A Short History of
The Lodge of
Journeymen Masons No. 8
Bro. Jan P. Watson P.M.
The Lodge of Journeymen Masons No. 8
Member of the Southern California
The Lodge of Journeymen Masons is a most
unusual Lodge which has a unique place in
Masonic history. There are many interesting
and unique aspects connected with The Lodge
of Journemen Masons and its history: Probably
none more so than in the fact that it has
never, at any time, been granted a charter.
The story begins centuries before the actual
formation of the Lodge. The forfathers of the
City of Edinburg were far sighted enough
throughout the centuries to keep detailed written records -Acts of Parlialnent, Royal Charters, etc. In one of these Acts of Parliament,
dated 1424,we find reference to the crafts- "It
is ordained that in ilke (each) Towne of the
Realm. of ilk sindrie Craft used therein, be
chosen a wise man of that craft...Shall be
halden Deakon or Maister-man....to govern
and assat akk warjes that beis maid be the
Craftes-men of that craft.""
(In modern English, it would read, "lt is
decreed that in each town of the realm, each
craft employed in that town shall choose a
wise man of that craft and install him as
Deacon or Master to govern and evaluate all
work made by the craftsmen of that craft."
In 1469 the Town Council of Edinburgh
began granting Charters of Incorporation or
Seals of Cause to various craft bodies so that
the craftsmen could have some say in the
election of magistrates. At the head of each
Incorporation was a Deacon.
The mason trade organization began, in
Edinburgh, with thc issuing of a Seal of cause
to the Wrights and Masons on the 15th October 1475. This Incorporation was also known
later as The Incorporation of Mary's Chapel--
from the building in which it met. Later, The
Lodge of Edinburgh would also meet there
and was known as the Lodge of Edinburgh
(Mary's Chapel). Many of the craftsmen were
members of both organizations. The Incorporation was the link between the crafts and the
In the very early years of the l8th century a
serious rift began to appear which would effect
both the Incorporation and the Lodge of
Edinburg. Several members of these bodies
thought that funds, which they had contributed to, had been misappropriated.
The exact date of No. 8's formation is uncertain but moves were certainly being made
prior to 1707 which is the accepted date. A
minuted meeting was definitely held in 1708.
On the 27th December that year a petition was
received by the Lodge of Edinburgh from the
unhappy fellowcrafts -complaining that they
did not have access to the accounts of the
lodge.This matter was resolved in a manner
agreeable to both sides until 1712 when more
problems arose. This came to a head at one
meeting, held on St. John's Day 1712, when
all of the fellowcrafts, except two, walked out,
led by Bro. James Watson (Deacon of the
During the following year the fellowcrafts,
or Journeymen, entered (initiated) apprentices
and passed fellowcrafts in a public house which
caused an uproar in The Lodge of Edinburgh.
Following this, the Incorporation and The
Lodge of Edinburgh obtained a warrant from
the courts to inspect the books of the Journeymen. Also, at this time, they pushed for, and
were successful in having two of the Journey
men leaders (William Brodie and Robert
Winram) arrested and put in prison for using
foul language. These latest incidents caused
the Journeymen to be outraged.
The proceedings had, by now, come to a
crossroads and decisions had to be made.
Should the Journeymen give up or should they
take the only course of action left open to
them-go to the courts. Since the Incoporation was the legal authority of the craft it was
decided to target it.
The Journeymen took out actions for wrong
ful imprisoniment and unlawful abstraction of
books against Jalmes Brownhill (Deacon of the
Wrights) and Willialn Smellie (Deacon of the
Masons). The manuscript which contains the
list of grievances was known as The Deed of
Submission, The court decided that arbitration was the best solution to the problem. The
Deacons of the Goldsmiths and the Surgeons,
with the convenor of the Incorporated Crafts
as oversman, were appointed as the arbiters.
On the 8th January 1715 the arbiters presented
their Decreet Arbitral. This Decreet Arbitral
can be regarded as the equivalent to a charter
for our lodde. Anong the decisions the arbiters reached were:
1. The two Journeymen had been rightly
imprisoncd - then procceded to award
them damages of L100 Scots against the
2. The books of the Journeymen were to be
returned to them. However, these books
must be presented to the Incorporation
each half year for inspection.
But most importantly...
3. The Journeymen were given authority to
meet as a separte Masonic Lodge.
This was still not the end of the matter since
the Deacons refused to pay the damages and
return the books. Legal documents, entitled
'Letters of Horning', were served upon them
On the l3th July 1715.
When a reasonable conclusion had been
arrived at, the Lords of Session presented The
Lodge of Journeymen Masons with a red silk
purse which is still in the Lodge's possession
The Lodge of Journeymen Masons has
worked as a legal lodge since 1715 (the completion of the legal proccsses) but it is recognized
by everyone, including the Grand Lodge of
Scotland, that the true date of formation is
1707. It is recorded as such in Grand Lodge.
Instead of a charter being present in our
Lodge we have The Deeds of Submission
(including the Decreet Arbitral) and the Letter of Horning hanging on our walls. The new
initiates are given a short lecture on our rights
to charge fees and confer degrees in which
these documents are referred to.
The Lodge of Journeymen Masons may be
the Only lodge in the world which is allowed to
charge fees and confer degrees and does not
require a charter from a Grand Lodge. Many
lodges which were formed before the founding of the respective Grand Lodges received
charters retospectively.In Scotland we call
these Charters of Confirmation.The Lodge of
Journeymen Masons does not even have one
of these - we have our authority from the
Court of Session of Edinburg.
It should be added that many of the Journeymen who broke away eventually retunrnd to
The Lodge of Edinburg (Mary's Chapel) and
that for well over 25O years great harmony has
existed between the two lodges. Indeed, Bro.
James Watson, who led the original walkout,
was again elected as Deacon of the Incorporation and also as Master of The Lodge of
Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel)
The original name of the lodge in the 'Letters of Horning' was, as at present The Lodge
of Journeymen Masons but for a while the
late 19th century it was officially known as
Lodge Journeymen.It was, for a long time, the
only lodge with he word `Mason' in its titleeven now there are still very few.
During its long history the lodge has met in
many places. At first it was in some of the
many alehouses and taverns which were to be
found in old Edinburgh. It also used Mary's
Chaple before , in 1741, meeting in the old
Royal Infirmary for its principal meetings. In
1752 they moved to other premises in
Edinburgh's old town. The lodge moved to its
present premises on the 8th August 1871.
These premises were consecrated by the Earl
of Dalhousie who was then the Immediate
Past Grand Master.
Many years ago it was not unusual for the
Lodge to erect tombstones in memory of Past
Masters and other distinguished brethren. In
1804 several of the brethren decided to visit
the grave of a brother to see that it was in good
repair: they resolved to visit the grave annually- This annual visit developed into an extended tour of several of the city cemeteries
and became known as the `Visitation of the
Tombs'. This check on the condition of the
tombs of deceased brethren existed up to within
the past twenty years.
The Great War (WWI) took a dreadful toll
of the brethren of the Lodge. Of the 196
members who served in the Armed Forces, 21
were killed or died from wounds, 28 were
discharged on account of ill-health or wounded
and one brother was drowned. At the Lodge's
annual Installation one of the toasts still proposed is to `The Imperial and Allied Forces'.
Of the very many records of visits to the
Lodge two areas are worthy of mention here.
On the lOth July 1889 sixteen brethren representing Lodge Priory, Tynemouth, No. 1863
on the roll of the Grand Lodge of England,
visited No. 8. It is noted in the minutes that this
was the first time an English Lodge had, in
regalia and under the guidance of its Master,
visited a Scottish Lodge.
At the end of the Great War many American
Freemasons visited No. 8 - several of whom
had the distinction of being made Honorary
Members. Probably the best known of these
brethren was Br. Samuel Gompers the American Labour Leader. Following is a list of those
American brethren wllo received honorary
Membership and the dates they received it:
Br. S. Gompers, Dawson's Lodge No. 16,
Washington D.C., 12 September 1918
Br. John P. Frey, Lodge Norwood 190. 576,
Ohio, 12 September 1918
Br. Frank 0. Wells, Lodge Euclid No. 656
New York, 28 November 19 18
Br. Louis Josephs, West Lake Lodge No. 392,
Los AngeLes, l2 December 1918
Br. Philip H. Crandon , Lodge Star in the East,
New Bedford, 13 March 1919
The motif of the Lodge is the `Blue Blan ket'. The Lodge of Journeymen Masons No. 8
holds the right to carry the `Blue Blanket' in
Public processions since it is the oldest opera tive lodge in Edinburgh. As the crafts were
included in `The Incorporation of
Hammermen'. which was responsible for the
'Blue Blanket', it was fitting that it be en
trusted to the representatives of one of the
constituent crafts. The ` Blue BIanket' holds a
special place in the hearts of all our brethren.
*The history of thc `Blue Blanket' is a long
and interesting one and an article relating
solely to it will follow in due course.
The Lodge of Journeymen Masons had,
until 1876, the honour of carrying the Working
Tools of Grand Lodge in all public proces sions. Since then this has been restrictcd to the
There are many more interesting aspects
relating to the lodge. Since it is so unusual
many brethren from all parts of the country
and, indeed, abroad make a point of visiting
As to the term `Blue Lodge' I, personally,
feel there is an even simpler explanation although I have not investigated Ihe matter. In
Scotland each lodge can choose its own
colour(s) for its regalia. It is a great sight to see
all the different coloured regalia in a lodge -
including tartans of many clans. The colour of
The Grand Lodge of Scotland is thistle green.
I think the term 'Blue Lodge' or `Blue
masonry' may come from English Freemasonry where all the brethren in a lodge wear
blue edged aprons.
We hope Bro. Watson will give us an article telling
the story of the "Blue Blanket.'* We also know
there will be questions about it and so include the
section relating to the "Blue Blanket" from Coiis
BLUE BANNER: blue blanket. Lodge of Journeymen No. 8 of Edinburgh, Scotland was the result of
a split in Lodge of Edingurgh in 1705, with secession of the journeymen, who set up the new lodge.
It possesses a bannrr, really a blanket used as a
banner, which is supposed to have a history of great
age. The legend goes that the Scotch mechanics
whw accompanied Allen, Lord Steward of Scotland, are one of the Crusades took with them a
banner on which were displayed the following: "ln
Thy good pleasure build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.' On their return, they drposited the banner at
the altar of St. Eloi in the church of St. Giles. James
III of Scotland, in 1482, donated to the craftsmen,
their old banner, called The Blue Blalnket, and the
privilege of displaying it in Masonic processions
was granted to the journeymen. This blanket or
banner is said to be extant, though necessarily in a
much dilapidated condition. See Annals L. of Journeymen Masons No. 8 by Seggie and Turnbull;
Edinburgh, 1930; and An Historical Account of the
Blue Blanket: etc. by Alexander Pennecuik,