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A Wonderful Historical Recap of Bro. Robbie Burns





The pictorial/word essay below of our Brother Robert Burns, is of particular significance to our lodge for two reasons:  (1)  a signed print hangs in our library.   Presumably, a presentation of the print was made on February 27, 1897 from P.D.D.G.M. M. C. Dobic to Bro. John Stadden and (2) Bro. Doug Gregory should be thanked for sharing this bit of Masonic history and more importantly Thunder Bay history with me. 


Thanks again Douglas Gregory for your commitment to our fraternity.




Bro. Craig Wolverton, Secretary

Shuniah Lodge No. 287 G. R. C. 



Robert Burns The Freemason


In 1773, a group of Brethren broke away from the Lodge St. James Tarbolton Kilwinning No.178, forming Lodge St. David No.174, the Lodge's were reunited in 1781, 9 days before Burns' first degree.


Robert Burns was initiated an Entered Apprentice in Lodge St. David, Tarbolton on 4th. July 1781, at the age of 23.


Passed to the degree of Fellow Craft, and Raised to the degree of Master Mason on 1st. October 1781. The Lodge record book, according to James Mackay's "Burns" reads as follows:


"Robert Burns in Lochly was passed and raised, Henry Cowan being Master, James Humphrey Senior Warden, and Alexander Smith Junior Warden, Robert Wodrow Secretary and James Manson Treasurer, and John Tannock Taylor and others of the brethren being present."

Robert Burns - Freemason's Apron


Following another split, Burns went with Lodge St. James, and on 27th. July 1784, he was elected Depute Master of the Lodge at the age of 25. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge was Sir John Witefoord, but it appears that this was somewhat of an honorary position, and the running of the Lodge fell to the Depute Master. So whilst Burns was not actually installed as Worshipful Master of a Lodge, by modern definition he did fulfill the roll.


Burns was faithful to the Lodge, attending regularly and 3 minutes were in his handwriting. A further 29 minutes were signed by him and also show when he changed his name from Burness to Burns.


On 1st. March 1786, Robert's brother Gilbert received his 2nd and 3rd. degrees; both Gilbert and Robert signed their last names as Burns.


Statue of Burns wearing his apron


In October 1786 he was made an honorary member of Lodge Kilmarnock Kilwinning St. John, and wrote "Masonic Song" in honour of the Lodge and its Worshipful Master, Major William Parker.


In February 1787, Burns was reputedly made the Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2, Edinburgh. Whether he was or was not Inaugurated as Poet Laureate is not a debate I want to go into here, suffice to say, in this age he is acknowledged as such.


Burns was exalted a Companion in the Holy Royal Arch Degree in May 1787 at St. Ebbe's Lodge, Eyemouth. The Companions unanimously agreed to admit Burns without paying the necessary fees, as they were greatly honoured to have such a great poet and man like Burns as part of their chapter. Incidentally, such an act is now prohibited by the Laws and Constitutions of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland.


When Burns moved to Dumfries, he joined Lodge St. Andrew on 23rd. June 1788, and once again, showed a great enthusiasm for his Lodge. In 1792, he was elected and served a one-year term as Senior Warden . This was the last Masonic office he held before his death in 1796.