Chapter 18

The Second Sinclair Charter (1628)


Twenty-seven years have passed since the issuance, in 1601, of a Charter pre­pared for submission to William, Lord of Rosslyn. William Schaw, Supervisor General of Works for King James VI of Scotland – soon to become the new King of England – died in 1602. 

The King himself left the throne for the Eternal East in 1625.

Since then the Masons of Scotland were, as it seems, orphans of any moral and spiritual corporate authority. As to the throne, it was now occupied by King Charles I. (1600-1649) who was, in London, facing political problems greater than those arising from the management of a Masonic Fraternity. 

This provided the reason for this meeting held in Edinburgh.

The document - If the Charter of 1601, drafted by two appointed Secretaries, was relatively easy to read and understand, the Charter of 1628 is often inconsistent, not to say sometimes “nonsensical”. 

Repetitions do abound, while punctuation is completely absent.

It belongs to the translator to find a meaning in sentences that are almost incomprehensible in themselves. The Scottish Mason of the early seventeenth century could neither read nor write.

At first glance, the interest of this document appears limited; yet it fits perfectly in the history of Scottish Masonry: in 1736, we may meet with a certain Sir William St. Clair, Baron of Rosslyn, Grand Master of Masons of Scotland with a hereditary Charge, whose resignation will create the Grand Lodge of Scotland. 

Modern transcription from Scottish English.

The Text

Be it known to all men by these present letters, 

We, the Deacons, Masters, Freemen of the Masons and Hammermen (1) within the kingdom of Scotland, that whereas from age to age it has been observed among us and our predecessors, that the Lords of Roslin have ever been patrons and protectors of us and our privileges, as our predecessors have obeyed, reverenced and acknowledged them as patrons and protectors, from where they had letters of protection and other rights granted by his Majesty’s most noble progenitors of worthy memory, which with sundry others of the Lords of Roslin, his documents being consumed and burned in a flame of fire within the castle of Roslin in anno... 

The consumption and burning of them being clearly known to us and our predecessors, deacons, Masters, and free men of the said vocations, and our protection of the same and privileges thereof by negligence and slothfulness being likely to pass forth from us, so that not only would the Lords of Roslin be deprived of their just right, but also our whole Craft would have been destitute of a patron, protector and overseer, which would engender many imperfections and corruptions, both among ourselves and in our Craft, and give occasion to many persons to conceive evil opinion of us and our Craft, and to leave off many and great enterprises of policy, which would be undertaken, if our great misbehavior were allowed to go on without correction. 

For remedy of this and for keeping of good order among us in all time to come, and for advancement of our Craft and vocation within his Highness’s Kingdom of Scotland and furthering of policy, therein until the greater part of our predecessors for themselves and in the name of and on behalf of our brethren and craftsmen, with express advice and consent of William Schaw, Master of the Work, to his Highness lately deceased father of worthy memory all in one voice agreed, consented, and subscribed that William Sinclair of Roslin, father to Sir William Sinclair now of Roslin, for himself and his heirs should purchase and obtain at the hands of his Majesty liberty, freedom, and jurisdiction upon us, and our predecessors, deacons, Masters, and freemen of the said vocation, as patrons and judges to us and all the professors thereof within the said kingdom, from whom they had power and commission, so that they and we might thereafter acknowledge him and his heirs as patrons and judges under our Sovereign Lord, without any kind of appeal or declination from their judgement forever, as the said agreement subscribed by the said Master of the Work, and our predecessors at more length and proportion. 

In which office privilege and jurisdiction over us and our said vocation the said William Sinclair of Roslin ever continued until his going to Ireland, where he presently remains, and since which [time] of his departure from this realm there are very many corruptions and imperfections risen and engendered both among ourselves and in our said vocation, in defect of a patron and overseer over us, and the same, so that our said vocations are altogether likely to decay. 

And now for safety thereof we having full experience of the ever good skill and judgement, which the said William Sinclair, now of Roslin, has in our Craft and vocation, and for reparation of the ruins and many corruptions and enormities done by unskillful persons therein, we all in one voice have ratified and approved, and by these presents ratify and approve the aforesaid former letter of jurisdiction and liberty, made and subscribed by our brethren and his Highness, while Master of Work, for the time, to the said William Sinclair of Roslin, father to the said Sir William whereby he and his heirs are acknowledged as our patrons and judge under our Sovereign Lord, over us and the whole professors of our said vocation within this his Highness’s Kingdom of Scotland, without any appeal or declination from their judgements in any [time hereafter] forever. 

And further, we all in one voice as said, as of now have made, constitute and ordain, and by these presents, make constitute, and ordain the said Sir William Sinclair now of Roslin, and his male heirs, our only patrons, protectors, and overseers, under our Sovereign Lord to us and our successors, deacons, Masters and freemen of our said vocations of Masons, Hammermen, within the whole kingdom of Scotland, and our whole privileges and jurisdictions belonging thereto, wherein he, his father and their predecessors Lords of Roslin have been in use of possession these many ages bygone, with full power to him and them by themselves, their wardens and deputies to be constituted by them to affix and appoint places of meeting for keeping of good order in the said Craft as often and so often as need shall require all and sundry persons that may be known to be subject to the said vocation to be called absent, to fine transgressors, to punish wrongdoers, casualties and other duties whatsoever pertaining and belonging, or that may fall to be paid by whatsoever person or persons subject to the said Craft, to ask, crave, receive entry with an uplift and the same to their own proper use to apply deputies under them in the said office with clerks, servants, assistants, and all other officers and members of court needful to make, create, substitute and ordain for whom they shall be held to answer all and sundry plenum actions (2) and causes pertaining to the said Craft and vocation and against whatsoever person or persons who profess it, to hear, discuss, discern, and decide acts, duties, and sentences thereupon to pronounce. 

And the same to due execution to cause to be put, and generally all and sundry other privileges, liberties and immunities whatsoever, concerning the said Craft to do, use, and exert and cause to be done, and exercise and keep suchlike and as freely in all respects as any others their predecessors have done or might have done themselves in any time past, freely, quietly, well, and in peace, but any revocation, obstacle, or impedient, or again calling whatsoever.

In witness of which, these presents are written by Alexander Aikinheid, servitor (3) to Andrew Hay, writer, we have subscribed these presents with our hands at ...

• The Lodge of Edinburgh - William Wallace deacon, John Watt, Thomas Paterson.

• The Lodge of Glasgow - John Boid deacon, Robert Boid one of the Masters Hew Douok deacon of the Masons of Ayre , and George Lid(ell) deacon of quarrymen and now quarterMaster.

• The Lodge of Stirling - John Thompson, James Rind.

• The Lodge of Dumfermlin - Robert Alison, one of the Masters of Dumfermlin.

• The Lodge of Dundee - Robert Strachoun, Master Robert Johnstone, Mr of, David Mason Mr. of.

• Thomas Flemming, warden in Edinburgh and Hugh Forrest with our hands at the pen, led by the notary, under subcribed for us at our command, because we cannot write. A.Hay notarius asseruit.

• Robert Caldwell in Glasgow with my hand at the pen led by the notary un­der subscribant for me because I cannot write myself. J.Henryson notarius asseruit.

• I John Servant of Mr of the Craft in Stirling with my hand at the pen, led by the notary under subscribed for me because I cannot write. J.Henryson notarius asseruit.

• I John Burn one of the Masters of Dumfermlin with my hand at the pen led by the notary under subscribed for me at my command, because I cannot write myself. J.Henryson notarius asseruit.

• David Robertson, one of the Masters, Andrew Welson Master and Thomas (V)elson warden of the said Lodge of Saint Andrews , Andrew West, and David White Masters in Dundee with our hands at the pen, led by the notary under subscribed at our commands because we cannot write. Thomas Robertson notarius asseruit. 


1. - Hammerman - Artisan working metal by hammering. It is interesting to note here that the Scottish Masons Fraternity accepted Hammermen, that is to say, the workers of the forge.

2. - The last sentences of the document are almost all incomprehensible. The modern transcriber can only keep in mind and in his writing the essence of the text.

3. - Servitor - One who serves or assists another.

© Guy Chassagnard 2016