Lodge History

Glasgow Kilwinning Lodge, No.4

We meet at 7pm on the 3rd Wednesday of October, November, December, February, March and April. Our Installation meeting is held at 5.30pm on the 3rd Wednesday of January.

Our meetings are held at Trades Hall, 85 Glassford Street, Glasgow, G1 1UH

Visitors are always made most welcome.

COVID-19 Update; All Lodge meetings are suspended until further notice

Glasgow Kilwinning Lodge; History


Amor Honor et Justitia


The first Minute Book is held in the Mitchell Library and can be accessed by permission of the lodge. The Charter of the lodge, inscribed in pigskin, indicates the lodge was founded on the 1st of April, 1735, in John Henderson’s tavern in the Gallowgate, Glasgow. John Clark was appointed as the first RWM by John Anderson of the lodge of Kilwinning held at Edinburgh. This is likely to be a reference to Canongate Kilwinning one of the 4 sponsor lodges which included lodges at Maybole, Peebles and Perth. A well-known Glasgow merchant John Murdoch was admitted on that night into a lodge which clearly had many members from the merchant class known colloquially as “the Tobacco Lords”. Inspection of the boards of those Glasgow citizens who held the post of Lord Dean of Guild in the Merchants House in West George Street reveals many members of  No.4.

            A famous Glasgow and international historian Sir Archibald Alison, at one time Sheriff of Lanarkshire (in Glasgow) and an author and gentleman of repute, stated that the lodge was probably in existence at the start of the 18th century. That this is very likely is shown by the fact that at the very first meeting new members  were Passed and Raised to the 3rd Degree there being Master Masons present who were members and capable of undertaking the degree work necessary. This is an indication that “Speculative Masonry” was that practiced in the lodge. The lodge  would not appear to have evolved from a practicing Masons craft-lodge such as The Lodge of Journeymen Masons No.8 in Edinburgh.

            Not only did the lodge have distinguished citizens as members, but as a result   of the amalgamation of No.4 and the Johnstone Kilwinning Lodge in 1753, one distinguished member from that union was Dr John Moore the “Zeluco” to whom Robert Burns wrote letters including his famous autobiographical letter in 1787. This link may have been important to the poet as many of the names written as subscribers to the first  Edinburgh edition of Burns` poetry appear on the roll of members of No. 4.  All were prominent Glasgow citizens including the Buchanan’s, the Bogles, William Ingram, James Dunlop and of course, Dr Moore. Dr Moore was the father of Sir John Moore the hero of Corunna. Many of those gentlemen are immortalised in the street names of Glasgow.

            The Mother Kilwinning Lodge issued various Charters before Grand Lodge was formed. Many, but not all, can be identified, but there is nothing to confirm Glasgow Kilwinning being one of them. What is fascinating is that among those Raised at that first meeting was one Robert Mollinson, Supervisor in Glasgow and Charles Mitchell, Supervisor of Excise. This reference to “Supervisor of  Excise” is a reference to the government post whose employees were very likely to be posted around the country as happened to Burns` Supervisor Alexander Findlater. It is thought these two brethren were members of Mother Kilwinning which would be quite possible in those days and suggests a possible link other than the name `Kilwinning` to the Mother Lodge.

            To anyone interested in the history of Freemasonry in the latter part of the 18th century examination of the Minute Books of any lodge of that period will add  to   an understanding of the social life and habits of the period. There must be a massive amount of detail in old Masonic Minute Books which would add to that which is available in public documents.

            The No.4 early Minutes reveal that Freemasonry, despite the anti-Masonic  Papal Bull of 1738, was expanding rapidly, not only in Scotland but across the globe.

            One of the earliest members of No.4, one Robert Scott, a shipowner, named his ship “Freemason” and on her stern displayed a Masonic symbol, while another  ship-master Robert Paisley was charged “to carry greetings” to a lodge in Boston  Massachusetts, USA. Within the Trades House of Glasgow it is noted that the first Deacon Convener was from the Incorporation of Skippers and Mariners. This Craft reflected the growth of Glasgow as a shipping port. The lodge in 1742 received a visitor from Holland, not to mention visitors from all over Scotland and a Minute  recording this fellow craftsman suggested that it should purchase an organ. Important to the development of Glasgow in the latter part of the 18th century was the deepening of the Clyde to allow large ships to come right into the heart of the city. James Watt (of steam-power fame) was employed in Glasgow at this time and his expertise was used to tackle this project. Significantly James Watt was also an organ builder of repute and it is possible that he supplied one which was used in the lodge premises.

            The Minutes record that Alexander Drummond, the PGM, was responsible for the area which included Argyll, Dunbartonshire, Clydesdale, Stirlingshire and Renfrewshire, which implies that travel for the then PGM was a major consideration and reflects the growth of the Craft around this period.

            An interesting historical event was the laying down, with Masonic honours, of the foundation stone of the Jamaica Bridge in 1768 by the Lord Provost George  Murdoch, a PM of No.4. Among the Grand Lodge Stewards who attended on that occasion was the Earl of Glencairn, immortalised by Robert Burns. That No.4 was heavily involved in the City of Glasgow is shown when another Lord Provost,  George Buchanan, was Initiated into the lodge. Many of the brethren were involved in setting up such institutions as the Ship Bank, as well as being members of developing  clubs such as the Hodge Podge Club.

            An intriguing aspect of No.4 is the absence of the Minute Book(s) of 1742-1753. There is a theory that the books were deliberately destroyed because the lodge  was “pro-Jacobite” in it’s philosophy. Some credence to this idea can be made by the fact that the Earl of Kilmarnock visited the lodge to witness the Initiation of his friend Lord Grey of Groobie. The Earl, a supporter of Charles Edward Stuart, was executed  in the Tower of London. Charles Edward Stuart during his sojourn in Glasgow, frequented the Old Coffee House, a place very familiar to the members of No.4. Could Freemasonry have played a part in preventing the destruction of Glasgow by the Jacobite army?

            No.4 was clearly able to attract men of importance in Glasgow and among them was Sir James Maxwell of Pollok and Charles Napier who became members. The former name denotes a family heavily committed to the Craft and   Pollokshields Burgh Hall, embellished with Masonic Symbolism is a lasting benefit  to the Craft and the community in general. Charles Napier acted as a “special agent” i.e. Intelligence Officer with Sir John Moore of Corunna in the Iberian Campaign. He is renowned for his famous telegram to the War Office which consisted of one Latin   word meaning “I have sinned” meaning Sind Province in India which he conquered  for Britain.

            In the middle of the 18th century there is evidence that the lodge was in serious decline and the Minute Books of this period mysteriously disappeared.  They,  along with the Charter were eventually recovered, but in this period there were clearly   very few recognised members. Recovery must have been quite dramatic because in 1862 the lodge opened new lodge rooms at 170 Buchanan Street at which the PGM attended. Just before this event the lodge had some serious differences with the Provincial Grand Lodge. The rooms were the largest and most ornate in Glasgow and a full description  is to be found in the lodge history as is the list of the innumerable houses, taverns,  inns and public halls where the lodge assembled over the years before finally  becoming a  tenant of the Trades Hall in 1945.

            Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the lodge was constantly an “ever- present” at the laying of foundation stones of all major buildings and bridges in  the  city such as the Post Office and the various Clyde bridges. The lodge was invited to  attend other cities across Scotland on  similar occasions. In the description of the events  surrounding the period of the new lodge rooms No.4 was recorded as having its own  Royal Arch Chapter.

            At the end of the 19th Century a member in the person of PM Fred Larter   delivered educational lectures across Scotland and presented to the lodge a manuscript which was a condensation of the Minute books from 1735-1860. This was an important source of information for the formal lodge history, as was an article in the Grand Lodge Year Book by that distinguished brother PM Gabriel Jerdan.

            During this time the lodge engaged enthusiastically in local activities such as  the Grand Bazaar organized by Grand Lodge and  a childrens` party which was organized by the members. The lodge like others became very involved in supporting city charities and the flow of benevolence was most encouraging to all and sundry. This time was one of prosperity and many donations of a whole variety of  articles took place. Unfortunately, many of these have disappeared, but some, such as the Thorburn Golf Trophy remain.

            With the onset of the First World War the lodge supported charities concerning the forces. The lodge responded to an appeal by the PGM to support an ambulance for use at the Front. Several members including the organist resigned to join the forces. Sadly, the minutes recorded that Major A. G. Brown was the first brother killed in action with the 9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The lodge instituted a roll-of-honour to recognise those serving in the forces and in the First World War 90-100 members are so recorded. Interestingly Grand Lodge advised against the roll-of-honour in that it could jeopardise National Security. As a result of their endeavours during the war several members were honoured by becoming Members or Officers of the British Empire adding to those who had been  recognised for gallantry. A similar list was inaugurated during the Second World War (see official history).

            In 1935 the lodge celebrated 200 years with a grand ceremony in the lodge  rooms when the Grand Master of the day Lord Saltoun attended and presided. The  pleasure of this event however soon evaporated when due to the major financial difficulties of the period the lodge eventually had to sell its premises in 1936.   Probably at this time many treasures and artefacts disappeared from the premises although an inventory was made, many of the most significant items were handed over to Grand Lodge. From that time onwards rented accommodation was the order of the day.

            During the Second World War the lodge carried on despite air raids and the  privations induced by rationing and the inability to travel around other lodges which  was a secondary effect of the “black out” imposed because of air raids and fuel shortages. The lodge meticulously supported the Lord Provost`s appeals and other charities connected with the succour of our forces.

            As soon as the war ended the lodge made every effort to return to normal and in this period consolidated our special relationships with lodges with whom we had always had a close association. The lodge occasionally created Honorary Members but this was so carefully considered that such brethren were rare and therefore quite unique. 

            The social activities and benevolence grew quite considerably as the lodge  moved towards the 225th Anniversary when The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, Past Grand Master, honoured the lodge by his presence when he headed  the Grand Lodge Deputation. The Master in the chair was the distinguished member  Br. David Selbie. 25 years later PM Selbie played a big part in the organisation of the  250th celebrations and greatly aided the team which produced the lodge history to  mark the 250th Anniversary of the lodge. This book was printed in a limited edition of 200 copies, numbered and signed (by the Master).

            No.4 members visited extensively at home and as travel by air became easier  and vacations and business travel increased so did members take the opportunity to visit cities and towns in such diverse places as the USA Canada and Japan, not  to mention Australia and other places such as Turkey. The reward for these efforts was the arrival of brethren from all over the world returning the compliment.

            The social life of the lodge in the latter part of the 20th century resulted in large numbers attending the Annual Dinner, often referred to as the “greatest  recruiting effort” by the lodge. The friendship and high standard of this event, not to mention the friendliness of the No.4 brethren, were influential in enticing men of good standing to join our ranks. Parallel with this event was the Annual Ladies` Night, when as many as 200 guests could be present. Both of these annual events raised large sums for benevolence. The lodge also had some special events peculiar to the lodge itself, such as the PM’s Dinner and the PM’s Party. The Pre-Installation Dinner still continues as do the various committees which undertake much of the work of the lodge.

            From the outset, in all sorts of fields, No.4 has been able to attract men of  standing and fame, both locally and internationally. At the birth of the lodge we had  innumerable members of the Merchants (Tobacco Lords) of the City. Among notable   persons we had as members were Sir William Blackburn, Sir Archibald Alison, Juan B Wanders Ford (American artist), the notorious Dr. Pritchard (an affiliate), who was hanged for murder, Henry Robb (Shipbuilder), Sir Andrew Rae Duncan (Secretary of the Shipbuilders Federation), Charles Oakley (author). In contemporary times including senior members of Grand Lodge such as PM Gabriel Jerdan and PM Thomas Jessop, two Past Masters Martin McGibbon and Norman M. T. M. MacLeod worked together as Grand Secretary and Assistant Grand Secretary, respectively. There were many more who served not only in Grand Lodge but also in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Glasgow, such as David Selbie, Edgar Brolls, David Watson and Robert Leitch, (all PMs). At the present time the Provincial Grand Secretary is PM Robert McDougall .

            The year 2010 saw the lodge celebrate yet another important milestone in its illustrious history. This time it was the 275th Anniversary which was commemorated in some style with a `Black-Tie-Dinner,` (members only!), at Glasgow Golf Club. The toast to the lodge was proposed by PM David Selbie who delivered a very erudite and entertaining 40 minutes oration with never a note in sight. The reason for being at this venue is partly because of the strong ties which exist between our two organizations. It is a provable fact that no fewer than 22 members (perhaps more!) of GKL were founder-members of Glasgow Golf Club in 1787 when it was established at Glasgow Green, which was very much Glasgow Kilwinning territory in those days, it could very well have been a case of GKL “coming out to play”. In recent years two members of our lodge have had the honour of being Club Captain. Today numerous members of the lodge are also members of the golf club, preferring to dig up this beautiful course rather than be at home learning their ritual!

            The social life of the lodge goes on apace, apart from the usual golf, whist, etc, new pastimes are emerging in the form of Foursail and is growing to Titanic proportions. Three or four boats is now the norm, the sailors were joined last year by the bikers, now there is a real cocktail! So, if you fancy a `wee hurl in a boat`, get your name into Commodore Tom Jessop (don`t forget to salute!). On the one blistering hot  day we had last summer, (2011), Bro. Nick Gallacher organized a trip to the Far East (Roslyn Chapel!). A coach load of members with their wives and  sweethearts had a most interesting visit, with a meal on the way home which just capped a superb day out.

            Within the lodge the aim has always been that the finest standards of decorum  and Masonic practice should  be observed, with behaviour in keeping with the highest criterion of good taste and propriety. High-quality degree work is of prime importance. Good fellowship at our harmonies is essential and is always encouraged.

            Glasgow Kilwinning Lodge No.4 has been meeting since 1945 in the Trades Hall in Glassford Street, right in the heart of the city. It has earned the nickname of  “a city-centre lodge”. It has never wandered far from its birthplace just to the East of Glasgow Cross and during its 277-year history businessmen, both large and small, the professions, tradesmen and others have all been well represented, people who, we like to think, put the “go” in Glasgow, people who try to put something back into this still-great city of ours, be it in service to the city, service to the community or in its charitable giving. Like all lodges throughout the land this charitable giving is largely ignored by those who should know better, why this is so is not certain.

            What is certain is that Glasgow Kilwinning Lodge No.4 will go forward proud of its Glasgow roots, its centuries-old history and traditions and just the way we like to do things, while at all times being ever-mindful of the needs of others. 



Visiting brethren will always be made welcome at any of our meetings which are held in Trades Hall on the 3rd Wednesday of each of the months October to April at 7pm (Except January for Installation which commences at 5.30)


(This dissertation was edited by the lodge Archivist. Dated January, 2012).

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