A Toast by Bro. W. James Hilditch
at the 250th Anniversary Celebrations
of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire
To be invited to propose the principal Toast on such a happy occasion is a very great honour, and I am especially conscious of the privilege and responsibility which you have entrusted to me, particularly when I see the great number of distinguished brethren who have joined with you and the members of your Province on this great day.
No Toast is ever easy. I had thought about highlighting some of the great events in the very distinguished history of this Province but that is quite superfluous bearing in mind the quite superb history of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire which has been prepared. That will be a wonderful source of reference in decades to come when this Toast of mine is but a distant memory.
I felt very strongly however that such an important Toast should have a very distinct theme, because a theme is a great help to sincerity and hopefully makes recollection that much easier.
But what kind of theme is appropriate for such a distinguished Province? I thought of Friendship, which is here in abundance. I considered Ability, which is self-evident. I wondered about Popularity, because the leaders of this special Province rank among the best loved and most highly respected in Scotland. Any of these would have served me well as a theme.
However, as I was gathering my thoughts, I looked at the map to see the geographical spread of the Lodges in this Province. It then occurred to me that this inland Province had a very surprising feature, which perhaps many of you might not have appreciated. The vast majority of the Lodges in the Province of Stirlingshire are in communities where water has played a big part in history and development.
If you look at the map you will be surprised how many communities, where Lodges meet, sit on well known waterways - for example the rivers Forth, Carron and Devon. Other communities straddle, or lie beside, smaller waters, which are nevertheless important in their own way - such as the Endrick.
Communities which are not directly on a river have benefited from the construction of canals —Falkirk itself for example. And the newest Lodge in the Province took for its name that most beautiful and vast stretch of inland water, Loch Lomond. As if that wasn’t enough one of your Lodges even chose as its name that gracious creature of the salty seas, the Dolphin.
The River Forth runs through virtually the entire Province but, to my mind, that great waterway does not divide the Province — it unites north and south. A third of the Lodges lie to the north of the river and two thirds to the south. How appropriate then that this Provincial Grand Lodge should have participated at the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Kincardine Bridge.
The River Forth has brought prosperity to communities such as Grangemouth, Alva and Stirling. It has allowed the development of trade with far off places. And so water has been responsible for bringing many into this part of Scotland, and for allowing many to go from here into the wider world.
That strikes quite a chord when we think of the achievements of this Provincial Grand Lodge. Over the many years of its existence it has encouraged strangers to feel welcome and those brethren who have had to leave their homes here have gone further afield, well prepared by the labours of this Provincial Grand Lodge to take the message of brotherly love, relief and truth into the wider world.
Water is a traditional source of power, which is very apt in this Province where many mills were water-driven. Again that is a very apt concept for this Toast, because a Provincial Grand Lodge is also a source of power but, like the mills, that power can only be used effectively if it is properly harnessed and put to good use. All of us here today know beyond any doubt that the power in this Provincial Grand Lodge is controlled in a most splendid way and all of us can see that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire has applied its power very effectively and for the great good of all over whom it holds sway.
Water gives pleasure - whether it be to those like myself who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to persuade the wise brown trout to abandon caution - invariably without success - or whether it be those who simply love the countryside and derive great contentment from a quiet stroll by the waters edge. Again, how appropriate a comparison for this Provincial Grand Lodge which, unquestionably, has brought great happiness to a very great number of brethren over the long period of its happy and useful life.
Indeed I find it difficult to think of any aspect of water which is not well exemplified by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire. For example water is essential to life itself - no animal or vegetable can survive without it. In the Masonic world the twenty three Daughter Lodges in this Province are likewise dependent on their Provincial Grand Lodge, not so much for the gift of life but for the ready assistance, guidance and encouragement which Provincial Grand Lodge gives to the Daughter Lodges as they make their way in their Masonic lives.
Stirlingshire is a unique Province - almost a marriage of the Highlands and the Lowlands. Scotland is blessed with rivers, lochs, burns and streams in abundance and the true water of Scotland is transparently clear, pure and good. I can think of no finer comparison on this great day than to liken the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire to the best, of Scottish water - pure, transparent and good.
Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, your Provincial Grand Lodge is transparent in as much as we, your friends from the Sister Provinces, can see in a very clear, unclouded way the great happiness, friendship and enjoyment which you have here, which unites your Daughter Lodges together and which manifests itself in the obvious happiness which you and your Office-bearers derive from the discharge of your duties.
Freemasonry is pure and therefore, having been entrusted with the responsibility for the supervision of Freemasonry in this special part of Scotland, the Provincial Grand Lodge likewise inherits this purity. Purity in words and actions should ever be the hallmark of the Freemason and you and your brethren certainly set a glowing example in that respect.
You know, brethren, when I began thinking about this Toast I knew that it would not be easy but when I found that I could use water as a very simple theme finding the right words became much less of a problem and so brethren I would remind you that this most distinguished, caring, charitable and respected Provincial Grand Lodge displays so many of the characteristics of the simple element of water - it promotes communication, develops happiness, brings pleasure, sustains life and reflects that great purity which we as Freemasons constantly seek.
And, brethren, as a final thought let me share this observation with you. The calm water of the loch is nature’s original mirror, in which we see perfect reflections of the features all around. That is what a Provincial Grand Lodge should be. It should reflect perfectly the features which are all around - it should reflect the character of each of its Daughter Lodges throughout the four corners of the Province so that, by its very existence, it brings into close harmony and friendship all of the Lodges within its care, whether they be neighbouring communities or at the extremities of such a wide-spread Province.
Brethren in that respect, were there no other, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire has excelled. It displays everything which should be reflected and, by its ever-increasing achievements, this great and inspiring Provincial Grand Lodge sets a wonderful example for all of the Sister Provincial Grand Lodges to follow. This Province has prospered by its connection with water and, like the pure water of the Scottish streams, may the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire continue to run clear, pure and untroubled for centuries yet to come.
Brethren, this is a great occasion and we celebrate a wonderful achievement in the life of this Province. I therefore ask that you now rise and drink a happy Toast to the continued success, health and happiness of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire - Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, to your Provincial Grand Lodge.