Brethren, it was with a growing sense of excitement that Lodge Members and their guests began to prepare for the long trip from Home to Cork. As usual, all modes of transport were deployed with Brethren coming by aeroplane, boat, car, taxi, train and shank’s mare, as we all set off Thursday / Friday to make our way to
one of the most interesting Masonic venue’s on the planet. Our hotel the Gresham Metropole Hotel, MacCurtain Street Cork, an old time favourite with Lodge members on our visits to Cork, really rolled out the red carpet for us and looked after us all very well. We had some sixty members and guests in the hotel, and the craic was mighty. On the way down, we went via Doneraile Court, which is now run by the Department of Public Works.
The castle was rebuilt during the 1660’s and garrisoned against the threat of a French invasion , and later when the St. Legers had moved to Doneraile Court, it was used to garrison a troop of horse. John St. Leger died on the 31st of March 1696 and was succeeded by his eldest son Arthur. On the 23rd. June 1703, Arthur St. Leger was created Baron Kilmayden, in Co. Waterford and Viscount Doneraile, Co.Cork. He died on the 7th. July 1727 when he was succeeded by his son Arthur, the 2nd. Viscount.The St. Legers were now established in Doneraile Court on the south side of the Awbeg river. It has not been firmly established when the St. Legers moved house, and information on them between 1645 and 1727 is very scanty. The date 1725 on the front of Doneraile Court has led to the belief that it was built on that date, but this is challenged on two fronts. First we have the story of the Lady Freemason. This relates that a daughter of the first Viscount overheard a meeting of the Freemason Lodge No. 150 being held in Doneraile Court. On being discovered, it was considered necessary to induct her into thee Freemasons to secure her secrecy. The room in which this event is said to have taken place is traditionally pointed out as being on the right hand side of the present entrance hall of Doneraile Court.The Lady Freemason’s tombstone records this event as having taken place in 1712. Secondly it is the opinion of some people that the architectural features of the basement area put the building back into the late 17th. century at least. The most likely theory then, is that the original house on the site of Doneraile Court was the home of some of the St. Legers from the 1690’s at least, and that 1725 is a date of major renovation. Whether John St. Leger reared his family here we do not know, but the 1st. Viscount may have occupied it soon after 1690, when he got married.
After all that excitement with the Lady Freemason, it was only but proper that we should seek admittance through the Southern Gate. Indeed it is interesting to finally discover the location of this elusive gate, and where else would we find it, but in Cork. Once through, our first port of call was St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, which is considered to be one of the most Masonic church buildings in Ireland.The Architect of the Refurbished Cathedral was William Burroughs, a noted English Freemason, and he provided a home for the memorial plaque erected in memory of the late Lady Elizabeth Aldworth, daughter of the first Viscount Doneraile.
You will note the reference to Warrant No 44 for her father’s Masonic Lodge, and other surviving details suggest the number 150 for her Father’s Warrant. Sadly both numbers can only now be conjecture, as the original Grand Lodge records for the early 18th century no longer survive. Another area of great interest to Freemasons is the great South window, erected in memory of a deceased past Grand Master of the PGL of Munster. This magnificent window is surrounded with small circular Masonic panels with various Masonic symbols on them. Then there are two small panels of King Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abiff, which you can see illustrated here below :-
This is an absolute treasure house of quality decorations, and before concluding this blog, I would draw your attention to the famous horned figure of Moses, cast in bronze, under a marvellous display of Irish rock crystal, on the Old Testament side of the great Cathedral lecturn.
Having now given you all an introduction to the week-end, I shall now break at this point, as we retired back to the hotel for a light supper and a long chat with friends and visiting Brethren. I will be back for a further update report, once I get my thoughts collected and organised into a cogent story.