ISSUE 23, October 2007

Editorial
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Pro Grand Master : Quarterly Communication
Grand Secretary: Exciting times ahead
Historic: Telford - Mason extraordinary
Travel: Cruising round Sicily
Samaritan: Helping the distressed
Younger Masons: The common bond
Jersey: Local Masons guard the Duke
   Classic car run: Down memory lane
International: Joseph Brant - a Masonic legend
Universities Scheme: The way ahead
Grand Chancellor: The importance of external relations
Education: Events : Understanding the symbols of the craft
Specialist Lodges: Australia link
Royal Arch: Why join the Royal Arch?
Lbrary & Museum: Major award for Library & Museum
MQ Signs off
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity : NMSF : RMBI : RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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A portrait of Thomas Telford which hangs in the Institution of Civil Engineers
    Researching Thomas Telford, who had been such a well-known member of a Lodge in Shropshire, I was surprised that virtually nothing had been written about his Masonic activities.
     In A History of Craft Freemasonry in Shropshire, by Harold Templeton, there was just one paragraph, and no mention of him in the History of Salopian Lodge No. 262 by George Franklin. In Alexander Graham’s 1892 history of Shropshire Freemasonry he is only recorded in the list of members.
     Thomas Telford was born at Glendinning, near Dumfries in Scotland on 9 August 1757, in a shepherd’s cottage beside the Megget Water. His father John was a shepherd, but died aged 33 only two months after Thomas was born. It was to his mother, Janet that the responsibility fell to bring up Thomas on her own.
     As she was living in a tied cottage, six months after the death of her husband, Janet was forced to move with her infant son to a small cottage at the Crooks, situated in the Megget Valley, a mile below Glendinning. They occupied only one of the cottage’s two rooms, another family living in the other half.
     Life must have been extremely hard. Her brother and neighbours helped out financially, which allowed Thomas to attend the local parish school at Westerkirk. At a very early age, Thomas was required to work on neighbouring farms, herding cattle and sheep, living for weeks on end with shepherds in their lonely shelters on the hills, which shaped his character and built up his self-confidence.
     On leaving school, Thomas took up an apprenticeship to be a stonemason at Lochmaben, but his new master ill-treated him, so after a few months he was back living with his mother at the Crooks. Janet’s nephew Thomas Jackson came to the rescue and persuaded a Master Mason he knew in Langholm, Andrew Thomson, to take the boy as an apprentice. Telford gained great experience both as apprentice and a fellow of the Craft under Thomson’s guidance and tuition.
     The young Duke of Buccleuch succeeded to the family estates in the area and put in hand an extensive programme of improvements. Tracks were paved, bridges constructed to ford rivers and stone construction farm houses began to replace the older ones, which were made from thatch and mud. This was a time when even the town houses had mud walls and again this made work for the team of Thomson and Telford to reconstruct in stone.
     In Langholm, it was Andrew Thomson, with his fellow craft assistant, who built the bridge over the river Esk to connect the new town with the old. Telford’s Mason mark can be found on the bridge on the blocks in the western abutment. At this time he became a firm friend with a fellow Mason, Matthew Davidson, who was to play an important part in his life.
     Telford left his native Dumfriesshire at 23 and made his way to Edinburgh, where his talents had greater scope with the building of the noble Georgian streets and squares around Princes Street in the new town. Eighteen months later he travelled to London to find both fame and fortune.


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