Robert L.D. Cooper  Author, Historian, Freemason.


November 27th, 2018 by Robert Cooper


This is a question I am asked now and again. I am generally reluctant to answer that question as my answer puzzles everyone.

I describe myself as being that of a ‘Presbyterian Stoic’ and on occasion, a stoic Presbyterian! Confused?

Well, so am I occasionally. The description comes from my upbringing. Initially a Presbyterian I became interested in philosophy, particularly the classical Greek philosophers and one in particular – Epictetus.Details of Epictetus’ are rather sparse. He was born about 55 A.D. probably at Hierapolis, Phrygia. His given name is unknown; the word epíktetos (ἐπίκτητος) is Greek for “gained” or “acquired” and Plato another Greek philosopher Plato in his “Laws”, uses the term as property e.g.: “added to one’s hereditary property”. He spent his youth as a slave in Rome to Epaphroditos, a wealthy freedman and secretary to Nero.

Apparently early in his life he acquired a keen interest in philosophy and with the support of his owner, he studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus allowing him to rise in respectability as he became better educated. Origen stated that his leg was deliberately broken by his master whereas Simplicius says that he had been lame from childhood. He is typically depicted with a crutch.

Epictetus obtained his freedom which seems to have coincided with the end of his master’s service at the death of Nero in 68. A.D. Thereafter, as a freeman he began to teach philosophy in Rome but about 93 A.D. Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from the city, and Epictetus was banished to Nicopolis in Epirus, Greece, where he founded a philosophical school.

His most famous pupil, Arrian, studied under him when a young man (c. 108 A.D.) and claimed to have written the famous Discourses from his lecture notes, which he argued should be considered comparable to the Socratic literature. Arrian describes Epictetus as being a powerful speaker who could “induce his listener to feel just what Epictetus wanted him to feel.” Many eminent figures sought conversations with him. Emperor Hadrian was friendly with him, and may have listened to him speak at his school in Nicopolis.

He lived a life of great simplicity, with few possessions. He lived alone for a long time, but in his old age he adopted a friend’s child who otherwise would have been left to die, and raised him with the aid of a woman. It is unclear if they were married. He died around 135 A.D. After his death, according to Lucian, his oil lamp was purchased by an admirer for 3,000 drachmae.


“When we are children our parents deliver us to a pedagogue to take care on all occasions that we suffer no harm.

But when we are become men, God delivers us to our innate conscience to take care of us.

This guardianship then we must in no way despise, for we shall both displease God and be enemies to our own conscience.”

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D2X Nikon Camera

November 23rd, 2018 by Robert Cooper


In 2004 my experience as a professional photographer of dealing with Nikon UK was hugely disappointing.

As a semi-professional photographer (making small amounts of money from my photographs) I bought a D2X new at £3500 (£4000+ today). It was used for civic and corporate functions and the results were excellent when used with pro-quality lenses. After using the camera very occasionally for less than four years and during an important photo-shoot (that is, one I was being paid for, for once!) the camera stopped working. It simply seized up. The last image I had taken was could be viewed on the rear viewing screen but nothing worked. Nothing electronic that is. I removed the battery the image disappeared and thereafter the camera was useless. If you are interested read on…

I took the camera to a professional camera and repair company (in Morningside, Edinburgh) who informed me that they could not diagnose the problem and advised me to have it sent to Nikon UK. They charged £20 for this service. I agreed thinking that a professional outfit like Nikon would be helpful.


An estimate for repair was received from Nikon UK was £310 (I still have the documentation) and as this was a little less than ten percent of the value of this professional camera I decided to have Nikon UK undertake the repair.


A couple of weeks later the Edinburgh repair centre contacted me to say that ‘on further examination by Nikon UK’ the repair would now be £928!

That was a very different proposition and as I did not have that kind of money available, I had to decline the offer.


The camera repair centre then got in touch to ask if they could keep the ‘useless, ridiculously expensive to repair camera.’

Of course, being a good Scot I asked for the camera to be returned to me – at least I could use it as a door-stop or something.

I was then informed that the £20 previously paid to cover postage to send the camera to Nikon UK did not cover the cost of having it returned and I would have to arrange to collect it.

Guess what? I don’t think that the camera ever left Edinburgh. But Nikon UK confirmed all of the above.


During this entire saga I asked again and again for Nikon UK and the professional camera repair centre in Edinburgh for a detailed and precise explanation, in writing, of the problems with the camera but never received any information.

I eventually had the camera returned to me (I had to collect it from where I had delivered it several months previously).

Did I get ‘my’ camera back? It bore the same serial number on the external shell but were the internal parts the same? This was a question that nagged me ever since one of the technicians had let slip that un-repairable cameras were often stripped to recycle parts.


I believe that Nikon UK and the camera repair centre ‘colluded’ in attempting to make me pay more and more money for a camera repair that I had no way of knowing was needed or was good value for money.

The whole experience devalued Nikon as an international brand and I would never use a third party camera repair service ever again.

I still have ‘the’ Nikon D2X and it sits on a self at eye level as a constant reminder…

However, never, ever let the experience detailed above (hopefully an isolated case) put you off taking photographs – we photographers are bigger than that!

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Default Retirement Age

November 21st, 2018 by Robert Cooper


Some of you will know that my late wife suffered a severe stroke in February 2014 and passed away in May 2015. We had intended to retire at the same time in April 2017 and had many plans for travel, photography and revamping our home. Alas it was not to be. Then I experienced another ‘bump in the road’ of life when in June 2017 the quadriceps tendons in my right leg ruptured forcing me to spend some time in Boston General Hospital, Massachusetts, USA . That stay was followed by another in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (EIR) also in June 2017. Then following another rupture of the same tendons in August I was back in the RIE. The wound became seriously infected and I spent my 65th birthday in the RIE being an inpatient for more than five weeks throughout September.

Lying in hospital for a long period was one of the worst experiences of my life. The staff were lovely but with hardly any visitors (Scottish Masonic Lodges are mostly closed until October) and no internet access (can you imagine?!) it was a pretty miserable time.

There was was only one bright spot and that was down to the fact that I had not retired. Lying in hospital pondering things, it became clear that, as I had no retirement plan, and as no ideas came to me about what I could/would do with myself should I actually retire, there was no point in retiring.

I had been under the impression that I had to retire at 65 unless my employer wished me to continue working. A hospital visitor, a minister from the Church of Scotland, explained that things had changed. The default retirement age (65) had been scrapped in 2011 and no one could be forced to retire simple because of their age – whoopee! This change in the law came about because of very effective campaign but the charity AgeUK 

Now I could plan for my non-retirement. All the projects for the Grand Lodge of Scotland could now be continued and new ones commenced. Although it would be several months before I could return to the office (and initially only on restricted hours) I am now finally back in the office full time. Although walking is a problem (all three surgeries were failures) I still have all my marbles.  

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Bilingual Scots

November 20th, 2018 by Robert Cooper


We have long been interested in the Scots language albeit from a Masonic point of view.

That Scots (as opposed to Gaelic) is a separate and distinct language to English has often been ridiculed. Now it seems that the education establishment has finally caught up with what we have been saying for years.

The Scots language is to be taught at Banff Academy, Aberdeenshire. The school has entered a joint project with the University of Aberdeen to assess whether or not pupils at the school would benefit from participating in the Scots Language Award. This award covers the origins and development of the Scots language both ancient and modern.

Aberdeen was chose because more that fifty percent of people in the area have stated that they are Scots or Doric speakers. A co-leader of the project, Clair Needler, said: ‘I am particularly interested in how speaking Scots can contribute to a sense of place, belonging and community.’ She added that people who speak Scots as well as English are bilingual although they might not be award of that fact.

Congratulations to all concerned for this initiative.

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Masonic Locket

November 19th, 2018 by Robert Cooper


Someone is selling ‘Masonic lockets’ on legitimate auction sites.

These lockets usually become available at the same time that other Masonic items go on sale – e.g. Masonic jewels, Mark tokens and Masonic regalia. We think that this is a deliberate sales tactic to entice the unwary.

So, what’s the problem you might well ask? There are a several. Firstly the description provided is: ‘Silver locket and chain with enamel lid depicting a Masonic symbol.’ (see image)

The problems are:

I) It is tiny! Barely one inch in diameter – that is about the size of a US one cent piece and a British penny coin. We have included those coins in the photograph of the locket in order that one can imagine the actual size.

2) It is not silver! It bears no silver hallmark. It does not tarnish like silver when left in daylight.

3) The chain, for a locket, is far too short being approximately 10 inches in total size. There is no way one could put this around a human neck.

4) The ‘Masonic symbol’ might be recognised as such in America but certainly not in Scotland or England.

The minimum bid is usually £40 and it typically sells for £45 plus the auction house’s commission and other taxes. That can push the price up to anything between £50 – 65.

If two or more people get into a ‘bidding war’ for the same locket prices of more than £155 have been paid.

Selling items such as this, in this manner, is not illegal. Auctions, in the UK at least, are not governed by any consumer law (so far as we are aware).

If one buys such a ‘Masonic locket’ (as did we) then only ‘CAVEAT EMPTOR’ applies. This is Latin for ‘Let the buyer beware’ which means you cannot, ever, get your money back.

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Knights of Saint Andrew (KOSA)

July 12th, 2018 by Robert Cooper

I am honoured to have been invited to give a presentation at the International Gathering of the Knights of Saint Andrew in Waco, Texas. USA, on 20 July 2018.

I have been the subject of my presentation but I am still working on it but it will certainly be on early Freemasonry which is, of course, entirely Scottish!

For more information see: 

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Friday, 13th

June 13th, 2014 by Robert Cooper

For those of you who are superstitious about Friday 13th you are in for a double whammy today as it is also a Full Moon!

Where does the superstition that Friday the 13th is unlucky originate? The one that I am most familiar with is the claim that it was on that day in 1312 that Jacques  de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was executed.

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HP Sauce

June 11th, 2014 by Robert Cooper


An artist appeals for empty bottles of HP sauce to create a work of art.

This appeal caught my eye not only because I loved HP sauce but there is a major economic and political storm surrounding this quintessential British condiment.

The essential facts are:

1 The original recipe was invented in 1899 by Frederick G. Garton who was a Nottingham grocer

2 He sold his recipe to Edwin S. Moore the founder of the Midland Vinegar Co. This company launched the HP brand

3 HP sauce is a concoction with a malt vinegar base. This is blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract, sweeteners and spices

4 HP stands for ‘Houses of Parliament’ because it said to have been first served in a restaurant in the house.

5 For that reason the label on the bottle shows an image of the Houses of Parliament

6 Harold Wilson (1916 – 95), Prime Minister (1966 – 70 and 1974 – 76) was a fan

7 More that 29 million bottles are sold every year an is the most popular brown sauce in the UK by a big margin

In 2007 production was moved to Holland causing outrage in Britain especially when the product continued to display the Houses of Parliament on the bottle.

More to follow…

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Crunch, Crunch…

June 10th, 2014 by Robert Cooper


We have all experienced it – a large thump as one’s vehicle hits a pothole. Usually it is to late to avoid the pothole or it has is ‘camouflaged’ by being filled with water or covered with snow.

It seems that instead of repairing our roads the authorities are more interested in building new ones and only repairing existing ones when absolutely necessary. Does that make sense?

That is why a app for my mobile ‘phone caught my attention. Using Potholer is simple. The best results are achieved when the phone is placed in a secure horizontal position, such as the cradle used for GPS devices in a vehicle and all potholes above a certain depth are automatically recorded, using GPS, and the relevant local authority notified. This has the beneficial effect of the accumulation of the location and severity of potholes means that those responsible for maintaining our roads cannot claim not to know about a particular pothole. Don’t forget to launch  the app!

There is one downside: using the Pothole can significantly deplete one’s mobile ‘phone battery. Nice of them to make that clear but if connected to a charging (‘cigar’) port that should not be an issue. That said, one needs also to be aware of mobile connection charges and upload and download limits.

For more information see: 

PS, since this piece was written the potholer app has not been updated and so one can no longer have potholes reported to a Local Authority, pity that…

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Piper Bill Millin

June 7th, 2014 by Robert Cooper


After the post below (Independent Scotland would not have fought in WWII) was uploaded I came across the obituary of the Piper, William (Bill) Millin.

‘Bill Millin, who died on 17 August 2010 aged 88, was personal piper to Lord Lovat on D-Day and piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France; unarmed apart from the ceremonial dagger in his stocking, he played unflinchingly as men fell all around him.

Millin began his apparently suicidal serenade immediately upon jumping from the ramp of the landing craft into the icy water. As the Cameron tartan of his kilt floated to the surface he struck up with Hieland Laddie. He continued even as the man behind him was hit, dropped into the sea and sank.

Once ashore Millin did not run, but walked up and down the beach, blasting out a series of tunes. After Hieland Laddie, Lovat, the commander of 1st Special Service Brigade (1 SSB), raised his voice above the crackle of gunfire and the crump of mortar, and asked for another. Millin strode up and down the water’s edge playing The Road to the Isles.

Bodies of the fallen were drifting to and fro in the surf. Soldiers were trying to dig in and, when they heard the pipes, many of them waved and cheered — although one came up to Millin and called him a “mad bastard”.

His worst moments were when he was among the wounded. They wanted medical help and were shocked to see this figure strolling up and down playing the bagpipes. To feel so helpless, Millin said afterwards, was horrifying. For many other soldiers, however, the piper provided a unique boost to morale. “I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin’s pipes,” said one, Tom Duncan, many years later. “It is hard to describe the impact it had. It gave us a great lift and increased our determination. As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home and why we were there fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones.”

When the brigade moved off, Millin was with the group that attacked the rear of Ouistreham. After the capture of the town, he went with Lovat towards Bénouville, piping along the road.

They were very exposed, and were shot at by snipers from across the canal. Millin stopped playing. Everyone threw themselves flat on the ground — apart from Lovat, who went down on one knee. When one of the snipers scrambled down a tree and dived into a cornfield, Lovat stalked him and shot him. He then sent two men into the corn to look for him and they came back with the corpse. “Right, Piper,” said Lovat, “start the pipes again.”

At Bénouville, where they again came under fire, the CO of 6 Commando asked Millin to play them down the main street. He suggested that Millin should run, but the piper insisted on walking and, as he played Blue Bonnets Over the Border, the commandos followed.

When they came to the crossing which later became known as Pegasus Bridge, troops on the other side signalled frantically that it was under sniper fire. Lovat ordered Millin to shoulder his bagpipes and play the commandos over. “It seemed like a very long bridge,” Millin said afterwards.

The pipes were damaged by shrapnel later that day, but remained playable. Millin was surprised not to have been shot, and he mentioned this to some Germans who had been taken prisoner.

They said that they had not shot at him because they thought he had gone off his head.

William Millin, the son of a policeman, was born in Glasgow on 14 July 1922. For a few years the family lived in Canada, but they returned to Scotland and Bill went to school in Glasgow.

He joined the TA before the Second World War and played in the pipe band of the 7th Battalion the Highland Light Infantry. He subsequently transferred to the Cameron Highlanders before volunteering to join the commandos in 1941.

He met Lord Lovat while he doing his commando training at Achnacarry, north of Fort William. Lovat, the hereditary chief of the Clan Fraser, offered him a job as his batman, but Millin turned this down and Lovat agreed instead to take him on as his personal piper.

The War Office had banned pipers from leading soldiers into battle after losses in the Great War had proved too great. “Ah, but that’s the English War Office,” Lovat told Millin. “You and I are both Scottish and that doesn’t apply.” On D-Day, Millin was the only piper.

When Millin boarded the landing craft bound for the Normandy beaches, he took his bagpipes out of their box and, standing in the bow, played Road to the Isles as they went out of The Solent. Someone relayed the music over the loud hailer and troops on other transports heard it and started cheering and throwing their hats in the air.

Like many others, Millin was so seasick on the rough crossing that the coast of France proved a welcome sight, despite the dangers that came with it. “I didn’t care what was going on ashore. I just wanted to get off that bloody landing craft,” he said.

He returned to England with 1 SSB in September 1944, but then accompanied 4 Commando to Holland; he finished the war at Lubeck. After being demobilised the following year he took up the offer of a job on Lord Lovat’s estate .

This life proved too quiet for him, however, and he joined a touring theatre company with which he appeared playing his pipes on the stage in London, Stockton-on-Tees and Belfast. In the late 1950s he trained in Glasgow as a registered mental nurse and worked in three hospitals in the city.

In 1963 Millin moved to Devon, where he was employed at the Langdon Hospital, Dawlish, until he retired in 1988. In several of the Ten Tors hikes on Dartmoor organised by the Army he took part as the piper, and also visited America, where he lectured about his D-Day experiences.

In 1962 Cornelius Ryan’s book The Longest Day was adapted into a film. The part of the piper who accompanied Lovat’s commandos was played by Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother.

Millin played the lament at Lord Lovat’s funeral in 1995, and he donated his pipes to the National War Museum in Edinburgh. The mayor of Colleville-Montgomery, a town on Sword Beach, has offered a site for a life-size statue of Millin opposite the place where he landed on D-Day. This is due to be unveiled next year.

Bill Millin married, in 1954, Margaret Mary Dowdel. She predeceased him and he is survived by their son.’

Nuff said…

Reproduced with thanks to the Daily Telegraph.

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