The majority of this history document is taken from the document produced by Robert K. Hill PM to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the lodge in 1998.
"History - a systematic written account of events"
"Histories are as perfect as the historian is wise, and is gifted with an eye and a soul"
Those of us who have gathered the information for this historical publication have in mind the words of Webster and Carlyle. It is for you to read the contents. To the older brother, it may be but a reminiscence of events in which he has participated in his day. To the brother who has spent but part of the time with us, it will be history and reminiscence. To the novice, a complete history. May the reading of this production remind us the part we, as individuals, have taken in building a better Masonic Fraternity.
The first engrossed Minute verifies that a meeting was held within the dwelling house of John Porteous, spirit merchant, Holytown, on 14 February 1823 for the express purpose of forming a Freemasons' Lodge in Holytown. As a consequence of which, Walter Frederick Campbell Esq. of Shawfield and Woodhall was elected Right Worshipful Master, Robert Russell as Depute Master, with the requisite Office Bearers.
On 3 July 1823 the Lodge initiated candidates into the Craft.
During the evening of 17 November 1823 it was resolved, during a meeting which had been convened in the house of John Adam, spirit merchant, Legbrannock, to request Lodge Airdrie St. John to officiate and perform the ceremony of consecration on 1 December 1823. Pursuant to this resolution, such dated records show that representatives met within Mrs. Hasties' Inn, Holytown, where members of the following Lodges were present:
Lodge New Monkland Montrose No. 83(now 88)
Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning No. 7
Lodge Airdrie St. John No. 164(now 166)
Lodge Old Monkland St. James No. 179(now 177)
Lodge Airdrie Operatives No. 202(now 203)
Lodge Hamilton Clydesdale Operatives No. 303(now 233)
Lodge Shettleston St. Johns No. 128
The meeting was adjourned to Holytown Public School, when Masters of the Lodges present voted and agreed that Lodge Airdrie St. John No. 164 should consecrate Woodhall St. Johns Lodge.
The Lodge, having been consecrated - and on completion of the business - the assembled brethren processed from Holytown to Bellshill Church; afterwards to Miss Campbell of Thankerton; thence to our Right Worshipful Master's Woodhall House; afterwards returning to Mrs. Hasties' Inn, Holytown, where an agreeable day was spent by the brethren present to the honour of the Craft. Thus, by solemn consecration, our Lodge Woodhall St. Johns No. 305 came into being, and met and initiated candidates. On 20 September 1824, within the house of John Porteous, Holytown, our Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland was given over to the worthy Treasurer, being received from Walter F. Campbell MP, having been endorsed "on the 17th current".
During this period, the records contain only outline accounts of the Lodge and, although the first recorded meeting in 'The Masonic Hall' is dated 22 July 1827, the location is not given. Indeed, until 1845, the Lodge did not have a regular meeting place and was in a period of dire circumstances. However, the brethren remained resolute in their enthusiasm - on several occasions processed to the laying of foundation stone ceremonies. It is recorded that:
"Meeting at 6am (!) on 18 August 1829 in Holytown - proceeding to, and forming a Lodge at, John Erskine's house in Glasgow."
They initiated one Robert Burns of Carnbroe before attending the stone laying ceremony in Glasgow, again returning to John Erskine's for dinner, and after the repast walked to Bellshill in procession. It is also recorded, on 3 September 1833, the Lodge attended the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Jamaica Bridge in Glasgow.
"It is not what we give, but what we share,
It is not what we do, but what we dare,
'Tis not what we tolerate, but lovingly judge,
That builds the bridge to our Higher Lodge"
30 September 1845 saw the imposition of fines for non-attendance, when a fine of one shilling for Office Bearers and sixpence for other brethren was imposed. Whilst we may scoff today at what may seem a paltry coinage, it was a substantial amount in former times.
On 9 March 1847 the name of William McMurdo appeared on the pages of the minute book, as having been initiated on that particular date. Brother McMurdo distinguished himself in the Craft, and in the higher orders of Freemasonry. Brother William McMurdo died in 1909 when a vast number of brethren from all quarters attended his funeral. It is reported that blinds were closed, shops were closed, and thousands of the community lined the route to the cemetery. Truly a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man.
24 March 1870 is recorded as being the first Mark Degree when the three degrees and Mark were conferred on Peter Drewith, as he was departing for America in a few days time.
The Lodge began to prosper somewhat and celebrated the first fifty years of Freemasonry during 1873.
The Lodge was opened at 1pm at Holytown, thereafter called to refreshment and marched to the West End of Bellshill headed by the Bellshill Brass Band, and followed by various sister lodges along with Robert Burns Royal Arch Chapter No. 143. The brethren partook of refreshments and a repast, when the Lodge was called from refreshment to labour, and closed in due form. On the day of St. John, 27 December 1876, Brother John Clark Forrest, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, consecrated the new Masonic Hall at Muirmadkin. The brethren met here for two years when the noise from a brass band in an adjacent hall obliged the Lodge to adjourn to the Royal Hotel.
The Lodge met within the Royal Hotel for the last time on 19 July 1879, and marched in procession through Bellshill to their new premises. They were joined there by Brother John Clark Forrest, now Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, who presided at the consecration, ably assisted by his Office Bearers.
The Lodge was presented with Pillars, Batons and Mallets by Bros. Beveridge and Binns, who also donated the Master's Maul, inscribed with the name and crest of the Lodge and dated 17 May 1879. The Maul is still used by the reigning Right Worshipful Master of our Lodge, and has been for the past one hundred and nineteen years.
The Masonic Hall changed hands in 1886, and Provincial Grand Lodge granted authority for the Lodge to convene in the Railway Hotel, Bellshill.
On 30 May 1896, the Lodge assisted at a special meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge to lay the foundation stone of Bellshill Academy.
The Lodge now set themselves to build a new Temple, which was completed in 1902 and consecrated during 1903.
The Lodge continued to attend the laying of foundation stones at various buildings of importance, and also Masonic Temples. The Lodge also held Funeral Lodges. On 20 May 1911, a service was held in Bellshill Church for His Late Majesty King Edward VII. On 9 December 1911, a service was held for the late Brother William Morton, Lodge Treasurer for forty years.
The year 1914, and the outbreak of hostilities with Germany, saw a large number of the brethren serving with His Majesty's Armed Forces. Thirteen of our brethren made the supreme sacrifice in that carnage. The Lodge continued during the hostilities and tribulations of war. On 16 March 1916 Brother Colonel Robert King Stewart, reigning Grand Master Mason visited our Lodge as Provincial Grand Master. This was the first visit to our Lodge from a reigning Grand Master Mason - but not the last!
On Sunday 26 May 1919, a memorial service was held for our brethren who had lost their lives in the conflict and on 7 March 1920 a memorial plaque was unveiled to their honour and the Glory of the Most High. The plaque is prominent above the Master's Chair - "lest we forget".
During 1923 the Lodge celebrated its centenary and throughout the year, various functions were held leading to the Centenary Festival on 14 November. This truly was a grand affair. Prominent Freemasons from our own Lodge and visiting Lodges whose names emblazoned the Toast List, and who are still held in veneration, were present. Those brethren of yesteryear who, by their fortitude and sterling services to our and their Mother Lodge, and who have now passed beyond the final veil of mortality, we gratefully give thanks.
June 1928 saw the death of Brother William Dempster. The Lodge was opened at 3pm on 4 June for his funeral - adjourned, and marched to Airbles Cemetery, Motherwell, where the mortal remains of Brother William Dempster were laid to rest with full Masonic honours. The ceremony was conducted by Brother James Lilly, Right Worshipful Master. The brethren returned to the Masonic Halls and took their leave. Ten days later, on 14 June, within the Masonic Temple, Bellshill, the Lodge was resumed and closed at 6:30pm. Testimonials were given by the brethren in general, and in particular by Brother John McPherson PM, President of the Masonic Veterans' Association, who delivered the eulogy to the assembled brethren. Brother William Dempster bequeathed the sum of £110 to the Lodge for benevolent purposes, from which interest is still distributed annually to a needful brother.
On 26 October 1929, the Lodge marched in procession to Airbles Cemetery where a memorial stone of Creetown granite, in the form of a broken pillar, was unveiled by Brother Sir Robert King Stewart KBE, Provincial Grand Master, to the sacred memory of the late Brother William Dempster. Solemn music was provided by the Bellshill Corps Salvation Army Band. It should be noted that the ritual currently used by Woodhall St. Johns Lodge No. 305 was compiled by Brother William Dempster and printed by Brother A.D. Combe, and remains the copyright of these two worthy brethren. The ritual is used extensively by Lodges at home and abroad to this present day.
Although the funds were at a low ebb, a request for donations for an 'Electric Light Fund' was inaugurated, the installation of which was completed in the summer of 1932 at a cost "not exceeding £85"!!
Brother James C. Osbourne was affiliated from Lodge St. John Fisherrow No. 112 on 27 October 1934. Thirty days later, he was installed as Junior Deacon of the Lodge. He then passed through the various offices to the Chair, and distinguished himself in the higher Orders of the Craft when he became Most Illustrious Grand Sovereign of the Grand Imperial Council of Scotland. It should also be noted at this juncture of our Lodge history that Brother Osbourne skipped the rink which brought The Robert King Stewart Bowling Trophy to the Lodge during 1937. The rink was formed of Bros. Osbourne (skip), A. Smith, J. Robb and W.B. Paterson.
1937 brought further trophies to the Lodge when a rink comprising of Bros. L.B. White (skip), H. Harvie, D. Paterson and W. Austin won The Fell Clark Masonic Curling Cup. At a dinner in the Hall, representatives from The Scottish Masonic Curling Club travelled through from Edinburgh to make the presentation.
On 12 January 1939, Brother W.B. Paterson initiated his three sons - George, William and Robert - at this meeting, which is exceptional. Also at this meeting John Peat, son of Brother Thomas Peat, Treasurer, received his initiation.
The regular meeting of the Lodge on 24 June 1939 was the last meeting in the Temple until 1945. War had again broken out in Europe, and our premises had been requisitioned by the Military Area Command for offices and billets. The next regular meeting of the Lodge was convened within the Co-Operative Hall, Bellshill, on 20 October 1939. Again, within the space of twenty years, brethren of our Lodge were called to the armed forces in the service of their country. From this second outbreak of hostilities with Germany, Italy, and Japan in the far east, four of our worthy brethren did not return from the conflict. Last respects were paid to Brother James E. Duncan at a Funeral Lodge on 5 March 1941. Brother Duncan did in his twenty seventh year of office as Tyler of the Lodge. Recorded in the same year, Bros. T. Morgan and J. Round were honoured as having served their Mother Lodge for fifty years. These two brothers never aspired to the Chair of the Lodge, but were both held in high esteem by the brethren for their devotion and enthusiasm.
On 30 June 1944, Brother James Lilly PM conferred the Mark Degree on fifty two brethren. This raised the disapproval of Provincial Grand Lodge that such large numbers of conferees at one meeting, and requested that such degrees be conferred more often should the situation warrant the same. During this period, the Lodge was divested of Brother Joseph McGown, Right Worshipful Master, who was called to the armed forces. No record can be found of any other Lodge's reigning Right Worshipful Master serving His Majesty's Forces at time of war.
The war in Europe had ended, and the last meeting within the Co-Operative Hall was held on 20 June 1945. On 6 September 1945, the Lodge convened again in our own Temple, which was followed by a Special Harmony to mark the occasion.
The death of Brother Gavin Blackie is recorded during November 1946, and the Lodge paid tribute to Past Master Blackie for his sterling services to his Mother Lodge. His PM jewel and regalia was returned to the Lodge, and was received by Brother John Grant, Right Worshipful Master on behalf of the Lodge. To Brother Blackie's memory, his PM jewel is worn by each reigning Master of the Lodge.
Brother L.B. White PM, Provincial Grand Secretary, was the recipient of a special presentation on 20 March 1947 to mark his fifty years as a Freemason. During the year a new carpet was purchased and the Lodge donated the sum of one hundred pounds to the new Masonic Home at Dunblane. It is also reported the passing of Brother John Round, a worthy and most esteemed Brother for fifty seven years.
A Celebration Dinner was held to mark the one hundred and twenty fifth year of the Lodge. Brother James Donald, Right Worshipful Master, presided on the evening of 3 November 1948 when august members of Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge attended in their official capacity.
A memorial plaque was unveiled on 12 February 1953 by Brother the Reverend James Oliver, Provincial Grand Substitute Master, in memory of our brethren who gave their lives during the Second World War. It is noted that Brother John Bruce, Treasurer, had completed fifty years as a member during that year.
At the meeting of 12 November 1953 it was intimated the death of Brother William B. Paterson PM. Brother Paterson served as Master of the Lodge in 1917, and for forty three years his abilities were appreciated, especially for his ceremonial work, throughout the province and beyond. He also held the office of Secretary of the Lodge for twenty years. At the memorial service on 10 October 1954, Brother James McGown, Right Worshipful Master, together with Brother the Reverend John Hannah, Junior Provincial Grand Chaplain, dedicated the present fumed oak altar:
"To the Glory of God and the memory of William B. Paterson, Past Master"
Obituaries of two other stalwarts of our Lodge are recorded; Brother L.B. White on 13 October 1955 and Brother Thomas Peat on 27 October 1955. Past Master White served the Craft for sixty four years, whilst Past Master Peat served as Treasurer for twenty two years.
During the year 1962, the Lodge was again graced by the presence of Brother Lord Bruce, now Earl of Elgin and Kincardine. This was the second time the reigning Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland had visited our Lodge. The purpose of his visit was to witness the installation of Brother Joseph McGown Jnr as Right Worshipful Master of the Lodge. The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason replied to the toast of "The Grand Lodge of Scotland".
The Lodge suffered a severe setback during 1966 with regard to the finances of the Lodge. Suffice it to say that through the continued diligence of the brethren, and their masonic liberality to their Mother Lodge, the Lodge came through this period and, if possible, became stronger in their masonic duties in the face of adversity.
A special presentation was made to Brother John Grant PM in appreciation of his continued services as Tyler and Hallkeeper on 25 May 1965, when he retired from the strenuous duties which he had carried out with zeal from his first office in 1941. The ribbon of dedication continues through our Lodge, with such brethren having passed on their finest attributes to our younger brethren.
The late Brother Andrew Davidson PM served as Master, Secretary and Almoner, in honour of which his PM Jewel is worn in an honorary capacity by the Lodge Almoner.
And, as the years pass on, the Lodge was refurbished to include the replacing of the pine floor, now showing signs of wear, with a new maple hardwood floor. The East was now in the geographical location. The appropriate murals were completed by the late Brother Ronald Herdman PM. Walnut wood panels around the walls of the Temple were enhanced with royal blue carpet round the periphery, new central heating, improved light and ventilation systems were installed. The cost of some of these items alone being more than the aforementioned original installation.
Brother James McGown PM predeceased his brother Joseph McGown Snr PM. Brother Joseph McGown Snr served his Mother Lodge as Right Worshipful Master during 1944, and also as an efficient Secretary gaining Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge tangible honours. Brother James McGown PM also served as Right Worshipful Master during 1954, and certain furniture gifted by Brother James continues to be used within the Lodge.
Brother Joseph McGown Snr PM died on 3 October 1992 aged 86 years. On 12 November 1992, chairs for the Right Worshipful Master and Wardens were presented to the Lodge in memory of Brother Joseph McGown Snr PM by Brother Joseph McGown Jnr PM and his son Brother Ian McGown PM. The furniture was dedicated at the regular meeting on 25 February 1993 by Brother the Reverend Peter O. Price, Senior Provincial Grand Chaplain, assisted by Brother Leslie Falconer, Junior Provincial Grand Chaplain, whilst our very own Brother Alexander A. Fraser, Depute Provincial Grand Master, headed the Provincial deputation.
It is worthy of recording that the family McGown has provided the following as Right Worshipful Masters of Woodhall St. Johns No. 305: Brother Joseph McGown Snr, Brother James McGown, Brother Joseph McGown Jnr - son of Brother Joseph McGown Snr - and Brother Ian McGown - son of Brother Joseph Jnr, and grandson of Brother Joseph Snr. What a wonderful record for any Lodge to be proud of, and one of which I am sure the family are equally proud.
During 1990, another well-known brother died in the person of Brother Hugh McWhinney PM. Brother McWhinney served the Lodge as Master from 1956 until 1958. Brother Hugh was also the first President of Woodhall St. Johns' Past Masters Council, and served with distinction and popularity for three years in that capacity. Many of our brethren have served more than one term of respective office and, while some may point out that the brethren who should be taking office are not being elected, it should be remembered that many of our brethren have many ties both in their various professions and families. It is therefore better, in the author's mind, that these brethren do not take upon themselves the responsibility of office if they know that they cannot fulfil the somewhat strenuous duties of their office. But they should never forget their duty to attend their Mother Lodge at every opportunity, and to support the Reigning Master and his Office Bearers. Our predecessors had the same problems at times, but these were overcome by the determination of the brethren to keep our Lodge alive.
Many of our brethren have not been mentioned, but those who have not are nonetheless thought of - for the brethren who attend week by week are the very kernel of our Lodge and, although the Right Worshipful Master may flourish at its head, it is the brethren who, by their attendance and support, give succour to the reigning Master and his Office Bearers.
During the year 1997, another well-known brother and member of Lodge Woodhall St. Johns died as a result of a tragic road accident - Brother Alexander A. Fraser PM. Brother Fraser served his Mother Lodge with his personal brand of distinction and bearing, and served in other higher orders of Freemasonry with his usual verve. He completed his year as Right Worshipful Master during 1960. Having passed through the various offices of his Mother Lodge, he also fulfilled a masonic career in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire Middle Ward to be installed as Depute Provincial Grand Master. A large turnout of all orders attended his funeral, held in the MacDonald Memorial Church, Bellshill, with an appropriate service being conducted by Brother the Reverend William Glencross, the minister of that Kirk. Afterwards, the mortal remains of our Brother were solemnly borne into the Crematorium at Daldowie, where again a large number of masonic mourners were present to pay their final respects to Brother Alexander A. Fraser PM.
Thus I have tried, I trust successfully, to compile a history of my Mother Lodge, Woodhall St. Johns No. 305, and as I perused through the Minutes of yesterday it was with pride that I read the glowing terms in which the Minutes were couched.
How often did family names keep recurring with succeeding generations? My own family has now supplied four generations to Woodhall. So, the relentless wheel of time keeps turning and as we celebrate our one hundred and seventy fifth anniversary let us do so in a manner of which our former brethren would whole-heartedly approve. For, had it now been for our former Worthy brethren, we should not be able to enjoy our Freemasonry as we do today. But let us not forget the valuable work carried out by many of the brethren, employing the many skills of their particular crafts when so much was done - and is still being done by volunteer tradesmen of the Lodge. Therefore, as we also approach the Millennium, let us do so in true Masonic manner and give thanks to the Most High for his many and gracious blessings he has given to us. Let us never forget that only by Wisdom, Strength and Beauty will we continue ever onwards for the Glory of our Worthy Craft.
My grateful thanks to all those brethren who gave their assistance to me, and to the Grand Lodge of Scotland for their most appreciated services.
Brother Robert Kilpatrick Hill PM, Almoner.
Thus ends the history of Lodge Woodhall St. Johns No. 305 up to the year of 1998. Sadly, Brother Hill passed on soon after writing this history. As the lodge approaches its 200th anniversary in 2023, plans are in progress to provide an account of the intervening 25 years. These will be posted here once available.