brief history of the Knights of the Temple
This little publication could not have been completed without the help of a number of people. In particular Stewart Baird, Grand Recorder of the Grand Imperial Conclave who generously ran up his phone bill and pointed me in the right direction numerous times. Mr Condie of the Grand Lodge of Scotland who had the lists and details of the Early Lodges when I thought they didn't exist. Our friend Stuart MacBride Snr. for landing me with the Project in the first place. The bi-centennial committee for their help and comments, and the Venerable Preceptor George W.C. Davie for his last-minute reading of the finished text. James Dempster, an old friend from my time at the University of Aberdeen for his endeavours to explain North East and Scottish History to me, in the course of several very long telephone calls. Chevron for kindly lending to me their scanner to allow Bill to copy the Documents included. Dick Keith, caretaker of the Temple for letting me have a rummage through the Basement for the many old books, and for the use of the Temple Library. The Office Bearers and Brethren of St George Lodge for allowing me to read their earliest books and original Charter. Christopher MacBride for graciously allowing his services to be volunteered and for amusing Kathryn when I was trying to get work done. ESE Bill Coutts for trawling the earliest records of the St. George Royal Arch. Mr Lionel Seemungal, noted Masonic writer, Trinidad, for his references. VPP Sydney Munro for direction and insight. Jack Campbell and Michael of Langstane Press for printing it and explaining to this mere female how it should be presented, pretty pictures and all. And of course my husband Bill, fledgling Knight, for listening to me rabbit on about the subject month after month, and agreeing to be Editor in Chief, and most importantly paying those telephone bills. And finally, the Fratres of St. George Aboyne, for giving me the reason to start on my Quest.
Liz obtained her MA (Hons) in History and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen in 1987. Her final year subject was the First Crusade.
The Fratres of St. George Aboyne felt we should in some way mark our bi-centenary celebrations and it was decided that this would be in the form of a short history of Templar Masonry and the St. George Aboyne Preceptory in particular.
That we exist after 200 years is due to the efforts and support of our predecessors: We hope through the endeavours of the present Officers and Fratres that the Preceptory will continue to prosper and in time commemorate another 100 years.
So read onward Christian Soldiers!
'Pour la Foy'
In the Beginning
The First Crusade brought about two major events that are of interest to Templar Masonry: The formation of the Religious and Military Orders; the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitallers; and the first international co-operation between traditionally warring European States in the Middle Ages. The resulting combined war efforts, and associated inter-continental trade, created an ideal backdrop in which the Christian Knights could flourish and grow.
The First Crusade was also in part politically expedient as much of Europe was in turmoil. The Crusades enabled the ruling Monarchs to solve their population problems by re-deploying a large part of their Nobility (along with their private armies) to where they could not cause internal strife. It focused the minds of the people and the Aristocracy on something other than the unsettled situation at home. Later it was this unstable political situation that the Templars would take advantage of and use to further their own interests.
The Military and Religious Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem was founded in 1118 by Hugo de Payens and Godfrey de St. Omar, who persuaded King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to allow them to install themselves and their companions in one of the wings of the Royal Palace. The Palace was situated on the site of the Al'Aqsa Mosque, rumoured to be the site of the Temple of Solomon, hence the title Templar. The Order originally comprised three classes: Knights who had to be of Noble birth; Sergeants who were drawn from the Bourgeoisie and were the grooms and Stewards of the Order; and the Clerics who were the Chaplains taking charge of the non-military aspects of the Order.
The Badge of the Knights was a red Cross on a white background with the Sergeants having a red Cross on a black background. These classes were later expanded to five with a Knightly Class consisting of Knights joining either for a set period of time (to fulfil a Quest) or who were in their advancing years and wished to spend their final days as part of the Order; and an additional non-military class composed of the Craftsmen and Artisans necessary for the smooth running of the lands and Estates owned by the Templars.
original purpose of the Order was to keep the trade routes from the
Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem free from Bandits, allowing Pilgrims
and travellers to journey freely to the Holy City. Within a very short
period of time the Christian Knights formed the core of King Baldwin's
standing army, as the bulk of
Both the Templars and Hospitallers started life as Benedictine religious Orders, but very shortly became independent and answered only to the Pope. Throughout the 12th and 13th Centuries the power and status of the Templars was augmented by a series of Papal Bulls that had the effect of making the Templars into Papal Princes with more power than many of the Temporal ones.
Shortly after their formation, the Templars approached Bernard of Clairvaux (who helped instigate the First Crusade) to prepare a treatise on the Order with the aim of recruiting more members. At the same time Hugo de Payens sailed back to Europe in order to recruit more members and to obtain backing for his Knights from the European Rulers. It was realised that although the Order had charitable purposes, financial assistance was required for it to function, as maintaining and equipping the Knights was expensive. Hugo's recruitment campaign was very successful, with over one hundred Knights and other members being admitted to the Order. Financially, the Templars' circumstances continued to improve, as they were granted large tracts of land and property by grateful Monarchs and Aristocracy. In many cases land was granted in lieu of manpower.
Templars in Scotland
The Templars first came to Scotland in 1128 during the Reign of King David I, whom Hugo de Payens visited as part of his recruitment drive. Hugo made a very favourable impression on King David, to the extent that he kept himself surrounded by Templars and appointed them as "the Guardians of his morals by day and night". While remaining close to the King, the Knights did not involve themselves in political life as it is not until the 1160's that they start appearing as witnesses to Royal Charters.
As a result of this Royal favour, the Templars acquired a substantial property holding in Scotland through gifts from both the King and his Court.
There were two major Preceptories at the time: Balintradoch (now renamed as Temple, in Midlothian) which was regarded as the main Preceptory, and the administrative headquarters of the Order in Scotland; the other was at Maryculter in Aberdeenshire, on the southern bank of the River Dee. The grant of the lands at Maryculter was made in 1225 and the Church of Aboyne about 1239 by a certain Walter Bisset. This land was originally under the jurisdiction of the Monks of Kelso, and Bisset swore that his gifting them to the Templars would in no way prejudice the Monks' rights to the area. However by 1287 this Oath had been broken, with the Monks maintaining only the lands to the north of the river. The Church at Aboyne on the south bank, had been confirmed as being owned by the Templars, by Ralph de Lamley Bishop of Aberdeen, at the insistence of the same Walter Bisset in 1242. Later, the Knights built their own Chapel within the grounds of the Maryculter Preceptory, remains of which can still be seen to this day.
While being rich in land in Scotland, the Templars actual presence was rather restricted as many of the Knights had eagerly joined their Brethren in the Holy Land. As a result, the Orders' holdings in Scotland were for a time administered by the Great Priory of England. This system of governance worked very well until the start of the Wars of Independence (between Scotland and England) in the 1290's: More on that later.
There is an interesting anecdote relating to one of the English Grand Masters at that time, Brian le Jay, a noted warrior eventually killed by the Scots at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. He was known for his arrogant and violent nature, and was used by Sir Walter Scot as the model for his villain, the sinister Brian De Bois-Guibert, Master of the Temple, in his classic novel Ivanhoe.
The Holy Land lost
During the Crusades, both the Templar and Hospitaller Orders enjoyed a fearsome reputation on the field of battle, offset by their somewhat limited successes in guerrilla warfare. Towards the end of the 13th Century, one of the most decisive battles in the fall of the Holy Land was at Hattim, where neither the Templars nor the Hospitallers would agree to co-operate. As a result the Saracens were able to decisively route both Orders, destroying their reputation of being invincible in set battles. This defeat was viewed with dismay by the West but with political instability in Europe, no Monarch was willing to send either the men or resources required to help regain Jerusalem, despite several calls by the Pope to do so. With the fall of Jerusalem, both the Templars and Hospitallers moved their Headquarters to Mediterranean islands, being Cyprus and Rhodes respectively.
Banking and Diplomacy
The Templars together with some of the Noble families of the Italian City States who had close links with them, came to be regarded as the Bankers of the Levant (encompassing the Holy Land). With the advent of the Second and Third Crusades, the Templars were perceived in some quarters to have hedged their bets, as they were bankers not only to the local Christian population, but to many of the Saracen Merchants as well, being generally regarded as honest in all of their dealings. The Banking System operated with the Templars taking an agreed levy on all funds held, thus ensuring that the Order never ran short of funds: All parties were satisfied with this arrangement. Any monies subject to international transactions were sent, under Templar guard, to the nearest Preceptory in the appropriate region. Monies and jewels were thus able to move freely throughout the Levant and Europe with very little risk, further enhancing the reputation of the Knights.
The Religious and Military Orders were frequently employed by the Royal Family of Jerusalem as Diplomats, again because they were regarded as honest men. The Orders had generally amicable relations with the Saracens in times of peace, as they were not as prejudiced as many of their Christian counterparts. This association was due to a very healthy respect of the Saracens as warriors, and an appreciation of their lifestyle which many Templars had adopted as it was best suited to the climate of the Middle East. This would later be used as one of the reasons for attacking the Order, as it 'proved' to some that their very lifestyle was evidence of Devil Worshipping.
Organisation and Ritual
Legend has it that some of the prevalent Templar tradition and culture was based on that of the Cult of the Assassins, but this cannot be proved as direct historical documentation has yet to be uncovered. Part of the traditional Templar Ritual of drinking from a cup "not made by human hands" is definitely Assassin, as they used to drink from cups made from the skulls of their enemies killed in battle. The St. George Aboyne Preceptory has in its possession two such Trepan Skulls.
France was traditionally regarded as the Western home of the Templar Order being the most powerful Templar base in Europe. It was regarded as the premier supporter of the Order, with many of the French Knights holding influential offices within the Templar hierarchy. The Grand Master of the Order was traditionally the Prior of Jerusalem, and later Cyprus after the Knights had retired to the Island following the fall of Jerusalem. To enable Great Priory to keep contact with the European Preceptories, an official Visitor was appointed and was regarded as the Grand Masters Deputy with Ultimate authority in Europe. The Visitor was based in Paris and regularly travelled between the various European holdings acting as the eyes and ears of the Grand Master. The French Aristocracy had gifted much property to the Templars instead of joining the Crusade, deeming it politically sound to stay at home, as they feared the Crown might appropriate their land while they were away. Instead many Nobles joined the Order as Knights in their twilight years, so that their lands would not fall into the hands of the Crown upon their deaths (it would be absorbed by the Order). As the Templars enjoyed the protection of the Pope, there was little the Crown could do.
France and the Papacy
By the turn of the 14th Century the political position was changing. King Philip (the Fair) of France envied the riches and strength of the Knights Templar, regarding them as a threat to his position. The Order had refused to - permanently - loan him money, and some Preceptors had openly sided with the French Aristocracy during internal political disputes. It should be noted that at this time, the Feudal System was still operative in France, unlike most other parts of Europe where it was turning into a more open and just System of Government.
King Philip determined to outlaw the Order, incidentally gaining their property and riches for himself. By 1306 Philip had set in motion the means by which he could remove the perceived Templar threat to his Rule and restore his bank balance.
At the same time, the Papal See was in difficulty as temporal interests started to take precedence over more spiritual ones. The ultimate sanction of the Pope as Head of the Catholic Faith, excommunication, was no longer particularly effective due to overuse. Many Monarchs no longer regarded the Papacy as a spiritual body, but as a State in its own right, due to its vast property holdings throughout Europe: The Pope being regarded as Head of State.
When Pope Boniface and King Philip were at logger-heads over the French attempts to tax the Church, France therefore regarded the problem as being secular rather than spiritual in nature, so when no agreement was forthcoming, Philip took matters into his own hands. He determined to resolve the matter with a show of force: This resulted in the Pope being taken hostage and held captive until an agreement that pleased Philip was reached. At this point King Philip realised that the best way to secure his position was to control the Papacy, as after the hostage incident he was rather predictably excommunicated, causing him further problems at home and abroad as he no longer had the spiritual blessing necessary to be King.
Philip very quickly realised that to control the Pope was to control the hearts and minds of the general populace, who seemed always to maintain their absolute faith in the Church regardless of anything that befell them. The belief was that regardless of how difficult your life on Earth, as long as you were spiritually cleansed before you died, you would go to Heaven. When Pope Boniface died, Philip arranged for the election of his candidate, Clement V, and to doubly ensure that his interests were the interests of the Pope, he forced the Papacy to move from Rome to Avignon. This understandably annoyed the Italians, who proceeded to place their own candidate on St Peters Throne, thus splitting the Catholic Faith, and further weakening the Church.
Arrest and Imprisonment
By 1308 Philip felt in a strong enough position to move against the
Templars. He summoned the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and
his opposite number in the Hospitallers to France, purportedly to
discuss the position of the Military Orders. He believed that their
original function ended with the loss of the Holy Land, and that there
was no possibility of another Crusade. The Hospitallers did not attend
as they were busy subduing the Greeks in Rhodes and therefore escaped
their intended demise at the hands of Philip. The Templars did attend,
and three days after Jacques de Molay's arrival in Paris with much
of the Templar
As a result, his successors were able to finance the prolonged conflict of the Hundred Years War, which the French eventually won with the aid of Joan of Arc. Legend states that Joan of Arc was not a mere peasant girl ignorant of military matters, but had actually been trained in the art of Warfare by a Preceptory hidden in the wilds of Argyll. She returned to France with her fighting abilities honed, making her an effective battlefield leader and not just a figurehead. This would explain in part why the English were so keen to burn her at the stake when they eventually captured her.
Prior to their arrest by King Philip, the Templars had no forewarning of his actions, with all the correct proprieties being observed on Jacques de Molay's arrival, and relations between the Templars and the French Monarchy stable. The Order knew the state of Philip's finances, but such was their confidence that the French Preceptors mistakenly believed themselves to be impervious to anything Philip might do, as they were under Papal authority. In some cases Preceptors had been abusing their rank and position, living as Princes with blatant disregard to their Knightly vow of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.
The Trial and Dissolution
After his arrest on 10th October 1307, Jacques de Molay 'confessed'
to many things including perjury, idolatry, and anything else the
Inquisitors could think of, in order to avoid the torture chamber.
Philip's initiative took the Pope by surprise,
The Templar's fate throughout Europe differed widely from country to country. The Papal Decree outlawing the Templars was ignored in both Spain and Portugal, as they were then fighting the Saracens on behalf of those Monarchies: Instead they changed their name to protect the Order from the Inquisition, becoming answerable to the Kings instead. The Teutonic Knights were unaffected by the upheavals as they had never directly meddled in politics, despite being closely allied with many of the powerful Germanic families, and they were at the time busy in Eastern Europe on behalf of the Emperor.
The English Reaction
In Britain, the War of Independence was still raging, and King Edward ignored the Papal Bull where it suited him. He proceeded to imprison any Templars who disagreed with him, except for those that had actively aided him in his Scottish campaigns. Edward had eventually to allow the Inquisition into England, but he refused to allow them to use torture as this was contrary to all Laws of the time, as laid down in the Magna Carta. Note that at this time the English Judicial system was far more advanced than anywhere else in Europe and the idea of innocence until proven guilty was already firmly established.
The Position in Scotland
The position in Scotland was more complex; many Templar Knights were fighting on behalf of King Robert the Bruce while others were fighting with King Edward. The area south of the Forth was held by the English, north of the Firth by the Scots. Upon receiving the Papal Decree, Edward ordered all Templars to surrender themselves at Holyrood. Two Knights were arrested, Walter de Clifton and William de Middleton with a third, Thomas Tocci, giving himself up. None of them were of fighting age, or Scottish by birth. These Scottish Templars were tried by the English Administration but the Court reached no decision, probably because of the unstable political climate. Acceding eventually to French pressure, in 1312 Edward abolished the Templars in both England and Scotland: Any Scottish Templars who were arrested were confined to the Cistercian Houses, which was a far stricter Order than the Benedictines to which the Templars originally belonged.
Templars north of the Firth of Forth naturally chose not to comply with Edward's orders, and so avoided arrest. As Bruce had already been excommunicated by the Pope for refusing to offer fealty to Edward, he did not feel obliged to obey the Pope in this matter, although he must have received the Papal Decree. Instead he sequestered all Templar property and allowed the order to continue in existence: To proscribe the Knights Templar would have severely reduced the size of his standing army. There existed no amity between Bruce and the French so any pressure brought to bear would have been useless, and he again rightly felt that he could act with impunity.
The Wars of Independence
After 1312 "The Knights Templar" disappear from reliable record books, being generally regarded at the time as having been disbanded: They did however continue to exist under different guises, fighting for Robert the Bruce and playing at least a small part in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314: The style of fighting employed by Bruce's Cavalry was remarkably similar to that of the Templars and the tactics employed bore the hallmark of Templar strategy.
One of the many Holy Relics of the time The Brecbannoch, a very large battle standard, appears at the Battle of Bannockburn carried by Henry de Monymusk. This was given to Henry prior to the Battle, by the Abbot of Arbroath, to be kept in perpetuity by his family. The Brecbannoch was one of the more important Scottish relics of the Middle Ages. Henry also acquired the lands at Forglen as part of the Brecbannoch's dowry. The Templar holdings in Scotland not acquired by the Hospitallers were given by Bruce to his loyal followers, who previously had not held property. Many Templars were the younger sons of the existing Nobility, and since the life of a Knight was a far better option than taking the cloth to be shut up in a closed Monastic order, they joined the Order of the Temple.
By 1320 King Bruce was back in Papal favour and he considered it politic to be seen to be observing the Papal Decree. In order to ensure the continuing liberty of those Templars loyal to his Cause he formed the Royal Order of Scotland: This Order, like the modern Knights Templar, continues to this day.
What happened to the Templars?
Perhaps understandably, little is known of the fate of the "Order of the Knights of the Temple" during the rest of the Middle Ages. It is very likely that several Templars joined the Order of the Knights Hospitallers, which exist in a modern form today, a view that is partially supported by the traditional ritual used by modern Masonic Encampments. It has been suggested, with some validity, that the Order went 'underground' and became absorbed into Freemasonry which existed in Scotland as early as 1290. Several competing (and complementary) theories exist, but sadly none are fully substantiated by surviving records.
Towards the end of the 15th Century, evidence suggests that there was a secret society operated in the North East of Scotland by the Lairds, led by the Earls of Huntly. This group was very involved in the politics of Scotland having been active in the assassination of the Bonny Earl of Moray in 1592. Later references in Privy Records refer to an organisation called the Band of the Boys led by Gordon of Gight, an ancestor of the notorious Lord Byron. This was an illegal group with its own set of Rules that had been in existence for quite a number of years. Regrettably throughout the generations they had become very much a law unto themselves and had essentially become a band of Upper-class outlaws.
The leader of this group in 1715 was Lord George Keith, Earl Marishal, who formed it into a very active intelligence unit to aid the Stuart cause. He also helped set up other similar organisations in both England and France, being "The Knights of St Thomas Acon" and the "Realm of Sion". He is credited by some with the re-introduction of the Knights Templar into Scotland about this time, and there is sufficient evidence linking some 18th Century Preceptories to this date to tenuously support this assertion. These organisations supplied the necessary intelligence to help plan the abortive 1745 uprising and later convince the Earl Marishal that the Stuarts were a lost cause: He transferred his attentions to Eastern Europe and was very active in the services of Elizabeth of Russia and later Frederic the Great in that Monarch's Prussian campaigns. There is an unsubstantiated story which tells that Frederic, on hearing of the death of Lord Keith, abandoned the battlefield to return to attend his friend's funeral. However, all of the papers relating to his covert Jacobite operations were burnt, as a precaution against his estates being appropriated (again) by the Crown on the basis of the information contained in them.
The Jacobite Experience
In the late 17th Century and early 18th Century, when King James II / VII was in hiding from William of Orange, King James is known to have granted Chivalric Arms to his followers in France, England and Scotland. Records are scarce, but it does appear that some grant other than the Scots "Order of the Thistle" was made, and it seems likely that the "Order of the Knights of the Temple" was made instead.
In September 1745 at Holyrood, Bonnie Prince Charlie is credited as being installed as the Grand Master of the Templars: The evidence for this is very flimsy and cannot be substantiated. What is more likely is that the Prince was installed as the Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland, as the purported regalia worn is similar to that of the Royal Order in the 18th Century.
It may surprise some to discover that a non-Masonic Templar Order, styling themselves "The Chivalric Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem" exists, and indeed recently opened a "Moravia Preceptory" at Elgin on 28th October last year (1993). They were chartered by the (non-Masonic) Scottish Grand Priory in Edinburgh, which was re-established in 1972. This Order cites the same traditional early history as the Masonic Templars, dating back to the formation of the "Order of the Temple" in 1118. Whilst this modern Order does not claim direct association with the Medieval Knights, it is noteworthy that their traditions are based on a Templar organisation that survived into the mid-18th Century, which coincidentally faded at the time of the resurgence of Templar Masonry.
The first Grand Masonic Body
The Grand Lodge of Scotland was formed as a governing body in 1736, bringing Freemasonry somewhat further into the open. The first elected Grand Master was William St. Clair of Roslin, formerly the hereditary Grand Master Mason of Scotland (previous to the formation of Grand Lodge) and a Templar as well: The St. Clairs were one of the oldest Scottish families. Previously they had been keeper of the Holy Relics, and legend has it that when Jacques de Molay was arrested, many of the Templar relics were sent to Scotland and into the keeping of the St. Clairs. One of the earliest St. Clairs is said to have been entrusted with taking King Bruce's Heart to the Holy Land: It never got there as he was waylaid and attacked in Spain.
By the time of the first Jacobite uprising in 1715 there is some evidence to suggest that the Templar tradition had been continuous throughout. Further examination of the St. Clairs reveals that Templar iconography was in frequent use by the family throughout the centuries, and that they had an active interest in Masonry before and after the Schaw Statutes, known to have heralded the advent of Masonry as is known today. Schaw actually made a point of confirming the St. Clairs as the hereditary Grand Master Mason of Scotland.
With the formation of the Grand Lodge, Masonry was combined into a cohesive unit and a uniformity was applied to its workings: The higher Degrees were at the same time brought under the auspices of Grand Lodge. Early entries in various minute books detail the workings of the Higher degrees by the Craft Lodges. In order to ensure that these degrees were kept secret from all but the chosen few, the Lodge would be opened and closed in due form for each Degree, the people to whom it was not relevant leaving appropriately. In some recorded entries a Lodge could be opened and closed two or three times in one evening. It was not until the late 1790's that Grand Lodge forbade the bestowing of the higher Degrees due to a series of acts of Parliament, pertaining to Secret Societies, which effectively made anything above Master Mason illegal.
St. George Lodge
Many Masonic Lodges originally had a dual purpose, that of an Operative
Lodge and of a Friendly Society. Lodge St Nicholas of Aberdeen, No.
93, contains in its original minute book, the rules and regulations
for the associated Friendly Society. The St. George Lodge from which
the St George Preceptory is descended,
The early records of the St George Lodge are very patchy, however retrospective entries of the Royal Grand Conclave Roll Book, date from August 16th 1795. The first recorded Royal Arch Degrees were worked earlier in that year: It is safe to assume that members of the Lodge were qualified to work the Templar Grades at the time of the Charter being granted. Certainly, the Founder Members of the St. George Encampment in London, which was founded in 1795, were advanced through the Templar Grades by the St. George Lodge.
By 1806 the Lodge and the Arch were treated as two separate entities
with the Royal Arch being responsible for all degrees above that of
Master Mason. A separate Friendly Society was also formed. Minutes
of 1810 then proceed to show a further division of the Royal Arch,
an Application being made to the Early Grand Encampment of Ireland
for a Charter. This appears to have been Granted as the Minutes of
6th March 1810 advise of Officers being appointed. When the Royal
Grand Conclave was formed by Alexander Deuchar in 1811, according
to Minutes of 14th September 1813, the early Encampment applied for
Part of the criteria for admittance to the Royal Grand Conclave was that associated bodies would not recognise any Lodge, Chapter or Encampment working the Templar Grades, who were working them under a Master Mason Charter. The Royal Grand Conclave refused to recognise the Early Grand Encampment of Ireland, because it was trying to usurp its position - it later succeeded. They regarded the St George Encampment as working the Grades under their Lodge Charter of 1794, which did not specify that the higher Degrees could be worked. The first mention in existing record books of the St George Knights Templar Encampment, as an independent body, is in 1817 when application is made to Grand Conclave for approval of the Merger with the Aboyne Encampment.
The Aboyne Lodge
The Aboyne Encampment was originally part of the Lodge of the 6th North British Militia, which was chartered in 1799 and dissolved in 1839. This Lodge was sometimes (confusingly) known as the Aboyne Lodge as Lord Aboyne was the Commander in Chief of the Regiment and had been Grand Master Mason of Scotland 1802 - 1804. The Regiment was later known as the 55th Aberdeenshire Regiment of the North British Militia, and subsequently the 3rd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders which was eventually dissolved in 1885.
As a regular Militia unit, it was stationed in varying parts of the country, including Liverpool, Dover and the Tower of London. [Editors note: After this Booklet was published, it was confirmed that the Templar Grades were actually worked in the Tower of London by the early St. George Aboyne Preceptory - a unique event] In 1812 they were stationed at Dalkeith which was then a separate town on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Under the sponsorship of Lord Aboyne, application was made to be admitted to the Royal Grand Conclave of Scotland. This was accepted and "The Aboyne Encampment" as it was then styled, was formally admitted as Number 21 on the roll on the 6th July 1812. A much reduced, computer enhanced copy of the Charter is included in the centre pages. The roll of Grand Conclave contains another entry, at No 7 for the Aberdeen Military Encampment. This was also designated as being the 55th B. Militia. Unlike the Aboyne encampment this was a local Militia and could not be moved around the country, as its principle purpose was the protection of the City of Aberdeen. The register of Grand Conclave gives the founding date for this Encampment as 1807 when it carried the name St. James. It must be stated that the two Encampments designated as arising from the 55th B Militia were never in any way connected. Both Encampments had the same designation 55th B as this was the naming convention of the time and denoted the home of both to be Aberdeen.
of CHARTER (LEFT)
Early Encampment Ritual
Eventually the Aboyne Encampment returned to Aberdeen. The first meeting there was held on the 27th of January 1815 in the house of a Mrs Ingram, location unknown, where there are no further details given. By October the Encampment was better organised and at a meeting on 23rd October 1815 the Initiation fees were set as follows -
Excellent & Super Excellent
Jordan Pass £ - 2/-
Knight of the Red Cross £ - 3/-
High Priest £ - 5/-
Prussian Blue £ -
Whist knowledge of the existence of the Craft Degrees was relatively widespread, there is very little known on the highest Degree, designated the 25th or Prussian Blue. This was originally bestowed by Frederic the Great, and had probably come to Scotland through the Jacobites and the Earl Marischal who was a confidante of Frederic. It is likely that there was no cost attached to this superlative Degree as it was bestowed by a candidate's Peers and was truly regarded as an Honour: Making a charge would have been deemed to be demeaning. The instances of it being bestowed on anyone not of the Aristocracy was probably unheard of: The modern equivalent would be the highest Conclave Degrees. The Templar Grades were more common in the Military Lodges: It is documented that the three Military Lodges stationed at Boston, Massachusetts in 1769, conferred the higher Degrees, in particular the Templar Grades, on members of the local Lodge. With regard to the Past the Chair Degree, a candidate did not actually have to be a Past Master of a Lodge to receive it: Instead it was the way in which a candidate was raised beyond the status of a Master Mason. Even in those early days Degrees were worked in tranches, several traditional degrees being conferred as a single Grade.
Working the Grades
As with the Lodges, in order to create an Encampment the founder members had to be existing members of a legal Encampment, and on the 27th of May 1816 the minutes read -
"The Aboyne Encampment having had previous communication with a Body of Irregular Sir Knights Templar in Peterhead and its vicinity, holding under an illegal charter or paper from the Early Grand of Ireland, and having received a petition from them to take them under our protection and make them regular under the Royal Grand Conclave of Scotland. The Sir Knights having taken into their serious consideration that it would be for the particular good of the Order came to the resolution of sending Sir Frances Donald Commander and Sir Alexander Walker, Secretary to Peterhead to swear them in to the Royal Grand Conclave and Aboyne Encampment...to grant them a letter of separation to enable them to meet as such time as they could receive one from the Grand Conclave"
The Commander and Secretary were evidently successful in their mission, for entries 38 to 53 of members on the roll Books of the Royal Grand Conclave are shown as "residing in or near Peterhead."
The early finances of the Aboyne Encampment are unknown as the associated Account Books are lost. However in the Minutes of 16th April 1817 mention is made of a letter received concerning the sum of £20 due to the Aboyne Lodge by the Encampment. This money was loaned to the Encampment in order that they could pay for their Charter and other expenses relating to the creation of the Encampment. After much discussion the Encampment replied that they were unable to repay the capital amount but would remit the interest due on an annual basis to the Lodge. The Aboyne Lodge accepted this arrangement. Only £1 of the capital is ever documented as being repaid with the interest paid only sporadically and eventually forgotten altogether. The Aboyne Lodge ceased in 1837 and the monies due never fully repaid. To have been forced to repay the £20 in full would have probably caused the Encampment to cease.
The Foundation of St. George Aboyne
Very few new members appear to have been recruited between 1815 and 1818 when they merged with the St. George Encampment. There is little documented regarding the Merger. The issue was first raised on 28th November 1818 by mention of a letter received and a few days later, on 3rd December 1818 the Merger was agreed to between both parties and the designation of St George Aboyne formally agreed to - recognition by the Royal Grand Conclave was somewhat slow in coming as the Merger was not initially approved. The Charter was updated to reflect the new name.
As with many Masonic Minute books very little detail of the actual workings of Encampment Ritual is detailed. However a hand written volume of Ritual that was written by the person responsible for the earliest minutes of 1812 exists. Perhaps the most interesting thing was that candidates could only be admitted after their first campaign. As the Aboyne Lodge was never on active duty abroad this must relate either to some aspect of military training, or more likely to a ritualistic journey related to the early Templars. There would appear to have been no need for an Enquiry Committee, or Ballot, in those days.
Meetings were not held on a regular basis and appeared to be whenever there were candidates available. Also all Degrees from Past the Chair to Babylonian Pass were bestowed in a single evening. There are gaps in the Minute Books at several points, some covering five or more years. When the Minutes recommence they are written as though there was no break in proceedings: It must be assumed that there were no candidates during these periods as earlier minutes appear to be concerned only with either Elections or the admittance of Candidates. Elections were supposed to be carried out on Holy Cross Day (15th September), annually but this was not always the case.
By 1836 the Royal Grand Conclave was in serious difficulties. Part of the problem was financial as many Encampments did not pay their annual dues: Whether or not this applied to the St George Aboyne Preceptory is unknown. Sir Alexander Deuchar's style of leadership was very unpopular: He was a seal maker to trade and originally set up the Royal Grand Conclave as a means to promote himself, his background likely to have precluded him from becoming Grand Master Mason of Scotland. In order to compensate for their financial difficulties it was proposed that non-Masons be admitted to the Order, at the same time the ritual was adapted in order to allow this to happen. Previously only Royal Arch Masons in Good Standing were allowed to join. Only the Royal Grand Conclave was allowed to admit non-Masons and these men were never members of any Encampments, only of Grand Conclave. The Encampments never admitted non-Masons to their ranks.
Notification of these changes did not appear to reach Aberdeen, as candidates were still Royal Arch Masons and no mention of the new ritual being adopted is made. Therefore on July 19th 1850, a letter was received from a number of Royal Arch Masons in Edinburgh who requested that the St George Aboyne Fratres admit them to the Order and then aid them in setting up their own Encampment, in accordance with the original ritual. This was agreed to, a Committee appointed, who were authorised "if necessary ... to take the Charter, Minute Book and whatever part of Regalia they consider proper and requisite for the purpose of Initiation." At a further meeting on July 22nd it was further agreed that an advertisement was to be placed in the Edinburgh Evening Courant, it read -
"To Royal Arch Masons; a number of Royal Arch Masons having requested the St George Aboyne Knight Templar Encampment Aberdeen to send a deputation to Edinburgh for the purpose of being initiated into this Religious and Military Order. All Royal Arch Masons who are desirous of being admitted into this ancient and honourable Order will obtain every information respecting admission from Companion Main, 25 North Bridge. The Deputation will be in Edinburgh on Monday 5th August and following days."
The response to the notice appears to have been satisfactory, for on 5th August at Noon the first candidates were Initiated. A second working of the Degrees was held on the 6th August at 6pm and again at 8pm on the same day. A private meeting of the Deputation was held on the 7th at their hotel where it was recorded that they could have inducted more candidates if they had so wished, and that they were well pleased with the events as they had occurred.
Further Candidate Problems
Between 1859 and 1865 there were no regular meetings held. An entry dated 18th March 1859 gives a clue as to why. It states: "The meeting was called for the purpose of considering Royal Arch Masonry in Aberdeen. The Sir Knights present reviewed the matter and after a lengthy conversation on the subject Sir Knight Beveridge gave notice of the following motion: 'That the Encampment resume its old practice of accepting as candidates, Brethren who had received the degree of Master Mason'." The practice of only admitting Royal Arch Masons was adopted after the foundation of the Supreme Grand Chapter by Alexander Deuchar. However, within Aberdeen the higher Degrees of Freemasonry were suffering from a dearth of Candidates, and at one point the St George Chapter No. 21 was the only Arch initiating Candidates with any regularity. From 1866 onwards the Meetings become more regular with at least four musters a year being recorded: The meetings were still called on the basis of the candidates being available.
Many of the members join, pass through the Minute Books and are never heard of again. However, there were two Fratres in particular who appear to have played an important part in the general Masonic History of Aberdeen. One was a Sir Knight Dr Beveridge who was Preceptor from 1852 to 1854. Dr Beveridge was also, according to details in the Aberdeen Masonic Reporter, though at differing times, in the Chair of Conclave and of that of the Rosé Croix. Dr. Beveridge was also a historian of the St George Aboyne Encampment and published articles on their history. When he died, an Encampment of Sorrow was held at the Masonic Hall in Queen Street to which all Master Masons were invited. There was an extensive résumé of both the event itself and of Dr Beveridge's Masonic career printed in the Aberdeen Free Press at the time. From the descriptions given it was a very solemn and impressive affair, deserved by a gentleman who had been both Provincial Grand Superintendent and Grand Master of Aberdeen (for 21 years) in his time.
The other gentleman of interest is a John Crombie Esq. who was a distinguished member of the Preceptory until the 1890's. Although less impressive than the energetic Dr. Beveridge, he is notable for the following: John Crombie resigned from the Encampment in the 1890's. There is an (undated) letter of resignation still held in the Preceptory archive. What is so peculiar is that a few months later, on an Encampment of Sorrow Order of Service, John Crombie, District Grand Prior is shown as Presiding. One and the same person it is safe to assume. It would appear that the reason he resigned from the Preceptory of St George Aboyne was that it was regarded as being an irregular body by the Chapter General in Edinburgh. In order to legitimise his position as District Grand Prior, he resigned from St George Aboyne but remained a member of Aberdeen Military thus ensuring his continued Masonic position.
Aberdeen Military was re-chartered in 1871 as they had previously not been regularly formed, and were designated by the new title of Aberdeen Military Encampment Number 5½ on the roll of the Chapter General of Scotland. Part of the reason they were not regarded as being regularly formed was that they had not paid their dues for a number of years, although they were conferring Grades.
St. George Aboyne was Re-Chartered in 1812...
Recognition by England
The Royal Grand Conclave eventually fizzled out in the 1840's, and was succeeded by The Chapter General, leaving a void in the Templar organisational framework, which its rival claimant for the governance of Templar Masonry in Scotland, the Grand Encampment of Scotland, was eager fill. The Grand Encampment had been formed in 1826 when the Early Grand Encampment of Ireland had Chartered it. All of the Encampments originally chartered by Ireland were supposedly under it's jurisdiction, but by 1826, the majority had been re-chartered by the Royal Grand Conclave, making the Early Grand Encampment a somewhat minority governing body.
In the resulting confusion over Governing Bodies, Aberdeen appears to have been forgotten by its peers in Edinburgh: In order to ensure its continued existence, the St George Aboyne Encampment took the unusual step of petitioning the Grand Conclave of England for recognition, which was duly granted. It thus ensured its continued recognition and existence, without having to pay either Edinburgh Grand Body money to bring its dues and status up to date. It should be noted that the Royal Conclave of England did not re-charter the St George Aboyne Preceptory under the English Constitution, but simply acknowledged its continued existence so that it would never be considered to have folded.
The 2nd Re-Charter
The fact that St George Aboyne was regarded as an irregular Encampment by the Governing Bodies of Scotland appears not to have bothered the Fratres in the slightest; until 1901 when letters were received from Sir Knights Brand and Metier complaining that they were unable to join their local (English) Encampments, as the St George Aboyne Preceptory did not belong to either of the Grand Bodies in Scotland. At the subsequent meeting of 14th November 1901, it was agreed to instruct the Secretary to "communicate with the Chapter General of Scotland and enquire on what terms we would be received". The Chapter General was very prompt in replying, as at the next meeting on 12th December 1901, the Laws and Statutes of the Chapter General were received, discussed and agreed to. A further letter was then sent to the Chapter General confirming agreement to the Laws and Statutes, and asking if there were any further terms of Admission to be fulfilled before admittance could be granted. Again, the Chapter General was quick to respond and at a meeting on the 26th of December 1901" The Secretary then read three letters he had received from Edinburgh suggesting Terms of Admission. After some discussion by the Sir Knights, Sir Knight Smith moved that we agree to join the Chapter General of Scotland." This motion was accepted and a Deputation sent to Edinburgh on 4th January 1902 to further discuss the matter.
The Application by the Encampment of St. George Aboyne to join the Chapter General was evidently successful, as the Minutes of the meeting of 24th January record "The Deputation sent to Edinburgh then gave in a report...and reported that they had signed the proposed arrangements that was to be laid before the Chapter General." The various details are then given which include "credit for the time we have been in existence." A further meeting was then fixed for the 21st of February 1902, at which a Deputation from the Chapter General was to be received and where it would officially enrol the St George Aboyne Encampment under it's Banner and form it into a Preceptory and Priory. The Deputation duly attended the meeting of 21st February, and the Oath of Allegiance was made by the Fratres to the Chapter General: The presiding Officers were duly installed under the Governance of the Chapter General, and the Charter again amended. The only change that appears to have been required having joined the Chapter General, was that separate books were to be maintained for the Temple and the Priory. The Fees were amended to reflect the levy now due to Chapter General. At a later meeting on 3rd April the Chapter General advised St George Aboyne that they were 4th on their Roll Books.
The Early 20th Century
With admission to the Chapter General, St George Aboyne settled down to a peaceable existence: Meetings and Elections were carried out on a regular basis, and one phase of St George Aboyne's eventful history is closed. The Minutes after the Merger show that the Preceptory was settled, and no further notable events relating to the Preceptory are recorded. In 1907, a unitary governing body, The Great Priory in Scotland, was created by merging the Chapter General and Royal Grand Conclave: This goes by with no comment being recorded in the Minute Books of the Preceptory. With the removal from the Exchange Street Hall to the newly completed Temple at Crown Street, the Preceptory finally becomes settled in its current meeting place.
While there is nothing of note in the contents of the Minutes to record the advent of the First World War, the fact that Aberdeen was an important Port is reflected by the number of Candidates being advanced, many of whom were not local to Aberdeenshire. In order to aid the War effort Great Priory purchased an Ambulance for use on the Lines in Palestine: All Preceptories were asked for a donation towards this cost. On the 17th of May 1918, this was subsequently approved of at a meeting of the Preceptory, but no note of the actual amount donated can be traced as this was a separate collection carried out during the meeting, with the full amount collected being directly remitted to Great Priory.
The Modern Preceptory
The later 20th Century Preceptory Record Books are very unrevealing as the Minutes only record normal Preceptory business. On the odd occasion when a Sir Knight resigns the reason is not given, the resignation simply recorded as accepted: If anyone attempted to resign and was unsuccessful, nothing is shown. World events passed by the Preceptory, with the only indication of the Second World War again being an increase in Candidates who were not from Aberdeen, and an increase in the number of deaths reported by the Order. After 1945 business as usual is resumed, and no further cataclysmic events are recorded: That is until October 1992 when the Minutes note that "not only had the District Grand Prior brought Peppermints to a Muster but that he had also shared them out, twice."
Onwards Christian Soldiers!
There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the continued success
and prosperity of the Preceptory from 1794 to the present day is due
to the hard work and dedication of succeeding generations of Fratres
OF THE OFFICE BEARERS of A Regular Encampment
1. The Commander *
Where the Encampment is not so numerous as
to admit the full election of the above, then those marked by an (*)
may be selected.
The picture opposite, together with the description of Offices, is reproduced verbatim from the 1812 Minute Book of the St. George Aboyne Encampment of Knights Templar.
1. The Commander presides over the Knights and his duty is somewhat similar to that of the Master of an Ordinary Masonic lodge, having analogous powers.
2. The Past Commander takes no chair and presides during the absence of the Commander. All Past Commanders take the Chair (in absence of the Commander) in preference to any other officer; and in the event of several being present then the past Commander more Pastly in Office is preference. When no Past master is present, then the office bearers take the chair according to their Rank in the roll; but no office bearer under the Secretary can preside over an Encampment. An Encampment which has no Past Commanders, the Depute is held to be the same in point of Rank and duty.
3. In Absence of the Past Commander the Depute takes his seat and in case of the death of the Past Commander or his leaving the place, or when the encampment has had none, then the Depute fills his situation altogether and a substitute Commander is elected to Supply the place of the Depute. No encampment can be opened without the express leave of the Commander or in the case of his absence, of the past or Depute Commander; and before it can be opened there must be at least two office-bearers present of superior rank to the Master of Stewards.
4. 5, & 6. The duty of the three captains is the same as that of Wardens of a common Lodge; they keep order; enforce the edicts of the Commander.
7. the Treasurer manages the funds, keeps a faithful account of every expenditure and pays all joint and sanctioned debts of the Encampment.
8, & 9. The Standard Bearers take charge of the Ensigns of the Encampment.
10. The Chaplain administers the Obligations to Candidates, officiates at Consecrations and craves the blessings at every Repast.
11. The Secretary draws and extends the minutes, keeps the books, clears documents and other useful papers; issues the necessary circulars; and brings all private business in order before the Encampment.
12, & 13. The duty of the Experts is similar to that of the Deacons in a mason meeting; they examine visitors and wait upon the senior and Junior Captains.
14, & 15 The duty of the Ushers is to attend to the orders of the Commander.
16. The Provost prepares and brings in Candidates.
17. The Hospitaller provides the ammunition, for the Knights; he checks and settles the Stewards accounts and is accountable to the Treasurer.
18, 19, & 20. The Captains of the Black, Red and Blue, stands sentinel at the veils.
21 The Master of the Stewards attends in the Encampment to see the stewards fulfil their duty, and to see that they faithfully settle with the Hospitaller.
22. The Captain of the Outposts Stands at the inside Door.
23. The Protector stands at the Outside of the door.
24. The stewards prepare the ammunition and give it out to the Knights; they keep a note of the outlay of the evening and settle it with the Hospitaller.
25. The guard keeps everything right without doors; he attends to the outer door of the Encampment, which he keeps carefully locked.
All candidates are to be admitted by ballot; three black balls are sufficient to exclude the person, at the same time he may be allowed the privilege of a second ballot at next monthly meetings.
Some of these rules, particularly the one pertaining to the Ballot of Candidates, have since been modifed.
The following publications were used in part to prepare this document.
A History of the Crusades, (3 Volume Set)
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Last updated Wednesday August 15, 2001