The 6th Duke of Atholl

The 6th Duke of Atholl – Chieftain, Grand Master, and a Memorial to Remember.

In 1865, why did over 500 Scottish Freemasons climb a hill in Perthshire carrying working tools, corn, oil and wine?

On 16 January 1864, the 6th Duke of Atholl, Grand Master Mason of Scotland, passed away at his ancestral home at Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire.

The following year, family, friends, and tenants, decided that a good way to cherish his memory would be to erect a memorial to him at Logierait in Perthshire, and busily set about gathering subscribers to the enterprise.

The Memorial was duly completed, and the crumbling edifice still stands proudly today, shrouded by trees atop a hill overlooking the Vale of Atholl.


Left: Anne Murray (nee Home-Drummond), Duchess of Atholl (1814-1897)
Right: George, 6th Duke of Atholl (1814-1864)
IMAGE LINKED: – Chronicles of the Atholl and Tullibardine Families by Atholl, John, 7th Duke, Vol. IV, pp. 449-450, Ballatyne Press, Edinburgh, 1908. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 Scotland) via 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

It is not the purpose here to detail the involvement of the various Dukes of Atholl in Scottish Freemasonry over the years, but it is perhaps necessary to relate some details of the 6th Duke’s Masonic career.

George Augustus Frederick John Murray, was born on 20 September, 1814, and succeeded his father James Murray as Baron Glenlyon in 1837, and his uncle John, the 5th Duke of Atholl in 1846.

Murray Heraldry By Internet Archive Book Images –
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

He was initiated into the Scottish Craft in Lodge St. John No. 14, Dunkeld, in November 1841 (now the United Lodge of Dunkeld No. 14).

He was appointed to the position of Deputy Grand Master in the same year, holding that position for two years, before being elected the 66th Grand Master in November, 1843, retaining the post until his untimely death in 1864. 

Emblem of The United Lodge of Dunkeld No. 14 –
Image copyright of the Lodge

It was in 1865, that the project to build a lasting Memorial to the Duke got under way, and the subscribers chose to erect it on a hill overlooking the village of Logierait and the wider Vale of Atholl.

The memorial was to take the form of a Celtic cross and cost £1500.00; a considerable sum of money in those days.

As befits a former Grand Master, the foundation-stone for the memorial was to be laid by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, with the new Grand Master, Brother John Whyte-Melville presiding over the ceremony.

Grand Lodge would be supported by large deputations of Freemasons from provinces throughout Scotland.

On 17 June 1865, the memorial management committee wrote to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Brother W.A. Laurie Esq., stating:

At a meeting held at Logierait on the 10 July, this committee of management for erecting the monument to the late Duke of Atholl considered that the most suitable time for all the parties for laying the foundation stone of the monument at Logierait with Masonic honours would be about the 10 August, and I have been desired by the Earl of Mansfield, the chairman of the committee, to ascertain if this time would be agreeable to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge.

May I therefore request that you will have the kindness to inform me if Thursday the 10 August will suit Mr Whyte-Melville, and upon hearing from you the necessary arrangements will be made.

Begging the favour of your reply as soon as may be convenient.

A notice dated 24 July, 1865 declared the following:

Memorial to the late Duke of Atholl

Notice to the subscribers

The committee of management beg to intimate that the foundation stone of the monument will be laid by the Grand Lodge of Scotland on Thursday, 10 August next.

The procession will be formed at Logierait Schoolhouse, near Ballinluig Station at 11 o’clock on that day after the arrival of the trains from the South.

Confirmation of the proposed itinerary was also communicated to the Earl of Mansfield, in a letter dated 26 July, 1865; sent to his London address:

I am just favoured with your lordship’s letter of yesterday’s date.

I have been intending for some days to write your lordship as to the arrangement for laying the foundation stone of the monument at Logierait on 10 August, but have delayed, expecting to receive information from the Grand Lodge as to the deputations and numbers that might be expected to be present, but I have not yet got all the required information from Mr Laurie.

A circular has been sent from the Grand Lodge to the Lodge of Perthshire and Forfarshire, and also to Glasgow, inviting their attendance, and I have put an advertisement in the Perth papers, the North British Advertiser, the Scotsman, and also in a Glasgow paper, intimating to subscribers that the foundation stone is to be laid by the Grand Lodge on the 10 August.

It is proposed that the procession should be formed at the new schoolhouse at Ballinluig after the arrival of the south trains (say about 1 o’clock) and that it should proceed across the river by the railway bridges (which will be granted by the company) to the site of the memorial.

The foundation stone would probably be laid about noon, and the procession would then return to the school house, where a lunch will be given by the Duchess Dowager, to the Grand Lodge and deputations and the memorial committee, and at which it is hoped your lordship will preside.

The band of the Perthshire Rifles will attend. The trains will arrive at Ballinluig from the south at 10.19, and parties can return either at 2.44 or 5.53. The duchess’s carriage will be at Ballinluig Station to take your lordship and the Grand Master to the school house…

Ballinluig Station © Ben Brooksbank – 
IMAGE LINKED: Attribution International (CC BY 2.0)

On the day of the event, The Highland Railway ran a special train to Ballinluig, full to brimming with a large number of guests and Masonic brethren from all over Scotland.

The Perthshire Journal and Constitutional newspaper of Thursday, 17 August 1865, wrote extensively about the event and reported that it was dampened by heavy showers of rain, although it would appear that the spirits of those attending remained upbeat.

The site chosen for the memorial was Tom Na Croiche hill [aka Gallows Knoll or Rath of Logierait], on which an ancient castle is reputed to have once stood, but of which there is no longer any trace.

The hill is of modest indeterminate height; the present writer has scaled it, and found that although steps have been built to accommodate the climb up, the endeavour can still break sweat and quicken the pulse.

It must have been a strain for older attendees of the event, some of whom would have had the additional encumbrance of Masonic regalia and paraphernalia.

Image supplied by the author

Prior to the foot procession from Ballinluig, a number of bystanders passed the time by either obtaining lodgings, or visiting some of the local sites, which included the ‘chain-wrought’ floating platform which operated as a ferry, and which crossed back and forth on the nearby river Tummel.

However, the greatest attraction was a shed in which the assembled Masonic brethren were given their instructions by the Grand Marshall.

The procession formed up, and was led from Ballinluig over the railway bridge to the foot of Tom Na Croiche hill, preceded by the band of the Royal Perthshire Militia, and four of the Duke’s Pipers, playing the ‘Atholl March’.

The procession is said to have been a half mile long. The Perthshire Journal & Constitutional reported:

On arriving at the opening leading to the stone, the procession halted, the brethren opened to the right and left, so as to leave room for the Grand Master and office-bearers to pass up the centre. The Grand Master and office-bearers of the Lodges passed under the crossbars in the usual form, and the whole of the brethren fell in as it came to their turn.

A large number of Grand Lodge officers and Masonic brethren then made the climb up to the memorial site, some of them carrying the ceremonial wine, corn and oil to be used in the course of the stone-laying.

The Perthshire Journal & Constitutional continued:

The Working Tools of the Grand Lodge were carried by 12 members of the Journeyman Lodge (Lodge of Journeymen Masons No. 8, Edinburgh), the famous ‘Blue Blanket’ being carried by Brother Andrew Kerr (Note: -The ‘Blue Blanket’ is an ancient Craft Banner which has only been carried by this Lodge on four occasions at various foundation stone-laying ceremonies over the years).

The total number of persons attending the ceremony that day was about 1500- 564 of them being Freemasons.

The local paper also reported the following list of Lodges in attendance at the event, along with the number of brethren representing each; in order of seniority:

Edinburgh Mary’s Chapel – 8
3. Scone and Perth – 70
5. Canongate and Leith -14
8. Edinburgh Journeymen – 25
9. Dunblane – 3
10, Dalkeith Kilwinning – 4
14, St. John, Dunkeld – 30
21. Old St. John, Lanark – 6
40. St. Thomas, Arbroath – 7
46. St. John, Auchterarder – 8
47. Operative, Dundee – 7
48. Ancient, Dundee – 20
50. St. John Inverary – 3
60. St. John, Inverkeithing – 3
66. St. Ninian, Brechin -7
72. St. John, Kirkcaldy – 34
74. St. Andrew, Perth – 23
78. St. David, Dundee – 16
85. Kirknewton and Ratho – 13
90. Forfar Kilwinning – 14
105. St. John Operative, Coupar Angus -10
106. Lindores, Newburgh – 3
121. St. Cyre, Auchtermuchty – 6
122. Royal Arch, Perth – 12
134. Robertsons, Cromarty – 6
151. Edinburgh Defensive Band – 7
152. Operative, Dunkeld – 25
158. Thistle Operative, Dundee – 5
160. Roman Eagle, Edinburgh – 4
204. St. Paul’s, Ayr – 4
223. Trafalgar, Leith – 6
225. Forfar and Kincardine, Dundee – 5
254. Caledonian, Dundee – 3
291. Celtic, Edinburgh -6
299. Panmure, Arbroath – 20
309. Lour, Forfar – 20
317. Camperdown, Dundee – 10
333. St. George, Glasgow – 3
339. St. Mary, Caledonian Operative, Inverness – 9
349. St. Clare, Edinburgh – 6
384, Athole, Kirkintilloch – 3
392, Caledonian, Edinburgh – 9
400. Dunearn, Burntisland – 25
408. Clyde, Glasgow – 5
419. Neptune, Glasgow – 3.


Image The Atholl Memorial © Kenneth Jack

The newspaper further commented:

The stone was placed on a pedestal some six feet in height and ten or twelve feet square, and was supported by four guys.

The following was the order given in the programme in which the parties took up their positions on the platform.

The Architect is the first of the Masonic procession who walks up to the Platform on the East; 2dly, the Chaplain; 3dly the Grand Jeweller; Grand Deacons; Grand Clerk, Grand Secretary, Grand Treasurer, Grand Wardens and Substitute; then Grand Master, Past Grand Master, and Deputy Grand Master, followed by Provincial Grand Masters and Brethren attendant, all giving way to the Grand Master when on the platform, and the Substitute taking the right of the Grand Master.

Immediately after the officers of the Grand Lodge had taken their places; the Rev. Mr. Wilson of Dunkeld offered up an appropriate prayer.


Image: The Atholl Memorial © Kenneth Jack

The Architect having brought forward the necessary workmen, the Grand Secretary placed a bottle containing a number of newspapers, coins etc. in the cavity below the stone. Among these articles was a plate bearing the following inscription: –


In Memory, of
Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland,
Erected by
Numerous Friends and Admirers of his benevolent and
Manly character
Was laid by
Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland,
Assisted by
The Office Bearers of the Grand Lodge,
And by numerous Daughter lodges
On the
Tenth day of August, in the year of our Lord MDCCCLXV,
And of

The stone was then lowered with the usual Masonic ceremony, the plumb being applied by J.G.W. Dr Middleton, the level by S.G.W. Dr McCowan and the square by Sir Alex G. Maitland.

The Grand Master gave three knocks, and the wine and oil were poured on the stone by the Wardens, and the Grand Master then pronounced the Masonic blessing.


The Atholl Memorial © Kenneth Jack

The Grand Master then addressed the assembled throng and stated that having attended many stone-laying ceremonies with the late Grand Master, it was of course a sad duty in having to carry out the ceremony for his late friend and brother Freemason; and whilst acknowledging that there were those who thought the memorial unnecessary, told of his great pleasure in being asked to do so.

He also thanked and paid tribute to those Freemasons who had travelled great distances – particularly in those days, to attend the event, stating:

To the brethren present, I beg to tender my thanks for their assistance and co-operation.

Many of them have come from far to do honour to the late Grand Master, and one Lodge I feel called on to refer to specially, which has come as far as from a distant point of Cromarty.

To the deputation of that Lodge, I beg to tender my most sincere thanks. I don’t know if it is on my right or on my left, but I beg to thank it.

At all events, I am very thankful to the large deputations that have come forward to assist me on this occasion to the number, I understand, of deputations from 40 Lodges.

The Grand Master then intimated that Her Grace, The Duchess Dowager of Atholl would host a luncheon for the Masonic brethren in the local school house, and those for whom there was no room in the school house, they would be catered for in a shed.

The Grand Master then wound up the ceremony by stating: 

I will conclude by praying the Great Architect of the Universe to permit this monument to the Duke of Athole, one all so truly loved, to be finished and erected without hurt or detriment to any of those engaged in its construction.


Image: The Atholl Memorial © Kenneth Jack

The procession thereafter returned to the school house where the luncheon was enjoyed by around 350 persons; and various toasts and speeches were made.

This part of the day’s events was chaired by the Earl of Mansfield, supported by the Grand Master and various other dignitaries.

The Earl proposed a toast to the Grand Master Mason stating:

I must now ask you to drink to a health which I am sure you will receive with enthusiasm, it is that of ‘The Right Worshipful Grand Master Mason of Scotland’.

I had the honour of stating to him at the close of the ceremony today, how much we, the subscribers to this memorial, and also the inhabitants of this district in general, were indebted to him and the Grand Lodge and all the Masons for their kindness in coming here and assisting in laying the foundation stone.

I know it has been done at much personal inconvenience of many of you.

I know there may be prejudices and feelings against Masonry existing in the minds of some, but I believe there are few who would have been satisfied had the foundation-stone of this memorial been laid in a common-place manner, without the forms and ceremony which the presence of the Masonic body impart to it.

It is true I may be prejudiced the other way myself, being a Mason, but as I am here answering not for myself only, but for the Duchess Dowager of Athole, and for the other lady-subscribers who cannot possibly be suspected to be Masons, I am sure that they, as well as many of the subscribers in this district, feel deeply indebted to you for your presence here today.

There is a manner in which certain duties have to be discharged, and I appeal to every one of you whether I am not correct in stating that, contrasted with other occasions of a similar nature to this, the duties have been fulfilled in a very able, and discreet, and sensible manner indeed.

The Grand Master Whyte-Melville replied:

Lord Mansfield and gentlemen, I beg to express to you in the warmest manner of which it is possible for words to convey, my sense of the very kind way in which his lordship has proposed the toast of my name, and for the especially kind manner in which you have received it.

I beg to assure Lord Mansfield that if, in his estimation, my duties were appropriately performed, I feel quite satisfied.

As Masons, we all do our duty to the best of our ability, and those who are not initiated can’t know anything about the matter.

The Grand Master then proposed a toast to the Earl of Mansfield, before the event came to a conclusion, with all parties departing to their respective parts of the country.

The memorial was subsequently built to a design by noted Edinburgh Architect Robert Rowand Anderson (1834 – 1921).


Image: The Atholl Memorial © Kenneth Jack

Blair Castle, situated only a few miles from Logierait, the family seat of the Dukes of Atholl, is now a magnet for tourists from around the globe.

The castle holds a large amount of Masonic regalia and memorabilia relating to the Masonic activities of the various Dukes. However, it is doubtful whether any of the tourists are aware of the memorial to the 6th Duke, which, despite its age and many years of neglect, is still an impressive edifice.

The monument stands today, not only as a tribute to the 6th Duke of Atholl, but perhaps also as a relic from a bygone age, when nobility was regarded with awe and reverence, foundation stones were laid with Masonic pomp and circumstance; and Grand Lodge came to Logierait.


Martin, Bro. George M, F.S.A. (Scot), P.M. Lodge Dundee St. Mary No. 1149 –

‘The Athole Family and Freemasonry’

 Watson, Bro. Ian P, PM, The History of the Blue Blanket’



Blair Castle Archives, N.R.A.S 234, Bundle 1534.


Perthshire Journal & Constitutional Newspaper 

Article by: Kenneth C. Jack

Kenneth C. Jack  FPS is an enthusiastic Masonic researcher/writer from Highland Perthshire in Scotland.

He is Past Master of a Craft Lodge, Past First Principal of a Royal Arch Chapter, Past Most-Wise Sovereign of a Sovereign Chapter of Princes Rose Croix.

He has been extensively published in various Masonic periodicals throughout the world including: The Ashlar, The Square, The Scottish Rite Journal, Masonic Magazine, Philalethes Journal, and the annual transactions of various Masonic bodies.

Kenneth is a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, a highly prestigious Masonic research body based in the USA.

The Association of Atholl Lodges

The Association was formed to encourage Atholl Lodges, and anyone with a connection to or interest in those lodges, to join together in celebrating and preserving our Atholl heritage.

We seek to foster and promote fraternal links amongst our members by:

• encouraging inter-visiting
• supporting Atholl celebrations
• arranging special events
• giving talks
• providing information about Atholl matters via our website
• newsletters and other publications.
Full membership is open to:
• Atholl lodges
• associate membership to UGLE recognised lodges with Atholl links
• affiliate membership to other recognised lodges or individuals with an interest in Atholl history



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By Bro. Anthony Oneal Haye (1838-1877), Past Poet Laureate, Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, Edinburgh.

The Curious Case of the Chevalier d’Éon

A cross-dressing author, diplomat, soldier and spy, the Le Chevalier D'Éon, a man who passed as a woman, became a legend in his own lifetime.

Mozart and Freemasonry

Mozart Freemasonry and The Magic Flute. Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen provides a historical view on the interesting topics

masonic knowledge

to be a better citizen of the world

share the square with two brothers

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Masonic Apparel

made to order

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