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Brief History

The Lodge of Ercildoune No.1119

A brief History

Extracts from the Lodge minutes and compiled by Bro. G. Blair

The seeds for a Masonic lodge in Earlston were sown on the 15th Jan 1913 when 12 freemasons residing in the village, 8 of whom belonged to The Lodge of Melrose St. John No. 1², met to discuss the desirability of forming a lodge in Earlston – Bro. Tom Murdison, who held the office of Bard in the Melrose lodge, presided.

At a second meeting a month later, it was agreed that Bro. the Rev. Norman Keith, also a member of The Lodge of Melrose St. John No. 1², should be appointed as R.W.M.

On 11th April 1913 a petition for a charter, which was supported by Lodge Dinse 23 and St. Luke Lauder 132, was sent to G.L. and was duly granted on the 1st May 1913.

The erection and consecration took place on Saturday 28th June 1913 with 26 founder members and nearly 200 visiting brethren in attendance.

The first meeting of the lodge took place on Wednesday 15th October 1913 when 4 applications for initiation were read and two weeks later all four were initiated.

For the first six months the lodge met once, and sometimes twice a week, it was not unusual to have up to 6 applications for initiation being read at a meeting, such was the demand to join Lodge Ercildoune.

The first installation dinner, referred to then as the St. Andrews Masonic Festival was held following the installation of office bearers, in the Red Lion Hotel on Friday 28th November 1913 when 29 brethren attended.

The first invitation extended to 1119 to send a deputation came from Melrose 12 to attend their St. John’s Day on the 27th December 1913, closely followed by a similar invitation to Lauder on the 29th December and Galashiels 262 on the 26th December1913.

On the 22nd April the following year, Bro. Nisbet, P.G.M. of Haddington and Berwickshire made his first visit to Ercildoune and was made an honorary member.

The Lodge initially held its meeting in the Church Hall but soon began to experience difficulties and having received numerous gifts of Lodge furniture from brethren decided in May 1916 to take a twenty year lease of the Good Templar Hall.

The Lodge then settled into a routine of conducting the usual business and working degrees to keep pace with the steady flow of new members.

This was at the time of the First World War and there are many references to the good work done by the Lodge members to assist both brethren in the forces and also charitable organisations helping wounded servicemen.

Bro. T.B. Murdison reported at a meeting on the 4th January 1918 that he had dispatched Lodge Christmas cards to 24 brethren of Lodge Ercildoune serving in the just cause of Truth, Honour, Justice and Right on various battle fronts of Europe and German East Africa.

The poem that Bro. Murdison wrote in the Christmas cards would make a very appropriate Tylers Toast for this Lodge:

Where’er you be on Land and Sea

Dear Brother of the Mystic Tie

Lodge Ercildoune aye thinks of Thee

And all her sons when dangers nigh.

May you return to Leaderside

And hear its sweet and ceaseless song

Mid peaceful scenes long to abide

And from again our social throng.

In 1920 the Lodge funds stood at £182 and it was agreed to purchase the property which stood between the Red Lion and the Corn Exchange as an investment and also with a view to erecting a masonic Temple at a future date.   Unfortunately this property investment was to prove a financial disaster for the Lodge – more about that later.

On the 24th November 1923 the Installation Dinner was held in the  , dinner tickets were 4 shillings and sixpence (22.5p) – this obviously proved too expensive and the following year the brethren dined in the Lodge room and the meal consisted of pies and coffee.

By 1925 Lodge attendances had dropped, new initiates had all but dried up, the Lodge funds were in a very poor state and in May 1926 things were so bad, the brethren even decided to abandon the idea of having a Divine Service.

This of course was the year of the General Strike – these problems in the Lodge persisted for some ten years, however it survived.

In November 1926 the Earl of Haddington was installed as R.W.M., on that evening there were 28 on the installing board and 100 brethren attended the Festival of St. Andrew.

It was interesting to note that P.G.L. wrote to the Lodge asking when it would be convenient to visit – whereupon the secretary was instructed to write to Lord Haddington, who wasn’t a regular attender – to see when it would be convenient to have the P.G.L. visitation.

By 1935 the Lodge Building Fund was standing at some £1300 and work began on the long awaited Temple.

While the brethren of the day were acting in the best of possible interests of the Lodge, unfortunately and through no fault of their own, work stopped almost immediately and they were forced into an expensive legal dispute concerning site boundaries, the case eventually being taken to the court of sessions.

The cost of the legal case and the abortive building work left £300 in the Building Fund and despite the offer of £500 from an anonymous brother, the project was ultimately abandoned in 1937.

As usual when a Lodge is having problems, it causes ill-feeling among the members and there always brethren who are happier criticising the actions of the office-bearers and committees and it was no different in this case.

Through all these difficulties the Lodge was working normally and it says a great deal for the Master and Office-bearers of the day to have had the strength and determination to see that the Lodge survived through these troubled times.

There is a gap in the minutes from 11th May 1940 to 21st October 1946 with no explanation given.   These of course were the Second World War years and the reason why the Lodge ceased to operate appears in a P.G.L. report of January 1948 stating that the military authorities had commandeered the Good Templar Hall and left the Lodge homeless.

In 1949 the ill-fated site next to the Red Lion was sold to Berwickshire County Council for £300 for the building of a new road.

In 1951 the Good Templar Hall was purchased for £350 and became the Masonic Hall.

I trust the dates and events contained in this short history of the earlier days of the Lodge is of interest, but especially will also serve as a reminder of the difficult times through which the Lodge of Ercildoune No. 1119 has survived.

The Lodge continues today with its modest membership conducting normal business and working degrees, meeting first and third Mondays of a month from October to April.