Welcome Brethren To the Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No.76 Newsletter January 2009
Brethren, A HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome to the first newsletter of 2009.
This is a big year for us in Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No. 76. In May we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Lodge receiving its charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1759, quite an achievement, I’m sure you will agree. So in May, I will be producing a 250th anniversary edition of the newsletter, more details about that, later. However, there is another 250th anniversary that occurs this year, for on the 25th of January, 1759, our national bard Robert Burns was born. And so to celebrate this momentous occasion, the newsletter this month is dedicated to arguably the most famous of all Scottish Freemasons, Brother Robert Burns. Firstly, on the main web site there is an article by Bro. Fred Belford entitled, ‘Robert Burns - Freemason.’ If you have not already come across this article before, I recommend it to you. Bro, Belford states, “Among the great men whose memories Scotsmen in particular have been delighted to perpetuate few, if any, have been held in greater love and admiration than Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland. Indeed, the enthusiasm which is aroused as each succeeding January comes round is a source of continual wonder to other nations and it certainly has no parallel in any other country.” Click this link to take you to the website Lodge 76 website
Robert Burns Timeline 1757 1759 1766 1777
William Burnes marries Agnes Broun of Maybole (1732-1820). 25 January. Robert Burns born at Alloway. William Burnes moves to Mount Oliphant, a 70-acre farm near Alloway. William Burnes moves to Lochlie, Tarbolton, a 130-acre farm on the north bank of the Ayr. 1780 The Tarbolton Bachelors' Club founded. 1781 Burns works as a flax-dresser in Irvine. 1782 Burns returns to Lochlie after the burning of the Irvine shop. 1784 William Burnes dies. Robert moves to Mossgiel. 1785 22 May. Birth of Elizabeth, Burns' daughter by his mother's servant-girl Betty Paton. Burns meets Jean Armour. 1786 Kilmarnock Poems published. Burns' affair with Jean Armour begins. Burns repudiated by Jean's father. Plans emigration to Jamaica. Jean gives birth to twins, Robert and Jean. 1787 Poems published by William Creech. First volume of James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum published. 1788 Second volume of The Scots Musical Museum published. Burns returns to Ayrshire and Jean Armour. Twins born to Jean Armour. Burns commissioned as an exciseman. 1789 Burns' son Francis Wallace born. Burns begins work in the Excise. 1790 Third volume of The Scots Musical Museum published. Riding 200 miles a week on excise duties taking its toll on Burns' health. Tam o' Shanter completed. 1791 Burns' daughter Elizabeth born to Anne Park, Dumfries. * Burns' son William Nicol born at Ellisland. Burns renounces the lease of Ellisland in favour of full-time excise work. Burns goes to Edinburgh, and says farewell to Clarinda. 1792 Burns appointed to the Dumfries Port division of excise. Fourth volume of The Scots Musical Museum published; sixty of the hundred songs written or communicated with some revision by Burns. Burns' daughter Elizabeth Riddell born. Burns accused of political disaffection in Dumfries. 1793 Second Edinburgh edition of Poems. First set of Thomson's Select Collection published. Burns moves to Mill Vennel, Dumfries. 1794 Burns' son James Glencairn born. Burns appointed acting supervisor of excise. 1795 Burns and Mrs. Dunlop estranged. Burns joins in organising the Dumfries Volunteers. Burns' daughter Elizabeth Riddell dies. Burns ill with rheumatic fever. 1796 Burns struggling in his last illness, to keep up a supply of songs for Thomson; vainly appeals to Thomson for a loan of ÂŁ5 to meet a debt. 21 July Burns dies at Dumfries. 25 July Burns' funeral. His son Maxwell born.
Robert Burns’s Appearance. What did he look like?
We all probably have the same images of Burns’s appearance that we have seen in the few paintings and sketches of him that are available. The one above was painted by Alexander Nasmyth when Burns was 28 years old but Nasmyth was actually a landscape painter. We don’t know how good he was at portraits but we can probably accept that this is a reasonable likeness.
There is a school of thought that this image painted by Peter Taylor may be the closest likeness. Painted in 1786, this was the earliest recorded image of Burns. Taylor was an Edinburgh house and coach painter but apparently Burns did actually sit for him while on one of his visits to the city. The fact that Taylor was not an artist per se and that I have been unable to find any other examples of his paintings suggest that he was not prolific and that his skill as a portrait painter maybe in doubt.
The image to the left is from an engraving by John Beugo in February 1787. Beugo was a friend of Burns and since it was done in Burns’s lifetime by someone who knew him well it is likely that this is the best likeness. The image was based on Nasmyth’s portrait but clearly he had every opportunity to modify this and to make sure that he had a good likeness. This image was commissioned for the publication of Burns’s Poems, Chiefly
in the Scottish Dialect, published by William Creech that year. It is said that Burns was very pleased with the print and that he wrote to Beugo to congratulate him on it. In a copy of the book given to a friend he wrote the following lines; I send you a trifle, a head of a Bard A trifle not worthy your care; But accept it, good sir, as a mark of regard Sincere as a Saint’s dying prayer.
This sketch was made in 1798 by Archibald Skirving who never actually met Burns. Apparently he made the sketch from another picture but apart from being a nice image it bears a striking resemblance to Nasmyth’s version of Burns so it could also be fairly accurate.
Alexander Nasmyth also painted this picture in 1828, more than thirty years after the poet’s death.
The image to the right, is held in Dumfries museum and it was painted by a local miniaturist, Alexander Reid. Once again we have no way of knowing how accurate this was. The poet is depicted as being a bit heavier in this image, which is strange since it was reportedly done in January 1796 when he was already quite ill and only six months before his death. Surprisingly, Basil Skinner’s 1963 book seems to confirm that Burns himself thought this was the best likeness.
The Reid Miniature can be dated precisely by two references in Burns’s letters, the first already quoted, writing to George Thomson in May1795 and the second in a letter of January 1796 to Mrs Walter Riddell – ‘Apropos pictures, I am now sitting to Reid in this town for a miniature, and I think he has hit the best likeness of me ever taken’.
The silhouette was done by John Miers in 1787. It is said to be reasonably accurate but it is of limited value in determining Burns’ likeness because of the obvious limitations of Silhouettes.
The Reid miniature and the the Miers silhouette are the only images of Burns from a side view. I tested them by enlarging Miers silhouette and reversing it so that it is on the same perspective as Reid’s image. While Miers’s is only a silhouette and the hair styles are different I believe that some similarities can be seen. These then are the sources of all subsequent paintings (and probably sculptures) of Burns. We also have a good written description of Burns. In volume one of the “Works of Robert Burns” from 1834. Allan Cunningham wrote; “Burns in his youth was, was tall and sinewy, with coarse swarthy features, and a ready word of wit or of kindness for all. The man differed little from the lad; his form was vigorous, his limbs shapely, his knees firmly knit, his arms muscular and round, his hands large, his fingers long and he stood five feet ten inches high. All his movements were unconstrained and free:- he had a slight stoop of the neck, betokening a holder of the plough; and a lock or so of his dark waving hair was tied carefully behind with two casts of narrow black ribbon. His looks beamed with genius and intelligence; his forehead was broad and clear, shaded by raven locks inclining to curl; his cheeks were furrowed more with anxiety than time; his nose was short rather than long, his mouth, firm and manly, his teeth white and regular, and there was a dimple, a small one, on his chin. His eyes were dark, large and lustrous, I have heard them likened to coach lamps approaching in a dark night, because they were first seen of any part of the poet. – ‘I never saw,’ said Scott, ‘such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men in my time.” This excellent article on Robert Burns’s appearance was by Bryan Weir, to whom grateful thanks must go for allowing me permission to reproduce it in the Lodge 76 newsletter.
Robert Burns, Stirling and Lodge 76.
bard, Brother Robert Burns,” William MacKillop the Junior Grand Warden was present, his mother lodge was 76!
Robert Burns visited Stirling on Sunday 26th August 1787 and stayed until Tuesday 28th August,. Tradition has it that during his stay in the town, he visited the sister lodge in the town and signed the attendance book. The page of the book with the bard’s signature disappeared years later, then the attendance book with the missing page vanished, if it ever did exist. The minute book of Lodge 30 makes no mention of Burns’ visit and there was no meeting on either of these nights. However, during his time in Stirling he stayed at Wingate’s Inn in King Street, now known as the Golden Lion hotel. The owner of the Inn was a member of Lodge 76 and the Lodge has met there on numerous occasions down through the years. On the Monday night, one of Burns’ guests who dined with him was one Christopher Bell, a schoolmaster, of whom Burns would write, ‘A joyous vacant fellow, who sings a good song.” Bro. Bell was initiated in Lodge 76, and held office. William Harvey in his book, ‘Robert Burns in Stirlingshire,’ argues tongue in cheek, that this could justifiably be called the first, “Burns supper” held in Stirling!
23rd December 1799, Lodge 76 affiliated one John Lauchlan of Lodge Ayrshire St. Paul’s No. 271 as a member. Bro. John Lauchlan was the son of Soutar Johnnie, Tam O’ Shanter’s ancient, trusty, drouthy crony!
There are a few other connections with our national bard and Lodge 76, albeit tentative, for example; During Burns stay in Edinburgh in 1787, he visited St Andrew’s Lodge when the Grand Lodge of Scotland was present. The Grand Master toasted Burns as, “Caledonia and Caledonia’s
The minute of 21st June 1815 mentions the laying of the foundation stone of the Steeple at the head of King Street in Stirling, and states that the ceremony was concluded by a prayer for the Rev. John Russell. This John Russell was described by Burns in his poem, The Holy Fair as ‘Black Russell.’ The Editor.
Burns Masonic Apron
This Masonic apron was given to Robert Burns from by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe of Hoddam on 12 December 1791. Sharpe was a close friend of Burns, being a violinist and a composer of music and verse.
Historians are always told not to put too much faith in tradition, but as an orator and Poet-Laureate of Canongate Kilwinning said in 1893, “Tradition may exaggerate but always in the very core of tradition there is a nugget of truth.”, and such is the story of Brother Robert Burns, Poet-Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2.
great demand and made himself available to all and sundry and gained many friendships in Masonic circles, some of which would stay with him for the rest of his life. Burns rise in popularity, also contributed to his rise in Freemasonry, for at a meeting of St. Andrews Lodge in January 12th 1787, he became the central figure in an event that must have never faded from his memory. The occasion was the annual visit from the Grand Lodge of Scotland at which the Grand Master toasted Burns with the words: “Caledonia and Caledonia’s Bard, Brother Robert Burns.” Burns said of the event, “I had no idea such a thing would happen, I was downright thunderstruck, and trembling in every nerve made the best return in my power.” More Masonic honours followed and on the 1st of February 1787 he was admitted a member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinng No.2. The Lodge minute states, “The R.W.M. having observed that Brother Burns was at present in the Lodge, who is well known as a great poetic writer, and for a late publication of his works, which have been universally commended, submitted that he should be assumed a member of this Lodge, which was unanimously agreed to, and he was assumed accordingly.”
Burns reached Edinburgh on 28th November 1786 and only two days after his arrival he attended the Grand Lodge of Scotland at the Festival of St. Andrew, and a few days later on the 7th of December Burns was presented at Lodge Cannongate Kilwinning. He was feted and adored wherever he went such was his fame, the interest in his work increased day by day, Burns was in
It is here, where the tradition that Burns was installed as Poet-Laureate takes place. At the next monthly meeting of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2, on the 1st of March 1787 which has been immortalised in the celebrated painting “The Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of The Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2. Edinburgh” by Brother Stewart Watson. Clothed as a
Robert Burns and Canongate Kilwinning. No.2. Edinburgh. Scottish Freemasonry is built on legends and traditions, (we love them) we have the romantic tradition of the Knights Templar coming to the aid of King Robert at the Battle of Bannockburn, and the creation of the Royal Order of Scotland, the tradition that Scotland is the home of Freemasonry (which it probable is anyway), the tradition of William St. Clair of Roslyn, the tradition of the earliest record of the Royal Arch degree being worked in Stirling, and other traditions too numerous to mention. However, there is one that is dear to the hearts of every member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2, the tradition that Brother Robert Burns was made the Poet-Laureate in 1787.
Brother, with his right hand on his left breast, Burns is seen on the steps in front of the Master accepting a laurel wreath on his head. Traditionalists maintain that Burns was in fact installed as the Lodge Poet-laureate, whilst opponents of this view insist that the ceremony never took place. One of the most ferocious antagonist’s was the late Grand Secretary Brother David MurrayLyon acclaimed historian and Masonic scholar who called it a myth! In fact so strong was his opposition to Burns installation that he entered into a lengthy correspondence with Canongate Kilwinning No.2 and attempted to have the inscription on the painting amended! It is not my intention to become embroiled in was Burns or wasn’t he installed as the Poet-Laureate of this ancient Lodge, there has been much written about it down through the years, but I tend to believe he was, not during the evening as portrayed by the famous painting, but later, after the meeting was over. My view is, that when various toasts were being made at the end of the evening in a local Inn after supper, one of the assembled Brethren may have given a toast to Burns as Caledonia’s Bard, and mentioned the title, the PoetLaureate of our Lodge, and that the tradition Brother Robert Burns was installed in that office may have came from there and filtered down through the years. It is not improbable, but, perhaps I’m allowing the romance of Burns and Canongate Kilwinning and him being the Poet-Laureate of the Lodge which is acknowledged all over the world, to cloud my vision.
However, whether this is accepted or not by historians and Masonic scholars, one thing is certain as I have already mentioned, that dear to the hearts of every member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2, the tradition that Brother Robert Burns a member of this Lodge was made the Poet-Laureate in 1787 is as strong as ever and will never diminish, and maybe, just maybe, there is a grain of truth in that after all! In January 2008, I had the great honour to be asked to give the immortal memories to Robert Burns and James Hogg in Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2 Edinburgh. I was privileged to have done it and the experience will stay with me forever! This article comes from only a small part of that oration to help commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Bard’s birth.
Robert Burns and Auld Lang Syne
a masterpiece. Soon this ‘Glorious Fragment’ would spread throughout the world.
There is not much that I can say about Robert Burns that hasn’t already been said or written about. The vast majority of Brethren if asked the question who in their mind was the most Famous of all Scottish Freemasons would almost certainly answer Brother Robert Burns. The story of Burns and Freemasonry has been studied, dissected, researched, investigated, lectured about and put into words, probably more than any other Freemason in the world, and each time you attend a Burns supper whether it be Masonic or not, you will hear some aspect of the great Bard’s life and his work during the rendering of ‘The Immortal Memory.’ You will probably have heard as much as there is to know about our Brother Burn’s, his life, his works and his Masonic vocation, however, I should like to present to you this small piece about which, you might not have came across before, regarding one of his songs and the part that it has played in touching millions upon millions of people across the face of this planet.
It is believed to have been first sung in either Poosie Nancy’s Tavern or the Batchelor’s Club in Ayrshire and from there it has travelled North, South, East and West all over the world and has ended up being sung by every Hogmanay reveller who says goodbye to the old year and welcomes the new. Auld Lang Syne has become an international song of departure and is now sung by more people than any other song throughout the World, but how did this song about two young men, friends in youth, who drifted apart, met again, reminisced, once again parted, and is written in a tongue few people outside Scotland would understand, ever manage to cross this globe and become probably the most popular song ever, in the History of the World?
In 1796 Burns published the song ‘Auld Lang Syne’, he had came across an old folk tune some years previous when he heard a portion of it sung by an old man, he modified the piece, wrote new verses, changed words and refined the language, Burns himself called the composition of this traditional Scottish song, ‘That Glorious Fragment,’ and although Burns did not know at the time when he took some old words and polished them with his work, he created
The answer is Freemasonry and Scottish Freemasonry at that, Burns song became synonymous with the Craft after his death and in particular our Festival of St. John when it is sung at the end of the evening. As the Scots spread themselves to every corner of the world they took their customs with them, and it is understandable how Auld Lang Syne which travelled with them, soon became within the Masonic community to be understood as an expression of love for all mankind, international Brotherhood of all men and races, equality, democracy and liberty, all the principles which we as Freemasons stand for. It wasn’t long before the worldwide community came
to recognise this man of genius and his universal humanist philosophy, and all this from the pen of a wee Scots Freemason from Ayrshire. The transformation from a song sung principally at Masonic Functions, to the Universal acclaimed tune of modern times is all thanks to another Freemason, Guy Lombardo from London, Ontario in Canada. He first heard the song in his youth from Scottish immigrants in his hometown and when Lombardo formed an orchestra in 1919 Auld Lang Syne became his theme tune, which he played at the end of every concert or dance as his finishing song. So when Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians got the chance to headline a New Year’s Eve party in New York in 1929, they played Auld Lang Syne just before midnight and then counted down the last 10 seconds of the old year. The song immediately became popular with a larger audience when it is estimated that over 55 million people heard that New Year’s Eve broadcast, Auld Lang Syne had finally arrived and from there became the internationally renowned song that is known all over the world today. Guy Lombardo would broadcast a New Years Eve party for almost 50 years and always finished with the favourite song of his childhood. Robert Burns and Auld Lang Syne has become so popular throughout the world, in Russia Burns is treasured as an Icon of International Brotherhood. In the Czech Republic after the fall of Communism, a Masonic Lodge was reestablished and at the close of each meeting Auld Lang Syne is sung. In Tokyo a major department store plays
Auld Lang Syne over its public address system to let the customers know that the store will soon be closing. The next time you watch the James Stewart film it’s a Wonderful Life, pay attention to the closing scene where everybody sings Auld Lang Syne. The song is played at public ceremonies in Taiwan, Korea, India, the Philippines, and was even played when the body of Canadian Premier Pierre Trudeau left parliament for the state funeral. In fact the Song is played at all types of occasions in every land throughout the world. So what did Robert Burns achieve with this song, Auld Lang Syne, as I’ve stated, he took an old folk melody, fitted new words to it and changed some verses, but he didn’t just create a new song, he didn’t just create a nice wee ditty to be sung at the end of functions or dances, he didn’t just create a song that can be sung by countless millions at the end of an old year. No, he created much more than that, Robert Burns created something that touches and stirs the hearts of people from all walks of life and from the four corners of the Globe, for Burns was one of that small band who wrote for all time and all people. What Brother Robert Burns Scottish Freemason did was this; he created a National Anthem – For the World! This article was taken from the lecture entitled, “Famous Scottish Freemasons,” by the historian of Lodge 76.
FAREWELL TO THE BRETHREN OF ST. JAMES TARBOLTON
Adieu! a heart-warm fond adieu; Dear brothers of the mystic tie! Ye favoured, ye enlighten'd few, Companions of my social joy; Tho' I to foreign lands must hie, Pursuing Fortune's sliddâ€™ry ba'; With melting heart, and brimful eye, I'll mind you still, tho' far awa. Oft have I met your social band, And spent the cheerful, festive night; Oft, honour'd with supreme command, Presided o'er the sons of light: And by that hieroglyphic bright, Which none but Craftsmen ever saw Strong Mem'ry on my heart shall write Those happy scenes, when far awa. May Freedom, Harmony, and Love, Unite you in the grand Design, Beneath th' Omniscient Eye above, The glorious Architect Divine, That you may keep th' unerring line, Still rising by the plummet's law, Till Order bright completely shine, Shall be my pray'r when far awa. And you, farewell! whose merits claim Justly that highest badge to wear: Heav'n bless your honour'd noble name, To Masonry and Scotia dear! A last request permit me here, When yearly ye assemble a', One round, I ask it with a tear, To him, the Bard that's far awa.
13 The back cover by SRA76 web design
Published on May 29, 2012