Death of Brother James Thompson
On the 28th December, 1888, the lodge suffered a severe loss by the death of their honoured bard, Brother James Thomson, who was also bard of Provincial Grand Lodge. Brother Thomson who had been in failing health for some time, had been for several weeks an inmate of the Hawick cottage hospital. Born in the village of Bowden on the 4th july,1827, at the age of sixteen he was sent to Selkirk there to serve an apprenticeship to the trade of woodturning and cabinet-making. On completing the period of his indenture he removed to Hawick, where he settled down, and soon identified himself with the social life of the town. Brother Thomson was descended from a family of poets and writers, one of his cousins being Thomas Aird, at one time editor of “the Dumfries herald,” and a well known poet and tale writer. The distinguished hymn writer, Mrs Drummond of Tranent, was his maternal aunt, while Dr. Wilkie of Innerleithen, an uncle on the same side, was a noted archaeologist, and a friend and correspondent of Sir Walter Scott, James Hogg the Ettrick shepherd, and Dr. Jamieson, the compiler of the Scottish Dictionary. Regarding brother Thomson’s work we may quote the following from one of the biographical notices which appeared on his death:---”suffice it to say that the tender pathos which breathes in almost every line of the 'Hameless Laddie,' and the 'Widow's Lament,' and the martial ring of his 'Hawick Volunteers,' the militant patriotism of 'Up Wi' the Banner,' and the rollicking and defiant tone in which he makes Hawick challenge comparison with other towns in the 'Border Queen,' all display poetic merit of no mean order, and justify his claim to no insignificant place among the minor bards of Scotland.”
At a special meeting of the Lodge on the afternoon of Saturday, 29th December, the newly installed RW.M., brother Thomas Caldwell, formally announced the passing of their esteemed and admired bard, and it was agreed that all the hospital and funeral expenses should be defrayed by the lodge, that brethren should attend the funeral individually, and that the Masonic service at the grave in Wellogate cemetery should be read by Brother Caldwell.
At a meeting of the lodge on 6th August, Brother J.E.D. Murray was elected bard in succession to the late Brother James Thomson, and installed on 17th September. At the anniversary gathering held in the town hall on the evening of Friday, 23rd November, the newly-elected bard contributed an original recitation entitled “Our Lodge.” From the poem we give the opening and closing verses: ---
I'm a minstrel, and i wander 'mid the haunts of men, where slander,
Hate and envy, and the vices that all honest hearts deplore,
Rampant flourish in confusion – unabashed in their intrusion
On the innocent seclusion – known in Scotland’s homes of yore,
Known when Scottish hills and valleys reared but Scots in
Days of yore,
Reared men ever to the fore.
Be it then our strong endeavour, not alone to-night but ever,
As we labour at our callings, and life's path we journey o'er
To make happy all around us, so so that men will say they
So great minded that they crowned us with the name we most
Crowned us generous and true-hearted, this the name we most
Sterling sons of 424.