With Christmas fast approaching, I took myself up to the quarterly Bangor Collectors and Militaria Fair held in the excellent Halls of First Bangor Presbyterian Church, where I found myself surrounded in a plethora of curios, books, postcards, uniforms, militaria, PSNI and RUC artefacts, collectors pins and a few Fraternal items. The Halls were crowded with a good number of collectors and teas were being served by members of the Bangor P.W.A. Having made my way round the many stalls, I finally found what I was looking for – an interesting old Irish Masonic jewel.
And what a jewel it was, dating from the year 1931, it is in the shape of a five pointed star, with a shield on top, bearing an artistic impression of the old O’Doherty castle, still existing on the shore side of Inch Island. The star itself has been enamilled with a dark blue with the inscription – Island of Inch Masonic Lodge No 589. 1781 – 1931. On the reverse are the silver marks for V & S Vaughan and Sons of Birmingham, and bears the 1931 assay stamp for Birmingham.
For those of you who are not familiar with Irish Lodges, the Island of Inch Lodge is a small country Lodge located in the townland of Carnaghan, on the island of Inch, just off the coast of Inishowen, and set just off the shore of Lough Swilly. It is joined to the mainland of Innishowen by two causeways and has a popular sandy strand just down the road from the Hall.
The Lodge still retain the original Warrant issued on the 3rd May 1781, signed by Lord Antrim, The Grand Master of Ireland, countersigned by Joseph Keene, the Deputy Grand Master of Ireland and sealed by Thomas Corker Deputy Grand Secretary of Ireland. The Warrant was made out to James Craig who was appointed Foundation Master, James McDowell S.W. and James Hodge J.W. The Lodge was founded on the island in the year 1781, at a time when there were over 400 hundred households on the island. It was an area with very good farming land, which produced fresh meat and vegetables for the city of Londonderry. Interestingly it was one of two consecutive Donegal Lodges issued in 1781, the other being Antient Donegal No 588 I.C.
Some 26 Members served in the First World War and only one Member – Bro McClure paid the supreme price, being killed on the 1st July 1916 on the First Day of The Battle of the Somme. Sadly the Hall was damaged in 1922 at the time of the “Emergency”, when the 26 Southern Counties of Ireland gained their independence from Great Britain and became The Republic of Eire. However the Lodge moved to Bishop’s Street in Londonderry temporarily and once repairs were completed, they returned to Inch. In 1931 they celebrated their 150th Anniversary.
However with population shifts etc, the Lodge eventually moved into Londonderry on a full time basis in 1956. They went on to celebrate their 200th Anniversary in 1981, at which time they updated and re-issued a copy of the 1931 commemorative jewel. They are now a full member of the management committee in Bishop Street and no longer retain the Island of Inch Hall. Wor Bro Chris McClintock, a local Mason and Stained Glass Artist – visited the remains of the old Hall and salvaged their small pane of broken stained glass, which he repaired and placed in a light box, and which is now set in the upper floor at Bishop Street, as a permanent reminder of the old Hall.