On the evening of Friday the 24th November 2014, a group of Royal Arch Masons, wives and friends came together in the Dining Room at Ballycastle Golf Club to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Royal Arch Chapter 89 Ballycastle, with a Centenary Banquet. Amongst our number were Most Excellent Companion Jon McA Pollock the District Grand King of the District Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Antrim accompanied by Right Excellent Companion James Lynch, one of the District Assistant Grand King’s of Antrim. The Grand Chapter of Instruction was represented by Excellent Companion James McGookin and the Royal Arch Chapter of Research was represented by Excellent Companion Robert T.Bashford.
We know that Chapter 89 came into being on the proposal of Wor Brother Hugh A. McAlister, who began the process on the 9th February 1914 at a meeting of True Blue Lodge No 89, Ballycastle. Bro McAlister was a senior member of Lodge 89, and took all the necessary steps to guide his new Chapter into existence, with the support of his fellow Lodge members. His application was supported by Brothers and Companion’s Henry French, William J. Glass, Robert Adams, James Glass, Francis A.Kane, Arthur Hunter, Frank Cox and John B. Aiken. On the 6th May 1914, at a meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter, the Supreme Grand King at the time the Right Honorable and Most Excellent Companion The Lord Muskerry was pleased to grant a Royal Arch Warrant No 89 to Ballycastle appointing Hugh McAlister as First Excellent King Henry French and William Glass the two members of his Council. The family McAlister is still active in Royal Arch in Ballycastle with Companions John and James being the current family representatives.
One interesting artifact in the care of the Museum of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim, based in Rosemary Street, Belfast is the original floor cloth from Lodge 1002,the fore-runner to the current day True Blue Lodge No 89. Our Grand Lodge records shew that Warrant No 1002 was issued to the town of Ballycastle on the 4th June 1812 to Bros Dan McMullan, James McIlmoyle and Hugh McCormick. A mere five years later Bros James Woodside, John Mullan and Charles Frazer memorialised Grand Lodge to Return Warrant No 1002 and pay the fee for re-issue of a Warrant with a lower number, which would give the Lodge a better position in the Bi-Annual Church Parades. Grand Lodge acceded to this request and issued the Ballycatle Brethren with Warrant No 89 in lieu of 1002. Shortly there after, they adopted the name True Blue for their Lodge. One interesting letter preserved in the Lodge file, dated 1875, recorded an attempt to establish a Masonic Lodge on the island of Rathlin :-
26 Oct. 1875 – “You are probably aware that No. 19 of this town has not been working for some years past, the Members with few exceptions being either dead or left the Country. Bro. Robt. Gage, owner of Rathlin Island who is a Registered Member of the above Lodge is desirous of obtaining a transfer to the Island of this number if the case and desires me to write you and ascertain if it is possible he can get his wishes accomplished and how to proceed in the matter. Will the application be made in the usual way (i.e. by petition or Memorial?) As there are a number of Masons residing in Rathlin, members of No. 89 and no mode of communication with the Mainland except by open boat their attendance at the Lodge in the Winter months is very uncertain and it would be a great boon to them to get a Lodge established on the Island – please let me hear from you on this matter, how it is to be obtained etc. Yours fraternally, W.B. Black, Secretary No. 89 True Blues. [Seal of Lodge No. 89 attached]
However, to return to the Royal Arch history of the Chapter, it is recorded in their books that on the 26th April 1915 Companion John J. Douglas presented the Chapter with a beautiful chair for the use of the Chapter’s annually elected M.E.K. The chair is made of Oak, upholstered in red plush and is beautifully ornamented with a hand carved scroll and veiled symbolism of delicate conception.
The Chair, exactly as described, is still in use right up to the present day. And it should also be noted that Companion John Douglas, assisted by his father Companion James Douglas went on to make two more chairs for the High Priest and Chief Scribe., as well as other items of furniture for the Chapter.
Companions, the Banquet was excellent and enjoyed by all present. The Most Excellent District Grand King congratulated the Chapter on reaching this important milestone and wished it continued success in the years ahead. And then we had the great pleasure of a humorous interlude with the Excellent King of Chapter 89. I refer of course to Excellent Companion Leonard Quigg who entertained all present with a perceptive look into the use of Ulster Scots in the day to day conversations in North Antrim. This interlude was well received and kept all present in stitches, as he put the light of reason onto some of our favourite sayings of Old. The Centenary Cake was brought up to the Dignitaries table, where it was cut by excellent Companion Quigg, and ably assisted by Companion James Mills, the newest member of the Chapter.