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The Knights Templar Scotland

In October 1307 the Knights Templar, the most powerful of the orders of chivalry founded during the Crusades, were proscribed by Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V. Philip may well have had his eyes on the riches accumulated by the Templars over the previous two centuries. Certainly he had difficulty in persuading other European monarchs to follow his example. It was only after a bull from the Pope himself that, for example, the English king Edward II began to arrest prominent members of the order. In spite of strenuous efforts on the part of Philip's officers, many French Templars, and their fleet of ships, were never captured. In Scotland and Ireland, which were nominally under Edward's rule, the Templars were not pursued for several years, and these were the years during which Bruce was rallying his forces in Carrick to regain the Scottish throne.

Where did the escaping Templars go? The English writers Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh have recently investigated the gravestones at the chapel of Kilmory in Knapdale and believe that these stones, undated but decorated with broadswords and figures of men in armour, are those of Templar knights.

In 1307-1309 the east coast of Scotland was blockaded by the English fleet, as was the Irish sea, and the sea north of Jura was patrolled by the ships of the pro-English MacDougalls, but Baigent and Leigh suggest that the Templar fleet could have sailed from France, around the west coast of Ireland, where they could have received support and supplies from Irish Templar establishments, to reach Kintyre.

In 1310 Edward protested that Bruce's forces were receiving 'provisions, horses, armour and other supplies' from Ireland, and on 24 June 1314 the English were decisively defeated at Bannockburn. Were the forces who turned the tide in that battle Templars, with two centuries' experience of war in the Holy Land behind them? An interesting consequence of this theory is that it provides support for the belief that the obscure origins of Freemasonry are to be found in Scotland, long before its emergence at the end of the 16th century.  The Templars, as their name suggests, were dedicated to the protection of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and they also built a number of castles. For this, a knowledge of the secrets of masonry was essential. Baigent and Leigh point to a surprising device on one of the gravestones at Kilmory, a mason's setsquare. We can but speculate.

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