The Grand Lodge of Scotland has 11 active Lodges with the words "Royal Arch" in their title, viz.:
76 Royal Arch, Stirling chartered 21/5/1759
114 Royal Arch, Cambuslang chartered 6/2/1769
116 Royal Arch, Rutherglen chartered 21/3/1769
122 Royal Arch, Perth chartered 5/2/1770
153 Royal Arch, Pollokshaws chartered 3/2/1783
195 Caledonian St John Royal Arch, chartered 2/5/1796
198 Royal Arch, Maybole chartered 6/2/1797
314 Royal Arch, West Kilbride chartered 2/5/1825
320 St John's Royal Arch, Ardrossan chartered 6/2/1826
321 Bonhill and Alexandria St Andrew's Royal Arch chartered 6/2/1826
424 Border Union Royal Arch, Hawick chartered 31/8/1868
This apparent inconsistency is due to events in the late eighteenth century when Freemasonry evolved into its present forms and was also influenced by the great social and political upheavals at the turn of the century.
Prior to 1800, many Lodges worked Royal Arch, Knights Templar and other degrees, although to give precise numbers and other details would be impossible due to many old minutes being missing. However, there are
5 good examples of these mentioned in Masonic histories and other sources.
One of the earliest English Masonic records, the "Sheffield Papers", "prove" that Royal Arch Freemasonry was practised in Scotland at an early date, and this may be inferred from the names given to several Lodges where it was the desire of members to practise Royal Arch Freemasonry in the Lodge in addition to Craft degrees and those papers specify: Maybole Royal Arch Lodge 254 (now 198) being formed in 1797 for the very purpose of practising Royal Arch and Knight Templar Masonry within the Lodge.
There is, of course, one very famous example:- Robert Burns became a Royal Arch Companion in Lodge St Ebbe, No. 70, in Eyemouth along with one Robert Ainslie from Duns, who was charged one guinea. Burns was not charged "On account of his remarkable poetic genius." At a later date the Royal Arch Masons there formed a separate Chapter under the English Constitution as Land of Cakes, No. 52. It is now No. 15 under the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland.
Burns is much honoured in Scotland and in Lodges the world over. On 7th November 1864, Lodge Robert Burns in Baillieston, No. 440, was chartered by Grand Lodge. It originally requested the title Robert Burns Royal Arch Lodge, and a charter was drawn up in that manner before objectors had their way. The original charter was never delivered and is still kept by Grand Lodge.
Lodge St Stephen's, No. 145, in Edinburgh kept its Royal Arch records separate from those of the Lodge, and as early as 3rd December 1778 its members received the 4th Degree "Past the Chair" from brethren of Perth and Scone.
There is much evidence that the Royal Arch degrees originated in France, as shown in the vast collection of "Morrison Papers" held at Grand Lodge, and the Auld Alliance helped its spread throughout Scotland. Many of the defunct Royal Arch Lodges had military connections with dragoons in barracks or encampments all over Scotland, and the Craft is still well established in the forces.
Many Lodges have changed their titles: for example, Inverary St John, No. 50, was Inverary Royal Arch Lodge in 1796, while Bonhill St Andrew's Royal Arch Lodge moved over the river and became Bonhill and Alexandria Royal Arch Lodge. Its petition to Grand Lodge (23rd January 1826) raised. problems, and the Lodge history shows that the question was whether the title Royal Arch could be authorised by Grand Lodge to a subordinate Lodge, but there was no Royal Arch Chapter and so it was agreed that "Royal Arch" could be retained as there was no indication that Royal Arch degrees were being worked.
In Masonic histories little mention is made of outside influences, but from 1789 Europe was in turmoil due to the effects of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
Political unrest quickly spread through Britain and the rest of Europe, and societies sprung up which corresponded with the political clubs which had formed all over France. In Ireland, 200,000 men were armed and drilled secretly for revolt, and France prepared to assist them. A small French force actually landed at Fishguard in South Wales in February 1797, but was easily dealt with. There was terrible hardship in Britain and little clubs formed by workers were embryo trade unions, many of which took the style and title of Lodges. In 1799 and 1800 the "Combination Acts" forbade such groups. The French influence through Royal Arch working (probably via Ireland) must have caused much consternation, and it can be no coincidence that in 1800 Grand Lodge wished to separate Craft Masonry from Royal Arch and other degrees by prohibiting anything above the third degree.
However, little attention was paid to Grand Lodge, and Lodges continued to work many degrees. In 1815, Edinburgh Royal Arch Chapter, No. 1 (constituted 1765), but actually the eighth Royal Arch Chapter in Scotland after Stirling Rock and St Enoch, Montrose, etc., is noted as working the following degrees:
Excellent, Super Excellent, Arch, Royal Arch Ark, Mark Link Jordan and Babylonian Passes Royal Prussian Blue Order.
The rise of Napoleon, who controlled the rest of Europe and planned to invade England (from 1803), was thwarted only by the efforts of the navy and its greatest leader — Horatio Nelson. His victory, and death, at the Battle of Trafalgar, is remembered every year in November at Lodge Trafalgar, No. 223, in Leith, and in Royal Navy establishments.
All the financial and political problems, and worries about spies, may have had some effect on Grand Lodge and other bodies. On 20th October 1817, the Knights Templar separated from Royal Arch to set up their own governing body. In August 1817, Grand Lodge recognised only three degrees and prohibited the use of other regalia, and from then on was much more strict.
Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter was formed on 28th August 1817.
While Royal Arch working in Lodges was banned, the use of the title by Lodges restricted to the Craft degrees, was still allowed by Grand Lodge as shown by the charters of neighbouring Lodges No. 314, Royal Arch, in West Kilbride on 2nd May 1825, No. 320, St John Royal Arch, now in Ardrossan, on 6th February 1826. That matters were much more strict is shown by the problems already mentioned of No. 321, Bonhill and Alexandria St Andrew's Royal Arch Lodge (also in 1826). The peculiar circumstances of the Hawick Border Union Royal Arch Lodge, No. 424, were sufficient to convince Grand Lodge to allow such a title. Members of the established Hawick Lodge, No. 111, had some disagreement, and some decided to form their own Lodge. The argument prevented their sponsorship by No. 111 or neighbouring Lodges, and the petition was signed by members of a Royal Arch Chapter presumably as Master Masons rather than Companions. In recent years talk of amalgamation or better use of premises has brought the brethren of both Hawick Lodges together.
BRO. STEVE CHALMERS. PM. Lodge Trafalgar, No. 223, Leith
Article first published in the Grand Lodge of Scotland yearbook of 1990.
Reproduced by kind Permission of SRA No 76 Monthly Magazine