About Galashiels 262
Our Early History
Although the constitutional formation of The Galashiels Lodge, No. 262, did not take place until its Charter of confirmation was granted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1816, this by no means presents the introduction of Freemasonry into Galashiels, or even the establishment of this Lodge. It is doubtless the lineal descendant of the old lodge at Haughfoot, the records of which date from 1702. The genesis of that lodge and the reason of its being instituted in such a remote hamlet as Haughfoot, (lying in the parish of Stow and just below the junction of the Lugate and Gala Waters) where now there is not a single stone upon another, is a mystery that will remain unsolved.
The Masonic enthusiasm animating our ancient brethren and founders in seeking inspiration at Haughfoot is finely shown by the long distances they travelled to attend the duties of their lodge, often in the depth of winter, and at a period when there were scarcely proper roads: they came from Stockbridge (Edinburgh) – 26 miles; Philiphaugh and Selkirk – 12 miles; Hoppringle, Falahill, and Galashiels, each about 7 miles. We brethren of today, as the successors of so faithful masons and to so great and valuable privileges are deeply indebted to the ancestral Haughfoot lodge, founded and maintained despite such obstacles.
“Perhaps some age-worn sire, who scaled this height
With lagging steps, through golden gates ajar
Behind the Hill of God, beheld a light
Transcending any light of Sun or Star.”
The carefully inscribed minutes of the Haughfoot lodge show the first meeting to have been held on 22nd of December 1702, when Sir James Scott of Gala, and Thomas Scott his brother, David Murray of Philiphaugh, James Pringle of Haughfoot, Robert Lowrie of Stow, and John Pringle, were admitted into the “Society”, which was placed under the protection of St. John the Evangelist, so resembling other lodges in the district, to meet annually on the 27th of December (St. John’s Day). Andrew Thomson of Galashiels, was Register-keeper (clerk or secretary), and also Box-master (treasurer), which was an office he held continuously for twenty years.
In January, 1711, five members were commissioned to enter an Apprentice and Fellowcraft in Edinburgh. On St. John’s Day, 1728, ten commissioned members in Galashiels (Hugh Scott of Gala preses) admitted an entrant, and similar committee meetings followed for the next few years. In the minutes of 1736 there is no mention that they were invited for the formation of The Grand Lodge of Scotland. Fostered by the Pringle family the Society functioned until 27th of December 1738. That year saw the last meeting of the lodge at Haughfoot; at that meeting it was arranged to hold “comitie of all Masons willing to attend” at Galashiels on the 3rd day of January 1739, and in accordance, twenty members met in Galashiels. The advisability of changing the place of meeting was discussed “and being voted whether next meeting on St. John’s Day should be at Haughfoot or Galashiels, it was carried by the plurality to be Galashiels, at John Donaldson’s, present clerk.” On St. John’s Day, 1740, the severity of the weather prevented the intended journey to Stow, but fifteen brethren constituted the meeting, chose the office-bearers, and ordered friendly correspondence with the Stow contingent. On 20th of January, 1742, a separate Lodge was set up, and minuted thus: “Galashiels, Jan. 20, 1742. The masons of Galashiels separate from the brethren of Stow being met day forsd and rols made and marked as follows.” Here follow the names of the fifteen members present. The lodge met regularly at Galashiels annually for the next ten years until St. John’s Day, 1752. At the meeting dated Galashiels 8th of January, 1753, we find: “The day it is proposed among the masons of the Lodge of Galashiels to have our meeting next St. John’s Day at Selkirk, where the brethren pleases to put us up, and in all time coming one year at Galashiels, another at Selkirk.” These alternate St. John’s meetings continued at least until 1763.
These are all the records, but as the book was full, another may have followed as the lodge at this time showed considerable vitality, and there is evidence of meetings held before application was made for a Charter. Indeed, it is recorded by the Peebles Kilwinning Lodge, dated 10th of January, 1794, that “A Society of Free and Accepted Masons of Galashiels, an honourable fraternity beyond all memory,” petitioned to be admitted “to the honour of being a branch of their very ancient Lodge, chiefly from want of funds to procure a charter.” As the Peebles lodge could not comply with that petition, matters continued in this vein until the early part of the next century.
On St. John’s Day, 1815, nine Galashiels Freemasons, led by Dr. Robert Weir, a local surgeon, met and resolved to petition Grand Lodge for a Charter. They took care to add to their number, worked hard for months in preparing a foundation for THE GALASHIELS LODGE, then, having remitted the fee of twenty guineas, along with a list of office-bearers, Charter was granted on 4th November, 1816. By the end of the year a membership of fifty was attained. Towards the close of 1817, Mr Scott of Gala offered ground near the Cross for a “Mason Lodge,” along with all the wood required, – but “the treasury was stint” – (lodge funds were scarce) and the scheme could not go on.
Again on 19th of September, 1826, the brethren deliberated on the propriety of building a “Mason Lodge in Galashiels” and a large committee was actually appointed to look for and obtain a site and even to contract with tradesmen, so that the desire of the lodge could be attained. Alas, this project also came to nothing.
In 1829, on St. John’s Day, the Lodge held a public procession, with music. The same year the foundation stone of Ladhope Parish Church was laid with full Masonic ceremony. In August, 1846, Grand Lodge invited three office-bearers to attend the inauguration of Sir Walter Scott’s Monument in Edinburgh. For several years interest in the Lodge gradually fell off and the resources were used up, then, upon the death in 1851 of the keeper of the Masonic property, no meetings were called for the next seven years.
In the winter of 1858, Dr. Tweedie, who held the current appointment of R. W. M., gathered together thirty-six worthy Brethren, and in February, 1859, obtained the certificate of Grand Lodge to resuscitate the Lodge, and good progress followed thereafter. The following year saw the foundation stones of the Town Hall and the Corn Exchange laid, thus giving the Craft further impetus. Bro. Peter Sanderson, R. W. M., assisted by Depute Grand Master John White Melville and Prov. Grand Master Forbes Mackenzie, M. P., along with deputations from seventeen sister Lodges carried out the ceremonies most satisfactorily. The town of Galashiels celebrated a holiday on 12th of September, 1860, to witness the proceedings.
For some years lectures on Freemasonry and kindred subjects quickened enthusiasm and raised the tone of the meetings. The Lodge received great accessions to its numbers, flourished and prospered, deputized and was visited. Bro. Adam Thomson, a man of much energy and zeal, was in the chair in 1863-4-5, and also in 1874-5-6-7. The question of lodge accommodation again came up, this time it had to be faced, and the brethren, by resolute efforts, secured the sum of £300. The movement resulted in the purchase of ground in St. John Street and Galapark Road, early in 1876, for the erection of a Masonic Hall, with the consequent formation of The Galashiels Masonic Hall Company Limited. The foundation stone of the building was laid on 12th of May, 1876, with due Masonic ceremony by Bro. Henry Inglis, Depute Grand Master of Scotland. Bro. Turnbull, last of the Charter members, presented the coins for the foundation stone, and wished the work success. In eighteen months the large Hall was ready and consecrated. To those who constituted the Hall Company the brethren of The Galashiels Lodge, No. 262, are very grateful.