Prince Hall Freemasons Sail Into Dunbartonshire

On the 3rd October 2008 two Prince Hall Freemasons visited 4 temples in the Province of Dunbartonshire which was prompted by a plea for assistance to Brother Robert Cooper, who is the Curator of The Grand Lodge of Scotland, from Brother Tony Pope, a Past Master of Lodge Fortitude 94 in South Australia.

Brother Pope had struck up a close relationship with Brother Jerome Rapley, Past Grand Master Mason of The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge of Florida, Belize and Central America, and he advised that Brother Rapley, who is serving in the United States Navy was due to sail into the Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde on the USS Klakring in early October 2008.

Brother Pope’s request was fairly straightforward in that he was hoping someone from the local area could meet with Brother Rapley and arrange for him to visit a Scottish Masonic Hall in the vicinity of the Naval Base.

The request found its way to the Secretary of the PGL of Dunbartonshire and the arrangements for such a visit was readily accepted by the Sub PGM George McCaughey who happens to be employed in the Naval Base.

Brother McCaughey quickly managed to establish direct contact with Brother Rapley and agreed to meet with him within the Naval Base when his ship docked on the 2nd October. This being done, the wheels were set in motion to visit 4 local lodges on the afternoon of Friday the 3rd.

Brother McCaughey had enlisted the assistance of Brother Graeme Robertson (Master of Lodge Century No 1492) and just after lunchtime they met with Brother Rapley who was accompanied by Brother Steve Canty who was a member of St John Lodge No 35 – Rota Spain in Massachusetts.

This proved to be an interesting development. As Brother McCaughey found himself hosting a visit by 2 Prince Hall Freemasons who were close friends, very dedicated to the craft and had attended many meetings together. However, under the current circumstances regarding Grand Lodge recognition of Prince Hall Freemasons, Brother Canty was entitled to attend a meeting in Scotland as Massachusetts is recognised but Past Grand Master Rapley could not as his Grand Lodge does not currently have the same status. On this particular occasion this did not prove to be problematic as none of the lodges on the visit schedule were “tyled”.

The first temple to be visited was Lodge St George No 503 in Helensburgh. The visitors were very warmly received into the Lodge by a number of the brethren and a tour of the premises was provided by Bro. William Reaney PM which was very informative and enjoyable. After the tour the visitors were provided with a little “Scotch” hospitality (just to remove the chill we were led to understand) by Bro Ralph Cockburn PM during which the opportunity was taken to discuss the Lodge and take photographs.

From the left :
Bro Duncan McIntosh, Bro Steve Canty, Bro Graeme Robertson, Bro Robert Mitchell, Bro Ralph Cockburn,
Bro Jerome Rapley, Bro William Reaney

The party then moved along the shores of the River Clyde to the town of Dumbarton and into the temple of Dumbarton Kilwinning Lodge No 18. Bros. Rapley and Canty could not fail to be impressed by the edifice. Again they were given the opportunity to explore the Temple and its adjoining museum.

The next port of call was the Mother Lodge of the host, Bro McCaughey, Lodge Bonhill and Alexandria St. Andrew’s Royal Arch No 321. Both of our visitors were struck with the beauty and history behind this 120 year old building which started life as a “finishing school” for girls. Bros. Rapley and Canty were taken with the ambience of the Temple and had an insatiable appetite for information about the structure itself and the history of freemasonry in the area. Many hours could have been spent and thoroughly enjoyed by all parties but we had another lodge to visit and our host was eagerly awaiting our arrival. In order to contain the discussion Bro. McCaughey provided the brethren with a history of the Lodge to read at their leisure.

Brother Richard McKenzie, the Senior Warden of Lodge Leven St John No 170, was at the door of the lodge to greet us as we arrived. Bro. McKenzie provided our visitors a tour of the Temple concentrating in particular around the “winding staircase” which provides the central feature. The visitors were enthralled with the setting as Bro McKenzie informed them of the facts surrounding the Temple and the influence of Andrew Somerville McBride and his ritual.

At the end of the visit to 170, the opportunity was taken to relax and partake of a spot of Lodge hospitality and discuss the events of the day. Bro McKenzie proved an excellent host as he provided much needed sustenance to us all. As the discussion commenced the party was joined by Bro. Thomas K Leckenby the Provincial Grand Master of Dunbartonshire.

From the left :
Bro Thomas K Leckenby PGM, Bro Jerome Rapley, Bro Steve Canty, Bro George M F McCaughey SPGM

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with these two brethren whose tour of duty brought them to our shores. I can only hope they left with the same feelings of brotherly love towards them that they communicated to us during their short stay.

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