Scottish Masonry is an old institution, and seems to have originated in trades-union organisations amongst the masons in Scotland contemporaneously with the erection of the Abbeys of Holyrood, Kelso, Melrose, and Kilwinning, the Cathedral of Glasgow, and other ecclesiastical fabrics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Legislative enactments were made in Parliament at Perth in March 1424, instituting the office of Deacon or Master-man for the protection of the community against the frauds of craftsmen. The power of the Deacons was, however, restricted by an Act of September 1426, and Wardens chosen from each craft were authorised to be appointed by the town councils to regulate the wages of masons and wrights. It was further ordained that in sheriffdoms "each Baron shall garr prise in their baronies and punish the trespassers, as the Wardens do in the boroughs". It seems the Deacons continued holding assemblies in subversion of the powers of the Wardenry Courts, which brought about a statute in July 1427, prohibiting the office of Deacon altogether. In 1493 James IV came into collision with the trade combinations of his time. The masons and wrights had through their conventions ordained that "they should have fee as well for the holiday as for the work-day", and that "where any begins a man's work an other shall not finish it". Public tumult arose through the resistance of the community to these demands. The Legislature therefore interposed, and in 1493 passed an Act in which the "makers and users" of the statutes in question were ordered to be punished as "oppressors of the king's lieges". The Act also restricted the powers of Deacons to a testing of the quality of the work done by their respective crafts. Again in March 1540, Parliament overrode the Masonic statutes and authorised the employment of unfreemen equally with burgesses, and anew armed magistrates with power to enforce obedience.
Sixteen years afterwards, while Queen Mary was yet under age, Parliament again found it necessary to interpose and repress the extortionate charges of tradesmen made at the instigation of deacons, and this hitherto irresponsible class of trade officials was attempted to be got rid of. The private conventions of craftsmen and statutes other than those approved of by town councils were rendered illegal, while "Visitors" were appointed in lieu of the former Wardens. On attaining her majority Queen Mary, so far from homologating the Act of the Regency suppressing the Deaconry of Craft, repealed it as injurious to the commonweal, and in remedy thereof granted letters under the Great Seal restoring the office of Deacon and confirming the trades in the privilege of self- government, the observance of the customs that were peculiar to each, and the unrestricted exercise of all other rights which they had enjoyed under former monarchs.
The next reign furnishes the first authentic evidence of the sovereignís direct control over the Masonic Craft. The Privy Seal Book of Scotland contains a record of the ratification by James VI of Patrick Copland of Undaught's election in 1590 to the office of "Warden and Justice" over the Masons within the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Kincardine. This royal missive sets forth that the newly-appointed Warden's predecessors had been ancient possessors of the office, but that in the present instance the king in anew granting right to the fees and privileges of the office, had given effect to the choice of a majority of the Master Masons of the district in which the Warden was to minister justice in connection with matters affecting the art and craft of Masonry, It is apparent that this was a strictly civil appointment, similar to that of the Barons to the Wardenrie of the Crafts in 1427.
Emerging from chaos to the period of Masonic twilight, we find the Deacons, Masters, and freemen of the Masons within the realm of Scotland granting a charter (1600-1601) to William St.Clair of Roslin, submitting themselves to the hereditary jurisdiction of the lairds of Roslin. The lodges of Edinburgh, St.Andrew's, Haddington, Acheson's Haven, and Dunfermline were parties to this document, which recites that the lairds of Roslin have from age to age been observed among the Masons as the patrons and protectors whom their predecessors have obeyed and acknowledged. The term "lodge" signifies a separate assembly of Masons, and is apparently derived from the term applied to a shed or other temporary structure for shelter or during meal hours. Hence the general application of the word in its Masonic usage. It first appears in the Burgh Records of Edinburgh in a "Statute anent the government of the Master Mason of the College Kirk of St.Giles, 1491". The word again appears in the "Indenture betwix Dundee and its Mason", A.D. 1536, as given in the "Registrum Episcopus Brechinensis", and is interesting as containing the earliest authentic instance of a Scottish lodge following the name of a saint, viz., "Our Lady (i.e., St.Marys) Lodge of Dundee"
The recital of the Masonic charter to (Sir) William Saint Clair of Roslin is explicit, and implies in distinct terms that the position of patron had existed for some generations. The earliest notice of the Roslins having any special connection with the craft is in the account of the erection of the Collegiate Church at Roslin, circa 1446, when many masons were employed, and treated with great liberality. Henry St.Clair, son of Sir Oliver, first of Roslin, was in 1541 Commendator of the Abbey of Kilwinning, a fact perhaps not without significance, as from that place comes the Mother Lodge of Scotland.
The charter of 1600 was followed by another in 1628 from the "Masons and hammermen" of Scotland to Sir William Sinclar of Roslin, son of the previous grantee. The recital of this charter also refers to the Lairds of Roslin being patrons and protectors of the craft from age to age, and further informs us "whereof they had letters of protection and other rights granted by His Majesty's most noble progenitors of worthy memory, which with sundry other of the Laird of Roslin's writs being consumed and burnt in a flame of fire within the castle of Roslin in an ? the consumation and burning whereof being clearly known to us and our predecessors". "In the which office privilege and jurisdiction over us and our said vocation the said William Sinclar of Roslin ever continued to his going to Ireland, where he presently remains".
The date of the second charter is allotted to April 1628, a conclusion borne out by an unfinished minute in the records of the Lodge of Edinburgh: - "At Roslin the first of May 1628. The quhilk [which] day Sir William Sinklar - " It is thought that this fragmentary item has reference to a meeting that had been convened at Roslin for the purpose of presenting to Sir William the deed that had been executed in his favour.