From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
The Masonic Buildings
In 1904, Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 abandoned their small hall at the north east corner of Forrest Street and Glasgow Road junction after 27 years and looked to the future in building a new hall fitting for the 20th Century. Their old hall later became a pub called “The Livingstonian.”
Their search took them to the opposite south side of Glasgow Road, further along in a more central location and a prime plot of land was found situated on vacant ground. Following a false recollection by an old timer online, others have incorrectly copied and published that the building ‘was constructed in 3 stages’, but that’s certainly wrong. It was built all at once, in one stage, situated firmly between 2 existing buildings, i.e. Burleigh’s Hall and rooms at Church Street corner and the opposing building at Logan Street corner owned by the late James McHutchison, (which later housed the Priory Bar.)
During researching this book, it was discovered that John Roberts, an adjacent spirit merchant renting the public house at the corner of Logan Street, bought the corner property from the Trustees of James McHutchison in 1904. He then extended his owned Bar by building 2 shops and 2 houses eastwards up against the new Masonic Hall. John Roberts and the Masonic built their new buildings at the same time in 1904, filling up the gap between 2 older, existing buildings, completing the block, directly across from John Street.
The design being selected and all the trades lined up, work began early in 1904. It is possible the nearby Roberts family of joiners were involved in the timber work for this construction, their relative being John Roberts, perhaps assisted by William Adam, also a joiner and prominent member of the lodge.
By Saturday 21st May 1904, the foundation stone of the new Masonic Hall was ceremonially placed in position.
The hall was of impressive design. Whilst some of the building consisted of more traditional 2 storey tenements with shops on the lower floor, the hall was located on the upper floor and had a pitched, impressive frontage, similar to classic Greek designs. Constructed of stone with slate roof the building had 4 windows above the shops on the east and 3 large, tall stained glass windows above 2 further shops to the east. A flagpole was erected above the pitched roof. The building would have address 143 – 149 Glasgow Road although later Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 would acquire the Robert’s extension and eventually would own 143-155 Glasgow Road.
A year after trams opened, the placing of the first foundation in 1904 was by far the largest ever Masonic occasion in Blantyre. Amid great pomp and ceremony Bro Colonel R. King Stewart, Provincial Grand Master of the Middle Ward laid the stone in the traditional manner. The public and visitors assembled at Low Blantyre Public School, Glasgow Road, almost every town in the area was represented, Coatbridge, Holytown, Carluke Larkhall, 3 Lodges from Hamilton, the Major Ness Lodge from Burnbank, there were Lodges from Glasgow, Bathgate, Strathaven and others.
There were between 300 and 400 assembled in marching formation, and encouraged along by the Cameronian Pipe Band, the Blantyre Silver Band, and the Palace Colliery Band, they made their way to the old Masonic Hall at Forrest Street where a meeting had been going on, the office bearers from this meeting then joined the procession and they went their way up Herbertson Street, right into Auchinraith Road, up to High Blantyre Main Street and down Broompark Road into Stonefield, where they halted at the bottom, at a point known as Priory Place not far from their new hall. This was to allow the Provincial Grand Lodge Brethren to take the point in the march and lead them the rest of the way to the New Hall in Glasgow Road. With these members all wearing full regalia and the stirring music of the bands. The thousands of spectators were not disappointed and it was great spectacle.
On arrival at the new premises on Glasgow Road, the dignitaries took to the platform erected for the day’s proceedings. Already on the platform was the Stonefield Musical Association led by Brother W. Steven, and when silence was called for, the choir led in singing “God Save the King.” R.W.M. Nimmo then called on Bro. King Stewart to lay the foundation stone. For this endeavour he was presented with a silver trowel by Bro. W. Kerr, and a mallet by Bro. William Adam.
What followed was a very intricate Masonic ritual, but before the stone was finally lowered into place, a sort of time capsule was put in place. A jar or “bottle” as it was called containing newspapers of the day and other documents was meant to be sealed in the cavity behind the stone bar but by some strange omission the usual coins of the realm had been neglected. Major Ness, a prominent Blantyre figure, teacher and member of the Lodge came to the rescue and immediately offered a commemorative set of coins presented to him during the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, a great sacrifice as the coins were of value and could not be replaced. It is not known if the jar containing them was ever recovered when the old hall was demolished.
The rest of the day witnessed many speeches, anthems, prayers and Masonic ceremony. Because of all the symbolism connected with craft, this was a much more important day in the calendar of Lodge Livingstone 599 than the day when they entered their new premises for their first meeting almost a year after building began.
Costing about £2,400, the P.G.M. Colonel King Stewart consecrated the new hall on Friday 3rd February 1905. He was assisted that day by Brothers W. T. Hay, Master-Depute and Colonel Peter Spence, Substitute-Master, as well as other office-bearers of the Provincial Grand Lodge.
One of the prominent features of this new chamber was a window portrait of Dr. David Livingstone, who’s virtuous life was extolled by Colonel King Stewart at the laying of the foundation stone. That day the Colonel had said, “I don’t know if Dr Livingstone was a Mason, but this I do know, he followed out in his life what every Mason ought to do. His life was a noble example for us to follow, and we ought all to endeavour act up to his principal of doing good to our fellow men.”
Early Shops and Masonic Life
In 1905 the hall was managed by Robert Proudfoot who lived in the Gate Cottage on Station Road near the Blantyre Village Works. The first ever shop the largest in this building at 143 Glasgow Road was occupied by James Miller a bootmaker, of no relation to the Millar family who would own shops further west in later times. Then, to the west was the large wooden door, an entrance to the upper hall and rooms. The 2 shops at 147 and 149 Glasgow Road under the hall were James Greenhorn butchers and Gorden G Grieg Printers & Stationers, renting for £18 per annum.
This incredible photo from 1905 shows these opening businesses. On the right is James Houson grocers within John Roberts Building. In 1909 the following people held these positions. R.W.M., Bro. John B. Stewart; I.P.M. Bro. Thomas Watson; D.M., Bro, Alex. Reid; S.W., Bro. James Morris; J.W. Bro. John Donaldson; Secy., Bro. John Beecroft, 7 Auchenraith Colliery, High Blantyre; Treas., Bro. Donald Macleay, P.M. All Lodge meetings were held in Freemasons’ Hall. Regular meetings on 4th Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. Monthly meetings of the Hall Committee were held on 3rd Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
This hall was also used by the women’s guild throughout the 1910s and 1920s. Mrs Lamond was the patron of the guild, the hall being used for the meetings and parties. The hall had address 145 Glasgow Road.
Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 was renting out to entirely different shops during WW1. By 1915, James Miller had moved away, perhaps unable to compete with the nearby Co-op boot shop. Instead, at 143 was William Baxter & Son a fruiterer. At 145 the hall was being managed by Daniel J Sprott of 4 Jackson Street. 147 Glasgow Road with its gas lamp outside was no longer James Greenhorn butchers, but was still a butchers. In 1915, it was run by Gilbert Harper who would operate his business until his death in 1922. (his son would go on to establish Harper’s Garage in 1934 slightly to the west.) 149 still had the same use as a printers, but was by then run by Hugh Graham, who passed away in 1937.
By 1920, with the competition of public transport, William Baxter’s family would go on to run a bus company from their home at Church Street. Moving into 143 Glasgow Road was John Bowie, Fruiterer, renting for £23 per annum. John was a distant relative of the writer of this book. This address would go on to have a long tradition of being a family fruit and vegetable shop and florist.
Between 1921 and 1925, perhaps wishing to downsize, John Roberts sold his 2 shops and 2 houses above on Glasgow Road to the Masonic Lodge. The lodge would continue to rent out the shops and now owned addresses 143 to 155 Glasgow Road. In 1925, the Masonic properties were John Bowie fruiterer at 143, the hall at 145, Archibald Whittle butchers at 147 and Hugh Graham Printers at 149 under the hall. At 151 was the Commercial Bank with 2 homes above at 153 and James Mathieson Jewelers at the end at 155, next to Roberts Priory Bar. James lived above the shop.
On Saturday 5th February 1927, the Masonic Lodge celebrated their Jubilee (50 years) anniversary. Thomas Richardson RWM presided. The Provisional Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire was received. Bro Sir Robert King Stewart, the PRWGM, complimented the office bearers and brethren of Lodge Livingstone on their great success since their conception. 250 people attended and long service medals were given to T. Geddes and Alex Livingstone, member of the Lodge for 40 years. Z. Nimmo, A Russell and Alex Reid were also given long service medals.
In 1930, shops had changed slightly again with Mrs Marion Young’s fruit shop at 143 and Matthew Lennox a watchmaker at 155. Archibald Whittle was still at the butchers under the hall, now occupying both shops, one of which contained butchery machinery. 151 Glasgow Road was the Commercial Bank of Scotland.
In post WW2 years, the correct order of the shops is noted as Bowie’s at 143 Glasgow Road, who would come back to occupy the fruit shop. During the 1970’s people may remember the shop as Tandem Shoe Shop. The hall at 145 Glasgow Road and the butchers at 147 and 149 would become James Aitkenhead butchers then during the 1960’s, taken over by Davidson’s Butchers, a family who lived at Broompark Road in High Blantyre. The Commercial Bank at 151 became the Scottish Clydesdale Bank, which would later move further west along Glasgow Road.
The Masonic halls were subjected to compulsory purchase in 1977 and scheduled for demolition the following year, delayed slightly by politics.
Before the demolition the beautiful stained glass mosaic windows, which featured Livingstone and Major Ness were carefully removed and at great expense to the lodge were renovated to restore their beautiful colours.
Each window features opaque glass of many colours. Red, browns, yellow, greens and blues. Amongst the masonic icons were images of Major Ness and Dr David Livingstone. Some are long and tall and have more than a hint of early art-deco about them. They were then moved to the new Lodge at the bottom of Elm Street, a modern brick building far less impressive than the former Hall. Their time there from 1977 was to be short lived until the hall was sold in 1988 to make it into a restaurant and bar named Cobblers. The windows were again carefully removed and followed the lodge to their next premises at the Masonic Hall at High Blantyre, alongside Lodge 557.
The windows are currently in storage in the basement of the hall. Speaking of the windows, Bill Andrew, a member of this lodge added, “They were always considered one of the most beautiful temples in the area if not Scotland because of this. The Glasgow Road building had a special aura when you walked and you truly felt the history in the building (at least I did) and a big part of this was the windows.”
Pictured in late 1978 is the demolition of the Masonic Halls commencing with the Priory Bar at the far eastern end, directly across from the former Post Office. It was a final, brutal end to these iconic buildings. Demolition had been scheduled earlier than this, but was delayed by final planning objections, ironed out in Autumn 1978.
Today, on this ground between Church Street and Logan Street is a small patch of woodland, which has been rather fast growing in the last couple of decades. The land is currently vacant.