Anthony O’Neal Haye
Freemason, Journalist, Author, Poet
There have been many influential and illustrious Scottish Freemasons throughout the centuries, ever since Speculative Craft Masonry first took shape and cast its wise and benign influence over Scottish society. Indeed, there are that many, it is probably not possible to do each and every one of them justice; and perhaps the only time we ever hear of them is when a Brother, or some other interested outsider, decides to make them the subject of research interest.
Anthony O’Neal Haye is one such Freemason of whom very little - if anything at all, has been written, which is a great pity, because as well as being a senior and highly respected Freemason in his time, he was also a respected journalist and author who wrote a number of history books and books of verse; and indeed, is a past Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 in Edinburgh. It is fair to say that his Masonic and Literary interests often went hand-in-glove, as his Poetry was published by his Lodge or the Grand Lodge of Scotland. His history books also centred on the history of the Knights Templar, and he himself was a member of Lothian Preceptory No. 4 of that Masonic Order.
The first time this writer became aware of Haye was when reading an Encyclopaedic Entry concerning the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis by the Grand Archivist of that society, in which he writes:
‘In 1878 a group of senior U.S. Masons (Daniel Sutter, and Charles W. Parker) led by Charles E. Meyer (1839-1908) of Pennsylvania travelled to England and on July 25th, 1878 were initiated into the grade of Zelator at Yorkshire College at Sheffield. They applied for a Charter, but getting no response, turned to Scotland and received a Charter from the College in Edinburgh in 1879. Scotland’s Society is actually the oldest as Walter Spencer is recorded as having been initiated into the SRIS by Anthony O’Neal Haye in 1857 and there are documents in the SRIA Archives that show that both Robert Wentworth Little and William J. Hughan were initiated in 1866 and 1867 by Anthony O’Neal Haye, Magus Max; Ros. Soc. Scot. - With H.H.M. Bairnfathur, signing as Secretary. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia was formed in England in 1866 by Robert Wentworth Little. The SRIA later felt the need to Charter the current SRIS on October 24th, 1873’.
This excerpt suggests that Haye was head of a Masonic Rosicrucian Society in Scotland which was a forerunner to the present-day society, and that he effectively fast-tracked Robert Wentworth Little and William J. Hughan through the requisite Grades in order that they could return to England to institute a Society in that country. It is very likely that these men became acquainted through their other Masonic interests, and it is known that both Haye and Hughan shared an interest in composing Masonic literature.
Records show that Anthony O'Neal HAYE was born Anthony O’neil Hay on 17th May 1838 at 9, Henry Street, St. Cuthbert’s Parish, Edinburgh, to Robert Hay, a Brushmaker, and Mary Hay (nee Kay). He married Emma Louisa Kennett in Edinburgh on 26th April, 1865. His wife Emma was born in London in around 1843. The couple had a daughter Edith Annie O’Neal Haye who was born on 29th October, 1868 at Queensferry Street, Edinburgh. Edith married the German- Carl Adolph Hermann Besser in around 1890. Anthony and Emma also had a son George, who was born on 30th June, 1866. Anthony had two brothers: Alexander Tuck Hay, born 1st April, 1828 and William Hay, born, 11th August 1834, both within St. Cuthbert’s Parish, Edinburgh. Anthony Haye died prematurely in 1877 but was survived by his wife until 1891.
Haye’s father’s occupation of Brushmaker, whilst to some extent a skilled-trade, does suggest the family were working-class. In the census of 30th March, 1851 we find 12 year old Anthony Hay described as a pupil at George Watson’s Hospital School, within the Parish of St. Cuthbert’s in Edinburgh, and evidently boarding away from home. The full title of this establishment was:
‘George Watson’s Hospital, for the Education and Maintenance of both the Sons or Grandsons of Merchants, Burgesses or Guild Brothers of Edinburgh’.
George Watson was an Edinburgh Merchant and Banker who founded the school in 1741 for the educational advancement of the underprivileged sons and grandsons of those detailed in the above title; and being the son of an Edinburgh Brushmaker, clearly qualified Haye to benefit from this charitable enterprise.Interestingly, one of his fellow pupils- and recorded alongside him in this census is: James Bairnsfather; a fellow 12 year old, born in Banff, and who is
highly probably the brother of the aforementioned John H. M. Bairnsfather. Here we see an early connection between the Hay and Bairnsfather families which ultimately led to Anthony Hay and John Bairnsfather collaborating in the formation of the Rosicrucian Society in Edinburgh. James Bairnsfather went on to become a highly regarded medical doctor and emigrated to the United States of America.
Details of Haye’s Masonic affiliations went largely undocumented for some time, and much of what was known relied heavily on information contained in the books he wrote during his lifetime. However, we now know that he was initiated into Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, Edinburgh, on 19th January, 1859. He was Passed and Raised on 2nd February, 1859, and in April of that year we find him affiliating to St. Stephen’s Lodge, No. 145, Edinburgh, of which he was Master in 1865/66. He does not feature in the main text of the History of the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, written by Past Master Allan Mackenzie in 1898; but he is recorded in an Appendix listing the Poet Laureates of the Lodge.
extract from Lodge Minute with details of Haye's intitiation.
Haye was appointed Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 on June 25th 1860 and he produced a considerable amount of work in his lifetime.
He was also editor of The Scottish Freemasons’ Magazine which ran from 1863 to 1866. There were three completed volumes of twelve issues of the magazine and four issues in a fourth volume; so it was a short-lived enterprise, unlike our present-day Ashlar Magazine which has run continuously since 1997.
At the time of his death he was also editor of the ‘Govan Chronicle newspaper.
Haye was undoubtedly a brilliant man and Mason, who made an indelible mark on the Scottish Craft, and despite his brief life, left behind a wealth of literature which can be enjoyed for years to come.
By Brother Kenneth C. Jack, Master, Lodge St. Andrew No. 814
(Revised July 2014)
1John Hugh Mackintosh Bairnsfather: (1844 -1918).
2Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis – Encyclopedic Entry
3By Right Worthy Frater David Lindez IX Grand Archivist, SRICF High Council
4Old Parish Registers: Register of Birth, Deaths & Marriages for 1838: St. Cuthbert’s Parish, Edinburgh; recorded on 16/7/1838.
51851 census: St. Cuthbert’s Parish, Edinburgh, 30th March, 1851.