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44 RWM Brother William Hean Findlay 85th RWM 1932-1933



  William Hean Findlay RWM 1932. 

Brother William was also one of the Reponing Members and was one of the Musical Directors at the Mystic Harmony after the Meeting:-

William Hean Findlay was a Master Mason of Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No 2.
On the 20th January 1921 at 7.30 pm in St John's Chapel, St John Street Edinburgh. Brother William was Affiliated to the Celtic Lodge Edinburgh and Leith No 291, he took the Obligation of the Celtic Lodge along with 16 Other Brothers.
Brother William worked his way around all the Masonic Offices and on Tuesday, 20th December 1932,
Brother William reached the higest Honour a Lodge can bestow on it's Members,
William was Installed in the Chair of Solomon and took the Oath and became the Right Worshipful Master of the Celtic Lodge 291.

William Hean Findlay PM Celtic Lodge 1932.  Report based on stories of his father told by William’s son, the late Iain T Findlay to his own family. 21/08/2012.

William Hean Findlay was born on 18 October 1878 at Premnay, a village near Banchory, Scotland. William’s father was Robert Findlay who started married life as a 'General Merchant’ in Premnay, providing everything that local families needed to buy in an era where people were much more self-sufficient.  His mother Margaret Hean had been a School Teacher before marriage and came from a well-known Arbroath family of Leather Merchants. William was one of eight children, of whom six survived to adulthood.

Robert and family moved into farming, first in Aberdeenshire before settling in Banffshire, at a farm bounded by a section of the River Ythan; this river  rises at Wells of Ythan near the village of Ythanwells, an old Pictish name.  This was where Willie learned to fish, which remained one of his great passions until the end of his life; the Ythan remained his favourite salmon river. William did a course in agriculture at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen (now mostly teaching Safety and Rescue in the Off Shore Industry) and started work on his father’s farm.  He used to talk of how much he enjoyed taking carts of barely to local distilleries as he was often rewarded with a ‘dram’.

However with older brothers and only two farms run by the Findlay’s, Willie was sent to Edinburgh to stay with relatives.  He didn’t talk much about this period, apart from saying how much he missed his family, the land – and the Ythan. However he settled in Edinburgh working in civil engineering and eventually becoming the Managing Director of the Limmer and Trinidad Lake Asphalt Company in George Street, Edinburgh.  (Later research by a family member suggests he stayed with his mother’s sister and her husband in Edinburgh; the husband was described as ‘Asphalt Manager’ in a census and probably introduced his nephew to the business.)

All family stories suggest that William had a very comfortable bachelor life in Edinburgh in the early part of the twentieth century.  He was too old to go to the front during World War 1, he had a good and interesting job and his widowed sister and her daughter joined him in Edinburgh, she as his housekeeper in return for William paying for the education of his niece.  At work, he was involved with the architect Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer (1864- 1929) in his restoration work on old castles and keeps in Scotland, organising all the asphalting of cellars and roofs and developing an interest in old buildings.  He joined Cannongate Kilwinning No 2 and found time to fish the lochs in the Pentland Hills.  Once William came to the attention of the local police there when he and a prominent fellow freemason, also of some importance in the Edinburgh Police, were caught using a Otter Board on one of the lochs.  This is a floating board with trailing hooked lines which can be pulled from the side of a loch, hopefully catching a couple of trout – and strictly illegal.  The Otter Board had been ‘borrowed’ by the senior police officer from confiscated property to have some fun and maybe catch some fish. They got off, by saying that William, as a country boy, was only showing the Police Officer how it worked to help him understand the case. 

However William’s greatest love was music. In Aberdeenshire he had studied the violin – and the Scottish fiddle - under James Scott Skinner (1843-1927 Fiddler, Violinist and Composer).  They remained friends during the rest of Skinner’s life with William accompanying him in some concerts.  In addition William performed in his own right at many concerts, including at the Albert Hall and the Usher Hall.  He kept some correspondence with Skinner and many of the playbills, documents which Williams’s widow donated to the National Library of Scotland when William died.

William’s life changed quite dramatically in 1931 when he finally married at the age of 53, choosing as his wife a young nurse from Kelso some 28 years his junior.  He showed a romantic streak by eloping with Isabella to Gretna Green where they had a genuine Blacksmith’s marriage – civil weddings had yet to be introduced in Scotland.  The following year his first child arrived and he became the Master of the Celtic Lodge, a lodge to which he had moved  when it was reponed.  Four other children followed, to make a family of three daughters and two sons.  He still found time for his interests, freemasonry, fishing and music.  His children never had lullabies; they fell asleep to the sound of his violin every night.  His older son was soon roped into rowing for his fishing expeditions and all of the family were taken on Sunday walks in the Pentlands – and they were long walks of seven or eight miles getting longer as they got older.  He passed on his love of the countryside to most of them.

With the onset of the Second World War, William’s retirement was short-lived.  He came out of retirement to work for Limmer and Trinidad again, asphalting the gun emplacements installed on merchant vessels in the Atlantic convoy and briefly managing a quarry in Creetown.  

At the end of the war, approaching seventy, he was still a very active man, walking and fishing and entertaining ‘old folks’ in various homes with his violin and fiddle playing.  He was still doing this into his early nineties – and still calling his audience ‘Old’.  He was quite a well-known figure in Edinburgh and Comely Bank in the 1960s and 1970s.  He was always very smartly dressed in a three piece suit and Homburg hat, striding about George Street, holding out his cane and imperiously marching across the road when and where he wanted, daring car drivers to touch him. And still the country and the lochs called. His son and a son in law went with him to the peak of Cairngorm about two years before he died (and there was no summer ski lift then).  Even months before he died his son would be summonsed to take him a tour of the various fishing lochs they had fished together and he would struggle out of the car with a blanket round his shoulders to assess the fishing potential.  He watched with pride his grandchildren growing up, giving several of them their first lessons on the violin and he was particularly proud to watch his older son Iain, move up through the offices in Canongate Kilwinning No 2.  Sadly he died in February 1977, age 98, just a few months before his son Iain became the Master of No 2. 

The Celtic Lodge of Edinburgh and Leith 291 would like to thank the Findlay family for allowing us to use family stories, in our Celtic Lodge History.

Brother William JR Boland PM Historian for the Celtic Lodge.