Lodge Fortrose, No. 108, was officially formed on 16 August 1769, the date on which its Charter was actually received in Stornoway. It had, however, existed since November 1767, when the Brethren had carried on the principles and tenets of the Craft, knowing that their Charter was 'in the post'.
One of their early meeting places was 'on the second feu south of Church Street or Lane on the east side of Oliver Street' (later named Dempster Street and, later still, Cromwell Street). George Clavey identifies the place as 53 Cromwell Street, from a notebook containing details of expenses and meetings, found by Tommy Grassie of the original Hepworth's Store. Later, the Brethren were to occupy the present building on Kenneth Street, the foundation stone of which was laid with due ceremony on May 28 1819.
During the lifetime of the Lodge, its premises were used by many of the town's organisations for a varity of occasions such as public meetings, dancing classes, election meetings and public dinners. Frank Thompson notes the Lodge being used by the National Service Medical Board, when the Stornoway lads were conscripted for National Service and remembers attending an afternoon Sunday School run by the Plymouth Brethren under the watchful eye of Angus 'Miller' Morrison and his son John.
Over the centuries, the membership of Lodge Fortrose has included many Stornoway worthies who, in their various ways, were connected with the commercial development of the town. Indeed, much of the history of Stornoway is closely tied in with the Lodge, acting as it did as 'a common ground for the common good' of the growing Burgh. In 'A History of Lodge Fortrose, no. 108, Stornoway', George Clavey writes: "It would be quite impossible to relate here every social event which took place in these halls since 1822, but the surviving records amply show that the heart beat of a vibrant, thriving and ever growing community resounded loud from the walls of Lodge Fortrose for over a century and a half."
In 1967, two hundred years after its foundation, Lodge Fortrose was re-consecrated and the letting of the premises was discontinued. In recent years, however, the lower floor of the building, now the New Function Room, is proving a popular venue to let and the walls may once more resound to the sounds of an earlier time.
Over the centuries the Brethren of the Lodge have carried out many acts of charity within the Burgh, not only for their own Brethren but for the general Stornoway public, something of a tradition which is still maintained today.
Frank G Thompson
** Photographs - ©William Foulger