Andrew NEILSON who was one of the earliest members of the Golden Dawn, being initiated in August 1888 and taking the Latin motto ‘Perseverando’. In GD records from 1903 he was described as “demitted”: that is, at some point between 1888 and 1903 he had not paid his subscriptions for three years and so his membership had lapsed.
A man who gives as his address the Union Bank of Scotland, Ingram Street, Glasgow, is not going to be easily found. He might have been employed at the bank, of course; but I think not. I wouldn’t want mail from a group of magicians turning up at my place of work. It’s much more likely that he moved around a great deal or actually lived abroad, using the bank as a poste restante address. I certainly haven’t found anyone who might be him, in my searches of the usual family history websites.
The only thing I know for certain about him is that he joined the Theosophical Society (TS) a year or so after his GD initiation; perhaps he found the TS more to his taste than the GD. He gave the same bank as his address, though, so finding him in the TS membership registers didn’t lead me to any identification of him.
WHO DID HE KNOW IN THE GOLDEN DAWN? Despite knowing so very little about Andrew Neilson, I have a very tentative answer to that, based on the very early date he joined the GD. A large group of the earliest members were freemasonry friends of William Westcott, and it’s possible that Andrew Neilson was one of them. He wasn’t a member of any of the English lodges that Westcott had contacts with, however. It’s much more likely that if Neilson was a freemason he was a Scottish one. Scotland is separate from England for freemasonry purposes and keeps its own records. I haven’t checked the Scottish archives of freemasonry for more information on Neilson - it helps the archivists look, if you can give them a date of birth for the man in question, and of course I haven’t got one.
BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.
Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a variety of one-family genealogy websites.
Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.
Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.
Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources. I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.
For the Theosophical Society: membership books for the period 1889-1901, held at the TS headquarters on Gloucester Place London W1.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
24 April 2012