Alexander Fairley Buchan
MBE. OSt.J. BSC, PHD, FRSEDr. Alexander Fairley Buchan was born in Edinburgh in 1904 where he attended Sciennes School followed by George Heriot’s school from 1916. He studied there until 1922 showing a special aptitude in science and mathematics, and on completing his studies was accepted into the University of Edinburgh in October that year, when he entered the Faculty of Pure Science, culminating in him being awarded a B.Sc. (Pure Mathematics) with First Class Honours in July 1926. On his graduation from University he became a mathematics teacher at James Gillespie’s School in Edinburgh.
Buchan remained at Gillespie’s until 1930 when he left to teach at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, where he was to remain until 1935, when he returned to James Gillespie’s School as the Principal Teacher of Mathematics. His main interest of study was mathematical research, and in 1939 he submitted a thesis on Linear Combination of Data with Least Error of Differences to the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a Ph.D. in June that year. He then joined the staff at Moray House College of Education, Edinburgh where he was the Principal lecturer in Mathematics.
At the commencement of World War II, Buchan worked with the Children’s Overseas Reception Board where he supervised and accompanied 100 children to Canada in 1940. He then served in the Royal Air Force as a Squadron Leader, with the Air Training Corps responsible for the administration and training of all the units in Scotland. During this period he co-authored a standard textbook on aviation mathematics entitled, ‘First Stage Mathematics suitable for the RAF and ATC.’ Later the Scottish Education Department sent him to India to represent Scotland under the emergency Scheme to train teachers in that country, for which he was awarded a M.B.E.
On returning to Scotland after the War, he resumed his life in the Scottish capital, he was a member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning having been initiated in 1932, and in 1947 was elected the Master of the Lodge. In 1948 he was appointed the full-time Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, an office he was to fill for 23 years with great enthusiasm and zeal for Scottish Freemasonry, both home and abroad, becoming well known for his warm hearted and friendly personality. During his period as Grand Secretary, he visited every Provincial Grand Lodge and District Grand Lodge under the Scottish Constitution, accompanying successive Grand Master Masons on numerous overseas visits as well as throughout Scotland. He had the distinction of attending the erection ceremony of three new Grand Lodges, and represented the Grand Lodge of Scotland at many joint conferences with the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, where his eloquent oratory skills was such that he put forward the views of the Grand Lodge of Scotland with tenacity and determination. A contemporary report says of this, ‘he raised the status of Scotland to a position amongst its Sister Grand Lodges which it had not held for some time.’
Dr. Alexander Fairly Buchan retired from the office of Grand Secretary on June 1971 after 23 years unstinting service, the then Grand Master, Bro. David Liddell-Grainger of Ayton said of him at this time; “He was well equipped to carry out his duties for he brought to Freemasonry a wealth of experience in many fields which was of the very greatest assistance in consolidating and expanding the Masonic influence of Scottish Freemasonry not only in Scotland, but throughout the world.”
This dedication, enthusiasm and zeal he had in raising the standard of Scottish Freemasonry during his tenure of office was recognised when he was appointed Depute Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1971. His entry in the 1972 Grand Lodge of Scotland Who’s Who list, records his many achievements;
Founder Member of Lodge Robert Moray No. 1641. Awarded the Joseph Warren medal of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Hon. Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Greece. Holder of the Silver Insignia of Honour of the United Grand Lodge of Germany. Honorary Senior Grand Warden and Honorary Founder Member of the Grand Lodge of the state of Israel, and the Order of Merit of the Grand Lodge. Past Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of India. Honorary Senior Grand Warden of the National Grand Lodge of France. Honorary Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Iran. Honorary Member of the Grand Lodge of Chile. Honorary Member of the Grand Lodge of Japan. Awarded the Jeremy L. Cross Medal of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire.
Alexander Buchan died on the 10th of January 1976, in Edinburgh after a sudden illness, and although his official Grand Lodge duties took him all over the world, he continued to take a significant interest in his Mother Lodge and at the time of his death he was actively involved in the Lodge’s programme of restoration and structural alterations. On his retirement, Dr. Buchan had taken up the office of Grand Secretary of the Royal Order of Scotland and a few years after his death, the Royal Order commissioned a mural to be painted on the West wall of the Lodge in memory of him. The painting by William McLaren depicts the beginning of Masonry in the Canongate and standing in the foreground are various figures associated with Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, Bro. Alexander Buchan can be seen in the painting standing at the far right leaning against the wall just in front of Robert Burns.
Stewart Donaldson HM Sources;
Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2
The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive – St. Andrews University
Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1977 – Obituary by Douglas M Mcintosh
Grand Lodge of Scotland Year Book – 1971. 1972.1976.
The Chapel of St. John, Headquarters of the Royal Order of Scotland – Bro. David Currie PM. lodge Canongate KilwinningNo. 2.