It was with great sadness and regret at a regular meeting on the 14th April 1994 in my term as RWM to announce to the brethren of the passing of Bro Joseph Dodds Bishop. 'Wee Joe', as he was affectionately known, was born on 13th February 1912 in Fauldhouse, initiated on 28th October 1943 and master thereof in 1950/51. It is testimony to him that over 40 years after he vacated office as RWM he was still a regular attender of his mother lodge. My personal memories of him are of being a tremendous source of encouragement to myself and many of the younger officer bearers in
their pursuits of the 'Chair'. Joe was always ready to oblige at any of the harmonies where he would sing (and whistle) by popular demand 'If I Were A Blackbird' usually accompanied by, at the whistling part, everyone in the lounge! He was a small man in stature but will forever be remembered as one of the giants of 374.
A major landmark for St John Crofthead Fauldhouse was reached in 1956 on the occasion of our centenary celebrations. RWM Bro John McB McGilvary opened the lodged and welcomed the brethren to the rededication ceremony and the commemoration dinner which followed. Deputations were introduced, by our acting DOC Bro William Millar Jnr, firstly from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Linlithgowshire headed by Bro James Williamson RWPGM. A deputation from the Grand Lodge of Scotland was then introduced, by Bro C H Burrows Grand Director of Ceremonies, headed by Bro T Pitcairn MW Sub Grand Master Mason accompanying him were Bro Dr A Buchan, Grand Secretary, Bro J McCormick, Grand Architect and Bro A Pennycook, Grand Steward. The Rev John McGowan, Provincial Senior Grand Chaplain, then gave a very 'inspiring and delightful address of the dedication'. The RWPGM Bro Williamson then had honorary membership conferred upon him by the RWM Bro McGilvary. The RWPGM then thanked the lodge very sincerely for granting this great honour especially this being the centenary of the lodge. Bro Pitcairn then apologised for the unavoidable absence of the MWGMM, Bro Lord McDonald. He then 'expressed the hope that the lodge would continue to prosper and reflect credit on the Craft in general'.
After the ceremony the brethren then assembled in the Miners Welfare Hall across the street 'where over 200 members and visitors sat down to a most excellent meal purveyed by Mrs Weir of Armadale'. One of the main features at the harmony following the dinner was a young accordionist by the name of Sam Menzies. Sam now 80 years of age can be found seated near the N.E. corner at our regular meetings.
The toast list apart, the minute book shows that one of the highlights of the evening was a short history of our lodge delivered by PM William Chalmers of its 'ups and downs' and referred to the late PM William Wood, 'who held the chair for 3 years in succession, the only master to do so and whose son from Edinburgh, Bro William Wood (our boxed set of working tools were gifted by him in 1971), was privileged to be present at the centenary, a very proud occasion for him.'
It was also a delight to find that two of the leading office bearers at our centenary celebrations were none other than Bro Sam Forrest (WJW) and Bro Dougie Deacon (acting Inner Guard). Dougie had only just become a member and was still awaiting his mark degree. He was installed as Master in December 1960. Sam attained the high office of RWM in December 1985 at the age of 62. His 83rd birthday will virtually coincide with our 150 year celebration dinner. Both Sam and Dougie, who is now in his 80th year, still attend their mother lodge.
On 21st November 1959 the brethren of 374 returned to the Coop halls. This time, thankfully, only for a fleeting visit but would once again highlight our own small temple and its inability to accommodate large numbers, although, to be fair, there wasn't a lodge in the province that could have coped with the brethren who descended upon the village that Saturday afternoon. Over 240 members and visitors attended a special meeting to witness Lodge Queen Margaret No 1440, Glasgow confer the Third Degree in 'dramatic form' on three candidates.
Our own RWM Bro George Russell congratulated the visiting RWM Bro Samuel Campbell and his office bearers on the 'very instructive and impressive manner' in which the ceremony was carried out and further remarked 'it would be a night to be remembered in the history of lodge St John 374'. The venue would remain the same for many years as the popularity of their 'unique degree' grew.
A reflection of the growing friendship between the two lodges was shown at our annual installation on 17th December 1965 when Bro Samuel Smith was installed into the chair by Bros John and William Cathcart, who were both past masters of Lodge Queen Margaret. Regretfully the last official documented visit from the brethren of the now dormant lodge is 30th May 1974. Lodge Queen Margaret No 1440 was one of the many ties 374 struck with various lodges both within and outwith our province over the period of our history although, with all due respect, far too many to mention.
There is, however, one lodge that deserves a brief, but particular, mention - Lodge Blackfriars No 7556, Newcastle, English constitution. At a special meeting on Saturday 6th October 1967 RWM Bro Adam Boyd welcomed, for the first time, their RWM Bro Gordon Baggley and his deputation of almost 30 brethren who made the journey from across the border to witness our third degree. Their visit would begin a bond of friendship between our lodges that lasted, a four year gap apart, almost 30 years. In hindsight, the gradual demise of the tie over the years is due, in part, to the necessary two day holiday required by our visiting deputation in order to attend Lodge Blackfriars regular meeting on the Monday night. The bus journey was entertainment in itself and many of the brethren privileged to have travelled will, I'm sure, have their own humorous tales to tell!