A Brief History of The Celtic Lodge of Edinburgh & Leith 291
The Celtic Lodge was conceived in 1821 in the house of Alexander Stewart, 188 Cowgate, Edinburgh. The petitioners for a charter being actuated by a strong desire, which they trusted was a powerful motive in the breast of every Scotsman, “to promote the manufacture of the tartan of their native land and encourage the wearing of the ancient costume of their country.”
For this reason one of the Bye-laws of the Lodge was to be that – “all members should be clothed at their own expense in the Royal Tartan in honour of their Celtic forefathers, who wore their tartan at Church and on the battlefield.” The expense so caused was no trifle, as the fine display, so often noted in the minutes, appears to have been obtained at an individual cost of £40 or £50.
The Celtic Lodge 291 from the East
For many years the kilted Lodge, escorted by its pipers, and headed usually by some of its military members, was a prominent participant in every public Masonic ceremonial, and the enthusiasm of its members for everything national was unbounded.
The godmothers of the Celtic Lodge were Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 and Lodge Canongate and Leith No. 5, both of whom - notwithstanding the opposition of some other Lodges - recommended the petition, hence the use of Edinburgh and Leith in the title of the Lodge.
The first regular meeting took place in the Old Freemason’s Hall, which still exists in the Cowgate. At that meeting, the first to be entered, passed and raised, in the Lodge, was “Alexander Stewart, Spirit Merchant”, a respectable highlander of the Stewart Clan, who at refreshment “liberally treated his brothers with a plentiful supply of sandwiches, Glenlivet Whisky and some bottles of wine.”
The regular meeting of the Lodge thereafter took place in the Freemason’s Hall on Tuesdays and Fridays, but Brother Stewart and his house in the Cowgate was also a popular resort, as all private and committee meetings were fixed to take place there. The Bye-laws state that the Celtic Lodge took its rise in the Cowgate, the most ancient place in Edinburgh except the Castle, so it was only right that they should meet there as often as possible, and it helped that Brother Stewart had his house there and that he was so liberal with his Highland Whisky and good food.