The first Masonic Lodge on Arran was Arran Castle No 297. It was chartered in November 1822 and ceased working in 1843. It is not known where the meetings were held, but was probably in Brodick Castle.
By 1890 there were about 65 qualified Masons on Arran, members of Lodges on the mainland. On 14 February that year they met in Mr Bannatyne’s Hotel (now the Pierhead Tavern) in Lamlash. There were 14 Brethren present and Brother James Macintosh was called to the chair “to consider the desirability of forming a Masonic Lodge in Lamlash.” They agreed unanimously to form same and to name it Lodge St Molios.
The ancient parish of Kilbride (or Church of St Bride – a legendary Celtic Saint) has its roots in Molias, an Irish Missionary Monk, who took up residence in the cave behind the raised beach near White Point on the Holy Isle in Lamlash Bay about 585AD. From early times the island was known as Eilean Moloise, the Gaelic for Molaise’s Island, corrupted to Elmolaise, Limolas and finally to Lamlash, now applied to the village across the bay. The choice of name for the lodge was a wise one, for not only is the island seen from the village but also from the entrance to the Lodge.
There is a stained glass window in Lamlash Church, a memorial window to the Late Rev. Douglas Fulton, our Minister from 1958 to 1992, who was Chaplain in St Molios for a number of years. The seven doves at the top represent the seven spirits, gifts as in Isaiah Chapter 12 verse 11. They are set in grey and yellow, the colours of Glasgow University, where he took his Degree. The blue and white sky represents the St Andrews Cross. The lower section shows the coast of Ayrshire and the Holy Isle. The sixth century Celtic cross (now standing outside the Church) depicts the presence of St Molios on the Holy Isle.
On 19 March, 1890, the Brethren held a meeting in the then Parish Hall, now the Lamlash Church Hall. There were 14 Brethren present and Brother James Macintosh was called to the chair. He explained the purpose of the meeting was for the signing of a petition for Charter to Grand Lodge and appointing Office Bearers. Some Brethren not able to attend the meeting had already signed. The first Office Bearers for Lodge St Molios were duly nominated with Brother George Fisher (PM 129 Paisley) as RWM.
At a regular meeting in the Parish Hall on 7 May, 1890, the Master Elect intimated that a Charter for Lodge St Molios No 774 had been granted by Grand Lodge and was now in the hands of Brother Lodge Sec Elect. Permission was sought from the Provincial Grand Master of Argyll and the Isles, Brother Sir Charles Dalrymple for the consecration to be delayed until the necessary Jewels, Clothing and Furniture were delivered. Many of the present Jewels, furnishings and other items, including the carpet, were presented to the Lodge by Brethren in these early years. It was agreed that the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Bro. Sir Archibald C. Campbell Bart., MP, B.E., be assumed and enrolled as a member of St Molios. At this meeting it was agreed that the Initiation Fee be two pounds and two shillings, and the Affiliation Fee be seven shillings and six pence. Six candidates were proposed for initiation before the Lodge was closed.
A deputation from Ardrossan Royal Arch, No 320 led by their R.W.M. and Bro Beck S.M. attended this meeting. This meeting was the beginning of a strong fraternal relationship with St Molios which I am happy to say continues to this day.
On Friday 24 October, 1890, at 2.30 p.m. in the Parish Hall, Lamlash, the Lodge was opened and various business was conducted prior to the Consecration and Installation Ceremony. After recess the Lodge was again opened and a large and distinguished deputation was admitted, led by the Provincial Grand Master of Argyll and the Isles Brother Sir Charles Dalrymple Bart, M.P. Other deputations followed. At the conclusion of the ceremony about 60 Brethren in number walked in procession to the School (the Old School, now the council offices), where they had dinner and harmony. A Ladies’ Night was arranged for 23 October 1891 and the extract minute read “they decided to have a processing of Brethren (Weather Permitting) which should take place about 5 p.m. and that there should be a Meat Tea afterwards. A piano and two violins should be engaged. Refreshments to be had in the ante-room, and Gentlemen to appear in their Masonic Office.” It is not clear where the procession began but the “Lady Friends” would await the Gentlemen at the Parish Hall.
By 1901, it wasn’t unusual for E.A.s to be passed to F.C., and then raised to M.M., at the same meeting. On 28 October 1901, after ballot, an applicant was passed through the three Degrees to M.M. This was done as the applicant was a seaman and would be out of the country for a while. The practice was later prohibited.
On 13 May 1892, a Deputation of 18 Brethren from the Lodge attended the opening of the New Ardrossan Docks. Afterwards at the next meeting Brother Murchie D.M. was accorded a hearty vote of thanks “For the kindly treatment by the deputation at the opening of the Docks. “On 28 October 1892, a large Deputation from St Molios attended the Consecration of St Brides 784 at Lochranza. Unfortunately the Lodge ceased working in 1896. Two boxes of Working Tools were given to St Molios with the proviso that if a new Lodge were to form on Arran they were to be given to that Lodge. Another large deputation from St Molios attended at the laying of the Memorial Stone at the New Public Hall, Brodick, on 15 September 1894 by Brother A. Graham Murray, M.P. Before this ceremony, the Lodge was opened in the then Court House, at one time the British Legion Hall, Scout Hall and now the Roman Catholic Chapel.
Before the First World War and through to after the Second World War, Lamlash Bay was used extensively as an anchorage for units of the Home Fleet. RFA Maine (Hospital Ship), HMS Hood (not the one sunk in the Second World War) and many old battleships and destroyers. Navy personnel were frequent visitors to the Lodge and some took their Degrees there. Records show that seven were killed in action and some never completed their Degrees. We have no record of those lost in the Second World War or actions since. In December 1912, Brethren of RFA Maine presented the present VSL to the Lodge. In 1909 Officers of the 3rd Division Fleet presented the Lamlash Golf Club with a handsome trophy in the form of a silver bowl, named the “Fleet Cup”. To this day all Navy personnel have the courtesy of the Course when their ships are in the bay. The Cup is competed for annually by members there.
By October 1918, there were 118 available members, 64 life members and 73 deceased. Good for a Lodge only in existence for 28 years. There were 34 Initiates between 1912/13 and 42 between 1918/19. The War clearly influenced this increase.
The present Public Hall in Lamlash was built by the MOD in 1913. It was used as a Hospital (not surgical) but was a place where service personnel could recover after surgery elsewhere. It was handed over to Buteshire County Council when hostilities ceased but the Navy stipulated that they had first call on it in time of war. The present Lodge building was built about the same time (1913) by the Episcopal Church, to serve the big numbers of English Navy Personnel stationed there. It was named St Columba’s Episcopal Church. At a Lodge meeting on 14 November 1919, as the Church was no longer in use, it was proposed that the Episcopal Church Authority be asked if they might dispose of their building. The reply was not encouraging. However, at a later date the Rector of St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Rotheray offered to rent the Lodge part only of the hall. The Brethren took no further action. In May 1923, a lawyer acting for the church re-opened negotiations. As a result, the present building was purchased for the sum of £275, which included 71 chairs, 4 stoves and oil lamps. The Holy Isle Order of the E. Star applied for and was granted use of the hall at 10/- per night. So St Molios now had its own Lodge Temple. From its consecration in 1890 till 1919 the Lodge had used the Parish Hall, now the Lamlash Church Hall, Brodick Public Hall, the present R. C. Church in Brodick and Lamlash Public Hall.
In the past 3 years a major refurbishment of the building was commenced and is now almost complete. When finished, St Molios will have a fine Temple for future generations of Free and Accepted Masons to practice their craft.
Two of the senior Brethren of the Lodge are Bros George Jaap Lyle PM and Duncan McArthur PM. George was initiated on 3 October 1937 in Lodge St Barchan No 156. He has since affiliated to 6 other Lodges and was RWM at 3 of them, including Chessington No 6076 in the English Constitution, Fleur de Lys No 1641 in the French Constitution and St Molios No. 774 where he was the first Affiliate to take the chair. On 14 April 2007, George gifted to St Molios a Diploma of Distinguished Service Membership (70 years) which he had earlier in the year received from his Mother Lodge. George is very much respected by all Brethren and visitors. His advice is often sought and is freely given on matters arising at meetings. He can best be described, as a fatherly figure at St Molios and is just as popular wherever he goes. He has held 5 senior offices at Grand Lodge as well as Offices in Provincial Grand Lodge. He continues to attend meetings not only in Scotland, but in London and in France.
Duncan McArthur PM was initiated in Lodge St Molios No 774 on 29 June 1945. Including St Molios, he was RWM and a member of 8 other Lodges. They were in Western Australia, England and the Netherlands. On 5 December 2005 he was installed RWM in Lodge Montefiore No 753. Duncan was an enthusiastic Free Mason and in particular about his Mother Lodge. Although in failing health, he continued to attend meetings in St Molios and in Lodges in the Province of Argyll and the Isles. He was a well-kent face in the Daughter Lodges and he was a Burns fanatic. We were all saddened when Duncan died in October 2007, while this article was being prepared. Duncan, in his own words, “had a rich life”.
At our Installation Ceremony on Saturday, 1 December 2007, when Brother David Thomas Brambles was installed for his second year in the Chair, a photograph was taken of Brethren present. Included was a deputation from Provincial Grand Lodge of Argyll and The Isles and Bro. George Jaap Lyle P.M. The Provincial Grand Master, Bro. Eric Euston Coles presented Bro. Donald Sillars Bannatyne (Snr) with a Certificate marking his 60 years service since his Initiation at St Molios. Sadly, our Provincial Grand Master Bro. Eric Euston Coles collapsed at home a few days later and died in hospital on Saturday, 8 December.
As an Island Lodge, with limited resources and a small population, Lodge St Molios is in good heart. The Brethren are always mindful that others may be having difficult times and can be offered help. Sponsorship of local voluntary organisations and in particular young persons working in third world countries are also supported. With that in mind, a major restoration to the Lodge property is almost complete and future generations of St Molios Brethren can continue the good work of the Scottish Craft.
Published in The Ashlar, Issue 34, March 2008.
Note: – There is some doubt about the name of the first Lodge on Arran. I was lead to believe that it was named Arran Castle Lodge No 297. Chartered in November, 1822 but ceased working in 1843. According to the late Brother George Draffen’s book, List of Scottish Lodges, published around early 1950s and photocopied a few years ago for a fellow Brother, it was named The Duke of Hamilton’s Lodge. Located at Brodick Castle, Chartered 4 November 1822 and ceased working 1843. The Chartulary states that this Charter was not granted but the Lodge appears on all lists. The Regalia were dark blue with light blue edge.
By Bro P. Mackay, Archivist, Lodge St Molios, No 774, Lamlash.