Special Interest Lodge News: The Scots are Coming!
On Saturday 2nd June at Freemasons’ Hall, Caledonian Lodge No 134 had its inaugural meeting as London’s Scottish Lodge. Caledonian’s Worshipful Master, W Bro Fred Bain PAGDC, and W. Bro Paul Tweedale PM report…
Two years ago, the members of Caledonian Lodge embraced the potential of becoming a ‘Special Interest Lodge’ under the Metropolitan Grand Lodge Scheme. With the assistance of its members and the guidance of VW Bro John Parry (now MetGL Special Interest Lodge Inspector) and W Bro Martin Vidler (Metropolitan Grand Inspector); alongside several distinguished and potential Joining Members, the Lodge began the journey which has led to Caledonian Lodge becoming ‘The Spirit of Scotland’ Lodge in London.
On 2nd June 2023 at a regular Lodge meeting, held in Temple 17 at Freemasons Hall, we were honoured with the presence of RW Bro Christopher Hayward PJGW, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master and 120 other distinguished Brethren. The order of the day was to Initiate Mr Mitchell Hedges, a South African living and working in London, a man with considerable Scottish Heritage.
We were also proud to welcome the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, MW Bro Ramsay McGhee, who had initially been due to travel to London via the overnight train from Inverness. Due to industrial action, his train was cancelled. Arrangements were made for him to fly from Inverness instead. On the morning of the meeting, when arriving at Inverness airport, he discovered, as he was parking his car, that his flight to London had just been cancelled. With considerable effort he booked a flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow. He then drove to Aberdeen and boarded the flight, arriving at 5:30pm at Freemasons’ Hall to a rapturous welcome from the Brethren. His Herculean efforts, and his expressed desire to continue to support the Lodge and its Scottish theme was recognised with much warmth and appreciation.
Many other Scottish Masons had also travelled down from Scotland to be present at the meeting, among them Brethren from Caledonian Lodge No 392 SC, Edinburgh Castle Lodge No 1764 SC, and The Caledonian Lodge of Uganda No 1389 SC. An association between Caledonian Lodge and Caledonian Lodge No 392 SC is currently under discussion.
Also present at the meeting was Mitchell Hedges’ father, W Bro Charles Hedges PDGJW of Duguza Lodge No 2461 SA, who had travelled, with another Masonic Brother, from South Africa to be present at Mitchell’s initiation.
Our five joining members resulting from the initial exploratory meetings through to membership were likewise present: Worshipful Brothers Tom Quinn SLGR, Hugh Love PSGD Alasdair Milne LGR, Eddy Garty PAGDC Middx and Keith Alexander PSGD, MetGInsp.
Following the meeting, the Festive Board was accommodated at the Connaught Rooms, where the Brethren were entertained by the skirl of the pipes and the ‘Address to the Haggis’ by Caledonian Lodge member Bro Hamish McLeod. There was a tangible harmony throughout the evening, and it was a pleasure to witness over 100 attendees celebrating both Masonry and Scottish culture together.
The history of the Caledonian Lodge is both fascinating and tantalising. We are fortunate to have detailed contemporary reporting on the foundation of the Lodge back in the 1700s; on some of its important Initiates, and how these members contributed to the development of Freemasonry as we know it today. There are books, lectures and fine portraits giving a special insight into some of those pioneers and trailblazers in Freemasonry.
We also have some beautiful and highly prized artefacts, including a set of solid silver collars dating back to the late 18th Century (which, when not being worn at a meeting, are on display in the museum at FMH). Some of the detail, particularly that concerning the Lodge’s special charity, the Royal Masonic School for Girls, which the Lodge helped found and sustain, gives a revealing insight into the truly hands-on nature of this support in its early years.
This year the Lodge will celebrate 260 years since consecration and there is a family lineage within the Lodge from one of the Founders to three current members.
It is well documented that in 1762, Scottish Brethren from Edinburgh petitioned the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a Warrant to open a Lodge in London; this was constitutionally refused. They then followed a process for the establishment and foundation of Caledonian Lodge in London. We know little more: crucial records and artefacts were lost to fire, seizure by bailiffs and damage during the Second World War. From fragmentary sources, we do know that the Lodge aligned with the Antients during its turbulent embroilments with Moderns during the late 18th Century, repelling initial attempts to bring the Lodge under the more watchful control of Grand Lodge and resulting in the threat of expulsion. Indeed, following further machinations in 1771, a Past Master, the Secretary and two Wardens were indeed expelled.
However, with the Union of the Antients and Moderns in 1813, Caledonian Lodge provided one of the very select nine representatives appointed from both factions, thereby finding itself at the very epicentre of one the most seismic movements in Masonic history.
And today? The next meeting of Caledonian Lodge is on Friday 6th October, with a Passing. We will, of course, continue to support the Spirit of Scotland in London, with Harmonies and Scottish themed events all planned. To attend, please contact our Brother Secretary W. Bro. Allen Sinclair on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arena Reporter and fellow Scotsman abroad, Bro Vinny Cochrane, attended the meeting, and writes:
Freemasonry may be an esoteric concern but the terrifying charm of the Scots made me feel right back at home. The regalia of our visiting Brethren from North of the border was augmented with tartans, kilts, and sporrans. The skirl of the pipes as we welcomed Caledonian Lodge’s officers was like being transported back in time, and the Initiation was conducted with granite dignity.
An essential part of Scots’ sense of humour is self-irony, manufactured from the pretence that we are ultra-serious tough-guys who are so hard-bitten that we wear skirts in a dreich (wet and gloomy) climate without fear of being mocked. Nowhere is this tongue-in-cheek ruggedness more apparent than the “address to the haggis”; a spectacle usually performed on Robert Burns Night. A ritualised Scottish celebration, with toasts, addresses, and traditional fare, it is very similar to a Festive Board. Bro Hamish McLeod recited the address perfectly as it should be, with a mixture of awestruck admiration and terrifying contempt. After further excursions into frightening Scots dialect, Bro Hamish sharpened his knife and violently stabbed the haggis with malignant relish, his voice as driving, malevolent and implacable as a Highland gale. And so, the Festive Board played host to its ceremonial cousin where I can declare the scran was a pure belter, and naebody was scunnered. (The food was excellent, nobody disappointed.)
My adventure into the land of midges and monsters proved to be a unique blend of traditions, in which heritage and identity were always evident. The one casualty of the night, the cruelly mutilated haggis, was not butchered in vain.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 52 August 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 52 here.