Monday, April 9, 2012

Lodges of Ireland

It's been quite a while since the Hedgemason has last highlighted a piece of literal architecture.

My wife, who is Cuban, pointed out that I have given too much attention to Cuba on my blog even though I am Irish. As always, I bow to the wisdom of "She who must be obeyed" and went straight to work to provide a brief and admittedly incomplete entry on some random lodges in Ireland that happened to catch my fancy. I hope you all enjoy.


Inch Island in Donegal is a remarkable place. In addition to having been home to both Catholic and Protestant communities since the 1700s, it has played a role in Irish political and cultural history, and still does. Today, the Inch House Irish Studies Centre, a center for visiting University programs from around the world, inhabits a home built in the late 1600s for a local landlord. Here we see a photo of the old Inch Masonic Lodge.
The lodge looks quite forlorn; being overgrown with furze bushes and ivy overtaking its slate roof shingles. Rest assured that the masons in Inch have more comfortable if not quite so picaresque accommodations in a newer and more ample lodge building. The Lodge itself was founded in 1781 and as some residents of the area played not insubstantial roles in the Fenian uprising of the period, it stands to reason that the local masons most likely played a part in that sadly failed attempt at gaining liberty for Ireland.
Although the old lodge does not look like much today, we can catch a hint of its former beauty from this stained glass window which was formerly a part of the lodge.
It is important to consider, when we look at Lodges in Ireland, especially those from this period, that our conceptions about political and religious divisions in contemporary Ireland are not as accurate as we believe. The Society of United Irishmen (Cumann na hÉireannaigh Aontaithe) was founded as a liberal political organisation in eighteenth century Ireland that sought Parliamentary reform. However, it evolved into a revolutionary republican organisation, inspired by the American Revolution and allied with Revolutionary France. It launched the Irish Rebellion of 1798 (The Fenian Uprising) with the objective of ending British monarchical rule over Ireland and founding an independent Irish republic. The leader of this movement was Theobald Wolfe Tone, a Belfast Protestant, and as recent research has amply demonstrated, the Freemasons quite often supported efforts at achieving the goal of an independent Ireland. One result of this failed revolution was the institution of a national school system throughout Ireland dividing its youth by religious affiliation and teaching separate histories of Ireland to Protest and Catholic in a rather successful attempt at creating internal strife. This belies the real history, especially of Ulster. For example, in 1865, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Ulster (now Northern Ireland) recommended that the students in the Presbyterian Seminary be instructed in the Irish language as the majority of its members in the rural areas spoke only Irish Gaelic and knew little or no English. In 1911, the census for Ireland documented that one hundred years ago there were as many Irish speakers on the Shankill Road as there were on the Falls Road. Shankhill was a stronghold of the Protestant community while the Falls Road was Catholic.

In keeping with this contradiction of the modern fault lines in Irish society, we find a grave stone from the old cemetery of Kildemock, Co. Louth. County Louth is one of the counties of the Province of Ulster which became part of the Irish Free State when the Island was divided early in the last century. This ancient stone, shows masonic and catholic symbols side by side on one stone. The Gravestone bears the name of Morgan, a mason who died in 1791. The Archaeologist, Robert M. Chapple, speculates that he may have been either a warden or the master of the local lodge. Someone should see if any lodge records can shed light on this.

Moving to the beauty of County Down, St. Patrick's Masonic Lodge No. 77 founded in 1737 in Newry, Co. Down has been meeting in this building since 1887. The Hall is shared with 5 other Craft Lodges as well as various other branches of Freemasonry. It is also home to Newry Masonic Social Club which is open to members 6 nights a week and hosts many functions throughout the year.
One of the more impressive lodge buildings in Ulster is that of Harmony Lodge 586 Enniskillen
Irish Constitution. Antient Free and Accepted Masons in the Provence of Tyrone & Fermanagh.
Here we see it on a day that is remarkably clear skied for Enniskillen. I do not wish to demean the fair city of Enniskillen, but I have never been there when it wasn't raining cats and dogs. Of course, I've only been there in November or December, so I shouldn't be surprised. The welcome which the residents offer more than makes up for the weather, though. Masonic Lodges in Enniskillen date back to 19th June 1733, when Warrant No. 17 was issued. There are currently 12 Lodges working in Co. Fermanagh, 6 of which are in Enniskillen. In the Province of Tyrone & Fermanagh there are currently 41 Lodges working.

Now we will move on, as I do not wish to give the impression either that I am biased or that there are only Masonic Lodges in Ulster. So, our next image is of Freemason's Hall at 17 Molesworth Street, in the capital city of Dublin. Situated in the heart of Old Dublin. Home of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, it was designed by the architect Edward Holmes of Birmingham and completed in 1866 on the site of the townhouse of the first grandmaster, the Earl of Rosse. The Grand Lodge of Ireland is the second most senior Grand Lodge of Freemasons in the world, and the oldest in continuous existence. Since no specific record of its foundation exists, 1725 is the year celebrated in Grand Lodge anniversaries, as the oldest reference to Grand Lodge of Ireland comes from the Dublin Weekly Journal of 26 June 1725. This describes a meeting of the Grand Lodge to install the new Grand Master, the 1st Earl of Rosse, on June 24. The Grand Lodge has jurisdiction over 13 Provincial Grand Lodges covering all the Freemasons of the island of Ireland, and another 12 provinces worldwide.

There is considerable evidence of Masonic Lodges meeting in Ireland prior to the 18th century. The story of the Lady Freemason, Elizabeth St Leger, dates to a time prior to the existence of the Grand Lodge, also there are references to Lodge meetings across Dublin in a speech given in Trinity College, Dublin as far back as 1688. The oldest artifact of Fraternal Masonry in Ireland, and one of the oldest masonic artifacts in the world is the Baal's Bridge Square, which dates from 1507. Here, we see the preserved apron which belonged to Elizabeth St. Leger. A fascinating account of her life and entrance into the craft is provided by Karen Kidd in her book entitled "Haunted Chambers: The Lives of Early Women Freemasons." Elizabeth St. Leger was recognized throughout her life as a Freemason, and when she died the Square and Compass were engraved on her tombstone. History does not record that there were any objections.

Lest we be accused of ignoring the Province of Munster, I've included a photo of a Masonic Hall in the city of Cork. This building has been the headquarters for Freemasonry in the province of Munster since 1844. It was built c. 1770, in the then recently developed Tuckey's Street (1761) and is shown on a city map of 1771. In 1844, the First Lodge of Ireland purchased the entire building for its use, and that of the quarterly general meeting of the province. In 1925, when all other city lodges came together at this premises, the top floor was added to provide additional capacity. The stalls and panelling in the Lodge Room were taken from St. Fin Barre's Cathedral in 1866 and are about 300 years old.

2 comments:

Mysterion said...

Excellent!

merry k Welsh said...

Freemasonry Northern Ireland is kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society, earnest in work, pity and concern for the unfortunate