Up early next Saturday and off to the Annual Charity Breakfast in The Larne Masonic Centre, Millbrae in Larne. Here you will be able to enjoy an excellent Ulster Fry and help raise funds for The Stroke Association, another of the very worthwhile local charities, supporting the work of our overstretched Health Service.And whilst you are there, you can enjoy a free mini health blood pressure test, just to set you up for the day. Then, its back to the car, and off to join the members and guests of The Irish Lodge of Research at their stated communication in the Masonic Centre, Jocelyn Street, Dundalk, where we will receive an excellent paper by our late Wor Bro Larry Conlon FRSA, well known and well regarded local historian, on the histories of the various Brethren associated with Eureka Lodge No 47, which used to meet in the Dundalk Hall.
Today Brethren, I would like to set the scene for our forthcoming visit to Dundalk by giving you all some background to Freemasonry in the area.This is the text of a talk that was given a few years ago on a previous visit to the Hall, by the Companions of The Irish Chapter of Research No 222 I.C.
And welcome along this afternoon to the North East corner of Louth, an area which has a fascinating history with many Masonic connections and references. Our story today, starts in the mists of time, in a period when the Red Branch Knights ruled Ulster and amongst their number is the mighty figure of Cuchulain, a legendry warrior known as “The Hound of Ulster. As most of you know, Cuchulain was based in Dun Dealgan, one of the old Irish names for Dundalk and his entire tale is written around this part of North Louth. At the turn of last century Lady Augusta Gregory, in conjunction with and at the inspiration of W.B.Yeats completed a translation and study of Cuchulain which was published in 1902 as “Cuchulain of Muirthemne”.
Companions, this is a fascinating book, telling the entire history of the Hound of Ulster, in great detail. Lady Gregory was one of a select number of people involved not only with the Celtic revival of the time, but also was an active member of The Order of The Golden Dawn, under the stewardship of the poet William Butler Yeats. It is quite possible that this book, like some others, at the time, was intended to be a script for use, in the formation of an Irish Celtic society based in the old castle remains at Lake Isle Innisfree. There is currently an excellent exhibition on in the basement of The National Library in Dublin highlighting The Golden Dawn and its influence on the works of W.B.Yeats.
Yeats of course was never a Freemason, as far as we can find, but he was clearly aware of many of our rituals. Probable as a result of information received from the three Founders of The Golden Dawn. William Robert Woodford, a past Grand Sword Bearer in UGLE, William Wynn Westcott, a crown coroner outside of London, another UGLE Freemason and an elected member of Ars Quatuor Coronati, the World Lodge of Research and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, Master Mason in Hengist Lodge No 195 UGLE. All three of these men were also very active in the many Masonic side degrees available at the time, especially the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia ( S.R.I.A. ).
The entire Cuchulain story is full of Astronomical and Masonic references, too many to record today. But most importantly the death of Cucuhulain
is exactly similar to the death of Hiram, when it took three attempts to finally kill him. He too was quickly buried, before finally being disinterred and his remains being returned for proper burial at Emain Macha, better known to us all today as Navan Fort just outside the city of Armagh. And as for his killers, they fled southward, were quickly caught and dispatched with the rude justice of the day.
We now move our story forward by a thousand years to the time of Sir Bertram de Verdun. Bertram was a Norman Lord given a number of land grants around the modern day town of Dundalk, which back in the 11th century was the northern limits of Norman influence, that area better known today as “The Pale”. As befits a Norman Lord, Sir Bertram founded a number of churches dedicated to “St John the Baptist” and also founded a house for the Cruciferi, an unusual monastic grouping which came to Ireland from the Middle East, via Italy. This particular monastic grouping was dedicated to “St Leonarde” the patron saint of captives and prisoners of war. This may well have been an influencing factor on Sir Bertram, as he prepared to take his men and participate in the Third Crusade to the Holy Land in the late 1180’s. The Cruciferi, were better known locally as the crutched or crossed Friars, a mendicant order, identified by their brown cloaks, staff with a wooden cross on the top. Their more formal name was the “Fratres Cruciferi”.
Despite his great distance from London, Sir Bertram was in fact a loyal subject and good friend to King Richard III The Lionheart. In fact, he seems to have been on good terms with Richard’s father King Henry, accompanying him on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain. He was in the party accompanying Prince John on his visit to Ireland in 1185 and now in 1189, he took his men at arms and retainers to join with Richard’s army on the long march to Jerusalem. He was to achieve great things on this trip, playing his part, supporting the King in many sieges and skirmishes, before being appointed Governor of St John of Acre. He survived the entire campaign, but sadly was grievously wounded in a skirmish, just before King Richard signed a peace treaty in September 1192. He died a few days later in the coastal city of Jaffa, better known to most of us here as Joppa. His shield, armour and battle banner were returned to one of the family castles at Alton in England, where they can be seen by the many visitors to the nearby Alton Towers Amusement Park.
It is interesting to note that, at around this time, the Knights Templar, another well known body, to some in this room were given extensive lands in and around the Cooley Peninsula. They established a fortified perceptory in the district and one of their first Constables or Castellan was a Knight called Simeon.
One fascinating story, which still survives in local folklore is the tale of Rohesia, the grand daughter of the late Sir Bertram de Verdun. She had been married to Theobald le Butzilen Butler, but he was to die unexpectedly in Poitou in France. At the time of his death, Rohesia had been living in Castle Roche, which is located just a few miles to the north of the town of Dundalk.
She had been trying to modernise the castle and improve its defences and had great difficulty in finding an Architect. So finally she offered her hand in marriage, to the man who could complete the works, and a suitable man came forward. He raised the Castle keep by another floor, modernised the entire building and brought the defences up to 13th century standards. On their wedding night, they retired upstairs to the new Master suite, where Rohesia urged him to look out the large Bedroom window, where he would see all his lands and estates. As he duly did so, she pushed him out the window and he fell to his death in the Courtyard below. Needless to say, this action impressed the local Irish immensely and she was given the Irish name”Rois mhor ni ghairbhe” – which translates as “Rohesia Great Lady of the Rock”.
The Verdun family held the site for many years. Nicholas de Verdun, was in charge defending the Castle and lands from the incursions of Edward Bruce, who made an attempt to become King of Ireland in the years 1315-1318. Edward was finally killed at the Battle of Faughart just outside Dundalk in the year 1318, and his remains were buried on the “Hill of Faughart” on the Cooley Pennisula. Castle Roche would survive for a further 300 years before finally being laid to waste by Cromwell in the year 1641.
But before we leave the Middle Ages, I would like to draw attention to another interesting link between Dundalk and the wider history of Masonic legend. As we all know, Philip the Fair, brought the Papacy to Avignon in 1305 and from there, in conjunction with Pope Clement V, he planned the destruction of the Knights Templar. His plans came to fruition on the 13th October 1307 when the Templars in France were arrested in mass and lodged in the Royal dungeons. Various inquisitions took place and a number of the Knights were found guilty of heresy. Interestingly one local Dundalk man – Richard Fitzralph, Arhbishop of Armagh, was over in Avignon on several occasions immediately after this black period in our history and finally died there in 1360. Fitzralph was a well liked and respected Archbishop, noted for his work in separating the different areas of responsibility between monks and priests. Through his work Priests got primacy for christenings, weddings, funerals and other pastoral duties, whilst the monks were confined to the works required to maintain and grow the influence of the various monasteries throughout the land. So once again Companions, we have another Dundalk man with his hand close to the tiller of Masonic history.
In fact his hand may have been closer than we think, On the 28th June 1355, in Drogheda, Archbishop Fitzralph spoke out against the discrimination being faced by native Irish townspeople on a regular basis. He was particularly incensed that members of the trade and craft guilds in the town of Drogheda were regularly breaking the laws of Charity, by binding themselves on oath to refuse admission to Irishmen. I’m pleased to report that he and others did indeed transform the Irish guilds, so that they became working bodies open to all. And we as Freemasons of Ireland still maintain his principles right up to the present time.
And now Companions, we are moving into the officially recorded history of Freemasonry in the Island of Ireland. Part of this story was well covered by our Excellent King in a paper presented in this very Lodge room to the Irish Lodge of Research in the year 1997. It is my intention to concentrate mainly on the Higher Degrees worked in this area, although I will briefly sketch in the history of the various Craft Lodges associated with both the County of Louth and the Town of Dundalk.
Surprisingly, over the years some fifteen Warrants have been issued to hold Lodges in County Louth. This number includes two Warrants No 482 and 786 issued to hold Lodges in the town of Ardee; One Warrant – number 302 issued to hold a Lodge in Carlingford; five different Warrants – numbered 237, 411, 435, 450 and 469 to hold Lodges in the town of Drogheda; One Warrant – number 297 to hold a Lodge in Drumconra ; and one Warrant – number 934 to hold a Lodge in Dunleer. Dundalk, itself has also been home to five Warrants in its two hundred and fifty year Masonic History. The earliest of the Dundalk Warrants number 222 was issued in either the month of April or November in the year 1751.November 1751. Clearly the original Warrant must have got damaged as a replacement Warrant was issued to the Lodge on the 24th June 1763. The first four names of Brethren from Dundalk, recorded against this Lodge number were Thomas. Brady; Robert McAllister; Pat. Healy and Edward. Higgins, and these names were registered on the 18 June, 1764. A total of 105 brethren are shown as registered up to 11 November,1812. At least one member of Lodge 222 was associated with the Ballymascanlon Rangers, and as you will see Bro John Thompson, was the proud owner of a very nice silver volunteer medal with several pictorial references to Freemasonry on the reverse side.
￼There still exists a perfect specimen of engraved G.L. of Ireland Certificate, with G.L. seal intact, issued 21st November, 1787, to John Edmiston, of Lodge No. 222, Dundalk, Co. Louth. Signed by Francis Fetherston, Gd Secy, and countersigned by Thos Corker, Deputy Gd Secy. However, of most interest to us today, is a copy of an entry dated 9th April 1796, posted in the Minutes of St John’s Lodge No 675 Donahue is the following, :-
“A night of Emergency being called on by Br. Henry and Br. Greer, of Dundalk, 222 they were with Br. G. Lemon got the honour of Royal Arch and Sir Knight Templar.”
As far as I can find, this is the earliest reference to the Higher Degrees being given to Dundalk Brethren, and as they had to travel quite a way, they may well have been trying to learn the content of the degree, so that they could then become the lecturers in Dundalk. A further early reference from the 1st July 1796, has been found in the Minute books of Anahilt Union Band which reads as follows :-
“The Temple being duly opened the following Brethren were admitted:- Hugh Fraser, Robert Wilks, Robert Scott, Saml. Denis, Richard McAvoy, Jas Sturrock, John Byrne, William McCrumb, John Todd. Reported at sd. meeting:- William Charlton; Robt. McCully, No. 427; John Sturgeon, 544; William Dewart, 544; Richard McCarriston, 632; John Hill, 477; Richard Peden, 807; Wm. Heyland, 734; Hugh McKay, 682; Wm. Hill 222; John Redmond, 222; Thomas Sheils, 336.
The Temple being duly closed it was unanimously agreed by the Masters of the Band that the next meeting be at Banbridge, under the sanction of Lodge 336, at the hour of 12 o’clock, on the 1st of October, 1796”.
This Warrant was Cancelled by Grand Lodge, as part of a general updating of their Masonic records on the 5th July 1821. At that time Lodges that had been out of communication for five or more years, and who had not been forwarding Dues had their Warrant Cancelled at that time. A second Warrant No 667 was approved in the Minutes of the Grand Lodge meeting of the 5th April 1787. The actual Grand lodge minute reads as follows :-
5 April, 1787 – Ordered a Warrant to Brs. Rev. Jno. Gillian Hawkey and Anthony Sillery, Esq., and the Rev. Andrew Magowan to hold a Lodge in the Town of Dundalk, Co. Louth.
A further Grand Lodge Minute dated the 6th September 1787 reads as follows :-
“6 September, 1787 – Ordered that the Warrant No. 667, granted on the 5th April last to be held in Dundalk be transferred to Kings Count in the County of Cavan and that the name of Nich. Metcalf, Esq., be inserted in
the room of the Rev. Andw. Bryson as Junior Warden”.
Clearly, there is a tale to be told as to why Bros Hawkey and Sillery, dropped Bro Bryson and replaced him with Bro Metcalf Esq. However the truth of the matter is that too much time has passed to clarify matters at the present time.
The 1780’s were a particularly interesting period with the advent of The Volunteer Movement and the development of a prosperous middle class in the town of Dundalk. Shipping was an important activity, which kept the locals well informed in respect of national and international news. Some printing and book binding took place in the town. One interesting book, published in 1780 by Lawrence Dermott, Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of The Ancients in London, was a Dundalk edition of his seminal work on Masonic Laws and Constitutions, better known to us all as Ahiman Rezon. Similar editions were printed in Belfast, Cork and of course Dublin, each having some local content at the front of an otherwise standard English edition. Bro Dermott, was an enthusiastic Irish Mason, Past Master of Lodge 26 Dublin, who used his Irish background to great effect, when he completed this work.
A third Warrant was issued by Grand Lodge on the 2nd May 1799 to hold a Lodge in the 1st Regiment of Fencible Light Dragoons, and after its reduction, the Warrant would move to the town of Dundalk in County Louth. This Warrant was issued to Bros James Short, Henry Neill and John Rutherford.
It. was during the Wars of the French Revolution, that Lord Roden, raised the 1st Fencible Light Dragoons in the town of Dundalk, which was later to become known as Lord Roden’s Fox-hunters. This regiment was placed on the Irish Establishment on 21st July.1794, and disbanded 7th October, 1800. The above Warrant was granted to the Earl of Rodens’ 1st Fencible Light Dragoons; when at the time the regiment was deployed in the town of Bandon, in Cork. The Earl of Rodens’ Fencible regiment returned to home to Dundalk in December of 1802, where it was quartered on part of Lord Roden’s Estate, and as a result of their return, our Lodge No. 384 has continued in. the town of Dundalk ever since. The wording of this original Warrant signed by Donoughmore still survives in the Grand Lodge archive, along with another very interesting certificate issued by the Royal Assembly of Knights of the Red Cross. This certificate issued on the 7th of July 1819 and makes reference to the fact that Sir Samuel Jameson was duly installed and dubbed Knight of the Illustrious and Royal Order of Knights of the Red Cross, and that he was at the same time into those magnanimous and glorious orders of Knights of Patmos, Knights of Jerusalem, Ark & Mark Mason, Link & Chain, Jacobs Wrestle and Mother’s Word. The certificate on this imposing document had light blue, black. Dark blue and yellow ribbons threaded along its length and had an impressive wax seal from Dundalk Red Cross Knights, sealing the entire document. We now find a number of interesting references to the Higher Degrees amongst the Minutes of Craft Lodge St John’s No 384 Dundalk. These include ;-
8 May 1822 – “Lodge met on Emergency at which time Brother John Blacklock and Richard Gray had been initiated to that Degree of Excellent, Super-Excellent Royal Arch Mason.”…..
11 August, 1825- “Lodge met on Emergency, at which time Brother Wm. Storey and Brother Dan’s McCraith O’Brennan, passed the Chair Excellent Super-Excellent Royal Arch Masons.”….
Similar meetings held 9 February, 1826; 4 September, 1828; 9 September, 1828; 7 April, 1829; 13 January, 1830; 28 January, 1830; 4 February, 1830, 21 April, 1830, 27 September, 1830,
4 February, 1830 – “We, the following Sir Knights, met on Emergency to lecture on the Order of Knight Templars, and Knights of Malta, Rods, and Jerusalem, for the good of the Order.”…..
10 February, 1830
“Lodge met on Emergency, at which time Br. Wm. Stepheson, Robt. Luke Page, Richard Peete, Edward Harrison, Wm. Russell, James White, James Robt. Eastwood, were initiated to that Sublime Degree of High Knights Templars.”…
11 May, 1830
In a Royal Arch Chapter assembled this night, on Emergency, for the purpose or returning nine names of R.A. Masons, pursuant to the G. Sec’s. request so as to obtain a R.A. Chapter Warrant, the following R.A. Members attended.”…..
It is quite clear from the foregoing that the Brethren of Dundalk were well used with working The Higher Degrees, and had a quite and smooth transition to the authority of Supreme Grand Chapter in 1830. Indeed works on the higher degrees continue as below :-
23 March, 1831 – Lodge met on Emergency – Visited by the following Red Cross Knights, viz…..” there follows a list of seven names ..”when the following High Knights Templar, and Knights of Malta, became Knights of the Red Cross, Mark, Link, and Chain, and Patmos.”…
13 December 1848 – “We, the undersigned, have met, and have found every article in our chest correct, with the exception of the Master, Royal Arch, and Knight Templar Seals, also one of the Senior Deacon’s Jewels”.
24 March, 1849 – “By Order of the W.M., to issue Summonses to bring Brethren forward to become Excellent, Super-Excellent, Royal Arch Masons.”
5 June, 1850 – “A letter was read from Brother Secretary Warren expressing his desire to retire from the duties of his office. Moved by Bro. James Neale Macneill, seconded by W.M. and several other Brethren – “That in accepting Bro. Warren’s resignation, this Lodge feels bound to record in the strongest terms its sense of the deep obligation which as Masons we owe to him for having been mainly instrumental in keeping the Warrant in existence, and preserving the Masonic Light of 384, in the midst of the surrounding darkness, from being wholly extinguished: that the W.M. be requested to convey to Brother Warren the feelings of the Brethren; and that a copy of this resolution be also sent to him.”…..
21 January, 1851 – “Br. Dr. Sidney presented 3 very handsome Ivory Mauls to the Lodge, for which a vote of thanks was passed.”
18 March, 1851 – “The Lodge was called up to the Mark Degree when…….”
21 June, 1852 – “The Lodge was opened on the 1st Degree, called up to the 3rd Degree, after which it was regularly proposed and seconded that certain Brethren be exalted to the R.A. Degree.”
12 September, 1859 – “The Lodge was opened on the 3rd Degree, called up to the Mark Degree, and Bros. Whan and Bloomfield, having been properly prepared, were raised to that Degree.” A similar meeting was held on 1st April 1863.
On the 4th September 1848 at the Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes – Read a Memorial signed by Bro. the Hon. Augustus Jocelyn, Sir John McNeill, Samuel James Morton and several other registered Master Masons praying for a New Warrant to be issued to them to hold a Lodge in Dundalk. The Board recommend a Warrant to be issued to Memorialists. Confirmed. Warrant No 47 was then issued on the 12th October 1848 to the named Brethren in Dundalk, who selected the name “EUREKA” as the name of the Lodge.
Masonic Funeral – Bro. John Hutcheson, late commander of the “Dundalk” steamer, whose death occurred on the 3rd instant, was, on Thursday, the 7th December 1850 interred, with Masonic honors, in the Church-yard of Dundalk. Mr. Beatty delivered an affecting address to a numerous and respectable concourse of fellow-townsmen, who had assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to the deceased, after which the Brethren, being all assembled around the grave, Bro. James Neale McNeill, W.M. of Lodge 384, of which the deceased was a Member, delivered an appropriate address and lecture, which made a deep and solemn impression on all present. The W.M., in the course of his address stated that, in common with his Brethren of the Lodge, he regretted that they had been unable to appear in full Masonic costume as time did not permit of their obtaining a dispensation from the Grand Lodge for that purpose. The Brethren then separated, having first saluted their departed Brother in the usual Masonic manner.
Now Companions, you may well be interested to learn how our Companions in Dundalk dealt with their festive boards. One interesting report in the Louth Advertiser issued on the 6th January 1852 reads as follows :-
The Brethren of Lodge 384, celebrated their half-yearly festival in honour of their patron, St. John, on Monday last, the 29th ult., it having been postponed from Saturday in order that it might not trench on the Sabbath. After the duties of installing their officers at their Lodge-rooms, Church-hill House, they adjourned to the Assembly Rooms, where a splendid dinner was provided – covers being laid for 60: the viands and wines were
of the choicest description. When the company were seated at dinner, the scene was most striking, from the costly description of the dresses worn by the Brethren, and the rank in life, as well as in Masonry, of the wearers – the gorgeous robes and jewels of the Prince Masons, intermixed with the sable uniform and red cross of the Knight Templar, and the crimson and gold of the Royal Arch, intermingled with the gay blue and silver of the Master Mason.
The Chair was ably filled by the Worshipful Master, Sir John Macneill, supported on the right and left by Brothers the Honorable Captain Jocelyn, Sir John S. Robinson, Doctor Peel, Captain Croker, John Townley, James N. Macneill, P.M.; T.J. Purcell, P.M.; R. Murray, Torquill Macneill, John Murphy, L.S. Deniay, J.W.; James Skimming, R. Godby, S.W.; – McCulloch, Secretary; Captains Bennett and Dunne, H. Nelmes, W.M.; J. Lawless, 7c. 7c. The Stewards, Brothers Dickey, Godbey, Whan, and Caraher were most efficient.
After the usual loyal and charitable toasts had been duly honored and responded to, some excellent songs were rendered by the Brethren, and the company separated at an early hour, delighted at the progress Masonry had made in Dundalk since their last festival, and happy to think that there is at least one hallowed spot, where Irishmen of all classes, creeds, and ranks may rest as one, at the festive as well as at the mystic board, in brotherly love and affection.
The New Masonic Hall, Dundalk, was dedicated for the purposes of Masonry, on Tuesday evening last [16 Aug. 1853] as stated in our paper of Wednesday, according to the forms of the Order, after which the Brethren retired to the Guildhall, where a sumptuous banquet was prepared for them. A letter from His Grace the Duke of Leinster was read, apologising for non-attendance, owing to his having to attend the Royal Agricultural Society Cattle Show at Killarney. Among those present were Sir John Macneil, S.G.W., R.A. Wallace, S.G.D., Sir John L. Robinson Bart., James M. Macneill, John Murphy, Capt. McCreagh, 4th Dragoons, Capt. Croker, amongst many other distinguished Brethren.
The usual Loyal and Masonic toasts were drunk & the brethren separated at an early hour, each delighted with the progress of Masonry in Dundalk & Louth.
As always, Companions, “Tempus Fugit”, our final Dundalk Lodge No 212 was issued on receipt of a memorial from Bros P.T.Logan, Francis S. Morrison and Samuel Whan and eight others praying for a Warrant to establish a Lodge in Dundalk. This memorial was supported by The P.G.L. of Armagh and by Lodges 352,354 and 411. Grand Lodge Minutes of the 4th March 1897 confirmed the issue of Warrant 212. Warrant was dated the 8th March and the name Victoria was adopted for the Lodge, to mark the Diamond Jubilee of her Royal Majesty. However their story is for another day.
Before closing these remarks, I would draw your attention to the various seals illustrated on the front of your document. Of particular interest, is the curious depiction of a Dragoon, used in the early days of the history of 384, when the Warrant was held by Lord Rodon’s 1st Regiment of Fencible Light Dragoons. This is probably the most unusual seal that I can ever recollect seeing and is of course totally illegal as there is neither hand nor trowel in sight.
Brethren, as you can see, Dundalk has a fascinating history, ans the late Wor Bro Conlon has presented a tour de force on the family histories associated with the Eureka Lodge. It will be a fascinating meeting, and we hope that as many of you as possible will come along on the day, to enjoy more of the fascinating history of this place.