This is just the first draft, I hope, of what will become a more definitive study of Masonic Poet Laureates. For the origin of that title, we must go to Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No.2 in Edinburgh, Scotland, which seems to have a prime claim to awarding that honor. Many references can be found to that lodge's bestowing it on Robbie Burns on February 1, 1787 and Rudyard Kipling in 1905. A somewhat smaller but still sizable number of sources also mention James Hogg, known as "the Ettrick Shepherd," in 1835. But there it stops. In all my researches, I've found only one reference, a single unsigned article issued by the lodge in 1924 and reprinted in the February 1925 issue of "The Builder," which listed the others who have held the office of Poet Laureate in Lodge Canongate Kilwinning. This has left me with a bit of a puzzle. Not only do I not have a list from 1925 to the present, but many of those before 1925 are unidentifiable. I'm still seeking any scrap of Masonic verse from these men, and eulogies of their lives, so that they're not simply anonymous names.
Here is the raw list with notes as they appeared in The Builder:
For some of these men besides the three noted at the beginning of this article, I was able to find writings, but nothing Masonic. I'd like to have at least the dates of birth, death, and year they joined the lodge to compose their biographies. Or if they were members — my researches are that both Burns and Kipling were honorary members only, who never visited the lodge except for their laureate conferrals — so I suspect others may have been outsiders also. Thank the GAOTU for the Internet; living out here in New Mexico as I do, my researching capabilities would be nearly nil otherwise. But even so, they are rather limited, so I haven't been able to find much so far, and the search is still continuing. Here is what I have been able to find out:
THE POETS LAUREATE OF THE LODGE
And beyond 1924? A request has been sent as of May 2005 to C.J. McFadyen, Secretary of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2, asking for more information. Maybe the rest of the world will soon know...
I tried writing a poem for Brother McFadyen's lodge, as an incitement for his cooperation.
But despite repeated letters I have yet to recieve anything more than a cursory acknowledgement of my request,
I don't know if anyone in that lodge ever saw it, but here it is for the first time in public.
okl, Feb 2007.