LODGE ST. JOHN Maybole No. 11 is one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in Scotland, and its written records go back in time to the year 1725, but old documents prove it to have been in existence in the year 1599. Anything relating to the old Lodge of Maybole prior to this must be pure conjecture, due to the lack of documentary evidence, but the same can be said of the majority of Lodges which claim to be of greater antiquity.
Masonry as a craft organisation began with the old guilds, which were something like the present day trade unions, organising and laying down rules for the instruction and guidance of the craftsmen in those early days.
A lot has been said about, and a lot of criticism aimed at, the aura of secrecy surrounding the ancient craft, but most of the old trades and crafts had their own particular signs and secrets, which, in the absence of trade papers and credentials, were necessary to prove and identify the person concerned as having passed through the various stages of having served an apprenticeship, eventually becoming skilled in his own particular chosen craft. Foresters, Gardeners, Vintners, Fleshers, Wrights, etc., all had their own signs etc., by which to identify any particular person as being skilled in his craft, though, at the present day, those various organisations have as their members people who may not necessarily be connected through their own particular trade or profession with the organisation to which they belong. In other words, speculative rather than operative members, though the old signs and secrets may still be used symbolically in their ceremonies. So it is with Freemasons.
At this point it should be emphasised the Freemasonry is neither sectarian nor political, and all discussions of such a nature are forbidden in our assemblies.
The term Freemason is thought by some people to refer to the fact that those people were skilled in the use of freestone cutting, carving and building, as many of the medieval ecclesiastical buildings and castles were built of this material; others incline to the opinion that it may refer to the mobile bands or Lodges of masons who travelled around the country following the building of the great cathedrals and castles as "free" masons in the sense that they were not tied to any particular town or city guild of masons.
This is probably the manner in which Freemasonry first came to this ancient Capital of Carrick, at the time when Crossraguel Abbey and the many old castles in this area were being built, which would mean that the Lodge of Maybole would probably have been established in the Twelfth century, passing down the centuries with all their attendant changes till it became the Masonic Lodge as we know it today.
In the early Eighteenth century it was felt that some sort of controlling body was necessary to formulate rules and regulations and issue charters for the control and organisation of the various Lodges throughout Scotland, and so the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of Scotland came into being.
The Maybole Lodge was one of the 33 Lodges represented at the formation of the Grand Lodge, and the representative of this Lodge at that inaugural meeting was the Lodge Deputy Master, Archibald Kennedy, a Maybole man who was a writer (or lawyer) in Edinburgh, and who was one of the original Office Bearers in the newly formed Grand Lodge, his office being Assistant Clerk.
The system of numbering the Lodges on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland seems to have been rather haphazard. Maybole Lodge was originally numbered 14. This was changed in 1817 to No 10 and yet again in 1836 to No 11 its present number on the roll. An example of the irrationality of the numbering system is that the old Lodge of Maybole No. 14 was one of the sponsors of Lodge Glasgow Kilwinning who were given a place on the roll as No. 4. This old Lodge No. 11 has had many ups and downs in its long and varied history, and presently has an active roll of around 300 members, who come from all walks of life, and represent many trades and professions.
The present R.W. Master, T. Barton is in his third year as Master of the Lodge, which is unique as the usual term of this office is one year.
The Lodge meets in the Masonic Temple, Whitehall, Maybole, on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7.15 p.m. from September to May inclusive.
During the years a great deal of material appertaining to the Lodge has been lost - the Lodge Seal, two minute books, etc., and I would appeal to any reader who has in his or her possession anything connected with this Lodge, to donate it to the Lodge museum.
It is hoped that in future editions of the Town Handbook, we will include reports of the Lodge activities, photographs, and various items of interest from the Lodge history, the first article being merely introductory, and an attempt to ex-plain a little of the history of Freemasonry and its progress from being entirely operative to purely speculative.
Wm. McEwan, Secretary, Lodge St. John Maybole No. 11