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

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 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!


Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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: 

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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…

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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…

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

Independent Scotland would not have fought in WWII

June 6th, 2014 by Robert Cooper

Today I watched on television the various events to commemorate the D-Day landings. They were quite moving but many young people in Britain today have little understanding of why that event was, and is, so important to us today.

There are many, many, reports and comments on this the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and I need not cite them here. However, I wish to highlight how history, and a particular historical event, can be ‘hijacked’ to promote a particular point of view. Immediately below is an article in the ‘Metro’ free newspaper of today, 6 June 2014. The spelling and grammar is reproduced exactly.

‘Disrepect’ on D-Day

‘It feels disrespectful to the many Scots, English, Welsh and Irish, who fought bravely and gave their lives, that on the anniversary of D-Day Scotland is considering breaking away from a union which has served well Scotland, its people and the world.

Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation ever, was a magnificent example of what the British can achieve together. It was planned by the British, commanded by Adm Sir Bertram Ramsay (whose family were Scottish) and equipped by the British (who provided 80% of the vessels) and Americans.

The combined coordination of English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Americans, Canadians and other nations ensured success.’

William, Coldstream’

This letter to a ‘free’ newspaper ‘The Metro‘ demonstrates the ignorance (in the original sense of the word) of the writer in pursuit of a political agenda. The implication is that  if Scotland was then independent it would not have stood side by side with England, Wales, USA and Canada to fight for freedom and democracy.

Of the six ‘nations’ mentioned by name three of the six (America, Canada and Ireland) were, and are, independent nations. To suggest that Scotland would not, in similar circumstances, have supported the fight against Nazism is an insult to almost all ‘non-political’ Scots.

NOTE: Although Ireland did not fight as a nation against the Axis many Irish people found on the side of the Allies.

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »

Scots the best educated in Europe

June 6th, 2014 by Robert Cooper

In a report issued yesterday by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveals that Scotland is the best educated country in Europe.

The report shows that 44% per cent of people in Scotland between the ages of 25 and 64 have received some form of tertiary education which includes university degrees and further education. This places Scotland ahead of Ireland, Luxembourg and Finland these being only other countries to have scored more than 40%.

Joe Grice, chief economic adviser at the ONS said: “In terms of the proportion of the population going into higher and tertiary education, Scotland actually has just about the highest in the world,” And: “Scotland also does very well in terms of people in the working-age population group of 16 to 64 years olds that have got a qualification at NVQ4 or above.”

The UK scored 39.6%, placing it fifth, followed by Cyprus, Estonia and Sweden. France scored 32.1 % and Germany’s 28.5%.

The term ‘UK’ implies that the figure of 39.6% also includes those for Scotland (44%), Northern Ireland (32.5%) and Wales (36.1%). Does that mean that the figure for the UK is bolstered by those for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales? Without separate figures for England only we will never be sure.

NOTE: The report is entitled: Figure 6: ‘Population aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education attainment, 2013’ (Excel sheet 28Kb) and can be downloaded from the Office of National Statistics web site.

Posted in Uncategorized having no comments »