Lodge Ellangowan, No 716

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Copyright 2016
Lodge Ellangowan

No 716
All Rights Reserved

Charles Bissland 1885-1888

FEW people could ever claim to have known their home town as well as Charles Bissland knew Milngavie. He was said to have been able to write down the name of every man, woman and child in the village which at that time had a population of just under 2,200.

Not only did he know everyone in Milngavie, he appears to have been involved in just about everything that was happening.

When he died in April 1913 the Herald, in the innocent journalism of the time, described him as ''a man of affairs.'' And Bissland was indeed steeped in the civic and social life of Milngavie and not just because he owned a pub...


He was one of the original commissioners when the burgh was formed in 1875 and served on the town council for 18 years, holding every important office except that of provost.
A believer in the value of education, Bissland was also a member of New Kilpatrick School Board for 16 years. Before the appointment of Robert Blair as headmaster of Milngavie Public School in 1875, the village children got their lessons from Charles Bissland.

  ''From his earliest days he seems to have entered eagerly and zealously into the public services of the burgh,'' said the Herald. ''Having aims that had no taint in them of personal interest, and being possessed of a native shrewdness, he was able to impress upon the affairs with which he was connected his influence and counsels in a manner that men who were possessed of greater intellectual capacity and more forcefulness of character were unable to do.''

Resident proprietor of the Douglas Arms, which stood on the Douglas Street site now occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bissland was married with no family. He was concerned with the plight of the poor whose lot he tried to alleviate through service on the parochial board and parish council, the main social welfare agencies of the time.

The Herald credited him with being the driving force behind the once thriving Milngavie Mechanics Institute, a social and literary society which he served as secretary for 40 years.

He had many interesting stories to tell regarding the institute, and it was his every endeavour to establish and maintain a high standard of excellence in regard to the entertainment and lectures,'' said the Herald.

An organisation which Bissland did more than anyone else to establish and which thrives to this day is Lodge Ellangowan. As well as its founder he was the first Worshipful Master. The Herald stated that ''in masonic circles in the West of Scotland there is no name better known than that of Bro Charles Bissland.''


Bissland's first attempt to establish a masonic lodge in Milngavie fell upon stony ground. He organised a meeting for masons interested in setting up a Milngavie lodge but only 14 turned up and a discouraged Brother Bissland let the matter drop for a while. In time he organised a second meeting which attracted an even lower turnout.
It was third time lucky when, in April 1885, he organised a meeting in the Black Bull Hotel which met with a good response.
The Herald, in his obituary, paid special attention to Bissland's masonic credentials.
  ''Initiated a member of the craft in Lodge Thistle (Glasgow) No 87, in 1876, he was closely identified with the order till the close of his life. He became a companion of the Royal Arch Chapter, St Andrews 69, a companion of the Royal Ark Mariners and Red Cross Knights in 1888, and was advanced to the Royal Order of Scotland RSYCS (Rosy Cross) and Knight of the Eagle and Pelican, Prince Rose Croix in 1889 and 1890.''
Other organisations in which Bissland, a native of Bonhill, busied himself were Milngavie Horticultural Society, the 1st Milngavie Company of Volunteers (a sort of Territorial Army detachment) St Andrew's Episcopal Church, and Milngavie Co-operative Society.

He resigned as the Co-op Society's joint auditor just a few days before his death at the age of 57, by which time he had been in failing health for a number of years ''being a martyr to sciatica.'' The Herald, obviously concerned that people might try to read between the lines for some sinister reason for his giving up the post, went on to make clear that Bissland's resignation was entirely voluntary: ''The respect in which he was held by the members caused them to bear with their afflicted servant, and not at any time did they cause him to relinquish his office.''

  By that time Bissland had been more or less confined to his home for about 12 years though the paper said he still found it possible to pursue some public interests from his fireside.

Announcing the details of the masonic funeral at New Kilpatrick Cemetery, the Herald felt it safe to predict: ''There is sure to be a large gathering of representatives from public bodies and local societies.''