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THE GRAND LODGE OF SCOTLAND
Almost every freemason learns sooner or later, that the first Grandlodge in the world is founded on the feast of St. John the Baptist, on the 24th of June, 1717, in the Goose and Gridion, St.Paul’s churchyard in London, when the represantatives of four existing lodges came together.
It is a fact, that all other Grandlodges in the world accept, that the Grandlodge of England is the most senior in years, and from that derives all rights, that come with this. The Lodges, who became part of this formation. And all other lodges, who existed in that time, must therefor have given themselves charters somehow, they must have given themselves a constitution, because there was simply no Grandlodge who could have given charters to them. Later, but still in the same century, the Grandlodge of York claimed, that they were in any case at least fifty years befor 1717 a Grandlodge then the UGLE.
Befor I continue here, we need the definition of a Grandlodge. These days, a Grandlodge needs to be a independent, souvereign body, which is not obedient towards any other masonic body. This demand excludes therefor every Provincial Grandlodge, and also every other lodges, who work under the charter of a different GrandEast. A Grandlodge, which never have given out any charters, will, even if she fulfills all other demands, be only a ‘nominal’ Grandlodge, one in name only, if it is a Grandlodge at all. All English, and Scottish lodges, exept one, who exsisted befor 1717, would pass the test of independency, but they gave out no charters, and were therefor no Grandlodges. After the Grandlodge of 1717 gave out a book of constitutions in 1723, the existance of such rules has become more and more a demand for the establishment of a rightfull Grandlodge. But, this demand is merely a invention of the UGLE as we can see.
One of the Lodges, who existed from befor 1717, was the one, who is now at the head on the roll of the Grandlodge of Scotland, and carries number 0 (number nought). This Lodge, Mother Kilwinning, is one, of which the constitution dates from ‘befor 1598’. The Lodge Kilwinning was self-constitued, very independent, and did not need to pay any obedience to whatever superior body befor 1736, when the Grandlodge of Scotland was constituted. The history of Kilwinning is a extraordinasry one, and after you have finished reading, you can see easily, that Mother Kilwinning was the first Grandlodge on earth, even when we go by the defenitions of a Grandlodge, as given by the UGLE. The date mostly given, when the Abbey of Kilwinning is mentioned, is 1140. About that period, the Pope created corporations or brotherhoods of masons, and gave them special priviledges and immunities, with the goal to send Italian artists, who were famous for churchbuilding, abroad, to erect churches in other countries. A company of these foreign masons seem to have come to Kilwinning, in order to build the Abbey of Kilwinning, and they have erected the first regular constituted Lodge of Scotland. The Lodges were held in the Chapterhouse, a room from 38-19 feet, which lay at the eastside of the Abbey. On the broken walls and crumpled bows of the Abbey, one can still see some very nice Masonic marks.
When the Abbey was being built, inhabitants of the city of Kilwinning were hired to help with the project, because there were only few other masons available at that time. To gain the trust and the help of the population, to create interest in the construction of a enormous large religious building like the Abbey, the population of Kilwinning was paid largely with priviledges. They were allowed to learn the secret of the trade of the mason-monks, and they were given, by the Pope himself, the right to call themselves Freemasons, wherever they went. And so, the ancient and worthy Lodge Mother Kilwinning is established in the Chapterhouse, where, according to the stories, the first masonic meeting is being held, and the recrutes from the population of Kilwinning were initiated in the vital secrets of the Ancient Free and Accepted Scottish Rite.
Kilinning created the lodges Scoon and Bertha (now Scone and Perth) in about the year 1193, as we can see from a charter, which is now in the archives of the GLoS. Little else is known about the early history of Mother Kilwinning, because all the early records are lost. Tradition tells us, that the records of the Lodge were taken by the monks to France, after the fall of Catholicism in Scotland. It is however reasonable to accept, that with the destruction of the Abbey, also the records in it are gone. After the Grandlodges of Kilwinning and York have been established (the jurisdiction and anciennity of the Grandlodge of York has been long since accepted throughout Freemasonry, Freemasonry grew quickly in both kingdoms, and various Lodges were erected in various parts of the island.
Scottish freemasonry had as her Grandmaster always their king. He, if he wasnt a freemason himself, appointed one of the brethren, to act as his deputy with meetings, and to see to it, that all affairs concerning freemasonry was done according the rules. James I (1406-37) was Royal Grand Master till he arranged a yearly income of four Scottish pounds, to be paid by each Mastermason in Scotland to a Grandmaster, who was elected by the Brethren, and approved of by the crown.
James II (1437-60) was also a freemason, but gave the job of Grandmaster to William St.Clair, the builder of Rosslyn Chapel, Earl of Orkney and Caithness and to his heirs. The Rosslynfamily stood without interruption at the head of Freemasonry in Scotland, till 1736, when William St.Clair, the last heir from the direct male line, gave back the title to the Scottish lodges.
The ancient motherlodge possesses other masonic degrees, then the Johaniter, or blue degrees. Laurie for instance, writes in his book: history of freemasonry, that the Knight Templars of Scotland, when their order was persecuted, fled to Robert de Bruce. Robert the Bruce created the masonic order Heredum de Kilwinning after the battle of Bannockburn (1314), and claimed for himself, and his successors, the title of Grandmaster. The last Stuart still believed that he had that right, and gave charters to lodges on the continent. This "Royal Order" is still in high esteem in France, where it was created with a charter from Scotland, and even by the Pretender himself. The creation of this branch of freemasonry on the continent is remembered by a medal, which is made in Paris, and which, amongst others, carries the Arms of Scotland. The brothers of the lodge in Arras, still have a original charter of the Order, handed by them in 1747, by Charles Erdward Stuart, and signed by this unfortunate prince himself, as a representative of the Scottish kings.
The oldest records now in possession of the Lodge are from december 20, 1642, however a document, found in Englington Castle with the titel:"the statuis and ordinances to be observit be all the masters maissonis within his realme, sett doune be William Shaw, maister of Wark to his Maiestie and General Wardene of the said Craft, with concent ot the Maiesteris efter Specifeit", and goes about the Lodge Kilwinning, is from 1598.
In 1736, St.Clair of Rosslyn, grandmaster of Scotland, called a meeting of 32 lodges in and around Edinburgh, and gave all rights, and other titels, who he or his heirs had, back as Grandmaster of the Freemasons of Scotland. Thus the Grandlodge of Scotland was created at november 30, 1738. Mother Kilwinning was represented by proxy, and from her midst the first officers of the Grandlodge were choosen, and she staid there for several years, untill the brothers wanted to number the lodges, according their anciennity. The point of anciennity was naturally claimed by Kilwinning, but was contradicted by the Lodge St.Mary’s Chapel in Rosslin, who claimed to have older written records, then Mother Kilwinning. That is how St.Mary’s Chapel became no.1, and Mother Kilwinning no.2. This verdict was of course very much against the representatives of Kilwinning, and terefor, Kilwinning left the Grandlodge in 1743, regained her independent status, and started to give out charters again. These daughterlodges did not stay restricted to Scotland, because Lodges were created, from Kilwinning, in Ireland, US, Antigua, and the Caribeans. We can see that the Lodge Mother Kilwinning gave out at least 12 charters to Lodges, befor the forming of the Grandlodge of Scotland in 1736, which she later joined again. It is also clear, that at least two of those lodges have been erected in 1678, nearly 40 years befor the meeting in the Goose and Gridion in London. We can state safely, even with the rules of the UGLE , that Mother Kilwinning was the first Grandlodge who worked as a Grandlodge in the world. Perhaps we can even go a bit further.
The present Grandlodge of England, is, as I already stated here befor, not the same as the original one from 1717. The present UGLE was created in 1813, when the original Grandlodge, and York, finally decided to work together, and the now wellknown UGLE appeared. It is usual under the Englsih constitution, that, when two Lodges, or Grandlodges merge together, the most ancient Grandlodge gets priority qua status.
If we continue this line of argumentation to Mother Kilwinning, who finally joined the GLoS again in 1818, it is not more then logical, to justiphy the anciennity of Kilwinning as a Grandlodge, when she joined the GLoS. And this, brothers and sisters would give a date at least from 1195 for the oldest Grandlodge in the world... Mother Kilwinning.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014