Ashlar Chippings

How to get your Knighthood

In a paper on Thomas Harper (1736-1832) by Timothy Kent in AQC, Vol. 117 (2004) there is this snippet about one of his Masonic acquaintances, Brother Sir Francis Columbine Daniel.

Daniel achieved celebrity through his invention of a life-jacket and also, according to one report, had a knighthood conferred on him in unusual circumstances.

He was apparently present when King George III was dubbing new knights and merely joined the end of the queue!

The Cowan

A depiction of an eavesdropping device – Kircher, Athanasius, 1602-1680. Date 1673. Public Domain, Wellcome Collection

To the early Speculatives the cowan was an eavesdropper. Indeed, Freemasonry in the eighteenth century contributed ‘cowan’ to the language of slang, in which he became a ‘sneak,’ a ‘nosy-parker’; but as a slang term it was not long-lived.

Any man not a Mason was a cowan in the middle of the eighteenth century (so say the irregular prints of the day), and a brother might indicate the approach of a cowan by remarking “It rains” or, in the case of a woman, “It snows”.

Such terms hark back to an alleged practice of punishing an eavesdropper in the manner that fitted the crime, as witness this old catechism, dated 1730:

Q. Where stands the junior Entr’ed ‘Prentice?

A. In the North

Q. What is his business?

A. To keep off all cowans and Eves-droppers.

Q. If a Cowan (or Listner) is catched, how is he to be punished?

A. To be placed under the Eves of the House (in rainy Weather) till the water runs in at his shoulders, and out at his shoes.

 

The eavesdropper got his name by lurking within the ‘eves drop'[sic] (the space between the house-wall and the line where the rain-water falls from the thatched eaves), so that he might listen to the conversation inside the house. (Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium, Bernard E. Jones).

Keeping the Tankards topped up!

It was also intended that Mr Benjn. Jenkins, the waiter of The Swan, should (if time would permit) be initiated as an entered apprentice without fee; in order that he may be the better qualified to attend on the members of the Lodge. (Lodge of Friendship No. 624 (Moderns), Minutes, 5 August 1811).

 

A drunken party with men smoking, sleeping and falling to the floor. Engraving by W. Hogarth, 1731, after himself. Wellcome Collection. Licence: Public Domain Mark

Installation of a Lodge Master (1723)

The Candidates, or the new Master and Wardens, being yet among the Fellow-Craft, the GRAND-MASTER shall ask his Deputy if he has examind them, and finds the Candidate Master well skill’d in the noble Science and the royal Art, and duly instructed in our Mysteries, &c.

And the Deputy answering in the affirmative, he shall (by the Grand-Master’s Order) take the Candidate from among his Fellows, and present him to the Grand-Master; saying, Right worshipful GRAND-MASTER, … I present this my worthy Brother to true and trusty, and a Lover of the whole Fraternity, wheresoever dispers’d over the Face of the Earth.

Then the GRAND-MASTER,… shall say ; … and appoint you the be their Master, whom I know to be of good Morals and great Skill, Cement of the LODGE, &c. with some other Expressions that are Master of it, not doubting of your Capacity and Care to preserve the proper and usual on that Occasion, but not proper to be written.

Upon this the Deputy shall rehearse the Charges of a Master, and the GRAND-MASTER shall ask the Candidate, saying, Do you submit to these Charges, as Masters have done in all Ages? And the CANDIDATE signifying his cordial Submission thereunto, the Grand-Master shall, by certain significant Ceremonies and ancient Usages, install him, and present him with the Constitutions, the Lodge-Book, and the Instruments of his Office, not all together, but one after another; and after each of them, the Grand-Master, or his Deputy, shall rehearse the short and pithy Charge that is suitable to the thing presented.

The Deputy and the Grand-Wardens, and any other Brethren present, … shall next congratulate the new Master; and he shall return his becoming Acknowledgments to the GRAND-MASTER first, and to the rest in their Order.

(The Early Masonic Catechisms, Knoop, Jones and Hamer, pp. 26-27)

Note: the several similar phrases used nearly 300 years later, in today’s Installation and Induction ceremonies.

Article by: Hugh O'Neill

Hugh O'Neill

Past Master of Craft lodges under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Member (Senior Warden 2021-2022) of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076,  the world’s premier Masonic research lodge.

Masonic historian and orator on Masonic topics.

 

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