Billy Kay studies the history of Scottish Freemasonry
The following passage is taken from the chapter The Mason Word in Billy Kay’s book The Scottish World A journey into the Scottish Diaspora.
While Freemasonry is regarded as a benign, charitable organisation in many countries of the world where the Scots put down roots, here in Scotland itself it is often regarded as a dangerously exclusive, sectarian, self serving organisation which is inimical to the public weel. In an interview for my series, The Mason Word, the emminent Scottish historian Dr David Stevenson recalled the extreme reaction he experienced from colleagues at his university when he mentioned that he was doing research into masonic history. It was so negative, that it struck him forcibly that if he had said he was researching Naziism, no one would have batted an eyelid or presumed that he had Nazi sympathies, yet somehow he was tainted by being interested in Masonic history! Dr Stevenson is not a Freemason, and neither am I but the Masons have been such an important institution in Scotland and in the Scottish world for so long that I find their history fascinating and deserving of attention.
I do feel though that we need to reassess this history, as their public image has been so distorted and demonised in recent times. Because my father was a Freemason, and you could not have known a better man, I have always found the negativity surrounding the Masons surprising, especially knowing the excellent charity and community work they do in my home town of Galston. Not only that, they have restored to pristine condition the ancient keep called the Barr Castle with its associations going back to the days of Bruce and Knox, and turning part of it into a local history museum. One of the erroneous myths about Freemasonry in Scotland is that it is exclusively Protestant. Because my father despised both sectarianism and the minority who harboured sectarian attitudes, the one area concerning Freemasonry that he was happy to talk about was the fact that the craft embraced Roman Catholics and people of all denominations with open arms, but the catholic church actually forbade its adherents to return the embrace. My father, like Burns could not have belonged to an organisation which discriminated against people by race or religion, and it was the ideals behind the three principles of the movement Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth which attracted him.
The Mason Word is an Odyssey Production for Radio Scotland