By Oliver Farrimond
FREEMASONS at the Edinburgh Masonic Club have made a historic decision to allow women members, rolling back half a century of tradition.
The club’s 1,100 masons voted the motion through last month – a decision ten years in the making.
The first women members will go through the club’s doors on April 1st, and the club are anticipating a huge surge in membership.
James MacLean, club secretary and treasurer, said that over 800 women were expected to sign up.
He said: “It’s the big break through – we’re admitting lady members for the first time.
“The provisions of the Scottish licensing act 2005, which are coming into force this year, led us to review our constitution.
“We reckoned that if we don’t adapt we’ll start being seen as dinosaurs.”
The occasion marks a milestone for the club, which is based at Shrub Hill in Leith, as until now women had only been allowed in if accompanied by their husbands.
And even if permitted to enter the club, they had to sign in as visitors.
Decision not taken lightly
The planned membership fee is only half of what a man pays, and ladies will not enjoy the privilege of voting on club business.
The Edinburgh Masonic Club has a unique constitution, whereby all members must be masons, but not all Edinburgh masons can join.
The Shrub Hill freemasons also have another reason to welcome a flood of new, paying members – the club are eyeing relocation to a new site on the face of Leith Walk.
James MacLean, who has worked as club secretary as treasurer for over 30 years, said that the decision was ten years in the making and had not been taken lightly.
He said: “There were more than a few voices of objection when we proposed the motion to allow women members for the first time.
“I told them that I did not perceive that continuing with the current status quo was an option.”
He added that although women would not be permitted to vote in Masonic matters, they would still have a say – albeit indirectly.
He said: “They will have some kind of say, I feel, because they cajole their men when it comes to casting a vote.”