You are unlikely to discover the word “skirret” in any modern dictionary or encyclopedia – at least, not in the context with which we, as Freemasons, are familiar.
It seems to have disappeared from the language of the operative builder. But if the word has been forgotten, the instrument itself has not, and it is in as general use as ever.
It is better known as the “chalk line” – a length of cotton string impregnated with French chalk, and contained on a spindle similar to the “skirret” of our ritual.
The line is drawn out in exactly the manner described in our Master Mason Degree, and stretched between the previously determined points on the floor. It is then given a slight “flip”, and as it strikes the ground along its length,
It leaves a line of chalk, which is subsequently rendered permanent with paint, or with a tightly stretched steel wire.
This line becomes the centre-line from which all principal dimensions are measured. Any serious inaccuracy in its position could lead to chaos at subsequent stages in the work, therefore the responsibility for determining, verifying and approving this line is that of the Chief Engineer, or Architect – ” “The Master Builder himself”.
Our ritual leaves us in no doubt as to the symbolical significance of the skirret and its line, –
“a straight and undeviating line of conduct laid down for our guidance in the Volume of the Sacred Law.”
How familiar to us are some of the points along this straight and undeviating line, –
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness.
- Honor thy father and thy mother.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength and thy neighbor as thyself.
We well know how any serious deviation from this line leads unfailingly to social chaos of one kind or another.
In a time of permissiveness and moral laxity, this “straight and undeviating line of conduct” is more than a guideline, it is a life-line.
By Bro. Phil J. Croft, King David Lodge No. 93, BCR;
Published in MASONIC BULLETIN, BCR;
January and February, 1974