The Order was introduced into Scotland by "the sore saint," King David I. (1124-1153). James VI., when viewing the tomb of his great ancestor in Dumfermline, referred to him as "King David," when one of his nobles reminded him that it was "St. David," James replied "Aye, he was a sore saint for the crown." The first preceptory was established at Linlithgow, and in due course the Order was governed by a Grand Priory called the Grand Priory of Torphichen. The grand Prior had a seat in Parliament under the appropriate title of Lord St. John. He was by virtue of office a member of the Grand Chapter, or Supreme Council of the Sixth Language, a body which was presided over by the Grand Prior of England.
The Scottish Knights do not appear to have had the same zeal for crusading which characterized their Continental brethren. Probably the unsettled state of the country may account for their lack of zeal in this matter. When people have more than enough to do at home, they don't as a rule go abroad; and the civil wars of the thirteenth century kept the Scots very much at home. Yet they were not insensible to the spirit of the age, and they have left their mark on many places in the country. Thus Jordanhill, near Glasgow, has an interesting connection with the Crusaders. Some of the Knight Templars, after their return from Palestine, settled near Jordanhill at the village now called Temple. The general appearance of the district so reminded them of the country around the Jordan that they gave it the name of Jordanhill. A little west of Jordanhill is the village of Knightswood, which also owes its name to the Crusaders from its having been the forest in which the Knights hunted. Auchtermuchty, in Fifeshire, bears the name of a Knight of Malta. "My two uncles," says the late Captain Auchmuchty, of the 57th regiment, "Sir Samuel Auchmuchty, for sometime commander of the British forces in Dublin, and Sir Benjamin Auchmuchty, took much interest in the Knights of Malta. I have heard the latter frequently speak of them, and from traditions in my family, I know that our ancestors were originally Knights of Malta, and emigrated from there to Scotland. They founded a town in Scotland, called from them Auchtermuchty, and a sword is to this day preserved in our family, once the property of one of those Knights."
Again in the dying charge of King Robert the Bruce to Sir James Douglas, we have proof that the spirit of the Crusader was strong in that powerful monarchy and many of his followers. Calling Sir James to his bedside he thus addressed him, in the hearing of all who were present:--
"Ah, gentle knight," said the King, "I heartily thank you, provided you promise to do my bidding, on the word of a true and loyal knight."
"I do promise, my liege," replied Douglas, "by the faith which I owe to God, and to the order of Knighthood." "Now praise be to God," said the King, "for I shall die in peace, since I know that the best and most valiant knight of my kingdom will perform that for me which I myself could never accomplish."
Not far from his dead body the precious casket was found. His surviving knights took him up with reverent care. His flesh was separated from the bones, and buried in holy ground in Spain. His bones were brought home to Scotland, and buried in his own church of Douglas. The heart of Bruce, shrined in the silver casket, was deposited in the Abbey of Melrose. Living that heart had been all for Scotland, and none but Scottish earth could be its meet resting place.
From the death of Scotland's royal saint (David I.), in 1153 till the conversion to Protestantism of Sir James Sandilands in 1553, exactly 400 years, there is little to record. At what date the Grand Priory was established in Scotland is, we fear, lost in the antiquity of the ages; but we have it on record that Archibald, Magister of Torphichen, held the office of Grand Prior in 1251, and his successors appearing in the following order, all of whom received their appointment from the Grand Master:--
It was undoubtedly through the instrumentality of Grand Prior Sir James Sandilands--Lord St. John of that period, and the last holder of that long honoured title--that the reformation of the Order, which converted it from a popish confraternity to a Protestant fraternity in Scotland was effected. It certainly cannot be said of him that he hid his light under a bushel; when the light of the Sun of Righteousness penetrated his own soul, he reflected the brightness of that soul-saving light upon those around him. This distinguished reformer, liberator, and guardian of the regenerated Order, was the second son of Sir James Sandilands of Calder, and Marietta, daughter of Archibald Forrester of Corstorphine. He was initiated into the Order at Malta, and there received his knightly education under the eye of the Grand Master. He was recommended by Sir Walter Lyndsay, on his decease, as a person well qualified to succeed him in the office of Grand Prior of Scotland. He was accordingly appointed to that position by a bull of Grand Master Homedez, dated at Malta, April 2nd, 1547. He was an intimate friend of the great reformer John Knox, and had long been favourably disposed toward the reformers. By the persuasion of Knox he was led to publicly renounce the Roman catholic religion in 1553. M'Crie referring to him in his "Life of John Knox," states that--
On October 1st, 1557, he was still in communication with the Grand master and Chapter at Malta. Thus proving conclusively that his conversion to Protestantism, did not in any way affect his relations with the body.
On February 17th, 1559, we find him as one of the signatories to the offensive and defensive treaty between Queen Elizabeth of England, and the Lords of the Congregation, i.e., the Scottish Protestant party.
When on August 24th, 1560, the Scottish Parliament abolished popery, the work of the reformers had been so well done that only three men raised their voice against the proposal, namely, the Earl of Atholl and Lords Sommerville and Borthwick.--"The clergy spake never a word." Lord St. John was on this occasion selected by Parliament to go to France and lay their proceedings before the Queen (Mary) for ratification. It is said that upon that occasion the Cardinal of Lorraine sought to load him with reproaches for his conversion to the Protestant religion, which step was, however, ably defended by that chivalric Knight to the utter confusion of the wily Cardinal.
The manner in which he carried out this rather delicate task, is best shown by the manner in which the Queen appreciated his services on this and other important occasions. On January 24th, 1563, we again find the Protestant Grand Prior and the Popish Queen face to face. This time he went at the request of the Grand Priory, to hand over to the Queen the lands and possessions of the Order, together with the dignity of Lord St. John, which he held as chief of the Order; and this for the purpose of freeing himself and his Knights from certain obligations to their Sovereign--a task which few men would care to take in hand.
The Queen accepted them in the most gracious manner, and in order to show her great respect for the man who thus divested himself of the rank and title of a peer, she returned to him as a personal gift the lands of Torphichen, and at the same time re-created him a peer of the realm under the title of Lord Torphichen.
From this time forward the Order has been separate from the State, and therefore from under the eye of the historian, a circumstance which forces us to be content with side-lights being shed across our path, while other matters are under review, until we again come into the full light of documentary evidence.
The first matter which presents itself to the mind of the thoughtful companion, is, did Sir James Sandilands resign the office of Grand Prior when he gave up the local dignity of Lord St. John, or did he retain office till his death in 1596? Some writers have assumed that he resigned, but we fail to see where the circumstances justify the assumption. The object of giving up the lands, etc., of the Order, was beyond doubt that the relations of the Order to the Crown would be that of civilians. Had the Grand Prior intended to resign, his renunciation of the Order would have secured the end in view without risking the displeasure of the Queen. His mission to the Queen was no personal matter, he was acting for the Order as a whole with a view to their continued existence apart from the State, and they obtained the object of their desire. The Order continued to exist, and whether Lord Torphichen continued to hold the office of Grand Prior or not, he positively did continue to be leader in the Protestant cause, where he led the same men as he led as Grand Prior. We have never seen any valid reason put forward as to why he should have resigned, while there are many reasons why he should have retained office: but we are content to rest our case on the fact that all the trouble he took in gaining release from State control, would have been superfluous had he intended to resign. We therefore conclude that he retained office till his death, on 29th March, 1596.
That the Order continued in a publicly recognised manner is shown by the fact that about the year 1572, David Seaton with a portion of the Scottish Knights separated themselves from the then Protestant fraternity. He retired to Germany where he died in 1591, the remnant of the seceders ultimately finding a shelter under the wing of the first lodge of Scottish Masons at Kilwinning, Ayrshire, where they introduced the Orders of St. John, which are still given in connection with (Blue) Masonry. We again get a glimpse of the Order in 1643, when it was reintroduced into Ireland for the protection of Protestants who had suffered so severely by the Irish rebellion of 1641. This was the Second grand Priory of Ireland, and be it noted, founded and established by the Grand Priory of Scotland. That this branch was still in existence in 1795 when the Loyal Orange institution was founded, is shown by the fact that at a very early date the Orange and the Black had become inseparably connected. In some cases separate warrants were held, while in others certain degrees were given under an Orange warrant, and those wishing to travel further had to apply to a Black Lodge. These facts point to two conclusions, 1st, That the Orange was a popular endeavour of the Knights of St. John to accomplish the object for which the Order had been re-established in 1643, namely:--The protection of Protestants, and is therefore the natural offspring of the Ancient Order. 1st, That the Knights of St. John were very lax in the performance of their duty when they allowed their degrees to be given under the jurisdiction of a body actually free from their control, although a friendly body, and it may be a body founded by them. That this was a blunder is now recognised and the practice forbidden. While endeavouring to be just in our criticism we must not forget to be generous. It was this blunder which brought about that close relationship which has kept the older Order alive, and without which it assuredly would long ago have shared the fate of the continental branches.
We will now turn our attention to documentary evidence; for this purpose we have had free access to all documents held by the Imperial Parent Grand Black Encampment of the Universe. Strange as it may appear, the oldest of these are of Irish origin, but before looking into the more ancient of them we will note one of semi-modern date. The report of the Third Grand Priory (or Lodge) of Ireland, or to be more correct, the report of a Committee to Grand Lodge on 11th April, 1850, re-- The newly instituted Grand Black Chapter of Ireland. In the report they refer to their own origin and antiquity coming through the Scottish reformers, and they assert, that--"The Order never was dissolved and that they held the chain of transmission which was perfect in all its links." Here we have an authoritative declaration of the unbroken continuity of the Order, from the time the political history of the country lost touch with the Order, until the time of giving their report, i.e. to 1850; and from the tenour of the report the Order was in a fully organized condition in 1807. This latter is implied, not stated, but the former general statement covers the period, so that we may not distress ourselves about the implication. We have before us while we write a very old copy of Rules belonging to the Royal Black Association (of Ireland), they are undated, but they must have been compiled prior to the year 1820, and may have been compiled as far back as 1795, which would only have necessitated a change of the monarch's name; which is common practice at the death of a monarch. In its "Prefatory Observations" it sets forth that "It should be understood that this Order is entirely detached from that of Orangemen (with the exception that no person unless he has passed the Degrees of Orange and Purple, can be admitted), and it ought not to be supposed, that it entrenches on the rights, privileges, or immunities of that system. It is calculated to instruct and inform those who are desirous of obtaining a knowledge of Divine Truth, and Sublime Mysteries, and to cultivate that harmony which should exist amongst true Protestants."
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