Telling the story in stone (1)

I live in a city unusually interesting to the eye. One aspect of this is ornamental stonework, of which there are many examples, though most of these adorn older buildings. Spending money on masonry isn’t the fashion these days, and some popular materials such as concrete and glass are not suitable.

Today I give you the Oddfellows Hall. Taking photographs of this building is by no means easy. You can turn up week after week with your camera only to find one or more large vans blocking your view by parking illegally on the double yellow lines directly in front of it. Given the Gestapo-like tendency of the parking ‘attendants’, I’m amazed the drivers get away with it.

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Former Oddfellows Hall, Forrest Road, Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many natives of the city are blissfully unaware that this hall exists. Walking past it on the pavement outside you are too close to see it clearly. And from the opposite side of the road, if your view isn’t blocked by vehicles then it is by a tree – though complaining about a tree in Forrest Road does not seem reasonable.

Moving in on the front elevation, this is what we see – an uplifting classical scene. I find this both derivative and comforting. The fact that it is derivative doesn’t bother me at all. It is well executed and attractive to the eye. I live in the past. I like it.

Oddfellows Hall 2 web

And moving to the top of the building, another.

Oddfellows Hall 3 web

Now, I hear you ask, who exactly were these Oddfellows? The truth is, I don’t know ‘exactly’. In the past they seem to have been more like guilds than Masons. As far as I can discover, they were not given to rolling up trouser legs, greeting each other with unusual handshakes, engaging in arcane ceremonial and wearing aprons.

The present building was used by The Scottish Order of Oddfellows, which seems to have been the original owner of Oddfellows Hall, and had a district and lodge structure by 1870. It was also used by The Independent Order of Oddfellows, whose district headquarters and registered office was also here at Oddfellows Hall.

That was then. The Oddfellows still exist, though no longer in this city. If you want to know more, here is a link to their website.

Today the Oddfellows operate as Friendly Society with a wide range of services available to members.

6 thoughts on “Telling the story in stone (1)

  1. The Oddfellows seems a strange name given to groups of people that do good. I wonder if it includes women? ‘Oddwomen’.
    It takes me back when we were still living on our farm and received an invite to a ‘freemason’ meeting. Both Helvi and I got ready for the evening when I decided to phone the person who had given the invitation. I mentioned that my wife was coming, but he said ‘oh no, no women’. I still went and it was an evening of some indoor bowling, a bit of ping pong, and eating Kraft cheese on crackers. Not the most memorable of evenings. It turned out that this local branch of Freemasons was getting fewer and fewer people turning up and it was hoped I would be joining up. I did not. I never really found out about what they stood for or what their aim was.
    Vague references to business and success but nothing much more than that. No funny handshakes either or speaking in tongues.

  2. Women are welcome now. Historically, there is one mention of a ‘women only’ lodge in Edinburgh.

    I never gor the Freemason thing. Both Haydn and Mozart wre in the same lodge in Vienna, and Mozart obviously put his membership to good use since the Magic Flute came out of it. Not to mention the Masonic Funeral Music. But here I am living in the past again.

    Maybe it was a bit like LinkedIn in the flesh!

  3. I’m reading Gary Corby’s ancient Greece series. He speaks often about their amazing sculptures and their importance to the people. I don’t know that today’s populace share’s that feeling. Maybe that’s why new gorgeous buildings aren’t as common.

    • Yes, though the people are less taken into these days, in part because artistic masonry costs a lot and building budgets seldom run to it now.

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