The History of Lodge St Servanus No. 771

The history of Lodge St Servanus No. 771 by Bro. Gordon N.S. Neave

The first twenty years 1890-1910

 

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The First Twenty Years - 1890-1910

The first item to strike a reader of the minutes recorded in one book between 1890 and 1910 is the high standard of the penmanship and/or copperplate writing that successive Secretaries practised. It may be that the pen nib after the quill and before the biro assisted in achieving such a high standard of writing.

The lengths of masonic minutes vary according to the amount of business discussed/raised and to some extent the "wordiness" of successive Secretaries, although the general form is always the same. To write down each recorded minute and date same, would be a lengthy, and to the reader, a dull business. In consequence 'highlights' and hopefully interesting facts is the intention of the author.

After the excitement and pleasure of the Inauguration Ceremony on 5th April 1890 the first meeting thereafter on the 7th April saw the admission to masonry of the first four candidates. They were George Perry (in whose rooms the Lodge met), John Lodge, George Maltman and John Minto.

Meetings initially raised candidates, discussed money matters, organised paraphernalia and essential accoutrements, but in May 1892 a committee was formed to seek better Lodge accommodation and indeed it took two and a half years before a Mr. Fulton's premises in Queen Street were rented to Lodge St. Servanus. A cutting from a local paper hails 21st December 1894 as "a red letter day in the masonic circles of Alva. The inauguration of the new Lodge, new Office Bearers installed, and Festival of St. John celebrated". I note that the new Master was John Minto and that he had presided over the committee in their search for other accommodation. I wonder was he the same John Minto who was one of the first four candidates to join the Lodge? I suspect he was. The newspaper report speaks of "a handsome Lodge Room and Ante Rooms, decorated and furnished in true masonic style and altogether forms a hall of which any society might be proud". For many years to come the Fulton premises housed Lodge St. Servanus.

In 1895 and 1896 there was no shortage of candidates and meetings were held regularly. In all 130 meetings and special meetings took place from inauguration of the Lodge to December 1896. Gifts from Worthy Brethren to the Lodge and to Brethren going overseas was a feature at many meetings. The following extract from a minute dated 9th December 1895 lets us know a little about the value of money as it then was "the balance sheet submitted showed the Lodge was in a very prosperous state—Income £57-10/5d, Expenditure £42-4/8d, Balance in bank £15-5/9d". When one reads of such sums, however, it is important to remember that ordinary every day commodities cost as little as 1/3d for a pound of butter, coal 12/6d per ton and 4d for an ounce of tobacco. Harmonies were held at anniversary time, when Provincial Grand Lodge paid their annual visits and when a Brother Mason was leaving to take up work well outwith the Alva area. The Johnstone Arms Hotel was the popular venue for such parties although later on one reads of the Cross Keys and the Glen Hotel also being patronised.

A Benevolent Fund was set up mid 1896 when a Brother from South Africa sent a donation of £5.00 to his Mother Lodge. At the election of Office Bearers to date I have seen no mention of Almoner. The practise appears to have been voluntary visiting to sick and needy personnel from interested Lodge members. I note too, that tracing boards are mentioned for the first time in an extract from a minute dated 14th December 1896 "it was agreed to get tracing boards for the Lodge".

During the next two years Lodge business was enacted with efficiency and considerable lecturing was carried out by, experienced Brother Masons to the body as a whole. An accident at Devon Pit was a tragedy when six men lost their lives, one a mason and the father of a serving Office Bearer, Junior Warden Taylor. The Lodge also took part in a procession celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. After a great deal of discussion and meetings a Mark Master Lodge was formed and duly practised on the 26th January 1898—a fee of 2/6d (12½p new money) was charged plus the same sum for a diploma. Ordinary normal masonic business occupied the minds and time of respective Office Bearers over the next five years. Brethren going abroad and presentations to such travellers occurred. The minute of 21st October 1899 indicates a 'funeral' lodge opening and the death of Queen Victoria on 22nd January 1901 was recognised and eulogised upon at considerable length. Earlier reference was made to the setting up of a Benevolent Fund and by December 1900 it stood at £8-6/11d. Out of interest, at that time and for much of the Lodge's early years the test fee was 5/-. We sometimes raise the issue of hall lets at our General Committee Meetings today. It interested me in reading the extract from a minute dated 12th October 1903—it was as follows "the Secretary was instructed to write the Clerk of the School Board saying that the Lodge Rooms had been occupied by them without any notice of same for cookery classes but we will understand that it will be on the same terms as formerly, and at same time to draw his attention to the fact of leaving the place so untidy and that the Lodge furniture was getting badly damaged, trusting he will see to this".

As time goes on little of significance is reported in the Minute Book dated to 27th June 1910. Mention is made of the Lodge Committee organising a dance, but no report of such an event taking place. The initiation fee was set at £3-3/- in 1904 and the death of King Edward VII was reported in May 1910.

In reading past minutes one notes that although in most years there was a break in Lodge activities between April and September many special meetings were held between these months to allow potential masons to fulfil their degrees when home from abroad on holiday, or prior to taking up work abroad. Since the founding of Lodge St. Servanus No. 771 approximately 360 recorded meetings and special meetings took place in the first twenty years.

 

The Next Eighteen Years 1911-1929

 

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