Glasgow Kilwinning Lodge, No.4
We meet on the third Wednesday of the month; September, November, January, March, April & May at 19.00
(December is our Installation Meeting, which is the first Wednesday at 17.30)
Our meetings are held at Trades Hall, 85 Glassford Street, Glasgow, G1 1UH
Visitors are always made most welcome.
Lodge Trip to Rosslyn Chapel on Sunday 3rd July 2011
A report by Brother N.J. Gallacher; Junior Warden.
On what can only be described as a beautiful summers day, 25 members of our lodge along with their respective partners embarked upon a trip to Rosslyn Chapel, in Roslin just south of Edinburgh on Sunday, 03rd July 2011.
We arrived in good time, and met Chic Beattie from Lodge Rosslyn St. Clair No. 606, who was to be our source of masonic interest throughout the day in addition to the official talk from one of the chapel guides. Chic gave us all an introduction prior to going in, which set the tone perfectly for the visit, particularly for those that had not been before. Chic was born and raised in Roslin, quite literally 500 yds from the Chapel itself, so the chapel and the surrounding area, along with all of it's mystique, is quite literally in his blood and the passion Chic feels for the place, of which we were only too keen to share, was obvious as soon as he started talking.
Chic's knowledge was immediately apparent, and from looking around the faces listening to him, it was clear that our brethren and indeed also the wives and partners were hooked on what he had to say right from the word go. This was an excellent introduction to the learned and new comers alike, and a great pique to the interest of all present.
But then, Rosslyn Chapel has that effect on people. Even if you know nothing of the history, myths, conjecture or fables and are visiting "blind", the sheer majesty and the unique nature of the building is almost overwhelming and begs many more questions than it answers in a paradoxical sense. A smaller building than many anticipate, the first impression is of a small Gothic church - but then you get closer and the sublime details become clearer. Upon actually entering the chapel, it is almost impossible to take in the vast array of quite magnificent carvings, allegorical stone tapestry, religious and indeed pagan emblemry adorning literally every square foot of the place. In short, it is breathtaking and "holds" you in a way that few other buildings, certainly that I have visited, can.
The carvings can be explained in many ways, and people of their own different minds would take their own perceptions. However, the carvings, stonework and architecture would fascinate anyone with an eye for detail, an eye for craftsmanship, an eye for beauty, or simply an eye for the unusual or anomalous. Rosslyn Chapel offers all of the above, and then some.
Much speculation has been borne of the carvings in the masonic context - the pictures attached show, arguably, a candidate being led by a cable tow, and a mason ruminating on the fact that his labour has been lost - both of which we are more than familiar with from our own degree ceremonies. Is this what is actually being portrayed?
Who knows, but for me personally, and of course all masonry in the speculative sense is subjective, I ask myself - what else could these carvings actually be depicting? What other context from nearly 600 years ago (565 years to be precise from the year that work started on the chapel in 1456), would a stone mason have cause or reason to carve what is to my own eye, clearly somebody being led by a cable tow? I find it fascinating, and the lack of certainty or definitiveness only adds to the intrigue. The fact that there is a carving on one of the most historic buildings in the world, showing a part of a ritual that I and all other brethren of our lodge, and all lodges worldwide, have gone through, makes me feel part of something not only special, but almost hallowed.
To think that a ritual of this nature has remained largely unaltered for half a millennium, and is perpetuated to this day is, again personally, one of the strongest draws to freemasonry and I love the fact that this brings us together and unites us as one, irrespective of position, wealth, belief or status. We are all truly, on the level, quite literally for centuries.
It would be very easy to wax lyrical for many more paragraphs on the Chapel, but this report is merely a summary of what turned out to be a great day out for our lodge, and I daresay enjoyed by all. It was particularly nice to see so many wives and partners enjoying what is a fundamental part of freemasonry, that is to say the history and intrigue, that perhaps they have not been privy to previously, and I would like to think demonstrated the interest shared by their husbands and boyfriends beyond the usual stereotypes that all masons endure due to negative press and common misconceptions.
After a few drinks in the local pubs just up the brae from the chapel, we departed Roslin in good spirits and travelled to The Inn at Longcroft for dinner, which Brother Andrew Bissett had arranged. A nice meal was enjoyed by all, and we subsequently left on the final leg for Glasgow having had lovely weather, a visit to a unique place and building, and a good meal.
This being the first "outing" I have arranged for our lodge, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who supported the event and attended. Especially to Chic Beattie, Ian Hislop and Andrew Bissett whom without their help, the trip would not have been possible were it not for their input and assistance.
"Behold How Good And How pleasant A Thing It Is For Brethren To Dwell Together In Unity" (Inscription on the wall of Lodge Mary's Chapel No 1)
Yours with kind, grateful and fraternal regards,
Nick Gallacher (WJW)
Craignethan Castle - A Hidden Gem on Glasgow's Doorstep
Nobody could ever say that Scotland is found wanting for historic places to visit. There are positively hundreds of visitor attractions spanning our beautiful country from many centuries worth of both troubled and peaceful times. Many of course we are all very familiar with, such as the magnificent Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, the intriguing Rosslyn Chapel, the haunting and picturesque Urquhart Castle - to name but a few.
All are stunning in their own right and well worth a visit, yet with just a little bit of research and only the slightest of deviations from the usual beaten tourist tracks, there are also many lesser well known historic places to visit with minimal effort that offer just as much appeal - but without having to contend with the hustle and bustle of throngs of tourists.
These "hidden gems" have the beauty of being just as easily accessible as the "big" attractions, but have the added unique bonus of giving each visitor the special feeling that they are there only by exclusive invitation, and are enjoying a secret that nobody else knows about. The irony being, that absolutely everyone can go, whenever they like, and very easily!
One such place is Craignethan Castle, which I had the pleasure of discovering recently whilst looking for new places to visit that were nearby to my home location of Rutherglen, South East Glasgow. Being a keen enthusiast of history and especially Castles, I was intrigued by the fact that Craignethan Castle, which I personally had never heard of before, was only a short 30 minute drive from my flat down the M74 into South Lanarkshire - so from Glasgow city Centre, would be about a 45 minute journey maximum.
After an easy drive and some lovely scenery down only a couple of miles of traffic-free country back roads a few hundred yards off the motorway, we came upon Craignethan and were greeted by an absolutely gorgeous and enchanting Castle, in an excellent state of repair - although still technically a ruin. The grounds are extremely well kept, and the surrounding countryside is stunning - there is no traffic noise whatsoever, and the only sounds you can hear are those of the birds and wildlife, a truly idyllic setting. And of course, this being off the beaten track, there were a grand total of four visitors at the time - my girlfriend and I, and another couple who had also found this lovely spot, similarly enjoying the freedom to explore without loads of other people there at the same time.
Craignethan Castle is a very unusual and intriguing place - built in the 1530's, it was a domestic residence for Sir James Hamilton of Finnart. Sir James was born around the year of 1496, and had been knighted by 1513. Finnart joined the entourage of Regent Albany, and travelled to France, returning home in 1518, whereby he assisted in his family's feuds and became involved with the persecution of those who were opposed to the reformation of the Catholic Church. At the time of his execution is 1540, Finnart was one of the richest and most powerful men in central Scotland.
His chosen home of Craignethan has a unique and fascinating blend of both private dwelling and military fortification, the style of which is arguably seen nowhere else in Scotland. An imposing yet paradoxically bonny building, Craignethan is built upon a natural spur formed by the Water of Nethan and the Craignethan burn, with steep slopes on three sides of the Castle falling away into deep, very difficult to climb ravines. Now heavily wooded, the elevation of the spur is nevertheless still abundantly clear, and an extremely well considered and practical defensive position. There are magnificent views of the landscape to be had from the battlements, giving a clear indication of just how well any attack approaches would be covered - both in terms of observation, and actual military defence.
We visited in early June, so the trees and foliage were of a vivid green, but to see the same in late autumn with the myriad of reds and browns on the leaves would be just stunning. To the front of the castle, is a deep man made rampart and ditch, a formidable obstacle to the only remaining non-natural defence of the Castle, and testament to the ingenuity and capability of the Architects and Master Masons who respectively designed and built it.
Most interestingly, within the ditch is the best surviving example in the United Kingdom of a "Caponier". A Caponier is essentially a primitive version of a fortified bunker, the design and concept of which having been brought back by Finnart from knowledge obtained on his extensive travels to France and the Continent. The age of gunpowder had arrived, and this element to the Castle's defences was at the time and for many years, absolutely state of the art. To have such a well preserved and singular example of this that can be viewed when visiting from both the inside as a defender, and outside as an attacker, is nothing short of a national treasure and I cannot believe this is not more publicised.
One of the most interesting things about the Castle and something that really struck me, is the fact that Finnart's private chambers and great hall were on the ground floor of the main building as opposed to a higher level - this would give you a sense of just how secure they felt within the main tower and the confidence they felt in the defences - both natural and designed. By comparison, to have had such domestic and recreational quarters on the ground floor in even the most impregnable of medieval castles would have hitherto been unheard of - a true sign of the development of Castle architecture and mankind's adaptation to the weaponry threat of the times.
It would be very easy for me to wax lyrical for many more paragraphs, but I really don't want to ruin the surprise and joy of the many discoveries that you will have yourself upon visiting. I hope this brief overview and some photographs I've taken and included as teasers will give you an appetite for going along and experiencing it in the flesh. I promise, if you have a love of history and Castles, then you will not be dissapointed.
Craignethan is a simply wonderful place, steeped in history, with intriguing rooms, cellars and tunnels to explore. Stunning natural surroundings, no noise, not mobbed at any time, and a fascinating insight into the architectural and technological capabilities of the times. With an extremely reasonable entry price of just £4:50 per adult (£3.60 concession), and less than an hours drive from Glasgow - if this is not a hidden gem, then I don't know what one is.
The Castle is 5.5 miles WNW of Lanark off the A72, for those with Sat Nav, the postcode to enter is ML11 9PL
Crossraguel Abbey, founded 1250
Like many masons, the strongest draw for me is the link to history and the sharing of a brotherhood that stretches back for many centuries. Albeit we are all now speculative masons, but nevertheless it is easy to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that was once commonplace throughout Britain, Europe and indeed the world demonstrated by stonemason's, their lodges and guilds on thousands of buildings on all continents.
Arguably, this is most prevalent in Europe, and many of the monuments, buildings and edifices that our brothers toiled on still stand to this day, an enduring testament to their skill, dedication and artistry of our craft.
A frequent place to visit in order to marvel at this is of course Rosslyn Chapel, a visit to which was organised by our lodge a couple of years ago. However, there are many other places that offer equal masonic interest in a similar vain, although perhaps not quite as condensed in one building.
One of these is Crossraguel Abbey in Ayrshire, approx 5 miles south of Maybole. I had the pleasure of visiting the abbey recently, and the beauty of the place - even though a ruin, is still very much apparent. Crossraguel is one of Scotland's most complete medieval monasteries. It was founded around 1250 as a daughter of the Clunaic abbey at Paisley, and was still in use well after the Protestant Reformation of 1560, though in a much reduced form. The original buildings were severely damaged during the Wars of Independence (1256 - 1356), partly thanks to the abbey's loyalty to local nobleman Robert The Bruce, who went on to become King in 1306.
Much of what survives today was built during major remodelling in the late 1400's, by which time the abbey had risen in status and importance. The elaborate design, vestiges of which survive, was typical of a wealthy abbey of the Clunaic Order, which sought to glorify god with the richest possible decoration.
Upon visiting the abbey, I very quickly came across masons marks in some stones, indeed, the abbey has highlighted these both in the literature available to visitors, and also by a seperate room with the opportunity to actually carve your own mark in a piece of stone - as demonstrated by me in the picture below! Suffice to say, my past brethren were "marginally" better at it than me!
However, upon further searching, and it did not take much effort, there are literally dozens of mason marks all over the building. Very interestingly, one mark in particular, was on several stones - a five-pointed star, and was also on a carved face, which I have circled in one of the pictures. Clearly a very prolific and prominent mason, as his mark was by far the most common - an Overseer? Perhaps even the Master Mason? Who knows - it just adds to the fascination and intrigue, and running your fingers over his carved mark from 6 centuries ago encourages all manner of imaginative images from our own Mark Master ceremonies. Absolutely incredible.
I would definitely recommend a visit to Crossraguel brethren, it's not far away (about an hours drive from Glasgow) and holds not only visual beauty, but masonic and historical interest in abundance, and, to me most importantly, physically perpetuates the link we have to our Order's forebears from over 600 years ago.
Nick Gallacher GKL4
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