John Boswell (freemason)

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John Boswell, 3rd Laird of Auchinleck (1532?–1609), was a Scottish gentleman. He is considered by some scholars to be the first recorded non-operative Freemason.

Biographical details[edit]

Boswell was the son of David Boswell and Janet Hamilton. In 1562 he married Christian Dalzell, and appears to have remarried Katharine Stewart in 1580.[1]

In 1591 Boswell was accused in the Privy Council of Scotland of practicing witchcraft, sorcery and enchantments, consulting with witches and taking part in other devilish activities. Boswell's response to these allegations was to flee the country.[2]


Boswell's signature and mark are found on the records of a meeting of the Lodge of Edinburgh held at Holyrood on 8 June 1600. According to many masonic historians, this was the earliest authentic record of a non-operative (or accepted) Mason attending a Masonic Lodge.[3] There are others, however, who disagree. It is not clear in what capacity Boswell was in attendance at this meeting. It was not an ordinary masonic meeting of the lodge, but a trial of its Warden 'Jhone Broune'. While it is possible that he was there as a member (or an honorary member) of the lodge, it is also possible that he was there only as counsel for prosecution or defence (or for some other reason), and was not a member of the lodge at all. There is no evidence of his initiation in the lodge on that occasion or any other occasion, and the meeting of 8 June 1600 was the only occasion to which Boswell’s connection with the masonic Craft can be traced.[4]


  1. ^ Boswell Collection GEN MSS 89, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
  2. ^ Mackenzie, Agnes Mure (1948). Scottish Pageant 1513 - 1625. Edinburgh : Oliver & Boyd. pp. 126 - 7.
  3. ^ "The Boswell family", Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon website
  4. ^ Washizu, Yoshio; Critical Reading of Masonic Literature; (as reprinted by the Grand Lodge of BC&Y website), originally published in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. 114 (for 2001) of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, London, England, pp. 200-210.