The Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland granted the Charter for Saltcoats and Ardrossan Royal Arch Chapter on 5th March 1890 and the Consecration took place on 29th April of that year. RAC Chapter 223 was the fifth to be formed in the area now known as North Ayrshire. The grant of a Charter to No 223 was pre-dated by grants to Beith RAC No 32 (constituted in 1814); Dalry RAC No 91 (constituted in 1862); Neptune Kilwinning RAC No 111 (constituted in 1865, but no longer active); and St Ninian’s Skelmorlie RAC No 216 (constituted in 1888 but no longer active).
The original petition was presented by ‘Brethren Companions of the……..Holy Royal Arch Degree resident in or near Ardrossan in the County of Ayr, viz: William Phillips*, Thomas Halket; Duncan MacGilvray; Robert Henderson; William Sivewright; John McPherson; Wm Falconer; J M Oliver; and Edwin W Davis.’
Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter also ratified and confirmed the appointment of Companions:
John McPherson-------1st Soj
William Falconer------2nd Soj
Duncan MacGilvray –J
Edwin W Davis--------Treas
J M Oliver--------------3rd Soj
The original Charter from Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter was signed by Col. Sir Archibald Campbell of Blythswood Bt, 1st Grand Principal 1885-91, and also signed by the Grand Office-Bearers of 1890. Companion Phillips* seemed to have served for under a year as First Principal and none of his fellow-petitioners followed him into the Chair.
The first meeting place of the Chapter isn’t known but around 1905, meetings were held in the Lodge Room in Ardrossan (location unknown). Lodge St John Royal Arch No 320 purchased the Castlecraigs in 1923 for their premises and we assume that the Chapter also held its meetings there from that time.
The Chapter is understood to have held regular Burns nights with Lodge St John Royal Arch No 320, and OES, as an article from the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald dated 9th December 1904 states ‘At the annual Burns Supper of the Royal Arch Chapter No 223 in the Eglinton Hotel Ardrossan, among those who contributed songs and readings were Bros. Gordon, Dr McDonald, Adams, Goodwin, Stewart, McKirdy, Finn, Legg, Larter, Gillies and Hastings’ and these regular Burns Suppers continued into the 1930s. Ardrossan Co-operative Society charges for catering at the Burns Supper held on 27th January 1938 were £19-13-9d, being 225 persons at 1/9d per head (approximately nine pence/head today!)
During the Second World War the Castlecraigs was commandeered by the Royal Navy and our Chapter moved to the Masonic Temple of Lodge Neptune (Kilwinning) No 442 in Bradshaw Street, Saltcoats. Despite the hostilities, the Chapter was well-attended and enjoyed the kind hospitality of Neptune Kilwinning RAC No 111 who loaned us their regalia and paraphernalia. It wasn’t uncommon for the Chapter to confer the Mark Degree at that time and it’s interesting to note that Comp. Alex McDonald (a Companion of St Brandane RAC No 498) who affiliated to our Chapter in January 1990 is also one of the few Companions around today who had the Mark Degree conferred on him in a Royal Arch Chapter.
Our Chapter wasn’t the only one to have to ‘move around’ during the years of WW2 as the minutes record that the Installation meeting of St Brandane RAC was held in Beith in 1942, and in Glengarnock in 1943.
By 1947 Lodge St John Royal Arch No 320 had disposed of the Castlecraigs and moved into new premises (the former Lesser Town Hall) in Glasgow Street, Ardrossan and our Chapter was able to return to Ardrossan and carry on with its duties. By this time, interest in Royal Ark Mariners and the Cryptic Council had waned with many of the Office-Bearers apparently knowing little about these Degrees. However, when it emerged that Saltcoats RAC No 111 was considering applying for a new Cryptic Council to be attached to their Chapter, it was agreed that our Chapter should re-kindle its interest.
The Centenary of our Chapter was held in Ardrossan on Saturday 10th March 1990 and marked by the presence of the First Grand Principal, the Right-Hon The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine KT CD LLD accompanied by a large number of Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter Office-Bearers; Provincial Grand Superintendent MEC J Mitchell and a number of Provincial Office-Bearers; Companions of sister Chapters; and the Principals and Office-Bearers of No 223, totalling 100 (the maximum limit for the Temple). The occasion was deemed a huge success and was suitably marked at the time, with Centenary Jewels being struck for Companions of our Chapter to purchase. The Chapter presented a Centenary Jewel to Donnie Jackson, MEZ during the Centenary Year in recognition of the milestone. Another Centenary Jewel was presented to the Chapter in 2004 by the family of the late John F Crawford Snr who affiliated to RAC No 223 in 1990. Companion John Snr was exalted as a Royal Arch Mason in Sir William Wallace RAC No 109 in 1948.
Our Chapter continued to meet in the Ardrossan Temple until the mid-1990s when circumstances led to it having to withdraw at very short notice, so much so that the Installation Meeting in October 1996 had to be held in the Temple of Lodge Mother Kilwinning No 0. Soon afterwards an agreement was reached with Lodge Neptune (Kilwinning) No 442 to use their Temple at Bradshaw Street Saltcoats, and this arrangement continued until the end of December 2011. Towards the end of that year, a number of issues arose between the Lodge and the Chapter that could not be reconciled and a new agreement was made with Lodge Stivenstoune Thistle & Rose No 169 that our Chapter would have the use of their Masonic Temple at 54 New Street, Stevenston from January 2012.
In 2002, James B Cook PZ generously donated a Board listing former Principals. The information displayed was compiled by James P McLuckie PZ and Scribe E at the time (this information is also detailed at ‘Past Principals’ on this website).
Traditionally the First Principal of Saltcoats & Ardrossan RAC No 223 can be nominated for a second year of Office.
Unlike other Chapters, the Immediate PZ doesn’t receive a Jewel on demitting office. Instead he wears a Jewel donated to the Chapter by the nephew of the late Companion W A Perry PZ who affiliated to RAC No 223 and was First Principal in 1930-31. The PZ Jewel is therefore only presented when the recipient’s successor comes off the Chair.
Saltcoats and Ardrossan RAC No 223 is one of twenty two Chapters in the Provincial Grand RAC of Ayrshire, and membership of the Chapter is open to all Scottish Mark Master Masons of good standing subject to suitable enquiry, proposal, seconding and ballot. In recent years MMMs joining the Chapter have come from Lodge Mother Kilwinning No 0; Lodge Neptune (Kilwinning) No 442; and Lodge St John Royal Arch No 320.
The Chapter is also one of eight in Ayrshire that incorporates a Royal Ark Mariner and Red Cross Council, and a Cryptic Council and regularly works these Degrees. These Orders were introduced in the Chapter in 1916 and membership is open to not only Companions of Saltcoats and Ardrossan RAC No 223, but also any Companion in good standing (subject to the usual enquiries).
Our Chapter has had a long-standing relationship with its sister Chapter, Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436 and between 1996 and 2011 it was custom and practice for the Annual District Visitation to be made as a joint Chapter meeting, alternating between the Bradshaw Street Temple, and that in New Street Stevenston. A number of Companions of RAC No 223 have been awarded Honorary Membership of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436 over the years.
Our Chapter also has close links with St Brandane RAC No 498, with bi-annual visits (the visitors conducting the Degree work) alternately between Kilbirnie and Saltcoats.
Notable Companions of RAC No 223 include:
J B Scotland, MEZ 1923-25, Headmaster of Ardrossan Academy;
G Radcliffe given the rank of Honorary Scribe ‘N’ in 1979;
D Patterson, MEZ 1955-57 who received his 40-year Service Diploma from W. Bond MEZ in April 1987. He attained the rank of Provincial Depute Grand Superintendent in 1993, and was also Superintendent of Works in the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland;
L M Smith, MEZ 1964-66 who received his 40-year Service Diploma in May 1994 and given the rank of Provincial ‘J’ that year;
D Brown Snr, MEZ 1968-70 who received his 25-year Service Diploma as Treasurer of the Chapter in 1999, and given the rank of Provincial ‘J’ in 2000. His sons would follow him as MEZ in 2002 and 2007. He was also an Honorary Companion of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436;
J B Young, MEZ 1977-1980. He was presented with his 40-year Service Diploma by J P McLuckie PZ in April 2011. He is also an Honorary Companion of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436;
R Wylie, MEZ 1998-2000 and also an Honorary Companion of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436;
A Brown, MEZ 2002-04, current Scribe E and also an Honorary Companion of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436;
D W Brown, MEZ 2007-09, current Director of Ceremonies and also an Honorary Companion of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436;
J P McLuckie, MEZ 1975-77, Scribe ‘E’ from 1989-2003 , given the rank of Provincial ‘J’ in 2000, the first Companion in Ayrshire to receive the Diploma of ‘Distinguished Service Membership’ in 2007, and who received his 40-year Service Diploma in March 2010. He is also an Honorary Companion of Stevenston Thistle and Rose RAC No 436. At the Annual Installation Meeting held on 26th October 2011, he was presented with two Diplomas from the First Grand Principal for serving as Treasurer of the Royal Ark Mariners and Red Cross Council, and the Cryptic Council for 25 years. The presentation was made by E. McLaggan PZ, Provincial Grand Scribe E.
The first recorded minutes available for RAC No 223 are from the Minute book started in 1941 when the Chapter was based in Saltcoats but an inventory of the Chapter dated 26th September 1923 refers to a Minute book from 29th April 1890 to 12th February 1918, so this (and one covering the period 1918-1941) is missing.
This history was compiled by J P McLuckie PZ from Minute books and correspondence, and edited by J F Crawford PZ.
Gallery photos courtesy of Comps Jim Scott, Alan Brown PZ & Roger Harman PZ (223) and Cams Campbell, Arran St Molios RAC No 893.
This website was created by Comp Steven Wright in 2008 and has been maintained by him since the start.
(Updated October 2019)