Royal Arch plaque needs some TLC

This May will mark the incredible 250th anniversary of the Royal Arch chapter of the masons in the Montrose area.

A special meeting will be held in the Town Hall at 2.30 pm on May 16, followed by a dinner for partners in the evening to mark the milestone.

Unfortunately, the large decorative wooden plaque that hangs above the Royal Arch Bar on the High Street and which is associated with the chapter is beginning to look shabby again.

The plaque features a very strange tableau - there are two aproned masons, a seated woman with two children possibly representing charity and a savage wielding a club. They are flanked by four angelic figures who each hold a different symbol. It has graced the High Street since the beginning of the 18th century and attracts visitors from France and beyond.

The ornate carved curiosity was made in France and erected in its current position by the captains of French sailing ships. French sailors arriving in Montrose at the time were Freemasons and they used to meet in the building which was then a coffee house.

One hundred years later the premises became a public house but the owners kept the sign and called the pub the Royal Arch.

The Holy Royal Arch is a degree of Freemasonry and Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, in the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. They originally met in the Red Lion Halls before relocating 100 years ago to their hall on Upper Hall Street. 

The plaque has been repaired and repainted countless times. In 1990, Mr Walter Muir had to rebuild parts of the fragile wooden sculpture because a previous attempt at renovation using caustic soda had dried out the wood and led to several pieces being weakened.

This structure is more than 300 years old and perhaps should be in a museum instead of subjected to traffic pollution. Maybe a copy could be made to hang in the town?

It’s clear to see that the plaque could benefit from attention as it would be a great shame to lose such an amazing and unusual feature from the High Street. Do any readers have any more information on the symbolism of the figures on the plaque?