The Lodge of Erskine 1566 History


Dr. Iain McPhee PM

(PSPGM of R.E.)

History of the Lodge of Erskine 1566

The hospital at Erskine for ex service men and women has a long and important association with the lodge of Erskine.  Around the late 1950’s 16 brethren in the craft who worked or lived in Erskine Hospital were interested in starting a Masonic association, given that many of them had much in common.  They approached the hospital chemist, Bro. Daniel Harper and asked for his help.  Among the 16 of these founding brothers were Bro. Alex Tomlinson, Bro. Benny Angus & Bro. A. McPherson, all founder members, and all either working or living in Erskine Hospital for ex servicemen. Dan Harper was against the idea of a Masonic association; however he said he would help them start a lodge which they could all be members together in Erskine.  In these days forty founder members were required.

However before we could make the petition to GLOS, one of the original 40 founder members: – an ex soldier died before GLOS could officially grant permission. However in their wisdom and discretion GLOS decided to issue the charter and so the idea became a reality. The lodge of Erskine was given its charter and the lodge began in 1960.

Founder Members

With Lodge Captain Speirs No. 791 and Lodge Inchinnan No. 1405 acting as sponsors and with the support of the PGLRE a Charter was granted by the GLOS to the Lodge of Erskine 1566 on the 4th of February 1960.  The Consecration Ceremony took place in the old Erskine Parish Church hall Bishopton by the RWPGM Bro. Robert MacMenemey as RWM.

The Lodge Charter being granted the brethren then began the hard work of raising funds, obtaining premises, making furniture and jewels and preparing regalia.  It was agreed that the lodge colours would be thistle green and Erskine tartan.  The first premises were the old Erskine Parish Church halls in Bishopton, and most of the early instruction classes took place in Erskine hospital.

Many of the items required to hold our meetings were either donated or made by the brethren themselves, along with many gifts from sister lodges.

On the 27th May 1960 at our first meeting Lodge Georgetown Cardonald No. 1170 conferred the EA degree on five candidates. On Saturday 23rd April 1960 in Old Erskine Parish Church Hall Bishopton, the first Right Worshipful Master, Bro. Daniel Harper, was installed in office.  For the next few years the founder members took the Chair until October 1967 when Bro. William Shackleton became RWM. His installing masters were all of the six previous masters!

Funding The New Lodge

Then as now social evenings and Masonic functions were as important as they are today for raising money.  These dances and social evenings gave them the funds to decorate Erskine Church Hall in Bishopton.  Indeed it was at one of these Masonic social evenings in the Western Roslyn in Bishopton that the widow of the founder brother who had died was dancing with Alex Tomlinson who commented that she was wearing a particularly fetching broach.  She took it off to let him see it, and the beginnings of the lodge crest which has a lozenge shape were born.

The lodge crest has three distinct parts.

Cannon – alludes to the Royal Ordnance Factory

Wheat sheaf – the farming traditions of Bishopton and Erskine

Staff and Serpent (single caduceus) – alludes to the connection between our lodge and Erskine hospital for ex service men and women.  It may symbolise the connection between the lodge’s first RWM Daniel Harper, his mother lodge being Lodge Galen a lodge of chemists. It is also very similar to the crest of the Royal Army Medical Corps, which use the same symbol.

Those early years in Bishopton were happy with all the brethren striving to build up the lodge. Then in 1971 the brethren were informed that Bishopton church hall was to be sold, and the brethren were without a meeting place.  Thankfully Lodge Inchinnan No. 1405 came to our rescue by allowing us the use of their very fine temple in Inchinnan.   In October 1972 our first meeting in Inchinnan took place at this time Bro. Mervyn Spencer was RWM. The regular Lodge meetings were from then on, the second Thursday of every month.

In 1985, the lodge of Erskine celebrated their 25th anniversary.  The rededication ceremony was conducted by Bro. Alan G Hutton the PGM of RE and Bro. David Stark was the RWM.  In 1997 the late Bro. Victor Petre became the first PM to take the chair for the second time.  In October 1999 Bro. Robert Bell of Lodge Neptune No 419 became the first affiliate to take the chair of King Solomon.

Throughout our short and brief history we have received much support from PGLRE where in the past Bro. J. Kinninmonth PM and Bro. K Ross PM served with distinction.  The late Bro. G.A. Birkett PM  served as a member of PGLRE as did the late Bro. John Kerr PM. Bro Andrew Greig continue with this tradition.  We celebrated our 50th anniversary, with the rededication ceremony ably conducted by the RWPGM of Renfrewshire East Brother David Alexander Reid and  Bro. Robert M. McPhee (BSc. MBCS) was the RWM of that year.  Currently Bro. Ronnie Armstrong PM is our Almoner.

Our present IPM is Bro. Ian Wood PM.  Taking the chair for 2023/24 for his 2nd term is Bro. Iain Shirley PM on October 7th October 2023.  The Lodge of Erskine has a Past Substitute Provincial Grand Master of Renfrewshire East:  Bro. Dr. Iain McPhee PM and a Past Depute Provincial Grand Master Bro. Robert M. McPhee PM (both blood brothers). Bro’s Andy Greig PM, Ian Wood PM and Bro. Scott Hood Sec serve in PGLRE and make a very valuable contribution to the province, and on behalf of the lodge

The Lodge of Erskine Customs and Practices

We can say that the influence of the Japanese is most apparent on our ritual from our first right worshipful master Bro. Daniel Harper.  Just after the start of world war two Daniel was stationed in Hong Kong with the Royal Army Medical Corps.  He was a member of a lodge in Hong Kong and his freemasonry was very important to him.

After the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941 he was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and was interred for three years    He was still working in the hospital in Hong Kong as a pharmacist during the occupation.  He was forced to witness many acts of violence and he helped carry out many autopsies of prisoners who were tortured by the guards.

He rarely spoke about the brutality he witnessed; however what we do know is that his experiences gave him a lifelong hatred of the Japanese soldiers’ behaviour during the war.  His daughter the Rev. Ann Harper tells us that Daniel was twice mentioned in dispatches and served his country with distinction.  After the war ended brother Daniel continued to work in Erskine hospital as their pharmacist for the next 25 years.  We now know that his experiences of the brutality of the Japanese were fundamental in helping us understand the changes made in Erskine ritual.

We know that the Japanese refused to acknowledge the Geneva Convention which allowed them to commit terrible acts of brutality in keeping prisoners from doing their duty and attempting to escape.  These acts we understand shaped the thinking of our founder   brothers in general, and Daniel in particular.

We know that many of the founding members of Lodge Erskine were ex forces, several of them serving their country during the war.  Some were held prisoner and the treatment of prisoners by the Japanese during world war two was particularly brutal.  This was due to the way they themselves were trained and treated, (the Bushido code) however this does not necessarily excuse the cruelty of this regime.  In these POW camps the treatment by guards left lasting impressions, ultimately shaping the Masonic ritual and the customs and practices of members of this fine lodge of ours.

While Erskine masons stand at the opening and closing of their lodge, it is the usual custom that they remain seated throughout the entire degree, even during the obligation.

We do not kiss the VSL, but salute in the manner prescribed by TLOE which is by cupping the thumb and fingers of the RH, placing them to the COTF and then returning them to the VSL.

The Lodge of Erskine has a sword bearer; the ceremonial Japanese sword which is from Singapore is on display while the lodge is open, but is not used in the ritual.

Finally, a hood-wink is used by the Lodge of Erskine in the first degree only – but only partially. It is not used in the second or the third.  We never use a cable tow in any of our ceremonies.  To find out why, ask a member of the Lodge.

It is only when we visit other lodges, and realise that other masons stand during obligations, or hear the ancient penalties delivered during the initiation of candidates that Erskine members discover just how unique their lodge is.

We are rightly proud of our traditions; we celebrate our differences, and welcome all brothers to our meetings.  All we ask is that anyone visiting us realises that we do not stand during the ritual, we do not discuss the ancient penalties and we do not kiss the VSL.

These brief historical highlights can be spoken about with some more detail by many of our longest serving members and past masters. We sadly recently lost your longest serving member, Bro. William Shackelton to the Grand Lodge above. Our longest serving past masters include, Jim Kininmonth, Dave Stark and James Glen all of whom are able to add more detail to our colourful and interesting history.

What you have just read are the edited highlights, the facts which are relatively uncontested.  There are many more facts waiting to be discovered.  If you have anything to add to our history please contact our secretary  or our RWM Bro. Iain Shirley. If you would like to have one of our members deliver a speech on our unique history at your lodge, please email our secretary at: