Thomas Telford was born the son of a shepherd near Langholm in the Scottish Borders. At the age of 14 he became an apprentice stonemason in Edinburgh. In 1782 Telford moved to London to work on Somerset House and in 1784 he was managing the construction works at Portsmouth Dockyard. In 1788, he was appointed Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire. He returned to Scotland in 1790 to survey harbours and piers on behalf of the British Fisheries Society, for whom he had designed Ullapool in 1788, but by 1793 was back in Shropshire, building the Ellsmere Canal. Telford’s works can be seen all over Europe: they include a canal in the English midlands, canal tunnels in the north country, the Gota Canal in Sweden; St. Katherine Docks in London and roads that opened up the Scottish Highlands. If any Scot made a difference to countless generations, it surely was Thomas Telford. His work in improving highways and bridges, canals and road made much of the Industrial Revolution possible.
Thomas Telford was an active Freemason, and whilst it is not certain in which Lodge he was initiated, the Phoenix Lodge No.257 in Portsmouth is probably the Lodge he first saw light. He later joined Lodge Salopian No. 525 in 1788 and would hold the position of Senior Warden, and later become the Lodge treasurer. Cannongate Kilwinning is probably the lodge he was most associated with, although in 1786 whilst in Portsmouth he states, ‘he is taking great delight in
Freemasonry, and is about to have a lodge-room at the George Inn fitted up after his plans and under his direction.'(MQ)