Lodge History

On the 28th September 1918, a meeting was held in the village school to discuss the possibility of forming a lodge. The meeting was chaired by Bro. John Barr who was later to become a stalward of the lodge, and was attended by 28 interested masons, representing lodges numbering 270, 374, 781, 827, 877,927 and 1096. At a further meeting on the 13th of October, Bro. John Miller, a Past Master of St John Crofthead, Fauldhouse No 374, was elected to be the first master of the new lodge, with Bro. Robert Gilfillan to be his Senior Warden and Bro. John Barr to be his Junior Warden. Tragically Bro. Gilfillan died before the installation and Bro. Barr became Senior Warden with Bro.John Robertson moving up to Junior Warden. All the office bearers stepped up a post and Bro. Henry Burnett was appointed Tyler. The sponsor lodges of 374 and 927 Polkemmet, Whitburn; instituted the proceedings from then on and applied to Grand Lodge for a Charter.

The Charter was granted on the 1st May, 1919 and the Ceremony of Consecration was performed on the 7th June by the R.W Provincial Grand Master Bro. Robert Kirk and his office bearers in the school hall and the Technical room, which was to become the Lodge meeting place for the next four years.

It did not take long  until local interest in masonry brought applications from no fewer than ten within one week after the lodge being formed. This interest was sustained throughout the summer and into the late autumn, requiring a number of  special meetings, by calling on the services of the local lodges on many occasions, to confer the third degree. Amongst the foremost of these being Crofthead St John, Hopebridge Castle and Murdostoun Castle.

In November , 1920, Bro. John Barr was elected R.W.M and to those who knew this brother, it was evident that his forceful personality was to have a great influence on the futureof the lodge. Despite the large attendance, the collection for the evening was 17s 4d. Bro Barr was installed by Bro. John Gould, a Past Master of 374 who had conducted the previous installation and was to be the Installing Master for the next nine years .

 In early 1923, the lodge moved its meetings to a hall above the local hostelry, Ewings Hall , and the Consecration Ceremony was conducted by the R.W.P.G.M Bro. Henry Robinson.
Between 1924 and 1927 , the fortunes of the lodge took a twist for the worst, due to the onset of a depression caused by a cessation in the coal mining industry, and the general unrest in the country due to strikes and the giant wave of unemployment. Attendances dropped to such an alarming extent that it was going to be difficult for the lodge to continue to function at all and steadily degenerated until 1933. There must be few masonic lodges in Scotland who can quote a situation where they failed to initiate a candidate for a period of seven years, from 1927 to 1933. Such was the state of the lodge that during these years, the office bearers opened and closed the lodge without having the opportunity to carry out their prime function as office bearers. The provincial grand master of that day, Bro.Robert Brown, during his visitations, commented on the plight of the lodge and induced the master and office bearers to consider closing the lodge for a period of two years, and to give careful consderation to any re-opening. The office bearers and brethren of the lodge turned down the suggestion and pledged their continuance of their function to see if the their fortunes might change. This decision proved to be right, as the present day members now appreciate.

The sponsor lodges rallied to our aid , little did the lodge know that in 1933 that the turning point was near by. A simple and unheralded application from  Bro.Alex Boyd of Hopebridge Castle to become affiliated, and in the same year  Bro. Alex Boyd was elected to become master for the next four years. Through his determination and drive, the lodge slowly got back on its feet.

The war years however again brought sadness and problems for the lodge but two of the masters, Bro. William Abbott and Bro. John Lambie steered it through these trying times. They held many special meetings to accommodate servicemen who were home on leave and in the four years of their being in the chair, they admitted 132 Brethren. Through his zeal, Bro John Lambie became a member of Provincial Grand Lodge and finally reached the high rank of Provincial Grand Senior Warden.  During this period a deep friendship was formed with Lodge Solomon No.1209 and two of their masters, Bro. Abe Rabstaff and Bro. Ernie  Deane , offered financial assistance to 1186 which was gratefully accepted and immediately put to good use.

After the war, the Ewing's hall could no longer accomodate the lodge and negotiations were set up with the county council who then gave their permission for the lodge to meet in the, then, redundant A.R.P Hall. Within a year the lodge had accumulated enough money to purchase this hall and an added bonus was the gift from the local Laird, Dr. A. Clark, of the land, 1/3 of an acre on which the hall stood. The lodge finances had been boosted by the active years to such an extent that the building fund had accumulated a figure of £2,000 towards the building of a new temple.
1944 revived new interest, this being the silver jubilee year for the lodge. The celebration ball attracted some 200 members and wives, and despite rationing, the ladies managed to provide an excellent purvey by saving from their already meagre rations.

The lodge received many visitations from large parties of sister lodges within the mid-forties. Fine lodges such as Lodge Solomon and Lodge St Patrick often brought gifts of teak furniture, and mallets were greatfully received  from lodge Old Kilpatrick, probably made by some of their members during their spare time whilst working in the Clydeside shipyards.

The ARP hall,although not adequate by any modern standards was the home of the lodge until 1953

By 1953, the lodge was prosperous enough to start work on the building of a new temple on this site at a cost of £3,500. . The lodge furniture was unceremoniously conveyed in a wheelbarrow through the streets of the village to the new premises "like a moonlight flitting".  Work commenced on the building of the new temple, where it stands today, on the 2nd April 1953. During the construction of this building the lodge continued holding its meetings in temporary huts on the site.
The lodge was completed (from an occupational point of view) and Consecrated on the 28th November 1953 by the R.W.P.G.M Bro. James Williamson.
Work was still required to paint and furnish the lodge. Credit must go to Bro George Albiston (WJW at the time)  who worked untiringly for weeks to bring the standard of decoration to a reasonable state.

For a short period of time after the new premises were opened, interest was fairly lively and many special meetings were held to overcome the backlog of candidates still to receive their third degree. Past Master Robert Gibson could boast of having been initiated into freemasonry in a wooden hut used by the builders and the lodge during  the building of the new temple. Bro Gibson purchased this hut and used it as a garage so you could say he was initiated into freemasonry in his Garage!!

In 1955 the lodge was again beset by many problems, with mounting debts, poor attendances and an apparent loss of heart by the members. The R.W.P.G.M. called a special meeting to hear the views of the members and for the second time in the lodges history stated that if positive answers to the problems were not forthcoming, the Charter would be withdrawn. Bro Robert Gibson was installed as R.W.M and for the next year worked tirelessy to raise finance through sales of work, social evenings etc and finally cleared the debts within a two year period, thus allowing the lodge to operate in a proper manner. Neighbouring lodges , led by Lodge Torphichen Kilwinning No 13, also contributed large sums of money for our use.
Gestures such as these have been greatly appreciated by all the brethren of 1186 and display in a practical way the Masonic dependance we feel towards each other.

The early sixties saw the lodge prospering as new industries came into the area, none more so than British Leyland (BMC), bringing employment and with it, more available money.

In 1975, the lodge sold part of its land to the district council which proved doubly beneficial. Apart from the financial gain, it also benefited from the unlimited use of the car park, created to serve the new community centre built on the ground. Since then the lodge has been renovated, redecorated, refurbished and extended in many ways and now has a successful Social Club. The membership of the lodge is steadily growing and the freemasons who can proudly call Lodge St John Stoneburn 1186 their mother lodge are now accepting the responsibility like they have never done before. Among the present office bearers are many past masters who are aware of the debt they owe to the men responsible for founding the lodge.

The lodge has been fortunate to have had a constant supply of willing and able brethren (including the past masters) to carry on the traditions of the lodge and have kept the ritual to a very high standard. Sadly at this time it is difficult to find candidates of the right calibre in large numbers, but even so it would appear that Lodge St John 1186 has a great future and will continue to go from strength to strength heading towards its Centenary.

From its foundings , over 90 years ago, 67 masters have now occupied the Masters Chair and 12 brethren have been appointed Provincial Grand Rank. Past Masters Bro. Thomas White and Bro. Bobby Gibson  (both sadly passed to the Grand lodge above) have been honoured to be Substitute Provincial Grand Masters.  Bro Bobby Gibson and Bro. John Lambie have brought double honours to the lodge by attaining Grand Rank.

In it comparatively short history, the lodge has initiated over 740 brethren and has affiliated 12 others. It has appx 30 Brethren in good standing (at the time of publishing) and has 17 honorary members.

Long may the Lodge survive with Faith and Hope for the future and Keep Brotherly Love alive through the Charity of its actions.

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