THE MASON WORD
Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.
P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076
The Prestonian Lecture for 1938
Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence
In part two we cover:
3)Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696
4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets
3) Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696
Reverting to our MS., it may be noted that at the conclusion of what may be described as the ceremony, the word was circulated amongst those present and was finally given to the candidate by the Master. These signs and words were those of an entered apprentice, and, as the MS. points out, there were others belonging to a master mason or fellowcraft, which were imparted as follows:
First, all apprentices were ordered out of the company and none suffered to stay but masters. Then “he who is to be admitted a member of fellowship” knelt and took an oath of secrecy, after which he went out with the youngest master to learn “the posture and signes of fellowship”. On returning, he made the master’s sign and said the former words of entry, but leaving out the “common judge”; the masons then whispered the word among themselves, and finally the master gave him the word and the grip.
There is nothing in the MS. as to the nature of the master’s sign, word or grip, though some indications are given regarding the apprentice’s secrets.
The fact that in 1696 there were two distinct ceremonies, if they may be so described, one applying to entered apprentices and one to fellowcrafts or masters, raises two questions: first, who were the entered apprentices, and secondly, whether or not both ceremonies were equally old?
4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets
The object of obtaining the Mason Word was presumably to acquire a method of recognition, and thereby secure certain advantages in the matter of employment, and possibly of relief. (Murray Lyon, 28, and Miller, 30. It may be noted that masons were not the only craftsmen to possess a “word”. The squaremen, i.e. wrights, and possibly members of other building crafts, received the “squaremen word” (Murray Lyon, 23). O.E.D. defines squareman as “A carpenter, stone cutter or other workman who regularly uses a square for adjusting or testing his work”, and notes its earliest occurrence as 1790. Actually, one of the signatories of the so‑called St. Clair charter of 1628 describes himself as “deakin of squaemen”. (Murray Lyon, 68).
Ordinary apprentices were not free to seek work independently of the masters to whom they were bound, (In London in the seventeenth century apprentices sometimes worked apart from their masters, but probably only on jobs to which they had been sent by them (Knoop and Jones, The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 64, 65). and would therefore have no need of secret methods of recognition. Nor would they require relief, since their masters maintained them. The apprentice who was given the Mason Word could not, therefore, have been an ordinary apprentice. The explanation probably lies in the fact that in Scotland in the seventeenth century, and possibly earlier, apprentices and entered apprentices apparently formed two distinct classes or grades, (A Minute of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, dated 27th December, 1655 (A.Q.C., xxiv., 41), records that apprentices were not to be made entered apprentices under the sum of twelve pounds Scots.) the entered apprentices hardly being apprentices at all in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather journeymen ex‑apprentices.
In Scotland, the Schaw Statutes of 1598 (Printed in Murray Lyon, 9, and Knoop and Jones, The Medieval Mason, 258.) provided that an apprentice must be bound for at least seven years, and that, except by special permission, a further period of seven years must elapse before he could be made a fellowcraft. During this second term of seven years, (Cases of masons serving double apprenticeships occurred in England in the seventeenth century. Thus Richard Varney of Islip, stonemason, examined in the Chancellor’s Court at Oxford, 26th April, 1681, stated that “he served his father (though he was his eldest son) more than a double apprenticeship”; John Saunders of Denton, stonemason, stated, on the same occasion, that he had served his father a double apprenticeship. (Abstract (very kindly lent to G. P. Jones and myself by the Rev. H. E. Salter) of papers labelled “1681 M” in the Oxford University Archives.] These double apprenticeships, however, were hardly analogous to the Scottish practice of apprenticeship and entered apprenticeship.) or less, as the case might be, the ex‑apprentice was apparently an entered apprentice, and normally worked as a journeyman for a master, though the Schaw Statutes did permit an entered apprentice to undertake a limited amount of work on his own account.
That this general ordinance applied locally is shown by the Mutual Agreement of 1658, which regulated the affairs of the Lodge of Perth. (Crawford Smith, chap. v.) This provided that no entered apprentice should leave his master or masters to take any work or task work above 40s. Scots. Further, it was expressly provided that he was not to take an apprentice.
At Kilwinning in 1659, two fellowcrafts and one entered apprentice out of each quarter, together with the Deacon and Warden, were appointed to meet each year at Ayr to deal with transgressors. (Minute of the Lodge, dated 20th December, 1659, quoted in R. Wylie, History of the Mother Lodge, Kilwinning, 2nd ed., 60.)
At Melrose, the entered apprentices were parties to the Mutual Agreement of 1675, which regulated the affairs of the Lodge. (Printed in W. F. Vernon, History of Freemasonry in Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, 13.)
At Aberdeen in 1670 the Laws and Statutes of the Lodge show that entered apprentices received the benefit of the Mason Word at their entry, (There is nothing in the Edinburgh Register House MS. to indicate when the entered apprentice received the benefit of the Mason Word. It merely refers to “the person to take the word”) and that they became eligible for the fellowship three years later; further, the Mark Book of the Lodge shows that each entered apprentice had his mark (See page from Mark Book reproduced in Miller, facing p. 28) and the same was the case at Dumfries in 1687. Regulation of the Lodge of Dumfries, approved 2nd June, 1687, printed in J. Smith, History of the Old Lodge of Dumfries, (The use of marks on work to enable the craftsman to be identified was not peculiar to masons. In London the Helmet‑makers, Blacksmiths, Bladesmiths and Brasiers used them (Riley, Memorials of London, 238, 361, 569, 626).)
The Schaw Statutes of 1598 provided that no master or fellowcraft should be received, except in the presence of six masters and two entered apprentices, and the early Minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh prove that this requirement was observed. (Murray Lyon, 79.)
This evidence shows clearly that entered apprentices in Scotland had a real, if subordinate share in the government of the craft, and in its privileges. Their position can be compared with that occupied by the Yeomanry in the London Masons’ Company. It is inconceivable that either in London or in Scotland the ordinary apprentice had any say in the management of the craft, or that he enjoyed any privileges; his was purely a position of servitude until the period for which he was bound had expired.
Thereupon, in London he might be made a freeman and become part of the Yeomanry of the Masons’ Company; (Actually rather fewer than 50 per cent. of the apprentices bound in London took up their freedom (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 63).) in Scotland he became an entered apprentice and received the benefit of the Mason Word. In due course, a yeoman in London might be accepted into the Livery, and an entered apprentice in Scotland might be received as a master or fellowcraft (In London there was no prescribed minimum period, and very occasionally an apprentice was made a freeman, and accepted into the Livery, on the same day, e.g. Edward Strong, jun., in 1698 (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 45 n). In Scotland, although the Schaw Statutes contemplated an entered apprenticeship of seven years, except by special permission, the period at Aberdeen in 1670 was three years. At Glasgow, in the early seventeenth century, the usual period appears to have been two years, to judge by the following: It would appear from the Minutes [of the Incorporation of Masons], 9th February, 1613, and 5th February, 1617, that nine years was the customary endurance of an Apprenticeship, viz., seven years to learn the trade and two for meat and fee (Cruikshank, Sketch of the Incorporation of Masons and the Lodge of Glasgow St. John, 63).)
There was however, an important difference: the former promotion was the exception rather than the rule; (The Quarterage Book of the Masons’ Company shows that in 1663 there were 45 members of the Livery, including assistants, as compared with 143 members of the Yeomanry; in 1677 the corresponding figures were 71 and 162 (ibid., 8, 9).) the latter promotion, so far as one can tell, was the rule rather than the exception. (That there were exceptions is shown by the fact that, in Edinburgh in the seventeenth century, it was not unusual for entered apprentices on the expiry of their entered apprenticeship to seek employment as journeymen, without having been admitted as fellowcraft (Murray Lyon, 28).)
A rather better analogy is provided by the London carpenters who, under an Ordinance of 1607, (Jupp and Pocock, Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, 423) were forbidden to have an apprentice until they had been “free” three years and had served at least one year with a freeman of the Company.
So far as I am aware, the term entered apprentice occurs in operative masonry only in Scotland. It is commonly held that the entered apprentice was so called “because entered in the Lodge books” (Kenning’s Cyclopedia of Freemasonry, 201) but this cannot be regarded as a complete explanation. The Schaw Statutes of 1598 distinguished between (i) “receiving” an apprentice and (ii) “entering” an apprentice; “receiving” apparently took place at the outset of his career, and “entering” at some later, but unspecified, date, presumably at the expiration of seven years’ servitude.
The Statutes further provided that the name of the apprentice and the date of his “receiving” should be booked, and that, in due course, the date of his “entering” should be booked. Thus “entering” could hardly have meant simply that his name was entered in a book, as that had also been done when he was “received”. It related, more probably, to his admission or entry into the ranks of the time‑expired or fully qualified apprentices. The term “entered apprentice” occurs in the forms “enterprentice” (Trinity College, Dublin MS). and “interprintice”. ( Sloane MS., 3329) Enter and inter are both Scottish forms of entire, so that the term may have denoted entire apprentice, i.e. complete or fully qualified apprentice.
Three pieces of evidence may be cited in support of this opinion. First, a Minute of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, dated 2nd January, 1600, records that Andrew Patten was “enterit prenteis to John Crafurd his maister”; (A.Q.C., xxiv., 36) as a Minute of 7th June, 1599, records that Andrew Patten had served six years of his apprenticeship at that date, (ibid., 35) it follows that he had served about seven years when he was entered. Secondly, a Minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh, dated 3rd February, 1601, records that Andrew Hamilton, apprentice to John Watt, was “enterit … as past prenteis to the said Johnne War his m aiste]r”. (Murray Lyon, 79) This clearly shows that Andrew Hamilton had served his time before being “entered”. Thirdly, Article XIV. of the Regius MS. requires “. . . if that the master a prentice have, Entirely then that he him teach.” If originally an apprentice was entered as an entire apprentice, confusion between entered and entire might easily have led to entire apprentice being changed to entered apprentice.
The secrets communicated to entered apprentices were probably not the essential ones, but means of recognition, safeguarded with less caution than the principal secrets and regarded partly as a joke. The possession of such secrets doubtless carried with it fewer privileges.
The first two conclusions are suggested by a study of the Edinburgh Register House MS.
(i) This shows that a good deal of horseplay was associated with the imparting of the entered apprentice secrets. Thus the oath was to be administered only “after a great many ceremonies to frighten” the candidate; when outside with the youngest mason, the candidate was to be frightened “with 1,000 ridicolous postures and grimmaces” before being given the sign, postures and words of entry; after rejoining the company he was to “make a ridiculous bow” and “put off his hat after a very foolish manner”. This horseplay may be compared with the practices common at the admission of freshmen to universities in medieval and later times, (R. S. Rait, Life in the Medieval University, chap. vi.) or with the tests imposed upon newcomers to the Hanseatic factory at Bergen. (Helen Zinunern, The Hansa Towns, 144‑47) That something of this horseplay was liable to be introduced into the early speculative Lodges is clearly implied by one of the by‑laws of the Lodge constituted at the Maid’s Head, Norwich, in May, 1724, which reads: “6. That no ridiculous trick be played with any person when he is admitted”. (G. W. Daynes, A.Q.C., xxxvii., 38) These by‑laws are stated to have been “recommended by our Worthy Bro Dr Desaguliers” [Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722‑23 and 1725], and may be regarded as reflecting the desire of the recently formed Grand Lodge to suppress such horseplay. On the other hand, no corresponding fooling is mentioned in the Edinburgh Register House MS. in connection with being “admitted a member of fellowship”.
(ii) It is very noticeable, as previously mentioned, that whereas the MS. gives various indications as to the nature of the entered apprentice’s secrets, it preserves a complete silence regarding those of the fellowcraft or master.