The Origins of Scotland: An Alternative Historical Outlook of the Origins of Freemasonry Part One
Submitted by Illustrious Companion Kevin A. Wheeler, District Inspector 4th District, Grand Council of Illinois
IC Kevin A. Wheeler
If you pick up a history or a science book it will tell “us that ancient Scots first appeared around the end of the last Ice Age, as much as 14,000 years ago, as evidenced by tools made of flint. No Neanderthal or earlier proto-human presence in Scotland has been discovered, so the first Scots are believed to be our “modern” human ancestors. These stone age Homo sapiens are believed to have traveled to the island of Great Britain via a “land bridge” that connected Great Britain to the European continent during the last part of or just after the last Ice Age” (Dan, p. 1). The books would go on to describe how modern day Scotland came about by way of invasions by Rome beginning in or about 70’s AD. (Simon, nd) The Roman armies tried to conquer Scotland three times, but each was short-lived. The history of Roman Scotland is a story of invasion and withdrawal. “The Roman armies won a major battle at Mons Graupius, somewhere in north-east Scotland, but within a few years demands for soldiers elsewhere meant they abandoned their conquests and pulled back. They first withdrew to more secure territory in southern Scotland, and then to northern England between the river Tyne and the Solway Firth. This line was fortified under the emperor Hadrian, who ordered the now-famous Hadrian’s Wall to be built on the Empire’s northernmost edge” (Simon, nd. p. 4). This back and forth continued with the local tribes, for they had learned not to face Rome in a pitched battle. They used guerrilla tactics to dismantle the Roman army. Although the Romans erected new bases, they were impossible to control the area with force. (Simon, nd)
The Romans conquered in a different way, they assimilated Scotland. They came with an overwhelming force, armed to the teeth. If the local leaders sided with the Roman world, they were absorbed. If they resisted, they were crushed. This was a brutal army of occupation. Once the enemy had been defeated, troops were set to work in creating the network of occupation. (Simon,nd) “This consisted of roads to allow men and supplies to move quickly around the country, with strongpoints spaced along them. Forts were typically garrisoned by 500 soldiers, while smaller fortlets were used in some areas to disperse Roman forces among a troublesome tribe” (Simon, p. 6).
Continuing with the history of Scotland at around 800AD the Vikings began settling in from Norway and Denmark, while the Picts established their kingdom to the East in Alba. In about 1040 following Macbeth ruled as King of Alba. In 1100AD the Kingdom of Alba after becoming a feudal society Scotland experienced a period of peace with the Treaty of Falaise. “A succession crisis brought unrest to Scotland after the death of Alexander III. England’s monarch, Edward I, believed he should be recognised as overlord of Scotland and his troops marched north in a series of bloody sieges. In 1297, Edward’s army planned to cross the River Forth at Stirling Bridge; the Scots seized the opportunity to attack at the crossing of the River Forth, the Stirling Bridge, forcing the English army to retreat. It was here one of Scotland’s most famous figures, William Wallace, earned his place in the history books forever” (Britannica, 2022).
“Unrest continued into the 14th century when Robert the Bruce took the throne and was crowned king. Fighting continued until 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce and his army defeated Edward II, a major turning point in his rule” (Cameron, p. 6). In 1320 The Declaration of Arbroath was “a letter written in Latin, signed by Scottish Barons and Nobles, and sent to Pope John XXII, the Declaration proclaimed Scotland’s status as an independent sovereign state. Though its effect was largely symbolic, the powerful declaration remains an important document in Scottish history – many historians believe it inspired America’s founding fathers to write the United States Declaration of Independence” (Cameron, p. 6).
In 1450, Scotland went through its renaissance period. In 1542 Mary Queen of Scots story begins and ends with her execution just 19yrs later. In 1603 with the death of Mary, James VI is crowned King, however he quickly also becomes King of England following the death of Elizabeth I, becoming King of both England and Scotland known as the Union of Crowns. (Cameron, 2022). The Act of Union brought Scotland and England closer creating a single parliament, the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1746 the Jacobite’s were crushed and the Highlanders were assimilated.
Beginning in the 1750’s, Scotland saw the Age of Enlightenment, where its philosophers helped shaped the modern world. “The intellectual movement sought to understand the natural world and the human mind and ranged across philosophy, chemistry, geology, engineering, technology, poetry, medicine, economics and history. Figures like Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Adam Smith, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott are still celebrated for their achievements (Cameron, p. 8). The 1800’s saw the Urban and Industrial Modernization, people migrated to huge towns rather than rural areas, wealth was established through the trade of tobacco, sugar and cotton, large factories were erected for, mining, shipbuilding, etc., a big part in the development of Scotland. (Cameron, 2022). In 1914, Scotland participated in World War 1 playing a significant role in the supply and resupply of steel works and iron foundaries. The North Sea Oil drilling which started in 1967 gave Scotland a huge supporting industry as well as giving the UK to have its very own oil from home. In the 1990’s famous films like Braveheart put Scotland on the world map as a cultural powerhouse. In 1999, the Scottish Parliament reconvened for the first time in nearly 300 years, erecting its own building in 2004. (Cameron, 2022). “In 2012, the Edinburgh Agreement was signed by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. It paved the way for a once in a generation referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 by confirming the Scottish Parliament’s power to hold a vote that will be respected by both governments. On the 18 September 2014, the people of Scotland voted. In response to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country’, 1,617,989 (45%) voted Yes and 2,001,926 (55%) voted No” (Cameron, p. 12).
Thus far, I have provided a somewhat detailed history of Scotland, however as the title reads, we are going to look at an alternative historical outlook. In addition, in regards to this new found information and perspective, what if any connotation does this have for Freemasonry. Before discussing this alternative history regarding the origins of Scotland, let us first take a look at what the current history could mean for Masonry. From examining the current history of Scotland as presented I can see at least five instances that are paramount in the formulization of Freemasonry.