A book about one of Shetland’s oldest and least publicised institutions, Morton Lodge No 89, is to be compiled for its 250th anniversary in two years’ time.
Lerwick’s freemasonry society was created in 1762 and is planning big celebrations for November 2012, including an anniversary display of memorabilia and photographs in the Masonic Hall in Queen’s Lane, which is likely to be open to the public.
Past master Bobby Fullerton said the lodge was possibly the second oldest institution in Shetland after the church and its anniversary would be “a pretty momentous occasion” for the hundreds of members.
Planning is still at an early stage but he and Steve Henry have been tasked with getting the ball rolling by appealing for a look at, or a lend of, old photos, aprons, past-masters’ jewels and other regalia and items of interest relating to Lerwick freemasonry, perhaps for inclusion in the display.
A booklet was produced for the 200th anniversary in 1962 and this time round Mr Fullerton said they hoped to compile a “decent-sized” publication which would be on sale to the public. “There’s certainly a lot of history there. We’re just hoping that some of the members will realise that they have some gear that they might want to show us. There must be a fair amount of photos and stuff around.”
It is expected that the Grand Lodge of Scotland will also pay a visit during the anniversary to rededicate the lodge.
Freemasonry used to have a higher public profile in Shetland which last century included annual marches through Lerwick between Christmas and New Year, Mr Fullerton said.
In recent decades less has been seen of the organisation in public and there has not been a Masonic funeral for many years, which used to see the men lined up in public in their suits and colourful green aprons. The building also used to be a hall during Lerwick Up-Helly-A’.
The foundation stones of important buildings in Lerwick used to be laid with full Masonic honours, including the old Gilbert Bain Hospital, the Anderson Institute, the Garrison Theatre and banks.
Freemasonry is commonly associated with secret rituals, handshakes, initiation ceremonies and the use of symbols and emblems such as the square and compasses of the stonemason. Membership is confined to men of good reputation who believe in a “supreme being”.
Mr Fullerton laughed off the suspicion that has historically accompanied the organisation and its members’ activities, saying: “We’re a very charitable, modest organisation that doesn’t do much harm to anybody.”