Early History

The elements of Freemasonry were at Cochno long before Antoninus put his legions to the building of forts upon the walls of  Agricola and his men with skill in the crafts and sciences plied their trades and preached their faith long before the “liberators” of Rome sought to convert the ignorant “barbarians.”  The evidence of their genius is there, after two thousand years and more, in the uncovered  Ceremonial Stone of the Druid Temple. The discovery - or at least the latest uncovering of the stone is generally attributed to the late Dr. James Harvey of  Edinburgh who was minister at Duntocher East United Free Church toward the end of the nineteenth century.  Antiquarians of our own time have interpreted thecup and ring” and other markings on the rock and deduced from the various signs and symbols something of the ritual and ceremonies practised in the Druidical festivals.  The establishment of the importance of the Equinox in the Druid beliefs serves as a vital link with our Degree stations in Freemasonry and the ritual which was founded upon practical and material experience in the dawn of history has its counterpart in our practical cult whose essence is its spiritual foundation.

The transition from "faith in the material" to "faith in the spiritual" is perhaps the greatest development in man's relationship to the cosmos and the comparison of the “way of life” of the Druid era and the Christian era provides us with an interesting corollary. To the Druids the periods of the year when marked change took place (such as at the Spring or Autumn Equinoxes or with the full-blossoming of the Summer Solstice) called for celebration and conformation of their faith in the cycle of the seasons and the light giving and food producing elements of the sun. Faith that had for its inspiration hunger and thirst satisfied.  Spring with its new mantle of green, fresh from the womb of the sun in the N.E. Corner ;  Summer’s high noon clothing the earth with a mantle of blossom in myriad hues, giving promise of the abundance of  Autumn beneficence - and ever the sun in his course the “Giver of  All.”  

Out of that concrete satisfaction of the physical, developed the abstract reasoning of the spiritual, and a “ greater than the sun” was sought.  The N.E. Corner  of literal hunger and thirst became the metaphorical craving for the spiritual N.E.C.  The Great Architect took control and his Truth lay hidden in His Mysteries of Day and Night ; His sowing and Reaping ; His  Foundation and Superstructure and man’s mind became the power within man to explore the Infinite!  The search for truth was on and the way was lit by that cross which is the Torch of Truth - or a Cross in Calvary! 

Indeed Freemasonry came early to Cochno! 

Wherever we find a “bend in the burn” we can be sure that there a man rested. A lonely wayfarer halted to refresh himself in the cooling stream ; a monk establishing his cell or chapel on the bend nearby ; the smith welding a “couter” or vetting  a horse by the healing water of the burn ; the miller grinding corn by the stream’s energy ; the hamlet nestling cosily beside the friendly waters ; and in the  fullness  of time a city sits astride the all-providing burn- piped  now in a concrete monstrosity , where never the sun  can glint upon its waters - a city that has forgotten its parent brook. 

The city may rise to greatness, as it will most certainly crumble to dust , but aye the “bend in the burn” will remain. 

Cochno’s twin burns - uniting where Duntocher and Hardgate meet - find their way to the sea as Duntocher burn at Dalmuir and on their banks, amongst the glory of the hills, grew and prospered a goodly number of hamlets.        

Long ere the industrial age came to the valley where men founded industries where power was  cheapest - at the bend in the burn. Men whose industry was pure craftsmanship. Awkward tools (to us) they used and rough materials but love of their craft and skill in their handiwork produced the goods their simple demands required. Free in mind and fervent in loyalty to their faith and their country, they were the founders of a race that carried its craftsmanship, its faith and its loyalty to the ends of the earth and earned the respect of all men.  

On the maps of Cochno - and the woods near to the entrance to Edinbarnet estate - is a mound known as Covenanters Pulpit, where, doubtless, in the stormy times of religious oppression, our forefathers met, under due guard, to give thanks to “The Great Architect” for the blessings they enjoyed. 

In the immediate neighbourhood (“at each bend in the burn“) small hamlets were established, each with its own particular craft and all crafts inter-related and complementary to the other. Each bore biblical names such as Capernaum, Beershebaha, Nazareth, etc. 

With the advance in the science of engineering, industry became more centralised and Faifley, Hardgate, Glenhead and Braehead developed at the expense of older hamlets further north.  

Out of Glenhead and Braehead, toward the end of the 18th century and in the early 19th century, the brothers  Dunn from Brigton in Glasgow, created  Duntocher (Dunn’s  tocher)  and established a thriving warping and weaving industry which reached its peak of six mills fully employed in the 1830’s. 

Romance and tragedy are in the old records, prosperous and happy communal life with depression and near want, but over all a beneficent watch was kept by the founder brothers over the welfare of their people. Duntocher stands as probably the first experiment in the founding of a model self-contained village community. The main or central part was built in the form of a square, bounded on the north by Main Street (now Dumbarton Road) on the east by William Street (the elder brother was William) on the south by New Street and on the west by Old Street (the link between Braehead & Glenhead).  In the centre was a green field (Fore Park) preserved strictly as a communal bleaching green, while the village school (latterly to become the Public Hall) occupied a site on the south side of Fore Park.  

No doubt Fore Park was also used as a forum by the unrepentant weavers who took part in the Radical Weavers Strikes of the early 19th century - a purpose it has served many times and for various “causes” in more recent history. Incidental to the weavers strikes just mentioned, there is on record in the files of the Glasgow Herald the story of the occasion when the strikers barricaded themselves in one of the mills (a stay-in strike) and defied the authorities who were forced, eventually, to despatch a company of militia from the county town to take the mill by force. The sequel is interesting. The ringleaders were arrested, marched to Dumbarton and charged with high treason. After a lengthy trial, before one of the foremost judges of the time, they were admonished! Whether the eloquence of the accused, or the broadmindedness and tolerance of the judge prevailed, we are not told, but the “sentence” does not seem to “fit the crime”. The “revolutionaries” weapons (pikes and such like) were confiscated and the forge where they were manufactured closed down by order of the Government. 

The forge was a thriving concern for legitimate business on the banks of Duntocher Burn near Duntiglennan. The “weapons” would be a profitable sideline or a sympathetic gesture.  

During the first quarter of the 19th century the district reached its zenith and the commercial world knew of Duntocher and its products. It kept pace with its rivals in developing the latest machinery for weaving and its allied crafts; education went hand in hand with a keen cultural urge; and an ideal communal spirit was engendered. If (as some records say) there really were twenty-two “places of refreshment”  within the boundaries the real spiritual life of the people was well catered for also there being three well-filled churches in which some of the foremost preachers of the time “waggin’ their paws”. 

Of the actual circumstances attending the formation of the first Freemason Lodge at Duntocher there is no accurate record. We can safely deduce, however, that the subject of Freemasonry would come into many a conversation when we recollect that there would be weavers from Bridgeton, in Glasgow, who would follow the Brothers Dunn; weavers who would most likely be members of Lodge The Bridgeton and Glasgow Shamrock and Thistle No 275 (what a romantic title with an international mix up - and Glasgow in second place!) and dyers and printers in Faifley from Vale of Leven, members of Lodge Bonhill & Alexandria St. Andrews R.A. No. 321 who, together would form Lodge Duntocher and Faifley Union No.332. The Lodge grew and prospered and in a very short time a Masonic Hall was built on the most commanding site (gifted by one of the members) overlooking the village from the north. The great work of the craft was carried on very successfully for a number of years until calamity befell the hill villages. 

The romance of local legend tinges the calamity with its bitterest element - greed of gain. From that legend it appears that on the deaths of the Brothers Dunn - who had remained bachelors (though one of them sought the hand of a laird’s daughter) the estate and the industries were split up among the nearest relatives. They being tied down, it is said, by a clause in the will  forbidding the entrance of the railway, then developing westward from Glasgow, decided to make what they could elsewhere and abandoned the local industries, thereby depriving the people of their livelihood. 

So says the legend.  The more likely reason is that the greater industrial era of steam was developing in the valley by the Clyde. Shipbuilding yards and factories were opening up, railways were spreading their distance devouring tentacles in all easy and convenient directions. The lines to Dumbarton, Balloch and Helensburgh were in course of construction and doubtless coming events cast their gloomy shadows upon the enterprise of the new owners at Duntocher. The fact remains that following the development of the railways a serious depression arose and completely swamped the local industries. Grass grew upon the New Street and the few remaining villagers found employment in the valley.  Many followed their own trades and migrated to neighbouring towns and counties among whom would be some of the original Bridgeton weavers or their families, who returned there, taking with them the Charter of Lodge Duntocher and Faifley Union No.332, the title of which became in time Lodge Duntocher, Faifley and Kelvin Dock, No.332, and meeting in Maryhill. Later still, and when the meeting had gradually gravitated  toward the heart of the city of Glasgow, the title became Lodge Union Glasgow No.332 which it still is. 

In the present Lodge Union’s handbook there is a record of the founding of the original Lodge Duntocher and Faifley Union, which for the present history is worth quoting:-  

"Lodge Duntocher & Faifley Union No.332 was instituted on 7th November, 1831. The first meeting of the lodge was held on 30th November, 1831 when the following office-bearers were appointed :- Master, Robert Adamson ; D.M. Robert Parker ; S.M. George Dushette ; S.W. Walter Dempster ; J.W. Thomas Service ; Secy. Joseph Cumming ; Treas. John Duncan ; Chap. James Watson ; S.D. John Chalmers ; J.D. Thomas Brown ; Stews. Thomas Sherrington & George Cathcart ; St. B. Robert McKay ; Tyl. James Downie.  A deputation from Lodge Partick St. Mary’s No.117 performed the consecration ceremony on New Years Day 1834, (the three year lapse between inauguration and consecration is not explained).  On 24th Sept,1835, the Lodge laid the foundation stone of Duntocher Parish Church. Bro., John Cross Buchanan, a local landowner, member and patron of the Lodge and P.G.M. of Dunbartonshire in 1839, gifted a free site for a hall and gave permission to take as many stones as required to build the hall from Auchentoshan Quarry. The hall was duly built and the Masonic emblem appeared upon the keystone above the entrance.” 

We can sense the enthusiasm and the spirit that accompanied the work and realise the great bond that held the thriving community together. 

Yet within ten years the calamity had befallen Duntocher and the charter - which might have been ours - set out upon its wanderings. 

Housing did not keep pace with developing industry and extending railway in the valley and we can understand how the now vacant property in Duntocher was readily snapped up. In a very short space of time a complete change in the types and habits of the population took place, the imported Irish labour superseding the conservative skilled craftsmen. 

As the industries grew and the incomers settled down, the need for a place of worship for their faith asserted itself and the abandoned Masonic Hall presented itself as a ready made meeting place. The building so recently consecrated as a temple for the study of the liberal arts and sciences, became the first Roman Catholic Chapel in the area.  Truly a queer twist in the sheen of  fates yarn.  

The square and compasses, adorning the keystone of the door (and maybe the pride of some local craftsman then living) were erased, yet by some uncanny alchemy the stone showed a freshness compared with its fellows until the whole fabric was destroyed by the “blitz” of 1941.

Attempts were made throughout the nineteenth century to revive the local industries. New owners came along and opened the old mills but in the meantime improved methods of production had developed in the more populous centre and the original craftsmen could not be induced to return. Less specialised work with probably a greater return in wages ; the glamour of the developing townships in which they were taking a more personal interest, proved too great a lure; and in the early years of this century (except for a belated revival of one mill at Hardgate) the original industries passed from the villages.

Concurrently with the decline of the hill villages, Yoker (at one Burn’s bend) in the east of the valley and Dalmuir (at Duntocher Burn’s last bend) in the west, were fast developing towards one another, and, in the barren lands in between  (Barns O’Clyde - where no burn runs or bends) the sprouting shipyards and factories, with their complimentary housing schemes, evolved into Clydebank. “Cochno and Barns” is the title of the lands granted, in the sixteenth century by the Abbot of Paisley, to one Claude Hamilton for services rendered to the country. The Barns are less barren today! 

Through the depopulation of the villages, and the departure of the Charter, Freemasonry fell upon lean times. 

Lodge St. John Dalmuir, No.543 was founded in this period and supplied the wants of those still interested in the craft in the neighbourhood.  Milngavie our near neighbours in the east - somewhere near our own age and habits, and - with something of our experience of prosperity and adversity followed with Lodge Ellangowan No.716. Clydebank, the mushroom growth of tough citizens fast becoming a cohesive community asserted their adult status by producing Lodge Barns O’Clyde No.1018, while not to be outdone by a presumptuous youngster, ancient Yoker brought about Lodge Spiers of Elderslie No.1102, and in the full bloom of its parenthood Clydebank begat Lodge Clydebank No.1234. 

Meantime Duntocher, Faifley, Hardgate and Garscadden (the transient mining village on our eastern boundary) had become more or less residential areas for the industries in the valley. Transport was still by “shank’s nag” and a semblance of the old communal spirit remained. Local affairs were zealously guarded against the incursion of  valley policies and interference. 

Our physical insularity was shattered when conveyances plied between the villages and Clydebank but our spiritual conservation still prevailed to a degree. It followed, therefore, (though without conscious thought but probably because our promoters roots were there) that, when the re-awakening of Freemasonry took place in the early 1920’s, we should look toward our oldest neighbours - Dalmuir and Milngavie - for sponsorship to found Lodge Cochno Duntocher, No.1304. The name was a happy choice. It honoured a Claude Hamilton of Cochno and Barns (P.M.1018 and a founder member of 1304) it perpetuated the cradle of Freemasonry and of thoughts of these glorious hills and fertile fields where the Druids of ancient times taught, by sign and symbol, faith in the works of man and the fellowship of “something” beyond his fashioningWe are a propitious link in the chain of evolution. 

The Charter was granted 1st February, 1923, and the Lodge consecrated by the Rev. T. Angus Morrison, P.G.M. of Dunbartonshire, on 7th  March of the same year, meetings being held in Duntocher Parish Church Hall. 

The 78 Founder Members were drawn from nineteen Lodges under the Scottish Constitution and the first Office-Bearers were:- 

R.W.M. Rev John Duncanson P.M. 716 ;D.M. Robert Orr ; S.M. John Adamson (one of whose forebearers was master of the original Lodge Union No.332) ; S.W. Thomas Cameron ; J.W. John Donaldson ; Secy. James Donaldson ; Treas. John MacAuley ; Chap. Hugh Campbell ; S.D. John Jackson ; J.D. George Fairservice ; Arch. Archibald Prentice ; Jew. Alexander Lyon ; B.Bear. John Gordon ; D.oC. Alexander Green ; Swd. Bear. Robert Chalmers ; Bnr. Bear. Robert McFarlane ; Dir. of Mus. Robert Boyd ; Org. Daniel Hart ; Mars. William Young ; Sen. Stwd. William Tait ; Jun. Stwd. Samuel Ballantyne ; I.G. Thomas Moore ; Tyl. Alexander Handyside. 

The early history of the Lodge is a record of hard work and unbounded enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and love of the craft in the minds of three men whose day left little time for relaxation but who, nevertheless, found time in their evenings to stir up a like enthusiasm in others.  

No record of those early days would be complete without mention of the Rev. Andrew Duncanson, George Fairservice and John Donaldson, whose doggedness brought together the nucleus of the Lodge.

As children respect their parents so is it our duty to remember the Founders of our Lodge; the brethren who wrought with such harmony and zeal that, in the second year of its existence the Lodge had the funds necessary to buy a freehold site for building at Hardgate. Though many pieces of land were offered and their merits examined it was foreseen that any extension of Clydebank must be north-eastward and this site would ultimately be in the centre of a popular area. 

By one of those queer coincidences the site has always been known- and is so described in our title deeds - as Mason’s Land (Mason being the one-time owners). 

The Lodge did not escape the repercussions of the unsettled world conditions in the 1930’s culminating in the World War of 1939-45 and with the destruction of our meeting place (Parish Church Hall ) in the air attack of 13th & 14th March, 1941, all our efforts of the previous years seemed doomed to failure and frustration. 

Like the phoenix of the fable, however, the spirit of our heritage arose from the literal ashes of wanton destruction and gradually regained its former vigour. 

The will to build a home of our own has always been our ambition as the healthy state of our building fund testifies. It will be for those who hold the “reins of government” in the Lodge ever to keep before them the obligation imposed by our founders to build and to maintain upon our own site at Hardgate, an edifice worthy of the first oracle associations of the Lodge in the district and in the real traditions of Universal Freemasonry. 

 

3/9/1954  James Donaldson P.M.