the founder members, namely Bros. John Gordon, James J. Ross, Hugh Fraser, A. F. Mackenzie and William Grant were to serve as R.W.M. of the Lodge.

The Lodge was consecrated on the 22nd December 1922 by the R.W.P.G.M. Bro. John Bernie, J.P., and the following brethren were appointed as office-bearers:—

R.W.M. — John Gordon; D.M. — James Macleman; S.M. — Joseph N. Paterson; W.S.W. — James F. Ross; W.J.W. — Hugh Fraser; Secretary — William Ross; Treasurer — James Beale; S.D. — James Riggs; J.D. — Thomas M. Burns; I.G. — Alexander Dallas; Tyler  Duncan Macdonald.

The first meeting was held on the 8th February 1923, at which 7 candidates were initiated into the craft.

The early years of the Lodge must have been an exciting period and in the years 1924 to 1925 the great A. F. Mackenzie, whose picture hangs on the West wall of our current Temple and was instrumental in the creation of the Lodge Ritual, served as R.W.M. and if subsequent Minutes are anything to go by the Lodge, under his command must have been a very lively place. Bro. Mackenzie, in 1929, went on to succeed Bro. John Bernie, J.P., as Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master of Inverness-shire.

As early as the Annual General Meeting in December 1927 the charity work of the Lodge is recorded in that permission was sought from Provincial Grand Lodge to disburse the surplus in the General Account to Charities. The belief in religion was strong among the Brethren as in May 1928 a letter was received from Provincial Grand Lodge intimating a public lecture on "The Scottish Church in Jerusalem" and "a goodly number of tickets were taken by the Brethren."

A custom maintained by the Lodge until this day is the Annual Pilgrimage to Craig Phadraig to celebrate the life and works of St  Columba and in June 1928 the "charabanc" left the Lodge rooms

for which the Brethren paid the princely sum of I/- each, the equivalent of 5p, for the benefit of those Brethren too young to remember what the value of real money was. By 1932 the charge rose to 2/6 but the journey home was via Dochgarroch, a practice which was carried on for a number of years. Whether or not a liquid refreshment was taken at Dochgarroch is not recorded. Freemasonry at that time was recorded freely in ''The Inverness Courier" and it is interesting to read in a report dated 27th December 1933 covering the Festival of St John, that the Lodge was referred to as "the young Lodge of St Columba"

For the celebration of the Festival of St John in 1928 the Brethren marched in procession from the Lodge rooms in Huntly to the Columba Hotel which conveys a high regard and esteem for Freemasonry at that time held by the Brethren and the general public. A further illustration of the importance of Freemasonry at this time was a letter received from the Inverness Town Clerk in February 1936 thanking the Brethren for attending the Memorial Service in the Old High Church on the occasion of the death of His Majesty King George V.

In March 1933 Bro. James MacMahon, a founder member of the Lodge, at a meeting of the Town Council, received the Carnegie Medal for bravery. It is recorded "that without thought for personal danger he rescued a man from the River Ness when it was in flood." P.M. Bro. W. J. Dalgleish who was at the presentation said he was that it was a Brother of the Lodge receiving the medal.

An event which has sadly disappeared from the Lodge itinerary was the Annual Picnic. This is first mentioned in July 1933 when Brethren, their wives and children visited Rogie Falls for which a Sports Committee was formed. What sports they were able to arrange at Rogie Falls one must leave to the imagination. This would appear to have been a very popular event and continued for a number of years to different locations, among them Rosemarkie, Findhorn, Drumnadrochit, Struy and Ardersier on a number of occasions. The popularity of the event was evident from the fact that numbers were limited to 80.

Everything was not rosy however. There was an emergency committee meeting in June 1935 to discuss the new "Constitution and Laws" and two of the topics which arose were (a) Too much power vested in the R.W.P.G.M.; (b) Fees payable to Grand Lodge for each initiate were too high. The 2nd World War took many Brethren into the Services and a fund was set up to send comforts to Brethren of the Lodge who were serving abroad. As it happened the Lodge Treasurer was "called up" and it was later discovered he took with him £335 of Lodge funds, which was a considerable amount of money at that time.

An example of the difficult times experienced by people around the 1930s was a letter in February 1937 from a needy Brother applying for assistance "as he had been out of work for a year through ill health, his Health Benefit had been reduced and he was in need of nourishing food to sustain his health." The Lodge looked kindly on this Brother's request and made a suitable monetary donation.

In September 1940 Bro. A. F. Mackenzie, P.M., who has already been referred to, was thanked for arranging the execution and design of the Lodge Tracing Boards which were on view for the first time. Until this time the Tracing Boards belonging to St Mary's C.O. No. 339 were used by the Lodge.

During the period of the 2nd World War the Lodge continued to function but the War was obviously at the forefront of everybody's mind. The Lodge invested money in Defence bonds and War Savings Certificates. The 1941 St John's Festival provisions were tea and sandwiches due to the food shortage. The 1942 Craig Phadraig pilgrimage was cancelled due to the petrol shortage and in 1943 a letter was received from Provincial Grand Lodge indicating the date of the Annual Visitation and "expressing hope that entertainment on this occasion would be kept down to a minimum."

As part of the 21st Anniversary celebrations of the Lodge in 1943 Bro. A. Ross presented the Lodge with a new Master's chair (he went on to be R.W.M. in 1945, maybe he wanted a comfortable seat during his term of office), after which 7 Brethren were passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft and at the harmony afterwards Bro. A. F. Mackenzie, P.M., gave a review of the founding of the Lodge.

During December 1944 an Instructional Committee was formed which currently is a duty performed by the W.J.W. and has been for a number of years. The main object of these instruction classes is to try to

convey to new Brethren the story and lessons to be learnt from each of the Degrees in Freemasonry in a more relaxed atmosphere than in the Lodge room. It is also a place where new talent is identified and encouraged for ritual work.

In 1945 a Lodge Mark Master Mason Token was returned to the Lodge by the Master of Hallarnshire Lodge No. 2268 Sheffield E.C., it having been found in Nairobi, Africa, by his son. How the token came to be there will forever remain a mystery as nobody has returned with fraternal greetings.

The raising of funds was always and still is an important aspect of the Lodge activities and it is interesting to note that a Lodge Ladies Committee organised a sale of work and raised the sum of $180 in December 1945.

A square and compasses was presented to the Lodge in April 1946 by the R.W.M. Bro. A. Ross and P.Ms. of the Lodge, and these were dedicated by the Provincial Grand Chaplain of the time Bro. Rev. W. M. Graham. Also at this meeting, which was a Provincial Visitation, the remarks of the R.W.D.P.G.M. Bro. Alastair G. Macdonald are interesting in that he drew the Brethren's attention to Grand Lodge Laws regarding the careful selection of candidates and was pleased to note that this was being adhered to in Lodge St Columba as they had initiated only 40 candidates in the past year which, he thought, was a very reasonable figure and should be noted that the largest influx of candidates was in the period from 1943-1948 and coincides with fact that there were many Armed Forces personnel in the At this time Grand Lodge allowed more than one Degree to be conducted at a meeting, either a 1st and 2nd or 2nd and 3rd degree, and it was not unusual for the meeting to go on until midnight. True dedication.

During the period from the middle of 1946 to the end of 1951 the Minute book was water damaged but it was in 1947 the Lodge moved its location to premises above the Glenalbyn Bar in Young Street, Inverness.

In April 1952 a Variety Concert was organised to provide funds for Masonic Homes in the Little Theatre, which realised the sum of £13 which was forwarded to Grand Lodge. As well as organising the event those Brethren who owned motor cars were requested to convey the artists to and from the venue.

In October 1952 a letter was noted from Grand Lodge which stated that some Lodges were not carrying out the working of the 3rd Degree with the solemnity and feeling they should be, but reverting to mockery instead of conducting the Degree with solemnity md reverence.

The summer of 1954 brought another sale of work and with it a

raffle. First prize in a lot of raffles nowadays is an exotic holiday or a new car but the 1954 Lodge St Columba raffle first prize was a lady's or gent's cycle and other prizes included a half bottle of whisky, 2 x 10/notes, 2 dozen fresh eggs, a pair of nylons, 2 x iced cakes, 50 cigarettes, a pair of

gent's socks and 11b of tea. Again the ladies were heavily involved, perhaps this was why the large sum of £200 was raised.

A special Extraordinary Meeting of the Lodge was called on the 17th February 1955 regarding the purchase of new Lodge rooms at 6 North Church Place for the sum of £1,500. It was decided to go ahead with the purchase despite it requiring extensive work as it was termed an exceptional bargain. Special tribute was paid to P.M. J. D. Legge, for his negotiations. After extensive renovations, costing in the region of £2,000, were completed by the contractors and Brethren, the premises were Consecrated on the 5th September 1956 by The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland Bro. The Rt. Hon. Lord MacDonald of MacDonald, M.B.E., T.D., L.L., J.P., M.A., accompanied by a deputation from Grand Lodge. The total attendance was 290 and as the Lodge room could only accommodate approximately 200, the proceedings had to be relayed to an ante room. It is recorded that this was the first time in the history of the Craft that this had taken place. The R.W.M. at the time was Bro. George Ross normally a very calm and collected person but he must have been staggered on that occasion. Because of the high expenditure incurred at that time the Secretary, Treasurer and Tyler refused their honorariums. In March the following year a booklet was produced giving an account of the Consecration and special mention paid to Bro. J. Blackburn, Lodge St John's No. VI, he being the architect who supervised the renovations for which he was given Honorary Membership of the Lodge.

In December 1960 it was "agreed with pleasure" that the Lodge carpet went over the sea to Skye on loan to Lodge Macdonald of Sleat for the consecration of the new Lodge room.

In May 1961 it was decided at another Extraordinary Special Meeting that the Lodge premises be sold for the sum of the overheads being so costly and a large rates increase pending. From here the Lodge, with a healthy profit from this property transaction, moved to School Lane, renting from St Andrew's R.A. Chapter.

At the Provincial Visitation in March 1962 the R.W.P.G.M. of the time, Bro. Walter P. Cameron, J.P., M.A., in his remarks mentioned that the Lodge Ritual may have been in part based upon the ritual of Lodge Union, Inverness, which had ceased to exist in the 19th century. His parting comment was that it emphasised some of the landmarks of Freemasonry and had given great pleasure and interest to him.

Towards the end of 1962 there is the first mention of a central

Masonic Lodge in Inverness in that 2 Brethren were charged to attend a meeting about this. In May 1963 it was agreed to join the company of Masonic Properties set up to acquire premises for this joint venture. Information is rather sketchy but it would appear around March 1965 premises at 5 Gordon Terrace, which is now the Masonic Club, were acquired.

In the meantime, the Lodge continued to meet at School Lane until January 1967, when the Lodge moved to Lodge St Mary's No. 339 room which was situated in Hamilton Street, Inverness.

In the same month it was also recommended by the Committee that the Lodge follow Grand Lodge advice and remove the Ancient Penalties from the Lodge Ritual. This recommendation was subsequently defeated at a meeting in open Lodge and still exists to this day.


In September 1969 the Lodge was on the move again in that they decided to make use of the temporary Lodge Room at 5 Gordon Terrace, Inverness.