Bro Ewan Notman PM gives an insight into the Craft north of the border

I came across ‘Freemasons Without Borders’ through Facebook and have enjoyed listening to the talks each week but nothing on Scottish Freemasonry!

I thought that I may be able to shed some light in that direction, so I gave a talk ‘My Journey from Scottish Masonry’. I have enlarged on that talk, including experiences from my stays in the Netherlands for Arena.

English masons can get a little confused when they visit a Scottish Lodge. Much of the custom and practice is the same, but much is different. Here I am taking you through my journey into Masonry, giving you some of the differences on the way. I am a fourth-generation mason.

Two of my Great Grandfathers were masons. One was Master of St Luke’s, Lauder No 132, and the other MEZ of Colinton & Currie Royal Arch Chapter No 431. My Grandfather was initiated into Heart of Midlothian No 832 in 1910 when aged 21, before going to sea. He joined an English lodge in Lancashire in 1929. My father was initiated in 1954.


I was initiated into Freemasonry on 1 April 1987, into Lodge St Michel, Crieff No 38 [chartered 1739], which was my father’s Mother Lodge. I was proposed by my stepfather. His Mother Lodge too. I was then Passed; Raised; and Advanced in the Lodge. Yes, the Mark is done in Lodges in Scotland. It is often the last degree in a masonic season.

I affiliated to Lodge Holyroodhouse (St Luke’s) No 44 in November 1990 (that is a ‘joining member’ down south). I became Right Worshipful Master on 18 November 1997. The Lodge meets in the Oldest Working Lodge Rooms in the world, on St John’s Street, Edinburgh. Built in 1734 by Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No2, but recently acquired by the Royal Order of Scotland.


When affiliating to a Scottish Lodge an Obligation or Oath of Fidelity to the new Lodge is taken in open Lodge. Not just “here’s the Byelaws, you’re now a member!!” The ceremony makes you aware of obligations to the new lodge, and to other lodges you may belong.

You will notice that Scottish Masons wear their apron under the jacket (over if doublebreasted). Each Lodge has its own colours; some have tartan. I have several aprons; the main two being my father’s Mother Lodge apron (now over 65 years old); and a maroon Past Master apron from Lodge 44. They are confusing to English Masons, being Provincial colours in England.


You will also notice that in a Scottish Lodge there are no Chapter Jewels worn, only Lodge jewels. The rule is you only wear jewels of the order whose meeting you are attending. Anniversary Jewels do not have to be validated by Grand Lodge.

Provincial and Grand Officers wear green, but only when on Provincial and Grand Lodge duty. I have seen the Grand Master wearing his lodge apron in his own lodge. Being a Grand or Provincial Officer is not so important in a Scottish lodge. Being a Past Master is more important!

In a Scottish Lodge all the Officers are elected each year (except one appointed as Depute or Substitute Master, by the Master). The Master-elect choses who he wants to install him into the Chair (rarely his predecessor). I chose the master who initiated me into the craft. It is considered an honour to be asked. I have installed quite a few Masters. While in the Chair the Master is Right Worshipful Master, and although a Past Master can be referred to as Worshipful Brother, according to the Grand Lodge Constitution, it is rarely heard in Scottish lodges.. (Normally Bro John Brown, Past Master)

Ritual is not dictated by the Grand Lodge of Scotland or Provincial Grand Lodge but decided by each Lodge. There can be some radical differences! Signs and stances can also vary from lodge to lodge. The biggest difference that English Masons will notice is that in most Scottish Lodges, the members will be at fidelity whilst standing or moving round the lodge. (Holyroodhouse does not to confuse matters.)

Past rank in Provincial and Grand Lodge only exists as regards those who have had the active office. Honoury Grand Ranks are given to members abroad, but are rare in Scotland, and usually for long service.

When signing the Sederant, before entering the lodge, members and visitors give their name and lodge number and indicate if a Master or Past Master. Masters and Past Masters are usually presented to the Master by the Director of Ceremonies, in open lodge and invited to the East.

In the Netherlands it takes a candidate at least a year from being initiated to fellow of craft, and another year to become a master mason. Before progressing a candidate must give a paper to the Lodge. As a Grand Lodge of Moderns, they reverse the First and Second Degree words.

A Dutch lodge is opened in the degree that is being worked. After the ceremony all again assemble in the room adjacent, where they are addressed by the Master, a toast given to the candidate, before being asked to remove masonic regalia, and proceeding to harmony. The harmonies are quite formal and are opened, and closed, as Table Lodges. Toasts are given during the meal and are short, but the replies are given after the meal is finished.

Freemasonry would be very boring if we all did the same things time after time. The differences are what make visiting interesting. Freemasonry gives men something to have in common, so that they can speak to each other across divides. Hopefully this has shed some light on Scottish Freemasonry and we look forward to greeting you!

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 42 October 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 42.