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The Kirkwall Teaching Scroll

The Kirkwall Teaching Scroll

A Masonic scroll that has hung in Kirkwall for centuries could contain the evidence to force a rewrite of Scottish history - so says historian and author Mr Andrew Sinclair.

Mr Sinclair, who mentions the "Kirkwall Teaching Scroll" briefly in his 1993 book The Sword and The Grail, came across the 18-foot scroll during his research into the history of the Sinclair Earls of Orkney, whom he believes had connections with the Order of the Knights Templar.

He is of the opinion that the scroll proves without a shadow of a doubt that the secrets of the Templars were incorporated into Freemasonry and that this esoteric Templar legacy was kept within Rosslyn Chapel, the Sinclairs' stronghold in Midlothian.

He goes on to state that after a fire devastated the library in the time of Earl William Sinclair, the scroll was relocated to Kirkwall for safekeeping, possibly in the now-demolished Kirkwall Castle.

How the scroll came to be in the Kirkwall lodge is unclear.

The masonic lodge's archives reveal that in the eighteenth century they received the gift of a symbolic floorcloth from one William Graeme. Whether this "floorcloth" was actually the Kirkwall Scroll is still hotly debated today.

The results of carbon dating a fragment of the scroll, says Andrew Sinclair, confirm that it dates from the time the fifteenth century - the time the Sinclair's held the Orkney Earldom. As such he has declared it to be a priceless relic of incredible national significance - a relic he says is comparable only to the thirteenth century Mappa Mundi which hangs in Hereford Cathedral.

However, although Andrew Sinclair is convinced of the artefact's age, his theories are not widely accepted, with historical research indicating that the decoration on the scroll dates from the eighteenth century.

These two differing theories are made no clearer when carbon dating results are taken into account - according to the Oxford laboratory that analysed material from the scroll on two separate occasions, each analysis yielded a different date. The sample from the outside of the scroll appeared to date from the late 18th century, the second piece from the central panel dating from the late fifteenth century.

This would indicate that the scroll was made up of two separate sections, a fact confirmed by former past master Mr Jack Donaldson who explained in July 2000 that the cloth had been joined and that the evidence of this was clearly visible.

Regarding some of Andrew Sinclair's theories as to the origin of the Kirkwall Scroll, Mr Donaldson's personal opinion was that although they may contain elements of truth, his was merely one pet theory among many.

"We need far, far more information about this than just his word," he said.

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