Renovated by the brethren of Lodge Thistle & Rose No. 169 as a tribute to the memory of Francis Love who was a member of the Lodge for 59 years and also an Honorary member of Mother Kilwinning Lodge the simplicity of his character and the rectitude of his life earned him the esteem of the community and the affection of the fraternity to which he belonged.

 


Francis Love

In the year 1781 was born in Stevenston one Francis Love. During his lifetime he was famous throughout the West of Scotland, particularly in Masonic circles, as a poet of miscellaneous verses and songs and was reputed to be a singer of no mean ability. In early life he was apprenticed to the weaving-at that time a very thriving branch of industry-and his whole subsequent life was spent in this occupation, which furnished him with an honest livelihood. The facilities afforded him for education were very limited and not a little of what he did possess was acquired after schooldays were passed. He was chiefly noted for his close adhesion to the principles of Freemasonry-principles which he believed tended to promote that feeling of brotherly love which ought to exist among all sections of the community. It is almost unnecessary to refer to the great respect entertained towards the man by all sections of the Masonic brethren-there is abundant and unmistakeable evidence of the fact. Not only within the circle of the Stevenston Thistle and Rose Lodge, with which he was connected for fifty years, holding all the various offices, was he highly respected, but very many of the neighbouring Lodges testified their esteem for him in the most tangible way.

During his connection with Stevenston Lodge, his Ayrshire friends in Glasgow gave him an entertainment and presented him with a silvermounted snuffbox containing money and many others, as can be seen from his songs, conferred honours on him. He was also connected with four different charitable societies in Stevenston and devoted a good deal of his time to furthering their interests. He died on 11th July, 1860, his age at death being 79 years. The various Masonic Lodges in Ayrshire erected a handsome monument to his memory in Stevenston High Kirk churchyard which marks the spot where his ashes are interred. It is to the right of the main entrance yard taking the form of an obelisk. In 1863, three years after he died, an edition of his poems was published and some twenty years later the volume was not obtainable as there was a strong demand in the district for copies. The brethren of Stevenston Thistle and Rose Lodge undertook and published a second edition in September, 1886, of which a large number must be in existence to this day. He was an inveterate admirer of Robert Burns and pays tribute to him in various songs and verse. During the first half of the century it was not fashionable to be an admirer of Burns. His adherents were unpopular and his faults were enlarged out of all proportion.

In 1848 Francis Love delivered a poem at the Irvine Bums Club annual dinner in defence of Burns. Let me submit one verse.

Though Robin had his fau'ts we ken
He was the whale o' social men!
A' you that's fau'tless just come ben
An' cast a clod at Robin.

That is old philosophy-you find it in the New Testament. 'He that is without sin let him cast the first stone.'

Some of his poems have a strong political flavour. 'The Kilmarnock Burgh Election Ballad' and 'The Toon Meal Pock' which outlines the conditions of poverty which were prevalent in Stevenston at the time of the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League in 1839. One could be safe in assuming from the poems of Francis Love that he was a strong supporter of the Chartist movement and was of Liberal persuasion politically and played a prominent part locally.

Nevertheless, the majority of his songs and poems have a local flavour. 'The Stone Napper', 'Oor Ain Lodge', 'The Lassie O' Ardeer' and 'Oor Ain Guid Toon' which is sung to the tune of 'Kenmore's on an' Awa'.'                             

Francis Love, a weaver all his life, lived in the 'Wandhouse' which was sited betwixt the Stevenston quarry and the Glasgow and South Western Railway. Weavers, as a rule, occupied the dwellings on the Weavers Brae (Townhead Street) as did miners make their abode in the Boglemart, and the makers of the 'Jews Harp' in Schoolwell Street. It was in and around the Wandhouse in the marshy ground that the miners' wives and daughters gathered wands of reeds, which were made into creels. The creels in turn were used by the womenfolk to carry the coals from the coalface to the surface.