Lodge Ellangowan, No 716

on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland



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Copyright 2016
Lodge Ellangowan

No 716
All Rights Reserved

Lodge History


Prior to 1885 no Masonic Lodges had existed in Milngavie, but of coarse there were Freemasons resident in the Burgh.

About 1878,a Mr. Charles Bissland attempted to ascertain how many Masons there were in Milngavie at that time. He personally invited Masons to meet him in the West End Rooms. however, only fourteen men responded to the call and the matter was dropped, - a great disappointment to Bro. Charles Bissland.

A later effort was made but this second attempt also failed in attracting a lesser attendance than previously.

Not being deterred, five gentlemen traveled from Milngavie to Kirkintilloch in the Autumn/Winter of 1884 and were made Freemasons at the hands of The Athol Lodge, Kirkintilloch No.384 in January, 1885 being recorded for posterity in that same Lodge's Minute Book. This new found interest in Freemasonry by these travelers from Milngavie appears to have re-kindled Charles Bissland's determination to see Milngavie have its own Lodge.

In late April, 1885 all the Masons in the Burgh were invited by Charles Bissland and an acquaintance Robert Graham, to attend a meeting which was to be convened within the Black Bull Hotel, owned by a Mr. Francis Best. On this occasion a considerable number responded to the call and those assembled were advised by Charles Bissland that the main purpose of the gathering was to consider the practicability of erecting a Masonic Lodge in Milngavie. This declared aim evidently found favour with the assembled company who decided, after discussions, that a Lodge should indeed be raised. Thus Charles Bissland finally saw his idea begin to take firm roots. In recognition of his efforts, Bissland was appointed Convener of the Provisional Committee, Robert Graham becoming Interim Secretary. Further meetings of this forum culminated in a gathering on 15th May 1885,when the following brethren signed the Petition craving a Charter for Milngavie from the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

Name Lodge
Charles Bissland Lodge Thistle No.87
Francis Best Lodge Mother Kilwinning No.0
Alexander Freebairn Lodge unknown
Robert Douglas Lodge Shamrock and Thistle No.275
Robert Graham Lodge Caledonian Railway No.354
Robert McLaughlan Lodge St. Marks No.102
Malcolm Russell The Athole Lodge of Kirkintillock No. 384
Robert Couper The Athole Lodge of Kirkintillock No. 384
John Brimer The Athole Lodge of Kirkintillock No. 384
Robert Cunningham The Athole Lodge of Kirkintillock No. 384
John Birrell The Athole Lodge of Kirkintillock No. 384
Andrew Robertson The Athole Lodge of Kirkintillock No. 384


The necessary monies were guaranteed by the under noted brethren and friends.



M.H.S. Stewart 3.00
Charles Bissland 1.00
Robert Graham 1.00
 Robert Couper 1.00
 John Brimer 1.00
Malcolm Russell 1.00
Robert Douglas 1.00
Francis Best 1.00
John Birrell 1.00
Robert Cunningham 2.00


Finances now entering the scheme of things, it was necessary to appoint an Interim Treasurer and the choice of the embryo Lodge fell on Brother John Birrell.

The Petition for a Charter was supported by other Recommendations as follows:-

The R.W.M.,I.P.M., Senior and Junior Wardens of Lodge Maryhill No.510       The R.W.M. and Junior Warden of Lodge Thistle No. 87                                The R.W.M. of Lodge Clyde No. 408                                                              The R.W.M. of Lodge St. Clair No. 362                                                          The R.W.M.,a P.M., Senior and Junior Wardens of Lodge St. John Dalmuir No. 543.

The Petition having been submitted, signatories were granted permission to work the various Degrees of Freemasonry in Milngavie under  the title of Lodge Ellangowan, numbering 716 on the Roll or Register of The Grand Lodge of Scotland, by whom a Charter dated 6th August, 1885, was granted.

At last, the zeal, determination and sheer hard work of the brethren epitomized by Bro. Charles Bissland had borne fruit and Milngavie had its Masonic Lodge established.

Having achieved his goal, it was then necessary for the Provisional Committee to urgently turn its attention to the acquisition of the premises appropriate for the operation of a Lodge whilst taking into account the rather limited funds available at the time. A solution to this quest arrived when in true Masonic fashion, one of the brethren Mathew Weir (Senior), a local businessman in the Burgh, offered the Lodge the free use of his largest room and anti-room until such time as it be found necessary to remove or the privilege be withdrawn. The question of premises having been resolved, the generosity of the brethren was again demonstrated with the presentation to the Lodge of these tools and emblems.

Bro. Charles Bissland 3 Light Candlesticks - Scythe - Time Glass - Mallet -set of Mark Stones                                               
Bro. Robert Douglas Bible - Sword - Painting and Guild Pedestal.
Bro. John Brimer  Emblems of Mortality and Compasses.
Bro. John Birrell Twelve Aprons - 24inch Gauge - Chisel - Pencil
Bro. Robert Graham Bible Cushion
Bro. M.S. Russell Three Lamb Skins.
Bro. Robert Cunningham Cash Box - Coffin.
Bro. Robert Couper Three Mallets - Two Square - Level- Plumb Rule
Bro Mathew Weir Wardens Columns.

At the Lodge meeting held on 20th August, 1885, a proposal to purchase Office Bearers Aprons and Jewels together with Gauntlets for the Master was carried. The Secretary was also instructed to communicate with Provincial Grand Secretary and arrange a suitable date for the opening of the Lodge. In due time that date was agreed for the 15th October, 1885.


It is perhaps appropriate at this juncture to take a slightly closer look at some of these stalwart residents of Milngavie who had worked long and hard to establish  a Lodge of Freemasons in their Burgh. Records available to us convey the following pen pictures.

CHARLES BISSLAND was a local businessman who is best remembered as being the landlord of the Douglas Arms Hotel which stood in the town's Douglas Street. A member of the Burgh Council , Brother Bissland, according to the 1891 Census, was born in the parish of Bonhill, Dunbartonshire, in the year 1856.

JOHN BIRRELL was a partner in the Ellangowan Paper Mills, the Burgh's largest employer in those days. Born 1858 and a native of Penicuik, Midlothian, Brother Birrell was also a Burgh Councilor and became Provost of the Burgh for the period 1886 - 1892.

FRANCIS BEST was the proprietor of the Black Bull Hotel in the Burgh's Main street.

MATTHEW WEIR, JNR. and his father Matthew (Sen.) were also prominent businessmen in the township where they had a joinery business at 7 Douglas street.


Prior to the official opening of the Lodge, it was decided that the Lodge should have its own crest. The name Ellangowan had been adopted from the Ellangowan paper Mill, where a large proportion of local residents were employed.

Looking at the Lodge Crest one can see in the upper portion Caerlaverlock

Castle, home of the Bertram Family on the Solway Firth. It was a member of this family who originally founded the Ellangowan Paper Mill . In this portion of the crest is also depicted the wheel of "Guy's Mill" (or Mill of Gavin), whence originated the name of the Burgh of Milngavie.


Thursday, the 15th October, 1885, saw the Lodge Ellangowan duly opened by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Dunbartonshire headed by the Provincial Grand Master and including in the deputation that noted Masonic author Brother A. S. McBride in his capacity as Provincial Grand Junior Warden. After consecration of the new Lodge, the following brethren were installed to guide its course according to Masonic rule and line.

Office Name
Right Worshipful Master Bro Charles Bissland
Worshipful Senior Warden Bro Robert Douglas
Worshipful Junior Warden Bro John Brimer
Treasurer Bro John Birrell
Secretary Bro Robert Graham
Worthy Senior Deacon Bro M.S. Russell
Worthy Junior  Deacon Bro Robert Cunningham
Inner Guard Bro Robert Couper
Tyler Bro Robert Sloan
Steward Bro Alexander Freebairn

Following the ceremony of Initiation Lodge Ellangowan initiated it's first Candidates for Freemasonry in the persons of :-

Sir James Buchanan, Bart. Craigend Castle
 Archibald Campbell Douglas Mains
Andrew Noble Bertram Clober
 John Robertson Mosswell
Rev. Robert Bell   Parish Minister

The Depute Provincial Grand Master, Brother James Dalrymple Duncan, conferred the Entered Apprentice Degree on these illustrious citizens of the Burgh, afterwards commenting that these new made brethren represented "the most notable local interests in Land, Labour and Church". Lodge Ellangowan was well and truly under way.

At subsequent meetings, the infant Lodge gradually consolidated its position, introducing new blood to Freemasonry and planning for the future. Thus passed the first full working year in the history of  Lodge Ellangowan.

In those early days, Bro. Bissland, R.W.M. reported that he had discussed the Tyler's fee with Bro. Robert Sloan who held that office when the sum of 1/- per candidate was mutually agreed (a practice no longer in existence). Another practice current at this time was the conferring of more than one Degree on Candidates in the course of the same evening. This irregularity was brought to the attention of the Lodge by the Provincial Grand Secretary at the first Annual Visitation on 2nd November, 1886.

THE YEARS  1886 - 1891

The original Minute Book recording meetings held during this period still survives and as befits a valuable possession is kept in a Bank Vault. There were no happenings of great moment during this time when the Lodge continued to occupy the premises owned by Mathew Weir, to whom they made a payment of 2.10/- annually. However, a situation arose whereby Mr. Weir required the premises for business purposes and he offered the Lodge alternative accommodation which he had refurbished and which was more suitable for Masonic purposes. A second offer from Bro. Francis Best at the Black bull Hotel had been discussed but no action taken. The alternative premises offered by Mr. Weir were accepted and the Lodge removed to this building (The West End Hall) which they were to occupy until 1921. It is unfortunate that Lodge Minutes do not record the address which would assist us in locating the site of this New Hall which was consecrated on 6th September, 1889.

THE YEAR  1892 - 1950

The Minute Books recording this period of some sixty years in the Lodges history together with other documents and paraphernalia accumulated over the years are now presumed lost or destroyed in the fire which engulfed the premises in the early 1960's.

This misfortune has denied the writer of these lines much detailed material which would greatly have assisted the compilation of a more comprehensive history. Newspaper source together with the odd items of information it has been possible to gather, have enabled us to gain some insight into Lodge activities between 1921 and the Fiftieth Jubilee in 1935.

Lodge Ellangowan continued to initiate or affiliate many distinguished members, one such being Bro. Doctor John Reid who was R.W.M. in 1897 and Provost of the Burgh for the period 1906 - 1909. It was at this time that the Lodge began to outgrow the West End Hall and the brethren resolved to secure more commodious and modern premises.

The Allander Hall in Douglas Street some 100 yards from the West End Hall, owned by Ex-baillie Learmont of Milngavie became available and after due negotiations and much discussion, these premises were secured by the Lodge for a purchase price of 2,000. The removal took place in January, 1921, and Lodge Ellangowan has been in residence there until the present day.

It is noteworthy that the brethren subscribed to a Building Fund which was augmented by the proceeds of a Grand Masonic Bazaar held  in the Burgh Hall on the 13 October, 1923. This event was opened by Lady Colquhoun of Luss and the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Dunbartonshire. The various stalls were manned by the wives and female relatives of Lodge members and this effort resulted not just in great success for Ellangowan but demonstrated a considerable bond between the Craft and the Townsfolk, who gave unstintingly, enabling the 2,000 debt to be cleared in its entirety.

Truly a magnificent effort worthy of the act of faith in purchasing new Lodge premises. As a result of all these labours, further prosperity attended Lodge 716 enabling it to reach a most happy and well merited half - century in 1935.


A large meeting of the Lodge convened on the 5th August,1935, with Bro. Edward McElroy as R.W.M. in the chair and also present was Bro. the Rev. T. Angus Morrison, Provincial Grand Master of Dunbartonshire. On this auspicious occasion, the assembled brethren heard how the Lodge was founded and a summation of the milestones in its fifty years of progress. The assembly was also addressed by the Provincial grand Master and Brother Robert Cunningham, P.M., the oldest Past Master of 716 present; he having been installed in December, 1894. On conclusion of the more formal proceedings there followed a celebration supper during which numerous toasts were given and acknowledged. That truly Masonic institution of Harmony Board was well illustrated on that happy evening.

POST 1935

Within four years of the fiftieth anniversary, the Second World War was declared and as in the Great War, Lodge Ellangowan had its brethren serve King and Country. Some of these brethren paid the supreme sacrifice in the struggle for freedom and to them is owed our gratitude and never dying affection.

The lodge premises were requisitioned by the Authorities and some of our older brethren clearly recall a short meeting being convened in the Oak Tea Rooms in Milngavie. On return to peace time in 1945, attendance at the now returned Douglas Street building resumed normal proportions and a further period of prosperity commenced.

The conflagration which so cruelly destroyed many years of historical documentation occurred one fateful night on the 10th/11th April 1963. The premises were substantially damaged but the necessity of continuing to promote the genuine tenets of Freemasonry were still uppermost in the hearts of 716 brethren. Within a matter of hours temporary premises were secured with the assistance of the Office Bearers and Brethren of Lodge Maryhill No.510 who offered the use of their own base at the Hughes Memorial Hall in Sandbank Street, Glasgow. The brethren of Lodge Cochno No.1304 also proved of great support at this time. After repairs costing 5,819 to effect the temporary exile terminated and it was once again Masonic business as usual in Milngavie.

Since the traumatic interlude in the history of the Lodge, we have been blest with a continuing flow of Office Bearers and brethren willing to carry the banner of 716 both within and outwith the province. Deputations to Lodges as far apart as Coalburn, Rippon and Chatham have led to the gathering of many happy memories and making of new friends. Enhancement of ties with old friends prove a continued source of new life enrichment. With a new Provincial Grand Master in the person of Brother Angus Neil MacInnes, we looked forward to playing a telling role in the Province of Dunbartonshire and the Scottish Craft at large.

Now that Lodge Ellangowan has attained over 100 years, let us pause and reflect on how it all came to pass. Let us remember the undoubted sacrifices made by our early brethren whose hard work and determination to succeed  resulted in the standard of Freemasonry being raised in the Burgh of Milngavie.

It is, one feels, our duty to ensure that Lodge Ellangowan Continues to grow in stature and not just in numbers. To produce ornaments to the Craft in its Candidates must be our constant care. It is incumbent upon all of us in the Lodge to keep before us the same high ideals which motivated our early brethren and if we succeed in this endeavour, there should be little doubt that Lodge Ellangowan No.716 will progress smoothly, with traditions intact, towards its Bi- Centenary.