Call it an obsession, but part of my vacation planning usually includes research into Freemasonry where I will be visiting. I won't bore you with details of my process of traveling and visiting other grand lodge jurisdictions, I have an educational talk complete with PowerPoints that I can put you to sleep with. My latest vacation to Edinburgh, arguably the cradle of Freemasonry, was no exception to this planning.
Having bribed my wife into letting me sit with several Lodges while we were there, I turned my attention to finding historic Masonic sites I could include her in. Looking for Masonic history in Edinburgh is far easier than most places. There are many museums and monuments, such as the Scott Monument (known as the gothic rocket by locals) which were designed and constructed by Masons. Walter Scott himself was a brother of this degree, as was the architect and the Lord Provost who laid the corner stone (you can still find the masonic trowel at the monument).
With such an active Masonic community, finding gems like Victoria Regalia, a Masonic store proudly displaying the square and compasses, was also an unexpected treat (much masonic merchandise was acquired). We also took time to tour the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s museum and library at Freemasons Hall in New Town where we were hosted by the deputy Provincial Grand Master of the Edinburgh. Of course a visit is not complete without a stop at their gift shop for a bottle of Grand Master Mason's Reserve 10 year Scotch.
I had the pleasure of sitting lodge with two of the oldest lodges in Scotland, Edinburgh Lodge No 1 and Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No 2. Both Lodges were conferring Mark Master degrees, something that can routinely happen in their “Blue Lodge”, so always best to check ahead of time! Both lodges have a rich history, with Edinburgh Lodge laying claim to the oldest Masonic lodge in the world (official records going back to 1598). Canongate Lodge has been meeting in the same location since 1735, which is the oldest purpose built lodge room in the world and has changed very little since then. Do not worry that the due guard and signs might not always be what you expect, or that the opening and closings of degrees might be different from your home lodge, it’s all part of the fun of traveling and meeting new brothers. Do also make plans to stay for the Harmony after lodge, it’s a fraternal bonding experience you should not miss.
With a full schedule the week we were there, I barely scratched the surface on the fraternities’ origins in Scotland. There remains a number of places I want to go back and visit, and more bothers I would like to make the acquaintance of.