View and zoom into this image on our new collection website
  • W
  • William Stewart Watson
The Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of the Lodge

Reference URL

The Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of the Lodge 1846

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
Robert Burns became a freemason in 1781 and soon rose to become depute master of St James Lodge in Tarbolton. The subject here is the poet's supposed inauguration as Poet Laureate in the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No 2, in Edinburgh in 1787. It was painted nearly sixty years later, using prints and family pictures to produce accurate portraits of those present. Although the artist undoubtedly believed in Burns's inauguration, it is unlikely that this event ever took place. Instead, the honour could have been conferred upon Burns posthumously. The Canongate Lodge, also known as St John's Chapel, is the oldest purpose-built Masonic meeting room in the world, dating from 1736. The organ in the background is still played at Lodge meetings.

Glossary Open


Freemasonry is an oath-bound brotherhood of men who meet as groups, or Lodges, all over the world. The order is thought to originate from English and Scottish fraternities of practicing stonemasons and cathedral builders in medieval times.

Poet Laureate

A title, usually conferred by a monarch or government, which is given to a poet whose official duties include writing verse to commemorate important occasions.


An image pressed or stamped onto paper or fabric. This encompasses a wide variety of techniques, usually produced in multiples, although one-off prints, known as monoprints, are also included. The term is also applied to photographic images.

Freemasonry, Poet Laureate, Print


  • Acc. No. PG 946
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 83.80 x 132.10 cm (approx frame: 95.00 x 143.00 x 5.00 cm)
  • Credit Purchased 1922