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

Grand Lodge Digitisation Project

May 16th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

The Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) is the guardian of some precious documents but also innumerable most mundane texts. As we all know paper, whether in the form of books of as loose sheets, takes up a lot of space together with the associated problems of searching the the material. Digital copies of paper makes life a lot easier.

Although designated as ‘Curator’ I am also Librarian and Archivist but the title: Curator, Librarian and Archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library is far too much of a mouthful!

Some years ago I commenced the Grand Lodge Digitisation project. The aim? To digitally copy all paper in Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh! An ambitious target but a worthy one and although it is very unlikely to be completed in my lifetime it is hoped that my successors will continue the project especially as it is now so well developed.

The first problem was deciding where to start as there so much to choose from. The oldest Minutes in the world perhaps? Lodge Petitions? However, I decided to tackle something easier first – some printed material. This was as a learning process and equipment assessment.

When Grand Lodges issues a Charter to a new Lodge it retains a copy. These are large documents – approximately three feet by two feet (0.93 m by 0.61 m). Their size meant that they could not be scanned on an A4 flatbed scanner so a digital camera was used (Nikon D500 fitted with a 60mm macro lens. The next problem was that to capture the whole document in a single image meant that the camera had to be placed approximately six feet (1.83 m) above the document. That required a very large tripod!

That experience taught me that a range of techniques and equipment would be needed to complete the task.

  1. Camera and tripod for very large documents
  2. Flatbed scanner for ephemera
  3. Book scanner for, well, books.t

Even then it was clear that there were some items that could not be dealt with onsite and professional digitisation services would be required. But it is the onsite digitisation which is under my direct supervision.

The early part of the project revealed the extent to which Grand Lodge archives have been under-resourced – this is not a criticism simply a statement of fact. But it is not too late if resources are made available now.

More to follow…

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SAINT MICHAEL’S KIRKYARD

May 12th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Saint Michael’s Kirkyard in Dumfries is a special place for Freemasons as it the last resting place of Brother Robert Burns.

Burns aficionados will be interested to learn of a new, limited edition, book on the kirkyard. Although Burns’ mausoleum is an important feature and is discussed in detail, there is much more to the kirkyard. This new book discusses, and illustrates, one of the most important and most overlooked, Scottish graveyards.

This handsome volume by the established authority on funerary monuments, Professor James Stevens Curl, can only be purchased by subscription. To order and pay go to the FaceBook page at or download and use the ‘flyer’ attached to this post.

https://www.facebook.com/RobertLDCooper/

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Online Lectures

May 4th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

My online lectures seem to have been well received and some have been posted on YouTube! There are a few more presentations arranged including one for the Grand Lodge of California in June. There is one catch – to participate one has to register. See: https://californiafreemason.org/2020/04/21/grand-lodge-sponsored-virtual-events/…

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Zoom presentations

May 1st, 2020 by Robert Cooper

I have been flattered by the number of requests I have received to give ‘virtual presentations’ on various Masonic subjects.

As a Zoom novice I am on a steep learning curve but have managed to master the basics. However, I cannot work out how to use images to illustrate my talks. If anyone can explain how to do that I would be most grateful.

Meantime I will post images on my Facebook page after each talk. I know that it is not ideal so please bear with me. My Facebook page is at: https://www.facebook.com/RobertLDCooper/

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Web Site Security Update

April 27th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Although I am furlough leave I have never been busier. But I have found the time to start to update this much neglected web site.

The latest change has been to add a security certificate (SSL) so that the site now shows that the site is secure. This means that the address is slightly different. http is now https and is illustrated by a graphic of a small padlock immediately before the web site address.

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PRESBYTERIAN STOIC

November 27th, 2018 by Robert Cooper

DO I HAVE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS?

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, incorrectly as 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

A BLAST FROM THE PAST…

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.

Next…

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.

Next…

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.

Next…

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.

Lastly…

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.

Conclusion

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

SHOULD I RETIRE?

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 tendon 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

FOR SOME SCOTS ENGLISH IS A SECOND LANGUAGE.

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

BUYER BEWARE – AUCTION WARNING

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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